Category Archives: Computers

Discussion of anything computer related.

Giving Lightroom Another Try

A little over a month ago, I compared Lightroom and Aperture and decided to use Aperture.  Since then, I’ve been watching several videos on YouTube, which has helped me understand Lightroom a bit more, so I decided to try Lightroom one more time.
To start out, I exported the images out of Aperture to a new folder. While importing them into Lightroom, it was then that I noticed that most photos were missing the keywords I had tagged them with in Aperture. After do some research online, I learned that JPEGs and TIFFs need to have the metadata embedded in the files while RAW files would have the metadata in XMP sidecar files. After re-exporting the JPEGs and TIFFs with the metadata embedded, I re-imported those files and the keywords were there but I still lost the hierarchy I had established in Aperture. I did have to re-tag the TIFF files as there was an error when exporting them from Aperture with the metadata embedded. Luckily, the TIFF files are only family photos I scanned to preserve so that task wasn’t so bad.
I’ll continue to use them both side-by-side since I prefer Aperture’s integration into the OS and also like that there is more training, plug-ins, and presets available to Lr. Even though I’m still testing out Lightroom, I decided to sign up for the photography package from Adobe for $10/month which gets me access to Lightroom and Photoshop, as well as the new Lightroom mobile for iPad.

Aperture

After I started loading all my photos into iPhoto on my new Mac, I started looking into Lightroom and Aperture. I downloaded the trial for Lightroom but didn’t like how it was laid out. It may be because I got used to iPhoto having one catalog for all photos and I could put photos into separate projects/albums within that catalog. Lightroom seems to want each project into it’s own catalog. Because of this, I started leaning towards Aperture but Apple no longer offers a trial version. After searching online, I was able to find the last trial version available from Apple and tried to install it on my Mac but because I’m running Mavericks (OS X 10.9) it wasn’t compatible. During the install, I was forwarded to the App Store where the latest version of Aperture is offered. I was then able to download that version for free.

I’ve been using Aperture for a couple months now and if/when Apple releases v4 of Aperture, I will definitely pay for the upgrade since I’m used to the functionality of the program. The way Apple is going though, the next version may be free to everyone anyway (Mavericks was a free upgrade, iLife and iWork apps are free, etc).

eos-rebel-t3

My First DSLR

After playing around in iPhoto for the last couple weeks, and being on the fence for a few years about buying one, I decided to purchase a base level DSLR. Since I had a Canon SLR film camera (AE-1 Program) growing up, I decided to go with a Canon DSLR. I went to Canon’s website and purchased a refurbished EOS Rebel T3 kit (with 18-55mm lens) as well as a refurbished Canon 75-300mm lens for less than what a brand new EOS Rebel T3 kits would cost ($429). Unfortunately, I ordered it too late to bring it with me on a vacation we were taking to Arizona so I brought my point-and-shoot Canon A590IS to take photos. Once I get a decent camera bag and get used to taking photos with the T3, I’ll start taking that on trips instead of the A590IS.

mac-mini

New Mac

I’ve had my Windows 7 PC for four years and it was starting to get a little slow for my tastes. I decided it was time for a new computer but I don’t like Windows 8 at all. It feels too much like a phone OS put onto a PC, which is probably Microsoft’s intent so that anyone that uses the PC OS can easily transition to the Surface or a Windows phone. My father has been using a Windows XP for the last few years and only needs something to check email and surf the web. His PC was even slower than mine and would occasionally freeze up. I tried new HDDs and reinstalling XP and it wouldn’t help. I decided to buy a Mac mini since I already had a wireless keyboard, wireless mouse and a 21″ monitor; and give him my old Windows 7 PC. I’ve had a Mac before so there wasn’t much of a learning curve as there would be if I’d never touched one.
Now that I have a Mac and my wife has seen how easy they are to use, she wants to replace her three year old HP laptop with a Macbook Air because she also dislikes Windows 8.

