Daily Archives: Sunday, 18th Nov 2007

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.3

I mentioned Lightroom last month, and I’m still using it for most of my photo processing. One of the good things about Lightroom is that the development team are a wee bit more enthusiastic about updating and improving it than, say, the Photoshop team. Don’t get me wrong, Photoshop is seriously good software, but new features generally only appear when there’s a new version that you have to pay to get. Version 1.3 has just been released, and it’s free to all registered users.

The new version includes improved compatibility with the latest version of Mac OS, support for more of the latest digital camera RAW formats, bug fixes, and some actual new bits and bobs. The biggest change is to the Export dialog, which has been redesigned so that it’s quicker to select a preset, and has some additional options.

Also available is a software development kit (SDK) which will enable the code-inclined to create their own plugins for additional export options. This comes with some sample plugins which are moderately useful in their own right – one for uploading to Flickr, and one for connecting to an FTP server – but will probably be most useful as guides to developing more sophisticated plugins.

Some good information about the update here.

The update should be available here for Windows and here for Mac, but Adobe seem to have been having some difficulties getting their links updated, at least on this side of the Atlantic, so you can also try their FTP site here.

The pre-release version of the SDK can be found here.

Hitting the backlog

Anyone reading the RSS feed, or who might just be reading the posts generally, is probably sitting there saying

What the photon just happened?????

Well, I suddenly found myself in the right frame of mind to do some more serious posting, and I thought I’d start with the long overdue stuff. Now I’ve just got this pile of DVDs to write about. These may follow shortly. Or not, depending….

Doctor Who – The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords

The Sound of Drums

At the end of Utopia, the Doctor, Jack and Martha were trapped on a planet in the distant future, with the Tardis having been stolen by the newly regenerated Master. They manage to get back to 21st century Earth when the Doctor adjusts that bracelet Jack always wears. They arrive just as the election results are announced. Harold Saxon, that chap we’ve been hearing about all series, has been elected Prime Minister. When he appears on a TV screen, the awful[1] truth is revealed. Harold Saxon is the Master. Now that’s going to lead to trouble, isn’t it?

The Master was always, well, differently sane, but his latest regeneration seems to be more extravagantly bonkers than we’ve seen before. Quite apart from being homicidal in the extreme, he’s also developed the annoying habit of drumming his fingers. After killing his Cabinet he gets to work on his latest Evil Plan.

Meanwhile, a journalist goes to see Lucy Saxon – yes, like all the best psycho politicians, “Saxon” has an adoring wife. She tells Lucy that Saxon’s entire biography and back story is a clumsy fake – so fake that anyone could spot it. The Master arrives with some floating spherical robot thingies….

The Master then appears on TV and introduces the robots as his friends – aliens he calls the Toclafane. After a bit of fun in which Martha’s family are rounded up and her flat blown up, the Master cuts in on a call she tries to make to her brother Leo. He and the Doctor have a little catch up chat.

The Master says that the Time Lords resurrected him to use as a weapon in the Time War[2], but that he ran away rather than fight. The Doctor tries to persuade him to stop what he’s doing

Doctor: We have each other
Master: Are you asking me out on a date?

He asks the Doctor if he can hear the drumming. People everywhere are drumming their fingers in the same rhythm. The TV announces that the Doctor and his friends are terrorist suspects. Torchwood have been sent off on a fake mission, so they can’t help. Darkness is coming.

The Doctor tells his friends about life on Gallifrey. How when they were children, his people were taken to look into the vortex, and how it drove some of them mad. Like the Master for instance. Jack tells the Doctor about his work with Torchwood, how it’s changed from the organisation that caused all that bother with Cybermen and Daleks. And they work out that the Master has been using the global Archangel phone network to program humanity to follow him.

Well, we can’t have that, can we? The Doctor rigs three Tardis keys with perception filters which will make them not actually invisible, but people won’t see them.

It’s like when you fancy someone, and they don’t know you exist

Jack and Martha exchange glances

You too, huh?

Meanwhile, the US President has arrived. He’s a bit upset that the new UK Prime Minister hasn’t followed proper first contact procedures, and tries to take over. The Master mocks him, but agrees that official first contact will take place on an aircraft carrier – a UNIT ship, no less.

