2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 4: Rule of Thirds / Toys & Games

FujiFilm XT-1, 35mm, Lightroom, Aurora HDR, Luminar

Just as soon as Eric posted this week’s theme, I knew what I wanted to capture. Our normally boring Central Coast weather has been so dynamic and beautiful. I knew that the Guadalupe Veteran’s Memorial was going to be my subject. The potential skyline drama, the numerous headstones with history and pop, I knew I might create something nice.


Apple Music renewal shutdown

This might seem like an odd thing for me to blog about on Independence Day, but I’ve been mulling over it for a few days.

Many Apple fans and iOS users are the sort that just jump in with new stuff. This isn’t for them. This is for folks more like me, who can be hesitant to try out the newfangled ideas. When it came to streaming music, I played with Pandora a few years ago, but it wasn’t feasible on a mobile device because of all the bandwidth. Then I simply made sure I had a 128gb iPhone, and took along my music. But when I upgraded to an iPhone 6+, we couldn’t afford the large storage capacity, so I was stuck with a small 16gb. That forced me to start looking at streaming again. I really found that Rdio was my fave. So I stuck with that for the last year or so. Their free service was good enough for me. I liked how they made my “stations”, and as I fine-tuned each, they were sounding just right.

Then, of course, Apple decided to take their streaming more seriously. So, I considered it. But the 3 month evaluation, with the auto charging of the monthly fee after, was a serious turnoff.

I stumbled upon an article that walked you deep into the menu system of Apple Music, allowing you to turn off the auto renewal. I even shared the article on FB. But, it’s a poorly written article. So, here’s mine with screen shots.

Click on the profile icon in the upper left corner.
Click to View Apple ID. Type in your Apple ID password if requested.
Scroll down and click on Manage.
Choose your Apple Music Membership. (If you have other subscriptions, like my Guns & Ammo magazine subscription, they will be listed here too.)
Click the Automatic Renewal slider.

And now you’re done! In 3 months, your free trial will expire, and Apple Music will simply stop working. No charge. But if during that time you decide you want to keep using it, come back here and choose your renewal options, that are listed just above the Automatic Renewal slider. Take note, once you turn off Automatic Renewal, that slider will disappear.

Our plan is, once we’re off disability, I’m going to sign us up for the Family Plan, which is one of the most affordable family plans, giving us 6 users!

The great hard drive debacle of 2013

For those following my recent mistakenly-formatted-hard-drive debacle, I have an update.

This came as a result of bad data/media management, on my part. I had stuff all over the place, and was “intending” to get around to cleaning it up for months. (I’ve had some downtime, and should have done it a while ago.)

So one evening, I needed to reformat a usb flash drive, and I went about doing it, but I selected my mobile WD usb hard drive instead. That held a ton of stuff, most importantly my whole photography library of raw and processed photos since about mid-2010.

I WAS able to rescue the photos, and most of the other media, with a tool called iSkysoft Data Recovery. It cost me $90, but it was worth it!

The next thing I set out to do was get responsible with all that data. Who wants to lose all their family photos?! With 4 kids, we have a bunch, and I don’t think I’m a good steward of documenting their childhood, if I don’t make an effort to retain all those wonderful photos.

So for the last several days I’ve been moving data all over the place. I also separated the large drive that I store tv/movie media on, from the rest. There’s no need to back that up, and I’ve found it’s easier if it’s plugged directly into my media player at the HDTV.

This morning I finished getting everything plugged in and running.

The next big thing I needed to do was reevaluate my offsite backups. I had been using my Amazon S3 account with a few homemade Automator apps for backing up my Apple Aperture and iPhoto libraries. But, with changes to how and where I store those photos, and addition of a Macbook Pro a few years back, I really haven’t been backing up well enough for a while. The mistakenly formatted hard drive is the perfect example of my backup system failing me, because I wasn’t using it correctly.

