Brooklyn Bridge Traffic

November 19, 2008 – 8:24 pm | by Benjamin Watt

Brooklyn Bridge traffic

Brooklyn Bridge Traffic

Back in July, I paid a visit to the USA, starting here in New York. This is one of many photos I took on this trip, whilst walking from Brooklyn back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge. It was an extremely hot day, but I was able to focus long enough to get this shot.

Radiohead’s new music video

July 14, 2008 – 7:48 pm | by Benjamin Watt

Radiohead - House of Cards - 3D Visualisation

Well something had to wake me from my blogging slumber, and this certainly is it.

Radiohead are a band I have a lot of respect for. They try something new. First they did it by releasing their latest album ‘In Rainbows’ for download at whatever price you wanted to pay for it, before eventually releasing it on CD. A great marketing ploy, but still a risky one.

That was interesting, but the release of their new music video for the song ‘House of Cards’ takes that very much to the next level. They chose to film their video entirely without cameras, instead using lasers to collect 3D data of them singing and other clips, the results of which formed their new video. There’s even a youtube clip of how it was made.

Okay, so that’s quite interesting. It’s different. But, enter Google, and it becomes more so. Google have taken that very data that makes up the music video, and they’ve shoved it into a 3D viewer, so that if you’ve got the patience to let it load, you can actually spin around and zoom in on the music video playing out in front of you. The above screenshot is of me doing just that. It’s strangely cool, and quite satisfying to play with, take a look at it here, and you too can be creeped out by Thom Yorke singing to you as you zoom in on his face.

And keeping with the ‘free’ theme of their album, Google has also put up the actual raw 3D data so that you can take it and manipulate and display it in anyway you should see fit, provided you know what you’re doing, which is another great touch. There’s a youtube group for those who do have a play to put their videos up for everyone to see, which I’ll be keeping an eye on.

Take a look at everything there is to know, including the video itself over on Google Code, you won’t be sorry.

Oh, and I suppose I should also mention that I saw Radiohead play live in Glasgow Green at the end of last month, for the first time. They were great, they played plenty of the classics, and some recent stuff, making for quite an evening. Even the constant rain didn’t dampen the crowd’s spirits, although the occasional rogue umbrella in the way tried to.
Radiohead - Glasgow Green - June 2008 (Photo by Peter Watt)

BBC iPlayer meets the iPhone and iPod Touch

March 7, 2008 – 8:25 pm | by Benjamin Watt

If you live in the UK (or really anywhere outside of the USA), as I do, then you’re maybe aware that we’re often left behind when it comes to developments in being able to watch TV and film over the web on our computers, with big announcements from Apple and Microsoft often applying only to the USA in the first year, possibly the second, culminating in a watered down, not quite so good version for the UK.

But lately that’s changed, thanks to the BBC. When the BBC iPlayer hit beta late July 2007, I quickly signed up to see what it could offer over similar software that had already been provided by Channel 4 for about a year. Initially, it was a little disappointing. Limited programming available, extremely basic navigation, sometimes flakey searching, and the need to use Internet Explorer to select programmes for download. Ugh. But it’s primary function, to download TV programmes that you may have missed for up to a week after it was shown, worked well enough.

But gradually it got better, and when it launched on Christmas Day 2007, the guide was better designed, and most programmes shown on any of the BBC channels were now available. Also, whereas before you’re only option to watch a programme was to download it on a Windows XP PC, you could now stream anything on Windows, Linux or Mac, and Vista had joined the ranks of officially supported download operating systems (you had to go a little out of your way to get hold of the software under Vista before this).

Since then, things have got even more interesting. The guide continues to get better at highlighting shows for you, and that’s good, as is support for the Firefox internet browser for downloading programmes, but today saw a particularly interesting development that I want to point out.

BBC iPlayer beta for iPhone & iPod Touch

If you go to the BBC iPlayer site from an iPhone (which I don’t have), or the iPod Touch (which I do have), there’s now a pink “Beta BBC iPlayer for iPhone” tag. The BBC has blogged about it on their BBC Internet Blog, which contains comprehensive information about how they’re doing it. That’s about all the help you’ll get at the moment from the BBC though, as there’s only a small selection of programmes that can actually be played on the device today, and all programmes on iPlayer are listed regardless of their compatibility with the iPhone/iPod Touch. There’s no indicator as to what will or won’t work, and most at the moment don’t, as you can see here.

