tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:/posts Trevis Rothwell's weblog 2022-10-16T02:11:40Z tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1891231 2021-11-23T18:00:00Z 2022-10-16T02:05:48Z Polkasound Productions

With the 2021 Black Friday shopping season already upon us, I was browsing deals on virtual music instrument software tonight, and happened upon Polkasound Productions. As a former accordion player, I thought, "Surely this website isn't what it sounds like," but it is! Fifteen glorious virtual instruments well-suited to recording tracks in the ancient musical art form of polka.

The instruments require a full version of the Native Instruments Kontakt sampler to run, and are half off the rest of this week. But even considering the regular prices, the demos sound outstanding. I expect to pick up at least a few of these accordions in the coming days.

(Remember that Kontakt is on sale for half-off this week too! For years I thought that surely the need for Kontakt will dwindle. Indeed, numerous new sample formats have popped up recently, but Kontakt remains a strong contender, and there is a lot of virtual instrument content out there that still requires it.)

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1891232 2021-08-19T17:00:00Z 2022-10-16T02:06:49Z Acoustic Treatment and Your Health

If you're serious about listening to music at home, either as a producer or a consumer, you are probably interested in including some acoustic treatment in your listening room. Bass traps in the corners and broadband absorbers along the walls are commonly the first pieces of acoustic treatment employed. But what is this stuff made out of, and is it okay to have in your home?

Most acoustic treatment on the market today is made out of some sort mineral wool insulation product (either fiberglass-based or stone-based), typically enclosed in a wooden frame and covered with an acoustically-transparent fabric. Mineral wool is well-regarded as being perfectly safe... when used as intended by the manufacturer. We have this stuff in our homes, sealed up in the walls; it was never designed to be hanging on the walls in our living space.

People who are concerned about keeping chunks of mineral wool insulation in their living spaces are typically concerned about one or both of:

  • Is the product carcinogenic?
  • Are airborne mineral wool fibers getting into your lungs?

As of this writing, the current official statement is that none of the products from the big names in insulation used for sound absorption -- neither from Owens Corning, Rockwool, nor Knauf -- are considered carcinogenic. There is no documented evidence that handling or inhaling these insulation products -- especially in the limited degree associated with using them for sound absorption -- would put anyone at risk. With the (supposed) exception of Knauf ECOSE insulation, all of these insulation products are manufactured with a small amount of formaldehyde, but this is "baked" off during the manufacturing process, leaving only a negligible amount in the end.

That's encouraging! But if you spend much time around mineral wool insulation, you still might wonder about breathing in mineral wool fibers or dust. The good news there is that inhaling small amounts of mineral wool fibers may be annoying, but should not pose any long-term health threat.

This all makes pretty decent sense. Mineral wool insulation has been used in professional recording studios for decades. If it was a serious problem, surely there would be outcry.

Nevertheless, even assuming that there is no known health risk to the insulation fibers, I wasn't sure that I liked the idea of having them around my home studio space. And even if there is no known health risk to any chemical content of the insulation, it turned out that most of the sheets of Rockwool Rockboard 60 that I purchased gave off a chemical odor that I didn't like smelling while in the studio.

So if not using mineral wool, what other options even exist? My own research eventually led me to Hofa-Akustik in Germany, which offers (among other things) broadband absorbers made with Basotect melanine foam, and bass trapsmade with natural sheep wool. I placed a small initial order to evaluate their products first-hand, but information available online suggests that Basotect is an unusually high-performing acoustic foam, and that sheep wool is works surprisingly well as a low-frequency sound absorber. I am looking forward to high-performing products that avoid the concerns associated with mineral wool fibers.

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1891234 2021-06-05T17:00:00Z 2022-10-16T02:11:39Z 2021 Honda CR-V

After driving 10 hours for a vacation in western South Dakota, plus a few hours driving around the area, a bunch of problem indicator lights turned on in the 2014 Honda CR-V. The service technicians at Rushmore Honda checked it out, saw nothing obviously wrong, reset the indicators, and told us it should be fine. To do a deeper inspection would involve keeping the car for a couple of days, which wasn't a great option at the moment.

We drove a couple more hours and the indicator lights came on again.

We had already been contemplating trading in for a new vehicle sometime soon-ish, and faced with a 10 hour drive back home across a very sparsely populated part of the country, we went ahead and exchanged the 2014 CR-V for a new 2021 model. Graciously tended to by Rushmore Honda's David Reichert, we had what was easily the most pleasant car-buying experience we have thus far been through. It almost makes us want to start driving 10 hours to buy all of our new cars in Rapid City...

How about the car itself? The configurable car options is an impressive new-to-me feature, letting you change various settings from automatic door locks to cruise control behavior. I miss the CD player, but the onboard graphical interface to my iPhone pretty well makes up for it.

More: photos from (mostly) South Dakota

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1891235 2021-05-10T17:00:00Z 2022-10-16T02:11:40Z Great Lakes Engineered Hickory Flooring

Another engineered hardwood flooring project is coming to an end. Tonight I laid the final board of Great Lakes Flooring engineered hickory in the basement studio / bedroom area. This is nearly five years after laying the same flooring in the larger main area of the basement.

Of all of the engineered flooring products I have used, the Great Lakes Flooring engineered hickory has been my absolute favorite. It assembles easily, and has a classic wood appearance that I really enjoy.

I was sad to learn that apparently this fine flooring product has now been discontinued! I am very thankful to have placed my final order a few weeks ago, and received all of the flooring that I needed to finish my job here, but after putting down on the order of 1000 square feet of this material, I am sad that I could no longer recommend it to anyone else.

Perhaps Great Lakes Flooring is only discontinuing it in order to release a new and improved version. We can hope!

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1495637 2020-01-05T05:03:44Z 2020-01-05T05:03:44Z Are Books Worth It?

There was an interesting discussion thread on Hacker News today, on the subject of the value of reading books.

The proposed premise was that, essentially all information must be freely available on the world wide web, right? Is it still worth it to read books? Or can you just scour blogs and tweets to find anything you want to know?

My own personal book-reading time has waxed and waned over the years; I would readily and heartily agree that I get more enjoyment and satisfaction out of reading a book than I do out of most web browsing, but web browsing is easier, and it at least superficially feels like I am reading and learning.

