Tag Archives: imac

Weight and Stuff Report – 14 January 2018

Weight: 226 pounds (16 stone 2 pounds, 102.5 kg)
Steps: Not a lot

Up just a few bit, on another inactive Sunday.

My Cunning Plan with Lightroom that I mentioned yesterday seems to be working well – when I looked on the iMac this morning, all the images were where I expected them to be and everything worked. Woo hoo.

Somehow, I’d never noticed this doorway in South Shields before. Obviously I can’t have missed it, so despite it looking like it’s been there unchanged for decades, it must have appeared in that state very recently, having dropped in from a parallel Earth or something.

Time warp?

Time warp?

Camera: X-T2
Aperture: ƒ/10
Shutter speed: 1/60s
Focal length: 22mm
ISO: 1250
Taken: 13 January, 2018
Location: 54° 59.9214′ 0″ N 1° 26.0156′ 0″ W


More on Lightroom on two computers

Having got the catalog sorted with Dropbox, today was the first test of my new system. And after importing the photos, I had a thought. Yes, I know, I should be careful about doing things as risky as that, but I just couldn’t help it.

My thought was this: while keeping the whole photo library on Dropbox wasn’t going to be a good plan (it’s too big for my 1TB plan, for a start), how about just keeping the current year’s photos on Dropbox? This works for me, because my images are arranged by date (Images – Year – Month – Date. So all I had to do was create an Images folder within my existing Dropbox Lightroom folder and move the 2018 images (just those taken today, basically) into there. I thin told Lightroom where to find them and could then get on with editing on my MacBook while Dropbox gets on with synchronising them to the cloud where they’ll also sync to the  iMac.

The advantage of this approach is that it cuts out the step of having to move images imported to the MacBook, as they’ll already be in the right place. At the end of the year, I’ll move the 2018 images to the iMac and start a 2019 folder on Dropbox.

So long as I don’t create more than a few hundred gigabytes of images in any given year, this should work just fine. Of course the “make sure you wait for it to sync” thing still applies, though if there is a lag, the worst you’ll have to deal with is Lightroom moaning about missing images rather than a borked catalog.

Using Lightroom on two computers

I’ve been using Lightoom as my main photo editing and managing system for a long time now – it even precedes my Macification. In all that time, I’ve worked in a particular way. I keep my main photo library – that’s the actual image files and the Lightroom catalog – on my iMac and a separate library on my MacBook. When I go away, I take the MacBook[1] and import photos into its library. When I get home, I do an “import from other catalog” on the iMac, so all my new images and any edits I’ve made join the main library.

This works well enough, but it does mean that while I’m travelling, I have no access to my older images. And as the MacBook doesn’t have the capacity to carry a copy of my images, that seemed like an unavoidable thingy.

But several versions ago[2],  Adobe added a feature called Smart Previews to Lightroom. These are sort of medium quality versions of the images – not in the full resolution of the original files, but good enough for most editing work, and large enough for exporting to websites (though not for most printing jobs). You can tell Lightroom to create these when importing images, or you can get it to generate them for your existing library. The former is a good idea – note that if you have a lot of images, generating the Smart Previews is a “go away and let it get on with it” kind of job. You should also note that they will take up a moderately significant amount of disk space, though crucially, much less than the original image files – as an example, my library of just under 73,000 image files – a mixture of JPG and RAW – ended up needing about 60GB for the Smart Previews. Sounds like a lot, but compared to well over 1TB, it’s not so bad.

Now comes the clever bit – Lightroom can happily work with Smart Previews if the original image files are offline, so if you were to get the catalog and associated previews and smart previews onto a second computer, you’d be able to view, edit and even export images without having access to the original files.

No, now comes the clever bit – if you were to move your catalog and its associated files to a nicely synchronised cloud service such as Dropbox[3], you’d be able to open that catalog from your other computer, work on things and have access to all your images. All you’d have to do when returning from a trip is to copy your new images to the main computer and tell Lightroom where they live in the usual way.

So, I decided to give it a try.

Generating the smart previews took a while, as did copying the catalog and its associated files to my Dropbox folder. An interesting point is that, on macOS at least, you’ll see what appears to be a file called <catalog name> Smart Previews.lrdata. This is actually a folder containing numerous subfolders which eventually contain the images. And the size displayed for that file may be a wild underestimate (it was originally showing as around 4GB on my iMac). Once it was copied over, it was a matter of waiting for it to complete uploading to Dropbox. And then I could test it, and woo, hoo, it works.

