"Yeah, well, you know, that's just like, uh, your opinion, man."

Photos (Update 1)

18:18 Thursday, 19 March 2015

So a bit of a correction to my earlier comment regarding Photos and Facebook albums. You can select an existing album on Facebook from the Share sheet, as so:Share sheet screenshot.

But you cannot create Facebook albums in Photos, nor are Facebook albums synchronized with "Albums" in Photos. That appears to be reserved for iCloud so that your album structure is replicated in all your devices.

Art Filters

14:26 Thursday, 19 March 2015

"Real" photographers look with disdain on these sorts of things. I think Olympus was one of the first major manufacturers to include this kind of feature, debuting on the E-30. They only really got interesting to me with the arrival of "Dramatic Tone" in the E-5. I shoot with Dramatic Tone a lot.

Mitzi and I went to the beach last weekend, and I brought along the little E-PM1 with the Panasonic Lumix 14mm/f2.5 mounted. It's super-small, and I like shooting with it. I played around with a couple of filters, and one I don't recall using in a long time. This one is called "Pop Art" and basically everything is more saturated. I think it fits well with a beach scene. Here are a couple of examples:

(Also, I'm trying out embedding images from Flickr. May be a glitch or two.)

Beach scene, blue beach umbrella Beach scene, guy kneeing a soccer ball.

Brief Book Review: Leviathan Wakes

14:05 Thursday, 19 March 2015

Leviathan Wakes, by James S. A. Correy (Orbit Books), is a science fiction novel I picked up the other day on impulse at Books-a-Million. I recalled the name, and thought I remembered hearing good things about it. The cover blurb has George R. R. Martin saying that it's been too long since we've had a good kick-ass space opera. Well, keep waiting, this ain't it.

This is the kind of book I'd have loved when I was 14. If you've read a lot of science fiction, you've read this book before, only better ones. Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress comes to mind. Allen Steele did this kind of thing better. C. J. Cherryh (albeit her books are placed in an interstellar travel universe, whereas Leviathan remains within our star system) with Downbelow Station and any of her Alliance-Union novels. Much more interesting characters, much better writing.

The characters are 2-dimensional stereotypes. Women only exist to make the main hero, Jim Holden, look heroic. They (the author's name is a pseudonym for a pair of writers, Daniel Abraham and Ty Francke) kill the only interesting character, Fred Miller. Don't worry, it's not a spoiler, you see it coming from a mile away. (Except, wait! Maybe he's not REALLY dead!) The book could have used a good editor. How many times do we have to read that many of the asteroid colonists fighting were "boys that couldn't have been more than fifteen." I think I counted three times. I got it the first time, they're young. Move on.

Anyway, remarkable only for the fact that it's the first sf book I've read in a looong time. Hopefully it's not representative of the current state of the art.


11:05 Thursday, 19 March 2015

I've begun playing around with Apple's Photos app and wanted to share a few thoughts. I started trying to convert my iMac's existing Aperture library, which resides on an external 1TB drive. The conversion took overnight, still fit on the 1TB external drive along with the Aperture library, and seemed to work fine at first.

Following an update to a new beta of Yosemite and Photos, Photos began complaining that it had to quit because the 1TB drive hadn't been ejected properly. I checked the drive with Disk Utility and it was fine; the Aperture library loaded in Aperture and worked properly. So I filed a bug report with Apple. After a subsequent Yosemite and Photos beta update, the problem persisted and I decided to take another route.

When I migrated my Aperture library to the external drive, it freed about 750GB on my iMac's internal drive. I decided to delete the Photos library on the external drive and create a new (empty) one on the iMac's internal drive. I wish I had made notes, but this also involved designating the Photos library as the "System" library (I think that's the correct term).

When I began with Photos, I hadn't enabled the iCloud component. With the new library I tried to do so and that's where I got an alert that I had to designate it as the "System" library. I suppose that has to do with where photos from iCloud are ultimately stored. After enabling iCloud in Photos, iCloud is disabled in Aperture, so images I import into Aperture on my MacBook Pro are no longer automatically imported into Aperture on the iMac.

