Posts Tagged ‘review’

Friday, March 26th 2010

The Most Underrated Camera Accessory of All Time

The Canon E1 hand strap. A very simple yet extremely practical accessory for your camera.

Canon E1 hand strap on the 30D with BG-E2 battery grip.

It fastens on to the top of the camera and the bottom of the battery grip. (If you don’t have a battery grip I believe there are other hand straps that might work.)

A regular neck strap will work fine as long as your camera and lens both are fairly light. But as soon as you get into heavier stuff it will be very uncomfortable to carry it all with your neck.

The camera bounces off your tummy for every step you take. Which is especially uncomfortable if you have a heavy lens on the camera that makes the camera tilt forward. Also, the total weight of the camera and lens will give you a vulture’s neck before the day is over. Alternatively you hang your camera diagonally from shoulder to hip, making it quite a hassle to get it up to eye-level for shooting.

The E1 hand strap is a much better solution. It lets you carry your camera in your hand, with almost zero effort. The natural curving of your fingers combined with the hand strap makes it pretty much impossible to drop the camera, even if you relax your hand completely. And that’s with almost two kilograms of camera and lens!

It also means you always have the camera in your hand, ready to shoot whenever you like. An added bonus is that the leather has a very horsy scent and makes your hand smell like you just came back from the stable. ๐Ÿ™‚

It seems to me the hand strap is still quite rare considering how useful it is. Definitely not one of the first things you’ll have heard about from your camera friends after you bought your camera.

Friday, March 26th 2010

Noise Reduction in Lightroom 3

In my review of Lightroom 3 beta 2 I wrote:

… software still canโ€™t do magic and I prefer to keep all the detail, and grain, in my photos. I only use colour noise reduction to get rid of the ugly colour blotches.

It turns out I had completely missed a very important slider, under the main luminance noise slider: Detail

And having discovered that slider I realize that software nowadays can do magic! Lets have a look at an example.

First, lets see what Lightroom 2 can do with luminance noise (grain).

While trying to find a good photo to illustrate this I realized that the photo I picked completely at random for my last post was actually a very good one for this puropse. Plenty of detail and grain in the same area of the photo. This is a 100 percent crop from a photo I shot at Christmas with my trusty 30D. 1/20th at f/2.8, ISO 1600.

Hover the image to see what a noise reduction setting of 50 does in Lightroom 2.

Test of noise reduction in Lightroom 2.

As you can see, the detail in the painting is definitely blurred. And the frame, as well as the little gnomes at the bottom of the crop, are also slightly blurred.

Here is the same crop in Lightroom 3. You’ll notice there is much more detail to start with. This is one of LR3’s strengths. But when you’re shooting at ISO 1600 it means the grain will be very visible too. (My aggressive sharpness settings of 40 – 1.0 – 40 – 40 don’t help either.)

I set the luminance slider at 50, and the new detail slider at 70 (default is 50) while leaving the contrast at 0. That’s what you’ll see when you hover the image below.

Test of noise reduction in Lightroom 3.

In my eyes at least, the sharp grain completely disappears. Meanwhile the actual details are left virtually untouched! This is pretty amazing!

When looking at the painting I don’t get that feeling of greasy smear on my glasses that I get in the first demo.

Conclusion

To summarize, Lightroom 3 is much better at identifying which pixel variations are noise and which are part of some actual detail in the image. For the first time I feel that I have noise reduction that actually does more good than bad!

I will definitely be using both luminance and colour noise reduction in the future.

Finally a direct comparison of Lightroom 2 and Lightroom 3, both with NR on. Its like getting a new pair of glasses!

Lightroom 2 compared to Lightroom 3.

And to think that image detail was one of the selling points for me when I moved from Canon’s own raw converter to Lightroom. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thursday, March 25th 2010

The Most Overrated Camera Accessory of All Time

Let me introduce you to the diffuser. You may be familiar.

Diffuser / Omnibounce

The diffuser, in this case an Omnibounce, is the white plastic thing photographers like to put on their flashes.

