How time flies

Wow, my four days off have disappeared very quickly. They were very “productive”…I was able to sleep in, take pictures and read (both for pleasure and catch-up on some reading for work), while still having time to sort, process and upload pictures to the web.

In the last Cayman Islands’ camera club, Paul Aiken, a new club member and an accomplished photographer strongly recommended that members start uploading their pictures to Flickr for others to comment on. He believes, and I agree, that one only improves when they receive feedback. As I researched Flickr, I found a number of groups that hold “contests”. I joined two: fotocompetition and challenge you. While neither of these verbally provide you with direct feedback, you quickly learn whether your picture is liked and by how many when the voting starts.

Let me forewarn you, this becomes very addicted for us competitive types 😉 I have had a few winners, including:

It's a hard life.

and

The Moon

And yes, I have managed to play with the 5D Mark II:

Palm Tree (Close up)

Play time

The last picture was taken at a private residence which must have spent 10’s of thousands of dollars on Christmas displays and lights. I have more pictures here.

Posted in What's Happening by Richard on December 29th, 2008 at 00:59.

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My new 5D Mark II has arrived

I was absolutely amazed this morning when I was handed a courier package with my new Canon 5D Mark II camera. This was my Christmas gift that I had all but given up hope that I would receive before Christmas. My colleagues were laughing at me as I ripped into the box to pull out the battery and start charging it.

I am not sure who was more excited that I received the camera, Brigitte or myself. No, its not like Brigitte and I will be fighting over who will be using the camera as photography has not been one of her hobbies. She was happy because she know how much I was looking forward to playing with it over the Christmas holidays. What I did find very promising was that she and Miriam were out today with our Canon 30D taking pictures. Brigitte later advised me that she has laid claims to the 30D :-)

When I showed the camera to Brigitte she noted that it looked very similar to the 30D. When we put the two cameras together she was correct, at first blush there was not a significant difference in appearance. The major differences relate to weight (5D is a little heavy) and the LCD is bigger. However, as they say…never judge a book by its cover. The LCD is absolutely wonderful, as is the ability to adjust each lens using the AF Microadjustments. In my opinion this feature in itself is worth the camera as my Canon 85 f/1.2 L was back focusing. With a calibration of +6, done in a few minutes the lens was providing absolutely stunning pictures. I highly recommend reading this article if you would like to micro adjust any of your lens with the 5D MII, 1Ds MIII or 1D MIII.

I will post later this week some pictures taken with the new camera later. In the meantime, I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Posted in Photography Equipment by Richard on December 25th, 2008 at 05:58.

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Photographing a Cayman Island beach wedding

The Wedding rings

Last weekend I was fortunate to photograph a beach wedding in the Cayman Islands. Haydee approached me asking if I would like to be their wedding photographer. I was quite honored and immediately accepted. However, prior to the wedding I was quite nervous. I had never shot a beach wedding before and if you have ever tried to shoot individuals wearing white against a bright beach background, you will know why I was nervous.

I thought it would be really nice if I photographed Haydee and Eric sitting on the shore while I waded into the ocean. I had the angles worked out and was originally planning on only wadding in. But while I was in the water I saw different angles that I wanted to take which meant going further and further into the ocean. I really didn’t mind as I could always change my pants. Unfortunately, what I forgot to do was empty my pockets. I had a Sandisk flash card with a number of wedding photos on it. The card barely got wet, but it was enough for it not to work. What a rookie mistake, but one that I can guarantee that I will never make again. Fortunately, after the card dried out, I was able to retrieve all but three pictures from the card.

Sitting on the Iron Shore

I thoroughly enjoyed taking the pictures and was touched by the reaction I received when Haydee, Eric and their families viewed the slide slow I produced.

Congratulations, Haydee and Eric and thank you for including me in your special day.

On the Balcony

If you like to see additional pictures of Haydee and Eric’s wedding, please click here.

Posted in Weddings by Richard on December 6th, 2008 at 21:09.

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Must have freeware programs

Do you use programs that you cannot image living without? Are there programs that you think I would enjoy using? If there are, please share them with us. In the meantime, I have noted a number of freeware programs that I use and you may find useful. I have enclosed a link to the website (click on the name of the program) with a brief description from the software provider.

Must have freeware programs

2BrightSparks
“SyncBack is our freeware program that helps you easily backup and synchronize your files to: the same drive; a different drive or medium (CDRW, CompactFlash, etc); an FTP server; a Network; or a Zip archive.”

