20 April 2015

Accidentally Using Apple Photos

I just restarted my Mac and wasn't paying attention when I launched the new Photos app. It opened up with the new screen and so I figured, might was well check it out. I knew it was going to grab my existing iPhoto library and convert it, etc, etc, but I wasn't sure how I was going to like it.

My first reaction: Meh. Just say no to iCloud Photo Library.

My library is well over 100 GB which means I'd need the 200 GB iCloud storage option which would cost $48 to have access to all my photos. Until I ran out of space. And I just switched to shooting in RAW. And now I am using Lightroom for main editing and importing finished photos to iPhoto Photos. Sorry Apple, you need to drop the price here. I'm sticking with Photo Stream until I am forced to change - by using Lightroom, I don't really plan to use the Photos editing features.

My second reaction: How many bloody iPhoto libraries are now lurking?

Then finally: Urg, all my Events are jacked up in this nested album thing.

So, how to manage this... It's not too bad, but it will be time consuming. In typical Apple fashion, Photos works differently than iPhoto. First, it seems my default iPhoto library is now "migrated". But, it can still be opened using iPhoto, there is a simple pop up box that informs you what has happened. Go ahead and "Open iPhoto" for the familiar look.

Events are gone and we now are told to keep everything in an Album. Annoyingly, I managed to be very good at making discrete Events for every "event" and very few Albums. I used albums as a way to generalize events - so items in common from multiple disparate events could be viewed from a single album. It worked for me. But, now I have what looks like hundreds of these old iPhoto Events tucked away in a dedicated album. Can they be moved to be their own album? Why, yes...

Open up the "iPhoto Events" album, then right click (ctrl + click) on one of the Events. From the menu, there is an option to "Move Album Out Of "iPhoto Events". It works as advertised. Rinse, Repeat. 390 times for me.

So, do I like Photos? Yes. It's faster than iPhoto without doubt. The editing options are limited, but good at what they do, straight forward to use, and I expect more features to be added in the coming months/years. However, I can't use it as I hoped as it stands. Had Photos skewed more towards Aperture in capability and iCloud Photo Library was priced at half what it currently it is, I'd use it without reserve. As it stands, I would be willing to spend more time with it if it wasn't for the pricing structure of iCloud Photo Library (the promise of all your pictures anywhere you are is very appealing).

Unfortunately, I can see myself surpassing the 200 GB iCloud storage size in the next year especially combined with keeping my iPhone and iPad backups "in the cloud". Remember, the iCloud space you lease has to keep everything, not just photos. This is your device backups, your app data, and anything else that might get stored there now that it is more like Dropbox.

For now, I am relegating Photos to be a way to easily share pictures with my family and manage photos and videos that I take with my iPhone or have edited fully in Lightroom from my 5D. When I first started using iPhoto, it was my de facto photo management app. I had a Canon P&S and didn't shot in RAW. Any serious extra editing could be done in external apps as needed. But, with the announcement that Aperture and iPhoto were losing support, and having watched the FCP X fallout, I decided that there was no point in really investing time and effort into the ecosystem. If Photos gains capability as FCP X has, then I'll be able to easily move back to using it with more vigor. For the time being, I'll treat it as a half-way house.

Flickr: 1 TB Free, limited uploads in a single session
Dropbox: 1 TB - $120/yr
iCloud: 20 GB - $12/yr, 200 GB - $48/yr, 500 GB - $120/yr, 1TB - $240/yr
OneDrive: 100 GB - $24/yr, 200 GB - $48/yr, 1 TB (plus Office 365) - $84/yr
Google: 100 GB - $24/yr, 1 TB - $120/yr

2011 iMac Upgrade

I originally purchased my 2011 iMac out of frustration. I had a G5 that was long in the tooth so, purchased a Core2Duo model off eBay that turned out to have graphics tearing issues. I tried to sort it out by getting the BGA re-flowed on the graphics chip which just made it worse. And finally, went out and grabbed a new one.

I opted for the i5-2500s with a 500GB HDD and whatever the base RAM was. Since it is a socketed, desktop CPU vs mobile, I knew it could be swapped provided Apple didn't do anything intentionally locking in the CPU model numbers.

First step was to upgrade the non-warranty voiding parts - so, I added an SSD (using an OWC kit) and made a Fusion drive while also upgrading the RAM to 16GB (generic Kingston from NewEgg). This saved quite a bit of money vs the Apple build-to-order options.

Eventually, the CPU performance was starting to annoy, and after waiting for the AppleCare warranty to expire, I have fully torn down my iMac and am now working with a significantly faster i7-2600s.

