Andy Czerwonka

early morning rants on software development and whatever else I find interesting

Nikon Sale!

I’ve finally decided to put up all of my photography equipment for sale. It’s a hard decision given it’s taken me a long time to acquire all this awesome hardware, but truth be told, I don’t use it as much anymore. I used to spend a lot of my time shooting sports and it’s served me very well. The kids are growing up now so I don’t find myself reaching for it as often. I might as well let it go.

Absolutely everything is mint. Here it is, piece by piece.

1. Nikon D200 Body w/ MB-D200: $400

It’s a great sports camera. It’s comes with two batteries and the MB-D200 Multi-Power Batter Pack, so you’ll never run out of juice. I never have.

2. Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Zoom Nikkor: $1750

I don’t really need to say much about this lens. If you’re looking at this post you’re most likely familiar with this lens. It’s a must have lens for almost any professional or prosumer photographer. It comes with the HM-31 lens hood and a Nikon L37c UV Haze filter

3. Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S DX: $850

At $1400 retail, you can’t beat this deal. Ken Rockwell has some very good things to say about this lens. It comes with a B+W F-Pro UV filter.

4. Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED: $700

This is probably my favorite lens. An awesome macro and portrait lens.

5. Nikon 10.5mm f/2.8G ED DX Fisheye Nikkor: $500

This is a really fun lens with an ultra-wide picture angle of 180 degrees. The lens-hood is built-in.

6. Nikon 50mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor: $200

This is absolutely awesome in low light situations where flash is not an option. Great for indoor sports. It comes with a Rodenstock E52 UV filter.

6. Nikon TC-17E II 1.7x Auto Focus Teleconverter: $400

Allows you to increase the focal-length by 1.7x to any lenses. Great when you need a little extra for sports or wildlife.

7. Nikon SB-800 AF Speedlight: $250

A great flash that can be remote-controlled from the D200 body. You can place it anywhere.

8. Rodenstock 77mm Circular Polarizer HR: $100

I have a step-up ring that will allow you to use this filter on the 50mm 1.4.

9. Tamrac 5588 Expedition 8x Photo/Laptop Backpack: $250

It’s the bag on the right, and it fits everything that you see on the table. It’s perfect for the whole lot.

10. Kata R-103 GDC Rucksack: $150

A smaller bag, but I usually carry this when I don’t need to haul everything.

Miscellaneous Items

Package Deal

I’ve tried to price everything quite aggressively. I tried to find all items on either Adorama or Amazon to get comparable prices for the items if you were to buy them new. When I add everything up you will find that my prices are 1/3 less. If you’re interested in the whole lot, I’ll add another 10%.

Update

Some of the items have been sold. Please see the following list for what’s still available.

The One Who Does Not Remember…

It took me a few days to decide to visit Oświęcim, the small town in south of Poland that was the very unfortunate home of the network of concentration camps known as Auschwitz. The internal debate was decided when thinking about the words of philosopher George Santayana.

Auschwitz I

“Arbeit macht frei” welcomed the prisoners at the first camp installation. Labour makes (you) free. I’ve watched movies, documentaries, read articles… nothing prepares you for that feeling that you’ve just walked through the gate that hosted the beginning of the largest act of genocide in our history.

The thought constantly reappearing in my mind was the fact that this is not ancient history. We’re not talking about something from the 10th century that is so removed that we can’t imagine being there. We’re talking about history that is only three generations away. My dad was a 2yr old boy when kids his age walked through this gate.

Auschwitz II - Birkenau

The sheer size of Birkenau was astonishing. I wasn’t prepared for seeing something so enormous, something so organized and clearly planned to every detail. For years part of me wanted to believe that only a few key people were involved, but after visiting Birkenau I now know that could not be the case.

By far the hardest part of the visit was looking through walls and walls of pictures, pictures of the mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers & sisters who perished.

I recommend that you visit if you ever have an opportunity. Remember that those who do not remember history are bound to live through it.

Feel free to browse through all the pictures from my trip to Auschwitz I & Auschwitz II-Birkenau..

Sometimes Three Are Better Than One

I’m in Katowice, Poland on a business trip for a few days that straddle a weekend, so we decided to head out to Zakopane, the popular mountain town in southern Poland. Knowing we were in for a day of driving, we headed to the gas station.

Wow! Gas is expensive… basically double of what we’re used to complaining about in Calgary. No wonder people don’t drive around here unless they have to. While we might take it for granted, I’ll bet it’s a significant part of the average family budget when thinking about long drives.

About an hour into our trip the weather progressively got worse by the minute. By the time we arrived it was raining so hard we needed to pull over and figure out our next move given we didn’t prepare for the rain.

We found a little shop that sold cheap rain jackets for a couple of złoty. Given the number of people walking around, it’s not atypical to get this much rain. Armed with protection from the elements we walked up and down Krupówki (the main deptak in Zakopane) for a couple of hours. It was really interesting to see the different types of street food, especially Oscypek, the heavily smoked sheep’s milk cheese that is grilled and typically served with a sweet-berry compote.

All-in-all Krupówki was a fun place to hang out. After lunch we decided to head out given we wanted to see a few more places before heading back to Katowice. On the way out of town we drove past Sanktuarium Matki Bożej Fatimskiej, a sanctuary that was consecrated by Pope John Paul II in 1981. Given the amount of attention it was getting from other tourists, we decided to loop back and have a look.

After an hour of walking around these serene grounds, off to Slovakia!