7-Zip
“7-Zip is a file archiver with a high compression ratio.”

Eraser
“Eraser is an advanced security tool (for Windows), which allows you to completely remove sensitive data from your hard drive by overwriting it several times with carefully selected patterns.”

Family Safety
“As a parent, you want to help make your family’s experiences safer and more secure, and you want to provide good guidance. Windows Live Family Safety can help if you are running Windows XP. This download is not required if you are running Windows 7 as it has Parental Controls built in. See here for more information.”

Notepad++
“Notepad++ is a free (as in “free speech” and also as in “free beer”) source code editor and Notepad replacement that supports several languages. Running in the MS Windows environment, its use is governed by GPL License.”

Keepass
“KeePass is a free open source password manager, which helps you to manage your passwords in a secure way. You can put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key file. So you only have to remember one single master password or select the key file to unlock the whole database. The databases are encrypted using the best and most secure encryption algorithms currently known (AES and Twofish).”

Lupas Rename 2000
“Lupas Rename is a FREEWARE program developed to rename a few or a massive number of files with a lot of features.”

Moffsoft FreeCalc
“Moffsoft FreeCalc is a great replacement for your existing Windows® calculator.”

Mozilla Firefox
“The award-winning Firefox Web browser has security, speed and new features that will change the way you use the Web. Don’t settle for anything less.”

MWSnap
“MWSnap is a small yet powerful Windows program for snapping (capturing) images from selected parts of the screen.”

PortabelApps.com
“A portable app is a computer program that you can carry around with you on a portable device and use on any Windows computer. When your USB flash drive, portable hard drive, iPod or other portable device is plugged in, you have access to your software and personal data just as you would on your own PC. And when you unplug the device, none of your personal data is left behind.”

PuTTY
“PuTTY is a free implementation of Telnet and SSH for Win32 and Unix platforms, along with an xterm terminal emulator.”

Skype
“Make calls from your computer — free to other people on Skype and cheap to phones and mobiles around the world.”

SMPlayer
“SMPlayer intends to be a complete front-end for MPlayer, from basic features like playing videos, DVDs, and VCDs to more advanced features like support for MPlayer filters and more.”

SpywareBlaster
“Powerful protection against spyware, adware, browser hijackers, dialers and other potentially unwanted software. Trusted and effective.”

[Update – Effective December 31, 2010 Microsoft discontinued SteadyState. However, it is still possible to prepare a shared computer using Windows 7 native features and support tools]
“You can’t always prevent problems during a user session, but now you can undo the whole session. Learn how Windows SteadyState can return your computer and hard disk to its exact condition before the user touched it, simply by rebooting.”

TrueCrypt
“Free open-source disk encryption software for Windows Vista/XP, Mac OS X, and Linux”


I also use the following, but do not classify them as “must haves”.

AVG Free 8.0
“Basic antivirus and antispyware protection for Windows available to download for free. Limited features, no support, for private and non-commercial use only.”

Cain
“Cain & Abel is a password recovery tool for Microsoft Operating Systems. It allows easy recovery of various kind of passwords by sniffing the network, cracking encrypted passwords using Dictionary, Brute-Force and Cryptanalysis attacks, recording VoIP conversations, decoding scrambled passwords, recovering wireless network keys, revealing password boxes, uncovering cached passwords and analyzing routing protocols…Be warned that there is the possibility that you will cause damages and/or loss of data using this software and that in no events shall the author be liable for such damages or loss of data.”

Drupal
“Drupal, an open source content management platform. Equipped with a powerful blend of features, Drupal supports a variety of websites ranging from personal weblogs to large community-driven websites.”

Google Earth
“Google Earth lets you fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings and even explore galaxies in the Sky. You can explore rich geographical content, save your toured places and share with others.”

HashCalc
“A fast and easy-to-use calculator that allows to compute message digests, checksums and HMACs for files, as well as for text and hex strings. It offers a choice of 13 of the most popular hash and checksum algorithms for calculations.”

K9
“K9 is an email filtering application that works in conjunction with your regular POP3 email program and automatically classifies incoming emails as spam (junk email) or non-spam without the need for maintaining dozens of rules or constant updates to be downloaded. It uses intelligent statistical analysis that can result in extremely high accuracy over time.”

Mobipocket Reader
“From eBooks and eNews to reference material and desktop documents, Mobipocket Reader gives you access to thousands of titles including current bestsellers, world renowned dictionaries, as well as major enews websites, RSS feeds and weblogs.

