banishing ads down the (raspberry pi) hole

ads. i hate ‘em. you probably do, too.

why are they so freaking … invasive … ubiquitous … and annoying? ads are seemingly everywhere in everything, especially on the inter-webs. there’s hardly a web site or app we can use these days that doesn’t overflow with ads. if the sheer volume of ads wasn’t enough, there’s a growing privacy concern in my mind as well. think tracking. ever been on a web site browsing for something and you go to another web site and suddenly there’s an ad for what you were just browsing? ugh. that’s not cool. so … enough!

introducing: raspberry pi-hole.


today i completed installation, set-up, and configuration of my first raspberry pi device in my home. if you’re not familiar with raspberry pi, it’s basically a small (think: tiny - about the size of a deck of cards) and inexpensive computer that can be configured to perform a whole range of things. there are extensive online tutorials about the amazing things that people have done with raspberry pi’s, but one option is to put this device on your home network and use it to block ads using some software called raspberry pi-hole.

it was a straight-forward set-up, install, and configuration with help provided by a scott helme blog post to assist in boosting some additional security settings.

how is it working? in a word: this has been simply … awesome!

in the first few hours of use i have seen nearly 40% - yes, 40%! - of my internet traffic blocked due to requests for ads. that is amazing! i don’t yet know if the network feels any “faster” or not, but with that much ad traffic being blocked it can only be a good thing.

i have some additional changes pending but this is another fabulous step in my journey to secure my home network. give the raspberry pi-hole a try - it’s easy, and you’ll be amazed at how effective it is with your own internet experience.

ps - this is NOT an april fool’s day joke. i swear. really.

my old man ...

today marks the 3rd anniversary of my dad's passing and although time continues to pass as it always does there is not a day that goes by that i don't think of him in some way. the pain of losing him has never gone away and i miss him every day.

i can still hear him in my mind giving me his advice, or just telling me a story as he so often did. yes, he had his faults as we all do and perhaps he had more than his share of them but he was still my dad and he was always there for me.

funny then that as i was thinking of how to post up a memorial of sorts that i ran across a song from the zac brown band entitled "my old man" ... i've not listened to this much, but enough that it tells a story of a young man looking up to his father as so many of us do.

for me - while perspectives changed and life events may have clouded and complicated our later relationship he was still and always will be, my old man.

dad, i'm trying to fill your boots every day. i miss you.

rest in peace.

fail! epic fail! > gopro karma ... a drone for the common man

update post (nov 20): well, as cool as this was it appears that gopro has an epic fail on its hands. epic.

it seems that the gopro karma is prone to simply falling from the sky without apparent reason or warning. not cool. dangerous.

as a result of this issue gopro has issued a complete recall of the karma and has not (as yet) announced when it might return to market. the fact that this recall has occurred just about two weeks after its launch speaks volumes (to me, at least) in terms of quality control testing that took place. or didn't take place, as the case may be.

a product such as this would presumably have thousands of hours of pre-release testing under various conditions and test scenarios and to have an issue like this reveal itself so quickly after public release says that something obvious was missed.

this is a major blemish on gopro's reputation - embarrassing and utterly ridiculous (at best).

i guess my search for the ultimate drone will continue. time to check out dji, etc.

fail, gopro. epic fail.

original post (sep 19): cool. this is just ... cool.

gopro has announced their first drone. it's called gopro karma.

i've been curious about drones for a while but i've never purchased one for a variety of reasons, usually the complexity and single-use nature of the devices.  the gopro karma appears to turn this around in many ways and it has me very interested.

the modular nature of the system, which utilizes a gopro camera (including the just-announced gopro hero 5!), a drone (duh!) that seems compact and portable, and an image stabilization device that can be used off of the drone in other ways (think handheld) for really impressive video. it's the ability to plug-and-play a camera (which you can use elsewhere) and the inclusion of stabilization that is portable and usable off the drone is really, really nice.

here's a very nice promo video for the gopro karma:

finally, there seems to be an eco-system of devices that will just work together and can be used in a variety of ways. i cannot wait to see this in person and i suspect that i will be an adopter in short order.

