Photography on a budget: 5 Awesome Props

One common way to up your photography game is to shoot with different props placed in front of the lens or placed onto your subject. Light deflection is a common way to take a boring photograph and turn it into some very unique and captures a different perspective. Each of the items discussed all came under the price tag of $15 (AUD) so roughly $10 (USD) and I highly recommend you invest in these to create your own unique style. Each of these items do not have one specific use, they can be used in many different forms, allowing you to expand your creativity!

LED LIGHTS

Fairy string lights are a very common prop that is used alot in low light photography, mainly for portraits to light up the subjects face and create some killer bokeh. One common instagram user is Brandon Woelfel, who creates incredible portraits that makes full use of these lights. Not only this, these LED lights are easy to carry, extremely cheap and reflect off any smooth surface at night. Chuck your portraits into lightroom or photoshop and edit them to create some very creative shots. Let your subject hold the lights or wear the lights, it’s completely up to you and make sure you buy tonnes of AA batteries. Not only this, you can place the LED lights into a mason jar and place the jar wherever you seem fight. This is mostly used in the golden hour of the sunset at the beach. Place the mason jar with the lights on in the water and capture the waves crashing into the jar to create some awesome effects. Not only this, you can place this jar wherever you want to form a light source. One other use of these lights is to create bokeh for your photos, throw them somewhere in your background and suddenly you will create some really nice bokeh to add to your photo. These lights can be bought in copper or white (yellow or white) and come in a range of different lengths. I bought my 2m one from Ebay for $3.99 (aud) and I absolutely love using them.

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Light Prism

These prisms are the ones used in your physics class, they are incredible little things that can split light, reflect light from different angles and and definitely helps create some whacky photos. They can reflect the light from different angles onto the lens and can also reflect small rainbows onto the lens depending on the light source. The light is dispersed when it travels through the medium(which is the glass prism) and is refracted, meaning that the light comes out of the medium at a different angle compared to the original. You can use these light prisms at anytime of the day, however at night the light produces the best results as it brings in the many different lights from your surroundings.

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Crystal Ball

A very common prop that is used in photography is a crystal ball, a smooth round ball of glass. These balls are very cheap to purchase online from Amazon, Ebay or even your retail home decor store. What they essentially do is refract the incoming light and the outputted light is inverted, creating a very unique flipped look. The images are upside down, meaning you can either flip the image in post to create an awesome effect or leave it the way it is, both work extremely well. These are normally used for landscape photography, it is better to use a telephoto or macro lens here to ensure that you can focus on the ball. However in saying that, prime lenses do also work. Ensure to choose a correct aperture for the lens to ensure the ball is sharp and in focus as well as producing some very nice blurry and bokehlicious backgrounds. You can place the ball wherever you like. If you want, you can also use the crystal ball to cover the edge of your lens to create a prism like effect where it shoots rainbow lights onto your lens to create another cool perspective on your subject.

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CD or DVD

Use any old CD or DVD that is laying around and find a light source to reflect these rainbow colourful lights onto your subject. I’m sure when you were younger you used to point the reflection at your friends whilst swapping out DVDs. Now you can reflect the light onto your subject or even onto your lens to create some cool effects. Having the light reflect onto your subject gives then a rainbow face, which is definitely a unique look in portrait photography. This would be the cheapest item on the list as I’m sure you would have plenty of discs lying around the house.

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Explain it: Cash Rates

Guest Author: ESYP

Introduction

The cash rate refers to the rate of which banks loan each other money in order to balance their ESAs (Exchange Settlement Accounts). To understand the cash rate, one must firstly understand the concept of the open market operations in Australia.

Open Market Operations

On the first Tuesday of every month, the RBA (Reserve Bank of Australia) board holds a meeting to set the target cash rate for the next month after which at 2:30pm, the target rate will be announced. This is also referred to the government’s monetary policy. Contrary to common belief, the rate does not immediately come in to operation but rather operates with a lag.