While that’s going on, the Doctor and his friends follow the Master to the ship. The Valliant. Which anyone who recalls the original Captain Scarlet will have greeted by shouting

It’s Bloody[3] Cloudbase!

Yup, it’s a genuine floating in the air, great big technologically unlikely platform. Designed by Harold Saxon, naturally…

The Doctor finds his Tardis, which is not at all well. The Master has changed it. Turned it into a Paradox Machine, which is apparently a Very Bad Thing indeed. And then we get the traditional confrontation between the Doctor and the Master. Martha has reluctantly followed the Doctor’s order to flee…

The Master explains that when he arrived on Earth, he started planning and setting traps for the Doctor. Then, just for laughs, he uses a Lazarus laser (you might recall his involvement in the Lazarus Experiment) to age the Doctor by one hundred years. Then the sky literally opens and millions, no, billions of Toclafane begin to descend over the Earth. The Master tells them to decimate humanity – and he really means kill one tenth of the population. Death and destruction begin…

Last of the Time Lords

After the dramatic end of the previous episode, it might be considered a bit of a let-down when the final one begins with a “one year later” caption, but let’s go with it for now…

Earth is closed. Cities have been destroyed, and the survivors huddle together where they can. Martha has been travelling around the world, meeting resistance groups, and now she returns to the UK. It seems her fame has spread – everyone has heard that “Martha Jones will save the world”.

But the Master is still having fun. He’s ready to build his new Time Lord Empire, and has used the enslaved population of Earth to build rockets for a war against the rest of the universe[4]. He’s got Martha’s family working as servants, Jack’s in chains and the aged Doctor can’t get around much. But that doesn’t stop the Master using his toys to add the whole of the Doctor’s long life to his apparent age. This is a bit odd, as it results in the Doctor changing into a small, wrinkled creature somewhere between Gollum and Dobby the House Elf.

Martha has managed to bring down one of the murderous Toclafane spheres and manages to open it. Inside is a human face. And we learn the dreadful truth. The “Toclafane” are the last desperate remnants of humanity – the people sent to “Utopia”. The Paradox Machine that the Master has built from the Doctor’s Tardis is allowing them to come back in time and kill their ancestors without the expected result of them disappearing and therefore not being able to kill anyone as they would never have existed. Martha confides in Professor Docherty – her trip around the world has enabled her to gather the four components of a weapon that will permanently kill a Time Lord. Four chemicals injected together will kill the Master deader than a very dead thing. While Martha talks to the local people about the Doctor, the Professor contacts the Master and tells him where to find Martha, who is promptly rounded up and taken to Cloudbase the Valiant.

The Master does the triumphant crowing thing, only to be brought down a bit when Gollum Dobby the Doctor says

..as if I would ask her to kill

And then it all goes a bit wrong for the Master. Martha has been spreading a message around the world. Getting everyone to concentrate on one word: DOCTOR. And through some weird psychic energy thingy, this enables the Doctor to regenerate into his more usual size, shape, and apparent age. And he has a bit of extra power, which enables him to undo all the Master’s damage and wind back time, so that for the people of Earth, the Bad Stuff didn’t happen at all.

This does leave a few loose ends, of course. Lucy Saxon, now freed from the Master’s control, is horrified at what she has been made to do, and shoots the Master. The Doctor is horrified. He cradles the dying Master in his arms, and begs him to save himself by regenerating, but out of spite, or more madness than usual, he refuses and dies. The Doctor burns his body on a pyre. As the flames die down, the Master’s ring, an intricate thing with a Gallifreyan design not altogether unlike the one on the watch we all know and love, falls to the ground, only to be picked up by a hand with long red fingernails. Was it Lucy? Was it someone else? Can the Master really be dead forever this time? I’m sure we’ll find out sooner or later…

Jack, having sorted things out, decides that his place is with Torchwood – defending the Earth. But only after mentioning that he was a child model in his younger days. Apparently he was known as “the face of Boe”, which would explain a lot…

Martha has two problems. One is helping her family come to terms with the horrors they have lived through. As they were on the Valiant when time was reversed, their experiences are still with them, and there is nobody other than Martha who knows about it. And the other is the little matter of her unrequited feelings for the Doctor. She decides to back away from him, for a while, at least. But she promises to be back.

