DragonCon 2016 Pictures

Alan Tudyk at the Firefly Guests panel at DragonCon 2016

Jason Isaacs in the Wait Until My Father Hears About This! panel at DragonCon 2016

Tori Belleci in the Confirmed: An Hour with Tory and Kari panel at DragonCon 2016

I had a great time at DragonCon this year, actually got to play Dungeons & Dragons Adventure League on 3 mornings in a row!

More pictures are over at my SmugMug site.

DragonCon 2014 Recap

We had a great time at DragonCon this year. The costumes were amazing, the photography staff did a great job capturing the event, and we actually got some sleep. Our son Eli stayed with the grandparents where he got to run wild and play with new toys.

My favorite costumes were How to Train Your Dragon, the Music Box Dolls from Chitty Bang Bang, and The Dreamer.

How to Train Your Dragon

Music Box Dolls from Chitty Bang Bang

The Dreamer

Bobbie made a great costume from a lost episode of Doctor Who named "The Celestial Toymaker".


The Celestial Toymaker

My favorite panels were Colin Baker, Ron Glass, Jeri Ryan, Terri Gilliam, Evanna Lynch, and Sparkfun.

Ron Glass

Jeri Ryan

Terry Gilliam

Evanna Lynch


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I burnt myself out trying to learn to many JavaScript frameworks, build tools, unit testing, Debian eccentricities and BeagleBone Black programming so I decided to take a break and play a video game. Steam was having their summer sale and Skyrim happened to be a great deal. I bought "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Legendary Edition" and have been playing it for a couple weeks now.

Back in 2011 when The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released I remember reading and hearing from a lot of friends, acquaintances, and internet personalities who played it and talked about it for weeks on end. So my interest was peeked, but I didn’t have time or the desire to play it then.

The world of Skyrim is amazingly large. I was shocked by the sheer size of it. The developers have a done a great job making traveling from place to place very fast and easy. You can walk, run, take a carriage, ride a horse, or if you have been to your destination before you can "fast travel" to it. When fast traveling even though you get there very quickly the time in the game passes as though you had walked or ridden a horse that same distance, so the sun may be down or the shops may be closed.

Time plays a really large roll in the game, night and day is a big deal and change a lot of what is going on. Vendors are only available between 8am and 8pm, vampires are roaming around in the dark, werewolves are prowling the night, thieves and assassins abound.

Indulging in the role-playing aspects of the game I have tried to do my usual straight-and-narrow play through. When playing old-school pen-and-paper games I enjoy being the paladin, in this game I played a Wood Elf with a strong right hand wielding a sharp sword and bow for fighting at a distance.

Anything is allowed in this game, there are opportunities to be a goodie two-shoes (how I play) or to be a total scoundrel, there are even rewards for both. You can even choose to be a cannibal by completing a quest, personally I ended that quest short with an arrow to her head as soon as possible.

I really enjoyed the dungeon crawling, bandit fighting, dragon slaying, vampire hunting, and exploring Skyrim. I did not enjoy all of the bugs, dead ends, and lack of help in the game.

No matter how hard I tried not to, I ended up going to The Elder Scrolls Wiki and The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages to figure out what was going on and how to work around bugs in the game. And man there are a lot of bugs, I pity the people who are playing on Playstation and Xbox machines where they do not have the luxury of entering console commands to fix things.

Now I am 135 hours into with my Wood Elf Bowman and having a great time with it. I have played through most of the main quests that do not require me to do anything that would tarnish my good guy reputation. I have not been a werewolf , an imperial or stormcloak soldier, or a vampire. I have adopted 2 orphans, have nice houses in Whiterun and Solstheim and have built a wonderful lakehouse outside of Falkreath that I call home.

I am level 99 out of 100 with a single-handed weapon and around 85 with the bow. Enchanting and Smithing are both at 100 with lots of perks that have allowed me to construct some awesome dragon armor and weapons with tons of helpful enchantments that have made all but the toughest opponents easy to set right. I started out the game kind of wobbly and found it very hard, I had to rely on a lot of potions and scrolls to stay alive, but with my crafted armor and weapons I now only carry a handful of healing potions and no scrolls at all. Dragonbone arrows with a paralyze/health absorbing bow is an awesome combination.

