Saturday, September 21, 2019

iFit NordicTrack Street View Review

If you've ever used Google Streetview you now how it's the next best thing to driving or running down a street in real life.  Nearly ever street in the US and many countries has been painstakingly photographed in 360 degrees.

NordicTrack has merged this with a treadmill to give you a virtual jog anywhere Google has created a street view.

These Google street view workouts are not to be confused with iFit Coach's many full video recordings with iFit trainers running or hiking along many excellent trails worldwide.  They are in addition to those.

NordicTrack's use of Street view allows you create your own new custom street view jogs and save them.  Or you can use one of iFit's hundreds of pre-done treks.

The Good.  For example, there is a two mile trail I used to run in my teen and college years near my home.  I was able to recreate it in a matter of a minute or two.  And it even tries to get the uphill and downhill right be adjusting your treadmill as you go.

I say, "tries" because Google's altitude info is not always spot on.  For instance, I find I often have to add a bit more decline or incline to truly recreate the run I remember.  But that's easy to do with a quick press of the incline/decline buttons. But overall, it's really cool...when it works.

Street View is Sometimes Anything But.  I've found that the more remote and less touristy Street View runs are best.  Why?  You may recall that Google lets anyone post their tourist photos on Google maps.  If you go to a certain place, like the Brooklyn Bridge, in Google maps and zoom in you can see these.
 In NordicTrack, if a cheesy selfie happens to have been placed right on the street by someone you jump out of the street view and into that photo!  And many are simply awful.
In normal street view browsing on your computer or mobile device they are ignored and you continue moving down a street as you click on the arrow.  But in NordicTrack use if a cheesy selfie happens to have been placed right on the street by someone you jump out of the street view and into that photo!  And many are simply awful!

Nordic Track Spoils the Illusion Sometimes.  So, you're crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and you're really looking forward to what it would look like and be like to really be in New York doing this.  Just as you get to the good part, there are tons of tourist snapshots that take over.  Any faint illusion of being there is totally trashed and you are treated to photos such as these (actual photos from iFit):

Suddenly you're in a random restaurant

Next your eyeball is in a chain link fence

Next you are under the bridge running on water

Next you are....who knows where

Next it's night are you are hovering 200 feet up

Next you are in a tunnel somewhere

Now you are looking at a blank wall sideways

And here's another wall shot. Sometimes there are dozens!

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Florida Stand Your Ground Law is the Hollywood Movie Standard

How often do you see a movie where the menacing bad guy attacks the woman but she uses the gun in her shaky hand to shoot him at the last second?

That's all Florida's Stand Your Ground law says.  She doesn't have to try to outrun the bad guy or overpower him hand to hand.

It's just common, Hollywood movie sense:

1. Are you an innocent person being attacked?
2. Do you think that turning your back and trying to escape you will be killed?
3. Then you can use whatever force to save your life.

Duh.

Here's the actual complete wording of Florida's stand your ground law:


"A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity 
and who is attacked  
in any other place where he or she has a right to be 
has no duty to retreat 
and has the right to stand his or her ground 
and meet force with force, including deadly force  
IF he or she reasonably believes it is necessary
to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm 
to himself or herself  
or another or to prevent the commission 
of a forcible felony."



If A Woman is Attacked Is Her Only Option to Outrun the Man?

Picture your 45 year old mom being attacked by a 20 year old man who has already hit her and says he intends to rape her.

In a few states she has no legal right to defend herself except to turn her back and try to out run the man.  If she does escape.  Great.

If however she pulls a legally owned and permitted pistol out of her purse and turns and shoots her pursuer she is guilty of murder and sent to prison.

It's just too bad for her.  There is no common sense law in those states that says you don't have to try to outrun your attacker.

But Florida has this common sense law (that you probably won't take 10 seconds to read):

A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity 
and who is attacked  
in any other place where he or she has a right to be 
has no duty to retreat 
and has the right to stand his or her ground 
and meet force with force, including deadly force  
IF he or she reasonably believes it is necessary
to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm 
to himself or herself  
or another or to prevent the commission 
of a forcible felony.

That is the never read, never put in print by the media, but much attacked "controversial" Florida Stand Your Ground Law.

You could walk down the streets of Portland Oregon, Boston, New York City and just ask people to read it and (without identifying it as Florida's stand your ground law) say that their State legislature is considering this law and overwhelmingly they would say it makes perfect sense.

Why?  Because the law has these common sense elements:

1. You an innocent person being attacked.
2. You think that turning your back and trying to escape you will be killed.
3. Then you can use whatever force to save your life.

Picture your grandmother in the above scenario.   She has been attacked in a place she has every right to be.  It's life or death---she has a split second.  She can't possibly outrun or overpower her attacker hand to hand.  But she has a legal gun in her purse which she has drawn.  The attacker continues to approach menacing her.  She shoots and her life is saved.

That's all Florida (and many other states') law says.  It does not excuse shooting an attacker who is already backing off or who has indicated they have stopped.  And it does not excuse shooting someone who is not attacking you with the intent of great bodily harm or to kill you.  You can't shoot someone stealing your hub caps on a public street.

However if you say "Stop" then they approach you and menace you with a pry bar and are about to strike you with it, then you can pull a gun and if they continue you may shoot to defend yourself.  Duh!


Saturday, August 17, 2019

Why I Left MoneyDance for Quicken 2019

For nine years I've used MoneyDance from Infinite Kind.  But as of today, after hearing Dave Hamilton rave about Quicken 2019, I'm happily back in the Intuit camp.

Way back in 2005 I purchased Quicken Mac OS to replace Dollars and Sense, which I had used since 1991. All was good.

Then in late 2010, Intuit decided to abandon Mac OS and not support Lion (OS X 10.7) just as the rest of the tech world was embracing it, and Apple had become the largest tech company on earth.  What were they thinking in Mountain View?

Mac users scrambled to find replacement finance software.  Enter MoneyDance.  For $49.95 you could import your Quicken data as a QIF, link it to your bank, and with a bit of a learning curve continue on.

MoneyDance had some features Quicken lacked or did poorly. The interface looked a bit less polished.  But overall, it was a life boat given that Intuit decided to abandon Mac OS Quicken just as Apple was ascending.

But then MoneyDance broke!
The result was losing most of my 2013 and 2014 transactions due to some sort of software glitch.  MD overwrote the backup files and I didn't discover this until some time in 2015 when I was reviewing previous transactions for tax purposes. 

My data was just gone!  No error messages.  It trashed all but two payees in those two years. 

