NBC Not Broadcasting Wimbledon in HD?!

TVPredictions.com is reporting that neither NBC nor ESPN will be broadcasting Wimbledon in HD. Are we still living in 2001?

NBC and ESPN both said this morning that they will not broadcast the 2007 Wimbledon Tennis Championship in High-Definition.

Adam Freifeld, a spokesman for NBC Sports, told TVPredictions.com today that NBC would not show Wimbledon in HD. He did not elaborate on the reasons behind the decision. […]

It’s as if NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker just doesn’t care. Well, actually, he said as much himself, commenting that “I’m not overly concerned about it at this point [...] if viewers will be less interested in unscripted programming that’s not in HD when the rest of the programming is in HD.”

I Haven’t Seen The Last Sopranos Episode Yet

If you get HBO (or even if you don’t), you're probably aware that the final episode of the mob drama The Sopranos aired last night. Though I get HBO, I decided at the beginning of the season to wait until the DVDs come out — that way, I can watch them at whichever pace I’d like.

As you might guess, I’m caught up all the way through the penultimate season; it’s only the recent episodes that I haven’t seen yet. So, if you happen to have seen the last season, and particularly the last episode, I would appreciate if you could avoid spoiling any bits for me :).

The WhiBal Is a Sweet White Balance Card

WhiBal Before and After Example with Aaron and Jeremy

I’ve really been enjoying my new camera (a Nikon D80) since buying it in January. And other than the occasional blown highlights, I find that it usually takes pictures just as I’ve intended.

One helpful tip which I picked up from my brother (who also has a D80) is to manually set the white balance in each new shooting environment (such as incandescent, fluorescent, sunlight, or others). I don’t mean to imply that the D80 is bad at guesstimating a scene’s white balance on its own, but it’s an easy setting and often makes a real difference. (The D80’s white balance settings are covered on p.58 of the US-English manual, for what it’s worth.)

If you’re into photography, you may already be familiar with gray cards — a uniformly gray rectangle that can be used to fine-tune a shot’s exposure. A seemingly related device — but one which serves a completely different purpose — is a white balance card. These are also typically rectangles and they're usually gray. Rather than an exposure tool, however, white balance cards are used to provide a white-balance reference point within images (I’ll explain).

If you’ve ever played around with your camera’s white balance settings (or even if you’ve stuck with your camera’s automatic white balance mode), you’ve probably run across the occasional shot which ended up with the wrong white balance — one common symptom is Caucasian skin looking a bit yellowish or even orange-tinged. This happens because the light within the scene may not have been “white” in the first place; for instance, light during a sunset of very often reddish or orange. And even though the human eye can quickly adapt to varying colors of light, cameras aren’t always so lucky.

This is where a white balance card comes in. A white balance card is calibrated to a specific shade of gray; so, when it comes time to color-correct a photo, you can tell your image editor (such as Photoshop) to “adjust this photo’s color until the point under my eyedropper matches this certain shade of gray”. And if that sounds complicated, it’s really not — Adobe Bridge (a sister app to Adobe Photoshop) has an eyedropper that’s preconfigured for just this purpose. I’ve had a WhiBal white balance card for the past few months and I’ve been impressed by how easy it’s been to get perfect white balance in my shots.

Consider the photo at the top of this post, for instance. If you’ve seen my shots from this year’s SXSW, you may recognize it as one of my shots from the Helvetica screening. As it turns out, I had been taking some shots outside earlier in the day and, as it was cloudy at the time, I had my white balance set to “cloudy” — when it came time for the screening, though, I forgot to change it back to a more appropriate white balance setting (d’oh!). However, because I had taken a few WhiBal shots while I was there, none of that mattered. It’s like having a bottomless stack of “Get Out of Jail Free” cards when it comes to white balance.

I consider photography one of my hobbies, but I’m not one for frivolous baubles. Having said that, I make an exception for my WhiBal. It’s easy to carry around and the benefits are really there. And if you don’t quite have your head wrapped around this “white balance thing”, not to worry — the WhiBal site has section with videos that go over white balance and an example workflow with a WhiBal. I don’t have any affiliation with this company — I’m just a really satisfied customer.

Kinesis Foot Switches for Macs

I’ve occasionally pondered whether there might be a benefit to getting some foot pedals / foot switches for my Kinesis keyboard. Since reading the Pragmatic Programmers’ TextMate book, however, I’ve realized that many of my editor’s handiest functions are meta key-based (that is, key combinations which involve Command, Option and Ctrl). And, while I’m entirely pleased with my Kinesis, its layout does make it slightly less convenient to hit some of the meta keys (as compared with a regular “rectangular” keyboard).

So, I decided to look into the feasibility of getting foot switches and came across this post on Ask MetaFilter which specifically asks about foot switches for Macs. Unfortunately, I learned that, while Kinesis offers USB-based foot switches, OS X has a limitation whereby input from one USB device can't modify the input from another USB device. Put another way, meta-keys can’t be assigned to Kinesis’ USB foot switches if you’re using a Mac (d'oh!)

After some additional searching, however, I found a couple posts about a fellow that used Kinesis foot switches on his Mac. (Wha?) Well, as it turns out, USB foot switches still don’t work on Macs (for meta keys), but Kinesis also offers a version of their foot switches which connect directly to a port on back of their keyboards (bypassing the OS entirely):

I have two Kinesis single-action foot switches. If you use a Mac, you have to buy one of the foot switches that plug directly into the Kinesis keyboard and not the USB foot switches. Apple won’t let one USB device modify the input of a separate USB keyboard or mouse. I have one foot switch acting as Ctrl and the other acting as Alt/Meta. I’ve heard different stories from different people — people tend to either love or hate foot switches. I find that they are really convenient when I'm doing “heads down” work in Emacs. They took a bit of getting used to initially, but when I use them, they offload an awful lot of the effort of working in Emacs to my feet. […]

I was pleased to learn that the meta key thing could work out after all. And, after mulling it over a bit, I’ve decided to give it a shot — I’ve ordered two of Kinesis’ single-action foot switches. Once they arrive, though, I’ll still have to decide which key to map to which foot. At the moment, I’m leaning toward assigning Ctrl to my left foot and Option to my right foot (since that would mirror the left-to-right arrangement of the default Mac keyboard).

Update 2007-05-03: I ended up assigning Option to my left foot and Ctrl to my right foot. — as Allan Odgaard mentioned in his screencast on Text Transformations (in HTML), “Ctrl-Shift are the modifiers we always use for Bundle items”. Since Bundles are the primary key-consuming resource in TextMate and, arguably, its most useful feature, I figured I’d bind the Bundle-related modifier (Ctrl) to the stronger of my two feet. (I’m right-handed, so I guess that makes me right-footed too?)

Some Notes on Virginia Tech

As you’ve no doubt heard, there was a tragic shooting at Virginia Tech yesterday. However, I also went to Virginia Tech which makes this is a little bit weird for me. During some semesters I’d walk by Ambler-Johnston Hall every day. And it doesn’t help when I find myself realizing where news photos were taken before I read their captions.

If I may ask a favor, I’d rather not talk about this with other people right now (in case it were to come up in conversation). I think I just need to deal with this on my own time.