The Hacker News thread includes many insightful comments. One that I found especially valuable is from user ivan_ah:

The way I see it, non-fiction books are all about distillation of information. Yes most of the information from books is freely available online in some other form, but you'll have to dig for it in many places, and learn from many narrators.

The benefit of the book-length information product is that a single author went through all the possible sources and used their expertise to give a coherent story on a subject. You can think of the book as someone who read 100 blog posts for you and extracted the useful info from them.

As a learner, I have found this to be true. Last year, for example, I was learning to use the VueJS Javascript framework. There is a great wealth of information in blog posts. Now, as an experienced VueJS user, I can read an individual blog post and get an answer to a specific question. But when learning the framework initially, I found it beneficial to read a book, to have that "coherent story" rather than a bunch of discrete chunks of information.

This should also be an encouraging thought as a writer. It can be easy to talk yourself out of writing a book on a subject because everything that you know about it, you learned from someone else! That whole sum of knowledge is already out there on the web! But you can nevertheless distill your own coherent story into book form, and produce a beneficial educational experience.

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1478685 2019-09-01T17:00:00Z 2019-11-17T05:14:29Z The Food That Built America

Seamlessly blending historian interviews with dramatized re-enactments, The History Channel’s three-part series on The Food that Built America offers a surprisingly riveting look at what might sound like some mundane topics.

A few things I learned:

  • Tomato ketchup, historically known as tomato catsup, is a tomato-based variety of “catsup sauce”, other varieties of which include fish-based sauce and walnut-based sauce. The original purpose of all of these “catsups”, tomato catsup included, was to mask the unpleasant flavor of rotting meat, as most meat at the time was not kept very well, but people felt compelled to eat it anyway, rather than let their expensive food go to waste.
  • The Heinz Company, purveyor of quality tomato catsup, successfully lobbied the United States government to establish and enforce food preparation regulations, in order to push out of business low-budget competitors who were making inferior tomato catsup on the cheap.(Perhaps had Heinz done this first, meat would not have been served rotten, and we never would have needed tomato catsup in the first place!)
  • The Kellogg brothers developed breakfast cereal initially as a quasi-medicinal product, to help people suffering from poor digestion and other stomach ailments. (Maybe from eating too much rotten meat?) One of their patients was C. W. Post, who “borrowed” the idea and launched breakfast cereal to the general public. William Kellogg eventually followed suit as a competitor, though his doctor brother was at best reluctant to market their “medicinal” breakfast food as a commercial product.
  • Milton Hershey launched his chocolate business before he had even figured out how to make chocolate, including building housing for employees and hiring an executive salesman to market something that did not yet exist. He was confident that he could develop a usable recipe, and that, once that part was compete, milk chocolate would be a runaway success.
  • In the midst of the Great Depression, when many people lacked the resources to buy much food, Hershey halved the price of his allegedly protein-rich, peanut-filled Mr. Goodbar chocolate, touting it as a meal substitute with the same nutritional benefit as a pound of meat.

The series was enjoyable to watch, well-acted, well-produced, and left me both wanting to learn more about the origins of these everyday products, and maybe wanting to eat some more of them.

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1478684 2019-06-19T17:00:00Z 2019-11-17T05:14:00Z American Airlines: This Page Has Taken Flight

I was recently trying to book a flight on American Airlines using accumulated miles/points. Every time I got to the end of the booking process, I reached a page that said “This Page Has Taken Flight”, and I lost all of the booking information I had entered thus far.

Eventually I found the solution on a web forum posting. Apparently, despite having flown on American Airlines many times, my account had gotten into a state such that my home address was not on file. Entering my home address into my account details enabled me to complete the flight booking.

This error message was very mysterious, and nothing about it even remotely suggested what the problem was. Sharing this tidbit here in case it helps anyone else!

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1478683 2018-12-22T18:00:00Z 2019-12-27T00:22:44Z The Forgotten Founding Father

I just finished reading The Forgotten Founding Father, Joshua Kendall’s biography of Noah Webster.

Preceding President Trump’s “America First” campaign by some 230 years, Webster was an adamant supporter of breaking from European influence and promoting development of resources within the United States:

At dinner, [George] Washington happened to mention that he was looking to hire a young man to tutor his two step-grandchildren—Nelly and Wash Custis, then living at Mount Vernon. He told Webster that he had asked a colleague in Scotland to offer recommendations. A stunned Webster shot back, “What would European nations think of this country if, after the exhibition of great talents and achievements in the war for independence, we should send to Europe for men to teach the first rudiments of learning?” Immediately grasping Webster’s point, a humbled Washington asked, “What shall I do?” But even before he had finished his question, the General himself knew the answer. Out of respect for the emerging new nation, he would restrict his job search to Americans.

If we are ever tempted to look at the current state of United States politics and pine for the good old days of the 1830s, we might remember that Webster was pretty distraught back then too:

He detested President Andrew Jackson as the second coming of Jefferson. In the 1832 election, he supported the third-party candidate William Wirt, as he no longer wanted anything to do with either of the major political parties. By 1836 … he also looked down on his fellow Americans: “I would, if necessary, become a troglodyte, and live in a cave in winter rather than be under the tyranny of our degenerate rulers. But I have not long to witness the evils of the unchecked democracy, the worst of the tyrannies. . . . We deserve all our public evils. We are a degenerate and wicked people.”

The impact of humans on the environment was also a popular topic in Webster’s time:

Ever since the Revolution, numerous writers had taken the position that American winters were becoming milder. These advocates for the eighteenth-century version of “global warming” included Thomas Jefferson, who had addressed the question in his Notes on Virginia; Benjamin Rush; and Samuel Williams, a Harvard historian. The man-made cause was allegedly the rapid deforestation of states such as Vermont. Webster challenged his predecessors on the basis of their lack of evidence. Noting Jefferson’s reliance on personal testimony rather than hard data, Webster wrote disparagingly, “Mr. Jefferson seems to have no authority for his opinions but the observations of elderly and middle-aged people.” Though Williams, in contrast, did engage in some statistical analysis, Webster convincingly argued that he had misconstrued the facts at hand. While Webster acknowledged that winter conditions had become more variable, he maintained the America’s climate had essentially remained stable….