This is undoubtedly the most expensive piece of plastic I ever bought. (It was something like $30 if I remember correctly.) And perhaps the most unnecessary.

Considering it is basically a remolded tupperware box, it does hurt to dwell on what it cost.

The point of it is to soften the light from the flash. The only thing is, there is a much better way to soften the flash and that is to bounce it off the ceiling. Which will cost you exactly $0.

If you try to do both at the same time – point the flash straight up with the Omnibounce mounted – the expensive white plastic will be counterproductive since it will shine light straight at your subject. In doing so it brings back the flat look and harsh shadows you were trying to avoid in the first place. Hover the photo below to see what the Omnibounce does.

Test of the Omnibounce diffuser.

And if you for some reason point your flash straight at the subject – for instance if the ceiling is coloured or non-existent – the Omnibounce will give you just as flat light as you would have got with the flash on its own. The few photons of light that the Omnibounce actually manages to spread out sideways is nowhere near enough to fill in the shadows.

Hover the image below to see what the Omnibounce does in the straight-on situation.

Test of the omnibounce.

In fairness, it does blur the shadow edges very slightly though. Here the Omnibounce gave a warming effect too, but that’s just because some of the light has bounced off our beige wallpaper to the left of the desk. If you’d been in a green room, you would have got a sickening green tint. ๐Ÿ˜‰

As you can probably guess by now, the Omnibounce is not one of the things I carry around in my camera bag. And if you haven’t already wasted $30 on one yourself, I suggest you don’t.

Stay tuned, I’ll soon be presenting the most underrated camera accessory.

Tuesday, March 23rd 2010

Lightroom 3 beta 2 Review

Adobe released their second beta of Lightroom 3 today. I’ve downloaded it and played around with it a bit – here are my thoughts and observations so far.

(If you want to read about the big changes since Lightroom 2, have a look at my previous posts.)

The slow scrolling has been fixed! Hallelujah! In the first beta each notch on the mouse wheel equaled one pixel of scrolling, which made it pretty much unusable.

Custom tone curve

Now Adobe have made it possible to use the tone curve in the normal Photoshop fashion. Here’s how to:

Screenshot of the tone curve panel in Lightroom 3 beta 2.

In the bottom of the Tone Curve panel, there is now a button to the right. If you click it you get into Custom mode, where you can drag the points on the curve any way you like.

Screenshot of a custom tone curve in Lightroom 3 beta 2.

This allows more extreme treatments, but most of the time the default mode is both easier to use and more photographically useful.

Luminance noise reduction

The developers have now switched luminance noise reduction back on. (In the first beta it wasn’t ready for testing.)

Here’s what it does to an ISO 1600 shot of mine, at 100%:

100% view with luminance noise reduction switched off.

Above at the 0 setting, and below at the 25 strength. It seems fairly good at keeping the detail in the photo while smoothing the luminance noise, or grain if you wish.

100% view with luminance noise reduction switched on.

Even so, software still can’t do magic and I prefer to keep all the detail, and grain, in my photos. I only use colour noise reduction to get rid of the ugly colour blotches. I have the colour noise setting at 10 as default and almost never change it.

Highlight tone priority

In beta 2, the highlight priority method has been made default for post-crop vignetting. It was available for evaluation in the first beta as well. This vignetting effect is a much better simulation of real, physical lens vignetting, and looks much better in my opinion.

Below is an image with the old paint overlay method of vignetting. Hover it to see the new highlight priority method.

Demo of vignetting in Lightroom 3 beta 2.

Have a look at the bright snow on the right when you hover in and out. The old method makes these highlights grey in a very unnatural way. Highlight priority lets highlights burn through the vignetting darkening in the same way they would do with real lens vignetting.

I want slide-show sharpening!

The slide-show module now has an option to render the images before starting, to avoid waiting time between the slides.

Screenshot of Lightroom 3 beta 2 prepare previews in advance option.

This is great, but they still haven’t fixed the one reason I don’t use Lightroom for slide-shows: sharpening. I would like to be able to choose between low, medium and high sharpening for screen – just as I can do in the export dialog.