However, it didn't happen overnight. Here's some of the lessons I learned:

1) The i7-3770s will NOT work in a 2011 iMac. I was really disappointed to discover this as it's really just a process change from Sandy Bridge to Ivy Bridge. The biggest reason was simply due to availability of processors. Sandy Bridge prices had gone back up due to limited availability.

2) Fortunately, I had a 2600k laying around the office, so I tried it. And, I can verify that the i7-2600k WILL work in a 2011 iMac. But not perfectly. The issue comes at boot - my iMac would have a kernel panic on the initial boot, but make it through the second time. This made software updates challenging, and some that require a reboot would never install properly. Further, Airplay stopped working with the 2600k.

3) I really don't blame Apple for the continual quest to make computers monolithic, one-use machines. Building or Repairing these machines with their carefully routed cables, delicate connectors, etc takes significant effort and possibly makes QA an utter pain. Going the way of the new Retina MacBook just makes sense from a manufacturing stand-point.

4) The i7-2600s, while not as fast as either the "k" or the Ivy Bridge, works fantastically! All the quirky behavior exhibited with the 2600k is gone, which makes sense, seeing as it was an offered build-to-order model by Apple. Finding the 2600s was fun. I eventually broke down and bought it from a questionable seller as a "Like New" item on Amazon. To be fair, it works great, so the seller was legit!

Hopefully, my upgraded iMac will keep me content for another 2-3 years. At this point, Apple has stopped making computers that can be modified in any way by users. My 15" RMBP needed to be purchased exactly as I wanted it since every single component that used to be user-replaceable is now soldered to the board barring the at-the-time unique PCIe SSD. So, I can't go the "cheap" way next time 'round... and it's kind of sad to realize that.

Note: OWC has a helpful video to follow and iFixit has lots of pictures to help so that you don't have to pause it every 2 seconds. There is no need to take out the PSU as iFixit shows. I'm not showing the steps since other's have done a great job already.

15 February 2014

Online Backups Can Kill Internet Speeds

Several months ago, I decided to get an online backup service so I had an offsite backup of all my pictures, files, etc. After a lot of research, I went with Backblaze. They offer unlimited storage and will grab any external drive attached to the computer that isn't a "backup" drive (like a Time Machine partition). At $5 a month, it is also reasonably priced.

Fantastic! I went off without a care. However, without realizing it, I made a small fatal error when setting up the service: use unlimited bandwidth for backups. Little did I know this would cause lots of fun and games as for the last few week I've been trying to diagnose why my internet was suddenly so slow!

Today, I finally figured it out, my Backblaze uploads suddenly got faster. It now saturates my upload bandwidth. For those that understand how networking works no explanation is needed, but suffice it to say, this can easily cause all network activities to grind to a halt. <- that link explains it fairly well. Below is a picture of my degraded situation =)

After determining the issue, I have now throttled my backups to about 25% of my standard bandwidth. Everything is back to normal! However, I still wanted to understand what changed. A little bit of perusing the Backblaze blog revealed something that may be related: recently (past 6 months) they brought online a new data center.  Congratulations! I wonder if their bandwidth has suddenly increased to fill up those disk drives?

12 February 2014

File Access between Windows XP and 7

Windows 7 machines are horrible at accessing Windows XP machines. Removing all permissions, restrictions, security settings, etc doesn't consistently solve the problem.

This has been a problem plaguing me ever since my company was forced to have XP and 7 machines on the same network. Well, a friend of mine found this website that seems to have the solution.

I am copying the major portion of the fix here so that I don't lose it. Hope this helps someone!

After running rsync for a short amount of time, I discovered that I was getting memory allocation errors related to the Windows share.  After unmounting, I attempted to remount the share and received the error:
mount error(12): Cannot allocate memory
Refer to the mount.cifs(8) manual page (e.g.man mount.cifs)
After checking the Event Viewer System log, I found the following error:
Source: srv
Event ID: 2017
Level: Error 
The server was unable to allocate from the system nonpaged pool because the server reached the configured limit for nonpaged pool allocations. 
Some research led me to find this Google Groups discussion about the problem and this Microsoft Technet article discussing the solution (look at the bottom of the page). 
Apparently you need to tell Windows that you want to use the machine as a file server and that it should allocate resources accordingly.  Set the following registry key to ’1′: 
HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\Memory Management\LargeSystemCache 
and set the following registry key to ’3′: 

19 January 2014

Canon 580EX II Diffuser Replacement

I was getting out of my car the other day with too many things in my hands. One of those was my flash which, of course, I dropped. Annoyingly, the flash diffuser broke in the process. When this happens, a few things pass my mind: Is the part broken, or do I have to replace something? Can I do it? I hope it is cheap!

