Photos

Over the past few days I have been trying to take some more photos just to get back in the routine. They have been images of mundane things around the house but I have been trying some new (to me) editing techniques to hopefully make them into something kind of compelling.

Abstract banana

Abstract banana

Knot 1

Knot 1

Knot 2

Knot 2

Scout's Ball

Scout's Ball

Afternoon Clouds

Afternoon Clouds

Sawdust and Dog Hair

This past week I was on vacation and the child was on a cruise with her grandparents. Erin and I took the opportunity to repair our nine-year-old, not-at-all-properly-cared-for deck. I "think" we sealed it once, maybe seven years ago but I can't remember. Anyway, it was in pretty bad shape. Boards splitting, turning gray, etc. We decided it was time to strip it to the bare structure and replace everything else.

Over the course of five days we replaced all of the decking and the steps, all of the railings and pickets, and a few other pieces here and there. Basically, if it wasn't a structural component we replaced it.

And, being us, we took lots of pictures to document our progress. Here is a (roughly) chronological look at the process. And, of course, you can see how helpful Scout was during the project...

Addendum: Erin was a total badass tearing apart the deck. Seriously.

Playing Around with Lightroom HDR

I've never been a fan of HDR (high dynamic range) photography. Basically it's combining multiple exposures in the computer to increase the dynamic range of an image. I have shied away from HDR because I have seen too many photos that end up looking like this.

But in the latest version of Lightroom there is a new photo merge feature that does HDR the right way. Instead of making an unrealistic image with crazy dynamics the Lightroom HDR uses multiple exposures to turn the five or six stops of dynamic range with digital photos into the eight to ten stops that film has.

With the photos below I set up the tripod and took five exposures of each photo. One at the "correct" exposure, and one each at two stops below, one stop below, one stop over, and two stops over. Then it's just a matter of importing them into Lightroom, selecting the set of exposures and selecting Photo Merge > HDR... Lightroom then gives you a preview so you can decide whether or not to keep the merged photo.

The merged photo is a fully-editable DNG file so you can make any adjustments you would make on any other raw image file. In the case of these two photos I just cropped them, increased the contrast a bit, and then edited them in Exposure. All I did in Exposure was to convert them to the Ilford Delta 100 black and white emulator. Then back to Lightroom to export them.

And there you go. Black and white digital photos with comparable dynamic range to film.

Apple Music is coming...

Apple Music is coming tomorrow. There are a couple of hoops you’re going to have to jump through to listen in.

Updates

Apple is going to push iOS 8.4 to iPhones and iPads at 8:00 AM PDT (11:00 AM on the East Coast) on June 30 (tomorrow). That will update the Music app to support Apple Music. The Beats app is getting an update (though not necessarily at the same time) that will let it export your Library and Playlists over to the updated Apple Music app.

If you use Spotify, Rdio, etc., you can use the Beats Importer (info here) to move your stuff to Beats and then from there into Apple Music.

Money

You’re going to have to pay for most of the features of Apple Music. It’s $9.99/month for one user, $14.99/month for up to six users connected through iCloud Family Sharing. But, in my opinion it’s worth it. For that you get unlimited skips on Apple Music radio stations except on Beats1, which is live and doesn’t have skips, unlimited listening to everything in the Apple Music catalog, all of your own music added through iTunes Match, and access to the curated playlists and recommendations in Apple Music. You will also get offline listening for those times when you’re driving to Snowshoe and cell service sucks.

There is a three month free trial period for everyone but if you decide not to pay after that you’ll lose access to any content from the catalog you’ve added and you’ll be skip-limited on all radio stations.

Where to Listen

Initially you’ll get to enjoy Apple Music on any iOS device, any Mac or PC running the latest iTunes, and the Apple Watch. Apple TV support and an Android app are coming later this year.

So, Should I Try It?

Yeah. If you use the Music app now for iTunes Match and/or iTunes Radio then you’ll be using it anyway. And iTunes Radio is being killed off in favor of Apple Music so you’ve got no choice there. If you use Beats then you’re eventually going to be migrated over to Apple Music (probably) so you might as well start that process now.

If you’re using one of the other streaming services and really, really love it, then I dunno. Maybe just try Apple Music for a bit since it’s free for three months and decide then.

But, I want to know more…

Then you should check out Serenity Caldwell’s Apple Music FAQ: Everything you need to know on iMore. It has, literally, everything you need to know.

Happy listening…

WWDC 2015 Keynote

For a WWDC keynote in which essentially nothing "new" was announced, there sure was a lot going on today at the Moscone Center. We didn't get any new hardware: the Apple TV was apparently scrapped at the last minute because either the hardware, the content agreements, or both, aren't ready yet. And all of the upgrades and services announced for iOS and OS X are iterative. I suppose the native SDK for watchOS is new, but it was completely expected. So, boring, right?

Nope.

OS X El Capitan

OS X 10.11 (awkward numbering, there) is called El Capitan. It's a little hard to say out loud but it's a good name. And if nothing else it makes for a really nice desktop wallpaper. The features in El Cap are what's exciting. Along with the usual gang of performance and security improvements we're getting some cool UI stuff.

There are new touchpad gestures that will let you swipe on emails to mark them read or delete them – not sure if that's customizable to archive instead of delete, but it certainly should be. I'm very excited to have pinned tabs in Safari. And the ability to mute audio in tabs (looking right at you, Macworld, with your insufferable auto-playing videos) from the address bar is nice.

I am also very excited about the split-screen window management. I often have TweetBot and Safari open and would really like a better way to see both than clicking between windows or swiping between full-screen spaces. It's definitely a first-world problem but it will reduce friction and frustration.