Before I stop plying Skyrim I plan on getting married, buying all of the available hold houses, building the other 2 available country houses, and clearing more of the dungeons and mines in Solstheim.

I am playing Skyrim on a 27" iMac running Windows 8 in Bootcamp. This computer is so amazing, the mSATA drive is so fast that I rarely got to see the loading screens, which was kind of annoying because the loading screens contain a lot of information that adds to the game… hahaha, first-world problems abound.

From the publisher:

The next chapter in the highly anticipated Elder Scrolls saga arrives from the makers of the 2006 and 2008 Games of the Year, Bethesda Game Studios. Skyrim reimagines and revolutionizes the open-world fantasy epic, bringing to life a complete virtual world open for you to explore any way you choose.

Play any type of character you can imagine, and do whatever you want; the legendary freedom of choice, storytelling, and adventure of The Elder Scrolls is realized like never before.

Skyrim’s new game engine brings to life a complete virtual world with rolling clouds, rugged mountains, bustling cities, lush fields, and ancient dungeons.

Choose from hundreds of weapons, spells, and abilities. The new character system allows you to play any way you want and define yourself through your actions.

Battle ancient dragons like you’ve never seen. As Dragonborn, learn their secrets and harness their power for yourself.

I rate The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim a 9 out of 10 even with the bugs and dead ends, the overall experience is just that good. I recommend it to any who enjoys fantasy role-playing but also first-person-shooter fans.

Updating the Drobo

It is finally time to upgrade from a second generation Drobo to a Drobo 5N.

I bought my first Drobo in January of 2009 and it has been in constant use for the intervening 5 and a half years. I have only had 2 issues with it, the fan died about a year ago, and it now feels really slow.

When the fan died I went to my local Microcenter computer store and bought a whisper quiet 120mm fan. With a bit of Googling and some wire snipping followed by a bit of solder the Drobo has been much quieter and cooler ever since. In fact I can’t hear it over my home office noise at all.

About the speed of it… I am not sure, I think it is slower than it was a couple of years ago, but in that time I have upgraded all of my machines to using SSDs so my idea of how fast files should copy has changed a lot. I plan on running XBench on the 2nd Gen, the 5N, and a couple of external USB drives to get an idea of the "real" speed differences.

Here are the numbers

The 2nd Gen currently has 2×3.0TB and 2×2.0TB drives in it for a total size of 6.35TB of usable space.

The 5N will have those drives plus a 4.0TB fifth drive for 9.07TB of space.

The 5N maxes out with 4×4.0TB drives at 14.52TB of usable space with single disc redundancy and 10.89TB with dual disk redundancy. I hope that will last me a couple of years.

I am currently backing everything up on the 2nd for the move to the 5N, copying files from the old Drobo to external discs using a MacBook Pro has gone amazingly well. In the past I have had issues with the computer going to sleep and breaking the download, or one of the drives experiencing a hiccup, or just gremlins getting in the way.

Wish me luck.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher

Harry Dresden: When you look this badass, giving a werewolf a flea collar becomes funny.I bought the 14 books of the Dresden Files from Audible.com and listened to them using the Audible iPhone app and my iPhone.

I ran out of books in my waiting list and decided it was time to re-listen to all of the Dresden Files books, one after the other as quickly as time would allow.

What a ride. Taking the series in like this was great, it was like having one extremely large book to listen to with no interruptions. Butcher has created a universe and characters that I will never forget.

The 14 books are not of equal quality, but all of them are very good with a few of them rising to real greatness.

The audiobooks are narrated by James Marsters, with one glaring exception, and now when I read a printed book I hear all of the characters, as they are portrayed by Marsters. James Marsters IS Harry Dresden!

"Ghost Story: Book 13" is narrated by John Glover, he does an admirable job, but he sounds to much like the guy who used to narrate the Disney movies trying to be something that he isn’t. I hope one day Marsters is able to re-record the book as it should have been done in the first place.

I look forward to reading another 14 books in the Dresden Files and hope that they come quick!

From Wikipedia:

Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is a fictional detective and wizard. He was created by Jim Butcher and is the protagonist of the contemporary fantasy series The Dresden Files. The series blends magic and hardboiled detective fiction. In addition to the fourteen The Dresden Files novels, he has appeared in five published short stories and several unpublished short stories, as well as a limited series comic and an unlimited series comic. He was also adapted into a character by the same name for the TV series version of the novel series, also called The Dresden Files.