As I was working through all the data storage issues, I spent a bunch of time over that last week learning about alternatives. I was happy to rework my Amazon S3 setup, but wanted to know that what I was choosing was the best for me. However, my pal Jeremy Brooks recommended a dedicated service, for offsite/cloud backing up, Backblaze. The price is better than many others, and it’s basically an unlimited backup. I really only want the ability to upload stuff I want saved. Then, in a crisis, I could restore from that data. That’s it. I don’t need/want to upload and download stuff regularly. I use a free Dropbox account for that. So, having a setup-and-forget-about-it service works perfectly for me!

Right now Backblaze is running the initial backup. It’s gonna take a while, maybe even a few days, and that’s ok with me. Once it’s run, I really don’t need to worry about grabbing anything on the way out the door in an emergency, like a fire.

It’s all somewhere else, easily restored, once everyone is safe.

The future is now…er…not yet.

You photographers out there are most likely aware of the alleged shift in product design for dSLR’s. The companies have banned together to deny us the viewfinder…or something like that. 🙂

Apparently when the big dogs switched from film to digital, in their SLRs, they kept the mirror. The mirror is basically necessary so we can see what we’re going to photograph. Then when you press the shutter release, the mirror flips up and the actually viewed image can be captured by the sensor, which is behind the mirror when it’s down.

We could loose the mirror, but then we’d either have no viewfinder, or we’d have to have a digital view of what’s being “seen”.

I know that’s a poor description, but it’s the best I could do with my layman’s understanding.

Enter, the mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, MILC. Yeah, I know. There are actually a few different names for these newfangled cameras, but “mirrorless” seems to be sticking.

Trey Ratcliff actually discussed all of this much better than I have even tried, on his blog, Stuck in Customs. Seriously, go read about it all there. Then come back, please.

Now that you know all about these newfangled mirrorless/3rd generation camera systems, I’ll get to my point. I picked up one!

Since I’m a Nikon guy, I looked first at the Nikon 1 series. The upcoming Pentax K-01 caught my attention as well. Honestly, I really liked what I read about both cameras. I believe that the Pentax K-01 is a better camera, and would have served me as well, if not better, than the Nikon 1 series.

However, the lower price of the Nikon J1 is what won me over. (That was a mistake. More on that later.) Plus, Nikon had just announced an adapter that would allow me to use my existing family of F-mount lenses on the new J1.

So I picked up a J1 package, with two lenses;  a 10-30mm and a 30-110mm. Both lenses have VR. I got mine at Costco, which threw in a 16gb sdcard and a case. Oh, and I chose the white model! (It comes in red and black as well.)

Nikon J1

Right away I tried using it more often than my D7000, and various lenses. It was easy, I will admit. It still is. For most life photography, it’s just real easy to grab and go. Two lenses for everything from 10mm to 110mm. (FYI, with the 2.7 crop factor of this sensor, that means 27 to 297mm, in 35mm terms.) That’s pretty much everything I’d need! Yes the speeds of the lenses are a huge factor, and so are the relatively smaller number of easily reachable features. The lens speeds, I can adjust to working around. I simply bump my ISO when I can’t get a comfortable shutter speed. Also, the VR helps with the lower shutter speeds.

The best feature, to me, is the insanely fast autofocus. It just works. It’s automagical, and it happens even when you’re not pressing the shutter release halfway down. I love it!

The rapid fire is quite cool. I can shoot 10 fps, on the special fast mode, with some limitation. The focus becomes fixed, and is limited to a semi-manually selected focus point. But the regular rapid speed is 5 fps, and that’s with the live focus! I generally use this mode all the time. BTW, they call it continuous mode. I used this mode to help capture this shot of my dad, 4x4ing this past week.

Dad 4wheeling

Overall, I like the camera, and am glad I bought it. It will serve me and my family well for quite a while. I hope to be able to use it to instruct my wife in the use of more features, to get better photos. Eventually I hope that she’ll begin using it more and more, freeing me to acquire that Pentax K-01, or whatever fits the role even better.

The single largest problem with the J1 is not any one single feature, it’s a bunch of little frustrations. The smaller sensor, really isn’t a problem. The lack of a viewfinder, I’m getting over it. Even the lack of bracketing I’ve adjusted to using the tripod and exposure compensation.