Mobipocket Creator
“Whether you need to create personal content to take along with you, distribute or sell ebooks to others, or design more advanced content and applications, the Mobipocket Creator family of products enables to easily create ebooks from a variety of sources to be viewed on all the PDA and smartphone platforms where Mobipocket Reader is supported.”

Opanda IExif Viewer
“Professional EXIF / GPS / IPTC Info Viewer”

Stunnel
“Stunnel is a program that allows you to encrypt arbitrary TCP connections inside SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) available on both Unix and Windows. Stunnel can allow you to secure non-SSL aware daemons and protocols (like POP, IMAP, LDAP, etc) by having Stunnel provide the encryption, requiring no changes to the daemon’s code.”

Tor
“Tor is a software project that helps you defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security.”

VMware Player
“This free desktop virtualization software application makes it easy to operate any virtual machine created by VMware Workstation, VMware Fusion, VMware Server or VMware ESX, as well as Microsoft Virtual Server virtual machines or Microsoft Virtual PC virtual machines.”

WireShark
“Wireshark is an award-winning network protocol analyzer developed by an international team of networking experts.”


Programs I am currently playing with:

K9 Web Protection
“K9 Web Protection is our free Internet filtering and control solution for the home. K9 puts YOU in control of the Internet so you can protect your kids.”

Posted in Software by Richard on December 6th, 2008 at 19:46.

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Keeping Computers and Children Safe

One of the struggles we have as parents is allowing our child to surf the internet while keeping her safe. The internet is absolutely wonderful, it has a wealth of information that we only dreamed of when we were children. It has actually replaced the TV in our house. However, just like TV, not everything on the internet is suitable for all ages. With TV it was a lot easier to monitor as it was situated in the living room. Today, some children have computers in their bedrooms or in rooms where parents cannot view it. Furthermore, a child can turn off the sound on the computer and the parent will not be able to know what the child is doing unless they are watching them.

While watching the child surf is highly recommended for parents of young children, it does not work so well for older children. Having just setup a computer to allow our daughter to surf safely, and to protect the computer from viruses, trojans, and accidental deletion of files, I can advise that it is quite a bit of work, but a small price to pay for the ultimate peace of mind.

While there are numerous options available, I decided to use two free programs from Microsoft:

1. Family Safety

2. [Update – SteadyState is no longer offered by Microsoft.]

Family Safety allows you to set content filters, state the sites that either can or can’t be looked at and monitor the internet activity. Overall, I think it is a very useful program.

Unfortunately, Family Safety is only part of the solution. A user can accidentally delete files or install programs that should not be installed. This is were the Steady State program comes into play. It allows you to lock down the computer so that any changes made are automatically erased upon restart. It is essentially the same system used in schools and libraries. I found that the computer is a bit slower with the software installed, but it provides great comfort knowing that I will not have to spend hours reinstalling programs or removing trojans.

I have provided a very high level review. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask below.

Posted in Software by Richard on November 23rd, 2008 at 17:28.

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Pirates Week – 2008

Yesterday was the 31st annual Pirates Week here on Grand Cayman. Due to hurricane Paloma, it was postponed and condensed into Pirates Day, but it was still referred to as Pirates Week. Brigitte and I thoroughly enjoyed the festival. It started with the 2nd annual boat races sponsored by Caybrew.

Mr. Pirate

Contestants were allowed to only make the boats from cardboard, duct tape and paint. A lot of work went into the boats and costumes.

A Cardboard Boat

This was my first cardboard boat race, and I was amazed how many of them completed the course. There was even a team from Japan with a film crew making a movie. Unfortunately, their boat did not do so well, but their tenacity certainly made up for it and they can hold their heads high as they pushed, pulled and dragged their boat around the course.

And They Are Off ... Maybe Not

The day was packed full of activities including dancing, pageants, a parade, pirate costume competition, songfest, and one of the best display of fireworks that I have seen. If you are looking for a fun filled festival, I highly recommend visiting Grand Cayman during next year’s Pirates Week.

2008 Pirates Week Fireworks

For additional pictures of Pirates week, please click here

Until next time,
Richard

Posted in Cayman Islands by Richard on November 17th, 2008 at 03:22.

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Lessons learned with custom domains on Blogger.com

I’m back! My blog has been off line for the past few days as a result of the switch from www.rdhamilton.blogspot.com to blog.itslife.ca. It drove me crazy trying to figure out what the issue was. Every time one typed in blog.itslife.ca you were redirected to the Google search page.

