Archive for September, 2006

Aperture 1.5 is out. Awesome stuff!

Saturday, September 30th, 2006
Blue Bubbles
Blue Bubbles

Aperture 1.5 shipped on friday. Brilliant update. Wow.

I live on a laptop, a MacBook Pro. As such, my hard drive is a bit constrained. Prior to 1.5, I had moved my Aperture library off to an external hard drive. A bit of a pain to have to carry around and plug in the external drive just to use Aperture.

With 1.5 I can move about 90% of the photos– the master images– in my library off to an external drive, keeping only the most recently taken and most frequently accessed on the internal library. Sweet.

Beyond library management, Aperture adds several new image processing tools that are simply amazing (bearing in mind that “amazing” equates to “even a clueless user like me produced something that I found pleasing with relatively little confusion”).

For example, the two images to the left are a sort of before/after 1.5. The top image takes advantage of the new color adjustment tools and the edge sharpening tools. I took the original photo to try and capture the cell-like nature of the bubbles and I think the new-and-improved image does a much better job of doing exactly that.

Purple Herb Flower
Purple Herb Flower

This is another example of using the individual channel color adjustment tool to improve a photo. In particular, I was able to adjust the colors that were specific to the background to decrease the distraction of the gunk that was behind the flower when I took the shot.

Beyond the new tools, the existing tools within Aperture have been improved. For example, the loupe is far more powerful than before beyond also not getting in the way nearly as much. I really like how I can lock the loupe to one location and then drag it to a new location. It makes fine grained adjustments, especially spot/patch/red-eye editing much easier and more precise.

Neat trick: With the loupe visible and set to “focus on loupe” mode, stick the cursor over some interesting spot in the photo and hold down the ‘`’ (show/hide loupe key). The loupe will slide to that new location. I end up using this all the time as I make adjustments or view images.

Blowing Bubbles

I have no idea if it has been improved, but the “spot” and “patch” tools feel much more responsive and powerful in the 1.5 release. Previously, dealing with spot/patch was just too damned tedious to play with the adjustments enough to actually get a decent result.

The Flickr integration is totally brilliant, too. Thank you, Fraser, for a brilliant bit of engineering, there.

Roger Catching Bubbles
Caught Bubbles

Seriously, the whole release feels faster and I think it is making some of the tools feel more powerful even if they are otherwise unchanged. I am nowhere near a professional photography. I really have little clue what I’m doing beyond futzing around to discover things I like and don’t like. It really feels like Aperture 1.5 is letting me explore more possibilities and better refine my photos.

iTunes: Multiple library locations and preserving the metadata (and multihoming iPods too!)

Friday, September 29th, 2006

I have pretty much given up on iTunes gracefully handling a media library that spans multiple hard drives. I really like the “Keep iTunes music folder organized” as it makes it much easier to go traipsing through the library. As well, I use “Consolidate Library…” all the time. The latter truly insisting that all media live under one folder — on one device.

Since hard drives are ultra cheap, it really isn’t a problem right now. My library is just under 200GB and I have it living on a 500GB My Book. Finally, I have scanned nearly my entire CD collection (224kbit AAC — once drives are cheap enough, I’ll go for lossless).

Of course, backups pretty much require backing up to another hard drive (or drives — I would rather have multiple copies of this much data, just in case). Now, wouldn’t it be nice if said backup were also usable from within iTunes on another machine?

Easy enough.

(1) Relocate your music library and metadata to an external hard drive. This is a combination of first moving the metadata out of ~/Music/iTunes*, launching iTunes with the OPTION key held down, and then using the advanced menu item to point to the new music location.

(2) Backup the library with rsync:

Assuming you are on the machine that will act as the backup, do the following every now and then:

rsync -a -v --progress --block-size=128000 mastermachine:/Volumes/Music/ /Volumes/Music/

At this point, you’ll now have a complete copy of the music and metadata from your master machine on the local machine’s “Music” volume.

If you do exactly what I have done, even the paths will be the same. You merely have to launch iTunes with the OPTION key held down to re-home iTunes to the metadata found /Volumes/Music/.

If the volume name is different or you are rsync’ing to a sub-path, you’ll need to also set the advanced preference to point to the top level music directory. You can tell if you have set it correctly by whether or not the music can actually be played.

Now, the iPod part…

I discovered that if I connect an iPod to either machine, iTunes does not warn that the iPod is connected to another iTunes library. The iPod is quite at home on either machine.

The end result is that I can now treat my master machine as just that — the master. All metadata updates, etc, are sync’d to that machine. Whenever I rsync, the metadata is propagated out to the backup machine(s). I can still plug the iPod into any machine and it will sync down new music based on my neat little set of smart playlists.

If I produce additional metadata on the iPod in the form of song ratings (and, of course, “last played data” that I might care about), I simply need to remember to sync it to the master machine.

Of course, this all just accidentally works. So far, it works well enough. I’m not worried about data loss as everything between the iPod and iTunes seems to be rather transactional in nature. That is, there isn’t some kind of a bulk binary database load from the iPod into iTunes. If the iPod is hoarked, it is just a matter of restoring it to the factory settings with the updater.