nice job gopro. nice job.

cubs win! cubs win! cubs win!

congratulations to the 2016 world series champion chicago cubs!

reflect on that for a moment, especially if are or know a die-hard cubs fan. something that many never thought would happen - not just in their lifetime, but never - has in fact become reality. the cubs have won the world series. unbelievable in many ways, surreal in other ways.

on a personal level, this was a fantastic moment for me to think about my dad who dreamed of this day but wasn't able to see this first hand. he would have loved this day, and he would have loved to participate in the celebration. budweiser in hand, of course!

that said, it was hard to not think about harry caray, the long-time cubs announcer who would have been over-the-top with his celebration of the cubs win. so, i found it especially touching to see and hear a "last call" video to bring harry back into our hearts and help us remember all those that have longed to see this day but were not able to celebrate with us in person.

cubs win! cubs win! cubs win!


los angeles in pano

right on the heels of my post about the arizona monsoon here is a similar (but different) short film by los angeles, california based photographer joe capra.

from both a technical and visual perspective these are incredible images. to create this film two synchronized dslr cameras were used for each scene and the images then stitched together to create what is effectively a 10k by 4k image. to put that into perspective, a standard high-definition tv produces 2k by 1k images on screen (approximately), so these final images are roughly 4 to 5 times larger than high-definition. that's huge.

visually, well ... here's the film for you to decide:


the arizona monsoon

if you live in arizona, or have previously lived in or visited arizona during the summer months you are most likely familiar with the monsoon.

according to wikipedia ...

"the north american monsoon, variously known as the southwest monsoon, the mexican monsoon, or the arizona monsoon, is a pattern of pronounced increase in thunderstorms and rainfall over large areas of the southwestern united states and northwestern mexico, typically occurring between july and mid september. during the monsoon, thunderstorms are fueled by daytime heating and build up during the late afternoon-early evening. typically, these storms dissipate by late night, and the next day starts out fair, with the cycle repeating daily. the monsoon typically loses its energy by mid-september when drier and cooler conditions are reestablished over the region."

the monsoon can produce incredible thunderstorms, but are also often accompanied by massive dust storms (also known as haboob), spectacular lighting, and massive downpours that can lead to localized flash flooding.

as someone that lives through the monsoon on a regular basis it can be easy to lose your perspective of the beauty in the monsoon, however.

but, whether by accident or fate i have discovered mike olbinski, a phoenix, arizona based photographer and filmmaker who has been chasing the monsoon for a few years and created some of the most spectacular short-films i have yet seen that manage to capture the beauty of these weather events.

please take a few minutes to watch the following film that captures the essence of the monsoon from 2016. watch this in full-screen if possible, and turn up your speakers to take in the whole experience:


a new identity ... aka, a logo!

many years ago as i started to "get serious" about photography i created a logo for branding purposes and while i have continued to use that logo sporadically i have really struggled with whether to use it long-term.

while the original logo was creative to a degree it has become stale over time and i started to wonder if it really conveyed a personal touch. in the end, i felt as though a change was needed, but to what?

as i spent time considering what a logo should represent, and how it should be used from a branding perspective i narrowed my focus to establishing an identity and a mark (or logo) to represent that identity.

the difference, at least for me, is that identity represents me as an individual and my logo represents the link between my and my photographs. it's the link to connect the photograph with the "who."

over the years i have pulled back on my "seriousness" with photography and want to spend my creative time making photographs that i find engaging, emotional, visually appealing, and most of all enjoyable. i am not a professional photographer. far from it. but, that doesn't mean i don't take the craft of photography seriously.

as such, i want my photographs to represent me to the highest artistic level, and one of the most personal representations each of us posses is our signature. adding our signature implies that we have put our mark on something, that it fully and completely represents us as an individual. so, i have selected a signature-based logo for my photography:

quick change artist!

so, i had a "soft opening" of this site several months ago and it was relatively smooth in set-up, maintenance, and roll-out. that said, i wasn't really much of a fan of the "back-end" management and tweaking that was required so i almost immediately started looking for alternatives and have selected squarespace as the preferred blogging option to move forward.

