News sweep

I’ve managed to go the entire month of August without a post, due to a combination of travel, family activities, and vacations. So here’s a sweep of some of the things that I would have covered during that time.

1.0′s

The Chandler Project – Chandler has gone 1.0, so if you were put off by the version number, you can take it out for a spin. There are some good posts on the Chandler blog that describe how people are using it.

Django – Just today, the Django project had its 1.0 release. This is pretty important because there were a lot of changes in the subversion trunk that weren’t in the packaged builds. That’s all be done away with now. I expect that this will lead to even more Python webapps.

Tools

DTrace – DTrace is 5 years old today, and Bryan Cantrill has a good war story from that time. It’s amazing to me that something as good as DTrace can be around for 5 years, and still be relatively unknown. If you are on Solaris, OpenSolaris, or Mac OS X, go check it out.

Ubiquity – Ubiquity is like Quicksilver integrated into Firefox. It’s emphasizing the natural language aspects of that kind of interface. There’s also pretty good documentation on how to build additional commands, which is really important. There are extensions for Quicksilver, but there aren’t a lot of them. There are already a lot of third party Ubiquity commands. I really wish that Ubiquity could talk to other applications besides Firefox, but there are pretty nasty security problems down that path. Some of the commands are very Google oriented, like the mail and calendar, which makes it less useful for people like me who are still using desktop applications. In an event, I think that this is worth watching carefully. One unintended side effect might be additional pressure for page/application authors to embed machine-readable content (yes, that you, microformats, at least in part) into more pages. We’ll see.

Chrome – There’s a lot of buzz about Google’s Chrome browser. Since it doesn’t run on the Mac, I don’t have much to say. I’m not about to install Windows or fire up VMWare just to run a browser. One day the Mac port will be done, and then I’ll have a look. I am encouraged that the development team is doing a real Mac native experience.

Dynamic Language Runtimes

It’s been exciting to watch the progress in JavaScript runtime engines over the last few weeks. First there was Mozilla’s TraceMonkey, which is a tracing based JIT, which delivered some very impressive speedups, despite the fact that it still has cannot deal with recursion. As part of Google Chrome, a team lead by StrongTalk/HotSpot lead Lars Bak has done a JavaScript JIT called V8, which is also turning out some very impressive numbers. And of course, the SquirrelFish engine for WebKit was turning in pretty good numbers a few months back. This is great progress for JavaScript — it’s less so for the web because of the variety of deployed browsers. It’s exciting to watch the various JavaScript runtimes leapfrogging each other. It gives me the sense that JavaScript is really making some serious moves on the performance front. Of course, none of these folks are comparing their execution times to C or C++. I’d like to see those comparisons as well. It’s also great that all three of these engines are open-source, so that implementors of other languages can evaluate the internals of these VM’s. I’d love to see this kind of leapfrogging in the Python and Ruby communities.

Cameras

I’m not as interested in the camera body arms race as I once was. The Canon 50D is an upgrade of the 40D, but I’m not really sure that more pixels is better. The telltale feature on the camera is the autofocus system, which hasn’t been given much of an upgrade. That signals to me that the 5DMkII will not be the all out upgrade that many are hoping for, but what do I know? The Nikon D90 sounds cool if you want to shoot video. I have enough problems with still pictures.

I am interested in the Nikon P6000, point and shoot, but I am seriously annoyed by the NRW proprietary RAW file format for the camera. Everything about the camera seems awesome, especially the ability to do off camera flash, both iTTL and manual. The RAW thing is going to be the determiner for me. I won’t buy one unless there is Lightrooom/Adobe Camera Raw support for the camera. OS X native support wouldn’t be bad either. As a new Nikon owner, I am unimpressed by the NRW decision.

Travel

September is a heavy travel month for me. I will be in Birmingham, UK for PyCon UK, from Sept 12-14, and I’ll be at the JVM Language Summit from Sept 24-26. As always, stop by and say hello if you will be at one of these events.

4 Responses to “News sweep”


  • All manufacturer Raw formats are proprietary, including Nikon’s NEF. NRW is no different in that regard. The only non-proprietary Raw format is Adobe’s DNG, and the only DSLRs that can produce DNG are Pentax (or their Samsung brethren).

    A second Raw format is nothing new. Canon is currently on their third Raw format (not counting the Kodak/Canon formats).

    The open question is whether NRW is a format that Nikon will stick with, or just a temporary aberration. To some extent I suspect that will depend on why Nikon went to the trouble to come up with the NRW format. My personal speculation is that it is somehow quicker to process and/or write to SDHC than NEF is. Most digicam Raw (Canon G9 being the notable exception) is so S-L-O-O-O-W as to be unusable, with write times on the order of five to ten seconds per shot.

    I have little doubt that NRW will be supported by all of the active third-party Raw software products. Given Adobe’s history, I suspect that you’ll need CS4 to process it, though. Dave Coffin will probably have it in dcraw pretty quickly.

    That said, I feel that Raw on a digicam is like a tachometer on a bicycle: a gewgaw with little real value. It’s a digicam, not a DSLR. Anyone can take fine JPEGs with a digicam, even experienced photographers.

    If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might suspect that Nikon intentionally created the NRW flap to distract people from the responsiveness and movie issues that made the P6000′s predecessors suitable mainly for taking photos of scenery and other stuff that doesn’t move. (Unknown if the P6000 fixes those, but almost nobody is even asking.)

    Anyway, I’m curious why you’re looking at the P6000 rather than the Canon line? The G9 has Raw built-in, and many of the A series cameras can shoot Raw via CHDK.

  • I know that RAW formats are proprietary. The issue is support in the processing programs that I actually use.

    As you say, there are potentially other issues with the P6000, so we are going to have to wait until it ships to find out if it’s a good camera in those respects.

    I am looking at the G9, and would have bought one were Photokina not around the corner. If I’m going to lay out $500 for a P&S, I’m going to wait till I see what this year’s lineup is like. And if I pay that much for a camera that claims to shoot in RAW, then I want it to work.

  • Adobe has put ACR 4.6 into beta availability, with support for the P6000′s NRW files. So contrary to my speculation above, you don’t need CS4 to process them. Early reports indicate that ACR’s NRW processing works fine, even on the Mac.

    I haven’t confirmed it myself, but at least one person claims that dcraw processes NRW files using the NEF logic, which would suggest that NRW files are merely NEF files with a different file extension. If this turns out to be so, that brings up the obvious question of “Why?”

  • I was interested in the Nikon P6000, but I am also seriously annoyed by the NRW proprietary RAW file format. I returned the unit, I won’t buy any camera unless it supports a standard file format!

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