Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Playing Games on the Cheap

I balked at every new game console where the games were US$59.99.  I'm not the kind of person to enjoy that, even though I spent a small fortune with the Atari Jaguar, and had hundreds of games for the 8-bit Atari computers.

Having a Macintosh from 1993 to 2017 kept me focused, especially when I stopped buying desktop machines.  Steam arrived when I had my intel-based polycarbonate MacBook G3 and I took advantage of Portal and Half-Life 2 for free.  I bought very few games because few developers invested in Mac OS X.  I bought Unreal, Unreal Tournament, UT 2003 (a mistake), UT 2004, and missed out on UT3 when some company wouldn't license their technology for Mac or Linux.

Having had the "casual gamer" Omen by HP laptop computer since April, I started off with Steam--sort of reviving my purchases.  Of course, I didn't use cloud saves since my connection was poor, so I had to start fresh.

At this moment, Steam shows 47 games, which includes some VR variant, which I cannot play.  I don't believe I exceeded US$19.99 for any of the games, including The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition.

As I like to release frustration with arena shooting games, Toxikk has become my new favorite for starting a quick game.  The full game was a little over US$5.00 and it has a lot of what made Quake III Arena and Unreal Tournament 2004 fun.  If you want something with a plot, this isn't it.

That game would be Life is Strange 2.  It's so serious at times, I had tears in my eyes at one point.  I've seen the underbelly of the west coast since moving back in 2014, and this game seems too familiar.  It's so well made that has a feeling of reality, although the voice acting might not be what it should be.  (The Galaxy on Fire series of mobile games have the worst English voice acting ever.)

Metro 2033 Redux and Metro: Last Light Redux are similarly serious but seem more of the fantasy shooter variety.  It's good to see some video games that are based on books.

I've spent a lot of time with UT2004 and UT3 lately, but continue to go to Toxikk for quick matches.

Life is Strange 2 is taking a lot of time.  I've tried to go back to Half-Life 2 and the rest of the Valve Software games but my heart just isn't in it since my progress is gone and I have to fight through each area again.  I'd rather spend the energy on something else.

Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles is somewhat appealing, especially since the Spyro games aren't going to be available to me any time soon.

I've given up on Gone Home and A Story About My Uncle far too quickly.   I will likely be bored and try them again.

I tried the free version of Counter Strike: Global Offensive but I'm just not sure I care.

Picked up the Freemium Asphalt 9: Legends and it's not bad with the controller and it's so small, since it's a mobile game that almost anyone could fit it on their machine.  It could use some powerful CPU/GPU combination, though.  I should be thankful for Windows Phone, even though it isn't really available any longer.  The Asphalt series is good fun and I now have three of them.

Update 2018.12.06: I saw an article saying that Epic Games was starting a store, so I downloaded the application and found that the newer, trial of Unreal Tournament was available.  I tried it for one day and the next day they announced that they are canceling it but that they are going to make the earlier games available through the store.  Since I bought them through Steam, I'm not sure what good that will do for many.  At least, Toxikk is available.

Update 2019.01.11: I've picked up two new games for free from the Epic Games store: Subnautica and What Remains of Edith Finch.  They both seem good.  It's interesting that they're going to offer a different game for free every two weeks.

On the other hand, I picked up Star Trek Timelines for Windows/Steam and it is pretty difficult to play with the mouse, as it hasn't really been converted from the touch screen game that it is on iOS and on Android.  It would probably be okay in tablet mode on the Lenovo Flex 3 that I once had, since it had a touch screen, but it's frustrating with the mouse.  What once fit on 480x320 is now on 1920x1080 and nothing has changed in the screen usage.  As well, the battery usage would be horrible as it keeps the inbuilt GPU and the audio busy, even when I'm not playing it, mostly as it does on mobile devices.

Update 2019.02.02: It's time for Chinese/Lunar New Year and Ubisoft has a sale, including a very free Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China.  I also ended up with Watch_Dogs Complete (or was it Gold?) Edition and Watch_Dogs 2 for decent prices, although I exceeded US$20 for Watch_Dogs 2.

With the UPlay application, I am now acquainted with three different stores/launchers, plus the EA Origin launcher I used for a brief time on Mac OS X.  Sadly, Steam does something to make it difficult to use controllers--even their own controller, which is a magnificent hodpodge of mouse and controller and keyboard in one.

Update 2019.02.17: Just added GoG store and launcher.  They seem to be more for independent gamers and especially, those who are growing to hate Steam.  I'm finding way too many interesting games, and not enough time to play them. By the way, GoG is from Warsaw, Poland and therefore, you will probably incur extra charges for currency exchange.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Buying enough RAM to make the i7 7700HQ happy

Okay, I've had this 2017 Omen (by HP) 15t for around six months.  It's decent at most everything, making it a good successor to the mid-2012 MacBook Pro quad core i7 with 16 GB of RAM and 480 GB SSD.