(note: the gallery link will take you to an alternate site where i will have more control over presentation and the option for sales of my photographs. i still expect to post images in my posts but the preferred browsing option will take place through the gallery link.)

so, i have been working behind the scenes over the last couple of weeks to set-up the new site, migrate the (limited) data i had already posted and then (today!) go live. so far, it looks to be a success but i will keep an eye on things and (obviously) keep tweaking and refining things as i go along.

clearly i am not posting a lot, and that's ok from my point of view - this was never intended to be a high-visibility, high-traffic endeavor. perhaps my post frequency will increase, perhaps not. much will depend on the stuff i do every day. :)

then, maybe ... possibly ... we'll see ... i may (may!) have an official "grand opening" at some point. or i'll just quietly go forward. who knows!


clever time-lapse camera rig

time-lapse images can be extremely interesting in that they can tell stories and capture events in a way that captivates the viewer like no other story-telling method. yet, even then most of the images tend to be "stationary" since they are usually taken from a fixed point. this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's always interesting when you can add a dynamic element to a story ...

enter frank howarth, a woodworker/photographer who has taken his love of both crafts and blended them together with the power of individual engineering to create an orbiting time-lapse camera rig to capture images of his woodworking efforts in an unusual and dynamic way:

don't you just love the tone-loc tune at the end? ;)

fast lane daily crashes hard!

no! one of the best if not the best online auto news shows - fast lane daily - has been shut down! i am crushed by this news! to put this in perspective, fast lane daily (web page + youtube) has been running daily - yes, daily - for almost 9 years and it being shut down without any real notice of any kind is heartbreaking. i have come to be a big, big fan of this show and its host, derek d.

derek d and crew were clearly unprepared (but not necessarily surprised) for this move according to the final episode posted on youtube:

this comment from a story posted by jalopnik's editor-in-chief patrick george sums up what this show was about and how well the entire crew did their job, day in and day out:

it’s a real shame to see an early automotive video pioneer meet such an abrupt end. fld’s first episode was in 2007, making it practically a dinosaur in internet years. but the show’s audience was big for a reason—it reliably, irreverently and energetically delivered a daily stream of news for enthusiasts in a way that’s been often imitated but seldom duplicated. at least, not effectively. --patrick george, jalopnik

hopefully this is just a temporary hiatus and not a permanent end, but it's sad nonetheless. thanks, fld. you will be missed, but i will keep my fingers crossed that you will be back.

politics as sex

sexy politics! wait? is that a thing? of course it is! in the paraphrased words of a personal hero of mine, john oliver, how is that thing? since it's now the political silly season (when isnt it political silly season?) with the republicans having their big party last week (july 18 through july 21) and the democrats holding their big party this week (july 25 through july 28). but, what does any of that have to with sex?

on the surface of it - absolutely nothing. yet, the fine folks at men's health have seen fit to provide some insight into the lives of political partiers. their sex lives in particular.

it's fun reading, voyeuristically interesting, possibly insightful, and ultimately pointless. did i mention it was fun?

here's the findings ... enjoy!

photographer confrontation on a public road

as an amateur photographer i often worry about confrontation for a number of reasons. among the top reasons is that another person will take exception to the what, where, when, or how something is being photographed. now, the person may be a member of the public, a property owner or tenant, a local authority such as the police, or some other person or persons and they may approach and react to the situation in a broad spectrum of ways. as the photographer the best response is to always be polite, accommodating and understanding, and to engage in conversation as appropriate. while the vast majority of situations are never a big deal, there's always the potential for unexpected escalation and confrontation. these are challenging situations at best and potentially dangerous at worst. take the situation encountered by alex stone recently which was recorded and posted on youtube:

so, could this have been prevented? could this have been handled and managed differently? what can be learned from this situation? i have several observations about this particular incident that i want to share:

