iPhoto - Time to Reconsider?

Less than 12 months ago, my (effective) father-in-law bought a new Acer laptop. It came with Vista installed, and was “better than a MacBook Pro, and heaps cheaper.”

I’ve spent countless hours since then trying to get it to work smoothly. For instance, if you create a bluetooth connection to his HP printer, it prints. Once or twice. Then you need to delete the printer and re-create it for it to work. My MacBook Pro connected once, and all was good.

Another issue has been with network connectivity. He’s using a GSM USB dongle to get wireless internet, and it’s rather flaky. I plugged the same dongle into my laptop, and it worked. I can’t recall if I needed to install any software, but, and here’s the important part, if I did install a driver, it used the system’s networking stack, rather than installing another one. This is something that the PC world just doesn’t seem to get. I had to “fix” a similar problem with my sister’s machine. Using the basic Windows WiFi driver gave a much better result than the one that came with the laptop.

Finally, he decided that it was worth the effort getting an iMac. He’d then set up most of the stuff before I arrived, including the wireless internet, and all I had to do with install VMWare (and WinXP) so he can run his share-tracking program, and anything else he may have to run under Windows. Oh, and Office. I’ve got him trying out iWork, but we’ll see how that goes.

I also had to help him transfer across all of his iTunes music and photos. I’d bought my laptop with me, and had set up an ad-hoc wireless network, which I had confirmed was working. I had shared his Public directory on the iMac, and was able to connect to it from the PC, but was having trouble getting the PC share to actually appear on the Macs. Eventually I did, and copied the files across. As it turned out, I needed to change the ad-hoc network name several times as I tweaked the settings, as Windows seems brain-dead when dealing with changed network properties and the same network name. I’d hit this issue in the past when trying to connect with an old laptop (no WPA) to an ad-hoc network created by one of my machines.

I then imported all of his photos into iPhoto. Which, I discovered, is now not the clunky old program it used to be. It feels more like iTunes, but is even more snappy. It has the nice little feature of scrubbing over all of the contained images like the new iTunes view.

I think I’m going to have another try with iPhoto. I got right into Lightroom when I had a DSLR, but since I don’t take too many photos anymore, so something less high-end will do me fine.

And, I can then use the fairly cool screensaver that uses the iPhoto library to create mosaics. I’d forgotten how cool that was. I think that feature alone caused his other daughter to proclaim she too would get a Mac.

Adobe Lightroom Binder Bug

I’ve found what might be a reproducible bug in Lightroom b4, but I haven’t done enough investigating to pionpoint it exactly. What’s going wrong is if I Export as a Binder, from my Mac, and try to import it on the PC, if it’s more than a certain number of levels of depth of Shoots, the import fails. I don’t know exactly how many levels, or if the problem is with the import or export. But it’s annoying, as I can’t just export the whole library as a binder and then import it into my existing library… instead I have to break it up into segments.

Aperture is okay, I suppose...

I finally got around to installing a demo of Aperture. Since I’m under spec. for the app, I had to firstly hack the Installer (not easy, I had to copy the ApertureTrial.mpkg ‘file’ (it’s a package, which is really a folder) to the disk, and then go inside it. I then had to enter the Contents folder, and finally edit the ApertureTrial.dist file. This file is the file that tests to see if it can be installed, and since I’m on a desktop, I needed to change the first non-intel test: if (!checkCPUFrequency(1590000000)) I removed one of the zeros, so that it was testing for a much slower clock speed. I then needed to fix the RAM check: if (!checkRAMRequirement(1000)) { I changed this to a 1. Both of these edits can be done in any old text editor. This meant that Aperture could be installed on my Mac. However, it still wouldn’t run. For this to happen, you need to actually edit the application file itself, which must be done in a hex editor. If you don’t know how to do this, then you probably shouldn’t. The location of this file is: /Applications/Aperture.app/Contents/MacOS/Aperture I found the instructions at david.djsiska.cz, which deal with version 1.1, to be enough to enable me to succeed here too. There are also instructions for 1.5 at aperture 1.5 hack. Ignore the offsets, and just search for the first and second location of: 40 9e 00 80 to: 48 00 00 88 And then, if you need it, the resolution hack; the next appearance of: 40 9E 00 E0 becomes: 48 00 00 D8 I’ll just point out that you should be working on a copy of this file, in case it fails. I also suspect that in the updated version (1.5.2) this hack will still work. • Now that that is out of the way, how does it stack up against Lightroom? Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent quite a few hours working in Lightroom already, but I didn’t warm to Aperture much at all. It seems to have most of the same tools, although there are a couple of differences (colour tinting, for instance, allows for black/grey/white tinting, rather than just shadow/highlight tinting, but I didn’t find the ability to alter some channels but not others, which is a pretty cool feature). I also found the application somewhat slow. Of course, the laptop I’ve been running Lightroom on is a bit newer than my Mac, and has twice as much RAM, so perhaps I’m just being unfair in that aspect. Having the ability to fix red-eye would be good, but that is something I am sure Adobe will be implementing soon. My Desktop PC is fairly tooled up - the only advantage of the iMac is the lovely large screen, so perhaps that will become my main working machine for photographs. So, I’m going to stick to Lightroom for now. I hope they make it better in the next couple of revisions, and I hope I can come up with a way of making my previews accessible via my Xbox and xbmc, so that I can view them on the TV. That would be cool. Like I used to to with iPhoto, when albums were stored as a series of aliases within folders of the album name. As I think about it, there is one thing I liked about Aperture: you can work on a new revision of a file. This is something I was trying to do in Lightroom just a couple of hours ago (I was resizing some images to be my screen backgrounds on my phone!), so I had to make the modifications, and then export, and then undo the modifications. It would have been much nicer just to have a revision of the original photo. I also think that there is no reason that the develop tools can’t be accessible in the library mode of Lightroom. Why have that distinction? You can already do some minor edits, why not just allow the whole gamut? It just complicates everything. Just saying that reminded me I haven’t really used the final three sections of Lightroom. For printing, I just export without restricting the size, and for Web, I export restricting the width to 500 (that’s the column size on this blog). Perhaps I will investigate those features, as well as the slideshow.