When things get tough, it shows how slow it is.  The 8 GB of RAM shows up as about half in use when doing simple things.  When I go to edit photos, I'm in trouble, with RAM generally full and virtual memory has to resort to the 7200 rpm hard drive.  Intolerably slow would be the key phrase but it's possible to remember with 4 MB of RAM was a full set and my Atari 1040 ST (with modification) would fly at 8 MHz.  That was a monochrome system with a 640x400 display.

The MacBook Pro supported 1440x900 and this Omen has a 1920x1080 display--the not so good display, that is standard.  Hey, if I can edit from lesser displays in the past, can I work with lesser displays in the present?  Of course, I can.

However, using Phase One Capture One Pro has been a bit tedious, especially if I'm using Luminar 2018 at the same time.  If I try to also use Magix Movie Edit Pro and/or Xara Designer Pro, things might grind to a halt.

I just ordered 32 GB, in two RAM sticks, with sales tax, etc. for just a bit less than the two pieces were by themselves just a few weeks ago.  G.Skill RAM works well and is trusted.  My needs may not be as specific or hard core as the gamers who would also buy products from the brand, but high performance, reliable products are necessary.

I considered 16 GB but half of my 8 GB is in use doing almost nothing.  Trying to make video with 16 GB might leave me with almost nothing and virtual memory will ruin the performance and I'd be back to intolerably slow performance, plus I'd spent money to arrive there.  Considering the drop in price, it didn't make sense to go with the lower capacity.

I also ordered a toolkit from iFixit, so I should be able to open the machine and put things right easily.  Previously, I had two Husky drivers (from Home Depot) and two Kobalt drivers (from Lowes), which helped quite a lot.  I made the modifications to the MacBook Pro quickly and easily, while being watched, just in case.  It helped train them, also.  I've watched the video reviews of this machine and they opened it fairly easily.  It's just a matter of remembering which screws go where, just like always.

I will have to wait for drive improvements.  The machine has an M.2 slot, so it's perfect for a Samsung 970 EVO drive.  1 TB is much more affordable than the 6 Gbps 480 GB drive I put into the MacBook Pro in 2013. I'm just wondering if I happen to have a Samsung 2.5 inch 512 GB SSD drive that I bought a few years ago.  If I can transfer everything to a 1 TB M.2 drive and switch the 1 TB hard disk drive for an SSD drive, also, things will improve.  However, saving money takes time.

Wish me luck!

Update 2019.01.08: I've got the RAM, but couldn't install it, due to a plastic plug covering one screw.  I'm still working on solutions, but I'm about to have someone else install it, and the HP EX920 M.2 1TB I bought for very little.  Hopefully, the cost of installation won't break the bank.  I've had some noise lately, and I'm not sure whether it's one of the fans or the hard drive.  In either case, a gaming laptop computer needs everything working at full throttle.

Update 2019.02.15: It's done.  Both have been installed for US$30 and another US$35 covered cloning the drive data.  That's actually less than I spent on tools to do the work myself.

The machine still doesn't feel faster than the mid-2012 MacBook Pro.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Luminar (2018) is the quickest way to huge edits

I've used a few raw development applications by now:

Phase One Capture One Pro
Ichikawa Software Labs Silkypix DS
Olympus' free Viewer
Adobe Lightroom (original beta)

I started with Capture One 3.x way back in 2006.  Good raw development application software was difficult to find.  Thankfully, Olympus bodies produced fine JPEG files.  If I had been using Canon or Nikon, I would have been in more of a hurry.

When Luminar became available on Mac OS X, I had already been using the company's Creative Kit 2016, which had a single application for a major functionality.  Luminar put those together in a simplified way.

Thankfully, Apple created CoreImage functionality and that took away some of the complexity, especially when dealing with raw files--if Apple got it right.

The company's software gave me a reason to experiment and it made it quick and interesting.  With Luminar, many transformations became so quick simply because I didn't need to switch from application to application.  I could have dramatic results within minutes.

If you look at Capture One Pro or Silkypix DS, they both support saving a group of settings to give photos a certain look quickly.  Those in Capture One Pro especially tend to be holding to a less dramatic upheaval than Luminar.  Given the target type of photographer, that might be appropriate.  I appreciate some restraint, but I'm learning that my audience may want a bit more spice.




Now that I'm using the Windows version of Luminar, things are less certain than on the Mac but just as interesting.  They have many things planned but I would just like to be able to switch quickly between a number of files within a folder.  I photograph sports, so I might end up with hundreds (or more) of photos from a meet or tournament.  I can't guess at which one is which, especially when Windows doesn't support the raw files.

At this point, I will have Capture One Pro open and switch to Luminar for special edits, which is difficult to do with the current 8 GB of RAM.  (I'm working on that, but don't know whether I will be okay with "only" 16 GB or need 32 GB, especially for video projects.)

Left-original, Right-altered

I'm looking forward to more experimentation with Luminar.  Hopefully, they can provide a healthier interface to files, so it's easier to use in a professional workflow.

Update 2018.11.02: The company released the AI Sky Enhancer filter.  It's supposed to only work on sky and clouds.  I'm not certain how wonderful it is because I have yet to make extensive use of it.