  • public road photography: did the photographer and the team have permission to take pictures in this location? despite this being a public location, it is still a road and there's no right to impact traffic even if your perspective is that there is little or no "inconvenience." others may not have the same perspective (even if they said nothing to you directly), and without permission (or even having provided pre-notification to local authorities that you will be in the area) you may have little recourse if something happens.
  • facilitating the escalation: while the photographer is polite (although perhaps a touch condescending at times) during this encounter, there doesn't appear to be anything to gain from continuing to engage with the man in the truck. why not just acknowledge his presence, apologize for any misunderstanding, and state that you will (as quickly as possible) gather your gear and be on your way?
  • post-escalation response: why call-out the man in the truck as  a "redneck" when posting the video? yes, contacting the police and even posting a video as a lesson for others may be prudent and reasonable, but there's no benefit from further stoking-the-fire by labeling the man in the truck. yes, he's clearly unreasonable but let his actions speak for themselves.

clearly my observations are pointed at the photographer in this situation. the potential for a confrontation was created by choosing to take photos on a public road without prior permission or notice. by continuing to engage with the man in the truck they allowed the situation to escalate. this all could have been avoided in my view.

with all of that said, the man in the truck is completely unreasonable and appears to have only been looking for fight. that the only damage done is to the phone is remarkable as this could have been much, much worse. perhaps the photographer has also learned a few lessons in the process as well.

independence day: 240 years and counting!

july 4th is american independence day, and 2016 marks the 240th anniversary of the signing of the declaration of independence. to celebrate this day most americans do very independent things like get together with family and friends for celebration with barbecue and fireworks. occasionally there's the odd amount of beer consumption. typically this comes with the "here, watch this ... " story that results in something that someone somewhere will regret later. but, that's all just part of the experience! because 'murica! ;) but, it's also a time to reflect on our nation. a time to remember the men and women who have served and sacrificed so that we may enjoy the freedoms we have, and to consider the men and women that serve today and in the future that will continue to protect our freedoms. a time to enjoy all that we have accomplished as a nation, and a time to remember that we have much work to do to improve our nation even more. we as americans have much to be thankful for, much to be proud of, and much work left to do to improve ourselves, our nation, and our world.

happy birthday, america!

usa flag - uss arizona memorial

top gear: sliding into neutral ...

a week ago or so i proudly proclaimed that "top gear returns!" and laid out my hopes and a thinly veiled prediction that it would be pretty good. well, the latest season - the reboot following the departure of jeremy, richard and james - premiered on bbc america last night and i have to say that i am more than mildly disappointed. the lack of chemistry between the hosts was apparent but not surprising as i know that sort of thing takes times. the early work with jeremy, richard and james was also lacking chemistry, so it's not that aspect that is most concerning. i will offer-up that the number of hosts is confusing to me ... it was primarily chris evans and matt leblanc with little involvement from others during the premiere except until the "extra gear" segment when rory reid and chris harris appear. sabine schmitz has only a cameo in the premiere episode and is a primary story point during "extra gear" (which seems strange). i have no idea where eddie jordan was during any segment of the show.

no, you see it seems to me that the show is sliding into neutral ... there didn't seem to a purpose to much of what was done on the premiere. from the opening film comparing the viper acr and the corvette z06 all the way through to the conclusion of the uk vs. usa competition between chris evans and matt leblanc, the viewer is left wondering "why are we doing this?" from start to finish.

the previous hosts, while certainly known for doing things that made no sense in the grand-scheme managed to consistently set the table for why they were undertaking some journey, competing, or reviewing something. contrived, certainly but effective at drawing the viewer in with interest in the story to unfold. i never got that sense of purpose from the premier episode.

i will continue to watch the show for sure and while i fully expect there to be tweaks as they go forward, i see "top gear" very much as a work-in-progress. the show and hosts need to clearly establish their own identity and purpose to make "top gear" their own. simply trying to recycle the style from the previous hosts is only leading to a lack of substance in my opinion.

lunatik epik - mini-review

this is a mini-review of the lunatik epik aluminum apple watch case and band that i have been using for past month or so. first, a little background ...

i am and have been for many, many years a big fan of apple products. i almost exclusively use apple products whether it's a computer (mac pro, mac mini, macbook pro), handheld device (iphone, ipad), or a home entertainment device (apple tv) and you can be sure that i have them incorporated into my life, and i love it.