I rate the first 14 books in the series as a 9 and recommend them to ANYONE!
Storm Front, the first in the series, is a masterpiece.

Apple Pop-Up Museum and Vintage Computer Festival

Last weekend I attended the Vintage Computer Festival and Apple Pop-Up Museum at the empty CompUSA store off of Holcomb Bridge Road. It was nice to see someone doing something with one of these abandoned storefronts.

It was great fun seeing all of the old Apple, Commodore, Atari, and other computers and gaming consoles. It all made me very nostalgic, but not so much as I would trade in any of my current computers for any of them. It was really amazing what we were able to produce using those old machines.

And good news, the Apple Pop-Up Museum is going to be open 2 additional Saturdays, May 18 and June 8.

About the Vintage Computer Festival:

The Vintage Computer Festival is an international event that celebrates the history of computing.

The mission of the Vintage Computer Festival is to promote the preservation of "obsolete" computers by offering folks a chance to experience the technologies, people and stories that embody the remarkable tale of the computer revolution.

Through our event and the Vintage Computer Festival Archives—our publicly accessible archive of computer hardware, software, literature and ephemera—we promote interest in researching and documenting the history of the computer. Above all, we promote the fun of playing with old computers.

About the Apple Pop-Up Museum:

The exhibit displays an exclusive collection of game-changing Apple personal computers and consumer electronics products while presenting the history of the company since its founding in 1976 to the present. An Apple I, the first disk II and controller card, an original Apple II, an original Lisa and a Xerox Alto are among the rare artifacts to be displayed.

Check out more pictures from the Museum and Festival: http://photo.davenelson.com/Events/2013-Apple-Pop-Up-Museum/29080622_ZnCzzN

A Lot Going On

The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity.

Working my way backwards:

Eli Videos

Eli’s First Giggle

This was last night, I saw a photo of a dad fist bumping with his baby and so I gave it a try. After a couple times I added sound effects which Eli really liked.

Eli Talking With Giraffe

Eli really like his swing, he is calmer in the swing than he is when he is sound asleep in his crib. In this video he is focused on his stuffed giraffe and appears to be having a conversation with it.

Skinny Eli Wiggling Around

At a month old Eli was still really skinny and he wiggled around even more than he does today.

Three Day Old Eli

This is a 3 day old Eli, it is amazing seeing how small and skinny he was.

A Hat Full of Sky, An Adventure of Tiffany Aching and the Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett is my favorite writer and Discworld is my favorite fictional universe. I find the Discworld novels to be incredibly fun reads and the Young Adult Tiffany Aching series is no exception. The main body of Discworld novels are targeted at adults while Tiffany Aching books are in the same universe they are targeted at YA readers and I believe they really hit the mark.

There are three Tiffany Aching novels and A Hat Full of Sky is the second in the series. I really enjoy all three books, but this is my favorite of the three, it includes insight into more characters of Discworld and adds a lot to the history of the universe.

In A Hat Full of Sky Tiffany is pursued by a great and ancient danger and the Wee Free Men along with Granny Weatherwax step in to help Tiffany in their own special ways.

From the Author’s web site:

The boldest heroine ever to confront the Forces of Darkness with a frying pan is back. Tiffany Aching, incipient witch and cheese maker extraordinaire is off to begin her apprenticeship in magic. She leaves behind her the green, familiar hills of her home and the blue, tattooed faces of her allies, the sword-wielding, six-inch-high Nac Mac Feegle. But something is following Tiffany …

I bought this book from a bookstore in 2007 and have read it multiple times.

I would rate this book a 9 out of 10 and highly recommend it to anyone who like humorous fiction although I would recommend reading Wee Free Men first.

ignite Atlanta at the Georgia Aquarium

The ignite event at the Georgia Aquarium was a great success. We learned about super babies, how to build a hackintosh, rapid brainstorming, and how to keep a happy septic tank among other things.

Eighteen were given 5 minutes to present there ideas using 15 slides that automatically forward every 15 seconds. It makes for quick presentations that can leave the presenter breathless.