The work of compiling his American English dictionary apparently demanded intense concentration. In one house, “to make sure that he wouldn’t be disturbed by the children, he packed the walls of his second-floor study with sand.” In another house, the construction of which he personally oversaw, “Webster had double walls installed in his second-floor study.” Adding mass to the wall and constructing two layers of walls both remain recommended tactics for sound isolation today.

The story of Webster’s life itself was fascinating to learn about, but perhaps just as interesting are the various side remarks about the people and places he encountered. In this book we learn bits of history about New England states; the founders of familiar cities and organizations; and details about Revolutionary-era battles, pamphleteering, and government development from a more personal perspective than usual.

What about the implication of the book’s title? Was Noah Webster a founding father of the United States? Others certainly appear more instrumental in initiating and developing the foundations of the country, but Webster clearly played a major role in supporting the new republic through a prolific number of articles and numerous speeches. Webster’s role may have been more supportive than creative, but that does not diminish his importance.

As usual, I read a paperback edition, but as the cover became worn from being stuffed into the back of the seat in front of me on several airplane trips, I thought a digital edition might have been nice too, at least for reading as a travel passenger.

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1478682 2018-11-06T18:00:00Z 2019-11-22T19:38:14Z Nixon Now

I was recently at the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda. Having never before taken the time to learn much about Nixon, my impression of him, molded by superficial academia and mass media, was that he was corrupt, disgraced, and most definitely a “crook”.

Perusing the exhibits, I learned for the first time about what might have been one of the best presidents in United States history. His accomplishments both within the country and in relations with other countries are numerous and impressive. Why has his reputation been watered down to Watergate? Even there, it seems that what actually happened is not be as bad as what the general public has been led to believe. Nixon himself offered in 1978:

Some people say I didn't handle it properly and they're right. I screwed it up. Mea culpa. But let's get on to my achievements. You'll be here in the year 2000 and we'll see how I'm regarded then.

Now in 2018… it seems that he remains best-known for Watergate.

He also had some amazing campaign songs:

Thanks to the great exhibition displays at the museum, I look forward to learning more about our 37th president. Happy Election Day!

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1478681 2018-10-28T17:00:00Z 2019-11-17T05:12:21Z The Greatest Love

At our 2008 wedding, Jennifer and I had my cousin Hannah McDonald sing the Harlan Rogers composition The Greatest Love (with lyrics later added by Phil Driscoll). In celebration of our ten-year anniversary, we at Atmosphere Control Productions have published a single of this song, retaining the original drum track from the wedding (courtesy of Carl Albrecht), along with updated keys, guitars, bass, and vocal tracks. Available as a digital download now from iTunesAmazon MusicCDBaby, etc. Buy a copy today! Better yet, buy a thousand!

And Happy 10-Year Anniversary to Jennifer! I love you very much!

See also: original instrumental version from 1986 by Harlan Rogers with Koinonia

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1478680 2018-10-01T17:00:00Z 2019-11-17T05:11:16Z Lower East Side Memories

A little bit late, but Happy New Year! I just finished reading Hasia Diner’s book Lower East Side Memories: A Jewish Place In America. For several decades around the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, many Jewish people from immigrated from Europe to the United States, with many of those living either temporarily or permanently in a Manhattan neighborhood subsequently known as the Lower East Side. Not all of the Jewish immigrants lived in the Lower East Side, and not all of the Lower East Side immigrant residents were Jewish at all. But that particular subset of immigrants created a culture in that neighborhood which formed a primary basis for Jewish culture throughout the country.

Many Jewish immigrants ended up in Boston, and in Chicago, and in St. Louis, and in Los Angeles, and in other cities across the country, and even in other parts of New York City. But a clear majority ended up staying in the Lower East Side, filling cramped apartments with so many people that Jewish culture flourished, and was easily found not just in the privacy of individual homes, but openly on the streets, in shops, in restaurants… And with such overcrowded housing, there was little privacy anyway, leading to characteristically private conversations happening in larger groups, spreading and sharing cultural ideas even further.

In this atmosphere of open exchange, many artifacts of historical and cultural record were created. Factual accounts were written. Journalistic photographs were taken. Novels and plays and poems and songs were authored, all in much greater abundance than what happened in other Jewish communities.

That wealth of history about, and emanating from, the Lower East Side surely would have been significant in its own right, but after the 1940s it became even more significant. Through the Holocaust events of World War II, huge amounts of European Jewish culture and history were destroyed. Many people were killed, yes, but on top of that, houses and businesses and religious institutions were wiped out. Italian immigrants still had Italy. Irish immigrants still had Ireland. But the Jewish people who had left their “old world” homeland for the “new world” in the United States no longer had an “old world” to correspond with or to ever return to, even for a visit.

As such, the Lower East Side took on a new level of importance in Jewish-American culture: it became their new “old world”. Whether if they ever actually lived there or not, through historical accounts and stories and other media created in or about the neighborhood, Jewish people all over the country began to see it as a common ancestral home. They started to travel to the neighborhood, take tours, sample food, and learn more about what “real” Jewish-American life was like.

More: read the book.

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1478679 2018-07-15T17:00:00Z 2019-11-17T05:10:36Z Sherwin Williams Porch and Floor Enamel vs. Border Collie

Samantha the border collie was easily house trained, and remained so for five years in our previous house. The current house has a basement utility room with an unfinished cement floor, and Samantha apparently decided that relieving herself on the cement floor was acceptable. Of all of the floors in the house, I agree with her choice, but after two years of this, I wanted something easier to clean up than unfinished, porous cement.

Ceramic tile, vinyl tile, and laminate flooring were all reasonable choices for a basement utility room, but I really didn’t want to go to that extent if not necessary. I’ve seen basement floors that were painted, and seemed pretty resistant to spilled liquid, so I trundled down to the home improvement superstore and bought a can of Rustoleum concrete paint.

I painted a small test area, let it dry, and then went through the motions of cleaning it with a wet paper towel. The paint rubbed off the cement floor onto the paper towel; clearly this was not going to be a good solution to the problem!

[Did I etch the cement floor prior to painting? No. Had I etched it, would the paint have adhered better? Maybe, maybe not. It seemed pretty resistant to scraping, and to scrubbing with dry paper towels. Only with wet paper towels did any significant paint come up off the floor. I am guessing that etching would not have made a big difference here, as the paint was just too water-soluble for what I needed.]

