Thursday, 30 October 2014

Monday, 27 October 2014

This Post Delayed...

... because food poisoning. The germs / viruses / whatever are so small and so few in number, and yet the effect leaves me weak through and through, barely able to get upstairs or stay awake. Six flat teaspoons of sugar, half of salt, one litre of water. That's all I had for twenty-four hours. I ate some rice at lunchtime and fell asleep for an hour and a half. If I am able to leave the house Tuesday morning it will be some kind of surprise.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Migrating Your iPhone to Another Mac

You plug your iPhone into the Other Mac and open iTunes. iTunes enforces monogamy: an iPhone can only pair with a single Mac. (I understand the latest version lets you be poly-Mac-amous, but I’m not convinced.) Attempt to use another Mac to manage your iPhone music and iTunes will first delete everything on your phone. Even if you are just changing the setting from Sync to Manually Manage My Music. Hit that Apply button the first time and your phone gets wiped. I hit the button and then cancelled the job by clicking on the cross in the progress bar.

I kept the music on the phone, but iTunes totally lost it. Restarted the phone and iTunes, still no recognition on iTunes of the music on my phone. I looked through the Forums, I called Apple support next morning and I even got told by someone at the Regent Street Apple store that the only way to handle the problem was to book a Genius Appointment. By the time he suggested that I talk to my carrier - who supplied the phone - in case it was a hardware fault, it clicked. Those guys don’t understand how iTunes works and how Macs and iPhones sync. It’s all a black box to them. I downloaded iTunes 12 like the phone support guy suggested and tried again. Nothing changed. By the next morning, I had it figured out.

A Windows program would have an option to “Transfer my iPhone library” or something similar. It would read the music directory on the phone and re-create the computer's view of what was on the phone. It would also have an option to “Re-Sync my Phone Library", which would compare the view on the computer with the music on the phone and prompt for removing or making up the differences. Easy, if a little slow. So if anything goes wrong, a Windows program could read the directories and start over.

iTunes doesn’t work like that. iTunes doesn’t read the file system on the iPhone. It probably can’t read the filesystem, for reasons that Apple thought made sense at the time. (Never drive yourself mad trying to understand crazy – that’s why they call it “crazy”.) What iTunes does is read a special ‘library’ file on the phone, not even the one used by the Music app because, don’t forget, my Music app still had a functioning set of menus and pictures. This is why Apple makes you go through iTunes, because iTunes needs to keep the two catalogue files - one on the Mac and one in the iPhone - in sync.

This is part of a deeper difference between Apple and everyone else. Apple’s approach is to keep the user away from the filesystem. It’s quite amazing how many people don’t really grok file systems, and the UNIX filesystem is especially horrible. Apple’s approach is that the user shouldn’t need to understand the mechanics of the computer, that the user should interact on the symbolic level and leave the messy business of directories and the like to the OS. Apple is like automatic transmission, while Windows and Linux / Unix are for people who like to drive a stick-shift.

iTunes wants me to Sync. Apple wants me not to mess around at the filesystem level. It’s why Spotlight is so fabulous. I decided to get with the program. Here’s how you do it.

Download and install the latest iTunes. This is for version 12.
Make sure you have your music directories connected - mine are on NAS and I have to remember to re-connect to it
Set up a playlist in iTunes called “iPhone” (or whatever) and drag-and-drop all the music you need into it
Connect your iPhone and click on the icon to bring up the control screen

Now do this is exactly this order...
Select the Music Tab...
tick Sync Music at the top left...
tick the playlist you just created...
and only then click the Sync button at the bottom right.

This will delete all the music on your iPhone, copy across the songs in the playlist and re-build the iPhone’s iTunes catalogue and its Music app catalogue.

From now on, to manage the music on your iPhone (or other device), edit the playlist first and let the Sync do the rest. That’s what Apple and iTunes really want you to do. It's just as flexible and you can do it without needing the phone connected. The connect, press Sync and go do something while it does.

Why they don’t just tell us that in the first place, I have no idea. “If you’re from Windows, you’ll be used to manually moving files and re-building the catalogue in your media player. Now there’s no need to do that. Just set up a playlist for your device, edit that and Sync on just that playlist. Here are the exact steps to set that up…”.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Christine McVie On Tour

This was not supposed to happen.