I have been watching ignite presentations on the interwebs and really enjoy them. The opportunity to see an event in person was a real treat.

More information:

The Elect Lynette Fundraiser was a Blast

We had a great time at Lynnette Howard’s fundraiser this weekend. Javier Lopez spent a lot of time conversing with fans, answering questions, signing baseballs, and hanging out. It was such a beautiful day with a cool breeze and blue skies. Check out the photos.

Meet Javier Lopez and Lynette Howard this Saturday

Javier LopezThis weekend in Norcross, come meet baseball great Javier Lopez and candidate for Gwinnett County Commissioner District 2 Lynette Howard for a fundraiser cookout.

Everyone is welcome to come out and have a great time, there will be food, a silent auction, and a lot of family fun.

When: Saturday April 17th, 11:00am – 2:00pm
Where: The horse farm at
4685 S Berkeley Lake Rd, Norcross, GA 30071
How Much: $10 per person

Check out Lynette’s election web site at http://electlynette.com/ and read up on Javier at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Javy_L%C3%B3pez.

DragonCon 2009 pictures are up!

The Gallery is at http://photo.davenelson.com/DragonCon/DragonCon-2009/.
Here are some quick highlights

Here are some cool searches

Software for Mac OS X

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to write about the software I have found for the Mac OS to make my transition from the world of Windows complete.

I am finally comfortable spending all of my computer time inside of the Mac OS. I still have WindowsXP in Bootcamp for playing games on Steam, and a couple virtual machines using VMWare and Parallels for the occasional Microsoft Outlook need or using Garmin Mapsource to upload maps and waypoints to my GPS, but I rarely miss Windows or proprietary applications that only run on Windows.

First up is BBEdit.


Price: $125
Web Site: http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/

The only real negative thing I can say about BBEdit is the price, $125 for a text editor just seems excessive. UltraEdit, which is still my favorite text editor is only $49.95, but on the Mac OS BBEdit is hands down the best text editor available in my opinion. I tried all of the free solutions and most of the payed solutions that have trials available and they all fall well short of BBEdit.

Painting with Light Workshop

On Thursday April 9th I participated in a “Painting with Light Workshop” at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA. Judith Pishnery of Pisconeri Studio & Workshops brought us together for a night of photography and learning.

Photo: Our Confederate Dead

We began the night around 7pm filling out releases and donning nametags on the porch of the visitor’s center. After an introduction by Judith and some words from the cemetery staff we were left to wander the cemetery to get acquainted and take some pre-nightfall photos.

Around 8:30 Judith gave a presentation explaining how to paint with light. Although I had done some small experiments with a handheld speedlight and have written my name in the air with a flashlight before I had never “painted with light” to create a “real” photograph and I was looking forward to giving it a try.

Right away I learned that using a camera flash handheld really doesn’t put out as much light as I thought it did. Multiple flashes, 5 or 6, produced very little extra light even though each flash felt blindingly bright to me. A 6-volt camping flashlight slowly passed over a subject produces a much brighter image than a flash.

Photo: Ms. Watson

I was also surprised by the results of a small but very bright LED flashlight, which to my eyes appears very bright even if it is on the blue side of the spectrum, but to the camera’s sensor it was very dim indeed. The camping flashlight with its old-school style bulb was brighter and whiter than either LED flashlight I tried.

My best results were with using the 6-volt lantern panning it slowly first horizontally and then vertically to ensure total coverage of the subject(s) while the camera’s shutter was held open in bulb mode for as short as 20 seconds and as long as 3 minutes. Then in Lightroom I did some quick tweaking only spending some real effort on two of the photos to knock down some distracting lights.

This workshop was a lot of fun and I look forward to using what I learned in the future.


First Ride of the Season

Awhile back I got a flat rear tire caused by a damaged wheel, I must have hit a pot hole a lot harder than I remember, and it took me a couple months to get the wheel repaired and a new tire. Last weekend I took the bike out for a couple shake down runs checking the torque of the bolts keeping the tire on and brake caliper in place. After a two hour ride in the bitter cold I got home and gave the bike a good once over.

This Saturday the forecast was for a perfect riding day reaching the low seventies and I spent all week day-dreaming about riding up to Suches Georgia and break in that new tire.