So I went over to the local Sherwin Williams paint shop, hoping that their staff of paint specialists could offer a better solution. The employee I talked to also had a dog, and recommended their porch and floor enamel paint. He showed me an area of floor in their storage room where they themselves had applied this paint, and it appeared durable. I bought a gallon.

Back home, another spot test came back with good results: the paint seemed to stay adhered well when cleaned, so I cleared and cleaned the utility room floor and painted away. For two days, Samantha did not relieve herself at all in the house. Excellent! But I was still curious how the paint would hold up to a more intense scenario. The next day, a thunderstorm rolled through, and a certain anxious border collie relieved herself multiple times on the painted floor.

Clean up from the comparatively smooth, non-porous surface was trivial. Damp spots from the cleaning solution remained, but within a few minutes the floor looked as if nothing had happened. A tiny bit of paint appeared to come up on the paper towel, but may have been some tiny clumps of paint left from my not-completely-smooth painting job. In any event, this paint is much more durable than my first choice, and even if an occasional touch-up is needed, no big deal.

The floor looks nicer and is much easier to clean, offering daily time savings. Thank you Sherwin Williams!

[Note to self for future touch-ups: color selected was Pewter Cast (SW 7673).]

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1478678 2018-06-12T17:00:00Z 2019-11-17T05:09:55Z Photography Rules Around the National Mall

The last time I was at the National Archives building in Washington, D.C., I took a mediocre photograph of the very dimly-lit Declaration of Independence on ISO 400 film. A couple of weeks ago I was back, armed with much higher ISO on a Canon 6D digital camera and lens with image stabilization.

To my dismay, the National Archives no longer permits photography of any of their exhibits. They used to allow photography without flash, as flash could promote deterioration of their rare artifacts, but too many people ignored the no-flash rule, either intentionally or unintentionally, and they have now banned photography altogether.

How strict are they about this? I witnessed a guard pounce on a tourist with a mobile phone camera sneaking a picture of the Archives’ copy of the Magna Carta:

“No photography!”

“I’m sorry.”

“You can delete that picture.”

Of course, deleting the picture after the fact doesn’t solve anything regarding artifact deterioration…

Meanwhile, in the third-floor observation deck overlooking the main reading room of the Library of Congress, where photography used to be banned, flash-free photography is now allowed. Sitting inside the reading room, waiting for books to be delivered, I couldn’t help but notice some flashes going off, and it was indeed kind of distracting, but the library didn’t seem as intense about enforcing their newly-loosened rules as the National Archives was about enforcing their increasingly strict rules.

Speaking of rules, I would not have thought that these words would have ever had to be spoken, by a National Archives guard, to a child next to me: “Excuse me, there’s no sitting on the Declaration!”

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1478677 2018-02-07T18:00:00Z 2019-11-17T05:09:26Z Hanukkah in America

Over the recent holiday season, I read Dianne Ashton’s Hanukkah in America, which chronicles the history and development of Hanukkah (mainly in the United States) from its origins over 2000 years ago up through nearly present day.

For most of that time, Hanukkah was a fairly minor holiday on the Jewish calendar, perhaps not celebrated at all. Two catalysts worked together to encourage Jewish immigrants in the United States to make a bigger deal out of Hanukkah than their European ancestors had: their desire to retain and promote their own religious and cultural values; and Christmas.

Christmas also had not always been the major gift-giving, family-oriented holiday that we know today, but through the 1800s into the early 1900s it grew, for various reasons, including corporations turning it into a commercial event (as Charlie Brown might be all too familiar with!), and for the benefit of U.S. soldiers, either being sent Christmas care packages when abroad, or having more substantial family events when home.

As the appeal of Christmas events grew, and especially as the wonder of Christmastime grew in the eyes of children, Jewish children longed for something similar. They found what Christian families enjoyed in midst of winter to be enticing.

Many Jewish holidays have strict guidelines regarding what to do; if the holiday is traditionally observed, there is little or no room to modify how it is celebrated. Not so with Hanukkah, which was hardly celebrated at all. Thus there was room for Jews in the U.S. to adapt Hanukkah to meet their present-day needs, including more appeal to children.

Besides the appeal of Christmas, many Jewish people were feeling distant from their religious and social traditions, and their overall Jewish identity began to wane in the new homeland. This ended up being another opportunity for Hanukkah to grow, not only for children, but as a holiday for Jews of all ages to reflect on who they were as a people, and to strengthen family bonds.

A delightful read! Also available in electronic form.

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1478676 2018-01-17T18:00:00Z 2019-11-17T05:08:35Z USB-C Connector on USB 2 Audio Interface

Upgrading to a new Apple computer (2017 27-inch iMac) involved facing the fact that FireWire is truly ancient technology. I had already been linking my FireWire 400 Focusrite Saffire interface into my 2010 Mac Book Pro using a FireWire 400 -> FireWire 800 cable. Now to plug into a Thunderbolt 3 / USB-C port on the iMac, I am routing from FireWire 400 to FireWire 800 to Thunderbolt 2 to Thunderbolt 3… Amazingly, it works! But it does leave me contemplating an audio interface upgrade.

Thus I was interested in a recent product announcement from Focusrite, a new Clarett audio interface that was touted as working with USB-C. This would plug directly into the iMac with no adapters, and USB-C is markedly faster than either FireWire 400 or FireWire 800, with a maximum theoretical bandwidth of 10Gbps. However, further research on the Focusrite website shows that the new Clarett USB interface is USB-C in connector only; maintaining backwards compatibility with USB 2.0 through an adapter cable, it operates at a USB 2.0 bandwidth level.

The Clarett USB interface seems to have a useful market for people still using USB 2.0 connectors but wanting to future-proof themselves with USB-C connectors. USB 2.0 is slightly faster than FireWire 400 on the Saffire interface, but if buying a new interface today, for a brand new computer, it seems like a better option to go for a unit that supports faster bandwidth.

I’ll be watching for a true USB-C audio interface, but maybe Dante over Ethernet is the way to go…

[UPDATE: I could try to cover up my ignorance by claiming that I’m really more of a software person than hardware — which is true — but apparently bandwidth isn’t the main attribute to consider here. USB 2.0 bandwidth is plenty for over a dozen audio tracks simultaneously in and out of the computer system. If you need lots of tracks, extra bandwidth can help, but otherwise, it would make no difference. What can make a difference is the speed at which the data gets into the computer; in the computer audio world, the term is latency. USB 3.0 does not improve latency speed over USB 2.0. Thunderbolt, however, does; on the computer end, a Thunderbolt connection gets closer to being an internal bus connection, and thus can deliver that same bandwidth (or more) at a higher velocity. Since the difference occurs on the computer side, not on the interface side or along the cable, a USB-C connector that goes into a Thunderbolt 3 port might offer that latency improvement as well? A whole Thunderbolt chain definitely should!]