After this rate is set, the RBA will start open market operations, that is, they will start to utilise the selling or purchasing of government securities to and from financial institutions in order to reach that target rate. If the RBA board decides to increase the cash rate, in line with contractionary monetary policy, which is to decrease spending, the government aims to reduce the supply of money and thus increase the “cost” of money. To achieve this, the RBA will sell government securities such as bonds, at a discount in order to entice the purchasing of this bonds. As part of the law, the ESAs of every bank must be balanced. However the nature of the ESA is that it facilitates inter-bank monetary transfer. For example, if a customer of ANZ writes a cheque and gives it to someone who deposits the cheque at Westpac, this is an interbank transaction. In turn, along with the millions of other different interbank transactions, they must balance the differences between the banks. As the RBA pays an interest rate of -0.25 of the cash rate for excess funds and +0.25% of the interest rate for any shortages, there is an incentive for banks to loan each other this money. As such, after enough of the government securities are sold or bought, money must move between the institutions and the RBA.

When increasing the cash rate, the banks transfer their money from the ESAs to the RBA in exchange for the bonds and the RBA transfers money to the Banks’ ESAs in return for the bonds when a decrease is wanted.

Because of these transactions, there is an effect on the liquidity of financial institutions. When there is an increase in the cash rate, banks’ ESAs will now have less money and thus have to replace that money to avoid penalty and as such institutions will now have to compete for the limited cash available thus driving up the cash rate. In the event that there is a decrease in the cash rate, bank’s ESAs will now have more money and now want to get rid of this excess cash. Therefore institutions will compete to get rid of their surplus cash thus driving down the cash rate.

Because the cash rate is the wholesale rate that affects whole sale borrowing, retail interest rates will follow suit, be it with a difference to ensure the banks make profit.

 

Impact on you

You might be thinking, what’s this talk about banks and the RBA got to do with me? I’m not looking to borrow from the RBA? The key impact of the cash rate on the general population is the incentive to spend on credit. If banks decide to reduce their retail interest rates because of the lowered interest rates, interest repayments for mortgages or personal loans will drop and as such the final cost of buying that good will decrease. Additionally, reduced retail interest rates will decrease the incentive to save as your monthly interest payments from your savings accounts will decrease. This means that there is encouragement to spend!

As such, understanding the business cycle will be key in avoiding larger interest repayments than you have to. We’ll be covering that next time on Explain it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: None of the information in this article is professional financial advice. The author(s) of this article will not be liable for any financial decisions made based on the information of this article.

Solution to Stolen Game Codes

Have you ever bought a hard copy of a game at your local electronics retailer, gotten home and tried to use the authentication code in the casing and have been greeted to an error saying “this game code has already been redeemed”? Well, you’re not the only one, it happens far too often.

Over the weekend, I bought my mate a brand new copy of Overwatch from ebgames after the new character, Doomfist was released. Upon activation of the code, we were greeted with an error that the code has already been used. We literally were like WTF, a brand new game and the code doesn’t work. The packaging wasn’t opened and everything looked new. Having faith in ebgames, we have ruled out that a customer has returned their disc after activating it and resold the game as brand new. We quickly jumped onto Blizzards live chat, which runs fairly often and we had a response time of 1 minute, which is pretty decent compared to other companies these days. After talking with the representative, we learned that our code had been redeemed back in 2016! I repeat, 2016! The game was bought on the 29th of July and someone had a lucky day inputting random codes back in 2016. We were shell shocked and was linked to the account of Melanie. So if there is a Melanie out there who used our code in 2016, you have stolen from us. (well now ebgames after we return the game).

This has been the case for many different people with their overwatch codes and also other games who sell hard copies of games. I personally have experience this on the PS4 with a few Helldiver expansion packs, which makes me wonder, why aren’t companies using different methods to resolve these issue. This clearly is a major issue online with many different key-gens available to download and the large amounts of forum posts of people complaining ( and literally crying!!) over their games. It is pretty devastating for the end consumer and especially the business as they essentially have their stock stolen from them. This renders an 80 AUD game useless, meaning that is essentially isn’t worth anything.

I propose a solution to end this madness, but a stop to online keygens and people bootlegging game codes, it’s time introduce two factor authentication. This refers to using two methods or two different codes to activate the game, meaning that there is a decreased chance in people stealing game codes.