This should be a pretty simple fix for the developers – especially now that they allow pre-rendering. They already have the algorithms to do the sharpening, they basically just need to add a drop down box in the panel.

Until that is fixed, slide-shows will always look better if I export the photos with sharpening and use FastStone to create the slide-show.

Other fixes

Adobe have also had the good sense to fix the folder view in the Import dialog. In the first beta it was really weird. Now it works like a normal folder tree structure – i.e. as you would expect. (The first beta was automatically uninstalled when I installed beta 2 so I can’t check to see exactly how the folders were weird. I just remember they were weird.)

There are a few other things that have been added that are of limited interest to me. I’m sure many others will like these though:

  • Tethered shooting for certain Canon and Nikon DSLRs.
  • Support for importing and organizing video clips.

Automatic lens correction

Sadly, Adobe still haven’t added automatic lens correction in Lightroom 3. I’ll have to keep dreaming for Lightroom 4. ๐Ÿ™

Monday, March 22nd 2010

Giving Chrome a Chance

I have had Google Chrome installed basically since the day it was released. But I have never had a serious go at using it.

The other day I decided to give it a try. So I re-installed it to get a blank new profile and then imported my Firefox bookmarks, history, search engines and passwords.

Screenshot of Google Chrome

Here are a few things I noticed:

  • Speed. Chrome feels very responsive. Especially I notice that Google Reader runs extremely smoothly. No lag at all when I hit n to jump to the next news item.
  • Design. I have always liked the Chrome design and layout, with the tabs right at the top, maximizing space for web pages.
  • Imported passwords? Chrome claimed to import my passwords from Firefox but they are nowhere to be found. Perhaps because I use a master password in Firefox, and hence the password data is encrypted.
  • Searching. Using Chrome’s location bar (omnibox) to search using the installed search engines is not as simple and intuitive as using Firefox’s search box. The idea is that I should be able to type goo and hit tab to select the Google search engine. But if Chrome has ranked something else higher than google.com โ€“ in my case Google Reader โ€“ tab won’t select the search engine. This brings me on to my next point.
  • Tab. The tab button doesn’t move the cursor from the location bar to the list of matching web pages. Instead it jumps to content in the current web page. Of course, I’m meant to press the down arrow to get to the list, but Firefox lets me use Tab which is much easier to reach while typing.
  • Location bar matches. Just like Dave Dash noticed, Google Chrome isn’t at all as good as Firefox when it comes to finding what I want in the location bar. The last two days I have typed recent many times to get to Recent forum activity at Dpreview.com. It still brings up a Google search for recent as the top choice and Flickr’s recent activity page as the second choice โ€“ a page I haven’t visited even once using Chrome. Chrome’s location bar needs to get better at reading my mind.
  • In-page searching. There is no way of making Chrome search a web page as soon as I start typing in text. This is one of my favourite features of Firefox.

Those things were enough to make me want to go back to Firefox. Two days in Chrome is still longer than I’ve ever managed before ๐Ÿ˜‰

Saturday, November 28th 2009

NEC EA231WMi Review

Well, we decided to get the NEC EA231WMi after all. A contributing factor was that my wife wanted a new bedroom tv. So we got both. ๐Ÿ™‚

NEC EA231WMi

As flat screens go, it really is brilliant. It seems almost completely insensitive to viewing angle, although when you tilt it up and down you can see the gamma changing very slightly.

This screen is factory calibrated so it gives you pretty much correct sRGB (gamma 2.2) colours right out of the box.

As I mentioned in a previous post, it is also able to actually show 8/24 bits of colour. So it doesn’t show any banding in a test such as this one.

When gaming it is brilliant to have a large wide screen. Crysis never looked so good. With our XFX Radeon 4890 Black Edition I’m able to play with maximum settings @ 1920×1080. The first time I tried it it really made me go wow.

I did consider the Dell U24010 for its 1920×1200 resolution, but in the end it wasn’t worth the extra money (+50%). Also, the Dell is nowhere near as nicely calibrated out of the box. (And I don’t have a calibrator thing.)