Needless to say that's not what you want in your financial software.  Quicken had yet to prove itself after it's return to the Mac, and reviews were negative.  So I plowed on with MoneyDance, until today.

Today, listening to Mac Geek Gab 774, Dave Hamilton raved about the 2019 Mac Version of Quicken.  So, I downloaded the basic version, imported a QIF from MoneyDance.  He is right!
It is like moving from VHS tapes to HD in terms of being a fully modern system.



For starters, you don't have to manually download transactions from your institutions.  Quicken has an automatic download feature that keeps it all in sync!

And when I first went to my bank, Quicken saw that I had several accounts and asked if I also wanted to add those and automatically download transactions.  You bet!

It updates automatically.  But, if you want to make double sure you're up to the second with all your accounts, you just click a Sync icon in the upper left corner.  No log in needed.  In seconds all your accounts are synced from the cloud and balances accurate.

Contrast that to MoneyDance which has had a very spotty record these nine years of being able to make a connection to my financial institutions.  Often it was out of date security certificates or just "unexpected errors."  At one point I waited 4 months for IK to create a patch.  And I had to hunt on their web site for it, versus an automatic update as in Quicken.  That is so, 1995.

Goodbye MoneyDance.  You were a port in a storm back in 2011.  But the world has long, long passed you by.

Follow Up 6 months later....Still so glad I switched back to Quicken.


Friday, August 16, 2019

Speeding Up Your Shred Guitar

Who doesn't like a little speed metal guitar?

But had do you go from just fast to shredding?  Trying to gradually get faster, a bit at a time, you  hit a barrier.  It turns out those nice, controlled finger drills don't transition into ultra fast.  It's as if you have to shift gears.



That's what this short video is about.  Going to warp speed!  As he explains,
"Playing slow will give you a great relaxed technique. Sometimes you just have to sprint through the mistakes as this video shows
This can help massively when learning to pick at warp speed. An ideal tip for shred and metal players. Learning how to play shred guitar can be quite a tough thing. Most guitar players love or want to be able to shred. When you actually master some of it, try and make it sound melodic and not just fast.
Watch the video to see how much I actually dig in onto the guitar strings. This might feel different to what you normally play like, but It can help. Please leave a comment to let me know if this works for your shred guitar playing too!"

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Chromosomes! To the Tune of Kodachrome


To the tune of Kodachrome, by Paul Simon

Chromosomes!
They give us just two genders
That’s true despite all the benders
Tryin to twist an X into a Y, oh yeah!
If you’ve got an X Y combo
Face it you’ll never be a mom so
Guess that makes all that talkin’ just a play.  

When I think back on the few facts I learned in high school. 
True I had a good time through it all. 
Seems like my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none,
Cause I could read my science in study hall.

Chromosomes!
They give us just two genders
That’s true despite all the benders
Tryin to twist an X into a Y, oh yeah!
If you’ve got an X Y combo
Face it you’ll never be a mom so
Guess that makes all that talkin’ just a play.  

If I took all the girls I knew when I was single
And they ate all those hormones night and day
I know they’d never match a dude says he’s a lady
In the mile or thousand yard relay. 

Chromosomes! (Repeat Chorus) 

Mama can’t take my chromosomes
Daddy can’t take my chromosomes
School can’t take my chromosomes away. 
The left can’t take my chromosomes
Leave my genes and trust your own
Mama can’t take my chromosomes away. 
(Repeat until you get it)

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Christocentric Interpretation of the Bible - Is it Accurate?

As a believer, how can you have too much of Jesus?

In one sense, you can't of course.  But what if your imagination begins to run away with you?  Do you see the face of Jesus in a tortilla, or a random cloud?

What if as you read passages in the Old Testament you begin to see Jesus in every single passage, not matter what it is about? 

That is not too far from what some are now advocating for our method of understanding each passage of the Old Testament.  So David and Goliath isn't about trusting God and depending on Him to fight our battles. That, they say, is inserting me into the text.  No, it's really a story about Jesus being our David-like figure who fought out battle against sin.  If anything we are the cringing Israelites off in the distance too afraid and weak to fight.

But is this what God intended in that story?  Many say yes.  But Tim Chaffey cautions and points out some of the pitfalls of this recently revived approach:

Tim Chaffey "Too Much Jesus: Is that Even Possible?"

Friday, February 22, 2019

Telling a Device to Use a Certain Plume Pod or SuperPod

The Plume SuperPod mesh WI-fi network has been amazing.  See Guitarwarp's previous post and review.

But recently my NordicTrack treadmill, with a built in Android tablet that only takes 2.4Ghz,  insisted on jumping from the SuperPod literally 6 feet away where it had an "excellent" connection to the Gateway pod in my upstairs office where it only had a "fair" connection--and the device would not work properly.

I went to Plume's support site and used to "contact us" feature to write in.  Within hours I received an email that they were looking at it.  Then an hour later a tech wrote that they saw the device making that jump.  They had researched and found that when the NordicTrack treadmill begins to operate it causes interference and that fools Plume's "client steering" feature at times.  Here is what the tech at Plume wrote:

In this case, I was monitoring the network and waited the Nordictrack to make connection back to the closest Pod. When it made connection back with the Garage Pod, I turned off the client steering on Nordictrack Treadmill and the Health jumped up to excellent again. Now, this will hold the connection to the closest pod.

 I had recycled the WiFi in the treadmill off/on and it reconnected to the nearby SuperPod.  That's when the tech saw it jump back to the proper pod and switched off the client steering for that one device.  Pretty slick!

So while you can't do this yourself, Plume support is able to assist you for a device that misbehaves this way.

NordicTrack / iFit
By the way, the funky Android tablet in the NordicTrack iFit system only runs on 2.4Ghz and needs a whopping 30Mbs solid connection in order to stream lowly 480p video ("high" quality in their wording).  Oh, and that "30" is when you tap into the hidden Android desktop and run a speed test from within the treadmill tablet.  I can tell you that other 2.4Mhz devices right next to the treadmill test at more than double that.

Full 1080p HD video streaming from Netflix or YouTube takes less than 5Mbs. So there is a lot of overhead (and probably some wonkiness) going on in the iFit Cardio (Android OS) to make it stream video and control the treadmill in real time.