Here’s how it could theoretically work:

The user purchases the game from in store, the store owners do not leave the keys inside empty cases and mustn’t allow employees to use the keys, and the buyer receives the game unopened and untouched. After installing the game, instead of redeeming through one code, use two codes that need to be entered. These two codes would have the same complexity as the original, but must be redeemed in a certain order. So we would have code 1 and code 2, this is like paypal authenticating your bank account. Once these two codes are successfully activated, the user can start playing their game, easy fix! This method would make it so much harder for hackers to find correct keygens, making sure that electronic retailers do not loose stock and the user is happy rather than complaining on different forums about a certain game. It is a terrible situation and it shouldn’t happen to anyone who has actively gone out and paid for the game. There are many other ways to do the second code verification, such as sending text to a mobile device with a code to type in, or answering a phone call with a code or typing in a smaller strong of code instead of using the same. These are all different ways game companies should be looking at to avoid having codes being used. Perhaps even creating a system that once the game has been scanned, the code instead the box goes live, which means there is less of a chance the key gens will re-create that code as it cycles through its loops. This could be a possible solution and it would also help catch out companies who are reselling used games to the consumer. 

Something needs to be implemented to stop this from happening to more and more customers, it’s purely up to the game companies in how they want to approach this, but this isn’t fair on the businesses that sell these games and the consumer. Perhaps you have not experience this before, but trust me, it’s a terrible feeling that sparks rage within you, knowing that someone out there, by chance, has taken your code.

Beginner Digital Photography: Mirrorless 2017

Last week I covered the traditional DSLR cameras, today I will cover the mirrorless camera options that are available to you as a beginner entering the scene of photography. The biggest difference between a DSLR and a mirrorless camera is the size. They are a breeze to carry around and are very compact even with the lens on. Many entry-level mirrorless cameras will easily fit into your coat pockets, handbags and small bags. With the smaller size also comes the reduced weight, making it easy to lug around your neck or bag. Furthermore, since mirrorless cameras are an improving technology, many older but still good models are becoming cheaper and the capabilities are forever increasing.

To quickly understand how mirrorless cameras work, instead of having a mirror that reflects the light coming into the lens into the viewfinder, the light goes straight onto the image sensor which the user previews through the electronic viewfinder or screen. Therefore, there are fewer moving parts in the camera, meaning a greater shooting speed. There are many advantages of mirrorless cameras, such as a lot more autofocus points, better image stabilization (for price point) and a much better video quality. Referring to ISO levels in last weeks post, mirrorless cameras have a much higher ISO point, making them ideal for low light photography. Keep an eye out for a head to head comparison between mirrorless cameras and DSLRs.

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Today we will be looking at some of the mirrorless cameras that are on the current market which I consider to be the best for beginner photographers.

1. Sony A6000

The sony A6000 is a fantastic mirrorless camera that is pure bang for the buck. You can find these cameras constantly on sale and are fantastic little units. Inside they have an APS-C sensor, 11 frames per second shooting and some of the best low-light photography at the price point with its max ISO being 25600. The A6000 is essentially a striped back version of its older brother the A6300. The electronic eyepiece is definitely usable where a DSLR shooter would be able to use. The earlier you start with using the eyepiece, the more comfortable you will be with it.

It has a 24MP sensor, 3 inch tilting screen, 11FPS shooting, 1080p video and uses Sony’s E-mounts. I would highly recommend this camera for anyone entering the mirrorless scene.

2. Panasonic Lumix GX85/GX80

The panasonic Lumix GX80, GX85 for the USA, is another bang for the buck mirrorless camera, however with more options over the A6000. This time the sensor is a micro four thirds sensor, which is similar to the APS-C sensor where it crops the image compared to full frame, however the cropper is more significant. This generation of camera incorporates 4K video, which is a huge positivity for crisp videos and can capture 8MP stills from recorded video. The Autofocus is very fast and has a 5 axis image stabilization, which is incredibly helpful to obtain sharp shots. The shutter shock is also reduced, which was a problem in the previous generations. Panasonic has stepped up its game with this camera, If you want the next step up, look into the Panasonic GX8, however it is pricier.

It has a 16MP sensor, 3.0 inch tilting touch screen display, 8FPS shooting and 4K video. I would highly recommend this camera if you also want 4K video.