Stolen from The Guardian 13/10/2014
Like Sis says: for Christ sakes we were all supposed to die before we got old...

Thursday, 16 October 2014

How Not To Lift A Heavy Object

We have to do “Mandatory Training” every month at The Bank. Year after year it’s the same old stuff. Every year there’s a health and safety thing, which includes instructions about how to lift heavy objects. Here are the photographs of the approved style.

I know. Seriously. This is a bank with… a lot of employees. So let’s go through what’s wrong here.

1. Remove the high heel shoes. Because you see lots of guys lifting in high heels.
2. Feet level and hip width or more apart. Because you don’t want to put rotational stress on your hips.

3. How about using the holes in the side of the box as handles? Which is, you know, they’re there for. 4. Holding the box by the sides means she must generate enough friction to equal the weight of the box. It’s very inefficient and not good for long distances of say, ten yards or more.
5. Just try lifting anything in this pose. Let me know how comfortable your right leg feels.

The point is, if they can mess up something this simple, how much confidence can we have that they are doing the complicated stuff right?

Monday, 13 October 2014

Managing Photographs: Making Choices

There are three decisions to make in this process: culling the boring and just plain bad shots; doing stuff to turn the maybes into definites; and then displaying the stuff I keep.

Some photographs - like this one - are just great on their own. Others need a little context: this one

works better if you know it was taken from St Pauls, and that the Shard is about a mile away. Then there's the photo-essay, which has more or less disappeared from print, but still exists on the internet, and back when Colin Sokol was her photographer, Rumi Neely used to do things like this. The point of an essay is that the overall effect is greater than the sum of the parts: the parts are good-but-not-striking-or-memorable images, and together they make up something memorable. A photo-essay has a narrative structure - even if it is borrowed from a Georges Perec novel. Each image should follow from or contrast with the ones before. The worst kind of photo-essay, or photographer's book, is one that has a series of similar shots. You know: face, face, face; wasteland, wasteland, wasteland; bridge, bridge, bridge; crowd, crowd, crowd. Repetition only works where there's a certain amont of fetishism involved, as in: Ferrari, Ferrari, Ferrari; Mica Arganaraz, Mica Arganaraz, Mica Arganaraz; sunset, sunset, sunset.

(Not a Ferrari or a sunset)

When we are taking snaps for ourselves, rather than for clients or projects for publication, it's of an event, or place, or journey. There's a built-in narrative, even if it’s a walk round a part of a city. So one thing that guides the final selection process is the narrative that we make from the photographs. Another is keeping images that fit into a longer-term project (I'm doing signs on buildings at the moment).

So I am going to keep everything but the clunkers in an archive is that I might devise new projects or themes, and can start by raiding the past. This helps me understand how to organise my photographs. I photograph places and so that will do for a directory structure. Themes can be handled with tags.

Finally, there’s the presentation issue. I’m not a pro, I’m not going to find a publisher for a book, and any thoughts of gallery or exhibition are out of the question. I don’t do the kind of photographs that photography club types do, and anyway I’m not a joiner. So it’s going to be the blog. And the Picasa album that Blogger uses to store pictures in my blogs.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Chasing the Blahs Away

Recently when I wake up, at 05:30 each weekday morning, I murmer to myself: can I stop now? Do I have to carry on slogging through each morning prep, commute, day at the job, commute and/or gym? Can I retire and do whatever it is I think I'm going to do when I retire - learn K-theory and the Bach Cello Suites on plectrum guitar.

At least, that's what I think I mean. And if I had a thumping final-salary pension from years of service with the company and could afford to live on it, then I might well chuck in the day-job and find something else to do. But I don't, so I can't, so waking up at 05:30 it is.

The last week off work let me realise that it takes my body three full days to recover from the kind of workout I gave it on the Tuesday afternoon, the highlights of which were 2x6x70kgs on the bench press, 3x10x24kgs on the dumbell chest press and 3x8x60 on the deadlift. (I know, you can do that standing on your head. Call me when you're 60 and doing better.) A huge part of the "Can I Stop Now" comes from that physical reaction.