Droid RAZR

For the past month, I’ve been using a Droid RAZR as my work cell phone. I decided to switch from the iPhone because for some stupid reason the iPhone can’t do voice and data at the same time on Verizon unless it’s on wifi. The iPhone can do both over 3G/4G on AT&T and T-Mobile. The Motorola Droid RAZR and Samsung Galaxy SIII can do both over 4G on Verizon. I would’ve upgraded to an iPhone 5 if Verizon could get their shit together.
So far, I like the phone. It took a little getting used to, considering I’ve only been using iPhones for the last four years. I like that the apps automatically update in the background without any user interaction, whereas on the iPhone, I have to tell it to update an app. I don’t like that the RAZR doesn’t give me count of the unread emails I have like the iPhone does. It would be nice looking at the icon and seeing a little bubble with the amount of unread emails. It does, however, flash a little green light letting me know I have new email. The closest thing the iPhone does is display the new email as banners on the lock screen.
Because of the security settings in my company, I can’t use the pattern to unlock method to access the phone. I’m forced to use a PIN to unlock the phone. I guess their reasoning is that someone might be able to figure out the unlock pattern by looking at the smudges on the screen.

iOS 6

I’ve been using iOS 6 on my iPhone 4S and new iPad for a little over a week now. I like that Siri can finally do more things like tell me sports scores, make dinner reservations, and launch applications. “She” still takes time, occasionally, to perform a task. I have mixed feelings about the new map application. I enjoy the new driving directions, yet I don’t appreciate having to download additional apps for traveling via public transportation. I have had limited experience with Passbook since I only have two apps that work with it – United Airlines and Walgreens. Considering it was shown during the presentation, I am very surprised Starbucks didn’t get their app updated prior to the official release of iOS 6. I was expecting Passbook to be more like CardStar or KeyRing with some added functionality but there’s no way to enter a frequent shopper/loyalty card. Everything has to be done through a separate app.
I haven’t updated my iPhone 4 which I use for work since there wouldn’t be much added capabilities and I plan on upgrading to an Android phone in a couple of weeks.

ReQall v. Remember The Milk, Round 2

About a year and a half ago, I chose ReQall over Remember The Milk as my GTD/productivity reminder app of choice. I eventually upgraded to the Pro version of ReQall because I liked the idea of adding items by voice and the integration with Evernote. After upgrading to my iPhone 4S though, ReQall stopped recognizing my location and therefore couldn’t remind me to do something when i was near a particular location (i.e. pickup milk when I’m near the grocery store). I’ve been in contact with ReQall’s tech support since October 24, 2011 and they’re in no rush to correct the issue. They say the developers are too busy working on a new product called ReQall Rover. Personally, I think three months is too long to have to wait for a bug fix, especially since I’m a Pro user.
Because ReQall has been pissing me off lately, I’ve decided to give RTM another try. They’ve found a way to use Siri to add new reminders to RTM. I never really used the Evernote integration but it was nice to know that feature was there, should I ever want to take advantage of it. RTM also has the ability to remind me by location.
I tried using the built-in Reminders app in iOS 5, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. If I wanted to assign a location to an item, I had to have the address attached to a contact in my address book. I didn’t really like that I had to create a contact for my grocery store or my pharmacy just to add a location to an item. I did, however, like that I could have the Reminders app notify me about an item when I leave a location, instead of only when I’m arriving or near one. I’ve used it several times to remind me to do something when leaving work or home. I would use the Reminders app exclusively if there were a web interface through iCloud to add items more quickly and if there were a way to dictate a list of items to Siri and have her/it recognize it as a list and create one entry per item (instead of one entry for the entire list).

Google Flights

Yesterday, Google released a tool for searching airfare. It’s similar to Kayak, Hipmunk and Expedia yet only focuses on flights, whereas the others also handle hotels (Kayak and Expedia also handle rental cars and entire vacation packages).
One of the things I like about Google Flights over the other services is that you can choose a departing city and date and see airfares to popular destination on a map. You can further filter this by price and duration of flight.
One of the things I don’t like about Google Flights is that you’re currently unable to book a round trip which start and end on the same day. My fiancée and I are going to Hawaii for our honeymoon and are planning on visiting the main island for a day to see the volcanoes. I know we can fly out at 6am and return around 8pm on the same day for ~$100 (booked directly through either Hawaiian Airlines or Go!, yet Google Flights insists we stay overnight and pay $172 instead. Kayak, Expedia and Hipmunk can book the same day round trip but also say it’ll cost $172.
Another thing I don’t like about Google Flights is that you can’t choose the number of travelers or what class you want to book. They automatically assume only one person is traveling and that person would like to sit in coach.
I’m sure it’s still in beta mode even though it doesn’t have the beta label; so I hope that they’ll improve it to better compete with Expedia, Kayak and Hipmunk.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OC2bUYVkjrY&w=560&h=345]

Google Plus

I’ve been trying out Google+ for about three weeks now and so far I like it better than Facebook. There are a few things I like about Google+ over Facebook and there are a few things I’d like to see Google+ implement that Facebook already does.
What I do like:

  • Group friends/acquaintances into “circles” instead of groups so status updates can be targeted appropriately
  • Group video chat (I personally haven’t tried this but it’s nice to know it’s there). Google+ calls this “hangouts”
  • Better control over profile privacy
  • Integrated with Picasa (rumored to change the name to Google Photos), which I already use as a backup to my Flickr account. I might even get rid of my Flickr account all together since storage on Google is cheap
  • No annoying posts about what games people are playing cluttering up your feed (or stream as Google+ calls it)

What I wish Google+ did that Facebook does

  • Allow for vanity URLs. It’s easier to tell someone to visit plus.google.com/your.name instead of plus.google.com/103067558420705101928
  • Have fan pages. The closest thing (and it’s not that close) would be “Sparks” which seem more like Google News filters
  • Condensed comments. I was very surprised to see that Google+ didn’t already have this implemented fully. Some comments on my stream are condensed (it’ll say there are 30 comments and let me choose to expand them to view all the comments) yet others are fully expanded out without giving me the option to condense them down. This makes my stream a lot longer than it needs to be. Hopefully Google will correct this soon.

What I wish Google+ did that even Facebook doesn’t do yet:

  • -1 something (the Facebook equivalent would be Dislike). People have been complaining that Facebook lacked this feature and Google should’ve listened to that and incorporated it into Google+ to one-up Facebook even more.

What I wish Google+ would copy from GMail and other social networking services:

  • Color coded commenting (similar to GMail)
  • Color coded stream entries (by circle, user configurable preferably – similar to labels in GMail but applying them to the person’s name)
  • A better @/+ mentioning system. It should default to showing me people I’m already following and not everyone in the Google Directory.

I think in about a year or two from now, Google+ will do to Facebook what Facebook did to myspace; even Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is on Google+.

VirtualBox

VirtualBox

Ubuntu 10.10 inside Windows 7

Yesterday, I posted an entry about creating a Hackintosh inside VirtualBox. I failed to realize that I never posted an entry about VirtualBox even though I’ve been using it for a while.
VirtualBox is a general-purpose full virtualizer for x86 hardware, targeted at server, desktop and embedded use. A lot of companies are moving towards virtualization because they can have multiple virtual servers running on one physical server. Fewer physical servers means less room needed to house the servers and less power to run the servers. Virtualization also makes it easier when migrating from one physical server to another. Typically, only a few files need to be migrated, instead of having to copy hundreds or thousands of files over; or having to create an image (Ghost, Acronis, etc.) of the old server and restoring the image onto the new server.
Oracle (the company who makes VirtualBox now that they purchased Sun MicroSystems) lists the following as reasons why virtualization is useful:

  • Running multiple operating systems simultaneously. VirtualBox allows you to run more than one operating system at a time. This way, you can run software written for one operating system on another (for example, Windows software on Linux or a Mac) without having to reboot to use it. Since you can configure what kinds of “virtual” hardware should be presented to each such operating system, you can install an old operating system such as DOS or OS/2 even if your real computer’s hardware is no longer supported by that operating system.
  • Easier software installations. Software vendors can use virtual machines to ship entire software configurations. For example, installing a complete mail server solution on a real machine can be a tedious task. With VirtualBox, such a complex setup (then often called an “appliance”) can be packed into a virtual machine. Installing and running a mail server becomes as easy as importing such an appliance into VirtualBox.
  • Testing and disaster recovery. Once installed, a virtual machine and its virtual hard disks can be considered a “container” that can be arbitrarily frozen, woken up, copied, backed up, and transported between hosts.

    On top of that, with the use of another VirtualBox feature called “snapshots”, one can save a particular state of a virtual machine and revert back to that state, if necessary. This way, one can freely experiment with a computing environment. If something goes wrong (e.g. after installing misbehaving software or infecting the guest with a virus), one can easily switch back to a previous snapshot and avoid the need of frequent backups and restores.

    Any number of snapshots can be created, allowing you to travel back and forward in virtual machine time. You can delete snapshots while a VM is running to reclaim disk space.

  • Infrastructure consolidation. Virtualization can significantly reduce hardware and electricity costs. Most of the time, computers today only use a fraction of their potential power and run with low average system loads. A lot of hardware resources as well as electricity is thereby wasted. So, instead of running many such physical computers that are only partially used, one can pack many virtual machines onto a few powerful hosts and balance the loads between them.

I typically use it for running older operating systems (Windows XP, Fedora 10, etc.) or for testing out new ones (especially Linux based). I haven’t yet, but if I wanted to, I could use VirtualBox create a virtual copy of one of my existing computers (with the help of third-party software).