How to "tap into" the hidden Android OS on your NordicTrack iFit console:
  • Go to settings > maintenance.  
  • Tap 10 times quickly in any white space on the screen.
  • Wait a full 5 seconds.
  • Then tap 10 more times.
  • Then drag up from the extreme lower edge of the screen to reveal a pull up menu.
  • Tap the white circle to get the Android screen.
  • Then tap the white circle with six dots to get the Android Apps.
You can use the Browse app to do a Google search for "speed test ookla" and then.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Houston Chronicle Misleading - SBC Churches Have No "Headquarters"

Houston Chronicle Article on SBC

Every one of the 14,000 SBC churches is autonomous.  That is, they are not part of a hierarchy.

There is no "headquarters."  Every Southern Baptis church hires their own pastor and sets their own budgets.  They also have freedom to do ministry and preach as they see fit.

Typically, the pastor is accountable to a board of lay leaders such as elders, deacons, or a personnel team.  Ultimately he is accountable to the entire congregation.  Like anyone else, the pastor is also accountable to local authorities.

But the national Southern Baptist Convention has no authority, or supervisory power over local churches. The SBC itself is a voluntary cooperative effort for things such as seminaries and missionaries. It never was a central authority.

The article in the Houston Chronicle is misleading, as these matters are handled by the local church and local authorities as appropriate.  Clearly the reporter would know that.  They have to know that the SBC literally has no legal standing over any local church.  This is in contrast to an actual denomination, with a hierarchy that can direct churches what to do.

If there is a complaint against a public school teacher you don't write to the Secretary of Education in DC to "fire" that teacher. You work through the local school board and authorities.


Saturday, February 9, 2019

NordicTrack iFit Treadmill Video Freeze Despite Fast Internet

iFit coach video workouts are prone to buffer. They freeze in mid-workout and often never recover.  You have to exit the workout eventually.
iFit video often freezes and buffers forever
John Peel will have all the recovery time he needs as the video buffers.

See this Web page for many documented cases of poor video performance: http://www.apprview.com/lifestyle/ifitsmart-cardio-equipment/

Not a bandwidth issue.
Testing the connection with iFit support on the phone, I get well above their optimal speeds on the machine.  And, when I first start a video workout it loads 2 minutes of video into the "buffer" in about 4 seconds.  Great!

But then in about 4-8 minutes it freezes the video and a message says it's "buffering," and that when it reaches 60 seconds of video buffered it will resume.  But it never does! 

Even a 2 minute "pause" didn't help.
Even pausing (which the buffering screen suggest) does nothing to help.  Not even 1 more second gets loaded.  You eventually have to quit (and it does not save that workout) and restart.  And it may well happen again.

Numerous support calls to iFit Nordictrack have not resolved the issue.  Even reinstalling the software on the Android tablet (which is what the console is) did not help.




Here is a screen shot of my connection speed internally on the iFit console (hidden Android interface).



DNS Issue?   
If you go into the "hidden Android" interface (see below) you find a Chrome browser app on your treadmill's tablet.  Once when the video buffered I went into it and discovered that it would not access any web site, not even Google.  I got a "DNS not resolved" error message.  Once this happens, no sites can be accessed by the treadmill's console, not even Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc.   

The only solution is to turn WiFi off/on inside the Android OS settings. Then, surprisingly, you can relaunch the iFitCardio app (on the Android OS screen) and you do get back to your workout.  Unpause it, and you're good.  That's my in-the-moment "fix" for now.

Armed with this info about the DNS error, the latest iFit tech suggestion was to contact my ISP and see if it is an issue where iFit is being blocked by a firewall.  But a senior tech said they don't block devices or apps, and it was very unlikely on their end.  And given that recycling the WiFi temporarily solves the DNS/buffering issue, that seems likely the case.

What to do?
My longer term "fix," based on a search of "Android OS DNS issues," was to create a static IP on my local WiFi for the treadmill.  You can do that inside the Android OS under the WiFi advanced settings.  And at the same time set every DNS server in the chain (treadmill, my Plume AP's and Asus router) to Google's DNS server (8.8.8.8).  This has seemed to help, but not totally fix the buffering.  It's gone from maybe two out of three workouts to about one out of three.  A times I go several days with no issue.

Is buffering customer demand related?
I had been thinking that iFit's video servers were getting swamped at peak times, causing buffering.  It seemed that way on many occasions.  And maybe that is in the mix.  If so, it could only be part of the problem as it would not explain why the buffering is linked to a total DNS error for all sites, including iFitCardio.



I've even had Google Street View workouts freeze (it says "image not available").  These can't be data intensive at all, since they are just a photo every 4 seconds or so.




My Equpment:  
  • I have a late 2018 NordicTrack Commercial 1750, latest ROM.  
  • 1 Gigabyte fiber internet that tests 33Mbs on the internal treadmill tablet (half what other 2.4Ghz devices test in the same location).
  • But it's faster than iFit tech support said I needed for high quality video.
  • One problem is that when the treadmill starts up it causes interference on the 2.4Ghz band according to the tech's at Plume.  
  • Unless the router or wireless AP is right in the room, a few feet away, the WiFi speed can drop like a rock to less than 3Mbs on the Android tablet that controls the treadmill. I've seen this happen!  BTW, my iPhone get's over 500Mbs at the treadmill location!
  • To overcome this I had to move one of my Plume SuperPod mesh Access Points to about six feet from the treadmill. 
Hidden Android OS in Your NordicTrack?  
Yep.  The iFit support person on the phone walked me through accessing it:  
  • Go to your account (your name).  Then go to Settings, then Maintenance.  
  • Then in the white area at the bottom of the Maintenance screen do this:  
  • Tap quickly 10 times, then wait a full five seconds, then tap 10 more times, then DRAG up from the extreme bottom edge of the screen to reveal a small pull up menu.  
  • On the menu tap the white circle to go to the Android desktop.  
  • Then tap the white circle with the six white dots to reveal the Apps.  
  • Choose the Browse app which opens up Google.
  • Then type in "Ookla speed test" search, and and then run it on your console.
  • The tablet in your treadmill is a full blown Web device.  I even streamed the entire Titanic movie off YouTube once to test the connection.  Didn't buffer by the way.







Friday, December 7, 2018

NordickTrack Customer Service Sketchy

My Horizon Elite treadmill of 12 years finally died in September, 2018.

To replace it I read all the online reviews and features and the leading makes and settled on the NordicTrack Commercial 1750, purchasing it directly from NordicTrack online.

It arrived in about 12 days and the assembly wasn't too bad.  I filled out the warranty information online right away, created the iFit account and few custom workouts and all seemed well.

But then one week into using it the right fan stopped working.