BBC iPlayer beta for iPhone & iPod Touch

That’s no doubt going to change in the coming days as more programmes get encoded in the Quicktime format that’s required for you to stream a programme, but now it’s a bit like walking around in the dark where there are lots of light switches, but very few that work.

Still, when you finally hit upon a compatible programme, it works superbly over a WiFi connection. At the time of writing this post, only one of the six ‘Featured’ programmes do work, and there’s no real pattern that I can see in the full list, between those that do and those that don’t.

BBC iPlayer beta for iPhone & iPod Touch

Above you can see the initial page when you strike it lucky and find a working programme. There’s a snapshot from the show, and a big blue and white play arrow can be seen in the bottom right. Clicking on it, quickly whizzes you off to the iPhone or iPod Touch’s movie player, and the programme almost instantly starts to stream to you.

BBC iPlayer beta for iPhone & iPod TouchBBC iPlayer beta for iPhone & iPod Touch

The quality is suprisingly good, both video and audio come through nice and clearly, it’s definitely very watchable. And when you get bored of the programme, or it finishes, you just tap ‘Done’ and you’re straight back in iPlayer ready to watch more, or to write a blog post about it.

BBC iPlayer beta for iPhone & iPod TouchBBC iPlayer beta for iPhone & iPod Touch

If you’ve got either an iPod Touch or iPhone, it’s well worth having a play. Programmes I found that worked were at least one episode of Eastenders (I only watched the first couple of seconds, but it seemed to be about one of the characters trying to make ironing look cool), last week’s “Friday Night with Jonathan Ross” (probably funny at times, I didn’t watch much of it), and a BBC Politics documentary in the “Storyville” series that looked so dull I didn’t bother taking a shot of it. Well not of it playing anyway.

BBC iPlayer beta for iPhone & iPod Touch

I’m interested to see where this all goes, obviously streaming is nice when you have WiFi available, (and if you’re near one of “The Cloud“‘s hotspots, it’s free for BBC content) but downloading to the iPod Touch or iPhone is preferable in all other cases. You can do that now through the iTunes store with some BBC programmes, but it costs money and there aren’t many programmes available. Making the BBC programmes available to rent for free would seem the logical thing to do if the BBC can do a deal with Apple. Even the Apple TV could actually maybe become useful if it was supported too. At a push.

It’s such a good idea in fact, that the BBC already thought of it almost immediately after Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, announced movie rentals on iTunes. In fact, the BBC’s openness and honesty about their plans for BBC iPlayer and other areas of development on the web, often through their BBC Internet Blog, is what makes them such an interesting company to watch.

The UK Premiere of Tarantino’s “Death Proof”

August 20, 2007 – 11:49 pm | by Benjamin Watt

Death Proof Film PosterSo, Ratatouille wasn’t the only premiere I went to on Saturday at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. In the evening I came back to the same cinema and screen, this time to see a rather different film (to say the least), Quentin Tarantino‘s ‘Death Proof‘. In the US, ‘Death Proof’ was shown as part of a double-bill called ‘Grindhouse‘, but unfortunately there are no firm plans to show the other film in the UK yet, or for both of them to be shown together at all. Nonetheless, ‘Death Proof’ has more than enough clout to be seen on its own, and if you’re a Tarantino fan, you couldn’t ask for a better film to sum up what makes his films so unique. It’s pretty violent, but if you take a step back and enjoy the humour of it, you can’t help but like it.

But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. When I arrived at the cinema, the red carpet was out, albeit with sheeting on it to protect it from the rain (Edinburgh couldn’t have been any wetter and miserable if it tried that day). Camera in hand, I joined the other press photographers to see if I could find out who was expected, and maybe get some good shots myself. Alas, Tarantino couldn’t make it, but it turned out someone called Zoe Bell was coming, an actress from the film. Nobody seemed to really know who she was, but they were going through a lot of trouble to give her a good welcome. I hung about in the rain for a bit, listening to the organisers frantically radioing ahead to see if the car with her in it was almost there or not, but decided that it was getting too close to the start time, and that a better seat was preferable to a photo opportunity. If I’d hung about, this is what I would have seen, as Zoe arrived in style.