My broken diffuser. The hinges no longer lock into the diffuser base.

The answers: Yup, the diffuser hinge joint broke. Fortunately, I found the replacement part and it was relatively cheap (<$15). Sadly, I couldn't find any good tutorials online... So, for the first time ever, I figured I would post one.

The first step: ordering the part. I searched and found that uscamera.com is the place to go. The specific part I needed was cy2-4259. Conveniently, it arrived promptly! Thanks.

Next, figuring out what to do.

To take the flash apart, you have to pull off the rubber strips along the left and right sides. I took a small flat head screw driver and (from the flash end) wedged it under the rubber strip and gently pulled it up far enough so it could be grabbed. Placing the screw driver on the adhesive side and my fingers on the rubber side, I gently pealed the rubber away from flash housing. Repeat this for the other side and set the rubber strips aside so the adhesive doesn't get stuck to anything or anything stuck to it.

Next, unscrew three small phillips head screws around the hinge on each side of the flash (6 screws total).

Also unscrew the two phillips screws new the serial number label.

Looking at the hinge on the side with the push button there are two small snaps that need a gentle push to allow the flash shell to be taken off.

With the flash assembly exposed, gently lift out the light noting there is a very thin orange cable connecting to the PCB from underneath the flash.

This can be pulled out of the receptacle. Set the flash to the side of the housing.
The problematic orange ribbon cable.

Below the flash, there are 4 phillips screws holding the cover for the diffuser assembly. Remove these and the back cover will fall off.

Flip the flash assembly over and a new diffuser can be placed in the guide tracks.

This is my broken diffuser base locked into the housing.

The white reflector sits on the diffuser.

Reverse these steps to put it all back together! I used my flat head screw driver to push the small orange lead back into the connector. The rubber strips just need to be pressed firmly back into place.
Just above my thumb is the connector where the small orange ribbon cable is inserted.

Please remember that there is a button on one side of the hinge and put the correct rubber strip on that side!

13 January 2014

RIP Sam Berns

Sam Berns, at only 17, died of old age. He died from progeria syndrome, a genetic disorder.
“All in all, I don’t waste energy feeling bad for myself. I surround myself with people that I want to be with. And I keep moving forward.” - Sam Berns 
“You’re a different person after you meet Sam for the first time,” John Seng, a Progeria Research Foundation board member told the Boston Herald. “We go through every day worrying about traffic jams and why the Internet is so slow, yet, here is Sam Berns, carrying on with his life. He didn't want people to feel sorry for him, he said he was happy and he meant it.”



23 December 2013

DailyMail: Phil Robertson Interview

This is a fantastic collection of comments from Phil Robertson. Regardless of your stance on the subject (homosexuality and promiscuity in general), you should take note of how he is conducting himself. Phil isn't backing down, isn't getting angry, and isn't returning insults to those who are reacting with vehemence towards him.

Here is a quote:
Then reading from the Bible he said, ‘The acts of the sinful nature are obvious. Sexual immorality, is number one on the list. How many ways can we sin sexually? My goodness. You open up that can of worms and people will be mad at you over it. 
‘I am just reading what was written over 2000 years ago. Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom. All I did was quote from the scriptures, but they just didn’t know it. Whether I said it, or they read it, what’s the difference? The sins are the same, humans haven’t changed. 
‘If you give them the bad news, they’ll start kicking and screaming. But you love them more than you fear them, so you tell them.
The full story can be found here. Unfortunately, it is the DailyMail, so the website itself is fairly horrible to contend with.

The original interview with Phil by GQ is here.

BTW, my favorite part of the GQ interview:
The ecology here has been so perfectly manipulated that it feels as if two giant hands reached down from the sky and molded the land itself, an effect that I’m sure would please Phil. Whatever you think of Phil’s beliefs, it’s hard not to gaze upon his cultivations and wonder if you’ve gotten life all wrong. This is life as summer camp. It’s gorgeous, in a way that alters you on an elemental level. I feel it when I breathe the air. I feel it when I survey the enormity of the space around me. I shouldn’t be sitting around the house and bitching because the new iOS 7 touchscreen icons don’t have any fucking drop shadow. I should be out here, dammit! Killing things and growing things and bringing dead things home to cook! There is a life out in this wilderness that I am too chickenshit to lead.