A blog by W. Brian Murphy

Ramblings from a mind in overdrive

The Blizzard of 2017…

HI All!

It’s January 7th, 2017, and the blizzard is upon us.  We’ve already been assaulted by an amazing 3-4 inches of snow in Virginia Beach, and there is more to come!  Oh, the humanity… We will try to stay strong and survive until Virginia Beach’s lone snowplow comes to dig us out.  But there are things we can do to make life easier!

Seriously though, here are a few items that will make your life easier when the frozen water attacks us again, cuz this blizzard ain’t gonna be the last!

First off, get yourself a good snow shovel.  A well designed shovel can make all the difference in how hard or easy it is to get the snow off your driveway and walks.  Look for one that is long enough and is designed ergonomically to save the strain on your back muscles.   It’s worth spending a few extra dollars and get a good one.  Here are a few…

     

Suncast SC3250 18-Inch Snow Shovel/Pusher Combo with Ergonomic Shaped Handle And Wear Strip, Green

Snow Joe Shovelution SJ-SHLV01 Back-Saving Snow Shovel

Suncast SF1850 22-Inch Big Scoop Snow Shovel with Wear Strip

If you have pets and like to salt your walks, get a pet friendly deicer like this one…

Next up if you’re going to venture out onto the permafrost that will be Virginia Beach’s streets is a quality snow and ice scraper to clean the offensive white stuff off your vehicles.  You can find crazy hi-tech offerings, but a long brush and scraper is sufficient.  I like the ones designed for trucks, as they tend to be longer, sturdier, and make it much easier to reach across your windshield.  They also tend to have a more heavy-duty scraper and padded grips/handles.

Check these out…
       

Hopkins 532 Mallory 26″ Snow Brush with Foam Grip (Colors may vary)

Hopkins 16511 Subzero 23″ Ice Hammer Snowbrush (Colors may vary)

Hopkins 886-PKUS Mallory Pink Snow Tools 31″ Snow Brush

 

 

Please note, I get a referral fee from amazon for anything you purchase.  Thanks!

Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV

As more and more Americans are frustrated by the high costs associated with televised entertainment, many are tempted to “Cut The Cord” so to speak.  We are one of those families.  We still use our local cable company for internet access, as its the fastest available to us.  Before we get rid of DirecTV, I need to find an alternative which will work for us.  We watch A LOT of television.

Enter Amazon’s Amazon Fire TV Stick and  Amazon Fire TV.  They connect through your wifi and stream video and music content to your TV.  We are using the Fire Stick and it is amazing.  It has dual core processors.  I hardly ever see buffering with it.  It’s really affordable, and if you’re an Amazon Prime member (Get a trial membership here if not!) you can stream a ton of video and music content in high def, to boot!   The Fire Stick is a small thumb drive-looking device that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port.  there is also a power plug that can connect to a USB port, or plug into a standard outlet.  Set up takes about 10 minutes.  There is a remote included.  All in all, not bad for 40 bucks!  It simply works.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Amazon’s Amazon Fire TV works similarly, but has Quad Core processors and I’m told runs smoother and more powerfully.  I don’t have one, so I’ll have to trust those who do.  It’s also a better device for playing games, I’ve read.  I’m not much into games, so I don’t care.  One neat thing about this device is that the remote can be voice controlled, which is a plus.  It goes for around 99 bucks, which is worth it if you’re into gaming and want the voice remote.

 

Canon 6D


About a million years ago, I was a fairly decent photographer.  At least I fooled my Dad into thinking so, anyway.   That was back when cameras used actual film to capture an image.

I then got a point and shoot digital camera (several of them, actually) and their ease of use helped me forget everything I once knew about using a real camera.

Now, I feel the need to be more involved in the process of creating beautiful images.  I have had a Canon EOS Rebel XS for a few years, and it is a rather decent entry level DSLR  (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera, but one thing on it that bothered me the most was the fact that it has a smaller sensor in it than a full frame camera.  So using a 50mm lens on it doesn’t equal using a 50mm lens on an old 35mm film camera.

