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Compact System Camera - Micro Four ThirdsWednesday 14th August 2013
A recent photo trip left me disappointed with the quality of my photos from my Panasonic DMC-FZ38 bridge camera. I had bought this a few years ago due to it's epic zoom range and crucially the ability to shoot in RAW - this meant I could do things like single-shot HDR.

I knew when I got it that the small sensor would impact on quality - but it was no smaller than the compact camera I had before, which didn't do RAW or zoom especially far. Alas, the compact sensor is at odds with the long zoom and that many mega-pixels and qualify suffers when trying to make use of those features.

So an upgrade was in order - not necessarily to compete with my other half's Nikon DSLR but to at least keep up in normal situations. I was looking to spend around the 400 mark - which in DSLR terms would put me in Canon 600D territory, possibly with a kit lens. Two lenses would be required to cover the focal length I was used to - more expense - and a lot more bulk than what I was used to walking around with.

After some researching around I discovered the "designed for digital" Micro-Four-Thirds format, or more commonly known as a Compact System Camera (CSC). Compared to an entry-level "APS-C" DSLR cameras, the CSC cameras have a slightly smaller sensor in a 4:3 ratio (2mm on the vertical) - but have abandoned old hang-ups and bulk from analogue days such as mirrors.

There is a wide range of models, from pocket-able ones to DSLR looking ones. My interest was taken by the Panasonic Lumix G5 - and this is why.

Whilst I don't like the bulk of a DSLR a tiny compact is difficult to get your fingers round and use. The G5 is in a body form that looks very similar to a SLR, with a large grip on the right-hand side (no good for lefties?). One of the lauded things of a CSC is the space saving - something which the G5 doesn't take massive advantage of - so why a big CSC over a small SLR? It's not just the body that shrinks, it's the lenses too. The lack of a mirror and prism means the sensor can be mounted differently and due to the way optics work this means lenses can be much, much smaller. "Pancake" lenses are available which when combined with smaller bodied CSCs makes them pocket-able.

SLRs viewfinders work by reflecting light up from the lens using a mirror. Whilst this gives you a real-world view of the light coming down the lens, it doesn't give you any indication of what the actual picture will look like. To help, you get a lot of read-outs that suggest the correct settings etc - all carried over from analogue SLRs. On a CSC you get an electronic view-finder (EVF). The picture you see is a read-out of what the sensor is seeing. So the image matches what will be saved when you click the button. There is no need to look at read-outs (but they are still to hand), you see what is going to get taken and can adjust based on what the image will look like.

Finally there was the price - for the same 400 I picked up the G5 with two lenses that cover 28mm-300mm (35mm equivalent, or 17.5-187.5mm on the Canon).

These are the critical comparisons I made:
FeaturePanasonic FZ38
(old camera)
Canon 600DPanasonic G5
Sensor area25mm329mm225mm
Pixel size2.3m18.5m14.1m
Shooting speed2.3fps3.7fps20fps
Focus points23923
Weight + kit lens414g765g561g

Plus far better video support on the G5. As you can see from the table above, the move from a compact/bridge camera gives a much better sensor coverage in terms of area and the size of the pixels (generally bigger pixels are less susceptible to noise) - and then the shackles of analogue technologies are shown with the frame-rate that the CSC can achieve over the SLR.



Saved passwordsThursday 8th August 2013
There has been rumbling going on recently about browser's saving passwords. Somebody has exclaimed that it's possible to retrieve those passwords and how dangerous this is, as anybody who has access to your computer could view your saved passwords.

This is indeed correct - but - anybody with access to your computer could also just go to the web-sites that you have saved passwords for. Not quiet as convenient as a surreptitious look at somebody's passwords for later use though.

Some people are arguing that browsers should password protected their, um, passwords. You couldn't have the browser implement transparent encryption, because everyone would have the same key and it could be easily pillaged from another computer. So you need something unique and re-usable to that user - aka, another password.

Well this is silly. I've already got a password to use my computer. Are people seriously suggesting that I need to logon twice? Why would I want to do that? There is one outside case that I can think of, and that is giving your computer to somebody else along with administrative privileges - which may be required if you give your computer to somebody to fix for you. If you think you fall into this group, then use a Mozilla browser, you've been able to set a master passwords since Netscape - if you so wish (it's not, clearly, forced on you).


Thunderbird LDAP auto-completeMonday 5th August 2013
I used LDAP for my address book, which allows me to access the same address book from multiple locations. Thunderbird is my primary mail client, which will give you auto-complete contacts from LDAP searches when you start typing in names into a new email.

This all works well apart from when I want to e-mail my Dad, as I never refer to him by name, I type "Dad" and nothing comes up. I have this entry in the "mozillaNickname" field in LDAP, and indeed when looking at the address book entry you'll see the nickname displayed correctly.

In order to get Mozilla to include the nickname in the search, you have to override the default search method. Which involves the config-editor. How to get into this I won't post here, as if you're not comfortable with it, you probably should keep clear.

You need to create a new entry - specifically for your LDAP server. Creating a default entry doesn't seem to work.
ldap_2.servers.[ADDRESSBOOK].autoComplete.filterTemplate

Replacing the relevant section with your address book name.

You can then configure the LDAP search string, using "%v" as the input from auto-complete. So, for example, this string will match various fields, using an asterisk wildcard to avoid having to enter the full field information before results are returned:
(|(mozillaNickname=%v*)(cn=%v*)(sn=%v*)(mail=%v*))

You may also want to use givenName if your common name (cn) doesn't start with a first name.


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