Loxia 50mm F2.0 vs Sony 55mm F1.8 (or AF vs MF)

I've recently had a chance to use the Loxia 50mm F2.0 for a few weeks on my A7II.

I've always wondered what the value proposition of this lens was. The Loxia is priced slightly higher than the awesome 55mm F1.8, yet the Loxia is manual focus only, it's slightly slower at F2.0, and slightly heavier too. The claimed advantages are better 3D pop and micro-contrast, yet the bokeh is generally regarded not as good as the 55mm Sony Zeiss (which I agree with, in some situations it appears nervous and distracting).

Having now used both of these lenses for over a few months, I think image quality-wise they're fairly comparable. Both are great lenses and produce fantastic results, when you nail the shot. Sure, the 55 may be slightly sharper wide open, and the Loxia slightly richer color rendition in specific situations, but it's really hard to say one is overall better than the other. Both produce very pleasing photos.

The key point is being able to 'nail the shot', …

Auto photo resizing in Linux

I still haven't found an optimal photo editing workflow that I'm happy with. I guess photo management varies wildly between people and it very much depends on the tools you're using, but for me it goes as follows:

Take photos on camera.Transfer to my Ubuntu desktop to a temporary folder, e.g ~/Pictures/temp.Use DigiKam to quickly go through and delete non-keepers and make any minor edits as needed.Once ready, move the remaining keepers to my synced Google Drive folder.Select a small handful I want to share with friends/family, resize them to 1920p and email them out. The process works mostly well, except I hate having to do the manual resizing at the end. So I setup an automated workaround hack for this last step: Install Watcher and configure it to monitor my Google Drive sync folder.Make it copy all new/edited images to ~/Pictures/_resized.Have another watcher job that monitors ~/Pictures/_resized and converts every new image to 1080p. This all happens dynamically in real-…

Hibermate Sleep Mask Mini-Review

I recently bought one of these Hibermate eye-masks with ear muffs to try and get some sleep in a noisy household:

I think these cost me around $49, so I expected good things.


Relatively comfortable and easy to fall asleep in.The eye-mask in particular is better than most. Cons: The ear-muffs don't really block much sound...they just muffle some high frequencies, but I can still hear the shower, or someone speaking in another room, or someone whispering next to me, or just about everything else.The padding in the ear-muffs easily falls out when you take them off. It's not really held together by anything. The box comes with a pair of in-ear foam plugs that you can wear in combination with the muffs, and the instructions suggest you could also use in-ear headphones in combination. This may work on a plane, etc, but it just masks the issue that the ear-muffs do nothing.
For $49, I expected a lot more. I would not recommend these for noise-cancelling, and $49 for a comfortable…

Stupidly large power adapters...what the?

I've been buying a number of electronic gadgets from, which means I now have more US plugs than AU plugs under my desks at home. This is becoming a problem as I need more adapters, so I hit the local Bunnings to see what's available, here are two samples:

Why are these things so gigantic?! If I plug this into a standard 4-port power-board, it would occupy at least 2 slots, and at worst 3... Who designs them to be this large... and for what possible reason?
Note that the two from above have no step-up/step-down, or surge-protection, or integrated USB ports. They're just dumb port adapters.
And here's another favorite of mine (not): Notice the recessed port on this one. This will fit exactly 0% of DC power adapters, severely reducing its usability.
In any case, as always, Amazon to the rescue! I ended up buying around 16 of these instead:
These are small enough to only take 1 port, cost around $10 for 4, and I can plug 4 into a standard power-board to convert …

Easily Chromecast local media from your PC with Plex

I've had a full Windows 7 HTPC connected to my main TV for over five years now. It was the best way to watch anything and everything with the least amount of fuss or limitations. Recently however, the Google Chromecast has changed the game. The devices are so cheap, I have one connected to each TV throughout the house, which has now got me hooked to a whole new level of convenience - being able to start watching something on one TV, and switching over to a different room to resume playing from exactly the same spot. Chromecasts are also dead-simple to use - they pass the significant-other test.

This got me thinking I no longer need my media PC connected to the TV. I can just have it sitting somewhere else in the house, connected to a normal PC monitor, where I can use it to download stuff, manage media, do the occasional web-browsing, and even use it for some development and other stuff that I could/would never do while it was connected to the TV.