Included is a side-by-side sample of a fairly busy sky at sunset photo to show the differences.  This may be a bad example but it does show differences.

Update 2018.12.06: Skylum have announced that the update to Luminar that adds Libraries will be available on December 18th.

Update 2019.01.08: For anyone interested, I've been trying to use Luminar 3, with the updates, and it is miserable.  I am certain that everything will be much better in time, but I don't even feel it's worth using at this time.

The first time I started it, it took forever, as if it was an early (alpha/beta?) release of a product.  It asked what I wanted to have in libraries.  What I selected was completely duplicated, but with a current date, so that it made a mess of searching and use of the Photos application.  After the fix update, I tried a few photos and with each style I tried, it created an image.

They have a great many things to handle.  Until they get them under control, I will use Luminar 2018.

Update 2019.02.19: Luminar 3.0.2 is out.  I updated but will continue to use Luminar 2018 because I don't have to guess at how it will work.

Update 2020.01.22: Luminar 3.2.0 is out, even though the company has moved to version 4 of the software, featuring Artificial Intelligence sky replacement and portrait enhancement.

I appreciate that they went further to fix version 3 a bit, but I'm still not ready to move to version 4.  Luminar is a great tool for huge edits BUT is in no way essential to my workflow.  Until Luminar 2018 becomes incompatible with a future Windows 10 update, I will continue to use it when I feel the need for more stylish editing.  I would say that they're fighting Adobe Photoshop Elements, which is using AI in their latest version, but it seems multiple applications are trying AI at some level.

By the way, Affinity Photo, Publisher, and Designer all work together quite well, if you're looking for a light suite of applications that tackles quite a lot, but is rather inexpensive.  They all work with Windows, Mac, and iPad.  I haven't been tied to Adobe since 2006 and don't like that they pile on enhancements without fixing bugs first.  The people at Skylum seem to be doing that with Luminar, but they're not entrenched as Adobe are.

Update 2020.02.17: I receive e-mails from Skylum practically every week.  They apparently need me to purchase Luminar 4.  I'm not interested.  They'll be sad.  I'm sad that I paid for Luminar 3.

The best way for them to make money now is to make all those Mac-only apps into style packs and sell them.  They did a set for the black and white application that I used to use and those styles helped me recover part of what I had felt I lost.

I appreciate that they want to move into AI, as did Adobe, but I'm not that interested.  I haven't even bought the latest Phase One Capture One Pro update.  It has a lot to offer, especially since the year ago version, but I'm not really in the mood and I don't photograph nearly as often.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Windows Fall Update 2018/1809

It is with a bit of regret that I updated so quickly from 1803 to 1809.  A few hours later, there were articles about data loss.

I'm not really seeing a lot of visual changes.  I tried the new screen shot functionality and it didn't work as I expected.  I tried Windows + Shift + S to activate it and used the mouse to frame a window.  The screen shot included the background and that window, rather than just the window.


For some reason, I expected just the window.  Why it excluded the other windows but not the background, I can't imagine.  It seems a convoluted way to capture it and still make you edit the screen shot to exclude the rest of the display.

This morning, the Disk Defragmenter was running on its own.  I suspect this could account for data loss.  I'm not sure that anything is missing, but I'd rather not experience this.  In any case, Microsoft has pulled the update until they figure out what happened.

Quite a few extra instances of tasks seem to be running now, in contrast to a couple of days ago when 1803 was active.  I'm hoping for the best, but I expect it will be a couple of weeks until things are updated again.  I may pass out from holding my breath.

Update 2018.10.10: The fixes arrived fairly quickly and I'm wondering if they just moved the problem (as they did in the old days) or they actually fixed it.  Since data loss is not minor, they probably found the actual problem and fixed it.

Update 2018.11.04: Still having various small issues.  Can't decide whether they're from the update or something else.  I'm guessing that there is a combination of problems that has been exaggerated by the update.  Putting the machine to sleep seems particularly difficult now.

Update 2018.11.23: I can sign into my account more quickly but it still takes a very long time until I can do anything, with everything checking something at startup time.

You'd think that Windows 10 would be a great operating system by now.  Windows 7 showed that Microsoft could almost erase its history of half-ass work.  Windows 10 needs one person to guide it and tell people what's wrong and to have enough power to have others fix it.  Every company that develops products needs a mad genius of sorts.

Update 2018.11.28: Apparently, my interface to iCloud hasn't been working, so Apple worked that out.   Every other day, it seems that there is a new problem with the Windows update.  I haven't had this much "fun" since Windows 95.


Update 2018.12.06: The other day, I looked to see if any other updates were available to make things more reliable.  What showed up was a surprise--a cumulative update for 1803.  Considering that I've had 1809 for a bit, I'm not sure how I can be put back to 1803.  I'm now wondering if I have some sort of dreadful mix between the two.

Update 2019.01.08: The 1809 update arrived again.  This time it took a whole day, possibly because my main drive is failing, but it didn't seem to be making quick progress with the internet connection either.

The good thing is that the computer seems settled now.  Things seem to work more smoothly and consistently.  Hopefully, they take a long time to test the 1903 update before they let anyone have it.