Monday, September 25th, 2006
Catching Bubbles

We spent Sunday at the Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose. Among many very cool interactive displays, they have a downstairs area with all kinds of bubble related stuff.

Everything from bubble solution tables with rings for making big bubbles, to bubble columns, to a “perpetual bubble machine” that drops bubbles down from about 20 feet.

Roger had a blast catching bubbles with other bubbles.


I, of course, had a blast taking pictures of bubbles! It was a bit challenge in that the area is a bit dimly lit, but — fortunately — flash based illumination worked well enough.

I’m definitely going to have to clean up the garage and set up a black, well lit, studio area to play with bubbles!

Blue Bubbles

There was also a really neat column of blue-colored water with an air injector at the bottom. Push the button a bunch of times and a slew of bubbles would appear in the column.

I really need to take a tripod with me to get a good shot.

It is still pretty cool, though. It looks kind of like a bunch of cells all packed together.

Lots of fun!

Slashfood Sandwich Day!

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Today is Slashfood Sandwich Day!

In celebration of this — I am a complete sandwich junkie — I’m going to make my favorite sandwich for Christine and I in Apple’s cafeteria.

The infamous PBLBM. Delicious. But you have to follow the instructions exactly.

  • Start with two slices of good, solid, bread. Multi-grain works well. Country style sourdough (with the big holes) works even better.
  • Put peanut butter on one slice, mayonnaise on the other. Do not let the PB and M touch in any way!!
  • On the Peanut side, add slices of banana.
  • On the Mayonnaise side, add slices of bacon.
  • Place a layer of lettuce on top of the bacon. Make sure the bacon is entirely covered (but don’t use too much lettuce).
  • Put it together as a proper sandwich.

If it is assembled correctly, the lettuce will act as a gasket between the two halves. This is the critical detail.

Enjoy. Totally delicious sandwich.

(PBLBM is Peanut Butter, Banana, Lettuce, Bacon, Mayonnaise — the order is critical).

Blue-gill (common pond fish) as water quality monitors

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Common blue-gill are being used to monitor the quality of water supplies.

This amuses the hell out of me on several levels.

First, the major news outlets are calling this an “anti-terrorism measure”. I really wish they would stop feeding the terrorist’s cause.

The fish are being used as “canaries in a coal mine”. That is, their vital signs are monitored as water passes through the water supply processing system. If there are nasties in the water, the fish respond by increasing respiration in the form of increased gill movement and heart rate.

Excellent. A cheap, natural, solution that is orders of magnitude more effective than other solutions.

Successfully Caught Fish!

Anti-terrorism? No. An Über-efficient, natural, solution to a very hard problem that has impacted water supplies for as long as there has been water supplies.

I am looking forward to the day when the press and the government stop perpetuating the terrorist cause through marketing-by-fear-mongering to capture eyeballs and ignorant votes.

Beyond that, I find it all amusing because blue-gill are a lot of fun to catch, are easy to clean and just so incredibly damned tasty.

Fish fry, anyone?

Photography: Unexpected Captures (Bugs!)

Sunday, September 17th, 2006
Zinnias With Dragonfly

On the drive to/from Bonfante Gardens, we passed through farming country (including a couple of road side stands, one at which I bought 4 pounds of garlic to in my dehydrator). Amongst the acres of vegetables, there was one huge field of marigolds and another of zinnias.

I, of course, had to take pictures. Huge fields — football field sized areas — covered in millions of flowers in full bloom.

I stopped and took about 30 to 40 captures of each field, varying the angle, aperture, shutter speed, etc… for later comparison in Aperture.

While sorting through the photos, I noticed that the capture to the left had something in the upper left corner. Zooming in reveals that it is a dragonfly that just happened to be flitting over the flowers at nearly the correct depth of field.

Cool! Gotta love it when that happens!

Roger in Marigolds

Roger happened to have a bright orange shirt on that day. So, of course, I had him walk down a row of marigolds and stand in the middle of the field for a few captures. Unfortunately, the sun was really bright and Roger is quite sensitive to it, so most of the pictures came out with him having quite the scrunched up fast.

I did get a couple of good captures and he was quite the good sport about it.

That’d be his “Dad! Why the heck am I standing in the middle of a field again?” look.

Drying foods (Nesco Dehydrator & Awesome Customer Support)

Sunday, September 17th, 2006

I have long wanted to make meat jerkies and to dry various foods. With the bumper crop of peppers from my own garden and cheap “irregular” fruits available at the farmer’s market, it was time to finally do something about this desire.

I picked up the Nesco GardenMaster food dehydrator from Amazon (pictured/linked at right).

It includes 4 drying trays, a leather drying insert, a “small things” drying insert and can expand to up to 30 trays. At 1,000 watts and with the thermostat on the front, it will maintain drying temperatures between 95 and 155 degrees.

In other words, the Nesco is a fairly industrial strength unit. Well built. Fairly loud.

Loud enough that I would suggest putting it in a room with a door that otherwise has good ventilation. You’ll definitely want the ventilation if you are drying things like garlic or hot peppers. Otherwise, the surrounding room will become quite the little gas chamber. Even with an open sliding door, I managed to fairly seriously pepper spray myself while drying a bunch of habanero peppers!