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1478672 2017-12-14T18:00:00Z 2019-11-17T05:07:12Z Monopoly

I don’t play a lot of electronic games, but have recently been enjoying the Electronic Arts release of Monopoly on my iPhone. For some reason, Electronic Arts is pulling the game from the Apple iOS application store tomorrow, but if you already have it on your device it should continue to work until an operating system upgrade renders it unusable.

Playing a physical Monopoly game with other people tends to be a once-in-a-while event. Playing it on your phone, against software opponents, you can play it over and over and the lessons in the game can become obvious. What can we learn from Monopoly?

  • Owning income-generating assets is a very good thing. Some assets (like Boardwalk) generate more income than others (like Baltic Avenue), but even so, it is far better to have some sort of assets than none at all.
  • Likewise, owning many assets is better than owning few. The more you own, the more likely someone will make use of what you have and pay for it. But again, it is far better to have at least some assets than none.
  • Obtaining and developing assets (like buying a property and building houses on it) may be expensive, but that expense is well worth it once it starts generating income.
  • Wage income (like collecting a paycheck as you pass “Go”) is nothing compared to asset income. You may need some of your wage income to pay bills, but put as much as possible into obtaining and developing assets.
  • Others who own assets might be willing to sell them for cash. Or they might only want another asset in return. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to ask, and you can probably come up with a deal that adequately benefits both of you.
  • Taxes are really annoying if all you have is wage income. (You can pass “Go”, collect $200, and land on “Income Tax”, and pay $200!) If you have asset income, taxes feel like just part of doing business.
  • Paying rent to others is really annoying if all you have is wage income. (You can land on a property with a hotel and instantly be out $1500!) If you have asset income, it’s no big deal, because the other players are paying you rent too. (You will quickly recover the $1500 that you paid.)

In the real world, developing properties into houses and hotels is literally a great method of building assets. But there are lots of things that can be assets: books, music, training videos, computer software, and more. On the other hand, while all possible assets in Monopoly are at least somewhat desirable, in the real world it’s entirely possible to own or to create things that nobody actually wants!

Electronic Arts has a fine rendition of Monopoly for iOS here. They sell if for 99 cents, and, with the Apple family sharing plan, up to five people can play the game indefinitely for that initial 99-cent sale. I don’t know why they are pulling the game, but regardless of the reason, maybe Electronic Arts could have made the game into more of an asset for themselves! People often sell iOS applications for dirt cheap, but this one is easily worth several times what they were charging.

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1209188 2017-11-29T01:09:43Z 2019-11-17T05:27:30Z Privacy Not Included
Mozilla has put together a guide to some popular internet-connected home technologies, including children’s toys, with descriptions of to what extent these devices could be used spy on you or your family.

Voice-controlled computing that could benevolently observe you and track your location looked so neat on Star Trek; now that it’s actually here, I don’t think I want it in my house…
tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1208939 2017-09-18T17:00:00Z 2019-11-17T05:27:50Z Apple and Privacy After hearing that the new iPhone X would encourage unlocking via face recognition, I forgot about how nicely they handled voicemail transcription and immediately started considering the privacy implications.

As with the voicemail transcription, it turned out that the face recognition works all on the device, not through sending data to Apple’s servers. And Apple has published a nice overview of various ways that their technology works to enforce individual privacy.

While end users can never be 100% assured of how proprietary technology works, Apple at least appears to be doing the right thing in this regard!
tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1208938 2017-08-14T17:00:00Z 2017-11-28T03:26:38Z Seven Months with a Fitbit

A little over seven months have passed since I started using a Fitbit. Trying to meet my daily step goal, even while I have not reached it every day, has undoubtedly resulted in me walking more than I would have otherwise. I still feel encouraged seeing my Fitbit iPhone application light up when I reach my goal, and feel embarrassed when I see that I failed to do so.

One of my favorite Fitbit motivators seems to have slowed substantially. The application celebrated my reaching various points such as 10,000 steps in a day, or 25 flights of stairs in a day, with presenting a cheerful badge. While it still records how many times I have walked 10,000 steps in a day, it only makes a big deal out of presenting you with the badge once. I suppose if it’s an achievement that you reach basically every day, getting the badge over and over could get old and annoying, but perhaps the application could be smart enough to see that some achievements you reach only infrequently, and try to make a bigger deal out of those every time.

Another suggestion for the Fitbit outboard software: the solo challenges are really nice. Having walked in Manhattan in person, I especially enjoyed pretending to walk along the various lengths of New York maps. But after a month or two, the half-dozen built-in maps started feeling boring. How about letting users create custom maps? Or, as an additional revenue source for the company, Fitbit could offer more maps as 99-cent add-on purchases.

If they would really like to splurge along these lines, perhaps some sort of virtual reality technology could be developed, so users could be standing in their living room walking in place, but seeing what it would look like to walk in various locations.

The Fitbit device itself seems to be holding up just fine to daily use. The wristband broke a few weeks ago, I suspect due to being stressed from a dog leash around my wrist (the other end of which being attached to a certain border collie suddenly lunging toward rabbits or deer or other points of interest along the trail). Amazon reviews of inexpensive third-party Fitbit bands didn’t look entirely optimistic, so I ordered a replacement directly from Fitbit.

One of the new features that Fitbit rolled out this year was to offer tracking of sleep stages, not just time spent sleeping. While I usually remove my Fitbit when sleeping, for the times that I have left it on, I have not yet seen it report any sleep stage information. I’m not sure if this feature only works on select Fitbit models (not including mine?) or what.

Overall I have been very happy with the product, and look forward to seeing more fitness-encouraging features be developed over time. [As a disclosure, I have in fact been so impressed with my Fitbit, and hopeful for the company behind it, that I am at the moment a stockholder.]