Oh, and there have been mini updates off and on since the 1809 arrived.  Apparently, security updates are still a priority.  It's good to see Adobe Flash security updates but why do I want Flash installed at all?

Update 2019.02.15: I continue to read that there are problems.  It seemed that I was getting daily Windows updates.  Does any of this make sense?  I hope to never be a guinea pig again.

Update 2020.02.17: I've been on 1909 for a while.  Microsoft still doesn't test things well and their latest security update seems so broken that they removed it to be fixed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

135 Format Seems to Have Returned

In the late 1970s, I sold cameras at a department store.  Mostly, we sold Nikon, Minolta, and Olympus SLRs but also Fujica/FujiFilm, Pentax, and Canon.  That order also shows the relative quantities sold.  The Canon AE-1 was possibly the worst seller, and I really had to explain Shutter Priority auto exposure--and why the controls seemed to be the opposite of everything else we sold.  (We also sold Medium Format, 110 Format film cameras and the odd, leftover 126 Format cameras.  Polaroid and Kodak had instant cameras.)

Now, we're getting back to a time like that, when many camera makers have an entry in 135 Format.  Nikon and Canon have been in 135 Format for a while now, and Pentax returned recently with the K-1, now at K-1 Mk II.  Sony was the first with a 135 Format mirrorless line and they're on the third generation now.

In the last few weeks, Nikon and Canon introduced mirrorless 135 Format models.  In my opinion, Nikon is closer to getting it right from the start.  They're going to need a lot of firmware updates and they don't like to do that.  Canon didn't stray far from home and they're going to need to re-do their system much more quickly than Nikon will simply because of the lens mount.

This week, Panasonic, Sigma, and Leica got together on the L-mount, already in use by Leica (SL, TL) in a 135 Format camera body.

This is news because Panasonic has been a small appliance and electronics company for years.  They have come so far since those days, possibly due to their feud with Sony.

In any case, two 135 Format bodies, one high resolution (S1R), one low (S1), similar to Nikon's path.  Having an SD Card slot along with an XQD slot is brilliant.  The thing is--these are months off, probably available around spring.  Specifications are subject to change without notice is the appropriate statement, isn't it?

The other part of their announcement is that Sigma is moving to 135 Format with their Foveon technology.  I'm trying to keep an open mind, but they haven't been making much progress.  When someone complains about their low light capabilities, someone has to yell "Hey, look, over there!"

The better part of this is that Sigma will finally have a worthy mount and can share a market, instead of cornering a market that few want.  (There probably aren't that many Leica users, though.)

My only question is: where is Olympus?  I don't have to ask about FujiFilm.  They're not competing head-to-head.  They have introduced another 50MP Medium Format model and documented that they are working on the rumored 100MP model.  I'm not sure whether Pentax is a factor since they haven't had much luck with mirrorless, going the quirky path, but there is a new Irix 150mm f/2.8 macro lens with their mount that will be available.  The K-1 Mk II and the update to the original seem to be decent, but better auto focus would make people want to buy them.

Olympus has rumored that they are working on a higher high-end camera body, which considering the price of the E-M1 Mk II, they need some much better technology for micro Four-Thirds.  If they're heading to 135 Format, I'm thinking things will heat up.

Update 2019.01.12: Panasonic supposedly will launch their S1 and S1R bodies in March 2019.  That's not particularly far away, and yet, we still don't have many details.  It should be interesting to see what lenses Sigma has re-mounted by launch time.  The latest Sigma lenses seem to be quite good and would help make the launch a success.

Nikon seems to be getting good press, even though they have some shortcomings, as with any first generation equipment.  I can imagine that Panasonic will have odd troubles, but the bodies should be as good as can be made--the line starting with the GH3 should be proof of that.  However, dust reduction and sensor-based image stabilization will be their biggest engineering feats, plus re-working their video routines.

Update 2019.03.31: Panasonic have opened up and their big mirrorless bodies and a few lenses are about to be sold.  They look good, even though they are rather large and rather heavy.  To me, having fully-functional camera bodies is a necessity to make the work flow more easily.  The Panasonic GH4 never got in my way, just like the Olympus E-1 or E-5.  The designers considered how it should work for quick and easy use.  I also have the Panasonic GM5, which uses the same lenses and it's hardly the most ergonomic camera body but it does the job, especially since I can strap it to my wrist, work with the GH4, and grab the GM5 for other photos or video.

It will be interesting to see how Panasonic changes 135 Format and how Sony will respond, since they have had the mirrorless 135 Format market to themselves for a while.

Canon and Nikon are making a splash, but too many of their users have been told for too long that mirrorless bodies aren't professional bodies and can't do what the dSLR can do.  IMO, Nikon still have the upper hand with a forward-thinking lens mount, compared to Sony or Canon.  On the other hand, having third parties try to decode the lens mount is really incredibly stupid, no matter how many of your own brand lenses you sell, especially when native format lenses are few.

Sigma's Art line lenses will be available as 2019 continues.  I suppose that this is a good thing but I suggest that they should have made some zoom lenses available, especially those from their Sports line.  Shouldn't the 60-600mm lens be available?  135 Format needs longer lenses.

