Saturday, June 28, 2014

Apple stopping development of Aperture raw development application

I'm not surprised that Apple are quitting on this application.  They were really developing it early, and slowed their enhancements quickly, sitting on their laurels.

I saw the app when the released it, and it wouldn't run on my then current machine.  The system requirements pushed desktop machines, and my older desktop machine wasn't a match for my laptop computer.  Aperture made great use of graphics through OpenGL and few of their machines were capable of giving it enough.

Apple has a terrible habit of producing good hardware or good software but rarely produces good matches on the desktop.  It's as though they don't communicate with themselves.  If you look back at the early PowerPC machines, they were very powerful, yet Mac OS 7.6.x (or Mac OS 8.x or Mac OS 9.x) didn't take advantage of them properly.  When I installed BeOS on my PowerPC 604e machine, I was shocked at the display of power--power Apple were wasting.

In photography in 2004, there weren't good raw development applications.  Thankfully, Olympus' JPEG engine created really good JPEG files, and the E-1 also created TIFF files, which were definitely useful in business.

Time passed, and I was part of a discussion that led to the Silkypix raw development application.  I downloaded it and tried it.  I found it to be odd.  It wasn't Japanese odd--I'm Japanese.  It was like so many programmers' projects--great on the inside, lousy on the outside.

I tried Adobe Camera Raw through Photoshop.  I really don't believe that Adobe ever understand that their applications should work with you, not against you.  They just don't seem to want to fix anything, and it shows up when you're trying to finish work.  I got some beta trial for Lightroom and that was interesting, but didn't encourage me, as it was extremely buggy.

At some point, I had an offer for Capture One from Phase One, version 2 or 3.  I downloaded it, and tried to use it.  It was a bit of a pain.  However, it produced reasonable results.  As the versions have come and gone, the application has become as important as the camera body to me.  Version 7 has been on a bumpy road, with the integration of media storage, but it now is easy to use and has produces high image quality, likely second to none.

Their version 7 imaging engine has even given me better quality from older images, at least, with the E-5.  Noise doesn't seem to be a factor, unless you're working in really low light.  That said, current digital sensors all seem to be better than the best film, and many have come to have a grainy look when they produce a lot of noise toward their limits.  That isn't much different than film.  (At this point, I don't even need Photoshop, as Capture One does so much, especially with additional Pro version features.)

In any case, I'm sad for all of the Aperture users who will not be getting upgrades.  I think it speaks volumes about choosing Apple for applications.  Will Final Cut Pro go away?  Did they make a deal to keep Adobe applications on (Mac) OS X, killing Aperture?  It seemed that Adobe responded very, very quickly to the announcement, as if they already had plans.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

New Jersey to California in many, many instants

So, I sold my house, and I'm moving to California.

The main thing about this switch is that I'm giving up the east coast for the west coast.  I love Philly and New Jersey, and even when I'm not there, I'm within driving distance, but all that is changing.

I've done Orlando to Los Angeles in three 15 hour days.  It's possible, although crossing Texas itself was a 15 hour day.  I don't want to do that again, not really.  I don't really like to fly because you can't pull the plane over to take photos or eat somewhere special.

So, this time, I'm trying to take everything into consideration.

Actually, the closing on my house was the 6th of June, two Fridays ago.  I immediately drove to Manasquan, New Jersey where I rented a motel room for 6 days.  When I arrived on Saturday, the beach was packed.  I couldn't even park.  Sunday, the parking machines weren't accepting cards.  Monday, it stormed like crazy and it drizzled the rest of the week until I left on Friday.

I went to Orlando for Saturday and Sunday.  Sure, it's 1100 miles but that's not a big deal (except for Washington, DC traffic) if you'll never see it again.  I have a family of dear friends there.  They're probably the last people on earth I really want to see.  They were close when times were bad and they helped when I couldn't help myself.

After a really good weekend there, I went back to New Jersey for a couple of days.  I had something in the mail.  Then, I headed out, back to Pennsylvania, and I took a detour to Cumberland, Maryland, thinking that a Madonna of the Trail statue was there.  I was wrong.  It was at Bethesda, near DC, and I wasn't going there for anything.  However, the marker for the origin of the National Road was there.