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1180132 2017-02-06T18:00:00Z 2017-08-03T15:13:44Z Euler’s Method in Hidden Figures

Having thoroughly enjoyed seeing the movie Hidden Figures, I wondered about the “old math” breakthrough shown late in the story, when the Euler method is applied to aerospace calculations, after several scenes claiming that the math needed to do the calculations did not exist. While I remembered Leonhard Euler as the graph theory guy, I had to look up the referenced method.

It turns out that it is a method of doing numerical approximations of ordinary differential equations. But wait! Ordinary differential equations had been around since the days of Newton and Leibniz. We even saw differential equations written on chalkboards in the movie. Surely solving differential equations was not the mysterious new math that was needed?

The movie did not go into details, but perhaps the numerical approximation approach was key because the IBM 7090 Fortran programs that they were using to automate calculations was not able to handle symbolic differentiation and integration yet? Symbolic calculus on computers started becoming possible over the next decade, but a numeric approximation would clearly have been the best approach to feed into the computer they were using in the early 1960s.

This still doesn’t answer, though, why using Euler’s method would have been such a breakthrough. The method was written up in Hamming’s classic 1962 book on numerical methods, so while it was indeed “ancient” math as depicted in the film, it was hardly unknown. I guess we might have to presume that then (as now) a study of numerical approximations to symbolic calculations are not necessarily a mandatory part of a university mathematics education? I have worked with aerospace engineers for more than twelve years, and I would not be at all surprised if most of them have never studied numerical methods at all…  but hey, I didn’t take the class either… :-/

Fortunately, we have access today to unprecedented quantities of free and low-cost mathematics educational materials, and any movie that inspires us to take some time to study is surely a good thing.

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1180131 2017-01-29T18:00:00Z 2019-11-17T05:27:05Z The Art of the Deal

Wanting to learn more about our new president, I just finished reading The Art of the Deal.

The book recounts stories of several business projects he had worked on from the 1970s into the mid-1980s, ranging from low-income housing in Ohio to extremely-high-income housing in Manhattan, to renovating hotels, to building casinos, to finishing civic projects on the behalf of the city, to running a major sports team. There is little directly actionable advice for would-be business people in this book, but readers can pick up on the author’s attitude of success. Some takeaway points that I got include:

  • You can get help from someone else to finance a business project. It will be easiest if you can make a strong case for why your project will succeed, and what it will give back to the community, in the form of new jobs, increased sales for other area businesses, increased demand for housing, etc. It is best, then, if your project really will improve the community, and not just be a vehicle for you to do something fun. (Although nothing at all wrong with enjoying it too!)
  • You can get help from someone else to plan and to implement a business project. If you have a general idea for something that you think would be worth doing (see first point), but don’t know how to fully plan it, you should learn from experts in that field, or even better, find an expert that you get along with and have them help you plan it. Likewise, don’t feel compelled to do all of the implementation work yourself; hire the best people you can find to do part or all of the work for you.
  • Why seek the best experts and best implementers? One problem that routinely causes business ventures to fail is going exuberantly past budget and schedule. Working with people who have done similar things in the past, and who have done them well, significantly increases the possibility of completing work on budget and on schedule.
  • Don’t waste money. If you’re building a 1000-room hotel and can, without any structural or safety problems, save $10 on a widget that is used in every room, then you can save $10,000.
  • Don’t waste time. There’s nothing wrong with relaxing, but cultivate a lifestyle of productivity. Eating lunch at your desk (or as the author suggests, just a can of tomato juice) instead of going out for lunch can easily save a good chunk of time to be devoted to more useful things.

In light of recent current events, I found the last page or so of the book especially poignant:

I’ve spent the first twenty years of my working life building, accumulating, and accomplishing things that many said could not be done. The biggest challenge I see over the next twenty years is to figure out some creative ways to give back some of what I’ve gotten. 

I don’t just mean money, although that’s part of it. It’s easy to be generous when you’ve got a lot, and anyone who does, should be. But what I admire most are people who put themselves directly on the line. I’ve never been terribly interested in why people give, because their motivation is rarely what it seems to be, and it’s almost never pure altruism. To me, what matters most is the doing, and giving time is far more valuable than just giving money.

In my life, there are two things I’ve found I’m very good at: overcoming obstacles and motivating good people to do their best work. One of the challenges ahead is how to use those skills successfully in the service of others as I’ve done, up to now, on my own behalf.

In the pages of this book, I saw someone extremely motivated to succeed, but not greedy. He seems genuinely interested in the well-being of others, and builds great things not so much for his own personal gain, but to enhance the lives of everyone around him.

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1180130 2017-01-04T18:00:00Z 2017-08-03T15:12:34Z First Week with a Fitbit

I have been using a Fitbit Charge 2 over the past week, with the goal being to improve fitness through measurement and digital encouragement. My iPhone already tracks steps walked, though. What else does the Fitbit offer?

Some Fitbit devices, including the Charge 2, track heart rate. This is useful for recording a measurement of intensity of exercise. And in turn, that is useful for weight management. If you enter your weight, height, and age, and if you honestly record calories eaten, the Fitbit tracks your steps and heart rate, and tells you how many calories you should eat in the day, if you want to gain weight, maintain weight, or lose weight. Rather than having a static number of calories for the day, or even a flexible number based on vague notions of “light exercise” or “moderate exercise”, the Fitbit seems to do a decent job tracking how much exercise you actually get and adjusting remaining calories accordingly.

The outboard Fitbit software (on iOS or web or whatever) provides opportunities to connect with other Fitbit users for good-natured competition, alerting you that “Oscar has almost caught up with you!” or “Laura has completed her step goal for today!” and so on. Even when not connected with any other users, you get alerts and electronic “badges” for various fitness achievements. Both of these, while happening entirely in the digital realm, are surprisingly motivational.

When using the iPhone to track my steps, I would make sure to grab it before going on what I knew to be a long-ish walk, but I would routinely leave it charging at the computer when going on shorter excursions. The Fitbit is more conveniently always with me, taking the place of a wristwatch.

So far, the step counter seems reasonably accurate to me. Extreme arm movements can trigger a false step, but apparently I don’t do much of that when not actually walking (or at least exercising). It does, however, record arm movement when playing the piano as steps; a few days ago, it recorded about 2000 false steps before I took it off and put it in my pocket. Now I know to just take it off before playing the piano.

Curiously, there is no way to turn it off, and no easy way to get it to pause in recording steps. A simple on-device click for that would be a preferred solution, if I were about to engage in activity for which I knew it would record false steps.

