Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Good Riddance!

OK - back to frivolity.

Like everybody else, we have been progressively replacing our traditional (tungsten filament) light bulbs by more-economical & maybe more-ecological fluorescent ones, like this.

Initially reluctant because of the cost, size, weight, light quality & slow start of the fluo bulbs, we have had little choice, since the old bulbs have simply been removed from the market, starting with the biggest & brightest.

Admittedly, fluo bulbs have improved recently.
The cost is now reasonable.
Light quality is OK (with the right choice of color temperature).
Size can still be a nuisance.
Start-up time remains unpredictably long from bulb to bulb, but is always dismal & often very dismal.
Cold performance is bad & apparently always will be.

For these reasons, we have continued to use (from a small stock) tungsten bulbs for cold situations (outside) & for short-term situations where the start-up time really hurts (loos & corridors).

I have been watching the progress of LED bulbs with interest.
From being exotic, expensive & very limited in power, they have slowly crept into feasibility, starting from the lowest power applications.
Several years ago, I got a 1 Watt night-light.
That involved an internet search of strange sites, then shipping from Hong-Kong.
Last year, I found a 3.5W 250lm bulb (OK for a bedside lamp) in the local supermarket for a reasonable price.
Last week, I bought a 13W 1000lm bulb (OK for the dining room) in Ikea for €9.99.
They also have a 10W 600lm bulb at €6.99 & a 6W 400lm bulb at €2.99.

Still slightly oversize & overweight, these bulbs are otherwise very satisfactory, with good light quality (for me) & instant start-up.
They pay for themselves very quickly compared with tungsten bulbs.

So I shall not be buying any more fluorescent bulbs from now on - just LEDs.

The temptation soon will be to also replace the new fluo bulbs by LEDs!
But they last so long...
And have to be disposed of properly due to the mercury they contain.
Soon we will look back on fluos as a wasted journey.
And maybe an ecological error too.

All the LEDs I see are made in China.
Do we need a European initiative to make light bulbs again?

Parting thot: "Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence." - Lin Yutang

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Je suis Charlie

This frivolous blog deliberately avoids serious issues.
But it's impossible to ignore what has happened in France this week.
The absolute horror of the terrorist attacks.
The suspense of the live coverage of the police actions.
The unexpected & unprecedented public reaction, with over 3 million people calmly in the streets proclaiming liberty & tolerance.
An emotional & heartwarming outcome.
France is proud of itself again!

Of course, everybody expects there will be follow-up terrorist activity.
Many people hope, but don't dare to expect, that there might be some follow-up to the social/political gauntlet effectively thrown down by 3 million marchers.

It will be a pity if, next week, we get back to low-level political bickering.

Incidentally, we need to find some way to stop CNN-style live TV coverage giving vital information to criminals.
Ironic when we are all defending freedom of speech...

Parting thot: "Il ne faut pas les appeler fou - c'est insulter les fous." - Patrick Pelloux (about terrorists)

I "borrowed" the image from Ruben L. Oppenheimer, with thanks & admiration.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Panasonic Buttons

Some years back, I bought a Panasonic TZ6 "pocket zoom" camera.
It was extremely convenient and an excellent compromise between small size & decent quality with what was then a big zoom range.
One annoying fault was that the Program Control knob was right on the corner and only too easy to rotate accidentally, so you (I & lots of others - see internet) frequently took shots using the wrong program.

I foolishly fell off a cliff holding that camera, so when I was well enough to use a camera again, I bought its current replacement, a TZ18.
Panasonic had obviously listened to the many complaints about the Program knob, so had repositioned it to a more protected zone & I never had another incident on that score.

But my particular TZ18 had frequent problems with wrong focusing & dust inside the lens/sensor, in spite of very careful handling (& no cliffs).
It was repaired several times under the 2-year garantee - each time with a good loan camera & an extension to the garantee timing.
Only days after the extended garantee expired, it again developed dust & focus problems, so I assumed I would need to pay almost as much to get it repaired again as to buy a new camera, but the dealer (Boulanger) was very sympathetic & managed to come to some agreement with Panasonic whereby I got 100% of the original purchase price back (as a credit note)!

Disappointed by the reliability of the TZ18, but impressed by the service, I again bought the current replacement, which by this time was the TZ35.
Too soon to know about reliability, it initially feels & sounds "cheaper" than the older models.
It actually was cheaper too.
But then they no longer supply a mains battery charger, just a USB cable to charge the battery inside the camera.
Not progress for me, but I suppose that is convergence with smartphone habits.
Fortunately, I still have the charger & spare battery from the TZ6, so can carry on as before.
The big new irritation is that Panasonic has replaced the old slider switches for On/Off and for Shoot/Replay, by push-buttons.
An advantage is that you can now turn the camera on directly into replay mode without extending the zoom lens, simply by pressing the Replay button.
Obviously too, push buttons are cheaper & more reliable than sliding switches.
The problem is that they have made the On/Off button exactly flush with the top face, so it is impossible to feel where to press it!!!

So to turn the camera on, you need to look at it, or keep pressing in the hope of finding the right spot.
The right answer would have been to put the on/off button inside a finger-sized recess.
My for-now answer is to add a small bump on the button.
I wondered how to do that & ended up with a letter "I" in Dymo tape (remember Dymo tape?).
I had to cut round the "I" pretty closely to fit on the tiny button, but it works for now & I can easily locate & operate the button without looking or fumbling.

I just wish manufacturers would spend less effort rushing for frequent updates & more time checking that stuff works.

Parting thot: "Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good." - Thomas Sowell