Olympus Camedia C-50 Zoom Digital Camera

We bought an Olympus Camedia C-50 Zoom digital camera yesterday.

olympus-camedia-c50.jpg

We were at Best Buy and Costco yesterday looking at the various cameras. Based on some of the comments we got last week, we decided we wanted something small. We seriously considered the 3.2 megapixel Canon Elph S230 and the 4.0 megapixel Canon PowerShot S45.

About the same size as the Canon S230, the Olympus C-50 packs a whopping 5.0 megapixels into an 8-oz size. That’s smaller than the Canon S45 and it seems a little easier to use. It lists for $699. Best Buy sells it for $599, Costco for $569. We got it for $510 + shipping at 17th Street Photo.

We found some online retailers claiming to sell it for $444, but it turns out that is the “international version” which doesn’t come with some pretty important things like the battery, battery charger, USB and AC power cables, 32 MB of memory, and software. Most of those places wanted an extra $100 for the “USA version.” Very deceptive. I know from past experience (buying Nikon SLR lenses 10 years ago) that 17th Street Photo is a reputable merchant. I guess the only reason I didn’t think to start with them in the first place is that somehow I equate digital cameras more with computers and less with traditional film cameras.

The major disadvantage of the Olympus is that it uses the less-common xD-Picture Card memory format (seems to be used only by Olympus and Nikon). It’s about twice as expensive as CompactFlash, the format that Canon and Pentax use. We paid $130 for a 256 MB xD-Picture Card, but you can get a SanDisk 512 MB CompactFlash Card for the same price.

Digital Camera Recommendations?

I need to buy a digital camera. Does anyone reading this blog have any recommendations?

Ariella and I are going to Italy for a week and a half at the end of the month and we’d like to to take some pictures.

In the past, we have been schlepping our 35mm Nikon and getting a CD burned when we get the film developed (like we did last year at my college reunion). But we’d rather go about it the opposite way: take digital pictures, post online, then order selected prints from Shutterfly or Ofoto for our print album.

If you’ve got a digital camera that you like (or dislike), post a comment so we know what to buy (or what not to buy).

[Update: we ended up buying the Olympus Camedia C-50 Zoom]

Free Bagel Fridays

I’ve been working in the Yahoo! Santa Monica office for about a month now, and I’m still really enjoying it.

Today, like all Fridays, is a Free Bagel Day. In the kitchen are dozens of bagels and about 6 different kinds of cream cheese. Reminds me of the Free Bagel Tuesdays we used to have in 1998 when Y! was at 3400 Central Expy. That was before we quintipled in size and got all corporate and stuff.

When I walk in the door each morning, Dionne greets me by name. She’s not reading it off my badge; she actually knows who I am. It’s like working for a small company again. And I didn’t even need to switch jobs!

Rosh Chodesh Adar II

purim-clown.gif Today is Rosh Chodesh Adar II, the beginning of the happiest month of the Jewish year.

משנכנס אדר מרבים בשמחה

Mishe-nichnas Adar, marbim b’simcha

When Adar enters, our joy increases (Ta’anit 29a).

Purim falls on March 17th this year. That’s right, same as St. Patrick’s day. I’m looking forward to some cross-cultural drunken debauchery.

The Shtibl Minyan Purim celebration is sure to be huge again this year.

Code re-organization

I just spent the better part of the day shuffling some C++ code around in our CVS tree, and then trying to make sure it builds properly from its new location.

I didn’t add any code, just moved it to a new place. And it took me 8 hours to get the thing working again. This stuff is suprisingly complicated.

Why discussing patents over email is bad

This comes up now and again at work. An engineer reads a story from CNET News.com or Slashdot about how some technology company has a patent on something really obvious (like XOR) and is trying to enforce it. The engineer sends email to the internal development email list with a link to the story, and sometimes a snide comment about how totally silly and unenforceable the patent is.

The intent is harmless, but it’s a real problem. In general, patents should not be discussed over email. I’m not a lawyer, but I do understand a little bit about this field. Let me try to explain why it’s a bad idea.

The issue has to do with willful infringement. If a company is found to be infringing on a patent, even accidentally, they can be ordered to pay damages to the patent owner, sometimes millions of dollars. If it turns out that the infringing company knew about the existence of the patent, it’s called “willful infringement.” In those cases, the infringing entity can be required to pay treble damages to the patent owner.

If the patent was discussed over email then it’s much harder to make the argument that the infringement was accidental. treble damages. Ouch.

When I get an email about a patent, it’s too late to repair the damage. I might hit delete in my email program, but we all know that email, especially when sent to a list, never goes away completely. Of course it’s archived in about a thousand different places (on other people’s computers, outgoing mail servers, incoming mail servers, web archives, tape backups, etc.)

And the first thing the lawyers do when filing an infringement case against your company is subpoena all of the email from the past year and start grepping through it for references to the patent. Remember, treble damages. Ouch. So if the lawyers can’t find anything electronic indicating that you knew about the patent but your company still happens to infringe on it, you’ll only get slapped with single damages. Still a lot of ouch, but only 1/3rd as much ouch.

Some might argue, “But it’s OK to talk about this particular patent, because we all know that it is totally unenforceable.” Wrong. Unless you’re a patent attorney, you don’t know enough to make that call. You have to assume that all patents, no matter how ridiculous, might be enforced.

Some companies, such as my former employer, are really concerned about this. Not only do they discourage discussing patents at all over email, they run HTTP proxy servers and completely cut off access to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website from within the corporate intranet.

I’m not suggesting that my employer go that far, because it doesn’t seem to solve the underlying problem (people often find out about patents from news sites, not from searching the patent database itself). But it’s really not asking too much to tell employees to restrain themselves from discussing patents in an electronic, highly searchable medium.

Talk about it at lunchtime. As Rick says, have the conversation at the real water cooler, not the virtual one.

Peach-colored bathroom

Master Bath We just completed our first optional home improvement project. Our master bath is now coral cove, which is really just a fancy name for peach.

In the six months we’ve lived here, we’ve done other improvement projects, like hiring someone to fix the oven three times and the dishwasher twice, but I don’t exactly consider those to be optional. This we decided to do just because we could. We’re homeowners, darn it, and we’ll paint our bathroom whatever color we want!

We hired a guy named Armando to do the job. He did some painting for us in July so we knew he did good work for a very reasonable price. Err, reasonable might be an understatement; he’s dirt cheap and does high-quality work. If you’re looking for a painter in the Los Angeles area, I highly recommend him.

And yes, someday we’re going to buy a real digital camera that actually takes decent pictures.