Which leaves the Doctor on his own again. He’s just set off when something goes a bit wrong. Well, it seems something else went wrong, but that only became clear later. Somehow, the Tardis has managed to collide with what would appear to be an ocean liner. A lifebelt falls from the ship, bearing the name “Titanic”, which leaves the Doctor where he was at the end of the last series. Saying

What? What? What?

All will be revealed on Christmas Day.

So there it is. The end of the third series of the revived Doctor Who, and what a lot of fun it was. David Tennant has taken the role and made it his own (so much so that when I see Christopher Eccleston’s episodes, they look slightly odd). He also appears to be having the time of his life. Whether he’ll still feel that way after doing another full year and three specials in 2009 is another matter, of course. That would give us four years of the same Doctor (even though one of those years is a bit short on screen time), which would be a good run. Personally, I’d like him to keep doing it so long as he’s enjoying it, and not a moment longer. There were some great stories (Blink and Human Nature/The Family of Blood stand out in particular), some great monsters (the Lazarus creature and the Weeping Angels were nice), a superb new companion in Martha Jones, and some great guest stars, particularly John Simm’s delightfully loopy and evil take on the Master.

Coming up, we have a Christmas special and thirteen new episodes, which will include some old adversaries and lots more fun. Woo Who!

[1] and not at all predictable
[2] Which kind of vaguely accounts for him being alive, but since he’s been destroyed many times, we won’t make a fuss about that
[3] OK, that wasn’t quite the word I used…
[4] I believe I may have mentioned his slight sanity defect…

Doctor Who – Utopia

OK. Settle down, strap yourselves in, get a nice drink of something. Here it is – my slightly overdue[1] account of the last three episodes of the 2007 series of Doctor Who. This post covers the first of those, which is more of a separate story, though it could be considered a prelude to the closing two-parter. Or all three could be considered to be a three-parter. Or…. Or maybe I should stop waffling and get on with it[2]

The Tardis has materialised over the Rift in Cardiff Bay to refuel. Mentioning that the Rift seems to have been active, which indeed it has, the Doctor starts to dematerialise, but as he does so, a familiar figure runs towards the Tardis and leaps on to it at the last moment. Yes, it’s our old friend Captain Jack Harkness, who disappeared at the end of the last series of Torchwood. Now we’ll find out where he went…

But something is wrong with the Tardis – it blasts uncontrollably into the distant future, further than the Doctor, or any Time Lord has ever been. Eventually it stops and materialises on a desolate planet, where we see humans being hunted by wild people who don’t look completely human. And in a laboratory, an elderly professor and his insect/human hybrid assistant are working on something…

After making it quite clear that this is not a good place to be, and that they should leave immediately, the Doctor and Martha pop out of the Tardis to have a look. The first thing they see is the apparently dead Jack, who promptly does his quick revival thing. He and the Doctor exchange slightly wary greetings

Doctor (looking at Jack’s face): Have you had work done?
Jack: You should talk!

Jack quickly fills in the Doctor on what happened to him after Rose brought him back to life. His time bracelet took him back to 1869, and he got back to the early 21st century the long way round. Which presumably means that when we first met him in 1941, there was another him around somewhere, quite apart from the him who was there towards the end of Torchwood’s first series. It’s a good job all those Jacks didn’t meet. All that ego in one place would probably have caused the end of civilisation as we know it, quite apart from any of those nasty temporal paradox thingies. Oh yes, and Jack’s brought along that hand in a jar that he’s been keeping in the Hub all this time. And yes, as if there was any doubt, it is the hand that the Doctor lost and regenerated in The Christmas Invasion.

So, our three heroes head off to have a look around. The slightly unfriendly locals chase them to a compound where the last remaining humans live. They find that there’s a huge space ship in a bunker, and in charge of it is Professor Yana, a brilliant scientist making miracles from incredibly limited resources. He and the Doctor hit it off immediately. There is something Doctorish about Yana – the brilliance, the warmth, the general goodness. Though unlike the Doctor, Yana is bothered by noises in his head. The sound of drums, getting ever closer…

Yana explains that the wild people outside the compound – he calls them the Futurekind are what all the surviving humans will become if they can’t reach Utopia. What’s Utopia? Well, he’s not really sure, but he’s been picking up a signal telling anyone and everyone to come there. As there don’t seem to be any other options, the plan is to get the big ship working and take all the survivors towards the source of the signal. Things are a bit broken, but with help from the Doctor, the power comes on, and everyone boards the ship. While that’s going on, the Tardis has been brought inside. When Yana sees it, he reacts oddly – as if he’s seen it before, even though he has no memory of it.