Ain’t this the cutest dog in the world?

By the way, this is as shot. ISO400, 68mm Equivalent Focal Length, 1/15 second (with no tripod!), and f/5.6

Mind you, it did take a bout 50 shots to get the one good one!

Relaxing Holidays

Well, Summer time is here again - although the recent weather where I had Festivus was not exactly Summery. Apparently it was the coldest Christmas on record in Melbourne, and in Hamilton, it was the coldest day of the month, and the wettest. It got up to all of 14.6°C, and the minimum was 4.4°C. There was more rain (7.4mm, more than the rest of the month combined!). We spent the day in the pub, with all of my Father’s family. That was good, since my Uncle and his family are moving to Queensland in a few weeks, so this may be the last time for a while that we all get together. I took about a thousand photos, most of them of my nephew, Jack. I’m yet to find the choice few to print out, but I’ll do this in the next few days. Robe was pretty quiet up until Christmas, and then it rapidly got very busy. I was going to write more now, but it’s getting thundery, and I want to try take some lightning photos.

Awesome Thunderstorm

What’s happening right now has to be the most awesome thunderstorm I’ve ever seen. It’s right overhead, and there is a huge amount of lightning. It’s only raining occasionally, and I’ve been outside a couple of times to try to get some photos. After a couple of hours of trying, I finally got a good one: Lightning Over Tree I’ve tweaked and trimmed it a bit to make it really cool, but, even so, it’s still pretty natural. And this wasn’t even a particularly impressive strike. There have been ones that have been stacks better, but I’ve missed them. I have noticed that the camera seems to need as long after an exposure as the exposure time to process the shot. Which isn’t very good if you are working with 30 second exposures, like I was to get this shot.

Lightroom Results

I’m really loving Adobe Lightroom. It’s only a beta, apparently, and there are still some features missing. I’ve only had one photo I’ve taken with the Pentax *ist D Digital SLR that has had any red-eye (I have been mainly taking outdoors photos, or working without the flash), but there is no way in Lightroom to quickly and easily remove a red-eye.

iPhoto does this reasonably well, although not excellently, and I haven’t been able to install Aperture to see how well it does it.

Lightroom kicks some serious arse, though. I’ve taken a heap of photos that are under-exposed (ie, too dark), and it works wonders with these. It can’t do that much for over-exposed images, as there really isn’t enough detail in these to work with. You can also do a whole lot of other corrections. If one part of the image is over-exposed, and the other part under-exposed, you can correct, to some extent, and end up with fairly reasonable results.

You can also fix up (or create!) lens vignetting, which is the darkening around the edges of a photo you sometimes see. There is a whole lot of flexibility regarding the stuff you can do - for instance, you can make a greyscale image, but control which tones are lighter, and which are darker, resulting in a whole lot of variables that can make a photo appear drastically different.

I’m not at my preferred machine right now, which makes doing some stuff difficult, but here are some photos that have been manipulated a bit to make them cool.

Keyboard Shortcuts

That’s it. The worst ‘feature’ of Adobe Lightroom is it’s keyboard shortcuts. Having keypresses that aren’t ‘modified’ (we call Cmd, Alt, etc. modifier keys), is the worst design choice they could have made.

Adobe Lightroom

Well, I’ve moved over to Adobe Lightroom. It’s still a beta, and it’s free in a couple of ways for me - the first is that it was a no-cost download. The second, more important missing cost is that I gave it a set of my photos that are hard-linked to the originals, so there is no extra disk space usage. It uses a slightly different schemata than iPhoto - photos are stored in “Shoots” rather than being date sorted, but it still looks rather good. It seems a bit faster than iPhoto, but not as snappy as I’d like it to be. Maybe I just need more RAM.