A great way to start the new year…

The best laid plans… I have a bunch of blogging stacked up, none of which you’ve seen yet. Just as the New Year kicked in, so did a bug, which struck both myself and Laurie, and after a few rather grumpy days as a head cold, it headed to laurie’s chest and off camping in my ears, so I started off the new year under the weather and on deadline with both the CES announcements and our newly refreshed developer portal and blog.

Thank god for Sudafed, that’s all I can say, even though they make you sign 37 forms to get the damn pills now. I do not, for the record, recommend the sneezing, Sudafed and Starbucks Diet, but it does seem to work. After one last “battle of the bulge” over the weekend, I seem to have fought the bug off for the most part and the energy levels are returning, so the ability to string words together and have them make sense seems to be back. you really didn’t miss anything — insightful — the last week or so, anyway. Trust me.

But if you’re wondering why I’m just getting to looking back and setting goals as we roll into February, that’s why. So 2010 is off to a rousing start…

But it’s time to get back on the horse and start riding again, and I’m thinking through the next couple of months and one thing I’ve decided is it’s time for a damn vacation. I went looking, and I’ve suddenly realized that in the last

  • 2009: 2 days (an extended weekend in Morro Bay for Photo Morro Expo
  • 2008: 5 days for the trip to Yellowstone
  • 2007: 3 days for my aborted research trip for Dare2Thrive after leaving strongmail, 5 days into the Northwest after leaving Laszlo, and 2 days for a spring trip into Yosemite
  • 2006: 2 days for a christmas jaunt into Yosemite, and the 8 day summer celebration into the Northwest celebrating leaving Apple and moving on to whatever was going to be next…

The trip to Yellowstone (after spending most of the year dealing with Dad’s illness, death and the estate with my mom) seems like forever ago. Because to some degree it was. My moving to Palm was on a tight schedule so no time off, and this last year has been  an amazing year that I’ve loved just about every minute of (the minutes I didn’t love were the ones I was considering throwing myself, or someone else, off a roof…) — but it’s time for a break, so I’m starting to plan out some time off. Not sure what, or where yet, but I know I need to get in the car and take the camera and mostly unplug for a bit.

I’m guessing late february or early march. have to figure out what the work and hockey schedules are, and of course get Laurie’s thoughts and permission (shh.. I haven’t mentioned this to her yet… literally just thinking this through tonight after she’s gone to bed). The obvious ideas come to mind, which include Yosemite (too late for serious winter work(?), too early for waterfalls and WAY too early for spring and dogwood), but also to finally get to Salton sea and maybe spend time in Joshua tree and Anza/Borrego and the deserts — I had a trip planned for Salton Sea when dad got sick, and it got blown up and I’ve never gotten it rescheduled. But I’m hearing other things whispering also, whether it’s Grand Canyon or Bryce and Zion, or even shooting up the coast into the Northwest (but I’m likely to hold that off for a summer trip with Laurie…); some other venues come to mind like an extended visit to the San Diego zoo (I haven’t shot at a zoo in a while) or Disneyland or Vegas for the kitsch.

Dunno. Have to think. Have to make sure I don’t overschedule and spend too much time travelling and not enough time visiting. Maybe define a starting point and then see what happens. Right now I can definitely feel a tug between revisiting comfort zones (disneyland, yosemite) and pushing into fresh territories. I think I need to lean myself towards the latter, this feels like it’s time for some exploring.

I’m definitely open to suggestion. Feel free….

(and I think I’m going to try for a long weekend or a mid-week jaunt to Yosemite for the dogwood this year, if I can. But I’m always up for more than one trip to that place, especially in times when it’s relatively quiet. It’s been probably 15 years since I’ve visited at a time when Tioga was open…)

Posted in About Chuq

Protecting mailto links (my advice: don’t)

Got this in email the other day, decided the answer might interest some of you.

I actually just had a quick random question about your Contact Us page on chuqui.com

I agree about not putting a phone number on a personal or small business site unless you are prepared for the idiot factor.

Since yourself and of course myself too are all too familiar with the world of spammers I was wondering why you don’t obfuscate or somehow protect your mailto: link?

It’s a serious question, as I am actually wondering if you do want to see how much spam will come to it and which types of spam?

good question, complicated answer… Part of it is that my email addresses have been “out there” for so long — I’ve owned plaidworks.com since 1995, for instance — that I assume I’m on every spam list in the universe, because, from what I can tell, I am. So why hide when it’s too late already?

I also think those obfuscators are fake-security. Anything you can build programmatically, they can unbuild programmatically. All they have to do is care enough to try. They really don’t fix things, but they make you feel better, and over time, they get compromised — so you add complexity to things and in the long run, it doesn’t really solve the problem. Or it does, for a while, but how do you know when it stops working?

I don’t see any purpose in having an arms war with someone who can out-gun you from day one. I’d rather put my time into useful things.

So here’s what I do:

I hire someone else to worry about it.

I don’t believe it’s possible for an individual to “win” a way with the spammers. Or even “break even”, or even stick with “moral victories” for long. Even if I could, I’d much rather put my time and energy into other things.