The Futurekind sabotage the power, which gives Jack a chance to be useful. As fixing things involves being in a chamber flooded with lethal radiation, his tendency to not die comes in handy. While he’s doing that, the Doctor explains a few things. What Rose did in restoring Jack to life was against all kinds of laws of time. Jack really is immortal, and distinctly unnatural, which is why the Tardis tried to get away from him.

Back in Yana’s lab, the professor mentions vaguely that there had been time travel “back in the old days”, and pulls out his pocket watch. A watch of very familiar design. Identical, in fact, to the one the Doctor used in Human Nature/The Family of Blood. Unmistakably Time Lord technology, which means that Yana has to be a Time Lord in the same kind of deep cover that the Doctor was in. Cover so deep that even he doesn’t know who he really is.

As he looks at the watch, we get a flashback to the Doctor’s last meeting with the Face of Boe.

You Are Not Alone. Y A N A. Yana!

As the ship launches, Yana opens the watch, and finally remembers who he really is. He opens the gates of the compound, letting the Futurekind in. And informs his assistant that he isn’t actually Professor Yana at all.

I AM THE MASTER

OK, it was the worst-kept secret in television history, but it was still a glorious moment. Having shot his assistant, he’s just about to set off and do some bad things when she just manages to shoot him back. Mortally injured, he gets into the Tardis and regenerates into a new, younger form, who looks remarkably like Sam Tyler. He disappears in the Tardis, leaving the Doctor, Jack and Martha to face the rather unpleasant Futurekind…

For an episode that really only existed to introduce the Master and provide the set-up for the conclusion to the series, this worked pretty well. The return of the Doctor’s most deadly enemy is made more dramatic by the way he was hiding in plain sight in the form of someone the Doctor genuinely liked. And by his refusal to listen to the Doctor’s pleas for him to stay – “things are different now, we’re the only ones left”.

Good stuff, with a lovely performance form Derek Jacobi as Yana.

[1] Nice understatement :grin:
[2] Yes, that would make a change, wouldn’t it?

Robin Hood – Show Me the Money

OK, people who’ve been paying attention to what, for want of a term that indicates the extreme silliness involved, I’ll have to call the storyline of this series, will be aware that the Sheriff[1] and some other dodgy characters, collectively known as the Black Knights, have signed a pact committing them to murdering King Richard[3] and putting his brother John on the throne. Robin, the outlaw formerly known for not killing people, is so incensed by this treasonous stuff that he’s quite prepared to kill whoever gets in the way of his attempts to stop it. In the now traditional fun bit before the titles, the gang sneak into the castle in an attempt to steal the pact from the strongroom so they can show it to King Richard, should he ever turn up. Naturally, the room is empty. So off they go back to the forest.

Back at camp, Will’s latest inspired Mouse Trap meets Heath Robinson[4] contraption, a combined alarm and trap, catches a young man who claims not to have very much money at all – just ten shillings. He proves this by emptying his bag, which indeed contains just ten silver coins, which is a bit odd, as at the time, the only coins in use were pennies – the shilling was purely an accounting denomination. Actual shilling coins (at first called testoons) didn’t appear until the fifteenth century, which is a wee bit later than the time we’re looking at here. But no matter. To complain about minor historical inaccuracies like that is to miss the point of what this show is all about: fun.

The young man turns out to be John of York, and he’s taking the money to Nottingham as part payment of a debt. One of the Sheriff’s dubious associates, the Canon of Birkley, is holding John’s girlfriend[5] as security on the debt. It seems that the total amount owing is the slightly unbelievable amount of two thousand pounds. Robin offers to help. It just so happens that the gang have collected a sum conveniently coming to that amount, and offer it to John. When Much protests, Robin tells him it’s a wedding gift, to which Much replies in one of the finest gags of the series so far:

Can’t you just give him a toasting fork like everyone else? :lol: :laugh: :lol: :laugh:

Back at the castle, Guy’s new henchman[6] and Robin’s former friend Allan is telling Guy where all Robin’s secret entrances are. Marian, on seeing this, pulls Allan to one side and suggests that he really should stop doing that sort of thing, as otherwise, she might feel obliged to kill him.