A week in, I am finding the Fitbit a great tool for tracking and improving fitness. Now I would like a similar tool for tracking and improving at other things too!

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1180115 2016-12-30T18:00:00Z 2019-11-17T05:47:51Z Inside of a Dog

I just finished reading Alexandra Horowitz’s book, Inside of a Dog, an easy-going look at what behavioral and cognitive psychology can tell us about how dogs perceive the world. Many questions I had about the behavior of my own dog — including some that I hadn’t bothered to form very precisely because I wasn’t really expecting to ever find out — are answered here as convincingly as I could hope for.

Do dogs see in color? Despite longstanding myth to the contrary, dogs do see in color, but while humans generally see across a spectrum of red, green, and blue (with colors in between), dogs only see across green and blue. Different shades of red (or orange or yellow or other reddish colors) may appear distinct to them, but not as blatantly distinct as they do to us. Asking your dog to distinguish between an orange ball and a yellow ball could be more challenging than you might expect!

Can dogs see television? They can, but they probably aren’t very interested in it. While dog vision is in some ways less precise than ours (such as with color spectrum), they can perceive movement at a higher frame rate, if you will. We are convinced of seeing movement on a television or film projector if the pictures are changing at 30 frames per second, or even a little slower. Dogs, though, aren’t fooled, and instead can see the lack of continuous motion. It would take something more like 60 frames per second to look believable to a dog, so they would still be unimpressed even with some recent movies

But while we tend to be predominantly dependent upon vision to perceive the world around us, dogs predominantly exercise their sense of smell, which is vastly more advanced than our own. Dogs can smell where you’ve been; what you’ve eaten; who you’ve been with. They can perceive the intensity of odors such that if you were in the room five minutes ago, that smells different to them than if you were in the room an hour ago, or are in the room right now.

With our eyes, we see what is happening right now; with their nose, dogs smell what is happening right now, what has happened in the past, and, to a degree, what is about to happen in the future. When taking your dog on a walk, the author admonishes, don’t presume to drag him away from smelling something irrelevant to you. Those smells communicate knowledge to your dog! [I admit that I have been guilty of doing exactly that, but am lingering to let my dog smell more on walks now.]

(Their reliance on smelling probably also comes into play if they express disinterest at watching television; no smells are projected on the screen to accompany what they are supposed to believe they are seeing!)

It is well-known that dogs can hear much higher pitches than we can; ergo, the inaudible-to-humans dog whistle. Considering the sonic world from the perspective of a dog requires us to take into account this wide spectrum of high pitches. Some common machines, even common lighting fixtures, make sounds which we are blissfully unaware of, but which dogs are constantly enduring. [I have wondered myself if my dog’s aversion to being photographed has any connection to the ultrasonic focusing mechanism in modern camera lenses?]

Dogs are believed to be unusually intelligent. The author shows disappointing intelligence test results, but suggests that dogs convey great intelligence in one regard in particular:

Dogs … see us as fine general-purpose tools, … useful for protection, acquiring food, providing companionship. We solve the puzzles of closed doors and empty water dishes. In the folk psychology of dogs, we humans are brilliant enough to extract hopelessly tangled leashes from around trees; we can magically transport them to higher or lower heights as needed; we can conjure up an endless bounty of foodstuffs and things to chew. How savvy we are in dogs’ eyes! It’s a clever strategy to turn to us after all. The question of the cognitive abilities of dogs is thereby transformed: dogs are terrific at using humans to solve problems, but not as good at solving problems when we’re not around.

Which is not to say that dogs do not also express aptitude for intelligence on their own, for they do. Even more remarkably, they exhibit, at least in measure, a theory of mind. They look at both humans and at other dogs as individuals with their own minds and their own intentions and behaviors. They express surprise when they witness things which appear to defy their sense of logical expectations. When they play with other dogs, they communicate with them that play is about to commence (and thus any nipping should be taken in fun, not as an attack), and more powerful dogs deliberately handicap themselves when roughhousing with less powerful dogs, so as to level the playing field of their game.

After reading this book, I see my own dog differently now. I am more conscious of how she must see me, and how she must see other people, and other dogs, and the world around her. The author shows us that dogs are, among all animals, those best suited to be with humans: to live with us, to be companions with us, and that they and us both are better off for it.

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1180114 2016-12-27T18:00:00Z 2017-08-03T14:30:52Z Apple iOS 10 Voicemail Transcription
Like most people, I don’t actually use my phone a whole lot for placing telephone calls. After getting an iPhone 7 about a month ago, this morning I received my first voicemail message on iOS 10. I was surprised to find the voicemail message audio auto-transcribed to text, and transcribed very well at that.

While an obviously useful technology, I presumed that the voicemail had been processed by Apple remotely at some server farm, as most current hip artificial intelligence applications run on servers rather than on clients or local computers, and that this was yet another affront to individual privacy.

Happily, I was mistaken. According to an Apple support article on using iOS 10 voicemail transcription, all transcription is done local on the iPhone device itself. If the transcription was done poorly, you can optionally send it to Apple for the purpose of them improving the transcription system, but otherwise, it appears that the transcribed text is in fact private to your phone!

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1180111 2016-11-26T18:00:00Z 2017-08-03T14:30:18Z Real-World Learning with a Little Help over the Internet
The New Yorker has a short article expressing the benefits of tying modern technology into real life childhood development. Out for a walk and your child wants to know how, exactly, bees make honey? You can whip out your mobile phone for a quick overview, and then head back home to watch more in-depth videos on a desktop computer.

Portrayed like this, highly functional mobile internet access sounds like we can walk around in a perpetual museum. Anything we encounter that we want to learn more about, we can instantly have a multimedia placard for whatever we see.

This was how the internet was presented, and television before that: a wondrous source of nonstop learning and education! Want to hear the greatest lectures from Harvard? You can simply turn on your television set! Want to study the latest research from the physicists at CERN? You are but mouse clicks away.

The resources are certainly available and growing to use the internet as a marvelous educational resource. More and more people seem to use it for perhaps less productive things, but the story of Alison and Augie in the New Yorker is inspiring. Instead of being sucked into the world of the internet itself, focus on using it to learn (and to teach) about our own.

