NASA Visible Earth Pictures

Aug 04, 2008 by:   Tim Stanley

NASA has a list of several (over 100,000) visible earth pictures at NASA Images. Many of these images are quite stunning as is this one titled The Blue Marble.

NASA Earth North America

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Microsoft Product Support Lifecycle

Jul 30, 2008 by:   Tim Stanley

Did you ever want a reason to upgrade? Before you start a new project on a mature stable Microsoft technology, you might want to check to see if it is still supported.  Microsoft typically provides support five years after the product general availability.

For example, did you know that Microsoft .Net 1.1 mainstream support ends in October 2008?

For more information on currently supported products, refer to the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Index.

.Net 1.1 Support Lifecycle

And it's sad to say those products I worked on back in the 1980's are now obsolete. MS-DOS went obsolete in 2001, and QuickBasic in 1999.  Who knew? Back in the 80's I used to port the MS-DOS and QuickBasic drivers (okay it was actually GW-Basic) for Data General.

Here is a list of more  obsolete Microsoft products.

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ISP Speed Test

Jul 30, 2008 by:   Tim Stanley

At the Raleigh office, we recently upgraded our Time Warner Road Runner business class plan to 5 Mbps down, 1.5 Mbps up.  If you have to verify a speed test, the best site I've seen is at provides a very interesting looking graphic interface along with some very interesting comparison statistics.

ISP Speed Test Result



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Does Shading On Tables Improve Readability?

Jul 14, 2008 by:   Tim Stanley

Jessica Enders has an interesting article at A List Apart on Zebra Striping: Does it Really Help?

Her main points considered are does it increase accuracy, or speed.  The raw statistics don't show anything statistically significant.  The readers did report a 46% preference for zebra striping, but 36% said they didn't care.

I believe that anything that improves the readability, or visual appeal of information is going to be helpful to users.  I also believe that with wider screens and more space between columns, the striping is more helpful.

An example of zebra striping:

<table class="tableGrid" cellspacing="0">
    <tr class="gridItem">
        <td style="text-align: center">1</td>
    <tr class="gridItemAlt">
        <td><strong>Aperture Dial</strong></td>
        <td style="text-align: center">1</td>

Stripe Example


Three approaches to solving the strip pattern are hand coding tables, using ASP.Net alternate row style sheets on tables, or using JavaScript to modify the tables after they have been loaded.


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Visual Communication

Jun 19, 2008 by:   Tim Stanley

It often takes so much effort to gather data in the first place that we rarely take the time to put the data into a visual form. If we take the time to present information visually though, it can have a much greater impact on recognition, retention and comprehension.

I've written about Communication Illusions and where optical illusions can mislead.

John Medina tells us about Brain Rules and vision trumps all other senses.

John Medina Brain Rules

At a talk at TED, Chris Jordan talks about picturing excess.  He not only takes the numbers and data and puts it into a visual form, but it takes on an artistic look and style as well.

Visual excess

 Edward Tufte has long been considered an expert in presenting data in a visual form.  I recently found out that Ben Fry has written some similar information about visualizing data

 Michael Ogawa was inspired by this information visualization to create some stunning video's called code swarm that incorporate music, time, and statistics for the interactions that developers have on open source projects.

Code Swarm

Jonathan Feinberg has created Wordle which can generate word clouds from text.  Below are some images from transcripts of presentations at TED.


If your inclined to create your own charts and don't have Excel or a chart rendering control or tool, there's Google charts.

Google charts

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Web Developer's SEO Cheat Sheet

Jun 16, 2008 by:   Tim Stanley

Danny Dover has posted on an outstanding search engine optimization cheat for web sites.  It's a great reference point and a reminder of things to check.

SEO Cheat Sheet

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Best High End Nikon Lenses 2008

Jun 13, 2008 by:   Tim Stanley

What's the best Nikon lens?  Everybody asks that question, but can you really afford it?  Thom Hogan has written one of the best detailed explanations I've seen in his article Nikkor Lens Assessment.  The only thing missing is the prices in his best pick list.

I've written about some of these lenses in Nikon Lens Best Values.  Just read the Flickr Nikon D80 group and you'll see these lenses recommended time and time again.  Save some bucks and lift some weights though, these pro class lenses are heavy and not light on the pocketbook either.

These lenses are extremely popular and you'll often find them out of stock, so if you want one, you better act soon.  If you wanted a reason to get a D80, D200, D300 or D3 over a D40, many of these lenses are not compatible with the D40.

Most of these lenses hold their value over time.  So if you buy one and are lucky, you might be able to sell it a few years down the road and you'll have had the use of a fine lens for less than the cost of a fine meal.

Prices are as of June 2008 (just in time for fathers day).

Lens Filter B&H
Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8G
Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8D
77mm N/A
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G
77mm $1699.95
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR
77mm $1624.95
Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D
77mm $914.95
Nikon 300mm f/2.8G VR
52mm $4499.95
Nikon 600mm f/4G VR
52mm $9499.95
Nikon TC-14E II 1.4x N/A $409.95
Nikon TC-17E II 1.7x N/A $419.95
Nikon 60mm f/2.8D
62mm $394.95
Nikon 85mm f/1.4D IF AF 77mm $1024.95
Nikon 105mm f/2.8G VR
62mm $759.95
Nikon 24mm f/3.5D ED PC-E 77mm $1899.95

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