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Author: Dave Nelson

Typinator Mac Software

Price: EUR 19.99

Web Site: http://www.macility.com/products/typinator/

This is a great application that watches as you type and can fix your spelling mistakes in any application. It is a real life saver for me and my terrible typing/spelling. You can also set up shortcuts so that you can type a short bit of text and it gets replaced with much more text. I like to use “dt “, that is a “d” and a “t” followed by a space to insert the date, fantastic. And it will do this in any application, even the finder.

Computers

Software for Mac OS X

Over the next couple of weeks I am going to write about the software I have found for the Mac OS to make my transition from the world of Windows complete.

I am finally comfortable spending all of my computer time inside of the Mac OS. I still have WindowsXP in Bootcamp for playing games on Steam, and a couple virtual machines using VMWare and Parallels for the occasional Microsoft Outlook need or using Garmin Mapsource to upload maps and waypoints to my GPS, but I rarely miss Windows or proprietary applications that only run on Windows.

First up is BBEdit.

BBEdit

Price: $125
Web Site: http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/

The only real negative thing I can say about BBEdit is the price, $125 for a text editor just seems excessive. UltraEdit, which is still my favorite text editor is only $49.95, but on the Mac OS BBEdit is hands down the best text editor available in my opinion. I tried all of the free solutions and most of the payed solutions that have trials available and they all fall well short of BBEdit.

ComputersHappy

Painting with Light Workshop

On Thursday April 9th I participated in a “Painting with Light Workshop” at Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA. Judith Pishnery of Pisconeri Studio & Workshops brought us together for a night of photography and learning.

Photo: Our Confederate Dead

We began the night around 7pm filling out releases and donning nametags on the porch of the visitor’s center. After an introduction by Judith and some words from the cemetery staff we were left to wander the cemetery to get acquainted and take some pre-nightfall photos.

Around 8:30 Judith gave a presentation explaining how to paint with light. Although I had done some small experiments with a handheld speedlight and have written my name in the air with a flashlight before I had never “painted with light” to create a “real” photograph and I was looking forward to giving it a try.

Right away I learned that using a camera flash handheld really doesn’t put out as much light as I thought it did. Multiple flashes, 5 or 6, produced very little extra light even though each flash felt blindingly bright to me. A 6-volt camping flashlight slowly passed over a subject produces a much brighter image than a flash.

Photo: Ms. Watson

I was also surprised by the results of a small but very bright LED flashlight, which to my eyes appears very bright even if it is on the blue side of the spectrum, but to the camera’s sensor it was very dim indeed. The camping flashlight with its old-school style bulb was brighter and whiter than either LED flashlight I tried.

My best results were with using the 6-volt lantern panning it slowly first horizontally and then vertically to ensure total coverage of the subject(s) while the camera’s shutter was held open in bulb mode for as short as 20 seconds and as long as 3 minutes. Then in Lightroom I did some quick tweaking only spending some real effort on two of the photos to knock down some distracting lights.

This workshop was a lot of fun and I look forward to using what I learned in the future.

Links:

HappyPhotographyPictures

First Ride of the Season

Awhile back I got a flat rear tire caused by a damaged wheel, I must have hit a pot hole a lot harder than I remember, and it took me a couple months to get the wheel repaired and a new tire. Last weekend I took the bike out for a couple shake down runs checking the torque of the bolts keeping the tire on and brake caliper in place. After a two hour ride in the bitter cold I got home and gave the bike a good once over.

This Saturday the forecast was for a perfect riding day reaching the low seventies and I spent all week day-dreaming about riding up to Suches Georgia and break in that new tire.

After a week that felt more like a year Saturday finally came along and I got out of the house around Noon. There was still a bite to the air with the temperature somewhere in the low sixties, at eighty miles an hour the wind cut through my jeans and long-johns leaving my knees achingly cold.

By the time I get to Dahlonega though I am feeling great and can feel my face stuck in a big grin. Once I get to Porter Springs there is no traffic in front of me and it is surprisingly free riding for the next hour. Riding from Porter springs to Two Wheels Only, Vogel State Park, Turners Corner, Porter Springs, and back up to T.W.O. for lunch.

By this point I am pretty tired, but it is a very good feeling. In a couple of months a 120 mile ride like this will not tire me out so much and hopefully I will be more comfortable pushing it a little harder, leaning a little farther and getting those chicken strips off of my rear tire.