Then waking up at 05:30. My natural times are bed between 23:00 and 24:00, wake up some time after 07:00 and lie in bed for 20 minutes or so before getting started on breakfast. 05:30 is un-natural and it's followed by a commute by public transport. I know everyone else does that, and guess what? Everyone else wants to stop as well.

The drab office with its half-assed aircon, meeting rooms in which I and many others struggle to stay awake, furniture that was tired when it was bought no doubt second-hand, don't mention the toilets, and the truly awful computers and internet access does not help either.

Then there's my superior moral fortitude, so I can't do what old men my age do, which is let themselves go to the point where they think that three brisk 30-minute walks a week counts as exercise, and watching some vapid documentary on BBC 3 counts as intellectual challenge. When I ask if I can stop now, I'm asking as well if I can just let myself go now please?

Of course I can't. I know what happens if I stop exercising: I put on weight, my blood sugar goes up as a consequence, my legs break out into blotches and I lose the fine edge of thinking ability that makes me a demon at my job. I get tired, irritable and lose my charm and confidence. Seriously.

I could no more start watching mainstream TV than I could pull my hair out. I'm fed up with the movie scene in London because I want it to be something more than the same five films in the Curzons, Everymans and even at the ICA. Could I really stop reading philosophy and mathematics? I did stop with the philosophy, and I'm happier now I read it again, even if it's sometimes so waffle-y it hurts (I'm looking at you, Isabelle Stengers). As for reading and understanding mathematics (or physics), it's how you know you haven't woken up brain-dead from one too many meetings where people talk non-stop management babble as if it makes sense to them.

As for dressing well and eating at the bar (at Moro, Exmouth Market as I type), that's only going to stop when I can't afford it. And it isn't that expensive to dress with anonymous style, thanks to the fact that all clothes are now made by child labour in Chinese factories that spew the pollution from the carcinogenic dyes into the water.

I'm doing all this sober - something you have no idea about - and drug-free and with practically zero chance of getting off with any kind of female - which some of you may have an idea about - and while it's all terribly virtuous and vastly preferable, for me, to being drunk, high or involved with some needy screw-up, it lacks edge and part of me would like to stop doing it, and let go, stay home and watch crap TV, eat high-calorie food junk food and turn into a self-pitying mess who gets asked to retire in six months. That's the self-pitying part of me talking. I don't want to do any of those things. Especially the part where I stop being good-looking.

What I want is to live the way I do but without the sense of effort, effort, effort. You know why so few people are real menschen? Because it's hard work, and it never gets to be a habit, and it never gets easy, and very few people support you in your endeavour to be so.

What’s left is a case of the blahs, that boredom and dissatisfaction that can make me retreat to the house instead of going to do something, because doing whatever it is isn’t going to make me feel better so why should I spend the money? A quick look round the web finds people treating the blahs like a cloudy day, and as having no ontological significance, but that’s a tad lazy. If I’m bored and dissatisfied it’s because there’s something missing from my life. Maybe I need to find an interesting book to read, or please god a decent movie to watch, or do some housework (alcoholics will remember that one: cleaning is very distracting, therapeutic and rewarding. Many alcoholics in early days have spotless quarters). The blahs can mean I’ve read some tedious books, or been tired, or done something to run myself down. There’s nothing that says the blahs are more common amongst the older folk, although we do have more cause to say things like “I saw the original” or “I read Proust already”. However, I haven’t read lots of John D McDonald or any of Hopscotch. It’s up to me to find something new and interesting, and there’s always something out there.

So I am going to tell my waking, aching body to shut the frack up, and take it to the brisk morning exercises involving light barbells with Fatgripz on the handles. I am going to do my best to be in bed by 21:30 five days a week and get seven hour's sleep. I am going to keep dragging my sorry ass to work, to the gym, to restaurants, movies and wherever else I think I should show up.