Update 2020.02.17: There is nothing really amazing happening at the moment, but Panasonic has three models in their S line, Canon has two, and Nikon has two.

Sigma created a very tiny L-mount model but they're having trouble creating a Foveon-technology-based sensor for 135 Format.

What I've seen is that no one has great technology but they all have something to contribute.  Leica is the most expensive.  Canon is the least expensive.  Sony has been in the space for a few years and is suddenly needing to fix their user interface and generally sloppiness in their software.  Panasonic has incredible hardware, as well as incredibly large hardware, but they need phase detection auto focus, no matter what they think.

Having worked with the GH4 so much, Panasonic's S1H looks a treat.  However, I have so many video clips where the AF just goes away while the image processor is busy.  Still, I would probably go with Panasonic, just knowing that I can depend on the software, and make sure that the AF problems are minimal.

Friday, September 21, 2018

iOS 12 on my iPhone 8 now

I am generally the voice of caution.  I have had too many experiences when incompatibilities hurt my productivity when doing operating system upgrades/updates.

Why would I jump to iOS 12 so soon?  It seemed that it was truly past the beta test stage, unlike previous releases.  Also, Apple plays a guessing game with device security.  You can never tell how dangerous your situation is.  I have upgraded to the latest major release in the past because there were so many security fixes.

I felt that way today and certain articles I've read recently suggest that iOS 12 is more likely to protect me, broken or not.

1.35 GB seems a crazy load for a handheld device but it has become more common to exceed 1 GB with updates and upgrades.  Games are especially heavy on storage.  2018's operating systems are hardly the machine language monitors that needed to fit into 8 KB of RAM in the late 1970s.  What could fit into a well-ventilated room now fits into your hand, except for the keyboard and keypunch.

First off, shutting down and starting are very, very quick to happen.

Usually, there is the wheel, barely visible, churning until the system shuts down.  I didn't even see it--the system was just finished.  I held the power button and it was ready for my PIN very soon after that.

Backing up the updated phone is taking quite a long time.

Everything seems a bit more responsive and some things are extremely responsive.  I'm not sure if they changed the game interfaces' performance but games feel more fluid now.  Text scrolling seems smoother than warm butter.

Obviously, an iPhone 8 shouldn't have any issues because it was new only 1 year ago.  Still, the operating system's latency made the experience seem to lag.  I hope that this is not a temporary speed-up that will be crushed by bug fixes.  Mac OS X was really awful from Public Beta and got better with each release.  At 10.4.11, it seemed the best it could be, and Leopard was uncomfortably buggy and slow.  Things never seemed to improve, which may be why I'm on Windows 10 now.

iOS 12 gives me hope, as does WatchOS 5.

Update 2018.09.26: Certain apps seem unresponsive at times and have to be ended and re-launched.  Overall performance is good but occasionally choppy.  There have been around 5-10 app updates each day.  I suspect many more will come as they actually test their development efforts (or lack of same) with actual users on iOS 12.

Update 2018.10.07: Nothing more interesting has happened, thankfully.  Hopefully, the next update will improve stability.  I'm happy for those on older phones who are getting a big performance boost.

Update 2018.11.04: Woke up and the time was not reset to Pacific Standard Time today, even though Daylight Saving Time had ended for this year.  Version 12.1 doesn't seem to be completely better, but 12.1.1 is in the beta test period now.  There were some nasty security issues squashed with 12.1 though, so it was well worth the risk.  I hope that Apple are looking at security 24/7/365.

Update 2018.12.08: I've been on 12.1.1 for a couple of days.  It corrected a few bugs, including the time zone issue.  I'm not sure how stable it is but it seems to be okay at the moment.  There are loads of app updates, as companies realize the problems their apps contain.

It's likely that there will not be any update until February, unless they find something significantly broken.

Update 2019.01.27: 12.1.3 is on my phone now.  There were several bug fixes, but I'm not seeing any useful performance change.  It's certainly less slow than iOS 11, but it's more laggy than expected.  Since 12.2 is in beta test now, we might see positive changes through April.

It's interesting to see that Apple are having trouble selling phones, and with Qualcomm being dorks and digging it for the double-dipping harvest (they want licensing fees from Apple as well as those supplying products where licensing fees are already being paid), some phones are not available in various locations.

Apple currently make phones that I don't want.  They can't offer me an iPhone 8 replacement because they don't have one.  They also don't have an iPhone SE replacement.  Considering how easy it is for someone to look at the phone, FaceID is not a true security measure, in my opinion.  They have said that TouchID is less secure but show me how someone can force me to use the correct finger first time.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Photographed the wedding, explained the process

As weird as it may seem, I was pushed into photographing a wedding.  Sports photographers rarely would do something this because it doesn't fit into their thinking.  Besides that, people at weddings yell.

I went to the wedding, photographing everything from the bride and her group handling make up and hair to the ceremony, the crappy cake (not the fancy cake) for shoving/shoveling, and photos with each and every person at the wedding.  The reception was conveniently held at the same spot as the wedding and the onlookers didn't even have to change seats.