3. Sony A6300

The Sony A6300 is a beast of a camera, though it is a lot pricier than its competition. It has a much improved sensor over previous generations and also offers 4K video. With a microphone jack, this camera becomes a viable option for those who also want to get into cinematography. The build quality of this camera is better than the A6000 and also contains weather sealing and a higher ISO range. Sony opted for a sharper OLED viewfinder, however the LCD panel is not touchscreen. The camera is dropping in price which makes it perfect for a beginner who wants to start off with an more advanced mirrorless camera.

It has a 24MP sensor, 3.0 inch tilting display, 11FPS shooting and 4K video. I would highly recommend this camera if you are interested in having some of the most advanced features.

4. Olympus OM-D E-M10 II

This camera is sort of an underdog, it is fantastic value for money, looks great and has loads of features. This new generation includes a 5 axis image stabilization like the panasonic and the shooting speed has increased to 8.5FPS. The only major let back of this camera would have to be the micro four thirds sensor, which by the way is half a typical APS-C sensor. It has a max 1080P and has a really high shutter speed of 1/16000s. This camera excels in street photography as well as portraits. With the retro looks, the camera sure looks fantastic around your neck.

It has a 16MP sensor, 3.0 inch tilting display, 8.5FPS and 1080p video. Being one of the cheapest and powerful contenders on this list, I would definitely recommend this camera.

5. Fujifilm X-T20

The X-T20 takes the good bits from its older brother and places it in a smaller and much more affordable body. The design is superb and has the similar retro theme like the E-M10 II. The Fuji makes use of an APS-C sensor, being 24MP. It produces extremely rich and detailed images thanks to its sensor. Once again, this mirrorless camera is capable of shooting at 4K with an external microphone port and has a max ISO of 12800. Unfortunately there is no image stabilization which means the user needs to be extra stable when taking photos. This camera excels at landscape photography.

It has a 24MP sensor, 3.0 inch tilting display, 14FPS and 4K video recording. I would definitely recommend to try out this camera as the buttons have a really nice feel to them.

Overall thoughts?

I would recommend all of them, however my top recommendation would be the Olympus OM-D E-M10 II, it is a fantastic camera with excellent image quality, class leading features and is relatively cheap which is fantastic. Not only this, in my opinion the olympus looks the best with its retro theme and the lens selection is relatively large. However, if you were wanting to shoot 4K, I would recommend the Panasonic Lumix GX80/GX85 as the pricing for the camera is incredible, being slightly more expensive than the sony A6000. The kit lens that comes with the camera is more than capable and make sure to invest in spare batteries, mirrorless cameras chew through batteries twice as fast as DSLRs, however most can be powered and charged by external power banks (the ones use to charge phones). This feature makes mirrorless cameras seem like a better investment compared to DSLR cameras.

Still Alive? Google Chromecast

The Google Chromecast was a revolutionary device that turned any TV or monitor into a smart device. However, with TVs now including better and smarter software, is there still a market for the Chromecast?

 

The first thing to consider is, what exactly is a Chromecast. Well, the Chromecast was designed to revolutionise in home streaming by allowing the ability to wirelessly stream from your phone, desktop or laptop. The $35 dongle turned your TV into a media center with direct streaming from Youtube, Hulu, Netflix and many more region specific services. Four years since the initial release, 3 iterations have emerged, being the Chromecast 2, Chromecast Ultra and Chromecast Audio. Essentially, you would plug your Chromecast into your TV and connect it to power through the micro USB port. Many TVs have extra USB ports for external hard drives and they all provide enough power for this device. Once it’s turned on, it is very straightforward to connect to your phone and your home wifi.

 

The original Chromecast supported up to 1080p streaming and handled it reasonably well, however, streaming from a tab often ended up in audio lag with video sync issues. The newer versions have better wifi connectivity meaning lower lag spikes and a better all round experience of the device. However, many new smart TVs have greater software which has surpassed the capabilities of the Chromecast. Samsung TVs allow casting from Samsung devices and can even stream what’s on TV to the device, which you may find really handy when moving around the house. LG and other brands have incorporated similar technologies to allow users to have a better overall experience. Not only this, devices such as your PS4, XBOX ONE, Roku (Telstra TV) and now DVD players have included streaming capabilities to access Spotify, YouTube, Netflix and other video streaming services.