I filled out a customer service request that same day at https://icon.registria.com/service_request_confirmation.  The generic confirmation email arrived right away so I know it went through.  

But then after 5 days I had received no response, despite even filling out a second online ticket.

So, I tried the "live chat."  A machine asked for the serial number and that, "A customer rep will be right with you."  But after 20 minutes waiting on the chat no tech ever responded.

The next day I tried calling, but they're only open during weekdays.  I tried calling on a weekday and after 45 minutes on hold it said, "If you need support hang up and visit ifitcom."  I let the phone stay on hold another 15 minutes but nothing but music, so I finally hung up.

Finally on day 10 an email response from a customer service person said I would first have to "completely remove then disassemble the console and use the exploded parts diagram" as my guide.  Then I could look, test the connections, around and tell them what was wrong with it.

What?  I'm not a technician!  That seemed crazy.  

Here's the email,
"Please refer to the exploded drawing in the user's manual to see what hardware to remove the console and fan assembly. Check the wires between the fan and the control board in the console. This includes any jumpers for pinched, damaged, loose or disconnected wires. Disconnect and reconnect the wire connections where possible to verify that there are no bent pins in the connectors. Is there damage to the wires or were bad connections found?"
I paid a boat load of money for this treadmill.  And the warranty says a full year of "parts and labor" is included.  Tearing apart the console, which had come fully assembled, seemed like a very bad idea! So I didn't.

I finally tried the phone again a couple days later, and after about 20 minutes got a representative who actually was very helpful.  He was aghast the chat rep had suggested taking it apart.  No way!  He arranged a service call and a couple days later it was repaired at no charge.

The phone number works much better, thought you will have to wait at least 20-30 minutes each time.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Ring Video Doorbell Pro - Cool But Quirky Power Requirements & Support

I installed the Ring Video Doorbell Pro about two months ago.

Power Hungry!
I measured 18.5 to 19 volts at the doorbell and installed the tiny Ring PowerKit v1 just for good measure on my existing chime to make sure it had enough juice.

For the first few days, despite following all the support tips and videos, I got nothing.  No white LED light, no WiFi signal.  Nothing. Yet the wires still tested 18.5 volts at the door.

I read on Ring's support site and online about how many people's Ring doorbell suddenly "woke up" after a day or three, and began to work.

But after 6 days mine was still dead despite steady power to it. 

On the Seventh Day....
Then, suddenly, on the 7th day behold, the light came on and the Device Health on the App said it was, "Good."  So I connected the Ring to the network, and the device health said it was, "Very good," for five days.  Then it died again.

Failing "Health"
And this cycle repeated several times over the next weeks.  The Device Health on the App would start with a "very good"  4,000+ millivolts.  But then it would slowly drop over the next couple days until it quit working.

A Fluxing Capacitor
I found online that there is an undocumented capacitor inside the Ring doorbell that must "charge" before the device will work.  (A capacitor stores power, like a rechargeable battery.)  But at that time, nothing on the Ring site mentioned it.  Now they've added a note: 
"For Ring Pro to function correctly, the voltage needs to be at least 3,900mV. 
Note: The Voltage reading in Device Health corresponds to the level of CHARGE." 
Charge that capacitor with 1.21 gigawatts, Marty!  Seriously, the charge has to build up like your savings account.  Then there can be an outflow that exceeds inflow, like your savings account.

It's a Drain on the System.
They say Night Vision can drain it.  Or I assume any other functions such as recording motion.

Do I need a bypass, Doc?
First I tried a chat with a Ring support person to order the free bypass cable or the brand new PowerKit v2, which has the bypass option.  But when I asked the chat person, "Don't you need my address to ship it to me, she wrote, "No, I'll send you an email form to fill out."  The form email never came, although a Ring customer survey did.

Finally I voice called Ring and got great help.  The rep said, "Huh, there is no emailed form to fill out!"  So he got my address and the PowerKit v2 arrived a few days later.  But it did not help at all.  The same charge and drain cycle continued.

I Need More Power
More Google searching confirmed that the Ring Pro really needs A LOT more power than the stated minimum of 16V.  Perhaps yours is working, but many don't, or it's spotty.  The quickest, cheapest, best solution is just to purchase a 24 volt AC power adapter.  You can even buy the plug in type that look like a wall wart adapter.  Don't even bother with lowly 16 or 20VAC transformers.  There is no significant cost savings.

The Elk's Club - Just $19.95
I recommend the Elk TRG2440 24VAC, 40 VA AC transformer.  I bought it on Amazon for $19.95.  Presto, like Marty McFly once they kiss....it sprang back to life.  And I was quite ready for this rockin' Ring Pro to work!  The device health on the Ring app soared to over 4000 instantly and has never dropped (unlike Ring stock prices).  You can get hardwired power transformers too, if you don't have an outlet.  (Hire an electrician if that's the case, or better, have him install an outlet for about the same cost.)

In the Creepy Crawl Space
Your doorbell power supply is usually located in your attic, a closet near the door, or....the dreaded crawl space under your house if you have one.  Yes, mine was keeping the spiders and other critters company in the crawl space.  But I just unhooked the two wires from the 16VAC/10AV power supply that had originally powered my doorbell, then plugged in my new Elk 24 to a socket nearby and connected it.  Bingo!

Doorbell Power is Like No Power On Earth
The wimpy  power supplies that come with a standard doorbell chime are not up to powering a WiFi device with an HD camera in most cases.  16VAC with just 10 volt amps doesn't cut it.  Ring's power booster PowerKit might do it for you, but just barely.  Or not at all, like my case.  It's not just the voltage.  Those 10 volt amps just don't allow enough power to be sent.

What's a Volt Amp?
OK, for the most part a volt amp is just like a regular amp.  But an AC transformer converts power in waves.  Sometimes the peak of the voltage wave does not line up with the peak of the current wave.  But when they do, Great Scott, it's a beautiful thing:  just like 40 amps!  That extra headroom means your transformer will deliver all the power needed, even when they don't align.


Sunday, September 2, 2018

OSHA 1 to 4 Ratio for Extension Ladder Tilt Questionable

If you Google how far to set an extension ladder away from a wall you see OSHA's flat recommendation of a flat 1 to 4 ratio for the distance the bottom of an extension ladder should be from the wall, regardless of how tall the ladder is.

That is, for every four feet of height pull the ladder bottom out one foot.  This gives a universal 75 degree tilt.

But is this always a good idea or even safe?  Probably not!

