Although we haven’t built anything as massive as the Biggses new HTPC, technology still marches on here in the Wood household.
For Christmas, Rebecca got me a spiffy new lens for my Nikon D80, the Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens. This lens has Vibration Reduction, which allows me to take hand-held shots at slower shutter speeds without the blurring normally associated with those slower shutter speeds. This translates to being able to take sharper photos in lower light situations without resorting to using the flash, which usually produces less-than-desirable results. It doesn’t help much if the subject is moving, but it certainly helps in situations where my hands might be shaky enough to cause an otherwise stationary subject to look blurry. A couple drawbacks to this lens are that it can only focus down to 3.6 feet, so it’s not good for taking photos of things in close quarters, for example, photos of someone across the table, or photos of a large group from close up. You can often get the same effect by standing further away from the subject and then zooming in, but that doesn’t work if you’re in a cramped space or a crowded room. For those types of situations, the stock 18-135mm lens is still preferable, as it can focus closer and can zoom out to a wider angle. I suspect that this lens will be really great for outdoor photography or photography in larger spaces, but unfortunately I haven’t had much opportunity for that since Christmas.
Here’s a photo of the lens, taken with the D80’s kit lens:
Speaking of photography, it turns out that all of these photos take up quite a bit of space, when combined with everything else we’re storing. All told, our digital photo and video collections were taking up 300 GB of space on our main media hard drive, and along with backups of the rest of our important data, had finally exhausted our 320 GB backup drive. So I recently purchased a couple of things to improve our storage situation. First, I bought a refurbished miniStack v2 from OWC to house the old backup drive, which was in an ailing USB2 enclosure. It nicely matches the other miniStack we have, and also moves the drive into a FireWire capable enclosure, which is much faster than USB2. Second, I purchased a Western Digital MyBook Premium 750 GB external hard drive. It has both FireWire and USB2 interfaces, so I’ve got it hooked up via FireWire for the maximum in data transfer speeds. So my setup now is to have our photos on the 300 GB media drive, our videos and other media on the former backup drive with 320 GB of space, and all of that plus critical system files, music, and a backup copy of our website backed up to the 750 GB mybook. I made sure to buy something with a bit more space than the data we actually needed to back up, because you never know when it will come in handy. And besides, once you get over 100 GB, the granularity of storage media decreases significantly… the jump goes from 500 GB (not enough for our backup needs) to 750 GB to 1 TB.
The only hole in our backup plan is that we have no offsite storage, so if our house burns down, we’ve still lost all of our data, even though we have a backup. One solution would be for me to disconnect the backup drive and take it with me whenever everyone is out of the house… but that would be a bit of a pain. Another option would be to purchase a second 750 GB drive, and rotate it out to a safe deposit box on a weekly basis with the current backup drive. Expensive, but fairly safe for the data. Yet another option would be to use a service like Mozy to remotely back up our data. They only charge $5 a month, so it may be worth looking into. However, it would take forever to do backups since our upload speed is capped by Comcast and the AirPort networking to our Mac mini is a bit slow. I’d be interesting in hearing anyone else’s experiences with making offsite backups. In any case, here’s some photos of the new setup.
Incidentally, this pushes our total household storage capacity over the 1 Terabyte mark, a worthy goal for any geek. If you combine the mini’s 80 GB internal drive, the three external drives, plus the extra 10 GB mini FireWire drive I use for computer-to-computer data transfer, plus our iPods, plus the 60 GB hard drive on Rebecca’s MacBook, you come out with 1558 GB (1.5 Terabytes!) of total storage under one roof! w00t!
The final tech acquisition to report is on the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse my parents got me for Christmas. An Apple Wireless Keyboard and a Logitech V270 Bluetooth Notebook Mouse. I’ve been wanting some wireless peripherals to help clean up some of the cable clutter in our small living space. I’m quite enjoying the keyboard – it has a great laptop-ish feel to it, which I definitely prefer, and it’s very compact, saving precious space on the desktop. The mouse works fairly well, although there seem to be problems with the Mac mini’s Bluetooth implementation that cause the mouse to be fairly laggy at times. I still have our old USB optical mouse hooked up for when we need to do more precision mousing.
Here’s a photo of Catherine experiencing the joys of Bluetooth:
Oh the happiness of technology!