At T.W.O I eat a BBQ sandwich that fills me up for the ride home and gives me the opportunity to read an old motorcycle magazine in the dining room and a chance to sit out on the porch in a rocking chair for a bit. After eating I take a walk around the grounds to stretch my legs and take a look at the bikes parked out front. This day most of the bikes are Harleys but there are also a handful of BMWs and a couple Ducatis. As I walk up a Ducati fires up with a musical growl and I stand transfixed and just enjoy the sound for a bit. I smile large as he pulls up onto the road and away.

The ride home is uneventful; I spend much of it behind cagers putting down the road. I take the time to smell some roses and watch some of the beautiful Georgia mountain scenery roll by. The temperature is great, some of the trees are in bloom, and the traffic is lighter than expected.

All in all it is a great beginning to the riding season with many more rides to look forward to. I hope to see you out there.

Happy

Updates to Previous Posts

Adobe Lightroom

I first wrote about using Lightroom on September 7th, 2008 after using it to process photos for DragonCon. Since then I have read Scott Kelby’s book “The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers” and used Lightroom to process all of my images. I am still amazed at how fast I am able to process photos that of a more consistent and higher quality than ever before.

I recently shot a youth basketball game where I took around 300 pictures and using Lightroom culled that down to 97 good shots with meta-data, color correction, noise reduction, rotating and cropping all in under 2 hours.

I no longer use stars or labels to sort through images and rely on “P” for Pick and “X” for Reject to sort through images and delete rejects. Now that I have plenty of hard drive space available with the Drobo I am keeping more images than ever.

Switching to Apple

On January 2nd, 2009 I wrote about My Mac Experience So Far. Three months later and I am still enjoying the iMac.  I have found more MacOS applications to replace Windows applications and in most cases am very happy with them.

I reformatted the Bootcamp partition and have set it to be solely used for gaming; I am currently playing Left4Dead a lot. All other windows use is relegated to VMWare and one of 4 virtual machines I have set up for specific purposes.

I have added an HP 22” widescreen monitor in a vertical orientation, which has really boosted my production in web development and photo processing.

Drobo

January 11th, 2009 I shared my Drobo First Impressions with the world. The device is still running great and serving its purpose. I have only had a couple of minor issues with it.

The fan noise while I am sitting at the computer working is not really noticeable to me, but after I turn the computer off the fan in the Drobo continues to run for a very long time. With everything else in the room turned off the Drobo seems really loud. I am glad that the Drobo is not in our bedroom or even close to it.

Another issue is that GarageBand does not read the free space on the Drobo correctly and always thinks the drive is full. As I use GarageBand more, this may become a real issue for me as I try not to put anything on the internal hard drive.

Getting Organized

Then on January 14th, 2009 I wrote about Getting Organized with a Franklin Covey planner. After three months of using the planner almost every day I have to say that it has made a real difference with how organized I feel. Having a date based notebook where I am able to make notes to read in the future and having notes from the past that I can refer to has been a great help.

For the first couple of months I was planning my days one at a time in the morning, but I have been reading the “7 Habits” book and the quotes in the planner and am beginning to look at a week at a time with some real planning on Monday mornings. I still spend 15 minutes each morning planning that day, but because of the 30 minutes I spend on Monday looking at the week the daily planning goes very quickly and usually doesn’t contain any surprises.

Happy

Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

If you love motorcycles you will love this museum.

motorcycleMy wife was kind enough last year to give me a gift certificate for a weekend at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. I finally got to cash in on that gift this January and spent a Saturday touring the museum. I have always loved motorcycles, a Honda Shadow, while in the Navy and now ride my BMW R850R every chance I get.

According to an employee Barber Museum is currently home to around 1200 motorcycles with around 750 of them on display at any given time and they are acquiring more all the time. Located just outside of Birmingham Alabama, the museum is located on the grounds of the Barber Motorsports Park, which hosts both motorcycle and auto racing.

On display are bikes going back to the earliest days when they resembled bicycles with tiny motors attached up to the latest sportbikes and recent model racing bikes. I especially enjoyed seeing the scramblers and enduros from the late 70’s along with the 2 stroke motoGP bikes.

motorcycle
1923 Scott Sprint Special. This was my favorite bike in the museum. It smelled of leather, oil, and gasoline. Just wonderful!