After a week that felt more like a year Saturday finally came along and I got out of the house around Noon. There was still a bite to the air with the temperature somewhere in the low sixties, at eighty miles an hour the wind cut through my jeans and long-johns leaving my knees achingly cold.

By the time I get to Dahlonega though I am feeling great and can feel my face stuck in a big grin. Once I get to Porter Springs there is no traffic in front of me and it is surprisingly free riding for the next hour. Riding from Porter springs to Two Wheels Only, Vogel State Park, Turners Corner, Porter Springs, and back up to T.W.O. for lunch.

By this point I am pretty tired, but it is a very good feeling. In a couple of months a 120 mile ride like this will not tire me out so much and hopefully I will be more comfortable pushing it a little harder, leaning a little farther and getting those chicken strips off of my rear tire.

At T.W.O I eat a BBQ sandwich that fills me up for the ride home and gives me the opportunity to read an old motorcycle magazine in the dining room and a chance to sit out on the porch in a rocking chair for a bit. After eating I take a walk around the grounds to stretch my legs and take a look at the bikes parked out front. This day most of the bikes are Harleys but there are also a handful of BMWs and a couple Ducatis. As I walk up a Ducati fires up with a musical growl and I stand transfixed and just enjoy the sound for a bit. I smile large as he pulls up onto the road and away.

The ride home is uneventful; I spend much of it behind cagers putting down the road. I take the time to smell some roses and watch some of the beautiful Georgia mountain scenery roll by. The temperature is great, some of the trees are in bloom, and the traffic is lighter than expected.

All in all it is a great beginning to the riding season with many more rides to look forward to. I hope to see you out there.

Updates to Previous Posts

Adobe Lightroom

I first wrote about using Lightroom on September 7th, 2008 after using it to process photos for DragonCon. Since then I have read Scott Kelby’s book “The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers” and used Lightroom to process all of my images. I am still amazed at how fast I am able to process photos that of a more consistent and higher quality than ever before.

I recently shot a youth basketball game where I took around 300 pictures and using Lightroom culled that down to 97 good shots with meta-data, color correction, noise reduction, rotating and cropping all in under 2 hours.

I no longer use stars or labels to sort through images and rely on “P” for Pick and “X” for Reject to sort through images and delete rejects. Now that I have plenty of hard drive space available with the Drobo I am keeping more images than ever.

Switching to Apple

On January 2nd, 2009 I wrote about My Mac Experience So Far. Three months later and I am still enjoying the iMac.  I have found more MacOS applications to replace Windows applications and in most cases am very happy with them.

I reformatted the Bootcamp partition and have set it to be solely used for gaming; I am currently playing Left4Dead a lot. All other windows use is relegated to VMWare and one of 4 virtual machines I have set up for specific purposes.

I have added an HP 22” widescreen monitor in a vertical orientation, which has really boosted my production in web development and photo processing.


January 11th, 2009 I shared my Drobo First Impressions with the world. The device is still running great and serving its purpose. I have only had a couple of minor issues with it.

The fan noise while I am sitting at the computer working is not really noticeable to me, but after I turn the computer off the fan in the Drobo continues to run for a very long time. With everything else in the room turned off the Drobo seems really loud. I am glad that the Drobo is not in our bedroom or even close to it.

Another issue is that GarageBand does not read the free space on the Drobo correctly and always thinks the drive is full. As I use GarageBand more, this may become a real issue for me as I try not to put anything on the internal hard drive.

Getting Organized

Then on January 14th, 2009 I wrote about Getting Organized with a Franklin Covey planner. After three months of using the planner almost every day I have to say that it has made a real difference with how organized I feel. Having a date based notebook where I am able to make notes to read in the future and having notes from the past that I can refer to has been a great help.

For the first couple of months I was planning my days one at a time in the morning, but I have been reading the “7 Habits” book and the quotes in the planner and am beginning to look at a week at a time with some real planning on Monday mornings. I still spend 15 minutes each morning planning that day, but because of the 30 minutes I spend on Monday looking at the week the daily planning goes very quickly and usually doesn’t contain any surprises.

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

If you love motorcycles you will love this museum.

motorcycleMy wife was kind enough last year to give me a gift certificate for a weekend at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. I finally got to cash in on that gift this January and spent a Saturday touring the museum. I have always loved motorcycles, a Honda Shadow, while in the Navy and now ride my BMW R850R every chance I get.