Apple also announced they're bringing Metal to the desktop in 10.11 which should give significant performance improvements in games and in high-end apps like Adobe's Lightroom and Photoshop. Indeed, Adobe has announced they will incorporate Metal in all of their Mac apps soon.

iOS 9

iOS doesn't get cool, California names so it's just boring old 9. It is very cool that this latest mobile OS will be available on every device that iOS 8 can run on today will run iOS 9 when it is available. How well it runs on older devices is yet to be seen, however.

Siri continues to get better with improvements in accuracy and performance. And Siri is getting smarter with improved search and even predictive, contextual suggestions. She's even creepier than before! To be fair, I have been using Siri more lately and have noticed a big improvement.

Maps is getting better, too. Apple is really upping their mapping efforts to improve accuracy. They're also adding public transit routes. Maps will even understand the layouts of subway stations and integrate walking directions to get you where you want to go faster.

As expected, Apple is adding more banks and merchants to its Apple Pay system. And they announced that Apple Pay will go live in the United Kingdom next month. And you can use it on the Underground. No more Oyster card for us, Mr. Fish!

Believe it or not the thing I was am excited about with iOS 9 is the updated Notes app. Notes is getting added to share sheets so you can easily add web links and photos. You will also be able to make checklists in Notes and even make sketches right in the app. It's going to actually be useful now.

Apple introduced a new app called News that will have content from publishers available for free. So, I guess there is something new. Please disregard the first sentence of this post. There you will have stories from Wired, ESPN, New York Times, and a bunch of Conde Nast publications. It looks a bit like a Flipboard-type service. You can bookmark articles for reading later, as well.

The iPad is finally getting real multitasking. No. For real. Honest-to-goodness side-by-side apps. Every iPad running iOS 9 will get a SlideOver function where you can pick an app (the new Notes would be handy here, as would Twitterrific) that you can, well, slide over the side of the active app. True split view multitasking like that coming in OS X El Capitan is limited to the iPad Air 2, though.

I'm also very excited about the Picture-in-picture feature coming with iOS 9. Finally I'll be able to watch baseball and check twitter at the same time! Looks like developers will have to use the new API to make that work, though, so some might not support it right away.

They announced improvements in battery life, the install size of updates, and streamlining app resources for each device (because, no, it does not make sense for a universal app to install iPad-size images on an iPhone). There are also many under-the-hood improvements as well as APIs and frameworks for developers to use.

watchOS

Apple announced watchOS 2. Eh.

I'm sure I'll care more about the watch when I have one but I don't think Apple will be able to convince me of its usefulness any time soon. Until then: Eh.

Apple Music

With Apple Music they have taken the best parts of the Beats Music service and the best parts of iTunes Radio/iTunes Match and smashed them together in a single app. And it looks really good. You'll have access to all of your music like you do know through the Music app with iTunes match but you can also seamlessly stream anything you want on demand as you can now with Beats.

The radio function looks nice, too. There will be one live, 24/7 station hosted by real live DJs (without ads) called Beats1. In addition there will be a bunch of other stations that cover the gamut from Top Trends to Americana to Electronic. And you can create your own custom stations based on a song, an artist, or an album just like you can now with iTunes Radio.

There is a Connect part, too, where you can follow your favorite artists but I think that's for a younger demographic than myself. I just want the music.

Apple Music will be $9.99 a month (the same price Beats Music is now) or $14.99 a month to add up to six family members. I suppose that means up to six Apple IDs in a Family Sharing plan. You can listen to Beats1 and other Apple Music stations for free, but paying for membership gets you unlimited skips on the stations (other than Beats1, obvs) as well as features like unlimited listening from all of the Apple Music library, offline listening, and expert music recommendations.

They announced that Apple Music will launch on June 30 and everybody will get a three-month free trial. I have a feeling a lot of people will want to keep it after three months.

Other Stuff

Just wanted to mention a few other things about the keynote. This was the first time I can remember Apple having female executives on stage during a keynote. There were two: Jennifer Bailey, who heads up Apple Pay, and Susan Prescott, VP of Product Marketing. They both did an excellent job and it was refreshing to see more than the standard group of middle-aged white men up there.

All of the videos that Apple showed at the keynote were really good. From the intro video starring Bill Hader (and many other comedy personalities) to the Beats1 promo, they were all very well done. I enjoyed them much more than the normal Jony Ive aluminium videos.

OS X El Capitan, iOS 9, and watchOS are available now as developer betas. So, if you are brave and have $99 you can install them today. OS X and iOS 9 will be available soon as public betas if you're only slightly less adventurous. As per the usual, I will be waiting until full releases in the Fall and I recommend pretty much everybody to that.

The last part of the keynote, the "One more thing...", was all about Apple Music. They went over the same points so many times that I thought I was going crazy. First Jimmy Iovine went over everything. Then Eddie Cue went over everything. Then, for some reason, Drake came out and talked about the Connect part of Apple Music. It really seemed like dropping the Apple TV from the keynote made them stretch the Apple Music stuff to fill time (but, why?) and that stuff was hastily thrown in. It was painful to bear by the end but the performance by The Weeknd at the end was really good. I like that guy.

Apple fixed the iOS keyboard shift key. Our long, national nightmare is over. When you see how simple the fix was you will wonder what the hell they've been doing in Cuptertino for the last eight years.

Links of Interest

Some links to stories about the keynote that you may be interested in:

Everything you need to know about the WWDC 2015 keynote | iMore

Thoughts on the WWDC 2015 keynote itself, but not the actual contents of the keynote, because I need more time to think — 512 Pixels

Six Colors: WWDC 2015 keynote: The fine print

Apple - Music - Membership

Daring Fireball: Move to iOS