A bit of an aside on image formats. I usually shoot RAW+JPEG. Typically, this is overkill. The JPEG engine in Oly's cameras is pretty damn good and if you get your exposure right the first time, you're not going to do much better futzing around with the RAW. And if you're shooting in drive or burst mode, it just fills the buffer faster and unless you're using the E-M1 with its honking big buffer, you'll be standing around waiting for the buffer to clear before you can shoot again. But I also shoot with Art Filters a lot, and if there's a shot that would look better unfiltered, I can get it from the RAW. Sometimes you can get a nice effect by blending a jpeg from the RAW with the Art Filter jpeg. Anyway, it's not exactly a rational choice, but that's how I'm shooting for now.

Since I seldom do much with the RAW images, I store them on an external 1TB drive. If I want to do something with them, I can either import the image into Aperture and edit it there, or use Olympus Viewer 3, which gives me a few more options to play with.

So right now, all my photo collections reside on external drives. I have an older Aperture library still on my MBP, and it's consuming 265GB of SSD space. Basically all of those libraries (internal SSD, external SSD and external HD) are backed up by Backblaze online backup. Time Machine also backs up the internal library.

Because of this experience with Apple, which I perhaps "trusted" more than I should have, I've begun expanding my photo storage and sharing options. Flickr has shown some signs of life lately, and they have a new app I've installed on my MacBook Pro. When I insert an SD card into the MBP, the app scans it and begins uploading the jpegs to Flickr with the privacy bit set. If my Comcast connection is working as advertised (which is a hit-or-miss proposition), it's pretty speedy. From Flickr, I can access my images on any of my devices. I plan to do some more work to organize my Flickr library a bit, and plan to use it more as well. I had paid for a Pro account some time ago, I'm not sure where that issue stands at the moment, but for the time being, I'm not confronted with advertising as I browse images from my account or others'.

I'm also on SmugMug, which I've used somewhat more deliberately. That's also a paid account, and I'm considering upgrading it to be able to offer prints for sale. Not sure what complications may be attendant to that, if by some chance I make a sale.

My first impression of Photos is that it does most of what I need it to do. One nice feature is that you can share an image through iMessage, which you couldn't do with Aperture. I'd been meaning to set up an Automator Service to do just that, but never got around to it. One of the things it doesn't seem to do is allow you to create albums for sharing on Facebook. All images shared from Photos to Facebook get dumped into a single "OS X Photos" album on Facebook. I'm pretty sure that means you can't manage albums on Flickr or SmugMug either.

That suggests you'd upload your images to Flickr and SmugMug to a generic landing space, then organize them in the browser. Not exactly my idea of an ideal workspace.

As far as editing features go, it's got most of the ones you'd need to fine-tune an image, or try to correct exposure. You can't brush corrections in, like you can in Aperture. It's not Photoshop, but if you need to do anything more substantial, I suppose there'll be a mechanism to use an external editor in a round-trip fashion.

This isn't a replacement for Aperture, it doesn't have a lot of depth in "digital asset management." It's definitely not comparable to Final Cut X, it's by no means a "pro" app. While I'm not thrilled, at all, about what Apple's done to Aperture, I'm not a "pro" and I don't use a lot of its capabilities. Photos probably does about 90% of what I need it to do, and that's probably enough for now.

What I think I'm going to do is basically kind of start fresh. I'll keep my Aperture libraries, and work on them from the standpoint of getting them into a greater sense of order, but I'm not going to add to them anymore. For now, I think I'm going to try the Photos/iCloud solution. I have about 130GB free in my iCloud account. If I cultivate a greater sense of discipline in terms of what I shoot and what I keep, which has been, and remains, an ongoing effort, I think I'll be fine. You can always just archive stuff.

I shoot because I like taking pictures, first and foremost. The things I shoot are the things I find interesting, or beautiful, or because they document some moment of my life that I think is worth remembering. My capacity to shoot far exceeds my capacity to edit and curate, and that's where I need to exert more effort; so maybe this "change of scenery" (the Photos app) will help me "see" what I'm doing a little more clearly.

Glass half empty, or half full? Who knows? At least we've got a glass. Wait… I had something for this…

And We're Back...

19:10 Monday, 9 March 2015

Apple had its big day today, with the Apple Watch event. Still processing what I think about it all.

