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31 March 2008

"Sustainable" web development

Hi people,

Seen my website lately? Last week? Last month? Last year? It hasn't changed much has it... Actually since May last year (2007) it did not change a single byte.

Yes, I've been having some trouble keeping my website updated. Surely it's a personal web page and there is no business need to have it updated with new material, etc. But there is a personal motivation in keeping it interesting for others - friends, family, colleagues and other internet users. It's dynamic and should reflect myself somehow.

There are two ways to setup and maintain a website these days: The full blown CMS managed web application and the old-school terminal + vim + html method. Both have advantages and disadvantages. I reckon nobody uses the latter anymore... but me.

I grab my laptop, fire my old vim editor, edit my images and write my own combination of HTML and PHP code to make it a little more dynamic and to make things a little... easier. Bits of a CMS, I guess. This is how I write and maintain my website. However, it is getting a little big for the odd spare hour per week. I keep adding or changing parts of it (in my offline copy) and end up by never finishing any of my ideas of new material or other updates. This is the perfect way to keep my website statically un-updated, gathering dust on my server, upstairs.

Small, simple and regular evolutionary changes are what it takes to keep things evolving. Slowly, yes, but not still. Like the other guys say: "Release early, release often."

But even though I know what needs to be done, I keep implementing better and safer code to get things done better and faster. Like in a CMS. So nothing showed up for the last 10 months, heh!

Let's hope something comes up within the next month or so. Hopefully. All I need is to finish this ultra-'leet image linking system :)

Cheers, PJ.

04 March 2008

Photographic kit upgrade process pt.I

Just like anyone else wanting a little more from photography (other than shooting birthday parties, family dinners and other obvious events where cameras are compulsory) I decided to move on to a better lens.

I wanted a faster lens with better sharpness and lower optical distortion. Of course this means a heavier, bigger, less flexible and particularly more expensive lens than the one I have been using.

So I took the scientific approach (also described in this blog) to analyse my current picture database, and from what I learned, last January I bought the Sigma 24-70mm EX f/2.8.

Here is a technical review of this lens at (which is one of the best lens review resources that I know of. Very technical and with a quantitative approach whenever possible):
I mean, my Sigma 18-125mm DC f/3.5-5.6 is very flexible, compact and light - but that comes at a cost - it compromises everything else. It features notorious barrel distortion at the lower focal lengths and noticeable pincushion distortion at the higher focal lengths, along with clear vignetting at the highest apertures (very pronounced at 18mm f/3.5). Also, it is very soft, slow to focus and sometimes not very accurate (although the camera may share some of the guilt).

After this paragraph of bashing the 18-125mm, I must give it credit for what it has been good for. I have it for a little over two years and it was terrific for learning SLR techniques and to gain valuable experience. I would recommend it to anyone starting with a DSLR because of its flexibility and good price/features ratio.

Specs for both lenses can be seen in the Sigma pages below:
About the 24-70mm, I must say I was impressed by its size and weight at first - it felt and seemed massive!

Canon EOS 350D + Sigma EX 24-70mm f/2.8
Image used under permission of the authors @

When compared to the 18-125mm DC, it is 33% wider in diameter (82mm vs 62mm) and almost twice as heavy (751g vs 385g). But it's also much faster (f/2.8 available across the entire focusing range), miles sharper and produces much less distortion. Being a lens designed for full frame digital cameras, it looses a bit of flexibility when used in cropped sensors (roughly equivalent to a 38.4-112mm on a sensor with a crop factor of 1.6x). I don't care. It's great, I love it to bits.

The result... See my flickr page for archived photos taken on or after 15th January 2008 (you may start here: archive for 2008/01/15) or search by tag "Sigma EX 24-70mm f/2.8" (tag search: "Sigma EX 24-70mm f/2.8").

What's next on my photo kit upgrade process? It will take a while before I'll buy another lens, but having this superb 24-70, I'll probably go for a cheap 70-300mm (or similar) or an expensive fisheye or ultra-wide angle (like 10mm or so). Still don't know. Other than quality glass, I'll replace my camera as soon as I can afford it.

Cheers, PJ.