Monday arrived and the mother of the bride asked me for something and the card.  I brought the something and the invitation card that she gave me.  She said "No, no--where is the card with the photos?"  I said "It doesn't work like that."  They probably thought that they were going to Walmart to print everything.  They had money to hire two people to make tacos with crappy meat, but not a wedding photographer?  My poor relatives served mixed nuts and mints at the reception.  We went to a restaurant to eat.

At some point during our discussion (or was it a disgustion?), she understood how film photographers made a set of proofs to show the couple what was available.  I told her that I would attempt to find important photos and send them in Instagram-sized files for their viewing but with quick-and-dirty editing.  She said that the couple of things I sent were wonderful, so I guess I don't have to be a perfectionist to please them.

I'm guessing that they won't be patient enough for me to finish.  They probably won't think it's worth much after it's done.  They probably won't like any restrictions or want to pay anything more than the US$40 that the mother has already paid me.

Update 2018.09.24: Gave the mother a USB thumb drive with 395 photos at 25% size--enough for Instagram.  I told her (and had a message in .PDF format on the drive) that they could select a few photos and I would provide full-sized files for printing.  She seemed pleased, and gave me $90, so I'm only a bit shy of the money I spent to be able to make the wedding shots go smoothly.

Update 2018.12.06: The couple still hasn't chosen any photos to be printed at full size.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

iPhone Xs, Xs Max, Xr: glad for my iPhone 8

I've seen bits and pieces of the presentation today and, for me, the worst has happened.  Apple no longer has any small(ish) phones.  With a 6.1 inch display, the smallest iPhone is huge.  That might satisfy a number of people, especially if it's inexpensive.

I'm glad to have my iPhone 8, although I could have held onto my iPhone 7 much longer, had I not broken it (and Apple kept me from having it repaired).

At a little over $27 per month for the 256 GB model, it's just fine.  I have loads of apps and several movies and I'm only using about half the space.  My iPhone 7 had 128 GB, so it would be full at this point.  What I don't have is all of my music, since iTunes does not create a backup of music.

While the new devices are impressive and the new processor has just about everything you could want, they have excluded people with smaller pockets, both literally and figuratively.  A 4.7 inch model would be useful to many of us.  I'm glad to have the iPhone 8, since it is recent and it is powerful enough to keep going for a while.

Update 2018.10.15: With all of the law enforcement-related activity in the news, it makes me happier to have a phone that can't be opened with my face.

Update 2018.11.28: Apparently, the iPhone XR not selling so well.  Could the threat of law enforcement have something to do with this?  It's a bad time of year for regular people to buy a phone and the cheaper, but huge phone isn't likely to appeal to rich people.

Can it be used without Face ID?  This would be important for me, because I want my little bit of privacy to remain my own.  Touch ID works just fine for me.

Does Apple realize that the lack of a smaller phone and/or a fingerprint reader may have alienated a lot of customers?  When I was considering a new phone months ago, I considered another 4 inch phone, like the iPhone SE, hoping for a more powerful version.

Update 2019.01.27: Apparently, the iPhone XR is the best selling iPhone of the moment but it's still not selling so well.  You'd think that they'd be willing to create an iPhone 8 replacement in the same 4.7 inch enclosure.  I don't need or want a re-design, and I don't want a huge phone.  Am I returning to Android when the iPhone 8 dies?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Amazon delivers on Sunday

Due to my anticipated photographing a wedding, I've needed various supplies to make things go more smoothly.

The other day, one of my Panasonic GH4 batteries (DMW-BLF19) was unresponsive.  It seemed to be okay after a couple of minutes on the charger, and didn't seem to need a charge but needed a swift kick in the pants to become operational.  I got one extra battery when I bought the GH3 in 2012, so maybe this was the same battery.  At 1860 mAh, they have a lot of capacity and the GH4 is good about using as little as possible.  In contrast, the GM5 batteries have around 600 mAh capacity and are empty rather quickly.

In any case, I decided to order a battery on Friday.  Unfortunately, Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) is a holiday that affects Adorama and B&H Photo, being that they're both in New York City with Jewish staff.  Buying a battery that would arrive after the wedding didn't seem intelligent, so I looked at Amazon.com, even though they have trouble with fakes.

I found what looked like the original equipment Panasonic battery and at $59.99, I ordered it.  The only shipping that made sense was Free Shipping.  The item would arrive Thursday or Friday, just prior to the wedding.  Since it didn't cost anything extra, I would only pay state tax and the price of the item.

I didn't see any updates until Saturday evening and they mentioned that it would arrive Sunday before 9pm.  They deliver on Sunday?

I started receiving notifications earlier in the morning before I was awake.  Later, I was able to find the location of the driver through the Amazon app on my phone.


It's quite surprising that they've put so much thought into making certain you know what they know.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Nikon Cannonballed into the Mirrorless Pool

The Nikon Z6 and Z7 are the most important Nikon bodies of this decade.