HappyPictures

Getting Organized

I have recently received a promotion that has left me feeling disorganized and a bit overwhelmed. I spent time with my manager discussing how I could better prioritize my time and how to get and keep a clearer understanding of what my team is working on. I noticed that my manager uses a Franklin Covey Planner and it appears to work well for her so I have decided to follow in her footsteps and do the same.

I spent some time on the http://shopping.franklinplanner.com/ web site learning about the different page sizes, formats, binders, and add-ons then drove over to the Franklin Covey store at Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody Georgia. Once in the store and getting to hold the binders in my hands and experiment with writing on the different page sizes I made my choices.

I bought the Ryder Unstructured Binder in black because of its relatively small size and I really like the feel of the leather. It holds two months of pages along with notes pages and a little more. I use the flaps and slots that are built into the binder to hold extra lined notes pages, business cards, 3×5 cards, and receipts.

The planner pages I chose are “The 7 Habits Daily Master Planner Pages “ that includes two quotes each day that pertain to living the 7 Habits from Stephen R. Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” book which I am currently reading.

I have only been using the system for 2 weeks now but I am finding it very helpful. Being able to place tasks, notes, and meetings on pages for future dates along with progressive task lists and lined notes pages has increased my confidence and helped me stay on track. I also plan on taking a course in the Franklin Covey system this year to help me get the most out of it.

I will post again this time next year to let you know how the system has worked over the year and if I am going to continue using it.

Happy

Drobo First Impressions

I purchased a Drobo from Newegg.com and three days later the UPS man dropped it off at my door. My previous post to the blog outlines the reasons why I chose the Drobo as a storage solution.

Setup was very easy, the top of the box full of cables shows the three steps to getting started and it really is that easy.

  1. I took the Drobo out of the box
  2. Removed the packaging material
  3. Inserted 4 Samsung 1TB hard drives
  4. Put the Drobo on my desk
  5. Plugged in the Firewire 800 cable
  6. Inserted the Drobo disc and installed the Drobo Dashboard
  7. Plugged in the power cable to the Drobo
  8. Here began my only snag, the Drobo appeared to go into a loop of restarting which it did not recover from. So unplugged the Firewire cable and then the power cable and restarted the computer. Once the computer cam back up I plugged in the Firewire cable and then the power cable and the Drobo jumped to life.
  9. The computer warned about the drive being unreadable and the Drobo began the process of walking me through partitioning and formatting the drive.
  10. I used a 16TB partition and HFS+ formatting. It was done in about 5 minutes and popped up on my desktop just like any external hard drive would.
  11. I immediately began copying my music library to the Drobo from an external USB drive

This really is an amazing device; I was able to start using it within 15 minutes of opening the box. It is almost invincible on my desk; its sleek black case and solid construction give me confidence. Not having to install rails on the individual drives is also a plus.

I have been using the Drobo for just over a week now and have copied just over a terabyte of data to the device now and am using it as my main photo and iTunes libraries.

Performance has not been an issue; the drive is plenty fast for audio, video, and working on 15 megapixel images in Photoshop and Lightroom.

Noise could be an issue for some users but not for me, my previous computer had 6 fans and sounded like a jet when fully overclocked, so the fan and drive noise from the Drobo is tame in comparison. I can hear the fan noise and I can hear each of the drives unpark, spin-up and park but it doesn’t bother me and can barely be heard over any game or music I am playing.

The lights on the front of the devise are not blindingly bright like the D-Link router and are actually dimmer than the lights on the Linksys router but are visible from a wide range of viewing angles.

So far I give the Drobo a 5 out of 5 across the board.

Computers

Feeling Drooby

I believe I first heard about the Drobo on This Week in Tech (TWiT) with Leo Laporte, but it may have been on This Week in Photography (TWiP) which is a podcast with members who are also on TWiT, but it is the photographers on TWiP that really convinced me that the Drobo is worth its price.

I have always belived in making regular backups, for years I used CDs and then DVDs to backup my photos, documents, music, and all work related files. I even went as far as making three sets of discs, 1 for the office, one at home, and one at my parents house. My parents thought it was funny that I was giving them stacks of 20 or more DVDs every couple months.

A few years ago I bought a Buffalo Terrastation Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. It is a Redundant array of Independent Disks (RAID) that contains 4 Parallel ATA Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) drives, I have it configured as RAID 5 with 4 250 GB dives giving me around 750GB of usable storage space. The advantage of RAID 5 is that the data on the discs is redundant, any one drive can fail without actually loosing any data. But RAID has a lot of limitations.