I’m not sure why we decided to head this far south, but why not? It’s another country I can knock off my list. :-)

Our brief encounter with Slovakia through gave me a tiny glimpse of what seemed to be a much quieter life when compared to Poland. Not many people in the streets. People just doing their thing. What was slightly alarming was that even though the main highway (or should I say side street) ran right through the middle of their town, people were ignorant of the fact that cars were whizzing by at 80 km/hr. It didn’t seem to phase anyone or anything. People continued to walk down the road with kids, dogs, chickens, cows, etc. Correct… we saw a lady walking her cow down the street. Awesome. I missed that shot.

I don’t remember when we passed from Slovakia into the Czech Republic. Nothing seemed to change. The roadway’s are lined with homes, stores, cemeteries, lakes, farms and even a golf course. This is beautiful country.

Because we didn’t get a chance to stop at the Czech-Polish border for a few pictures, we decided that the final leg out our tour before heading back to Katowice was going to be Cieszyn, and small town that straddles both Poland and the Czech Republic. I wanted to get a couple of border shots so I could officially document my trip.

With evidence in hand, we headed back to Katowice. When I left Calgary I thought a trip to one country was enough, but sometimes three are better than one.

Feel free to browse through all the pictures from today’s trip.

Why Play?

I’ll do a small series of posts describing, in a little detail, the Dolphin architecture and the reasons for making the choices I’ve made. Today I’ll focus on the Play Framework. There were many drivers, but I’ll focus on what was most important to me.

  1. Scala
  2. Scalability & Programming Model
  3. Akka
  4. Typesafe

Scala

The choice of Scala is a personal one. Many argue it’s fantastic, many argue it’s too complex. I will argue it makes me a better programmer. I won’t get into a language debate here, but I will say that it’s a language that is only gaining in popularity and is arguably the best choice for JVM development today and for the foreseeable future.

Scalability & Programming Model

Play is backed by Netty, the asynchronous event-driven NIO framework. I don’t want/need all the Java Servlet legacy. NIO gives me much better throughput and lower latency. Play also gives me a stateless programming model that allows me to scale out if necessary. In terms of developer productivity, Play’s roots came from a group of developers that wanted Rails-like development productivity without the Ruby baggage shortcomings. They wanted a Ruby-esque cruft-free language, but they weren’t willing to give up type safety and a decent runtime to get it. Who wouldn’t want that?

Akka

Dolphin integrates with many esi.manage nodes. I need a scatter/gather type data-flow capability and Akka gives it to me, very naturally and efficiently with the actor programming model. That combined with NIO gives me a very scalable solution, with even one server node.

Typesafe

Typesafe spent much of 2012 hiring the some of the best Scala developers out there. Some would argue they’re hoarding! ;-) Martin Odersky, their Chairman and Chief Architect, is the main author of Scala and has endorsed both Akka and Play as part of their technology stack. Typesafe is well funded and I don’t see them going anywhere soon.

Introducing Dolphin

I’ve been thinking about web application architecture for a while now. I’ve taken many client-side and server-side frameworks for a spin over the last six-to-nine months. I’ve built prototype after prototype. I’ve learned a lot. I think I’ve learned enough to be innovative yet commercially responsible. It’s time to take the next step.

Dolphin is a project that will bring together an array technologies that I’ve been testing for a large portion of 2012. 2013 will be the year where those efforts will finally produce a commercial offering. Dolphin will not only deliver new value as an integrated product in the the 3esi application suite, it’ll uncover a delivery vehicle for the future generation of 3esi products.

I’m excited to get started.

Picking a Web Application Platform Isn’t as Easy as It Once Was

I find myself in a bit of a conundrum. I’m building a new, modern, web-based application and not only do I have to pick a technology, I have to pick an architecture. I think it is fair to say that these days its a tough choice because we have more options than we did even 5 years ago. First things first, I’ve made the decision that Scala will be the server-side language. I have my reasons, and this is not a Scala versus XYZ post - that choice has been made. I’ve also sucummed to the fact that we’re on the web (in the cloud with today’s jargon), so I’m not even going to try and get away from Javascript.

Now, assuming Scala, most people would probably jump to either Play! or Lift. Probably Play! given it’s endorsement from Typesafe, but I think I have another more important question that needs answering first. What’s the architecture? If I want a very rich client, do I really need more than a simple stateless service layer based on the fact that we’ll have a tonne of Javascript anyway? I’m not sure it’ll be a single-page webapp, but is something like BlueEyes or Spray.io potentially the right choice? Lift and Play! are much more heavyweight in that they take on much more responsibility. They generate the HTML and for these frameworks, the browser can be fairly dumb. Things like routing, validation, Ajax and Comet support are all server-side concerns. Because the browser is more capable today, rich, interactive features are normally implemented by generating and injecting Javascript from the server.

My question boils down to this. Do I go with a traditional Lift/Play! framework where the server takes on both the client and server responsibility or do I go with a rich client + REST-style service layer where the client takes a more prominent role in the application? An architecture where the client deals with routing, validation, binding, etc. I’m seeing frameworks like Angular.js, Ember.js, Backbone.js,… I’m not going to list them all but suffice to say that they all take on some of these framework features from a client-side perspective.

If I choose Play!, am I giving up some of that rich UI? What about situations where I want to provide service API’s for integration/mashup/mobile purposes? How would Play! help me here? Clearly BlueEyes plays well here. I need a service layer regardless.

If I choose BlueEyes, what does my client code look like? How many of these Javascript-based frameworks do I need to give me what I need? Do they scale from a development perspective? I still want my core business-logic in my service layer, but routing, binding.. all that UI stuff would be a concern of the client.

So many choices… I’d love to hear your thoughts.