Extension ladder "kick back" is a far more common cause of falls than you're pushing off backwards from the top of a ladder and the whole thing falling straight over.

In fact, on YouTube I couldn't find even one video of a backward fall happening, despite many dozens' of "ladder fails."  The overwhelming cause was kickback, the ladder sliding out backwards from underneath because of losing it's grip at the bottom.

Go to Google search for "ladder falls" and watch the videos. 

The non-crazy people (who didn't put the ladder on top of milk crates or the like) had the ladder too far from the wall and the whole thing slipped out from under them.  But in several of these cases it appears to be within the OSHA 1 to 4 ratio.

And here's where the 1 to 4 ratio gets ridiculous.  If the ladder is extended 24 feet that means the recommendation is the bottom be six feet from the wall.  There is no way you are going to be able to shift your center of gravity back six feet when you're on top of that!  But kickout cold happen if the surface is concrete, or wet, or anything less than prime for traction.

The one time I got kickback and fell it was because I followed the OSHA guidelines and the ladder slid out backwards on a clean concrete surface.

I was using a 20 foot extension ladder on my job cleaning windows on a tall second story with an extension pole.  The top of the ladder was probably18 feet.  The bottom was around 4.5 feet out and on a totally flat concrete walkway that led to the front door.  It was early morning in West Palm Beach, Florida and about 100% humidity with the concrete slightly damp from overnight condensation.  But no visible water.  And the concrete was maybe two years old, perfectly clean, and in good condition.  Without warning suddenly the ladder slid out backwards.  Thankfully I wasn't hurt, but from where my feet were I fell straight down 13 feet onto the concrete with a squeegee in one hand and a towel in the other, landing on my feet.  Another worker came over and said it was a miracle (which I believe!).

So, 3.5 feet would have been plenty in that set up.  There's no way I could lean back that far and pull the whole ladder over backwards.

And if you are 30 feet up, do you really need 7.5 feet?  No way!  Your center of gravity won't be within 4 feet of that even if you tried to pull the ladder over.  But I'm not putting a 30 foot ladder that far back and risking a slide out.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Perfectink seller on Amazon Beware

This seller on Amazon.com pictures Jarbo inks, boxes etc.  But what you get is generic rubber banded together garbage and not what this scammer pictures on his Amazon site.

Stay away!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Plume Superpods Wi Fi Mesh -Amazing Speed and Coverage

Like most,  I've had a single router pumping out WiFi to the whole house for years.  My ASUS RT-AC87R is fed a diet of 1Gb up/down from CenturyLink fiber.

Yet, the 400Mbs I clock on my iPhone X in my home office right next to the router, drops to just 15Mbs in the opposite side of the house.  On a good day!

Another Fine Mesh.
Mesh networks use two or more intelligent access points working in concert to fill every part of a building or home with high speed WiFi.  The mesh AP's use a high speed back haul channel for passing data with a dedicated radio, or hard wire Ethernet connection.  The back haul does not take away bandwidth from your WiFi devices.  And mesh AP's can intelligently and seamlessly hand off your mobile device or laptop if you move from room to room.

They also can use different channels so as to not interfere with each other.  The result is amazingly fast speeds even in the remotest parts of your house.

Up until about 2015 mesh was the domain of corporate wireless networks.   
Plume SuperPods
Plume SuperPods, small, intelligent, elegant, affordable, powerful, expandable.


Plume released it's original "Pods" just over a year ago.  Now they have the SuperPods, which are much faster.  These tiny devices are all alike and plug into your wall outlet.  They are not using your AC power line for transmission, however.  They use WiFi as described above.

The first generation Pods got middle of the pack reviews.  But the new SuperPods, which were released in mid-2018, are said to be among the best and fastest home mesh systems according to Ars Technica and Mac Geek Gab.

My Set Up Experience.
I got a bundle with three SuperPods.  The Pods are identical, so you just choose one and plug it in either to your modem, or into a router which is in turn connected to your modem.  With the latter choice, the Plume pods intelligently sense this and switch to bridge mode to work as access points.   That way they don't compete with the router to assign IP addresses to your devices.

I decided for now to leave my existing ASUS router to do the routing, and connected the first SuperPod to it via by the ethernet LAN port.  Within seconds it configured itself and automatically linked to the network and to the app on my phone.

I gave it a name by holding the iPhone a few inches away until it recognized it and brought up a dialogue box.  I assigned it the name "Office."  Then I plugged in the other two pods, dubbing them Hallway and Family Room.

The set up for password and network name is all handled on the mobile app and is by far the easiest I have ever done.  It took less than 30 seconds.

In less than 15 minutes the entire Plume mesh system was installed in my house and ready to connect my various devices.

The result.
In the worst location speeds climbed up to 400Mbs as the network optimized itself over several days!  Surprisingly, my iPhone tested at a blazing 650Mbs when a couple feet from the Office SuperPod.  This was faster than the ASUS router had been!  How that's possible I'm not sure.

Cloud Management & Optimization.
Plume uses cloud based network management to continually monitor and optimize your network based on the specific devices it finds and your usage of them.  Does it work?  Check this out:

After initially installing the SuperPods I immediately saw 200Mbs or more on my iPhone in the "worst" parts of my house.  Quite an increase from 15Mbs.  This went up to 275 after a couple weeks, then to 400Mbs, as the network optimized itself automatically.

The biggest change was that the AI determined it was better to ditch the daisy chaining of the three Pods in favor of the two downstream Pods directly connecting to the primary one.  This reconfiguration was entirely automatic and based on usage and my particular devices.

Plume Knows Your Stuff.
Plume's management AI scopes out your entire topology and each specific type of device you use.  It knows the difference between an Apple TV and an AirBook, A Lifx light bulb and an Ecobee Thermostat and from a database, can choose how best to serve them.  It also assesses how you use each device, where, and when.  Then it can predict what might be needed.

It tests your ISP and the connections to each SuperPod. If a change is needed, it will do it automatically.  That means it also automatically can select the 2.4Ghz band for a device that is on the outskirts of range, and will choose a channel that is optimal--given your neighbors noisy WiFi habits.

Jim Salter in Ars Technica (6-12-18) says of the new SuperPods, "Hands on with the company's 2.0 pod--speeds are great; subscriptions may be involved."

Plume Excels with Multiple Devices.
Salter points out in his extensive testing vs. Orbi and Eero that the Plume, while not the fastest on a single device (but nearly ties Eero), far surpassed the other two in sustained throughput when multiple devices were in play.  The more devices, the better the SuperPods did in comparison in maintaining high throughput everywhere.