After loads of experimentation, Nikon have finally jumped into the pool enthusiastically.  The CX mount was cute but there was never a chance for it to succeed in a big way, any more than Pentax' Q-series of mirrorless miniature bodies.

There is one, huge problem with this system--the lens interface is a secret.  If Nikon wanted to be extremely successful, they would have already published the interface, so that Sigma, Tokina, and Tamron would have lenses available.

There are a number of companies with experience interfacing with mirrorless bodies and that knowledge could provide a number of good, maybe great, lenses more quickly than Nikon could provide them.

Currently, the 3 lenses available show me that Nikon is concerned with enthusiasts, not professionals.  Sure, you can buy the FTZ adapter but an f/4.0 zoom lens and two f/1.8 fixed focal length lenses leave a lot of room for improvement.

What I've read so far leaves me with the impression that dSLR users aren't going to just pick up these bodies and start shooting.  Welcome to the mirrorless club!

I adapted my techniques from shooting sports with a dSLR to mirrorless bodies and I have even switched back and forth, having one of each with me.  People should always adapt, but many will waste their efforts on complaints.  It may not be easy, but it is possible to change.

Even with phase detection AF points, they may want to leave the focus lock a bit loose and lock from time to time while following the action.  Tracking on mirrorless bodies has improved but it's far from perfect.

I'm waiting to see who buys equipment.  I will likely be amused by the Sony fanatics claiming victory.  Considering how the A7 was, claiming victory might be premature.  The D850 has shown that Nikon can put together equipment that excels.  Once they understand how things should work and what they're doing, I suspect Sony will be looking for ways to improve.

Update: Canon did something also.  ;)  It wasn't as interesting.  FujiFilm's X-T3 is more interesting to me than Canon's EOS R, but Nikon's Z6 and Z7 with the new mount have my attention.

Next week, September 25th, we'll find out whether Panasonic has a 135 Format hybrid camera system or not.  If so, will it be a good thing?  I can't imagine them doing this without a partner.  It's supposedly not Olympus nor Leica.  Would Pentax be interested?

Update 2018.12.08: Panasonic announced that they were working on equipment based on the Leica mount for the SL series and its APS-C relative.

Considering that nothing has been set in concrete, anything could happen.  Sigma is joining, not just with lenses, but with a modified Foveon sensor for 135 Format.

Update 2019.02.17: Panasonic has two bodies for the L-mount, Nikon has added a lens or two, and Canon has added another, rather low cost body.

At US$1300, Canon will get the attention of a great many people.  I still believe that Nikon has the better lens mount for the future.  However, given Panasonic's understanding of hybrid camera systems, I think that they will keep Canon and Nikon humble, and show Sony a trick or two.

Sony has done okay so far because it was the only company in the niche, but that's all gone now.  They have to compete now.

If Sigma puts an L-mount on each of their DG lenses, Panasonic will have great third party support, unlike Nikon and Canon who don't want it and are forcing third parties to reverse engineer support.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Photographing a Wedding: Preparing for the Worst

Photographing a wedding seems the worst I could handle.  Most of the people are people I likely don't know.  If the daughters are anything like their mother, it could be very emotional.

How do you photograph the wedding of two people who already have four children?  Life has changed a great deal over time.  I remember my uncle saying "Are you playing 'So Happy Together'?" because my cousin and his fiancee had already been living together.

I bought a Joby (the Gorillapod people) Pro Sling Strap.  It's a brilliant, complicated strap that hooks into your tripod socket.  I probably should have bought the extra piece to allow it to be used more easily with a tripod.  It wasn't cheap, but it was discounted quite a lot, so it seemed a good choice from a reliable brand.

Other than that, I believe I need another (at least, one) SD Card that can record video and write photos at high speed.  I have two camera bodies (Panasonic GH4. GM5), both of which do HD video.  I could record 4K video but that's a bit much.  No one wants to see their flaws that much.

I was thinking about using the small camera behind the altar or whatever home-made setup they're using, to record the bride's walk down the aisle.  I can have someone start and stop it remotely, using a phone--if they remember.

Otherwise, I've got a slightly wide (15mm f/1.7) angle lens, plus zoom (12-35mm f/2.8) lens for the wedding party shots and reception shots.  I've got a portrait length (42.5mm f/1.7) lens for closer shots, plus a zoom (35-100mm f/2.8) lens for the vows.  I've also got a fisheye Olympus 8mm f/1.8) lens that works in lower light situations, if things get weird.

I need to figure out something neutral to wear since I don't have many clothes these days.

Update 2018.09.08: Got the strap, an SD Card (SanDisk Extreme, up to 90 MB/sec), a light gray, short-sleeved shirt, and I've ordered another GH4 battery.  I'm still feeling more than a bit of anxiety but whatever.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Apple's Worth on Paper Hits $1 Trillion

Today, more financial history was made.  Apple surpassed the One Trillion U.S. Dollar mark in value--the highest of any company in known history on this planet.

That's not to say that it is actually worth that, but that's quite a feat.  They previously made the history books by being worth more than Exxon-Mobil, a fuel company.