This all started when I requested my hosting company, Bluehost, to setup a CNAME to Blogger.com. They setup (as I requested):

blog.itslife.ca –> rdhamilton.blogspot.com

As I researched the issue further, I found that the actual code should have been:

blog.itslife.ca. 900 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.
www.blog.itslife.ca. 900 IN CNAME ghs.google.com.

Once it was changed accordingly, I republished my blog from the Blogger
Dashboard by publishing it to blogspot and then back to custom domain
(under Settings -> Publishing). Please note that my custom website
returned a 404 error until I republished it.

For anyone that is looking for more information, I found the following
website very helpful:

http://blogging.nitecruzr.net/2008/11/schizophrenia-and-custom-domain-urls.html

I learned a few valuable lessons that I thought I would pass on:

1. Help in the Google Blogger Help Group is hit and miss. I never received a response to my request for help.

2. There appears to be no way to contact Blogger directly for help. (You receive what you pay for comes to mind).

3. Bluehost is absolutely wonderful and usually responds to my requests for help within an hour of receiving a support request. If you are looking for a web hosting company, I highly recommend them.

Until next time.
Richard

Posted in Hosting by Richard on November 16th, 2008 at 23:35.

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Testing the smoke detector

I swear that time here in the Caribbean moves faster than in Canada. As with most days, today just flew by. As a matter of fact, it is hard to believe that my family and I moved down here over three months ago. We have been so busy with work, school and volunteering.

Today Brigitte (my wife) and I took a drive to the ocean. When we asked our daughter (my step-daughter) to join us, her exact words were “are you planning on getting out of the vehicle? If so, I cannot go because I cannot be seen with my parents.” Ah, the teenage years where parents become two headed monsters that know nothing and embarrass their children if they are seen in public with them. Alas, she did not accompany us.

There is actually very little damage on this side of Grand Cayman. We saw a couple of downed trees, but that was the extent of it. The waves were not nearly as high as I was hoping. But we did get to watch the unloading and loading a Seaboard cargo ship.

Seaboard loading

Upon arriving at home Brigitte decided to test the monitored smoke detector. Who actually tests a smoke detector you ask?…One who does it by burning dinner ;-). Just for the record, there are easier ways of testing. Even Max (our two year old German Shepherd Dog) had his nose plastered to the window screen taking in as much fresh air as he could.

Today I installed a slide show feed from my photos.richardhamiltonphotography.com website hosted on Zenfolio.com. I have to thank Kalani who had a site at blog.wanderlusttraveler.net/2008/05/zenfolio-and-unified-photostream-using.html (update: it appears to be no longer in operation) who provided a method of pulling pictures from Zenfolio. It is actually quite hard to find information on how to include pictures from Zenfolio as most of it revolves around Flickr. I made two modifications to Kalani’s suggestions: 1. I found that I did not have to publish my Yahoo Pipe; and 2. I was able to obtain a RSS feed directly from the Yahoo Pipes once I ran it. This saved me the step of using feedburner.

Well that’s it for another day. Until next time.

Richard

Posted in What's Happening by Richard on November 10th, 2008 at 09:39.

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My First Post

Welcome to my first post. As I was writing this I was wondering if anyone will ever read this. I therefore thank you for stopping by. I hope you enjoy reading my blog. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave me a comment.

I think it is only fitting to tell you a little about myself. I am a Canadian (born and raised) who moved to the Cayman Islands this past summer to experience Island life and work. In regards to Island life, we just just experienced Hurricane Paloma as it passed by as a Category 3. Although Grand Cayman (where we are located) fared quite well, we lost another tree (we are batting 1000 as we lost a tree in the last Hurricane). Here are a couple pictures of the Olive tree that we lost last night:

Paloma Damage 1

Paloma Damage 2

I am originally from Canada where most root systems from the trees dig deep into the ground. Here on the Island, the root system fans out as the Island is more or less one big rock. Here is a picture of the tree after its “haircut”:

Paloma Hair cut

Enough about trees and hurricane damage. Enquiringly minds want to know…why should you come back? What can you expect from the Blog? In future blogs I will:

  • talk about my life as an expat living and working in the Cayman Islands;
  • tell you more about me;
  • discuss photography and post new pictures; and
  • the odd rant (not that the rant will be odd, OK maybe some will think so, but I was thinking more along the lines of infrequent :-).

It has been a pleasure.

Richard

Posted in What's Happening by Richard on November 9th, 2008 at 11:26.

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