So that means having your email hosted by someone who does have the resources to fight spam. I currently have three email hosts: gmail/google, mobileme/Apple, and my personal ISP (plaidworks.com/chuqui.com). Of the three, the personal ISP has the most leak-through, but they honestly do a good job and I have no complaints, given the complexity of the task.

Apple/Mobileme uses Brightmail for filtering (unless things have changed), and Google uses Postini, which they bought a few months after I turned down a job at Postini to work for Strongmail instead. Both groups have organizations individuals can’t hope to do better than (IMHO), no matter how much the geeks think they can “better mousetrap” the problem. My experience shows it to be a situation with rapidly diminishing returns for constantly increasing resource commitments.

So let the experts handle it. Then, realize it’s never going to be 100% perfect, and don’t get your knickers in a knot when it really IS imperfect. A few pieces of spam sneaking through won’t kill anyone; the stress you get spazzing out over the spam just might.

Right now my final mailbox lives on gmail, because it works best with my webos/Pre phone. When I was living on an iPhone, I used MobileME’s mail server. Depending on where I live, I have the other servers set to auto-forward to the final repository, and everything works pretty well.

In reality, the anti-spam aspects of email work pretty well now if you’re involved with a mail host that has their act together. Many corporate environments don’t. Most geeks fighting this battle on their own don’t (and complain about it loudly, so I think the general view is it’s a lot LESS solved than it is). Living on a mail host run by pros costs a few bucks (well, it doesn’t on gmail, but you get ads. I would happily pay a few bucks to do away with them..) but I’m a lot more worried about spending time than money in most cases.

Things like mail obfuscators never really worked well; they might have been ignored by spammers, but if the spammers decided they were worth investing in cracking, they got cracked. Very few geeks who installed them actually did any kind of scientific testing on how well they worked, they noticed no spam in their boxes for a few days and declared victory. A month later? three? six? Compared to non-obfuscated control addresses?

shrug. very little science here. Including myself. What science I do have is a couple of years old and pretty thin as well, so I don’t declare myself an expert, but when I did experiment, I just didn’t see anything worth the time investment, not compared to just putting my email on a server where a staff was in charge of solving the problem for me.

The proper place to solve the spam problem is on the incoming connection; even if you do obfuscate, all it takes is one mistake to leak, or someone else to leak it FOR you (and I found those leaks everywhere when I was tracking this stuff; painfully sad) to require having to do the incoming filtering as well. If you have to do that anyway, isn’t the proper answer to focus on doing that better and not do things that ultimately don’t really help solve the problem?

My bottom line: you aren’t going to keep email addresses away from the spammers. Trying to do so is a false security solution, and ultimately a waste of time and energy. Instead, it’s keeping spam out of the incoming email stream, and if you do that well, you don’t need to worry about the addresses leaking. So I don’t.

Posted in The Internet

I guess I’m a real photographer now…

I guess I qualify as a real photographer now. I’ve broken a lens. My Tamron AF 28-300mm has turned into a 28mm lens, with the zoom not working and the unit stuck in wide angle. It first locked up on me in Morro Bay during the Expo (of course), but it allowed me to manually zoom it; since then, it’s decided to simply turn into a prime.

Oh well. it’s going to have to go off for repair. I’m tempted to open it up myself, but I think I’ll restrain myself and let the experts fix it. But this leaves me with a little problem — my widest lens is my 100-400; not a good lens for family photos for christmas.

So I think I’m going to rent; I have to decide what to take with. My as well use the time as an excuse to scout the replacement, or at least potential.

Do I like this lens? Absolutely. It fit exactly the needs I defined and wanted when I bought it. It’s a bit soft at 300mm, but that was expected and for my use is acceptable. I wanted a general “carry around” lens with a wide range that wasn’t too large and bulky and “obvious” — something I could put on the Rebel XT and carry around with me on a day to day basis with flexibility, but without screaming EXPENSIVE CAMERA everywhere I went.

It fit that role perfectly; now, if only I spent more time outside of my cube where I could take advantage of having a camera with me… (a quick hint to computer geeks with cameras, make your next computer bag a camera bag with room for your laptop. I replaced my laptop backpack with a Tamrac 3385 and I love it.

Having said that, would I but the Tamron lens again? No. Not because it broke, not because of any flaw with the lens itself, but because I’m finding there’s one aspect of it that I’d do differently. it’s not wide enough. I was too worried about getting the extra magnification in the zoom (the bird photographer in me) and not enough about the other side of the zoom range.

So if I were to do this over again, I’d choose a wider lens with a shorter maximum zoom range, because it fits the rest of my gear better. When I’m out shooting I usually hit a point where I want something wider than I have, and while the Sigma 10-20mm is on my list to get, I’ve come to think a better “street lens” for me would be in the 20-200 range instead of the 28-300, and my initial thought there is the Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3, although I haven’t tested it yet. So maybe that’s what I’ll rent and see if I like it…

Posted in Photography