 

If all these devices can do what the Chromecast can, and do it BETTER, then why are they still around? Well, these devices were initially intended to bridge the gap between ordinary TVs and smart TVs, but now that most TVs have received upgrades in software in internal hardware, the Chromecast has branched off, expanding its capabilities to make it one of the most useful devices for its price.

 

With the Chromecast, you are able to stream from a VR headset to the TV, allowing other users to see what the VR user is viewing and doing. This can be problematic for those who enjoy a different kind of VR experience. The Chromecast can also support presentations, eliminating the need for any cables between the laptop or phone to the presentation device. Just plug in the Chromecast and start presenting! Not only this, the newer Chromecasts allow users to play certain games on the big screen, which is good for the family. Just don’t expect to play high graphic games on the device. Furthermore, though not available for every TV, the Chromecast allows your phone to function as a TV remote.

 

The Chromecast is a very capable device, but the rest of the competition are catching up. Google has been fighting hard to keep up the sales and usage of Chromecast with huge incentives and offers. These offers have been free subscriptions to their services, free movie streaming and Google credit to use on the Play Store. Thus, the Chromecast is very much alive despite being out of sight. For only around 30-40 bucks for the newer versions, it’s a good investment for its functionality. Though I must say, it may only be a matter of time before there is even better competition in the wireless casting market.

Explain it: IP addresses

IP addresses are how all our internet connected devices communicate with each other with great synergy, without these addresses your devices cannot communicate. IP addresses are important for both inside and beyond the firewall.

Each Internet connected device has an unique address on the Internet, which can be used to send things to it. This is what we refer to as the IP address. There are actually two IP versions in use on the Internet today, which coexist but vary in the form of the addresses:

  • Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) is the most common protocol used by Internet connected devices. IPv4 addresses consist of 4 bytes worth of information, i.e., four dot-separated numbers each in the range of 0–255. This makes a total of 232 = 4,294,967,296 unique addresses on the Internet. For example, Yahoo’s server IPv4 address is 206.190.36.45.

 

When IPv4 was created, it was not known how many interconnected devices there would be. Despite the relatively large number of address, we have already exhausted our pool of IPv4 address, click here to learn about one solution.

 

  • Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is the successor to IPv4. IPv6 uses longer addresses that support 7.9×1028 times as many addresses as IPv4! IPv6 addresses are made up of eight colon-separated groups of four hexadecimal digits per group, where leading zeroes in each group may be omitted for brevity. Yahoo’s server IPv6 address is 2001:4998:c:a06::2:4008

 

Explain it: DDoS attacks

DDoS, denial of service, attacks have been well documented throughout internet history. The basic principles of the attack is flooding and overwhelming an online service by flooding it with traffic from multiple sources. It makes it impossible to stop the attack simply by blocking a single source as it comes from a range of different sources.

 

There are 2000 recorded attacks every day and the average price of an attack costs $150 on the black market. Furthermore a simple DDoS attack can be flooding a small server with emails from like petitioning websites  where hundreds of petitioners sign and the email gets sent to the cause. Thus overwhelming the servers.

 

The first step in creating a DDoS attack is building capacities. Attackers often build huge networks of bot computers, this can be done through creating a virus and malicious software in emails, applications, torrents and social media. Once the device is infected, they are able to remotely control the device without the user’s knowledge to attack a specific online service. They essentially build up an army of computers and devices with many being millions strong.

 

The second step is to generate large amounts of traffic to overwhelm the target, this may be banks, news websites and email exchanges. This could be sending many requests from each device and also sending huge amounts of random data to the server to use up the servers bandwidth. The server cannot handle all this data and requests and then either freezes or shuts down.

 

Attackers often sell their services to people willing to DDoS attack a specific website or company, they are bought through the dark web and online marketplaces. A DDoS attack that can last a week long and can take a small organisation weeklong and cost as little as $150.

 

There are different classes of attacks which include;

  • TCP connection attacks
  • Volumetric attacks
  • Fragmentation attacks
  • Application attacks

 

Nowadays, these attacks can take down DNS servers, which halt internet productivity and internet services. A recent major attack had brought down large services like Spotify and Twitter. With attacks affecting DNS servers, the future of the internet is fragile with more and more bots being created, thus allowing for larger DDoS attacks.