Zoe Bell - Edinburgh International Film Festival - Death Proof Premiere

If you click on the above photo, you’ll see some other photos taken at the premiere. My rather grim take on how things were before I went inside for a comfy seat, is rather different:

Death Proof UK Premiere Red Carpet - Edinburgh

Once everyone was there though, the aforementioned (rather pretty as it turned out) Zoe Bell came out and introduced ‘Death Proof’ for us all, explaining that she knew Tarantino would have loved to introduce it himself, but she would have to do. She realised no one would know who she was, but told us we certainly would by the end of the film. And she was certainly right on that front. Before ‘Death Proof’, Zoe was only known as a stuntperson, doing work in the Kill Bill films as a stand in for Uma Thurman, amongst other things. In this film though, she was both stuntperson and actor, and between her and Kurt Russell (who does some fantastic acting here), they really stole this film and made it their own.

Make no mistakes, this is a pretty unusual film, even for Tarantino, he’s obviously had a lot of fun putting it together, really going to town. But it’s no less enjoyable because of it. In fact, it’s pretty bloody brilliant. You’ll probably agree too when the words “The End” come up on screen at (you guessed it) the end of the film in a particularly silly moment. I won’t spoil anything here, the tagline for the film, ” These 8 Women Are About To Meet 1 Diabolical Man!” sums up the ridiculous nature of the whole thing, and summarises essentially what the film is all about.

When the credits rolled, and we’d finished cheering, Zoe came back on stage to a much more receptive audience. Zoe did a great job taking questions for an audience that had gone from not knowing her at all, to becoming her biggest fans in the space of a couple of hours. She was asked if anything actually scared her, to which she responded that “Houses, and mortgages and shit like that” do, but although the stunts she does are scary, she just enjoys doing the thrill from doing them. Zoe seems to be very proud of the work she did in Death Proof, and rightly so – going from a stuntperson to actor/stuntperson was quite a step, but it really paid off. I don’t know of any other film that has the actor and stuntperson as the same person. There’s something oddly brilliant about being able to clearly see that a character in a film is actually doing these crazy stunts, rather than seeing the back of a different person’s head. Zoe said the hardest part about acting was having to act as though she was actually scared of these stunts. She did a great job though, and helped round Tarantino’s quirkiest film yet.

Death Proof UK Premiere Ticket

The UK Premiere of Pixar’s Ratatouille

August 20, 2007 – 10:26 pm | by Benjamin Watt

Ratatouille - Dylan Brown Presentation Slide 1On Saturday I was in Edinburgh for the UK Gala premiere of Pixar’s latest film, Ratatouille, being shown as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The film isn’t out in the UK until October for some reason best know to the film distributors, but as a big Pixar fan I was glad to not have to wait until then to see Ratatouille.

On entering the cinema, I discovered a nice little souvenir on my chair (and everyone else’s for that matter, although obviously I didn’t take theirs). Everyone was given a rather classy Ratatouille card (see below) outlining the film, along with some nice Ratatouille artwork. It was a nice touch certainly, and I’ll certainly be treasuring mine. I noticed the odd person leaving their card behind, but foolishly didn’t run over to grab another one on the way out. I don’t know that it would have had too much ebay value anyway, but we’ll never know now!

Ratatouille Promotional Card Photo 2Ratatouille Promo Card coverRatatouille Promotional Card Photo 1

So anyway, the film was introduced by Pixar’s Dylan Brown who was the Supervising Animator for Ratatouille, and has been animating with Pixar since ‘A Bug’s Life’. There’s an interview here by ‘The List’ magazine related to this premiere. Dylan seemed to be equally as enthusiastic about being able to introduce the film as he was with his time spent in Scotland over the last week. Dylan told the audience later that John Lasseter had commented when they were in Paris for the international premiere of Ratatouille, that they should really make films that are set where they’d like to visit, so perhaps we’ll see a Scottish-based story from Pixar in a few years!

