Configuring a new Olympus E-PM1

For an upcoming camping trip I bought an Olympus E-PM1 camera. The camera is a lot smaller and lighter than my Canon Rebel XTI, plus I’d have less cash weighing down my pocket… a win win! Actually, I got a refurbished model, so it was quite a good deal (about one quarter the price of the high-end version, which has all of the same internals).

As you can see from this top view, the size will be a lot more convenient for a backpacking trip than the Canon.

With lens fully zoomed it grows a lot! It’s not that much zoom though.

I’m curious to see how the camera will compare to the point-and-shoots the rest of my family will bring on the trip.  I’ve been very happy with my Canon’s ability to take low-light photos (anything indoor at night ends up needing a flash or looking grainy on most P&S cameras). This camera has an image sensor size smaller than the Canon’s, but it is still quite a bit larger than a typical P&S, so it should make nice crisp pictures. Of course for nature photography, what you are aiming at has more impact than the quality of your camera body. Here’s proof from our trip to Katahdin back in 2005:

The camera is somewhat notorious for being poorly configured out of the box. Here are the steps I took to improve on the defaults:

  • Enable the full settings menu. You’ll need this to access most useful controls.
    • Setup->Wrench->Menu Display->Turn on the cog shaped one
  • Switch to the “Super Control Panel (SCP)”. This will change the menu you see when you hit “OK” in shooting mode so that it is more comprehensive and easier to access.
    • Go to the new settings menu (the cogs)->D/Display->Control Settings->P/A/S/M->Make it so everything is turned off except for SCP
  • Make the arrows cycle through pictures instead of the dial (which is really stupid)
    • Setup->Cogs->B/Button/Dial->Dial Function->(play button)->set this to the “enlarge a picture” option
  • Make the movie record button do something useful (i.e., not record videos). I have it toggle between using auto-focus on the whole image or just the center point
    • Setup->Cogs->B/Button/Button Functions->(record button)->[…]HP
    • Setup->Cogs->A/AF/MF->[…] Set Home (you have to scroll down)->Set it to the one with a single square in the middle
    • Originally I skipped the second step, in which case the button won’t do anything useful

I usually use the “P” mode, which has the camera guess the right aperture and shutter speed. It is still fairly easy to customize these–hit the UP button, then use L/R to change shutter speed (brightness) and UP/Down to change F value (depth of focus). Remember if you have trouble with it picking the wrong thing to focus on that you can hit the red record button to swap between full-auto focus and center-target focus (assuming you followed the steps above).

I haven’t taken any real pictures yet, so I’ll leave you with this decidedly unflattering self-portrait.

SSH Tunneling Tutorial

Note: this post is another technical one, so if you are a member of my immediate family, you probably won’t find it of much interest.  If “ports” make you think of boats (rather than the numbers 80 and 22), then why don’t you mosey on over to my christmas photos?

I frequently have trouble communicating between systems which are separated by different private LANs. This often happens when you have your computer on a home wireless network which is separated from the rest of the internet via a router and firewall.  Fortunately, SSH tunnels can be used to link these machines together, provided you know which ports need to be interfaced and you have a common server which both machines can reach. Here is how. Continue reading Learning Center

I am pleased to annouce the grand opening of the Learning Center. There isn’t too much in there right now, and mostly it is just notes for myself.  In any case, some of it might be useful to somebody, so rather than just keeping it hidden away I figure I will share it.

Most of the information is pretty technical, so unless you are interested in doing some Bash shell scripting or need to make some regression plots in R, it may not be of much use.

Easy as…cake

I’ve been trying out CakePHP, a framework for creating DB driven PHP based websites using the MVC design pattern.

Warning: In case the above sentence didn’t make this clear, this post is largely technical gibberish. If that’s not your thing, then you can move along and look at the pretty pictures from a hiking trip up Mt. Monadnock from back in September.

My feelings with CakePHP so far are mixed. As with many open source projects, the documentation for getting started is a little rough.  To help with that, here is the list of resources I’ve found most useful so far.

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Staying Organized

There are three keys to keeping an organized research project:

  1. A good research notebook for informal notes and plans
  2. A collaborative place to keep track of your results and general strategy
  3. A way to keep track of your todos, meetings, and deadlines

Each of these has its own use, and none can completely cover for another. Here are my suggestions for each… Continue reading