According to an employee Barber Museum is currently home to around 1200 motorcycles with around 750 of them on display at any given time and they are acquiring more all the time. Located just outside of Birmingham Alabama, the museum is located on the grounds of the Barber Motorsports Park, which hosts both motorcycle and auto racing.

On display are bikes going back to the earliest days when they resembled bicycles with tiny motors attached up to the latest sportbikes and recent model racing bikes. I especially enjoyed seeing the scramblers and enduros from the late 70’s along with the 2 stroke motoGP bikes.

1923 Scott Sprint Special. This was my favorite bike in the museum. It smelled of leather, oil, and gasoline. Just wonderful!

Getting Organized

I have recently received a promotion that has left me feeling disorganized and a bit overwhelmed. I spent time with my manager discussing how I could better prioritize my time and how to get and keep a clearer understanding of what my team is working on. I noticed that my manager uses a Franklin Covey Planner and it appears to work well for her so I have decided to follow in her footsteps and do the same.

I spent some time on the http://shopping.franklinplanner.com/ web site learning about the different page sizes, formats, binders, and add-ons then drove over to the Franklin Covey store at Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody Georgia. Once in the store and getting to hold the binders in my hands and experiment with writing on the different page sizes I made my choices.

I bought the Ryder Unstructured Binder in black because of its relatively small size and I really like the feel of the leather. It holds two months of pages along with notes pages and a little more. I use the flaps and slots that are built into the binder to hold extra lined notes pages, business cards, 3×5 cards, and receipts.

The planner pages I chose are “The 7 Habits Daily Master Planner Pages “ that includes two quotes each day that pertain to living the 7 Habits from Stephen R. Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” book which I am currently reading.

I have only been using the system for 2 weeks now but I am finding it very helpful. Being able to place tasks, notes, and meetings on pages for future dates along with progressive task lists and lined notes pages has increased my confidence and helped me stay on track. I also plan on taking a course in the Franklin Covey system this year to help me get the most out of it.

I will post again this time next year to let you know how the system has worked over the year and if I am going to continue using it.

Feeling Drooby

I believe I first heard about the Drobo on This Week in Tech (TWiT) with Leo Laporte, but it may have been on This Week in Photography (TWiP) which is a podcast with members who are also on TWiT, but it is the photographers on TWiP that really convinced me that the Drobo is worth its price.

I have always belived in making regular backups, for years I used CDs and then DVDs to backup my photos, documents, music, and all work related files. I even went as far as making three sets of discs, 1 for the office, one at home, and one at my parents house. My parents thought it was funny that I was giving them stacks of 20 or more DVDs every couple months.

A few years ago I bought a Buffalo Terrastation Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. It is a Redundant array of Independent Disks (RAID) that contains 4 Parallel ATA Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) drives, I have it configured as RAID 5 with 4 250 GB dives giving me around 750GB of usable storage space. The advantage of RAID 5 is that the data on the discs is redundant, any one drive can fail without actually loosing any data. But RAID has a lot of limitations.

A RAID array requires that all of the drives be the same size, same speed, and same manufacturer to work reliably. It is even recommended to use drives from the same manufacturing lot if possible. The practical result of all of these limitations is that RAID arrays are hard to upgrade, time consuming to replace failed drives, and if the drives in the array are no longer available… What are you supposed to do?

So to backup the Terrastation I bought a series of external hard drives and copied bits and pieces from the NAS to individual drives. I have had a couple of them fail and each time it really freaks me out and makes me nervous about the drives in the Terrastation failing. The drives in the NAS are IDE drives, a standard that was introduced in 1986! Amazingly these drives are still available, but they are not the same model, may not be the same speed, and I wouldn’t trust them to work reliably.

Here comes Data Robotics and the Drobo to the rescue. The Drobo version 2 is not a NAS, it is more like an external hard drive that happens to be up to 4 physical hard drives pretending to be one big redundant drive. Instead of RAID with all of its limitations Data Robotics has come up with a system that allows any combination of Serial ATA drives to be used in the array. Speed, size, and manufacturer do not matter to the Drobo, it will run as fast as it can and provide as much storage space as it can with the combination of drives you have installed.

