Friday, February 28, 2014

A nice ski day

We had a nice little storm roll through yesterday and leave about a foot of snow.  It was heavy and wet here at the house but as you got up in elevation, it got drier and lighter.  This shot is from up the hill behind our house.
We opted to ski at Canyons, which tends to be better on the powder days.  They don't groom as relentlessly as Deer Valley and they have hundreds of acres of tree skiing.  We got to the parking lot about 8:40 and there was already a big crowd there.  Between the tourists and the locals craving powder, it was sure to be busy.

Julie, getting some fresh tracks.
We find that some of the best powder skiing is off the Dream Catcher lift.  It can be painfully slow, but you can see how much untracked snow there was for us to play in.
After a sunny, beautiful morning, we headed down to have lunch on our way home.  The clouds came out.  The wind picked up and it got noticeably colder.  Glad Mother Nature was kind enough to give us a gorgeous few hours to track up the snow for everyone else before sending another cold front our way.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Our Netflix service is slowing down

Julie and I like watching things on Netflix.  It is at its peak now that they have released another season of House of Cards.  The disappointment is that we have noticed our Netflix service getting worse and worse.  It takes longer to buffer up, reports a lower quality, and tends to pixelate a bit.  We never used to have those problems.
My first thought was poor Internet service.  As much as I am not a huge fan of Comcast, our service rocks.  I just did a test and our download speed is 28 mbps and our upload speed is about 6 mbps.  Both are quite reasonable for almost any application's needs.  If you want to test your own connection, just click on this link and follow directions:

I was about to start doing some real testing to uncover the problem when I ran across this article in Extreme Tech.  It explains that Netflix is contributing up to 32% of the United States' Internet download traffic.  Unreal!  Because of this, the ISPs have started to throttle their traffic.  The article is well written and easy to understand.  The worry is that it means that there is absolutely nothing I can do to improve the situation.

Now the good news.  Today I read a USA Today article that Comcast (again, my service provider) has inked a deal with Netflix to fix the problem for Comcast customers.  I'm not sure how long it will take to roll out whatever secret thing they have agreed to, but I hope it happens soon.  For all my NC buddies, perhaps when Comcast closes their purchase of Time Warner Cable, then you will get the same thing.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Hanging with Hannah

The past two days Julie and I have had the opportunity to spend some time with our lovely neighbor Hannah. She was out of school for Presidents Week and her mom was working over at Deer Valley.

On Wednesday she joined us for a five mile walk around town and then helped Julie make some cheese crackers.
 Thursday we went over to DV for a few hours of skiing.  We enjoyed the bumps under the Red Cloud lift.  There was about 4 or 5 inches of new snow, but damn the bumps underneath were crusty!  I like this part down at the bottom where it flattens out and you can just ignore any bumps.  Just blast over them and hang on!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Android apps on your Mac or PC

Have you ever had a cool app that runs on your smartphone, but isn't available on your laptop?  It turns out there is a very easy, very flexible answer:  BlueStacks.  They have ported Google's Android operating system so that it runs as an application on either Windows PCs or Apple Macs. Of course, some of the support will be missing, like your phone's GPS, but for a lot of apps it works just fine.

If you're interested, visit BlueStacks and download the appropriate file.  It was surprisingly small and the install was quick.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The snow is adding up

We have been behind on our snowfall this year.  Bad for skiing and worse for the water supply.  So far February has brought a lot of improvement.
This picture really sums up what has been happening for the past week. Quite a bit of snow, but with warmer temperatures.  Notice that the driveway is clear.  This weekend we had about 2 feet of fairly heavy, dense snow.  Not an epic Utah fluffy powder day, but good skiing and a ton of water.  Since then we have probably had another 8-12", even a bit heavier.  

Julie and I skied this morning and she thought it was fantastic.  I am a big fan of the dry, light fluff, but it was a lot better day than I had expected.  Most important, the snow pack is starting to get closer to normal, at least for Utah.

A few more small storms during Presidents Day week, with perhaps something bigger next Thursday.  Keep it coming!!!

Friday, February 07, 2014

iPhone apps for photography

When I was on my trip to Yellowstone, several of my classmates got into a discussion about useful photography apps for a smartphone.  I offered to share mine and how I use them.

First, there are probably free or at least cheaper versions of these types of programs.  I started down that path and then it dawned on me that I spend thousands on equipment and trips, and if an extra $20 can make the difference between getting a good photo or not, then it was stupid not to get a high quality app.

TPE (The Photographer's Ephemeris) $9,  lets you know everything about the sun and moon rising and setting.  Which direction, times, angles, twilights (there are 3), shadow lengths, and all from any location and date. It is a great tool for searching out where to be for the perfect sunrise or sunset, while the sun is still overhead.

TrueDoF Pro  $6,  Did you know that when you are shooting a 400mm lens at f/4 at a subject 100 feet away, you only have about 4 feet of depth in focus?  That means if the back of the bison is in focus, the front won't be.  This app makes it easy to figure out the DoF and the hyperfocal distance for any combination of lens, f-stop and camera. Crucial for landscape photographers but useful for everyone else.

Long Exposure Calculators  $4  This app has a ton of useful tips and semi-automatic calculators for shooting anything with longer exposures, including flowing water, moonlight exposures, star trails, fireworks, ....  It also helps figure out what ND filters you should use and the effect they will have.

Star Walk  $3  Not purely photography, but great for identifying all the stars and planets. Like TPE above, it has tons of good info about sun and moon rises and sets.

iBird  $20,  I am a bird photographer and it is great to have a high quality bird book in my pocket at all times when I am out shooting.

If you have others you would like to add, please put them in the comments.  All the hyperlinks I added are for Apple phones and tablets, but I believe each of these apps is available on the Google Play store as well.