 

Read more about the different types of attacks here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denial-of-service_attack

Explain it: NAT

Network address translation was created due to the exhaustion of IP address, Ipv4. Ipv4 is the standard for current day IP addresses, however it was created sometime around 1981. Back then they did not account for the millions of internet connected devices. Ipv4 is a series of 32 bits, which means there is a physical limitation of 2 to the power of 32 unique IP addresses. With the current growth rate, we would use up all these addresses with new smart phones, fridges and any internet connected device. Two major solutions were used to combat this, Ipv6 and NAT. Ipv6 allows us to have 2 to the power of 128 unique IP addresses.

 

With the limitations of IP addresses, network address translations were used to make better use of the limited addresses. To explain it simply, the router links up all the devices in your home into one public ip address. It is similar to an apartment building. To the outside world, they are one building, but once you go inside you see the different people who live there. The router is the apartment building and the people who live there are the internet devices connected to the router. This means, within the private network, each device is given a unique ip address. Instead of having 6 unique IP addresses, the NAT cuts it down to one. This limits the number of public IP addresses an organisation or household would use. Furthermore NAT’s act as an firewall, lets say you have a printer connected to your router. The NAT only allows private IP addresses access to the printer to ensure no random can print to your printer. This provides a security to the home user or business if they store their files on a NAS (network attached storage).

 

Now, lets say a computer request to visit bkmedia.co, the NAT see’s that this request is not for a device in the private network, the NAT then makes the exact same request using its own public IP address and delivers the response to the computer which requested the resource. This therefore means all your devices would have the same public IP address to an outside organisation.

 

NAT’s are very important, without them, security would be breached, we would run out of IP addresses and the internet would look a lot different.

 

Head to Head: HDD vs SSD

Consumers today are met with a range of storage solutions for their technological device. However you may be wondering what they all mean? What are the advantages and the disadvantages of using different types of memory? Let’s find out.

 

Hard Disk Drives

 

HDD’s are the traditional format for storage, they offer large capacities at a relatively cheap price. Essentially it is an nonvolatile solution that contains a large magnetic coated spinning disk. There is a read/write arm that accesses the information stored on the disk while it spins.  The advantage of HDD’s are that they are the cheapest storage solution per GB. HDD’s are known to last a long time (brand dependent) and certain brands are pushing the limits of these Hard drives by filling them up with helium producing 10TB hard drives. Laptops and Desktops commonly come with 1tb hard drives as consumers need larger storage solutions in an increasingly digital world. Unfortunately hard drives are limited in size, the laptop drives being 2.5 inches whereas the desktop drives being 3.5 inches. With laptops slimming down, hard drives are left to go into external storage and hard drives do use up more power compares to flash memory. Manufacturers now place hard drives in their lower tier models and use SSD’s to help slim down the body of the laptops.

 

Solid State Drives

 

Solid state drives have been out for a while but never really for the consumer market. It was only a couple years ago when they started to become the normal for consumers. Like HDD’s, SSD’s are a non-volatile solution (meaning they retain your data even with no power) where there are series of interconnected flash memory chips. Think of a multiple USB’s being attached together but are faster and more reliable. There are many different types of SSD’s on the market and the most common size is the 256GB models. Fortunately, SSD’s are becoming cheaper every day with the increasing advances in this technology. Common SSD’s are in a 2.5 inch factor, however recently smaller SSD’s have been produced like the mSATA Mini PCIe SSD card, M.2 SSD in SATA and PCIe variants. Seagate recently released a SSD with a 60tb capacity, however consumer variants go up to 4tb. SSD’s are much faster than hard drives as they do not have any moving parts, which also means SSD’s are hell of a lot more durable compared to HDD’s. Couple years ago, my mate dropped a basketball on a HDD (that was on carpet) by accident and then the HDD just died. However, SSD’s have a lower length in life due to the constant read and writes, but each generation is getter better at preserving life in the memory chips.

 

Overall

I would recommend having both. HDD for all your documents, videos and other unnecessary stuff and keep your operating software on the SSD. This ensures that your computer will boot fast aswell with applications on the SSD. However if you are to decide between an SSD and HDD on a laptop, get the SSD and buy an external hard disk drive.