As per Pixar tradition, Ratatouille was preceded by a trailer for next year’s film (Wall-E in this case, which from what I’ve heard and read about, sounds like a fantastic story), followed by a short film. This year’s short is Lifted, about a trainee UFO navigator who can’t quite control his ship enough to abduct his target. It’s funny, it’s brilliantly animated, it’s Pixar basically. I think Boundin’ is still my favourite Pixar short, but ‘Lifted’ was a great little film, that shows what can be done with a simple idea.

Onto Ratatouille, which is really a return to form for Pixar. I love all Pixar’s films, but Ratatouille really sits nicely with my favourites, ‘Toy Story’ and ‘Monsters Inc’. Pixar have always been about the story, and this one shows they’ve still got it in that department. I’m not really going to review the film here, and wouldn’t want to spoil anything for those that haven’t seen it yet, but it’s a film with a great pace that certainly didn’t leave me bored. The whole film is set in a particularly nice looking Paris, at a famous restaurant, that’s going down hill. The main characters Remy (the rat), and Linguini (who reminds me a little of Fry from Futurama), have been so lovingly animated and provide such great (and in the case of Linguini, often stupid) character, it’s hard not to warm to the film. The stars of the show really are those two, but in true Pixar style, the ‘evil’ character of the film, Antono Ego (who’s a food critic) gets some of the best lines, and biggest laughs, particularly when we see his home.

As I’m a bit of a CG fan, I have to comment on not just the wonderful animation, but also the look of the film. The food (of which there is a lot in this film) looked eerily realistic (perhaps too realistic in places give the general cartooniness of the characters), and Pixar have certainly taken things up yet another notch from their previous films.

At the end of the film, Dylan Brown came back on to give us a 20 minute presentation on how they put together Ratatouille. Dylan started by talking about how every Pixar film starts from a simple idea. You can see a drawing of this idea from the photo I took of his first slide, at the top of this post. Dylan talked us through the stages they went through in animating a couple of scenes, and had a funny demonstration of how some beginner animators put together their walk cycle. He suggests that the best way to visualise such things is to think of every step as a way to stop the character from falling, aided by some silly walks on his part.

He then went on to talk about the animation rigs the animators use. He pointed out that there are no limits on some aspects of each character, nicely demonstrated with Remy’s arms:

Ratatouille - Dylan Brown Presentation Animation Rig Slide 1Ratatouille - Dylan Brown Presentation Animation Rig Slide 2Ratatouille - Dylan Brown Presentation Animation Rig Slide 3

I missed some of the amusing faces he had Remy making as his arms were stretched, but you get the idea. He then finished with talking about a couple of easter eggs hidden in Ratatouille (there are as ever, many to be found apparently). One nod to Pixar’s ‘The Incredibles’ came in the form of a performer miming on the bridge as Linguini walks by, who was Bomb Voyage in that film. The other was unlikely to be spotted by most people, and you’ll see a grainy shot of it below – the Pizza Planet truck from ‘Toy Story’ crosses over a bridge in the distance at one point in the film along with other cars. Blink and you miss it.

Ratatouille - Dylan Brown Presentation Easter Egg Slide

A question and answer session then followed. Dylan confirmed the forthcoming Pixar films already known about, and seemed to wish he could talk about what would follow. When asked about whether Pixar would do 2D, he said he didn’t think Pixar would go that route, but he was excited about the other Disney studios returning to such things, particularly with John Lasseter overseeing things now across Disney. Questions were also asked about Pixar doing a joint live action film with others, which seemed to be mostly wishful thinking, as Dylan said it was news to him, and that he’d definitely be signing up for it were it actually true. But it would seem it’s not.

Dylan did a great job of enthusing the audience over Pixar, and was a great guest to have at the premiere. Altogether it made for a great few hours of Pixar love. The Edinburgh International Film Festival is also polling audiences as they leave film screenings to vote via a card handed out on how many stars you’d give the film (up to four stars). The ‘Audience Award’ will be given to the best rated film by audiences, and as you can see on their site here, so far Ratatouille is taking the lead. Suffice to say, one of those votes was for the full four stars option, and I’m sure you can work out who gave it that.