The NEC pivots, but I noticed that my pivoting software interferes with Crysis for some reason, so I un-installed it. And after having Googled around for a while, I now realize that it is possible to rotate the screen by hitting Ctrl+Alt+arrow. Edit: I’ve found that to be incorrect. However, I’ve been able to set a keyboard shortcut in the ATI Catalyst Control Center.

It also turns very easily around its foot. The turning mechanism on our old screen was so stiff that you always ended up moving the stand as well as the actual screen.

Here are some photos comparing it to our old screen, an Acer AL1722. The most obvious difference is the colour temperature of the screens. I did each comparison straight on and with the screens at ~45 degree angles.

NEC EA231WMi compared to Acer AL1722

NEC EA231WMi compared to Acer AL1722

Nothing much to complain about with a normal picture.

NEC EA231WMi compared to Acer AL1722

NEC EA231WMi compared to Acer AL1722

Here you can see that the NEC is affected a lot less when viewed from an angle.

NEC EA231WMi compared to Acer AL1722

NEC EA231WMi compared to Acer AL1722

For these shots the exposure was increased to exaggerate the effect slightly. But this is still pretty close to what it looks like in a pitch dark room.

NEC EA231WMi

NEC EA231WMi

These two photos show that the colour temperature is very consistent across the screen. First I thought I could see a slight gradient from left to right, but when I analyzed them in Photoshop I realized I was just imagining it.

Edit: Added a few comments about the comparisons.

Edit 2: Decided to continue with some more thoughts …

As I said above, the gamma varies very slightly with viewing height. But the difference is small enough to be unnoticeable between your left and right eye when the screen is pivoted. (Our old screen was a bit of a pain to use pivoted because the left and right eye got significantly different gamma which resulted in a very weird feeling.)

The screen comes with a nice cover that snaps into place on the back of the foot to keep the cables in place. The snap is a bit weak though so I have stuck ours in place with some blue-tak.

The screen came with automatic brightness adjustment enabled by default. I found this to be rather annoying, since the effect was very noticeable when switching the desk light on or off. It would perhaps have been less annoying if the brightness was adjusted in a smoother fashion. As it is now, the brightness jumps up or down in a series of small yet very noticeable increments.

Instead I usually have the brightness constant at around 40–50%.

It is interesting how quickly you get used to the extreme width of the screen. I thought it would take much longer. Already I feel that going back to 1280×1024 would be pretty tough.

I’m beginning to see the possible benefits of Windows 7’s improved window handling (without actually having tried Windows 7 yet). It would be very nice to be able to easily get two windows side by side. I know it is possible in XP too, but it is quite a tiresome process: Minimize all other windows, then choose the menu option after right-clicking the Task Bar.

I’ll end with a summary: Highly recommended!

Thursday, October 22nd 2009

Lightroom 3 beta Review

Edit: Want to read about the new Lightroom 3 beta 2?

I woke up this morning to the news of Lighroom 3 beta having been released to the masses. Now, after work, I’ve downloaded it and run it through some tests. Here’s what I’ve found so far. (If you want a full list of improvements, check out the Lightroom Journal.)

Image Quality

Now, many know-it-all photographers complain about other photographers pixel-peeping. Looking at your photos at 1:1 or 100% is the worst thing you can do, according to these people!

Since photos are made up of pixels, there is no other way of checking image quality than looking at the pixels – peep away! And that’s what we’re going to do here. Otherwise we wouldn’t see any differences at all. So basically all the anti-peepers need not worry about Lightroom 3 beta.

Lightroom 3 beta is much better at dealing with purple fringing than version 2. This is without any de-fringing turned on in the Lens Corrections panel. As you can see the difference is pretty clear:

Comparison of purple fringing in Lightroom 2 and 3 beta.

Here’s another 100% comparison, where I think you can see that Lightroom 3 beta makes the yellow leaves less blotchy and more detailed. That’s how I see it anyway, and the branches are clearly sharper. (This is at my fairly aggressive default sharpness settings: 40 – 1.0 – 40.)