I've traveled the National Road in all of the states where it exists, both as US Highway 40 and US Highway 66/I-40.  Plus, this gave me a bit of history to pass on to my followers on Instagram, who live along U.S. 40.

I took I-68 from Cumberland into West Virginia, and met I-79 from Western Pennsylvania, and that led me to I-64, which took me all over the place, but finally into Illinois to meet I-57, apparently US Highway 66's successor.

That took me to I-55, and then, I-40 into Arkansas, which is where I am at the moment.  I'm photographing a newly-married couple in Oklahoma City, as a friendly, casual kind of photoshoot.  Hopefully, it will be good and not stressful and demanding.  (It worked relatively fine.)

After Oklahoma City, I just need to set the auto pilot controls and head to California.

It's somewhat amusing that I've had my 2012 VW Golf TDI about 1.5 years and put 32,000+ miles on it already.  It had 5000+ on it when I bought it as a demonstrator.  The computer is telling me that I have about 3000 miles until the next service is due, and I only had the previous one a couple of months ago.

Oh, and if you go 90 mph, you only get about 25 mpg, even though it's diesel-powered.

There are a couple of things on the way.  I'd like to stop at Plaza Cafe in Gallup, New Mexico (it may be 10 hours from Oklahoma City, an easy drive) for a nice breakfast, and there is place with a motel, restaurant, and filling station somewhere in the California desert--Roy's Motel or something like that.  It looks halfway abandoned but it should be interesting to photograph.  Apparently, the people who created Asphalt 8 used the design for something in their Nevada track.

I'm supposed to tell my singer/songwriter friend from Burbank, California when I've returned.  My buddy from San Jose knows that I'm going to be about 50 miles away, but I haven't heard from him lately.  The weird thing is that I don't know how to feel about starting fresh--really fresh.

Obviously, my time zone will change.  Work will change.  Food will change.  I need to have my car windows tinted to avoid the desert sun's effects.  I won't be close enough to San Jose to just pop over there, but it won't be an extreme drive.  Traffic will be heavy but there are trains during the week.  There is an alternative route with a bus to San Francisco that also uses BART trains.

I had to throw/give away a lot of things.  I'll probably be looking for them because something else will depend on them.  I will have done something wrong, and I really won't have time to care.  It will be a new life.

I look forward to the ability to attain and sustain...again.  I look forward to attacking goals and challenges with intellect and efficiency.  Most of all, I look forward to a peaceful life for the first time since I was a small child, for however long or little it will last.

Update 2014.06.27: Well, this is interesting.  I checked Twitter today, and my singer/songwriter friend is in New York City to perform as part of a group on various TV talk shows.  I'm guessing that he has been rather focused on that.  The buddy from the SF Bay Area is likely in the Galapagos Islands at the moment on a photographic adventure.

I made it from Barstow to Lathrop, along state roads 58 and 99, in about 5 hours, which is good, especially since traffic was a bit crazy at times with lane closures and stupidity.

Starting fresh will be interesting.  I'm close to 42,000 miles so I'll need to have my 40,000 service performed soon, even though it's not quite 10,000 miles since the 30,000 mile service, although that was only about 2 months ago.  I must have driven quite a lot.

Traffic in all states is interesting.  I'm always amazed at how many people like to inhabit the passing lane, no matter what.  It's interesting to see how few people use their mirrors.  When I first moved to Philly, the people sponsoring the aid trucks on the highway reminded people to use their mirrors.  I thought that this was ridiculous, but people did not look, which is shocking.  How do you determine where things are, if you're not looking?  (Of course, that reminds me of a co-worker who was parked in the parking garage, next to a post.  She slammed into the post 3 times when leaving work, if I remember correctly, and needed major work on the passenger-side door by the time she had finished.)

Driving along California's state roads is pretty good.  I suppose it all depends on how developed the state is.  Some states even have bad federally-funded roads.  Of course, dealing with mountains and canyons presents all sorts of interesting issues with proper road design and physics.  Good tires help a lot.  I didn't drive Pacheco Pass Highway today, but SR 99 presented some fun.