Then the gang arrive at the castle, cunningly and impenetrably disguised in, err, floppy hats. John of York pays the Canon, who runs off to tell the Sheriff that they have a problem. They obviously weren’t expecting the money, as they have plans to sell the young lady to someone else. Instructed to put John off, the Canon tells him that even though he’s paid the full amount with interest, he still has to pay the, err, early redemption charges, at which point my anachronism counter melted.

Of course, handing over the money was one of Robin’s Cunning Plans. The chest containing the money was rigged to leave a trail of sand, which would lead the gang to where the Sheriff is now keeping his valuables, which should include that pact thingy that he tried to steal earlier. Like all the best Cunning Plans, it doesn’t quite work. The Sheriff has a new place for his valuables – his “bird cage”. It’s a quite large metal cage hanging up in the castle courtyard, well guarded and in plain sight. This is, he says, part of his commitment to open government, at which point the melted blob that was formerly my anachronism meter jumped out of the window. Just as well, as if the poor thing had heard the Sheriff’s next line, if might have attacked the TV in an attempt to save itself.

If Robin Hood asks “have you seen my money?” tell him the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind :eek: :eek2: :rolleyes:

But it’s not all fun and games. Guy “persuades” Allan to lead him to Robin’s camp. Marian has a heated row with her father Edward, who, you might recall, is currently a guest in the Sheriff’s dungeon. In the course of their chat, Edward somehow manages to get hold of that nice little curved dagger Marian normally keeps in her hair. Having done that, she rides off to warn Robin that Guy is on his way. Naturally, she gets caught in Will’s little trap, and much hilarity follows, so much so that Marian has to thump Robin before he’ll listen to her warning.

The gang shoot all of Guy’s guards ever so slightly dead, leaving Allan to rescue Guy. Now this is a bit of a problem, as Guy realises that robin must have been warned of his planned attack.

Taking the uniforms of the guards, the gang return to the castle. While everyone else goes to rescue the girl (Remember her? The one John of York wants to marry, and who the Sheriff is planning to sell to another of his dubious associates?), Robin goes after Allan, determined to stop him from any further betrayals. Robin and Allan have a bit of a fight, which ends when Marian pops in and tells Robin not to kill Allan, so he doesn’t.

Meanwhile, Edward (Marian’s father, do pay attention) has killed the jailer and escaped from the dungeon. He creeps into the Sheriff’s room and finds the hidden safe[7]. Robin arrives around then, and with the usual confusion and fun, the two of them manage to escape with the pact. As the castle is going into “emergency lockdown”[8], the gang manage to get out by distracting the guards. An arrow into a bag full of coins in the Sheriff’s bird cage sends money all over the place, and the underpaid guards just can’t resist..

Just when you might think it’s all over, the delightful Canon of Birkley gets in the way. He grabs Edward and holds a knife to his throat, demanding that Robin lets him have Beatrice (John of York’s expensive girlfriend). Nobody seems to like that idea, and Robin lets him have an arrow instead. Unfortunately, the Canon manages to stab Edward, and they both fall down dead.

And finally, Guy, who’s been showing signs of not being entirely happy about some of his boss’s policies, warns Marian that as the jailer was killed with her dagger, the Sheriff might just be inclined to hang her. Now that her father is dead, there’s nothing to hold her, so off she goes to join the outlaws in the forest.

It’s all very silly, and still a lot of fun.

[1] Boo!! Hiss!![2]
[2] Since he’s playing a panto villain, it seemed appropriate
[3] Off crusading, supposedly on his way back
[4] American readers can feel free to substitute Rube Goldberg
[5] Well, that wasn’t the term used, but since historical accuracy isn’t the game we’re playing
[6] Such a nice word, that
[7] Behind a picture on the wall, naturally
[8] See? They’re not even trying for authenticity, are they?

More of the same

And yes, after another lazy relaxed Saturday, today’s weight is up again. Mutter, etc. Still, it’s lower than this time last week, so it’s not too bad.