It makes me feel a bit silly that I didn't put my US$2500 into Apple stock at $13.5 per share in 1995, instead of buying a computer.  I could have had numerous computers by now, although I had, but for leftovers from a periodic sale of the stock.

Update: Amazon is likely the second to achieve such a status.  If that happens, will Alexa laugh at most requests again?

What happened with all those old companies, such as General Electric?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Windows 10 and the daily mess

Here is my history:

In 1981, I got my first computer, an Atari 800 with 16 KB of RAM, no disk(ette) drive, and only a TV as an output device.  It was an amazing gateway to programming in assembly language and gave me the enthusiasm for a career in programming.

Along the way, I'd got an Atari ST (Motorola 68000), IBM L40SX (80386sx), a Motorola 68LC040/68040-based Mac, a Power Computing PowerCenter 225 (Motorola 604e) Mac clone, and more.  I worked with Windows 3.x and later at work, mostly as an aside to my programming duties.

A couple of years ago, I bought a Lenovo Flex 3, 14 inch touchscreen-capable machine with a dual-core i7 processor and 8 GB of RAM.  It was for someone else who kept borrowing my quad-core i7 MacBook Pro that I needed so much.  I even bought one later, feeling impressed by its usefulness.  I ended up giving it away to someone in need, and I didn't mind.

It was a learning experience.

A lot of life has happened since then and the mid-2012 MacBook Pro is dead and I'm currently using an Omen by HP gaming laptop--quad-core, 7th generation i7 with 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB hard drive.  It's a 15.6 inch machine with Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics hardware.  Potent but not supremely powerful.  It's not so different from the MacBook Pro, except that machine had a 480 GB SSD and 16 GB of RAM.

Oh, and Mac OS X was quite different from Windows 10.

When Windows 7 arrived, it was obvious that Microsoft intended quality to be more of a priority.  It happened.  Then, Windows 8 and 8.1 seemed to be a typical mess, and then, Windows 10 would solve it all.

Between the Lenovo and the HP, I can hardly fault the hardware.  They worked as planned, most likely.  Why the software is such a pain is beyond me.  Doesn't Microsoft hire all of those H-1B visa-enabled people because they just can't find talented U.S. citizens?

While searching the operating system, I end up in displays that look as though they come from Windows NT 4.x--I spent a lot of time using that.  The startup routines seem about as smooth as WinNT, as well.  That wasn't praise.  It takes quite a while after the user interface has been loaded to where it's actually, fully operational.

Also, it's taken me months of crappy internet connections to get the machine to take all of the updates.  Why is a mobile hotspot or other metered connection so difficult to use?  Mac OS X was fine with a mobile hotspot, but it wasn't always clear about connection problems, either.  Generally, it didn't try to download the same update 3 times and continue to fail because it would put the update in a holding area once it downloaded it correctly.

It's been a pain to update because you have zero control over what's being updated.  HP has tried to give me some control through their Support Assistant software, but it can't override every system update.

I look at HP Support Assistant and Update and Security control panels first.  Then, I look at Windows Defender Security Center.  Last, I look at Microsoft Store.

Regardless of the connection, I've never had a secure feeling that updates were going to work.  I had trouble with the fall (1709) update, as well as the spring (1803) update, plus much of it in-between those two.  Even virus patterns were difficult to download at times.  I would think that it would download something, make sure it was ready to be used for the update and let it be installed.

This morning, I left the machine idle for a little while and when I returned, it wanted to install more fixes for Adobe Flash, as well as some of the typical monthly items.  That went rather smoothly, probably because I didn't need to use the computer.

Update 2018.07.30: Microsoft Store continues to break.  Whether it's on my phone's mobile hotspot, Comcast/Xfinity, or various other internet connections, it doesn't seem to be happy, especially since the Spring 2018 update.

I'm still unsure why it won't display my camera's raw files.  The Lenovo machine did.

Update 2018.10.04: I am anticipating the 1809 update.  It's already available to some but I suppose it is constrained with so many people requesting the download.  I'm not in a hurry because I don't want to deal with problems.  There was some notice about Intel Display Audio drivers not being up to date and that caused the update to be delayed for some.  I don't have that issue, and I checked and found that the WiFi and Bluetooth drivers needed to be updated.

Update 2019.03.30: 1809 was such a mess and at some point, the updates changed 1809 to 1803 for whatever reason.  1809 is apparently solidly in there now, though.  Supposedly, fewer than 50% have 1809 and will just see 1903 instead.  Hopefully, someone will test it and test it and test it before it gets to me.

Even with the M.2 drive and 32GB of RAM, Windows seems to struggle.  I had higher hopes, after all these years of being on a Mac.  Things work but things don't work consistently and it shows that they have teams for so many different applications but without one set of specifications for the user interface and user interaction.  It looks like Windows NT 3.51 in certain places, as well as Windows 98SE in others.  I thought that, with Windows 7, that it would be ONE system.  Certainly, there are plenty of people sticking to that version, even though time is running out.

Having a better connection through Comcast/Xfinity helps, also, but nothing seems certain.  Hopefully, it improves with the Spring 2019 updates.