Enter my new camera, the Canon 6D.  It’s still in the EOS family of camera, so the controls are familiar.  There is a little difference in the placement of them, etc.  But all in all the menu system, etc are really intuitive.  It is a Full Frame camera, meaning that the digital sensor in it is the same size as a 35mm camera piece of film.  This makes thing look “right” to me.  When I look through a 50mm lens, I see what I used to see.   It feels rugged in my hands.  The light sensitivity it amazing, with ISO settings up to 25,600 and an extended range of up to 102,400- which is just freaking nuts.

The Canon 6D has an amazing ability to focus automatically in very low light situations.  It can focus in the dark better than I can, that’s for certain.

It also features Wifi and GPS.  The GPS is useful for geotagging photos, etc., which will make them appear in Google searches more readily.  The Wifi feature allows the camera to be controlled by an App installed on your phone or table, as well as allowing the photos on the camera to be viewed and downloaded to your mobile devices, etc…

If you are looking for a GREAT camera, consider the Canon 6D.  It’s a very affordable full frame camera…

 

        

 

Ninja Duo Blender and Juicer… Amazing!

Hi All!

Karen and I have wanted to get into juicing for a while now.  We recently picked up a Ninja Juicer, actually the Nutri Ninja Duo Blender.  It juices, in that it actually pulverizes everything down to a really smooth consistency.  We’ve been using it to make smoothies and breakfast drinks.  It also turns ice into the equivalent of snow for frozen drinks.  Can you say margaritas on the patio?

       

I’ll post a proper review once we get used to using it and putting it through its paces a little more.  I have kale on standby!  I just wanted to post my initial impressions in case you are thinking about getting a juicer or a blender.  This rocks, so far.

A couple great protein skimmers for your saltwater aquarium

Protein skimmers are a fantastic way to remove waste from your aquarium, making a healthier environment for your fish, corals and inverts.  They work by having a rising column of tiny bubbles.  The wastes that accumulate in an aquarium, dissolved and suspended in the water column, stick to the bubbles and make a kind of sludgy foam which collects in a cup.  Nature does the same thing.  You’ve seen it if you’ve ever been at the beach and see the brownish-tan foam that washes up on the shoreline.  There are literally hundreds of different brands and models of protein skimmers; many suck.  These do not.  In fact they are great.

 

The first is the ASM G-3.  I don;t have this one, but a friend of mine with a 265 gallon tank does and it’s a fantastic skimmer.  If you don’t happen to have a 265 gallon tank, don;t worry, they make smaller ones as well.  Click the link and check them out!

ASM G-3 Protein Skimmer w/ Sedra 5000 Pump

 

The second skimmer I’ll introduce you to, is what I use on my 65 gallon mixed reef (actually about 80 gallons when you include my sump volume).  This thing pulls some nasty, funky brown skimmate (ie: crud) from my tank.  It’s great, and the price is reasonable, too.  Coralife is a trusted name in the reefkeeping hobby/addiction world and make great products.  They also come in different sizes.  If you follow the link, you can check out the others as well.

Coralife 05272 Super Skimmer with Pump, 125-Gallon

Please check these out, and thanks for checking out my page!  Hopefully I’ll get some video of my skimmer in action, soon!

Great Aquarium Powerheads!

I needed some increased flow in my mixed reef tank.  I’ve been doing some research on it and really wanted Tunzes.  But the cost of them are astronomical.  Well, a company called Jebao has come out with a similar unit for a fraction of the cost.  I just put one (WP-25) in my 65 gallon mixed reef, saltwater tank today and it is amazing!  ONE powerhead replaced the three I had in the tank which makes the tank MUCH more appealing to look at.  Check them out!

They also have a controller to use it as a wavemaker, and a feature on the WP-25 and larger is a light sensor that can tell when your lights are off and reduces the flow in the tank automatically!

Here’s a couple youtube videos of the WP-25 in action (not of my tank, mind you!)

 

WP-10 (for a smaller tank)   Moves 530-1000 GPH!