A RAID array requires that all of the drives be the same size, same speed, and same manufacturer to work reliably. It is even recommended to use drives from the same manufacturing lot if possible. The practical result of all of these limitations is that RAID arrays are hard to upgrade, time consuming to replace failed drives, and if the drives in the array are no longer available… What are you supposed to do?

So to backup the Terrastation I bought a series of external hard drives and copied bits and pieces from the NAS to individual drives. I have had a couple of them fail and each time it really freaks me out and makes me nervous about the drives in the Terrastation failing. The drives in the NAS are IDE drives, a standard that was introduced in 1986! Amazingly these drives are still available, but they are not the same model, may not be the same speed, and I wouldn’t trust them to work reliably.

Here comes Data Robotics and the Drobo to the rescue. The Drobo version 2 is not a NAS, it is more like an external hard drive that happens to be up to 4 physical hard drives pretending to be one big redundant drive. Instead of RAID with all of its limitations Data Robotics has come up with a system that allows any combination of Serial ATA drives to be used in the array. Speed, size, and manufacturer do not matter to the Drobo, it will run as fast as it can and provide as much storage space as it can with the combination of drives you have installed.

When a drive dies and its light on the front of the Drobo turns red, you pull out that drive and replace it with one of equal or larger size. What makes this really amazing is that you can do all of this while the Drobo is still running and actively being used. One of the anecdotes on the TWiP podcast is pulling out one of the drives while someone is in the process of editing a video, and nothing happens. The Drobo keeps running and the user is able to continue to edit the video. Amazing stuff, of course the data on the drive is not protected when that drive is missing but in contrast with a RAID solution where the device cannot be used at all with a missing drive or while the drive is being rebuilt.

Yes, the Drobo is expensive at around $400 for an empty box and $800 with 4 1TB drives install for a total of 2.7 TB of usable space. But I decided that the peace of mind is worth it to me, not having to manage a bunch of external drives, having one drive with all of my files including the Mac Time Machine backups will be great.

Coming soon, the unboxing and a full report of getting started with the Drobo.

Happy

My Mac Experience So Far

In the mid 90’s I had a Mac, a Performa 600, and used System 7.5. I worked at a couple different pre-press printing jobs where the primary computers used were Mac’s. This is where I learned Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark, and a lot of little utility applications. But by 2000 I had moved on to Windows 95, 98, 98 SE, and finally Windows XP SP3.

Back in the day I did not expect much from my computers, they were pretty process specific and even though they did many different tasks, their main purpose was either printing or the creation of multimedia. But as time goes by I have begun to demand a lot from my computers and the software that runs on them. My computers get used for everything from hard-core gaming to editing 200-megabyte images, managing a music collection with tens of thousands of files to instant messaging, from building dynamic web sites to hosting multiple virtual machines. I have no less than 100 different third-party applications installed on any computer I use regardless of operating system or the computer’s main purpose.

There was a time where computer hardware was a limiting factor, but now it is the software that is holding us back. The biggest problem that the launch of Windows XP and then Windows Vista faced was that the OS was written to take advantage of hardware that didn’t exist; now that the hardware does exist they run great and in general stay out of the user’s way.

Apple has avoided that problem by building the hardware along with the software to ensure that the user experience is as smooth as possible.  It has held Apple back to some degree because the hardware they use is always at least a generation behind the PC manufacturers, but the Apple user does have as many negative experiences as the average PC user.

In Early 2008 I returned to the Mac. I had instant buyer’s remorse due to the cost of the computer. I could have built a truly awesome Windows box with every bell and whistle along with a home theatre PC for LESS than the cost of the iMac.

But I now love the iMac, even though I am still not a big fan of the MacOS, the hardware is really fantastic. The 1980×1200 screen is just brilliant, the glossy finish makes blacks appear very black and the screen is bright enough that reflections are not an issue. With 4GB of RAM, the current limit for the iMac, the software is responsive and I rarely experience any real slowdowns.

The beauty of the current Apple hardware is that you can have one computer that runs Windows XP, Windows Vista, Linux, and the MacOS all simultaneously using VMware Fusion or Parallels.  This is the Killer Feature of the Apple Macintosh.