Me.

Ratatouille UK Premiere Ticket - Edinburgh

Zooomr Mark III – a photo sharing community at its finest?

June 4, 2007 – 11:28 pm | by Benjamin Watt

Yesterday it finally arrived, and if you just want to skip to the chase, and find out whether Zooomr really is a photo sharing community at its finest, if this new version lives up to the hype, that’s fine – the answer is yes. Here’s why.

Firstly, if you’re not aware, Zooomr now offers unlimited storage of your photos without any size restrictions for every single user, regardless of whether you’re signed up as a pro user or not (which makes flickr’s free offering look a little feeble by comparison). This was actually introduced back in March to make up for the delay in introducing Mark III, but it’s worth repeating. There really isn’t a catch.

Zooomr already had a great community, but with Zooomr Mark III they’ve taken that a giant step further by really making you feel like you’re a big part of Zooomr. Every time you login to Zooomr you’re presented with a page called ‘Zipline’. If you’re familiar with Twitter then you’ll understand this, it’s basically a timeline of posts, starting with the most recent, of photos people have uploaded (with thumbnails of them), comments they’ve left on their own Zipline (maybe about their photos or asking questions or answering one of their friends), and other things too in the future. It sounds simple, but it works so effectively in getting you hooked in on looking at friend’s photos and seeing if they’ve discovered anything new by someone else. I would expect more and more getting added to this side of the site, it’s a killer social feature, that (against the odds I might add) seems to work very well on a photo site. Unlike Twitter, I can actually see myself using this, you can’t help but get involved, it’s such a fantastic way to keep up with your Zooomr friends, and it’s pretty addictive.

Zooomr: Zipline (screenshot)

Groups have also been added, something that flickr has had for a long time, and although this side of the site is really only getting started and is still quite difficult to navigate, it shows a lot of promise for getting users involved further in discussing their photography, and sharing photos.

Another thing they’ve done is improve the adding of contacts, friends and family. When you add someone now, that person gets a notice (via Zooomr’s ‘Fanmail’ private messaging) telling them you’ve added them, and asking if they want to add you as a contact too. Previously you only knew if someone had added you as a contact or friend if you happened to spot it on their Profile page. When you add someone you come across, you can decide if you want to hear all about what they’re up to on your Zipline. Things can get pretty busy on there at times, and you might not be interested in everything someone has to say, so this is very handy. You can decide if you want to just keep an eye out for their new photos, if you’re interested in messages they post on their Zipline, any events they might post (a Groups feature that isn’t setup yet), or if you want to keep an eye on their social activity. That last option is still not clear, but I would guess you’d be able to see on your Zipline when a contact has added a favourite or commented on someone’s photo. You can always go back and change these settings later through your profile page, if you change your mind.

Zooomr: Contact relationships

You can also quickly see one hundred photos from either everyone on Zooomr, your friends, your contacts, or just you, on the new ‘Discover’ page which gives you 20 photos each of those added in the last hour, last day, last week, last month, and the last year. This is quite a nice tool to see at a glance what’s happening, and one that will hopefully have more options and variations soon (I’d quite like to be able to filter photos to BOTH my friends and contacts for example). As its possible for you to miss some new photos by your contacts as they’ve gone out of the time range that Zipline is covering, there’s still a need for some of the old views in the previous version of Zooomr, so you don’t miss anything.

Zooomr: Discover 100

What else? Searching when geotagging is now much improved (it actually finds locations accurately without much bother, and it will make use of tags to help find landmarks if it can), camera information can be searched against (so you can for example find all photos taken with say, a Canon 5D), smartsets are now even smarter so you can now create automatically updated sets of your photos by camera information too (like this set I created of Canon 5D photos taken by my contacts and I), and lots of other little things that I’ve forgotten.