Comparison between Lightroom 2 and 3 beta.

The above comparison becomes clearer if we zoom in to 300%. The leaves look like oats in a porridge to the left – ugly blotches – and I’d say there is more detail to the right:

Comparison between Lightroom 2 and 3 beta.

If you pull the sharpness slider down to 0 though, the difference between the two versions is pretty much nil. So I draw the conclusion that the sharpness algorithms have changed more than the underlying de-mosaicing algorithms.

As for the noise reduction, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about. The reviews I’ve read/seen this morning have hailed it as something almost revolutionizing. I’d say colour noise reduction always has been very good in Lightroom, and I can’t see that 3 beta makes it any better (or worse):

Comparison of noise reduction in Lightroom 2 and 3 beta.

NR on in the comparison above means colour noise reduction set to 10. Sharpness settings were now at Lightroom defaults, 25 – 1.0 – 25.

Of course, they haven’t yet implemented luminance noise reduction, let’s see what they can do there. In Lightroom 2 I never use the luminance slider because it just takes away so much detail.

CPU usage and responsiveness

I imported (added to a new catalogue) two folders containing a total of 295 photos from my Canon EOS 30D. I chose to render 1:1 previews at the same time. This took just over six minutes in Lightroom 2, but almost three times as long in Lightroom 3 beta!

The actual import though (minus the 1:1 rendering) took roughly half as long in 3 beta as in 2.

I kept an eye on CPU usage while doing this. There isn’t much difference, but Lightroom 3 beta seems to be slightly worse than v2 at using all the power in our quad core AMD Phenom II CPU.

Lightroom 2 (ignore the right third of the four graphs):

CPU usage when importing photos in Lightroom 2

Lightroom 3 beta:

CPU usage when importing photos in Lightroom 3 beta

I also tried exporting 82 photos to full-size JPEGs. This took 95% longer in 3 beta, even though it was using roughly 80% of the CPU compared to around 63% for v2.

I read somewhere that you don’t get the blurry thumbnails in 3 beta that you got in v1 and v2. That’s not entirely true. You maybe won’t see them as often because scrolling is slower (see below) but you can definitely still get to see blurry thumbnails.

I’m not sure there’s been any real improvement when it comes to leafing through photos in loupe view either. There can still be a delay before you see the photo nice and sharp, depending on how much time you allow for the next image to pre-load.

Scrolling made worse

The scrolling in the Library was changed from Lightroom 1 to 2, for the better. It was made much faster. Now it has been made worse again.

Adobe have implemented scroll acceleration, so you need to scroll fast to get anywhere. I liked the old way, in 2, where you could scroll a notch or two and still get somewhere. This new implementation is much more hard work for my index finger.

Grain effect and watermark

Lightroom 3 beta lets you apply a grain effect, and I suspect this will be a somewhat overused look in the coming months:

Lightroom 3 beta grain effect and watermark.

Here the grain is combined with a split toning, which is possible in version 2 as well.

Library filters are lockable!

In Lightroom 2, any filter you make in the Library will remain active in the folder or collection where you created it even when you moved to another folder and back. But it wouldn’t remain active from one folder to another.

This is done much more intuitively in Lightroom 3 beta, if you ask me. Now, by default, the filter will be forgotten if you switch from one folder to another. But you can choose to lock it with a padlock icon, and it will remain active for any folder or collection you browse to.

In Lightroom 3 beta you can lock filters with the padlock icon.

Wish-list

There are still a few things on my feature wish-list for Lightroom 3 final.

  • Plug-ins for the develop-module.
  • Automatic lens correction. (Barrel/pincushion distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting.)

Conclusion

Quite a lot of nice improvements! Some may seem insignificant to others while making a huge difference for me.

The best part is that the Lightroom developers are still hard at work, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the two things above!