Update 2014.06.28: It's a pleasure to be able to not travel.  It's not as though I'm not going anywhere, but I'm limiting travel in order to look for houses.  Having a place to live is certainly more important than taking frivolous trips at this point.

Update 2014.06.30: Got some information today.  Even if you can pay a whole year of rent and the deposit, people don't want to rent to you, if you don't have a job.  That seems odd.  You'd think that they would be pleased to not have to think about where the next year's income would be.  Apparently, it is difficult to boot someone out in California, so the realtor's argument was "What do they do when you don't have money for the second year?"  I'm not even sure I would want to rent the same place for two years, regardless of money.  This is definitely a kink in the hose--there is nothing flowing.

I'd also like to say that it has been an amazing opportunity to see so much of the U.S.A., even if much of it was done at 70 mph.  As a child, I had been across the country several times, in a 1960 VW Beetle, imported from Germany to Japan, then taken with us to the U.S.A.  My adoptive dad drove us from San Jose, California to Richmond, Indiana across many different roads, prior to the Interstate Highway System that exists today.   Obviously, we didn't take that Beetle 70 mph, but it made it through the snow when vehicles from Buick and Mercury were on the side of the road, spinning their tires.

I only wish that I had a GoPro or other such camera to record a lot of where I went.  It might have even made an interesting time lapse recording.

I've noticed one thing being here in Northern California, especially with the temperature being quite high, and rather excessive stop-and-go traffic flow, my miles per gallon have often dropped just below 30 around town.  I never had that experience in the past, even in summer.  Then again, it was 106 degrees F today and I've had the air conditioning on almost all the time the car is running.  I don't sit at stop lights all that long, but it seems as though I sit at more stop lights--there is no extended flow.  They are very efficient at moving cars from any direction.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

GH3 -> E-M1 + GH4, as supplies become available (updated with photos)

How is it that so many people said that the GH3 was too big and that it would never sell, but then, it was in demand so much, and the GH4 is repeating that, even though Panasonic increased production?

Yesterday, I traded my Panasonic GH3 while the value was still good (I got US$500), for an Olympus E-M1.  They did not yet get their GH4 shipment from last week, which says either they're not producing them as well as expected or demand has been really good--better than the GH3 demand.

I waited several months to get my GH3 and it was easy by that time.  I didn't want to wait for the value to fall for trade-in, so I traded it while the GH4 was still difficult to get.  By the time the GH4 is readily available, I'll have learned to use (/love/hate/deal with) the E-M1.

My initial few hours with the E-M1 produced discomfort for me because of the small battery/small grip size.  It was especially apparent that it was too uncomfortable to use with Four-Thirds lenses because of the weight imbalance, as the grip was almost cutting into my fingers.

For the moment, I'll miss the fully-articulated rear display.  There is no way to use the E-M1 in portrait orientation and look down at the display, for instance.  This is something the GH3 and E-5 did so well.  However, the EVF is quite a bit more advanced than the GH3's EVF.

It should be interesting to see if the 12-40mm lens seems more capable with the 5-axis image stabilization.  I suspect it will be working until I adapt my grip.  As well, the Panasonic 35-100mm lens on it may prove to be okay, but the huge lens flare issue won't go away just because it's on a competitor's camera body.

Oh, one thing I've noticed over the pre-production version I used--I can do a half-press without taking a shot.  There are some spongy buttons on the back, but thankfully, the shutter release is more solid in production.

In the registration survey, Olympus asked about video, and I had to say that I wouldn't really be using video with the E-M1.  They didn't give it much functionality, so I won't be using it.  When I have my GH4, then, I can do video again.  I'm beginning to think that my iPhone 5c has better capabilities than Olympus has in any of their camera bodies but then, I buy Olympus for still photography.

Update 2014.06.13: The E-M1 is a good camera with an angular grip and tiny battery.  I think you know what suggestion I would make to improve the camera, as it is not bad otherwise.

