Tech

My Aperture Session: Ferns

by Tobias on September 6, 2011

My Aperture Session: FernsA screenshot of my Aperture “fern” session. Full res. uploaded so you can see the details.

I have been using Aperture (currently version 3.x) for a while to organize and do post production for my photographs trying to minimize the time I spend in Photoshop. This post doesn’t go into some of the Aperture jargon, so please pardon me if you are not privy to Aperture slang.

I have 504 photographs that I took of the small ferns (less than a foot high) that started sprouting just outside my apartment in Seattle back in May. After many hours of sorting the images, this is what I’ve ended up with:

79 stacks of images with the best pulled to the front of each stack. Only the first two thumbnails are images I have actually done any post production on. (As noted in my previous post, one stack, for example, is a set of 127 photos.)

I have it sorted by rating, so my current picks are at the top decending down to pictures I might not even use.

My next steps are to actually give more accurate star ratings, choose which images are the créme (and which are shit), then edit those images to polish them for publishing.

All this for ferns. Then again, I can’t help myself; I just love the shapes, textures and colors that fresh ferns have.

 

If you are curious to learn more about how I am using Aperture, let me know and I might take the time to go into detail. Cheers!

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Delving into HDR

by Tobias on August 22, 2011

HDR: Eastlake Docks in Seattle

(The above is a composite of 8 images with exposure times in the 5min and above range.)

HDR is one of those buzz words in Photoland that usually invokes a set of viewer expectations and a bit of mystique. In a nutshell, the photographer is “merely” taking the same photo multiple times, and at various settings, such that they can get the over exposed and under-exposed elements properly exposed in a single image. The basic example is a bright sky; You want the bright sky to show the great cloud formations, but you don’t want to alienate, say, the trees in the foreground. (Poor trees!)

HDR: Sunrise in Suburbia V1

(This image is one I am using as a learning piece and is not meant to be a token of great composition.)

Here are the specifics for each photograph used in this composite: Composite of 4 images. All images captured at ISO 100, focal length 48mm, ƒ/5.6

Shutter speeds:
1/250
1/640
1/1600
1/4000

I have started using HDR because I take a lot of nighttime photographs. This means that if I am doing a very long exposure and there just so happens to be, for example, a street light in frame, then that street light is going to end up extremely bright compared to the rest of my image. This is where HDR comes to the rescue.

How do you magically make an HDR image?
[click to continue…]

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Kryptos Clue Released

by Tobias on November 20, 2010

Today The New York Times published an interview with Jim Sanborn revealing a hint to help unlock the fourth and only onsolved portion of Kryptos on the 20th anniversary of the instalation.

Kryptos

Kryptos

Kryptos, for those not in The Know, is a wonderful art piece commitioned for the CIA headquarters. Jim is an artist, not a crytpographer, so he was advised on how codes are made. Even the person who mentored his cryptography has been unable to decode the full piece.

Although Jim is best known for this piece, his work spans an amazing gaumet. His current project, which my dear friends Jon Singer and Doug Humphrey of Joss, Inc. helped with, is a remake of the first man made nuclear reaction:

“His next exhibit Terrestrial Physics, is scheduled to be displayed in June 2010 as part of Denver, Colorado‘s Biennial of the Americas. It will include a sculpture that is able to generate a 1 million volt potential difference. Utilizing a recreated Van de Graaff generator, Sanborn will have created a fully functional particle accelerator capable of creating nuclear fission.” – Wikipedia

Jae Ko: Paper Artwork

Jae Ko: Paper Artwork

Aside from being a great artist, he is also a great guy with a loving wife of amazing talent. Jae Ko holds her own rite as an amazing paper artist. You can see some pictures of her amazing artwork on the Walker Contemporary website.

I will have my ear on the ground as this pans out. Sadly, this event has meant that I am not hanging out and gutting fish on their little island…

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Subject:  ”iLok is a Detriment to Your Business”

Dear AudioEase,

I am in the process of re-installing Speakerphone after receiving an email from one of your support staff.  I am writing this email as a separate aside about your copy protection method.  I am a devout user of Speakerphone and intend to be a faithful customer.

That being said, I absolutely feel that your copy protection system, especially your reliance on iLok, is detrimental to your business.

I make software.  My father has been making software since the 60s.  Most of my friends obtain their livelihoods from selling software.  I consider the ownership of software to be integral to the economy of software companies and all those involved in the market.  Just as musicians must retain the copyright to their music, software producers must retain their ownership and ability to make money from their hard work.