Jebao WP-10 Wavemaker with Controller, 530 to 1000 GPH

WP-25 (What I chose for my 65 Gallon tank)  Moves 800-2,000 gallons/hour!

Jebao WP-25 Wavemaker with Controller, 800gph-2000gph

WP-40 moves 900-3,400 GPH!

Jebao WP-40 Wavemaker with Controller, 900gph-3400gph

 

And for you big tank owners, here’s the WP-60…

Jebao WP-60 Wavemaker with Controller, 2600gph to 5300gph

Two GREAT cameras from Canon… the 6D and the 5D Mark III

Lately, I have been lusting after a full frame camera body.  I am a Canon shooter, currently using an Eos Rebel XS.  It’s a decent body, and quite capable of producing sensational images.  But its 1.6 crop factor has become annoying to me.  Here are the two cameras I’ve been looking at and researching

 

  First up is the Canon 6D…  

The EOS 6D DSLR camera is the ideal tool for unlocking your creative vision. It features a 20.2 Megapixel Full-Frame CMOS sensor, a wide ISO range of 100–25600, expandable to L: 50, H1: 51200, and H2: 102400, for incredible image quality even in low light, and a DIGIC 5+ Image Processor delivers enhanced noise reduction and exceptional processing speed. A new 11-point AF including a high-precision center cross-type AF point with EV -3 sensitivity allows focusing in extreme low-light conditions, and with continuous shooting up to 4.5 fps, you are ready to capture fast action. Full HD video with manual exposure control, multiple frame rates, and the benefits of a Full-Frame sensor provides stunning performance and creative flexibility. The built-in Wi-Fi® transmitter allows you to wirelessly transfer your images to social networking sites through CANON iMAGE GATEWAY#, or upload virtually anywhere from your iOS or Android smartphone* with the free download of the EOS Remote app**. You can use your smartphone for remote camera control and operation (with the EOS Remote app), or even print your images on a Wi-Fi® compatible printer^. Perfect for travel and nature photography, the built-in GPS## allows location data to be recorded while shooting. Compact, lightweight, brilliant low-light performance, and loaded with easy to use features, the EOS 6D is truly the Full-Frame DSLR camera for everyone.

 

  Next up is the Astounding 5D Mark III

The Power to Create

Canon is proud to present the highly anticipated EOS 5D Mark III. With supercharged EOS performance and stunning full frame, Canon EOS 5D Mark III at Amazon.comhigh-resolution image capture, the EOS 5D Mark III is designed to perform. Special optical technologies like the 61-Point High Density Reticular AF and an extended ISO range of 100-25600 (expandable to 50 (L), 51200 (H1) and 102400 (H2) make the EOS 5D Mark III ideal for shooting weddings in the studio or out in the field, and great for still photography. Advanced professional-level high definition video capabilities (that includes a host of industry-standard recording protocols and enhanced performance) make it possible to capture beautiful cinematic movies in EOS HD quality. A newly designed 22.3 Megapixel full-frame Canon CMOS sensor, Canon DIGIC 5+ Image Processor, and shooting performance up to 6.0 fps provide exceptional clarity and sharpness, even when capturing rapidly-unfolding scenes. Additional technological advancements include an Intelligent Viewfinder, Canon’s advanced iFCL metering system, High Dynamic Range (HDR), and Multiple Exposure mode—all of which that help make the EOS 5D Mark III the perfect multimedia tool.

Brilliant Sensor, Supercharged Processors

22.3 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor

The EOS 5D Mark III features a newly developed Canon full-frame 22.3 Megapixel CMOS sensor that’s designed Canon EOS 5D Mark III 22.3 CMOS at Amazon.comfrom the ground up to create high resolution, perfectly detailed images with unprecedented speed and clarity. A full 24 x 36mm, the sensor captures 5784 x 3861 large individual 6.25 µm pixels and has a much-improved S/N ratio resulting in better images from the start. A new photodiode structure with an increased photoelectric conversion rate increases the sensor’s sensitivity by approximately 2 stops over previous models, meaning higher ISOs with the lowest noise of any EOS digital camera. And a 2-line 8-channel simultaneous signal readout means speeds of up to 6.0 fps (RAW + JPEG) are possible!