And in application latency (how responsive an app is) the Pod blew away both the Orbi and Eero when the network is pushed to its limit by other devices.

Subscription.
Plume's powerful cloud based network management and optimization system comes at a price.    You can choose $60 annually, or lifetime $200 fee. But well worth it in my opinion.

Here's an example. Customer service was excellent when I had a finicky device that kept wanting to jump to from the pod 6 feet away to the the Gateway pod even thought that means going from an "excellent" connection to a "fair" one--at which point this device would not function properly.  I left a note on the Support contact page and received an email in a couple hours that they saw it and then remotely told that one device not to use "client steering" so that it would stay put.  Brilliant!

They researched and trouble shot some additional issues inherent with this same device, a Nordic Track treadmill.  That's service, and network management.

Seeing Your Mesh Network Graphically:  Plume comes with a wonderful graphical app that shows the network topology as planets with each device orbiting as a little "moon."  At a glance you can see how it has auto-configured itself, which pods link to which, connecting each Pod to the next as you plug them in.  You can name devices and even rename the Pods at anytime.
Jim Salter - Ars Technica screen shot


Be My Guest.
Setting up a guest network is child's play. Simply click the Guest Network tab on the app, give it a name and password, and customize it's features if you won't to limit access to internet only or make it time limited or temporary.

SuperPod as a Router -- Oops!  Not So Fast.
After 10 days I removed my ASUS router and used the SuperPod to do the routing, connecting it directly to the CenturyLink fiber modem.

A simple off/on of the modem and the Pod was now in Auto (router) mode, passing out IP's to all my devices.  No additional configurations or fiddling needed.

I connected the SuperPod's second Ethernet port to a new TP-link switch, and plugged my iMac and Hue bridge into it.  The connections worked seamlessly.

However,  speeds dropped nearly 50% using the SuperPod as both router and AP.

With the ASUS router doing the heavy lifting of routing, I tested 950Mbs via Ethernet up and down from CenturyLink.  But with the SuperPod routing, it dropped to around 600Mbs.  And other points in the house dropped in proportion.

So after a couple hours I reinstalled the ASUS as the router and speeds recovered.

It only makesThe Asus RT-AC87u/r has a powerful "dual dual core" processor that doesn't break a sweat shuttling 1Gbs up and down and routing, fire-walling and the like.  Essentially, removing the Asus was simply putting more load on the Plume SuperPod.  Why not use that high spec dual dual processor in the Asus router?

Conclusion.
The Plume SuperPod mesh system is a strong contender and may very well be the mesh for you.  Five stars!





Sunday, September 3, 2017

Photographing the Total Solar Eclipse in 2024 - Best Tips Learned from 2017

Want Stunning Shots of the Next Total Solar Eclipse?

Follow these tips April 8, 2024 that I learned from The Great American Eclipse of 2017.

This photo of the 2017 Solar Eclipse below was a pleasant surprise!  I'd never shot the sun before.  Yet it was the result of following these straightforward tips, practice, and some luck.


#solareclipse2017
Total Solar Eclipse 2017 -Diamond Ring - Nikon d300 with Nikkor 70-300 f/4-5.6  (f11 at 1/5 sec.) Natural colors

 

Best Tips for Photographing the 2024 Solar Eclipse

1.  Location, location, location: nothing is more important

  • Avoiding overcast skies.  Consider the general weather conditions of your chosen location. Some places have a much lower chance of clouds or rain in April.  San Antonio, TX gets just 3 days of rain in April, while Paducha, KY gets 8.  Weather sites can give you the skinny. Research not just rain but typical atmospheric "clarity" and "stability."  This is an astronomical event and small differences matter.  Visit Clear Sky.  
  • Stay mobile! Weather is your biggest challenge.  Be ready to get up on eclipse day and drive 200 miles if need be.  Folks who drove from Charleston to Gaston, SC that morning exchanged total overcast for one of the best viewing conditions in the country in 2017.
  • Get in the path of totality. Do not settle for a partial eclipse.  A 99% eclipse is Zero percent like being in the path of totality.  Being in the 99% area is like having someone open the exit door in the middle of a movie.  And you won't be able to take off your dark eclipse glasses as you can during the totality if you are in the path.   Drive the few extra miles.  For best results, get near the center line of the path. 
  • Think Texas.  For 2024, think central to south Texas for starters, west of San Antonio.  It's likely to be dry and clear in April. You'll get a very generous 4+minutes of totality there.
  • And, check out this Texas two-for:
From GreatAmericanEclipse.com  Six months separate them.  West of San Antonio a likely first choice.  Book early.

  • Book your hotel many months in advance.  I recommend choosing modest accommodations so you're not so tempted to stay put if clouds become a factor. Arrive the night before so you don't get stuck on the highway and can scope out a place to set up.  If you have to travel that morning to find clear skies traffic shouldn't be a problem.  Most people will just stay put.  But if you're reading this, you are not most people.  You want amazing shots!
  • Choose a spot with a toilet nearby.  You don't want the call of nature to hit right at the wrong time.  And from the onset of the eclipse to the end of totality is about 90 minutes.  In 2017 we found a "lovely" little strip shopping center with a Wendy's.  It really was perfect.  And within 2 hours a couple hundred new friends had joined us, just 1 mile from the center of the path in Gaston.  You might want a pop up canopy and definitely bring a cooler.
A 99% eclipse is Zero % like being in the path of totality. Don't settle for a partial eclipse.  Make the short drive to get 100%.

2. Practice your shooting!

The Nikon's tip site for the Eclipse was fantastic.  But it's best advice was to get the solar filter way in advance and practice shooting the sun on a non-eclipse day(s) and bracketing with your camera, lens and tripod.  Don't skip this.  It will take at least a couple of sessions to get it right for your gear.

Solar Filter:  I used a 4"x4" solar filter film and an old oversized UV filter to make my own at a cost of about $10 US.  This allowed me to just slip it on and off the Nikkor 300mm lens.  But you can buy screw on solar filters to fit your lens or inexpensive slip-on solar filters by Astromania.  Do not use negative film or other "home brew" methods for filters.  And never point your camera at the sun w/o the filter (except during the totality).