some may question this immersion in all-things-apple, but it boils down to a simple fact for me: i just simply prefer the apple "ecosystem" and i have not found any reason to seriously consider or evaluate changing. there is a "je ne sais quoi" quality about apple products that appeals to me - ease of use, design, and so-on that i really like and while other products may do this or that a little (or even a lot ... ) better than apple in some cases, none seem to be as cohesive and consistent as apple across the spectrum.

along comes the apple watch ...

then the apple watch was released and for the first time in a very long time i "didn't get it." literally and figuratively. here was a product that was expensive - as with most apple products there is a premium price, so i expected that - but this one seemed excessively expensive for what it delivered. for all intents and purposes the apple watch seemed like a miniaturized iphone. in fact, it almost required an iphone to be anything more than a glorified digital watch.

now, please understand i do appreciate a really good watch and while i would probably pay a lot for nice automatic watch (for example, i would love to own an omega speedmaster ... ) those are heirloom quality pieces that should last generations if cared-for properly. electronic devices, on the other hand, are (if we are honest ... ) ordained with planned obsolescence and will be essentially "disposable" in a few years or less. [psa: please do not just throw electronics away - utilize an electronics recycling program.]

over the last 6 months or so something changed in my thinking, though. i can't quite tell what changed or why, but somehow i started to "get it" and see that the apple watch was not so much a "watch" as it was a tool to help manage different aspects of your day in a more convenient and centralized way. much like the apple phone did so many years ago, here was a device that could suddenly centralize different information and provide a simple and convenient way to interact with that information and manage it more effectively.

yes, it tells time. yes, i can see things like weather and similar notifications without having to interact with my phone. but i can also manage my health and exercise in a more cohesive way and even take steps to actually improve my health and stay motivated to exercise. i can communicate even more easily with family and friends. on their own, these can all be done elsewhere but again apple has managed to unify those capabilities into a simple, small, and attractive device.

all seemed good and i purchased an apple watch 42mm "sport" in space gray with a black silicon band. i was happy in general, but there was still a hitch in my mind: the apple watch and bands offered by apple were actually too simple ... they were too gentle looking, and i wanted something far more rugged. since they market this as a "sport" watch i would have expected apple to offer at least an option to beef-up the profile and provide some ruggedness along the lines of what you might find with a casio g-shock, or suunto. alas, i was to be disappointed and i began to search for third-party options and eventually came across the lunatik epik.

trying out the lunatik epik ...

my first impression of the lunatik epik was promising ... the "looks" were spot-on. here was a case and band designed for the apple watch that had the appearance of suitable ruggedness and seemed to be more premium in quality of materials and construction.

unfortunately, the reviews were mixed (mostly due to user assembly issues ... see below for more detail). to top it off, the cost was high. very high, in fact - pushing $200 or more for an aluminum case and band. the product had been introduced in 2015 as a kickstarter effort, possibly leading to a higher initial cost as things got moving for the company but as much as i liked it, i did not think that was a reasonable price point so i kept looking for other options. yet, as i searched nothing quite seemed to measure up so i decided to live with the basic watch and wait things out.

it turns out that my wait was not long ...

a couple of weeks after my first discovery of the lunatik epik (and as a result of having joined their mailing list) i learned that they were now being offered at a significantly lower cost of approximately $100 for an aluminum case and band. score! this seemed to hit the proverbial bulls-eye on cost so i took the plunge and ordered one.

lunatik epik aluminum

so, let's look at the features and benefits of the lunatik epik aluminum:

  • aircraft-grade anodized aluminum case
  • soft silicone band with anti-dust/dirt nano coating
  • active control crown
  • full access to all sensors

there are several color and band-material combinations available, including leather if desired so there's probably a style that may to your liking.

while there is also a polycarbonate case also available (at a lower cost) i really like the aluminum style - it gives a nice, premium look along with some contrast and does not add any significant weight. as this was also intended to be a "sport" watch, the silicone band seemed appropriate.

assembly and use ...

when you receive the watch (which was delivered quickly and without any issues in my case) you are presented with a package that seems as though it could have come from apple which opens easily and presents the case and band in an elegant way. literature is provided on assembly and use, along with the tools and components to assemble the case and band.

