Thursday, January 06, 2005

Fun with a 20 buck camera

Lately, I've been taking some photos with my recently aquired Pentax spotmatic II and having fun with it. It's a great old camera that is almost as old as I am. For some reason, I really like that about it. It's completely manual, apature, shutter speed, everything, so it's had a learning curve, but it's been a lot of fun. Well, like I always do, I did a google search on the camera, and found some photo blogs that used it, or displayed images that I admired and aspire to be able to take one day. Well one of these photo blogs, Shutterbug in the about section, listed a camera, I had never heard of. So of course, I figured it was some high-end camera that I couldn't hope to ever use let alone own. A holga! Well, I googled searched holga, and found some interesting stuff.

What's a Holga
In short, a holga is a plastic toy camera, that uses medium format film. The long of it, a holga is a camera constructed almost completely of plastic, with the shutter mechanism being the only exception. It's made in the Peoples Republic of China. The shutter only has one speed 1/100, and there is "two" apature settings, f8 and f11, but actually, it's just f8. Yes, the lens is plastic too! The lens cap is a rubber plastic, that feels like the top of a can of peanuts, just not as thick. Being that a holga isn't construction from "exotic" materials, like aluminum and glass, they are really pretty inexpensive. I got my from HB Photo including shipping (USPS 1st Class) for $20.65. Not bad for a "Medium format camera". (Side Note, I don't know how it worked, but I got the cheapest shipping that HB Photo offers and the holga showed up in two days! I ordered it tuesday around 10am and it got to the house thursday at 11am.)

Why a Holga
Holgas take some very interesting and beautiful pictures. There is something about the way the images taken with the holga vignette around the edges. Or the way that that images seem to have a nostalgic feel to them. And for the prices, it seemed like a great way to get to play with medium format film, and just play with photography. The more I looked into it, the more sites I found on modifying your holga. I loved this, it's 20 bucks, and you get to modify it! Sign me up! From what I read, you really need to modify your holga to get some consistent results. For example, there are two little holes in the top of the inside of the camera that leak light. Also the inside of the camera is fairly shiny, so it needs dulled down a little bit. Also, if you don't have velcro, or a rubber band or something that back of the camera can fall off.  I loved that! The fact that you had to modify it, even better!

Modifying my Holga
I found many sites on how to modify your holga. So armed with some web tutorials, a holga and some hobby tools I went to it. First thing was my holga needed a tripod mount. Armed with a cordless drill , a 1/4 by 20 nylock nut and some epoxy, and ten later my holga had a tripod mount. So feeling pretty good about this, I kept going. Next I "flocked" the inside of the camera. Basically this is painting the inside of the camera with ultra flat black paint. Now it's starting to look like a real holga, well from what I saw online anyway. Next I had to modify the shutter. Now with a normal camera there is no way, I would even thing of it, but this is a holga. After some google searches, I found this article on modifying the shutter. Basically, if you can use a piece of wire coat hanger to switch between shutter speeds of 1/100 and "bulb" (the shutter stays open as long as you hold the shuter button down). I also added velcro to the sides and back to keep the back on, and a piece of velcro for over the exposure window for light leak control. I also modified the film gate so that the camera with take pictures in a 6'X6' exposure. Now, I did have one part that didn't go so good. There is a modification to make the camera have two apature settings. Well, I used a little too much epoxy on the back of the apature arm, and it broke the first time I tried it. This is where the holga being a 20 buck camera comes in to play. I just said, well, I guess I don't need it, and just pulled the arm out. It was a lot of fun. It was like putting together a model car when you were a kid, except after you are done you can take pictures with it.

If you don't want to perform surgery to get your holga to work, Holga Mods offers holgas modified in ways you wouldn't think possible, with good prices.

In the end, I find this camera to be a lot of fun. It looks like a toy camera, so you can't take it or yourself to seriously while using it.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Code Generation out of Visio...Sort of

Okay, so I have been planning to write this post for awhile now, and for some reason, I just haven't been able to sit down and do it. That being said, I have to warn you from the start, this is going to be fairly technical. With that being said, I've always liked the idea of code generations. It has always surprised me that code generators where not more integrated in to tools like Visio in the past. I know that next version if Visual Studio is going to have a strong tie into Visio, and that the current version if VS can reverse engineer your project in to Visio UML, but that just wasn't quite what I wanted. You see our current process is to use UML to in Visio to define the class structure of our projects. This is really nice because it helps you to think through your code before you start writing anything. You think through the data relationships, and how different parts of the project will interact with each other. Using this method, you create a model of the code, complete with classes, properties, variables and methods. The are all named and have their elationships created. Now here is where the disconnect was for me, after that is done, you have to write all the code that does that. So you have to retype every class name, property name, variable name and method name. Well, like any developer worth their salt, I am lazy in a good way. (In the way that makes you figure out how to not do repeatitive tasks over and over again, not the way where you sit on the sofa and order your children to do your choirs and drink too much beer kind of way.)

 So in looking for a solution to my dilema, I turned to google!. After some searching, I found nothing that worked like I imagined it should (darn imagination always getting in the way). But I did find somethings that worked in their own way, and I just kind of merged them. One of the first articles I came across with how to export UML to XMI, (Note that is XMI, not XML). While this was on the way to what I wanted it just handled a small part of it. So the article I rain into was on the Microsoft site. The article UML to XMI Export Functionality did get me on my way. I do have to warn you though, this one isn't for the faint of heart. You have to complie C++ code, and Add a Add-on in to Visio. Basically, if you don't think you are going to use this, don't download it.

Now I am thinking great, I have my UML exported to XMI, now I just need to convert the XMI into XML. As it turns out, converting XMI, in to XML isn't that bad. I found an article about converting XMI, in to HTML, and I figured, well if they can convert it to HTML, I can convert it to XML. Well the article was so helpful, I basically just rewrote the XSL, that they used to create the HTML, to create XML. One thing to note, the uml.dtd file that they supply in the download, is so valuable. You can't create the xml file without it! The article was very well written and laid out, I was able to create my xsl transform on the train ride in.

So now I have XML from my UML, and it only took two terrifying steps. (if you don't count, the compiling of code and installing stuff in the visio directory that really could of goofed it up, if I had done it wrong and make me have to unistall and reinstall Visio.) So now, I just need something to write the code right. Well that will be handled by Eric J. Smith's great product "CodeSmith". Honestly, if you develop applications in .NET, CodeSmith is a must have. Now with CodeSmith and this great article from The Code Project on Business Objects for CodeSmith. The nice thing about this article, is that the code examples are wonderful, and there for you to extend. Which we have, we can now pick between generating code for C# and VB. Of course there is so much that can be done with this framework. Now with everthing together we are able to generate code from Visio... Sort Of.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Next Clothing Purchase

Okay, I think that I have found my next clothing purchase. It is sublime, yet understated, with a dash of truth.

The Drool Kitty

When you are typing on the keyboard it somehow always makes the Rufus want to come up and drool all over you.