I'm most impressed with the announcement of ResearchKit. I hope it represents a continued effort into health-related products. I think, with the aging baby-boomer population, that home healthcare represents a huge potential market. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but I do know that the products I've seen serving that market are seriously lacking in design and user experience, and ripe for disruption by Apple.

I wrote about this back in May, when my Dad had entered into palliative care that required daily data-gathering. The devices he used often confused him, and added stress his and my mom's lives. The devices worked, they performed their intended function, but they were frustrating, clumsy and made everyone feel disempowered as they had to accommodate the needs of the devices instead of the devices accommodating their needs. I think it really is a hard problem, and it's going to take some serious effort and commitment to make this type of technology more humane. I have no doubt that Apple could revolutionize that market segment if they chose to apply their efforts toward it.

Here's hoping.

Anyway, the big news: The Watch! I'm not onboard just yet. I haven't worn anything on my wrists for years, though I do wear a Garmin Forerunner 305 (a big sports watch) when I run. I'm not sure how comfortable I'll be with a fairly substantial device on my wrist all day. For me, I think the biggest win is being able to see notifications (chiefly texts and calls), without pulling my phone out of my pocket. When I'm out walking Bodhi, I usually have the leash in one hand and a camera in the other. The cameras are either on a sling or a wrist-strap, so I can let go of them and pick up dog poo, or answer a call or text. I keep the phone on me for my walks because the M8 chip counts my steps, and I'm all about the steps! And I'll use the iPhone's camera if I have a telephoto zoom mounted if I want a wider angle perspective for a shot. But to just be able to glance at my watch and decide if it's something I need to respond to right now, or if I can just continue what I'm doing I think would be welcome.

Of course, I could also resolve that issue by simply choosing to ignore the alerts from the phone regarding texts and calls. I've turned off nearly every other notification from the apps on my phone. The only immediate notifications are for texts and phone calls, and I suppose I could just ignore them while I'm out walking Bodhi.

For the time being, I'm going to be reading others' experiences with the watch before I make any decision to adorn my wrist with one. There may be a killer app that I don't know about yet, and I'd like to see what weird rashes people will develop. You can bet that someone is going to have a weird rash and get their 15 minutes of fame blaming Apple for their hand falling off or something. I suppose if you can afford one of those $10,000 gold watches, you can probably also afford the personal body guard to keep thieves from chopping off your hand to steal your watch. Don't laugh! One guy nearly lost a finger when someone stole his newly-purchased iPad, and the string from the Apple Store bag wrapped around his finger.

The new MacBook is interesting. To me, it seems to be competing with the iPad, especially if Apple introduces a 12" iPad Pro as many expect they will this fall. With the lack of ports, the improved keyboard and trackpad are the only things that really seem to distinguish it from an iPad. I considered buying an iPad Air 2 this weekend, but decided to wait and see what happens this fall. My iPad 3, the original Retina iPad, is a little sluggish under iOS 8, and apps often quit are restart suddenly. I'm pretty sure it's the lack of RAM more than the slower processor. I can live with it for the time being, as it's not essential to my existence.

When I travel today, I bring my 13" MacBook Pro Retina and the iPad 3. While While the MBP is pretty lightweight for a MBP, the iPad 3 is about the heaviest iPad Apple ever made. The MacBook Pro comes because I need the USB ports and the SD port. While I use RunKeeper on my iPhone, it's mostly for the sharing function, and as a backup to my Garmin. I get more, and better, data from my Garmin 305 with the heart rate monitor. I shoot a lot of photos when I'm away from home, and while I could upload them from the E-M1 using wifi, it's pretty slow compared to just using an SD card reader.

I have the SD card reader for the MBP, but it'll crash Photos half the time, sometimes even taking the whole iPad down with it, forcing a restart; and I don't have a lot of spare room on my iPad to store images. I use the iPad for convenience on the aircraft, or when I'm at my Mom's, keeping up with social networks, looking up information or reading blogs and books. If I'm only going away for a weekend, I'll just bring the iPad 3 and the E-M1 and then just choose a few images to upload to the iPad via wifi. As slow as it is, it's less frustrating than the repeated crashes with the SD card reader.

I don't know, reading what I've just written, maybe what I want is just an iPad mini. It would be the lightest iPad to bring along with me.

In any event, the good news seems to be that Apple had a big announcement yesterday, and I'm not reaching for my wallet yet!