Practice Steps: 
  1. Shoot at a time of day that matches when the solar eclipse will occur in your viewing area.  If it will be at noon, then do your practice around noon.  Look up times and places at sites such as this one.  For south Texas, the totality will start around 6:30pm.  But the onset of the eclipse will start about an hour earlier.
  2. Use Aperture Priority.  Don't use full Auto or Program.  You will examine which aperture for your chosen lens is sharpest in the following steps and set your camera to Aperture mode/priority.  All your shots will be at that aperture (see why below). Aperture and controlling vibration will determine the sharpness of your shots in this case. 
  3. Put your solar filter on before you point your lens at the sun.
  4. Set your zoom to what focal length you will be shooting at for the eclipse.  Probably the max.  I set mine to the max of 300mm, then tested for the sharpest aperture at that focal length.
  5. Try ISO 200 or 400 but no higher (dark areas get noise very easily in these shots).  I settled on 400.
  6.  Fred Espenak recommends setting the aperture between f/8 and f/16, then shooting a very wide range of exposure times from 1/4000 to 1/30 to find the "sweet spot" for both exposure and the sharpest aperture (step 7).
  7. Then evaluate the photos at 100% zoom on your computer to see which is sharpest and closest to the exposure you want.  Most of the time you will have some Sun spots, little black dots on the sun, which should appear very sharp and detailed in the right combo of settings.  Note the sharpest f-stop and best exposure. That will be the "center" exposure of your bracketing for the sun before and after totality.  For me, f11 was best at max zoom.  f8 was OK, but f16 was a significantly more blurry.
  8. If all shots are blurry, you have a vibration issue, not a shutter speed issue.  Check your tripod, or upgrade to a rock solid one.  See more on vibration reduction in the "Essentials" below. 
  9. Consider practice shooting the Annular Eclipse six months earlier on Oct. 14, 2023.  You won't get totality (which is amazing!) but you will get a cool site and real practice for the total eclipse April 8, 2024.  Both will cross through Texas.   If you can just do one, skip the annular.

Why Aperture Mode?

Each lens has an aperture setting at which it is sharpest for a given focal length.  So if you plan to shoot at your lenses maximum zoom, say 300mm, try f/8, f/11, and f/16 at that focal length.  Then compare at 100% on your computer to see which is consistently sharper with fine details such as sun spots. 

Fast shutter speed is not a factor in sharpness when shooting the sun/eclipse.  You will be on a tripod, using a remote shutter release, and the sun moves slowly.  So 1/60, or even 1/30, is plenty fast.  The shot at the top was at 1/5 second!

3.  Don't treat the eclipse like a normal subject.

I've done commercial photography but this is a very different subject:
 Photographically, it's two very different stages.  
1) Stage One:  As the moon is beginning to cross the face of the sun it will photograph exactly like the sun on any normal day.  This is true right up to the last 60-30 seconds or so before totality.   My EV for this first stage ranged from -3 to -5 on these shots, reflecting the fact the image was mostly black space with an orange ball at the center.  Your Auto setting won't know what to do with that!  It will try to average the shot to 50%--and way over expose it (The image below is cropped considerably.) 
The moon is just barely hitting the upper right rim of the sun

EV -5 for this "last sliver" before totality.  ISO 400, f11, 1/200

2) Stage Two:  Suddenly it will begin to darken rapidly and go into the totality where the corona is visible. You must take off your solar filter at that point (and your eclipse sun glasses).  It's safe to look at the sun at that point.  In Texas 2024 you'll have over 4 minutes.
  • During totality, the light changes every couple seconds.  You will have to shoot LOTS of exposures with very wide bracketing to get some decent ones.  Use auto-bracketing (see below) to shoot sets with Exposure Comp of 0, -1, and +1.  Do this over and over during totality. 
  • HDR-ish - My EV for the totality varied widely, from -7.3 to 1.33.  This was intentional.  Details of the sun's corona (atmosphere) and the solar flares require lower exposures.  But to capture the outer edges of the corona require a higher exposure.  There is no one setting to show both the extent of the corona from the sun and the feathery detail within it. 
  • The Corona and Prominences photo below is an HDR like combo of an EV -7.3 for corona and prominence details with a + 1.3 for the outer edges of the corona.  I blended them in Photoshop.  The dot to the upper left is Rigel.

solar eclipse corona & prominences
Solar Eclipse Corona and Prominences - Nikkor 70-300 f/4-5.6  (Combines two images, one at EV -7.3 and one at +1.3)
The outer edges of the corona were captured at ISO 400 f/11 at 1/2 second (EV 1.3) but the inner detail and solar prominences were shot at ISO 400 f/11 at 1/400 (EV -7.3), and the two images combined.  That's 8 2/3 stops variation to capture it all!

Of course during totality you remove the special solar filter. And you can also look with the naked eye at that time.
  • The sun moves!  In 30 seconds it is well out of center on a 300mm lens on a DX camera (or 450mm on a full frame). And you will have to adjust in both vertical and horizontal directions since the sun makes an arc through the sky.  Practice that days and days before as you shoot test shots of the sun with your approved solar filter.
  • You don't get a retake.  The totality lasts only about 4 minutes and honestly you are likely to be emotionally blown away--so practice until everything becomes automatic.   One professional photographer said he was so overcome with emotion he forgot to shoot during totality.  Practice (and the "essentials" below) will help you not miss direct observation and enjoyment, while still getting great shots.  The period of totality is like nothing you have ever seen before.  There literally were no words to describe it in the crowd in 2017.  You couldn't say, "Well, it's like...."  And later trying to explain it to friends who got 90% eclipse back home was pointless.  Their experience was nothing like ours. 
  • Don't forget to have someone capture the overall experience with video.  I set up my iPhone on a clip holder in time lapse mode (2 hours in 27seconds), pointed back at our 10x10 canopy and my camera rig and the parking lot full of new friends, while my wife took a number of video clips, then just let it roll during the totality.  On the time lapse it was cool seeing the shadow hit distant clouds and make them disappear for a couple seconds.  Your smart phone won't get great shots of the sun during totality, so stick to wide shots that include people's reactions.  Great fun!  If you do want a video camera that will get excellent shots, consider the Nikon p900.  It's 2000mm zoom is truly amazing.  You can get one for around $350 on eBay.  Or by 2024 get the p1000 (4k) for probably about the same.  Sony RX10 III is also a bit higher quality contender for both super zoom video and stills.
 

4.  Follow These Essentials 

a.  You need to set AUTO-BRACKETING with very wide exposure latitudes, and practice until it is second nature and mindless.  You get maybe 4 minutes of totality and can't waste time digging in a manual.
  • Choose 1 full f-stop between bracket exposures.  I used 9 exposures, -4 to +4 of the "center" exposure that I had noted during my practice runs (see Practice section above).
  • During the totality, I took about 150 bracketed exposures to get about a dozen excellent shots.   