I got a few photos at Asbury Park beach and boardwalk with the E-M1 and 12-40mm f/2.8 lens.

For comparison, I have a few from the beaches near Manasquan, NJ, taken with the GH3 and 12-40mm f/2.8:

Update 2014.06.15: I have really found the E-M1 grip uncomfortable, just with the 12-40mm f/2.8 lens.  I don't see how so many find it comfortable.  It feels like it's almost cutting into my fingers.  I understand that they wanted to make it compact as a hedge against those who would complain about it being too big, plus they could re-use the tiny battery from their other micro Four-Thirds bodies.

I haven't used it enough but I don't see any huge difference in image quality from the GH3's sensor.  People complained that there was more noise, but I think it's negligible, at least using Capture One Pro 7.

The rear display out in the open also bothers me.  Unlike the E-1, there is no plastic shield to keep it from damage or my nose.  Of course, the display is active too often, and I'm sure that there is a setting for that, to save battery life.

It seems odd to hear the 5-axis sensor shift image stabilization.  I'm sure that was quite a concern for many people picking up the E-M1 for the first time.  I guess I didn't hear it with the pre-production models because so many of us were talking.

After all this, I'm glad to have it, but I'm all the more impatient to get a GH4.

Update 2014.12.16: There was a pre-Black Friday $200 discount on the GH4.  This made it a sensible purchase.  While I've become accustomed to the E-M1, the GH4 felt immediately comfortable.  Even my extra battery from the GH3 still seemed to be nearly fully charged after about 6 months, happy to see the GH4.

Starting to do video, the GH4 is full of features.  However, it feels as though it's as good a stills camera body.  It took a very long time for it to become available, but it gave me time to become comfortable with the supposed replacement for the E-5 (the E-M1) I have.

Update 2015.09.13: I sent the E-M1 away for repair.  Unfortunately, a BMX/Freestyle rider managed to hit it by riding his bike under the canopy where we were all not doing things like that, and broke the eye cup mount.  I used it for a while with jagged edges until a few days ago when the shutter came down and wouldn't go back up.  I apparently exceeded the 150,000 actuations.

I have two newer alternatives: the Nikon D7200 and the Panasonic GX8.  Both are so new that there are no firmware fixes yet.  The GX8 is easier to use because of my familiarity with the GH3 and GH4 but it is still a handful.  The D7200 defies any clear organization and has been two handfuls, and as a dSLR, it deserves to be two.

The GH4 continues to be interesting.  I've put over 100 videos on YouTube, almost all of which were assembled using 1080p clips from the GH4.  The GX8 is similarly capable, although its ability to do 4K video is limited.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

!@#$ navigation!!!

May I take this moment to interrupt your calm with "Why doesn't navigation work properly in North(ern New) Jersey?

I complained back in 2006 when Telenav kept telling me to turn around, even though I was very close to where I needed to be.

I've been staying at a motel in Manasquan, NJ and I've been up and down the state, mostly using Apple's Maps app.  It doesn't know what a jughandle is, but that's okay.  I can adapt.

I took it to Little Falls on Sunday and it got me to a downtown area, and freaked out a little and I shut it off, and parked.  After my meal, I went to Fairfield, and since I knew the way back to the main road, it didn't really have a problem.

A couple of times, it has stuttered because I did not do what was expected.  Sorry!  Sometime, I've been through the route too many times and know a better way and don't want to go down every side street to get there.

Now today, I went back to the camera store in Fairfield, and it was mostly agreeable.  (Seriously, I don't use the Express lanes of the Garden State Parkway because there is no cash lane at the toll plazas on that side.)

As I was leaving, it was 4:45 p.m./16:45, and I know how difficult traffic can be.  I thought to go to a certain pizza place I was missing that is in the next county, in Rutherford.  It's mostly a very straight path.  SR 3 east and SR 21 North.  The only problem is that there doesn't seem to be a direct way to get to SR 21 going North.  Usually, you have to go to the next exit, cross over, and go north, which is what I did, while the Maps app displayed "Rerouting..." and reminded me to "proceed to the route" many, many times.