The unit seems to run about 10 to 15 degrees hotter than the thermostat indicates. As I’m using a probe thermometer, I’m not sure exactly where I should be measuring temperature. As well, since it can stack to 30 trays and I’m only using 3 or 4 at a time, I would bet that the heat will vary as I add more trays.

Nesco, the manufacturer, has a very useful web site which includes recipes, full documentation, and various other information. I submitted a query via their customer support link and was nicely surprised to have a response in my mailbox in a couple of hours. I have since exchanged several emails with Gerry in Nesco’s customer service who is obtaining calibration information from the company’s engineering department.

I’m damned impressed. Good customer service, that!

So… what have I dried with it in the week I have owned it?

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Photography: Unexpected Captures

Sunday, September 17th, 2006

Yesterday, we spent some time at Bonfante Gardens near Gilroy, CA. Awesome amusement park that is perfect for kids age about 3 years old to 10 or so.

Bonfante Gardens is really a cross between your typical ride / midway laden amusement park and a botanical gardens. Everything is built on a hillside in the mountains near Gilroy and there are lots of parks, waterfalls, plantings and other natural stuff to gawk at between rides.

Great place to grab family photos.

Watefall At Bonfante Gardens

There is a walk through waterfall in the middle of the park that features three different styles of falls; a tall fall, a tumbling over rocks medium sized falls and a series of short rock walls over which the water tumbles.

As the water falls over the short falls, it creates an ever changing pattern of watery veils that break and reform. I figured it would make for an interesting photo if I took a slightly longer exposure. Not having a tripod, I couldn’t go for too long of an exposure.

So, I set the camera to 1/20th of a second (which resulted in an aperture of f/11) and took a series of shots while braced against a railing or rock wall.

Wow! The end result was not the blurred-long-exposure-water-stream that I expected. Instead, it almost looks like sheets of moving water that are frozen and torn at the edges. It wasn’t a fluke, either, as I grabbed several similar captures of which these two (1, 2) were keepers.

I love it when I capture something completely different than what I’m either seeing in real time or what I expect to see on “film”.

Subversion 1.4 adds Keychain Support

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Update: Alert! Language Police Action in the Comments! (Which, btw, I totally dig. Thanks!)

Subversion 1.4 was released recently.

Among a whole bunch of bug fixes and enhancements comes a significant new feature for Mac OS X users.

Subversion 1.4 now supports the Mac OS X Keychain. But don’t go looking for useful documentation or information in the release notes. There isn’t any. It was covered by ticket #2339 and committed as revision 17619. svn log -r17619 reveals the details of the change.

Still, no information on how to use it. And that is because it “just works”. So, how to “upgrade” my existing authentication information to use the keychain (instead of storing the passwords in clear text in ~/.subversion/auth)?

Quite easy, but not automatic. If you remember all of your repository passwords, simply delete the ~/.subversion/auth/svn.simple directory.

Svn will recreate it and populate it as necessary.

Me? I can’t remember my damned passwords, so I moved the directory aside for reference and am deleting each entry from it as I re-authenticate with 1.4.

To verify if a repository is using the keychain, have a look in the appropriate server’s file within the ~/.subversion/auth/svn.simple directory. It will be named something like dd6654cecce24382249525337a2b0a4a (grep is helpful about right now).

For servers using the keychain, you’ll see something like this:

K 8
V 8
K 15
... more stuff deleted ...

For servers using the old-school, plaintext password in an unencrypted text file, you’ll see:

K 8
V 4
K 8
V 8
... more stuff deleted ...

Craigslist “prank” gone too far; legal tsunami to ensue.

Sunday, September 10th, 2006

On the Internet, everybody knows you are male…
… or how a picture of naked female bits makes men do dumb things.

(There is a bit of debate going on in the comments. If anything, this event will go down as one of the most widely argued events in the history of the tubes.)

Update: BoingBoing has picked up on this story with excerpts from San Francisco Chronicle columnist Violet Blue. Violet Blue has posted an excellent article on the subject (NSFW as it contains the photo of the naughty bits used to lure the respondents into temporary stupidity). Violet Blue, as always, provokes thought:

But isn’t what Jason did essentially the same as what the cops do? (Except the result is arrest, not just being outed.) How, exactly, is what Jason did any different than the duplicitous fake-ad and chatroom impersonation tactics police and government use to bust people for porn, sex work and online sexual solicitation? Or even something as benign as selling sex toys online?

Its a fuzzy, fuzzy world… everyone sees black & white, but everyone’s contrast/brightness are different.

So, some dude recently posted a fake w4m (woman looking for a man or men) ad on No big deal. Happens all the time. Hell, my World of Warcraft mule was a mostly naked female orc. It was hilarious — I received all kinds of free stuff from other players trying to chat with me.

I would have posted some statistics (I believe either CNet or Wired has an article), but my obvious Google search left me fully expected a call from the Feds. Without safe search, that is one damned disturbing set of search results.

With safe search on, that same search reveals about a bazillion articles or mentions of men posing as women for fun and profit.

So why bother mentioning this?

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