In any given day I will use Lightroom (Mac), iTunes (Mac), UltraEdit (Win), Firefox (Mac & Win), Internet Explorer 6 & 7 (Win), Photoshop (Mac), Games using the Valve Steam Client (Win), Google Earth (Mac & Win), Last.fm (Mac & Win), Microsoft Office (Mac & Win), and a lot of other small utilities. At home I use VMware and at work I use Parallels and find that both are good solid products that let me get my work done.

Games are usually played using Bootcamp and booting into Windows XP. I recently finished Bioshock, which I was able to play at 1980×1200 with the frame rate rarely dropping, it was truly a beautiful thing. Next up is probably Crysis just to push the limits and see how good of a gaming machine it really is.

I am now over my buyer’s remorse, but I am still not sure that buying the Mac was the best “bang-for-the-buck” available.

Happy

SmugMug Sponsoring Vincent Laforet’s Next Big Project

I have been using SmugMug to host and sell my photography and seeing their participation in the photography community is one of the reasons I continue to use them.

Vincent was one of the first people chosen to test and stretch the limits of the Canon EOS 5D Mk III which he did wonderfully with “Reverie.”  SmugMug hosts the video of “The Making of Reverie”  along with other content from Vincent, here is his SmugMug home page.

blogHappyPhotography

2008 Wings over Marietta Open House & Airshow

Had a great time at the 2008 Wings over Marietta Open House & Airshow. This was my first opportunity to see the USAF Thunderbirds.  It was a beautiful day with a wide variety of aircraft to see.

Photos of the 2008 Wings over Marietta Open House & Airshow Gallery or you can view the photos as a slideshow.




HappyPhotographyPictures

Using Lightroom for the First Time

For DragonCon this year I decided to give Lightroom 2 a try. I have changed a lot of things in my photo processing procedures, not the least of which has been the change from Windows to Macintosh OS X, and Lightroom sounded like a good fit.

On Thursday evening I installed the Lightroom 2 30-day trial on the Apple PowerBook G4 laptop that I would be using for the weekend. Chris [insert last name] helped me get started with Lightroom showing me some of the basics. The biggest thing that got me excited about Lightroom is the ease that metadata could be added to images and the ability to easily search for and filter images making it really easy to find images that have been tagged.

During DragonCon I would be out shooting from about 9:30 AM until around midnight at which time I would go to the hotel room fire up the laptop and spend 3 or 4 hours process all of the images in Lightroom. I would first copy the memory cards to my image bank and then onto the laptop so that there would always be two copies of every image.

Then I would import the images into Lightroom with my default metadata, which included a basic set of keywords, copyright information, and my contact information. Once in Lightroom I flagged the images that were unacceptable and should never be seen again and when I had made my way through all of the image I deleted the rejects.

The next pass took a lot longer as I went through and rated every image using 1 through 5 stars with the idea being that all images with 3 or more stars would be turned in as keepers.

On the third pass I visited each one of the keepers and used Lightroom to color correct, rotate, and crop where necessary. Luckily the Canon EOS 40D auto white balance is very accurate for this type of photography and with the lenses in my kit I am able to get the shots I am looking for with much cropping or rotating.

The final step is to export the images from Lightroom with my custom file naming convention of “Firstname_Lastname_YYYYMMDDHHMMSS_####.jpg” and I used a thumbrive to transport the images to the show computer to copy them over to the Director of photography.

By the end of the show I shot around 3,600 images over the four days of DragonCon and turned in 717 keepers. For my personal use I had about 3,800 pictures and published 1,181 onto my SmugMug web site.

Lightroom 2 is a really amazing tool. This is the first event where I did not spend hours in Photoshop pouring over each and every image that was designated a keeper. It is also the first event where I had every keeper tagged with keywords that will allow me to search for images later. In the past I would add keywords and captions to the images in SmugMug, but that did nothing to help me find images on my hard drive.
My next goals for Lightroom are to read a good book on the subject and then spend the next year or so going through my entire image library adding keywords and other meta data.

Resources:

PhotographySoftware

DragonCon 2008 Photographs

I had a great time at DragonCon this year, the costume contests were fantastic, the guests told wonderful stories, and the fans were a lot of fun.

Here are some links to take you directly into the gallery:

I hope to write a post about how I processed images this year. Lightroom 2 is really fantastic, I did not use Photoshop to edit any of the 1,181 images in the gallery.

Photography