We all know that pirates threaten all software developers.  This is an issue that haunts all developers at every level.  As a software development company, you are required to take the measures necessary to make sure that users purchase your product instead of stealing it.  This is not only understandable, but a requirement of your business model.

That being said, I am a paying customer.  As a customer, I provide you with money in exchange for your product.  I happen to own a laptop and a desktop.  I feel I should be able to run your software on either machine (one could argue about needing another license to do this, but it is my belief that I am a single user and won’t be stealing from you in order to run your software on both machines).  On top of this, I feel that upgrading my machine, for example, should not require me to jump through flaming hoops to retain your copy protection.

You implemented a “call & response” mechanism to allow me to authorize Speakerphone on my computer.  Fair enough.  What I don’t find to be fair, on the other hand, is that I can’t install it on any other machines.  I feel it would be reasonable to allow each user to install a minimum of two machines, if not 3-5.  This seems fair to me, as an end user.  I make a point to send you my hard earned money to support the development of your ground breaking and essential plugins.  I fully support your development and hard work.

Last time I recovered from a hard drive failure, my authorization did not transfer.  Of course, I only found this out when I was in the middle of a late night session – the worst time possible to have a failure, let alone a failure that should never have happened.  Since I had recovered from a dead hard drive, I had no copy of Speakerphone to “de-authorize”.

I have now run into at very least three separate and, in my opinion, completely avoidable cases like this.  Each time it eats away at my customer loyalty.

In addition, each time the response has always been the same refrain: Get an iLok.

I find this approach to be borderline offensive.  I am your customer.  I have paid you money for a product, but now you are telling me that I must jump through yet another flaming hoop?  To make matters worse, iLok is, essentially, a USB dongle which are inexpensive to produce these days with GIGS of storage, but is somehow limited to 100 licenses.  On top of that, empty USB slots on any of my machines are more than spoken for.  I have real peripherals that actually need to communicate over the USB bus.  The iLok, on the other hand, feels like an unnecessary velvet rope act that says, “It’s ok, he’s with me.”  This feel archaic at best.

It is my firm belief that your business would flurish if you abandoned the iLok system entirely.  I would highly recomend that you either issue 2 computers per license, or merely do what all of my other non-audio software does: If you purchase the software, enter a valid serial number, perhaps go online and verify that it isn’t one of the hacked serial numbers, then I can instal it on as many computers as I like.

My day job is as a graphic and user interaction designer.  My fully legitimate copy of Adobe’s Master Suite Collection requires no dongle (~$2600 software).  Final Cut Pro doesn’t need a dongle.  Even Digital Performer, who is ostensibly in the same arena as yourselves, does not require a dongle.  I have yet to be in an office setting where a plugin or any software has required a proprietary dongle.

I understand that you must fight the pirates and the “would be customers” who instead steal software such as this, but in your battle you have been shooting down legitimate customers in your crusade.

Yes, the iLok is a bit of a “standard” in the audio world, but that should never be something to hide behind.  It might strengthen PACE’s monopoly, but it emphatically does not strengthen your marketing position.

Speakerphone especially will suffer from this.  My brother is an editor at PIXAR.  The would likely be more than happy to purchase him a copy of Speakerphone for him to quickly simulate environments, but the minute they discover he would require a dongle to run the software on his laptop and his workhorse desktop, they would quickly turn around and dismiss the idea.

It saddens me that one of the few plugins that I absolutely respect, promote, adore and use in nearly all of my recordings uses a copy protection method that has driven me to such distress that I felt I needed to write this email.

I have taken some gilded time away from my project at hand to write this email to your company.  I am not attempting to insight or fan any flames; I want AudioEase to produce the best software that I feel is worth every penny.  Sadly, I feel that your copy protection greatly diminishes the overall experience and usefulness of your hard work.

I implore you to reconsider your copy protection management for the sake of customer satisfaction.

From a loyal, but disheartened customer,
Tobias

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I am working on a book of my Bioflash images. I am using a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 point’n'shoot camera in a method it was not intended.

More details to come, but in the meantime check out a few previews:

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SRL Live at Riverton Revival, Petaluma, CA

SRL (Survival Research Laboratories) will be performing Saturday, July 24th, 2010 at the Rivertown Revival in Petaluma, CA. You can find details on the SRL event page and the full schedule on the Rivertown Revival schedule page.

