Published!

Through the site NowPublic, I have now had 5 of my photos published online in two articles:

NowPublic is an interesting community journalism site. It is fully integrated with Flickr, so it makes it easy for journalists to search for and request license for photos right from the photographer. What I find curious is the choice of photos people have chosen to license – as NONE of these would have been choices of mine (especially the nuclear memorial at the University of Illinois, Chicago).

You can see the collection of my published photos (continuously updated) in its entirety on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/rdonovan/sets/72157601086632753/.

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The Home Theatre

I have been asked by several friends now what I have put into my home theatre setup and why, so I figured I would answer definitively:

  • Television: Sony KDS-60A2000 60″ SXRD television – the Liquid-Crystal-on-Silicon (LCOS) style televisions work well with my lighting environment (as opposed to front projection). Size-wise, they are more price competitive than LCD or Plasma. And – for me- they do not suffer the viewing irregularities of Digital Light Projection (DLP) sets – namely wobulation and rainbow effects. If I had a larger room, the Sony Ruby projector would be my choice. Or if doing the TV today, I’d do the 70″ XBR2 set which was not available at the time I purchased.
  • Speakers: Totem Acoustic Forest (Left/Right), Model 1 Center Signature, Thunder subwoofer, and Lynks (surround) – speakers are a matter of personal preference. I wanted something that would work well for the average apartment/condominium sized room, look good, and work equally well for cinema and music. If I had a larger room and budget, I would probably go up to the Wind/Shaman left/right speakers and go with additional Lynks for a 7.1 (vs 5.1) surround setup.
  • Pre-Amp/Processor and Amplifer: Outlaw Audio Model 950 and 5100. Outlaw makes great equipment for the money. They are getting a bit dated in terms of lack of HDMI support – but otherwise they are hard to beat. I get around that by connecting the HDMI devices directly to the television. If I were to do it over today, I’d probably go with Anthem.
  • Optical Media: I opted to bet on both camps and go with the high-end offerings from Toshiba (XA1) and Sony (BDP-S1) for HD-DVD and Blu-Ray respectively. The Toshiba HD-DVD players I have found – subjectively – play standard DVDs much better than the Sony Blu-Ray players.
  • Cabling: I went with BetterCables.com and bought their high-end cabling. They aren’t a name brand, but the electrical specifications and build quality are outstanding – and I saved a lot as a result.
  • Other Stuff: I use the latest Comcast Motorola HDTV DVR cable box and an AppleTV for other programming. The AppleTV provides a great way to leverage my iTunes investment and huge media library. I tried a Windows Media Center PC, but found it not worth the trouble and complexity given that it cannot record over HDTV digital encrypted cable.

I chose these components after 6-9 months of research in every category based on best-of-breed performance and best bang for the buck. For more details:

Although not an official endorsement of any kind, I have been very happy with my setup and met my goal of getting the quality I desired for ~$10,000 investment.

Lucky Sevens

In some respects today feels like the first day of the rest of my life. I am now wrapping up many professional journeys that have taken the better part of the last several years – and occupied the vast majority of my life (at times much, too much).

The details of all of this will be coming out in July and August – stay tuned to my work blog at http://blogs.msdn.com/rdonovan/.

Now it’s time to embark on new work journeys – and many new personal ones as well (and make those a long-overdue priority). To keep  track of those, check out my new personal blog at http://rdonovan.blogspot.com/.

Be seeing you!

The iPhone


I was expecting not to like the iPhone. And expecting to see it flop. I was wrong.

Apple has another winner on their hands (as evidenced by massive sales thus far and amazing lines unlike anything I have ever seen – including the Windows 95 launch) and the product itself delivers. Apple has demonstrated once again how to enter a saturated market, deliver an outstanding V1 product, and get people to buy it – including the non-technically savvy masses.

I personally am still using a Palm Treo 750 running Windows Mobile – as it more than adequately meets my work needs. The iPhone, given lack of ActiveSync support, is not there yet as an everyday tool for me. However, for people like my mother – it’s an amazing device – as the one I purchased just went to her as a late birthday gift (given that her birthday came a few months before iDay on June 29th).

I have been attempting to convince my mother to get a mobile phone for some time. She has historically expressed zero interest. When she mentioned that she thought the iPhone looked interesting, I thought I might have a potential winner. If not, the return policy is pretty liberal. I gave it to her – and she is hooked.

In a matter of hours she has figured out the Weather application, the Maps/traffic application, e-mail, viewing photos, playing music, sending SMS messages, navigating the Web, and, of course, placing calls. To say she is hooked is an understatement – it is her new can’t-go-anywhere-without-it (including around the house) accessory. All this from a person who has spent the better part of a decade avoiding cell phones, let alone anything resembling a PDA.

My take is that the user interface is amazing, the hardware build quality and battery life is phenomenal, and the display is the best I have ever seen on a handheld device. The one area I expected to be awful – the on-screen keyboard – is actually very friendly once you figure out how to use it properly. The only problem I see is not being able to navigate based on tactile touch. The lack of removable battery is a myth – iPods have never had removable batteries and it has not seemed to cause much of an issue.

In short: the smart phone for the masses has arrived and redefined the segment. I can’t wait to see what lower-cost, next-version offerings bring…

Aston Martin meets Canon EOS-5D


I have been keeping my eye on the Canon EOS-5D camera for some time. My first “serious” digital camera was the Canon EOS-350D (also known as the Rebel XT). I liked it, but have this year outgrown the lack of custom shooting options and longed for the flexibility of a full-frame 35MM camera.

I loaned my old Canon to one of my work colleagues – and he ended up buying it from me. And I replaced it with the EOS 20th Anniversary Kit, which contains the EOS-5D body, a 24-105MM L-series IS lens, carrying case, and every conceivable factory accessory – for about 40% off of list price. Timing is everything.

And the first round of photos has now been posted – some shots taken of my 2002 Aston Martin DB7 Vantage coupe in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle, not too far from the camera store. Enjoy at http://www.flickr.com/photos/rdonovan/sets/72157600495247265/.