After eating, it was no easier.  It had picked an odd route that made no sense.  Once I remembered how to get back to SR 21, it was catching up, still telling me to turn.  I finally turned it off.  I tried Waze, which had me down every side street possible, and instead of taking me directly to the Garden State Parkway, which was straight ahead, it wanted me to take a county road off SR 3.  I quit that also.

I would have tried Google Maps, but it couldn't even find where I was.

Thank goodness my memory wasn't completely gone.  I'd still be down some side street in Rutherford.

Update 2014.06.15: I was travelling to the Orlando, Florida area--to Oviedo in particular, an area where I lived for 10 years.  Waze had wanted me to traipse down every side street from the Florida state line until the center of Oviedo.

When I selected my motel in Yelp and got to Maps, and asked for directions, rather than take me on a direct route to International Drive via Kirkman Road, Apple's Maps wanted me to go to a toll road further along the way, and apparently backtrack.  When it finally re-routed me, it still picked an odd route, taking me into more traffic than was necessary.

Thankfully, I generally know where I'm going, so I can't be confused quite that easily, but what are they (Waze, Apple, Google) thinking?

Update 2014.07.04: I was trying to use Apple's Maps two days ago around San Jose, California.  It did okay most of the time, but requested U-turns where there was a turn lane into a shopping center already.  Perhaps, their information is old?  I'm not sure but I didn't have the problem last August with one of the locations.

In one case, I was trying to get to Westfield Valley Fair mall, and I wasn't on the correct part of the exit, twice.  I didn't understand, and it was a complex juncture, but the navigation tried to loop me around twice when the answer was much more simple--turn left, follow the road, turn left at the appropriate road, and drive straight until the mall.  I found it when I followed my own path, but for some reason, navigation wanted me to avoid city streets.  I've had situations where one of the navigation apps put me into freeway traffic jams to avoid those crowd city streets, which were moving fairly well.

You'd think that the maps could get around the San Francisco Bay Area with great ease and accuracy.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tried to trade Panasonic GH3 for GH4: low availability at the time

As I was on a short-timer's schedule, I called Roberts Camera of Indianapolis, Indiana to see if they had a GH4 and would do a trade-in of my GH3.

It seemed a bit confusing to the first person to answer the phone, but the second person made it clear--they had no GH4s in stock and three on the waiting list.

Today, I'm nowhere close, though I may try a dealer in New Jersey where they've also done Panasonic presentations.  I believe they are Unique Photo.  Equally, Adorama is across the river in Manhattan.  I trust Adorama to help me, but I hear about many bad experiences dealing with the various personalities in the store.  Maybe, the people are not from the Northeast.  I used to hear many stories about people from New Jersey, New York, or Philadelphia.  In my experience, they were misinformed.  These rude, hateful people are some of the most genuine, loveable people you'll ever know.  They just say what they mean, and so do I.  I lived in Philly for eight years, and supposedly, my biological father came from Philly.

In any case, I want to trade the GH3 and the closest dealer in California to where I'll be living does not trade.  That doesn't mean I won't be able to find a shop, but I'd rather deal with New Jersey or New York where I can trust the person will show me the contempt, rather than try the schmooz me into doing what they want.  (I really liked Roberts Camera for their no-nonsense approach to dealing with people and cameras--give the customer good advice and a good deal.)

Maybe, Unique Photo will be able to help.  I really hate driving into and out of the city (New York City) but parking is worse.  Of course, if New Jersey Transit is working, it might be a piece of cake in a few days, to get to Adorama.

Update 2014.06.08: I was at Unique Photo this morning.  They were friendly and knowledgeable.  They expected a shipment last week and didn't get it.  They have 3 people on the list ahead of me.  It sounded as though they had a significant quantity arriving, so I may just get the body this week.

They also tempted me with the Panasonic GM1, which is clearly a dear and tiny camera body.  I'd really like to see it on the end of my Olympus 35-100mm f/2.0, with the tripod mount attached to the tripod, of course.   Otherwise, it's not quite balanced.  I was impressed with how very tiny the Olympus 60mm f/2.8 macro was.