  • During Totality you need an even wider range of exposures than the pre-totality shots.  I alternated sets of 9 auto-bracketed shots at Exposure Compensations of 0, then -1, then +1.  

  • This was so automatic due to practice that I never felt like I was missing using my own eyes to watch the eclipse.  

b.  About every 30 seconds, I repositioned the camera since the sun moves.  Practice this as well beforehand so it's second nature.  If you are shooting at higher than 300mm DX (450mm full frame) then consider getting an inexpensive equatorial wedge attachment for your tripod.  Then you only have to adjust left to right, and not up and down as well.  You will have to make more frequent adjustments at higher zooms.

c.  BAD VIBRATIONS:  You must tame them!
  • How important is vibration reduction?  It's crucial in astronomical photography.  In the photo at top do you see the tiny white dot to the upper left?  That's the star Rigel.  The tiny vibrations from mirror slap would make that a blurry mess!  But practice and testing helped me discover this ahead of time.
  • I practiced in my studio using a bright light reflecting off a small shiny round plastic object to create some pinpoint reflections.  I was amazed viewing at 100% crop just how used we get to small motion and vibration blur.  The mirror slap alone would make a pinpoint light look like a hyphen vs. a period.
  • Shooting astronomical objects reveals even tiny motion blur that is masked in normal photos.  The details in the Sun's corona will be blurred.  Sun spots and stars will appear streaked or as a double image.
  • Bad Vibes:  At one point in 2017, just before totality, a car drove up with giant bass thumper speakers.  He was 100 feet or more away and it was shaking everyone's cameras.  You could see it in the viewfinder!  We had to go over and ask him to turn it down.
    • You absolutely need:
                     A very steady tripod
                     Solid ground
                     Remote/cable shutter release
                     And Exposure Delay or mirror lock if you use a DSLR, vs. a mirrorless
    • VR won't help. It's not designed for these tiny, higher frequency vibrations, only handheld camera shake.  In fact, it can introduce vibration.  I was skeptical when I first read this tip.  But trial and error verified than in many cases it actually produced slightly blurry images.  And it never produced sharper ones.  Your on a tripod with a remote release after all.


    Follow these vibration busting tips:
    • You must get a cable/remote release and use it.  Otherwise you will get a blurry mess.  Pressing my shutter button by hand almost always caused blur, despite a steady tripod and light hand. I used an MC-30a Remote Trigger Release for Nikon.  I was advised not to use a wireless remote on this occasion as there could be dozens of other users in the same area.  I advise the same.
    • LOCK your mirror up or choose the "EXPOSURE DELAY" setting (Nikon) which allows a short 1/2 second or so delay after the mirror flips up before the exposure is taken. This allows mirror slap vibrations to die.  On the Nikon, exposure delay works with auto-bracketing perfectly.   
    • If you are shooting on a mirrorless camera you don't need to worry about mirror lock or exposure delay.

    d.  Shoot RAW.  This adds 2-3 stops of exposure control you would not otherwise have.  That can save a shot.
    • Subscribe to Adobe for LightRoom Classic even if you drop it after you process your shots.  It's only about $10 a month.  And it's miles and miles ahead of trying to use Photoshop for RAW.  Far easier (very easy!) and more effective.  RAW gives you a couple more f-stops of adjustment which can save a great shot.
    • And using Lightroom's dehaze tool can help as well.  
    • Lightroom CC claims to have the same tools/features as Lightroom Classic, but they are the same in name only.  But that's another blog post.  Use Classic (pro).
    e.  Lens:  Recommend minimum 300mm on a DX and 450mm on a full frame DSLR.  
    • I found even the very modest Nikkor 70-300 f/4-5.6G ($169 at B&H Photo) did a great job, largely because I tested well ahead of time to find the optimal f-stop for sharpness and locked it there!  It was plenty sharp at 300mm despite what you might read.  See for yourself above.
    • Higher megapixel count won't improve the vibration factor.  So shooting 200mm but cropping a 24MP image will still reveal all the nastiness of even slight vibrations.
    f.  Practice all the settings until it is automatic.  
    • The one thing I could not practice was the sudden cooling effect of the sun going into totality.  My lens cooled rapidly and the focus, which had been locked to pretty much infinity, suddenly went blurry in about 10 seconds!
    • It was a cheap no frills Nikon 70-300mm lens ($110 refurb from B and H) and had no manual focus ring.  I had used the auto focus to lock in on the edge of the sun then locked it.  But now I had to find the switch, turn it to auto, desperately try to get it to find the now eclipsed sun and lock on.  After about 4 attempts it did and I re-locked it.  But I lost about 15 seconds.  
    • Had I not been very familiar with the controls I would have missed the most visually stunning part by far.  And that brings me to the last point:  

    g.  Shoot a lot!   
    • I shot about 400 exposures of the eclipse.  But the one that surprised me the most is the one at the top.  This was partly a fluke of timing.  As the auto-bracket was +3 or 4 the sun was coming out of totality and the second Diamond Ring was appearing.  I just kept firing since I didn't need to look through the view finder.   I'm glad I did.
    • The result was this amazing shot, made better by the bargain Nikkor lens having a more modest optical coating. I've seen thousands of shots of the Diamond Ring but none like this one. 
    • The flare and corona on the top image above are all natural colors.  Rigel appears as a tiny white dot in the upper left.   The diamond ring flares beautifully in this very modest ($110 open box) lens.

    Follow these tips, book your room way in advance and practice!  Good luck!


    Settings for the first image at top:
    1/5 second exposure at f/11 at 300mm on a Nikkor 70-300 f/4-5.6G. Shot in RAW.  No solar filter  during the totality of course

    See and download my full sized solar eclipse images at Shutterstock and iStock.

    https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/solar-eclipse-diamond-ring-2017-gaston-706856203?src=tmhF6c9jgn4KAGD6nMy1lA-1-75

    Here is a composite I made of the phases of the total solar eclipse of 2017.
    total solar eclipse 2017 phases
    Follow my tips and with a little luck you can create images like the above in 2024.

    Below - solar prominences (flares).  While not commercial quality, not bad for a plain old DSLR and a cheap 70-300mm zoom
    Solar eclipse close up prominences flares
    Not bad for an old Nikon DSLR and $110 Nikkor 70-300mm zoom.  ISO 400 f11 at 1/400 second