This will be the first performance that SRL has done since the move from San Francisco to the new location in Petaluma.  Both the Running Machine and Big Arm will be making a grinding appearance along with some other surprises.

SRL have posted some pre-show images & some pre-show videos to wet our appetites.

For those who can not make it, Ustream will be streaming the event live here:

Ustream.com Livecast: SRL at the Petaluma Rivertown Revival

If you are looking for direction, Rivertown Revival has provided a nice hand drawn map and a page for directions.

Rivertown Revival Map

Continue below for a Google Map of the location.

Keep reading for more details…

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How to type an ellipsis (…) on the iPhone. Why didn't I know about this sooner?

If you aren’t familiar with the three little dots and the fact that they are a type character in their own rite, then I recommend checking out the very informative Wikipedia entry.



ἔλλειψις

Hold down the period button until the secondary keys appear.

You can even do this while the keyboard is in alphabet mode. Just hold down the numbers key, don’t let go, drag onto the period, wait until the alternates appear, drag onto the ellipsis and let go. Bingo! You are right back to the alpha keyboard.

(After testing, it seems the dragging to/from both keyboard sets works only in certain settings. It definitely works if you click into the number layout and then drag and release.)

I love ellipses…

“Three little points of suspension…”

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(Click to see my Flickr set of test images used to write this article.)

The much loved photo app for the iPhone, Hipstamatic, is one of the first apps I booted up when I got the new iPhone 4. Sadly, I ran into some problems right away. What should be black & white pictures come out with odd blue swaths (like in this extreme example) in the darker areas. The other problem seems more serious: The first few times I took pictures it froze just as the shutter went off.  I took some time to look into both of these problems.

Hipstamatic tests on the iPhone 4

The new camera on the new phone is impressive.  Most of us have read the tech specs, but in use the 5 megapixel camera really goes all out for a phone. Impressive low light response, nearly instantaneous click & shoot, the ability to click on the screen where you want to be focused, HD video, and a built in flash.

I would love to be able to choose, in the application itself, what resolution I want to take the next picture.  I have frequently wanted to just get a quick snap shot, but then wanted to take a picture that I could use as a high resolution piece of artwork.  The resolution and processing is there, I just think they have to take the opportunity to use it.

It turns out that this built in flash is what causes Hipstamatic to crash.

Here is what is going on…

[click to continue…]

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Automated iPhone Upgrade Call

Automated system in action.

AT&T has a nice system in place to instantly check to see how current iPhone users will be charged to upgrade to the new iPhone 4.

“Am I eligable?”

“Do I have to pay $600 to get the new iPhone 4?”

“How much will AT&T charge me to get the new iPhone 4?”

“I got an iPhone 3GS right when it came out. Is AT&T going to screw me?

Turns out you can quickly find out the answer to these questions by a simple phone call.

Here is how it works:

[click to continue…]

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I recently called 911 on my iPhone 3GS and was greeted with multiple busy signals. In the back of my mind I quietly rely on the knowledge that three little numbers can get me help in an emergency. I have sadly had to do this a few times; a busy signal is absolutely unacceptable.

I was driving South on 280 in San Francisco about to merge onto 101. I could see the blinking lights of a car pulled off to the small shoulder on the right. Traffic was moving at least at 50MPH getting ready to merge into a single lane going onto 101. Once I came upon the car, I realized they were dead center in the lane. I only had a moment to act and veered into my right hand lane nearly getting into an accident.

Thankfully, no one that I’m aware of was injured.

I knew right away that I had to report the car stalled in the middle of the lane. It was situated in a very precarious spot right at 2AM on a Friday night. The car was sitting there just waiting to cause an accident.

I got my hands free for my phone on, called 911 and looked for the nearest exit to pull off the road. I couldn’t believe what I heard in my ear:

A busy signal.

I tried again. Busy.
And again. Busy.
Must be a mistake. I tried again. Busy.


An old, but sadly undated, report by KRON Channel 4 about 911 issues.

I have heard of cell phone routing issues with 911 before, but that had been years ago. I had only assumed that this had magically been fixed since last time I had looked into it. Sadly that is not the case. Not only are the systems over run and the routing is out of date, there is no good front end solution to patch the problem for the user other than calling a different number (e.g., local police).

AT&T After Hours Customer Service Number: 1-866-801-3600

I finally got through on my fifth try.

Keep reading for more problems and some potential solutions…

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