Monday, 6 October 2014

This Post Intentionally Left Blank

Because I was on holiday last week and have too many threads dangling.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Managing Photographs: Software

So we were at the point where the trusty MacBook Pro was no longer trusty. And I had my iPhoto library on its hard drive. I managed to export all the files to a network drive - I think that's easier on the early version of iPhoto I had - and that took the time it took. Suddenly I had around 10,000 files to sort out. I know that this is almost how many a rookie professional wedding photographer takes on their first assignment, but I’m not a pro, so for me, 10,000 is a lot.

I experimented with using iPhoto on a new Mac Air with the iPhoto library on the network drive via wifi. Because, you know, I didn’t know any better.



Or you will tear your hair out waiting for iPhoto to fetch the files over your wi-fi network and make copies and do whatever else it does. Macs just don't do well over networks, especially with a Windows drives on the other end.

This is a shame, because for a simple person like me, whose idea of editing a photo is straightening out the unaccountable but consistent 0.5-2.0 degrees rightwards tilt in every photograph I have ever taken with a digital camera, iPhoto does a nice job with a minimum of fuss. Imports, creates events, lets me edit, and exports. All in a pretty interface. But it really wants its Library on the hard drive or maybe an external drive connected by Thunderbolt for preference (I haven't tried). Not on a network drive. What to do?

I was also reading pro photographers' blogs at the time, and one of them mentioned Irfan View.

Heck, yeah, Irfan View. Irfan View laughs at displaying 2,000 image directories it’s never seen before, creating thumbnails from any image format file faster in a blink, and then giving you all the bulk handling facilities you want and some you didn't know you couldn't live without. You have to see it in action to believe it. It's ridiculously robust and stable, and it's developed, seemingly, by a single man called Irfan Skiljan. It's free, though after a while, you really will want to donate. Along with Evernote and Dropbox, it's on all my (Windows) computers. So on a Mac that means WINE. Tried it. With Winebottler. That worked fine though I had to hack round the fact that Wine bottler wants the 433 version of the install exe, and the current download is 438. And suddenly I had Irfan View up, except... wait... I had more images than that in that folder. And that one. For some reason it will only show me 45 random images from a directory. Nothing on Google about this, which makes me think no-one else has used this on larger directories. So that's that option.

So Picasa. I know. Google. The Evil Empire. How can anything written - actually, acquired - by Google be good enough? By now I had learned not to do images over wifi, so I downloaded it and started slowly. And actually, it’s not bad. It’s better than that. It’s good enough for the job.

And that’s the point: for the job. moving away from iPhoto means I had to think about my “workflow”. "Workflow" is what replaced "developing and printing" when everyone went digital. In the Days of Film, photographers developed the negatives, made up contact sheets (analogue thumbnails), and then looked at each one through a loupe, and indicated the keepers with a flamboyant - and presumably removable - pencilled circle. These they printed full size - being professionals they wanted to keep the costs down. They kept the contact sheets and the negatives. All of them. Forever. Often un-marked in boxes, draws and faded brown envelopes that filled every inch of their tiny Manhatten apartments - the latter years of many famous photographers’ lives are a study in obsessive picture taking.

That’s kinda what happens now, but digitally. I return with a camera full of images that...

1. have to be copied onto my computer, which gives me a directory full of images most of which won't be worth keeping, so I have to...
2. delete the ones that make you say “Meh”...
3. and archive the rest after putting some rudimentary tagging on them. From those I choose the obvious goodies plus those that might work if cropped, processed and re-worked in whatever image editor I have... on those ones that could be tweaked...
5. add in tags and ownership details data to the image files for the spiders to crawl...
6. because in the end I’m going to publish them even if it’s only on this blog.

A real pro follows the same system, but better. And for money. To do all this, I need software to import the files from the camera and a library manager, which iPhoto and Picasa do, and an image editor. Lightroom is for advanced image processing, not library management, cropping, rotating and applying a few neat tricks. That’s what iPhoto and Picasa do.

Plus I’m cheap, and Picasa is free. Except for it’s Google’s way of paying for all that valuable information in my searches and e-mails and calendar. Because I’m the kinda person you really want to sell things to. Or I’m not, so the advertisers don’t waste their money advertising to me.

So that brings us to the culling and filtering process. The artistic vision thing. I’m not a pro, so the only client I have to keep happy is me. And this is another subject again.