Update 2014.06.11: I returned to Unique Photo since I hadn't heard anything and I wanted to make sure that they weren't going to send a GH4 to an address I no longer occupy.

They didn't get their shipment yet.  Maybe, they'll get it this week.  They didn't know.  Rather than have the GH3 and a GH4, I traded the GH3 for US$500, which is low, but you can sometime get a new GH3 for under US$900, so it's better to get US$500 than having it collect dust.  I bought an Olympus E-M1, which I will still use after I buy a GH4.

I still feel that the E-M1's battery and grip are too small, but I was tempted to buy a Panasonic GM1, so what's more weird?  I don't know.  Hopefully, the E-M1 will work well with my Four-Thirds lenses in real-life situations.  I still have my E-5 and E-1.

It's taking a while to charge the battery, so maybe it will last longer than I remember.  I hope Panasonic will have their stock soon.

Update 2014.11.30: A few days ago, I finally got my GH4.  Stock is not only good, but they've had a $200 instant rebate on the camera body.  When I tried my extra GH3 battery in the GH4, it seemed to be full, after nearly six months.

Mike's camera was fairly close--about 33 miles from where I live now.  Their people are not brand fanatics and are willing to talk intelligently about any brand you might want to buy.

It's a long time to go without.  The E-M1 has been good and the GH4 seems to be everything the GH3 was but better.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Apple gets "it" again?

I'm skeptical.

I've seen bits and pieces of the announcements this week, in-between packing, loading, and cleaning and getting ready to move.

My trouble with Apple is that they never seem to finish anything any longer.  I understand that they're big and important now, but the bugs are bigger and more frequent now.  Pleasing the whole population by adding feature-after-feature, while ignoring the bug list just screams Adobe.

Apple does seem to test, when they feel like it, which is better than Google.  Google only seem to test while they're creating their software.  I have a 2013 Google Nexus 7 tablet with Android version 4.4.2 on it, and it seems to have all sorts of little issues which make the tablet unlikeable.  Those little issues of course, are exacerbated by little issues in third party software.

I'm still having silly issues with (Mac) OS X 10.8.5, and 10.9.4 isn't ready yet, so I'm not moving.  Equally, iOS 7.x seems buggy but Apple leaves mobile users hanging in the breeze quite often, security issues and all.

One thing that struck me that Apple gets it again is the mobile hotspot functionality that you can start from your Mac running Yosemite.  When I use my iPhone 5c as a mobile hotspot, they have the cheesy little links icon to show that Apple products are happy together--at least, when they work together.  (Do I seem more bitchy than usual?  I'm not sure the lack of sleep is helping.)

For developers, the Swift language seems to be quite useful.  The one thing that will cause resistance is that it's not one of the already-established languages.  Microsoft copied a lot of Java to create C# but they had developers stuck in their development platform.  Google has been grooming developers with their summer coding programs.  Apple has often been knocking heads with developers, rather than courting them.

Mind you, Objective-C is a fine language, and it's been around since the mid-1980s.  Apple extended it to work with C++ somewhat in Objective-C 2.0.  Naturally, in the mid-1980s, C++ wasn't much.  People were still coding in Pascal and making the switch to C.

However, all of those iOS game developers will like where Swift is going because of its interactivity, if it doesn't slow down performance or throughput in development.  Remember CASE tools?  Magic has its price.

I look forward to updating quite a lot and getting my hands dirty.  I haven't done much independent development for a while, and if Swift can re-kindle my interest, all the better.

What if Apple was in your car, your house, and on everything mobile you had?  Would it be a nightmare or a dream or both?  My history with the company says that it would be both.  "Two steps forward, one step back." always seems to apply.

On the other hand, I don't see Google being much different, just in a different form.  However, they have to deal with everyone who wants to create something from their open source code and still call it Android.  By the way, have you seen anyone using a Chrome OS computer?  I have not, though I expect my near future proximity to the San Francisco Bay Area may change that.  (It's odd to see the new Maps for OS X practically pointing to my new home.)  It's just that a lot of the country is still not connected so well.  Google doesn't get that.  Apple doesn't get that.