When a drive dies and its light on the front of the Drobo turns red, you pull out that drive and replace it with one of equal or larger size. What makes this really amazing is that you can do all of this while the Drobo is still running and actively being used. One of the anecdotes on the TWiP podcast is pulling out one of the drives while someone is in the process of editing a video, and nothing happens. The Drobo keeps running and the user is able to continue to edit the video. Amazing stuff, of course the data on the drive is not protected when that drive is missing but in contrast with a RAID solution where the device cannot be used at all with a missing drive or while the drive is being rebuilt.

Yes, the Drobo is expensive at around $400 for an empty box and $800 with 4 1TB drives install for a total of 2.7 TB of usable space. But I decided that the peace of mind is worth it to me, not having to manage a bunch of external drives, having one drive with all of my files including the Mac Time Machine backups will be great.

Coming soon, the unboxing and a full report of getting started with the Drobo.

My Mac Experience So Far

In the mid 90’s I had a Mac, a Performa 600, and used System 7.5. I worked at a couple different pre-press printing jobs where the primary computers used were Mac’s. This is where I learned Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark, and a lot of little utility applications. But by 2000 I had moved on to Windows 95, 98, 98 SE, and finally Windows XP SP3.

Back in the day I did not expect much from my computers, they were pretty process specific and even though they did many different tasks, their main purpose was either printing or the creation of multimedia. But as time goes by I have begun to demand a lot from my computers and the software that runs on them. My computers get used for everything from hard-core gaming to editing 200-megabyte images, managing a music collection with tens of thousands of files to instant messaging, from building dynamic web sites to hosting multiple virtual machines. I have no less than 100 different third-party applications installed on any computer I use regardless of operating system or the computer’s main purpose.

There was a time where computer hardware was a limiting factor, but now it is the software that is holding us back. The biggest problem that the launch of Windows XP and then Windows Vista faced was that the OS was written to take advantage of hardware that didn’t exist; now that the hardware does exist they run great and in general stay out of the user’s way.

Apple has avoided that problem by building the hardware along with the software to ensure that the user experience is as smooth as possible.  It has held Apple back to some degree because the hardware they use is always at least a generation behind the PC manufacturers, but the Apple user does have as many negative experiences as the average PC user.

In Early 2008 I returned to the Mac. I had instant buyer’s remorse due to the cost of the computer. I could have built a truly awesome Windows box with every bell and whistle along with a home theatre PC for LESS than the cost of the iMac.

But I now love the iMac, even though I am still not a big fan of the MacOS, the hardware is really fantastic. The 1980×1200 screen is just brilliant, the glossy finish makes blacks appear very black and the screen is bright enough that reflections are not an issue. With 4GB of RAM, the current limit for the iMac, the software is responsive and I rarely experience any real slowdowns.

The beauty of the current Apple hardware is that you can have one computer that runs Windows XP, Windows Vista, Linux, and the MacOS all simultaneously using VMware Fusion or Parallels.  This is the Killer Feature of the Apple Macintosh.

In any given day I will use Lightroom (Mac), iTunes (Mac), UltraEdit (Win), Firefox (Mac & Win), Internet Explorer 6 & 7 (Win), Photoshop (Mac), Games using the Valve Steam Client (Win), Google Earth (Mac & Win), Last.fm (Mac & Win), Microsoft Office (Mac & Win), and a lot of other small utilities. At home I use VMware and at work I use Parallels and find that both are good solid products that let me get my work done.

Games are usually played using Bootcamp and booting into Windows XP. I recently finished Bioshock, which I was able to play at 1980×1200 with the frame rate rarely dropping, it was truly a beautiful thing. Next up is probably Crysis just to push the limits and see how good of a gaming machine it really is.

I am now over my buyer’s remorse, but I am still not sure that buying the Mac was the best “bang-for-the-buck” available.

SmugMug Sponsoring Vincent Laforet’s Next Big Project

I have been using SmugMug to host and sell my photography and seeing their participation in the photography community is one of the reasons I continue to use them.

Vincent was one of the first people chosen to test and stretch the limits of the Canon EOS 5D Mk III which he did wonderfully with “Reverie.”  SmugMug hosts the video of “The Making of Reverie”  along with other content from Vincent, here is his SmugMug home page.