this is a good time to mention that the lunatik epik is not like the standard apple watch bands you may buy from apple. it does not attach in the same way, and requires a little more time to assemble and actually attach as this is truly a case and band, and not just a new band. this is not something you are likely to swap on or off frequently as a result, so this product (at least in my mind) is more of a semi-permanent change. that said, it can be removed with relative ease in a few minutes and a standard band put back on if desired or when the situation warrants.

once you have the product out of the box and the tools in front of you, assembly can be completed in a matter of minutes. remove the apple watch band, and slide the two sides of the lunatik epik case over the apple watch. to secure the case to the watch, attach the band using the small screws and allen wrenches provided in the box. do this for both sides of the band and once complete, the watch is ready to go.

one note on the band assembly: although the screws holding the band to the case should be tight, do not over-tighten as you risk putting too much pressure on the case and the apple watch crown which may limit its functionality. should you experience any problems after install in using the crown, consider a slight loosening of the screws to see if that helps. this is the area of concern that seemed to appear most frequently in early reviews and feedback (and even comments from lunatik) have since stated to not over-tighten the screws or there may be problems.

once assembled and attached, the new lunatik epik case and band work flawlessly. access to the apple watch is not impacted and the sensors all appear to work exactly as they would with a standard band. i have not personally experienced any functionality issue since i have been using the lunatik epik over the past month that i have had it. the case around the watch provides a small and unobtrusive beveled edge to help protect the watch surface while still allowing direct access to the watch functions. subtle, but effective, the case seems to do a good job of giving just a little more protection for those of us that may be prone to unintended impacts with our watch as we go about our daily lives. ;)

i will mention that in my caution to not over-tighten the screws during assembly, i may have actually not tightened them sufficiently as i did notice that one of the screws had managed to come loose and fall out (presumably lost forever as they are very, very small!) about 3 weeks after first assembly ... fortunately, the other screws remained secure and the watch band never separated from the case or otherwise presented any problems. i chalk this up to user error during installation and do not blame the product in any way for this issue.

now, kudos to the team at lunatik for anticipating that users will at times lose or misplace parts and they provide two spare screws in the product packaging. awesome! so, i was able to quickly and easily replace the lost screw and ensure appropriate tightness to (hopefully) avoid any problems in the future.

in daily use the case and band have been superb! i could not be happier - the case and band have provided the ruggedness and looks i wanted while not providing any additional weight or inconvenience. others that have seen the case and band have asked me what it is and are surprised to learn that it is an apple watch! everyone i talk with is impressed with the revised looks and style and improved protection afforded by the case, and i am as well.

summary ...

in summary, here's a list of the pro's and con's for the lunatik epik aluminum watch case and band.


  • rugged style and improved protection over standard apple watch bands
  • unobstructed functionality in daily use
  • ease of assembly
  • affordable, range of material and color options


  • assembly not as simple as standard apple watch bands
  • care required during assembly, case and band not easily removed
  • 42mm size only (not available for 38mm)
  • case not waterproof

in short, if you are looking for something a little more robust from a design aesthetic and protection point than what is offered by apple, then i highly recommend the lunatik epik aluminum case and band. this is a great product with several style options and price points to please just about anyone looking to "beef up" the apple watch.

final thoughts ...

perhaps you noticed the point about the case not being waterproof? maybe that is an issue, or maybe it's not. my research seems to suggest that even though apple doesn't explicitly mention that the apple watch can be used around water there does seem to be anecdotal evidence that the out-of-the-box capabilities are actually pretty good in this area. despite that evidence, i would not be comfortable in wearing my apple watch for swimming or other activities that involve significant submersion without some additional protection.

to address this last point, the team at lunatik apparently have been woking in a skunk-works like manner to come up with something new and have announced the lunatik epik h20!

lunatik epik h2o promo

this new product will address this last point by providing a water-proof "jacket" that provide will 50 meters of protection for swimming and related activities. this is a fabulous development, and i have a pre-order in place with delivery expected in june 2016. look for a follow-up review of this new product once i have had an opportunity to give it a test but it looks promising!