There’s still a lot coming back online though, some of the features of the old Zooomr haven’t returned just yet (viewing favourites, trackbacks, and photo exif information from pre-Mark II photos, being the most notable), but there’s a lot to really like already about this new version of Zooomr, and a good future ahead too. Kristopher is at the moment still bringing new servers online, but the speed of the site is getting better all the time (the first day or two had been rather slow but today its been mostly great), and I’m looking forward to seeing everything being finished.

The launch of an open API for Zooomr soon should hopefully blow the site wide open for some great applications much as the API for flickr has done. It should also allow for an easy upgrade path if you should choose to move from flickr to Zooomr (hopefully moving your photos and tags for you), but that really depends on flickr providing Zooomr with a commercial api key to do so. Fingers crossed.

During one of the many times during the ustreamed launch of Zooomr Mark III that Thomas was taking questions, I asked him if with this release we’d be seeing the end of these Mark releases full of tons of features, in favour of regular new additions. With it being nine months since the last change to Zooomr (other than the unlimited storage of course in March), and a fair bit of downtime involved in these upgrades, I hoped to hear Zooomr would be swinging the way of regular smaller updates. Lucky for all Zooomr users then that the new architecture of Zooomr should leave things good to go for just that very thing, in fact Thomas hopes that every couple of weeks or so we could be seeing new features or tweaks appearing based on feedback from users and planned additions.

Later in the year one of those features will be the new Marketplace when you’ll be finally able to start selling your photos through Zooomr (and keep 90% of what you charge), so there’s plenty still in store.

Go Zooomr.

Zooomr starts to come back

June 1, 2007 – 2:47 pm | by Benjamin Watt

As mentioned the other day, Zooomr hit some hard times when their database server crashed. Well, now thanks to the combined help and generosity of Zoho (providing space in their data centre instead of the old, and other help), Sun Microsystems (loaning some high powered, high capacity servers), and Dell (who I take it fixed the controller problem on the database server), all the photos on the Zooomr Static server are now back up.

That means all the photos I’ve blogged here from Zooomr are now showing again, and also they now appear very quickly! The new data centre they’re using puts them on a much better fibre link, and that coupled with the Sun hardware hosting these photos seems to have had a dramatic affect.

The Zooomr site itself is still not back up, but that’s expected later today, and judging by things so far it’s going to be much quicker than it otherwise would have been. Very cloud has a silver lining, and it looks as though Zooomr has come out very well from this one.

Apple (and Ben Taylor) finally release some DRM-free music

May 31, 2007 – 12:09 am | by Benjamin Watt

Today Apple finally updated iTunes, adding the recently announced addition of higher quality music minus the usual Digital Rights Management all bought music from there had. Sure only EMI are onboard so far, but it’s a start.

Last night though I was at the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen seeing Ben Taylor play (son of the rather better known James Taylor). Aside from it being a great gig (he’s touring just now, so keep an eye out), and also a funny one (as in ‘ha ha’), Ben was also the first musician that I’d come across that didn’t just sell CDs of his music after the show. Yeah, you could buy either of his two albums on CD, but he also had nicely boxed USB sticks ready to roll as well, where he’d stick on his albums, his live work, anything he’d ever recorded released or unreleased, and all at cheaper prices (on the whole) than on iTunes. It didn’t exactly move the queues along quickly, but there he was diligently copying over whatever anybody wanted to a USB stick from his Apple MacBook Pro (which he also used in his gig for some of the backing music), free of any copy protection. More money in his pocket, and more opportunity for fans of his music to get something they can’t get anywhere else, right from the source.
In fact, here’s someone who’s so in touch with how music distribution has changed, that when deciding he wanted to play one of his father James Taylor’s songs ‘Belfast to Boston’, on the Ireland part of his tour, he realised he had no idea how it actually went, and downloaded it from iTunes to work it out for himself.

Ben Taylor - Another Run Around the Sun Album

I thought it was a nice touch, and a sign of the times in the music industry – yes Apple has helped get a lot of music out there legitimately, but the artists are all capable of doing it themselves too already, and without the copy protection and fees.