Thursday, August 28th 2008

Quick Review of IE8 beta 2

IE8 about dialog

I just downloaded IE8 beta 2 and gave it a quick spin. Here are my first impressions, starting with the good:

  • The new tab grouping & colouring feature is nice. Hopefully someone will make a Firefox extension to replicate this behaviour. (I can’t seem to find one today.)
  • The private browsing feature is great. Firefox 3 should have had this by default. (At least two Firefox extensions exist that do this.)
  • The Accelerators feature is good and exists as a Firefox extension: Context Search.

Then a few good things where IE8 has caught up with the competition:

  • It passes the Acid2 test and now renders the web in a much more standards compliant way.
  • It has a Find bar and not a Find window that constantly gets in the user’s way.
  • It restores crashed sessions.
  • It lets you restore closed tabs.
  • It has an improved Fullscreen mode, ร  la Firefox 3.

The bad is that my main reasons to avoid Internet Explorer are still there:

  • Opening a new tab still feels as slow as beating an elephant to death with a USB stick. The funny thing is that the IE team mock Mozilla et al for working with improvements on the millisecond scale, while they themselves still have improvements to make on the whole second scale.
  • The menu-buttons to the right are slow as well.
  • I still can’t rearrange the toolbars and buttons as I would like to. Which equals a step back to Netscape 6.
  • Ctrl+L still brings up the stupid open dialog instead of just focusing the location bar.

It remains to be seen if they can improve the tab-opening performance enough for the final release. I’m guessing they won’t. (Enough in this case would be as fast as Firefox 3, which on my 3200+ AMD opens tabs instantly.)

Saturday, April 21st 2007

My New Toy: the Cowon/iAudio D2

(This little review ended up so long I decided to add some rather un-bloggish section headers.)

Rating

Without further ado: 9.5 out of 10.

Intro

On Thursday the 19th I finally got my first ever DAP. The Cowon D2 (4 GB). I thought I was going to get it on Monday, but it was delayed three days in the post. That’s the Swedish postal service for you.

Cowon iAudio D2 box

Cowon iAudio D2, display switched off

Strictly speaking though, this is a PMP, not a DAP, since it plays videos as well as audio.

Previously, Cowon have branded their DAPs as iAudio this or that, but for some reason they’ve dropped the iAudio name from their newer players. (The A3, D2 and Q5.) If they are trying to reduce consumer confusion by removing the semi-brand iAudio name, they aren’t doing to well. The current situation is much more confusing. Google says the D2 is referred to as the iAudio D2 in one out of three times.

Pros & Cons

My main reasons for getting the D2:

  • It plays Ogg Vorbis audio files, the audio format which gives best sound quality per kilobyte. (I rip all my CDs to 128 kbps Ogg Vorbis.)
  • It has an SD memory slot which lets you easily (and at a low price) add up to 8 GB (or up to 32 GB, soon).
  • It has radio
  • It plays video
  • Like all Cowon’s players, it has great sound quality
  • It has a very good battery, allowing up to ~50 hours of music listening (or 10 hours of video).
  • …and, I might as well admit it: It’s pretty cool with its wonderful 2.5 inch touch screen ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Then there are a few other useful features that might come in handy:

  • Radio recording
  • Recording through built in mic, line-in or external mic
  • TV-out
  • Picture viewing
  • Text-document viewer

Then a few gripes:

  • Both the line-in and tv-out require special adapters that are not included in the box. I got the line-in adapter since it could come in handy for the occasional recording, but I didn’t bother with the TV-out, which leads me to my second gripe…
  • All videos have to be downsized to the screen resolution of 320×240 pixels. This means it will only output 320×240 pixels through the TV-out, while a standard TV can display roughly four times as many pixels. If Cowon release a firmware update that will allow higher resolution videos to be played and sent to a TV I will definitely get the TV-out adapter too.
  • The little stylus (which isn’t needed for the touch screen IMO) is supposed to work as a stand when watching video. (See the photo on this page.) But it doesn’t clip in properly. You’re supposed to be able to use it for two different viewing angles. The more upright position only just works, while the D2 will just fall backwards if you try the more angled position. The stylus just comes out of the slot.
    Edit: I just realized that the stylus works much better as a stand if you have the elastic string fitted as it should be. Duh. ๐Ÿ™‚

More thoughts

Overall, the D2 feels very well built and sturdy. You can hear how nice it feels (yes, you can hear it!) roughly one minute into this pretty good video review when the reviewer pushes it around on a table surface. As usual, though, on these kinds of things, the USB/charger connections are covered by a plastic lid which doesn’t feel… umm… indestructible. I guess the player would work fine even if that lid were to break off.