So I set off to find the best way…

Unblock-Us Auto Update IP Chrome Extension

The Unblock-Us service is great for unlocking access to region-blocked streaming services. However, sometimes you get the following error:

Looks like your internet address has changed. Please click here to activate your new internet address.

This error happens because your ISP is issuing you a dynamic IP address that can change often (~once a day for me). This means you need to open a browser tab, go to Unblock-Us and click the link to re-associate your new IP address with your account. I find this especially annoying when trying to Chromecast a Netflix or Hulu video, which results in a "Oops, you shouldn't be here" error message...

So I created a Chrome Extension that re-associates your IP automatically with Unblock-Us every 5 minutes (as long as you have a running Chrome browser window with the extension installed and running). This solution may not work for everyone, but if you have a PC on your network that's on 24/7 (like a HTPC/media-center), then leaving a Chrom…

OpenWRT DNS Forwarding with Unblock-us for Hulu/Netflix access

You can unlock Netflix and Hulu in Australia (and other countries) by using a VPN or a DNS proxy such as Unblock-us. I use the latter as it's simpler to setup and faster. The simplest way to get it working is to just sign-up for an Unblock-us account and follow their instructions to set their custom DNS servers in your router, so most of your devices (laptops, tablets, etc.) will have access to Netflix/Hulu without any other configuration required.
Issue with this is, I don't want all my traffic being routed through these custom DNS servers. With OpenWRT (and other open-source firmware such as DD-WRT, Tomatoe, etc), it's possible to achieve this through DNS forwarding rules that will only use the Unblock-us DNS servers for the domains you specify (namely,,, etc).
For OpenWRT, ssh as root into the router, and edit /etc/config/dhcp. Mine looks like this:
################################################### config dnsmasq         option domainneeded '…

Email list unsubscribe link page handlers

I'm sure everyone at some point has created an account for some online shopping site or blog site, only to be auto-subscribed to their regular email newsletters. Most of these email newsletters have an "Unsubscribe" link somewhere in the fine-print footer, which should allow an easy way to opt-out.

However, what happens when you click the "Unsubscribe" link is non-standard, and ranges from some website opening up that:

Confirms you have been unsubscribed (and optionally also sends you a final email saying you've been unsubscribed).Asks you to click a "Confirm" button before processing the unsubscription request.Asks you to enter your email address and select from a range of unsubscribe options.Asks you to login with your username and password, which takes you to your account subscription settings page, where you can click more stuff to unsubscribe. In my opinion, option 1 should be the preferred implementation - if I'm in my email client and I …

Google Analytics custom event tracking

Google Analytics can be very useful for tracking visitors to your website or other web-enabled applications. The reporting interface enables you to drill-down on your visitors across many dimensions to get a clear picture of the demographics and to analyse visitor patterns (top pages, top referrers, time on page, etc.).

Analytics also enables you to track your own custom events. So, for example, you can attach a javascript listener to log every time a user hovers the mouse cursor over a DOM element, or every time a button is clicked, or any other data that you can think of. You may then use the reporting interface to drill-down into these events to get even deeper insight into your application.

Using custom event tracking is pretty simple to implement.

First, load your analytics profile as usual:
(function() { var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true; ga.src = '…

VW Golf start/stop button placement annoyance

The MK7 VW Golf series are equipped with VW's Bluemotion stop/start system, meaning that when your car comes to a stop while driving, the engine will shut-off to conserve fuel.

This feature seems good in theory, but it can be pretty annoying in heavy traffic where you move two meters at a time every 20 seconds. Having the engine shut off and restart that frequently makes for an unpleasant ride, and I'm not convinced it's good for the car long-term either.

Thankfully VW has included a switch that allows the driver to disable the stop/start feature. Unfortunately though, the button for this is placed exactly behind the gear-shift lever, making it impossible to see from the driver's normal line of sight.

So, to push this button to disable the stop/start feature, something I do at least a few times per trip, I have to lean over towards the gear stick and take my eyes off the road for a good two or three seconds.

This is far from ideal, especially as I would reach for this …