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1180110 2016-08-27T17:00:00Z 2017-08-03T14:29:37Z The GNU C Reference Manual v0.2.5
The v0.2.5 release of The GNU C Reference Manual is now available:

This version incorporates a number of corrections recommended by readers. As always, I welcome corrections and suggestions, sent to me at: tjr@gnu.org

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1180109 2016-08-08T17:00:00Z 2017-08-03T14:29:06Z Replacing Water Softener Resin Beads
Having traced unusually low water pressure in the house to the water softener, this weekend we replaced the softener’s resin beads. Things learned:
  • Emptying the old resin beads involves moving around a fairly lightweight water softener made very heavy loaded with water and old resin. It’s probably best done as a two-person job.
  • There may be water pressure built up between the softener and the pipes. Be careful unhooking the unit!
  • The top of the softener unit might be screwed on very tight. A large wrench may be helpful.
  • Spilled resin beads make the floor / driveway surprisingly slippery. Try to avoid spills! Alternately, if you have to move a large, heavy object, sliding it along a trail of resin beads might be a plausible option…

I couldn’t find any local stores that sold resin beads, so I ordered both the resin beads and filter gravel online. With shipping charges, the total came to $200; a local plumber bid $350 to do the job for me. Not a huge savings, but if you feel up to the task, replacing resin beads can certainly be done yourself.

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1180108 2016-07-21T17:00:00Z 2017-08-03T14:28:29Z CS Courses Counting Towards Math and Science
Legislators in Pennsylvania have decided that computer science courses can count toward fulfilling either math or science credit requirements for high school students. The reason is implied to be that, counting only as electives, enrollment in computer science courses has been low; offering the added benefit of counting toward non-elective graduation requirements might entice more students to sign up.

As a high school student, I took my first computer science course at a local college because it was going to count toward non-elective graduation requirements at the university I planned to attend. I ended up enjoying the course so much that I decided to major in computer science.

This change sounds to me like a good move on the part of Pennsylvania schools, but I also wonder what other typically-elective subjects we should similarly encourage students to take?

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1179553 2016-07-16T17:00:00Z 2017-08-02T03:14:44Z Tutti Frutti Ice Cream at Eddie’s Sweet Shop
A couple of years ago, I was contacted by the owner of Eddie’s Sweet Shop in Queens, New York. He had seen my article on searching for tutti frutti ice cream, and wanted to let me know that his shop in Queens has been selling tutti frutti ice cream for decades.

Eddies Sweet Shop

Last month, I was staying in Manhattan, and made the trip over to Queens to visit Eddie’s. Lo and behold, right there on the menu, and even spelled correctly, was tutti frutti ice cream.

I ordered a cone of it, and tried to both relish the long-awaited experience, and analyze what exactly I was tasting. It seemed like a plain ice cream base; I did not detect any vanilla, so I presume just plain ice cream.

It went too fast, and I wasn’t done relishing and analyzing. So, to the surprise of the clerk behind the counter, I ordered second cone. He asked me how long it had been since I last had tutti frutti ice cream. “This is it, right here. I’ve never had it before today. I’ve been looking for it for nearly thirty years.”


There were bits of fruit; I would guess glacé fruit. The flavor of the fruit melded lightly with the flavor of the plain ice cream. The ice cream was pink in color; I do not believe that much pink color came from the fruit, so I suppose that some food coloring was added.

And that’s about it. Tutti frutti, Italian for “all fruit”, seems to literally be ice cream with bits of fruit in it. I feel confident that I could make something at home with a consumer ice cream machine that would be similar.

(If you wanted to buy ice cream off the shelf that tastes like what I had at Eddie’s, I think the closest commonly-found option might be Breyers Cherry Vanilla. Obviously not an exact match.)

I know of at least two other shops in the United States which make tutti frutti ice cream. I hope to someday try their offerings as well, but given the history of Eddie’s Sweet Shop, I feel confident that this was authentic tutti frutti. If the other shops have something different called tutti frutti, then that may well be authentic also.

Tutti Frutti Ice Cream

In the 1990s I learned how to make web pages, and my first web page was to write up what I had learned searching for tutti frutti ice cream. My personal web page has taken on various forms since then, but I have always kept that content around, and added to it from time to time. I have corresponded with people across the planet, many either searching themselves, and some offering help on what they remembered tutti frutti ice cream to be like.

I really don’t even like ice cream that much, and if I ate anything of the sort, which is infrequent, I’d prefer something like a turtle sundae with frozen custard, or maybe frozen yogurt with bits of chocolate candy. But thanks to Eddie’s Sweet Shop, my search for tutti frutti ice cream has come to a successful close. It is good ice cream. Should I visit Queens again, I would certainly want to go back for another cone. And maybe try another flavor too.

tag:trevis.rothwell.blog,2013:Post/1179551 2016-06-13T17:00:00Z 2017-08-02T03:13:09Z Canon EF 16-35/4 IS

For about a decade, Canon offer SLR camera users two high-quality ultra-wide zoom lenses: the 17-40/4 and the 16-35/2.8. The 16-35/2.8 is a full stop wider in aperture, and also about twice the price. I used the 17-40 for years, which worked great outdoors in adequate light, but, with the f4 aperture, was limited for indoor use, such as for museum exhibits and indoor architecture. The wider f2.8 aperture would help, but what I thought would really be great was image stabilization on the f4 lens.

I must not have been alone in thinking such a lens would be useful, as in 2014 they introduced 16-35/4 ultra-wide zoom lens with image stabilization, for just a couple hundred dollars more than the 17-40/4.

At 16mm


At 35mm


Image Stabilization

The image stabilization works well for moderately dim interiors, like typical museum exhibits:



When the interior lighting is extremely dim, the lens’s image stabilization might not be enough to attain a blur-free handheld photo, but it’s still better than nothing:


Of course, image stabilization only helps motion blur introduced on the photographer’s side. If your subject is moving, having the f2.8 aperture would be more helpful. But for reasonably static scenes, Canon purports that the image stabilization unit compensates for up to four stops worth of aperture, far exceeding what the f2.8 lens offers without image stabilization.


One typically does not reach for an ultra-wide lens for portraits, but sometimes the focal length works out, both at the 35mm end:


and at the 16mm end:


I do think that the extra 5mm on the 17-40 lens is more useful than the extra 1mm on the 16-35 lens, but the image stabilization more than makes up for than in overall value.