Since I live about 320 kilometres from my family and girlfriend, I spend quite a few hours on the train every month. That’s where I’ll be using the video capability of this thing. I’ll simply load it up with a few episodes of whatever I happen to be watching, or possibly a film that I’ve recorded from TV recently, and watch on the go. That should reduce the boringness of travelling. I’ll just have to try to not laugh too loudly while watching Seinfeld. ๐Ÿ™‚

I will use my D2 with my Koss PortaPro headphones, which are very light and travel friendly while sounding great.

One great aspect of all Cowon/iAudio players is that you can adjust the sound in about a million ways, using a real equalizer, bass booster and various effects. For those of you who have a Cowon player, here are my settings:

  • EQ: 0,  –5,  –3,  –1,  0
  • BBE: 2
  • Mach3Bass: 10
  • 3D surround: 0
  • Stereo Enhance: 0
  • MP Enhance: 0

Yes, I like my bass nice and rich ๐Ÿ™‚

Album art is another of the D2’s nice touches. For each music folder you can simply add a picture of the album cover, call it cover.jpg and it will be displayed when playing any of the songs in the folder. See the photo below.

Cowon iAudio D2 showing album art

The easiest way to get your D2 set up with album art is to simply do Google image searches for each album and save decent-looking images in the corresponding folders. It takes a while, but it’s well worth it if you ask me. (And hey, you’re reading my blog.) The pictures should be at least 92 by 92 pixels. If they’re bigger, they will be automatically downsized by the D2.

I also like the fact that Cowon are constantly improving the firmware for their players. It makes you feel that they care for you even after they’ve got your money, which is the kind of thing that makes you want to come back to a brand in the future. Right now it’s been a few weeks since they released 2.41, so there should be a new version out soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

When I got my D2, it had the 2.21 firmware installed, so I went through the rather tedious upgrade process to get version 2.41. About halfway through the installation I couldn’t get it to switch on, so I panicked for a little while, thinking I had lost it for ever. However, after a few more tries it started and I could finish the installation. That’s pretty much the only software glitch I’ve seen so far.

The bundled computer software, JetAudio, is surprisingly good considering it’s bundled. So far I’ve only really used it for converting videos to the right size, though. What I liked was the surprising number of options for getting the video conversion just right. For instance, it’s possible to select just part of a video file for downsizing.

Finally, if you end up a Cowon (or iAudio?) owner, you should know about the iAudiophile.net forums. There you’ll find answers to pretty much anything you could want to know about the Cowon DAPs and PMPs.

Monday, May 30th 2005

CSS – Designing for the Web

Just received my (free!) copy of Håkon Lie and Bert Bos’s book on Cascading Style Sheets (Cascading Style Sheets – Designing for the Web, 3rd ed.). Very nice!

The front cover of Cascading Style Sheets - Designing for the Web. The back cover of Cascading Style Sheets - Designing for the Web.

I was sent a copy for free in exchange for a user review over at amazon.com, which I feel is a great deal ๐Ÿ™‚

This (the third) edition has been updated to fully cover the details of CSS 2.1. Without having read the book properly yet, it seems to be a very useful and complete guide and reference.

Beforehand I thought the book would only be a technical (code-centered) guide to CSS, but it turns out to contain many practical design tips as well. I would say it is useful for both beginners and advanced website designers. (I thought I knew basically what there was to know about CSS, but the book has already tought me several new and useful things.)

The book is split into logical sections, and for each CSS property discussed there are symbols indicating which browsers support the property in question.

Reading this reminds me how much I love using stylesheets for website design…

Ok, this is getting a little out of hand here. I’ll try to think of something negative and add it to this post at a later date… ๐Ÿ™‚