I just bought one of his albums on CD though :)

Zooomr Mark III – the longest, friendliest, yet brief launch

May 30, 2007 – 11:18 pm | by Benjamin Watt

Zooomr.com

I first wrote about Zooomr back in October, having just discovered it as the photo sharing site of choice for my photos. Since then I’ve uploaded a lot of my own photos, as well as favourited and commented on a ton of great photos I’ve come across whilst browsing Zooomr. It’s a site that suits me down to the ground already, the way it has trackback information on visits to my photos, the recent activity bar, the smartsets, and just the general good community there, all added up to a great site.

For the last week and a bit though, Zooomr has been offline whilst migration took place to the brand new version, dubbed Zooomr Mark III. Development on this version has been going on for the last nine months, and Kristopher Tate (Zooomr’s sole developer) has been hyping this release up for some time now. It’s been a rocky path, with the initial launch in March abandoned due to technical difficulties with their storage provider, forcing a rethink and rewrite of certain elements of the new Zooomr. This last week hasn’t been plain sailing either, with the relaunch originally expected to take 12-24 hours, but to say these guys have been honest and transparent about this new release and the problems encountered would be an understatement.

If you doubt how dedicated the people behind Zooomr are to what they’ve created, here’s a quick aside. During most of the downtime whilst Mark III was put in place, Kristopher Tate and Thomas Hawk were live on ustream.tv, so you could watch the upgrade such as it is, as it happened. They could’ve just left it at that as a bit of a novelty, but in the IRC chatroom created on ustream to go with this broadcast, both Kris and Thomas were taking questions on the new release and what’s planned for the future. Whilst Kris was working away, Thomas would be answering question after question, and it really was an ingenius way to launch a new release. The people I’ve encountered there from the Zooomr community have been on the whole a great bunch, and it’s been a good opportunity to ‘talk photography’.

This morning, around the time I should have been ready to head out the door for work, the new Zooomr finally launched. Putting aside the need to be ready to catch a bus, I quickly set about discovering what was new. As it turned out though, I should have been quicker. Although there was a lot of new things there to play with, ten minutes into a new era in Zooomr, the database server died. Of all the rotten luck, the guys behind Zooomr really needed this to go well, and they were dealt another blow.

The upshot of all this is that the new Zooomr is ready, but Thomas Hawk and Kristopher Tate are currently having to work on repairing or replacing one of their servers before anybody can get at it. That also means the photos I’ve blogged here from Zooomr won’t show up for the timebeing. But with Robert Scoble putting a call out that so far seems to have shown interest from Sun and Zoho, things should with a little bit of luck be not far off Zooomr Mark III, Launch 2.

Canon finally notices Vista has come out

April 2, 2007 – 7:31 pm | by Benjamin Watt

Burn O'Vat, DinnetBurn O’Vat, Dinnet Hosted on Zooomr

Since getting my Canon 5D, one thing that’s been really bugging me is the lack of Windows Vista support by Canon. Unlike everyone else that makes cameras, Canon don’t support the ability to just attach your camera and have it appear as a drive for transferring photos. No, they have their own WIA driver which apparently works okay in XP, but there had been no Vista release until now.

I wasn’t really bothered about the photo transferring aspect of things because I was just plugging my CF card into a USB card reader which is faster anyway, but I did want to have a play with Canon’s software that allows you to control the camera from the PC.

So, I was pleased to see today via the MSDN blog that a Canon RAW codec has been released for Vista (which allows the CR2 format to appear thumbnailed in a normal explorer window and be viewable in Windows Photo Gallery), and with it updates for all the various pieces of Canon software that previously only worked under XP, including a new WIA driver.

The Microsoft Photography Blog has a rundown of how to find the RAW codec, but you’ll also find the WIA driver for Vista by going to the same bit at Canon, along with other bits and bobs like the EOS Utility, which works a charm, controlling my camera from my PC was a novelty that took at least five minutes to wear off.

It shouldn’t really have taken Canon so long to get Vista support out, but at least when they did they covered everything, and it works. The photo above if you’re wondering is just a recent photo I took with my 5D, it’s an HDR shot made up of three exposures taken of the Burn O’Vat, Dinnet in the highlands of Scotland. It has very little to do with this post.