The problem is that everything I want to do is 7 million clicks deep in a menu setting. The features I want are simply too buried. I thought that the big camera companies were hoping to convince dSLR users that these mirrorless cameras are their future. What I’m feeling is that Nikon doesn’t care about the J1 being useful for me, but for the pocket camera user, as an upgrade.


Side note: I wrote this post with MarsEdit. I had great hopes for MarsEdit. It sucks. This would have been 10x easier within the WordPress app.

Homemade Dropbox

With Dropbox’s recent change to their Terms of Service (ToS), many people are up in arms over what appears to be a rights grab. Honestly, I’m not sure either way. But, it got me thinking…

You see, I use Dropbox primarily for two things. I toss stuff up there that I want to be able to access from our iMac and our Dell Mini netbook. That’s mostly how I move photos, when traveling, onto the iMac, where I process them.

I also use Dropbox for getting things onto my Asus Transformer Android-powered tablet. It’s significantly easier than plugging it in for transferring files. I have an alias on my iMac’s desktop to a subfolder inside my Dropbox. I simply drop a file I want on my tablet, onto the alias.

Then I easily navigate to the Dropbox app on my tablet, which is just like using a file manager, and find the file I want. Selecting the file will download it right away and open it in the correct app. For future use, the file has been downloaded to a folder on my SDCard, called “dropbox”. It’s that easy.

Current method for moving desired files to my tablet, with Dropbox and an alias.

This system worked quite well for me in brainstorming for a Father’s Day sermon I prepared a few weeks back. I was able to create mind-maps of the brainstorming and the actual manuscript, all on the tablet. By saving or moving the new content into the “dropbox” folder, the app would automagically sync it back to my Dropbox account, and presto it was on my desktop.

Nothing new here, I know.

What my original statement got me thinking was whether or not I could do this, with my already existing Amazon S3 account. Interesting tidbit of info is that Dropbox uses Amazon S3 for their data storage. I’m already using them too, for backing up all the media I store on my Drobo. So why not use it for moving data between my desktop and my tablet?

Setting up easy applets on the desktop was easy, with the use of Transmit, the self proclaimed “ultimate Mac OS X FTP + SFTP + S3 app”.

Desired method for moving files to my tablet, with Transmit's applets connected to my personal Amazon S3 acct.

On the desktop, there really isn’t much of a difference. When I drop a file onto the applet, Transmit opens up and I can follow the progress bar, along with standard calculations, until the file is complete. Then Transmit automagically closes.

On the tablet I don’t really think it’s any easier or more difficult in getting the new file. It’s different, but that’s all. I researched a bit, and found a decent app in the Android Market specifically for syncing with one’s Amazon S3 acct. It’s called S3Anywhere.

Screenshot of the necessary fields for setting up your S3 acct. (Click to see it larger)
What you see after you're all set up. Yes, it's designed for a phone not a tablet. But it works! (click to see it larger)

I choose my file, and select “download”. Kinda makes sense, no?

This particular exercise was an effort in me getting a simple, short video onto my tablet. I recorded my Ukulele teacher playing a new strumming pattern. I don’t practice at the computer desk, so I need to be able to watch the video and practice it in pieces. Hence the tablet. My last screen shot is of the video. Quite perfect!

My Ukulele teacher showing me a new strumming pattern. (click for larger view)

Chrome OS, is it ready?

I honestly think it’s close.

Last night, we arrived at home after a 2 day road trip, to find an unexpected package on the front doorstep. What was it? A fancy new Google ChromeOS netbook, called the CR-48. Deanna and I were quite excited to open an inconspicuous box, to find a notebook inside. (I was more excited.)

I quickly busted out my camera, and went about the documentation of the unboxing. Those photos are here for your perusal.

Cool thing, once I pulled it out of the box and plugged it in I opened the lid to take a photo of it. I figured it would be off for this photo. Before I even had the camera to my eye, it was on. The thing turned on faster than I could have imagined! Presto! On!