 

14-bit A/D conversion, wide range ISO setting 100–25600 (L: 50, H1: 51200, H2: 102400)

The EOS 5D Mark III not only offers 14-bit signal processing for excellent image gradation, it delivers higher standard and expanded ISOs, and a score of new options to enhance shooting in varied and fast-changing lighting situations. With a standard range of ISO 100–25600, the EOS 5D Mark III represents a 2-stop increase in sensitivity over previous cameras. Thanks to the improved signal-to-noise ratio of the new sensor and powerful noise reduction, the EOS 5D Mark III can shoot at expanded sensitivities down to ISO 50 (L) and up to 51200 (H1), and even 102400 (H2)! Beyond the obvious advantages of its wide ISO range, the EOS 5D Mark III has automatic ISO settings, found on the dedicated ISO menu. Minimum and maximum ISO settings can be specified, as can a user-defined range, plus full auto and manual.

DIGIC 5+ Image Processor for enhanced noise reduction and blazing processing speed

For a whole new level of performance, the EOS 5D Mark III uses a DIGIC 5+ Image Processor. Working with two 4-channel A/D converter front-end processing circuits, and delivering speeds of up to 6.0 fps (RAW + JPEG), and the DIGIC 5+ Image Processor improves data processing performance and features new algorithms that promote greater noise reduction at higher ISOs. In addition to conventional image processing functions the DIGIC 5+ Image Processor offers real-time compensation for chromatic aberration in both still and motion images. With the power of this processor, speed improvements are noticeable from the instant the camera is turned on and the stunning results speak for themselves.

Canon’s Most Sophisticated AF, Period

All new 61-Point High Density Reticular AFCanon EOS 5D Mark III at Amazon.com

The newly designed 61-Point High Density Reticular AF features an Offset Array Sensor (with staggering AF point arrangement) to deliver greater accuracy, no matter the situation. It offers multi-zone wide-area AF for better tracking, has 5 central dual cross-type points (f/2.8 diagonal), 21 central cross-type points (f/5.6 horizontal & vertical) and 20 outer cross-type points (f/4.0 horizontal), and is sensitive in extremely low-light situations (EV-2 for a central point with a f/2.8 lens).

Intelligent Metering, Fast

iFCL Metering with 63-zone dual-layering metering sensor

The EOS 5D Mark III features Canon’s multi-layer 63-zone iFCL (intelligent Focus Color Luminance) Metering System that integrates the cameras AF system into its readings. By taking into account the color and luminosity surrounding the chosen AF point(s), this new system delivers an entirely new level of accuracy, especially in situations where the light changes quickly. The metering sensor enables evaluative, center weighted, partial and spot metering, plus offers 5-step exposure compensation for perfectly exposed images, every time.

Brilliant HD Recording on Demand

EOS HD Video with manual exposure control, multiple frame rates and selectable All i-frame or IPB compression

Addressing the requests of the pros and building on the unprecedented success of its namesake, the EOS 5D Mark III captures HD video with a level of sophistication on par with professional movie cameras offering phenomenal performance on a DSLR. It offers both All-I and IPB compression, supports H.264/MPEG-4 AVC High Profile, and automatically splits files greater than 4GB (FAT specifications) for extended recording without interruption. It offers the option of timecoding during recording only (Rec Run) or at all times (Free Run), useful for multi-camera shoots. It also features improved sound recording adjustment capabilities, offering 64-step volume control accessible through the Quick Control screen during video shooting, plus a dedicated headphone jack for convenience in shooting. The CMOS sensor’s new drive system significantly increases image processor performance, reducing color artifacts and moiré (a common problem that occurs in scenes with horizontal lines), and ensures that the EOS 5D Mark III can record at a number of frame rates up to ISO 25600 in H mode.