Over the next few hours I signed in, played around, and set up my standard tabbed environment. Oh, I guess I should mention that if you’re already using any Google products, especially Google Chrome, you’re already half way to using a ChromeOS netbook. Yeah, I was prompted to sign in, and it loaded up all my stuff. Even my browser theme from Chrome on my iMac.

What’s the verdict? How’s it gonna work out?

Other than this machine’s inability to process my photos, I may use this for everything else. We have a Dell Mini, running Ubuntu, and it’s been a decent machine. The smaller screen, and a couple of keyboard issues, are the only problems with it. It is reliable, and just works. It needs nothing special to join our Apple Airport powered WiFi or to print to our Canon WiFi printer. It just works. Dropbox installs, and everything just works.

This Google ChromeOS just works, too.

I foresee a few issues though, however they’re mostly hardware issues at this point. One thing about Apple hardware, they never have ugly monitors/video. That’s one area they just do well. This CR-48 is a test unit. It is a beta product. I get that. That’s why I’m not disappointed or let down. (Also I didn’t pay for it, so I have nothing to complain about.) But the screen is kinda weak. The viewing angle is quite limited. Not to worry, I just bend the screen to fit my angle.

I’ve read that others are complaining about the touchpad. I understand why, but haven’t really had any of the same problems. It works fine for me. I’m not drawing any artwork here, nor am I going to be doing much file browsing/moving (since there’s no real file browser).

In case you didn’t know, the CR-48 ChromeOS is a cloud-based, browser only experience. What does this mean? It has nothing else in the operating system other than a browser, Google’s own Chrome. There’s no icon to launch the browser, it IS the OS.

You can read all about it in other places. That’s not my goal. You can also read about how to install “apps” elsewhere.

The first few “apps” I installed are:

I also installed a few plugins right away.

I’ll post some more of my reaction in the coming weeks and months, I hope. If you’re interested in begging Google to give you a shot at breaking their new OS, then you can still fill out the application. Go to the CR-48 Pilot Program website.

Go see the slideshow!

Attention Google, your Reader team is asleep

I know that Google’s Profile, Buzz, and Reader products are all interacting these days. And with Facebook’s horrible stumble in recent months with the issue of privacy, there hasn’t been much discussion on Google’s total failure to integrate our privacy and profile settings. But, to be blunt, it sucks!

My current example is the appearance of a number of “Anonymous” profiles wanting to view my Reader content. I tend to lock down my social media stuff, only sharing with approved friends and contacts. Anyone going by the name “Anonymous” is an immediate block. You might think, “No problem, just block them.” I do. And they continue to reappear each time I refresh.


I took some screenshots so you could see what I’m talking about…

Google Reader

Block Anonymous

Super secret beta release of Seesmic for Android…with support for Google Buzz!

Hey folks!

Google announced their much anticipated API for Google Buzz today at the 2010 Google IO conference. In no time, Seesmic released a beta of Seesmic for Android, with support for Google Buzz. The catch? It’s only for attendees of Google IO. Lame.

Well, a little fancy googling found me a sweet post with a QR code and a download link. Walla! It’s installed on my fancy little Nexus One!

Do you want it? Hit the QR code below, and download the .apk file.

Want a direct link? Go here:


The Kindle unboxing…

Well, I got an Amazon Kindle. If you don’t know what that is, then WAKE UP! It’s Amazon’s e-reader. It’s basically my thin digital device that holds 1500 books. The purchase price includes access to what Amazon calls Whispernet, aka 3G wireless. Pretty cool! The Kindle Store is right there on the main window, and I can purchase books and have them downloaded within seconds.

My first book on my Kindle? Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller.

What follows is a series of shots I took, whilst unboxing this sweet little device…

Kindle Unboxing, 1

Kindle Unboxing, 2

Kindle Unboxing, 3

Kindle Unboxing, 4

Kindle Unboxing, 5

Kindle Unboxing, 6

Kindle Unboxing, 7