So, I now have a Lightroom catalog on my MacBook that lets me see any of my photos.

Things to be aware of – you must let Dropbox sync changes made on one computer before attempting to use the catalog on another, otherwise Bad Things may happen  to your data. And make sure you back up regularly. You do back up, right?

Just to prove it, here’s an image that lives on my iMac, edited on my MacBook, and it never felt a thing.

With fronds like these, who needs anemones?

With fronds like these, who needs anemones?

Camera: X70
Aperture: ƒ/4.5
Shutter speed: 1/60s
Focal length: 18.5mm
ISO: 2000
Taken: 2 December, 2017

[1] The iMac is a bit awkward on trains
[2] I take a while to catch on sometimes
[3] I’m not convinced iCloud Drive will play nicely with this, as it’s a bit too “clever”. Dropbox does work as it syncs the individual files in the smart previews folder

Backblaze – progress report

You might recall that after being told to go away by Crashplan, after the usual bout of muttering and dithering, I decided to go with Backblaze as the best available option for my needs.

I started the initial backup on my iMac, expecting it to take a looooong time, as the selected data came to over 1.7TB, which is quite a lot. In the interim period, I may have confused it a bit by removing around 300GB of duplicate and no longer needed data, taking it down to a bit under 1.5TB.

At one point, the backup stalled, with messages suggesting I was offline (I wasn’t), but as my MacBook was showing the same thing, I suspected this was a temporary communication error, and sure enough by the following morning, it was happily chugging away.

From then, I checked periodically to see how it was doing, and earlier this week, I saw that it had indeed finished, as you can see:



It now automagically keeps backing up new and changed files, which is a Good Thing.

Weight and Stuff Report – 22 October 2017

Weight: 232.5 pounds (16 stone 8.5 pounds, 105.5 kg)
Steps: 3,510

How exciting! Down again today…

It was a nicely non-throlling Sunday.  I did some major file reorganisation on the iMac. While trying to persuade the previous version of Lightroom to be a bit quicker, I’d split my images into multiple catalogs, then merged them back again. Being cautious with my data, this ended up with my having a load of duplicate folders all over my Pictures folder. All sorted out now, along with some other unnecessary data and Lightroom backups going back to 2013, which wouldn’t be of any use to anyone anyway.

After that I went into Newcastle to have a walk around and buy an new oven glove, as the old one was approaching the state of being completely useless at its basic job of preserving my fingers.

This is all that’s left of the Tuxedo Royale, popularly known as “the Boat” when it was a floating nightclub moored under the Tyne Bridge. Having been left to slowly sink into the Tees, it had a bit of a fire a while back, and is in a very sorry state:

No dancing tonight

No dancing tonight

Camera: X-T2
Aperture: ƒ/13
Shutter speed: 1/250s
Focal length: 55mm
ISO: 200
Taken: 21 October, 2017
Location: 54° 34.8695′ 0″ N 1° 13.4703′ 0″ W


My new photography site is on… my own site

Well, having been given notice by 500px that my current portfolio is going to be an ex-feature at an unspecified point in the future, I did some thinking, which led me to deciding that I might as well go back to hosting it myself.

As I mentioned in my epic upgrade post earlier in the week, I decided to go for Backlight, from The Turning Gate. Once I’d got the server playing nicely, it was time for some Lightroom fiddling.

In an attempt to improve performance, I’d split my Lightroom catalog into an old one, then yearly ones for last year and this year. Well, that was OK, but would have made doing what I want to do with Backlight a bit messy. So last night’s entertainment was creating a new catalog and moving all the images into it. That means I can publish albums including any photos at all, which is just what I need.

I’ve got a test album up with a moderately random selection of images. The appearance is getting close to what I want – a clean, simple layout that makes it easy to see the pictures.

The design works nicely on mobile, doing nicely responsive things to adjust itself to  smaller screens, while looking quite nice on larger screens, such as my iMac.

The longer-term plan is to add some themed albums to the site – the way this works with Lightroom means that adding an album is very simple:

  1. Do all normal editing operations that I’d be doing anyway
  2. Create a new album in the Lightroom Publish Service, give it a name, add a description and other details
  3. Click Publish
  4. Admire shiny new webpage

So, here’s your preview of the all-new Les Bessant Photography, now live and available for your enjoyment.  I’ll be more or less replicating the Portfolio from the 500px site (though with a slightly different set of images, which I’ll aim to keep refreshed).

If you want to see the old site while I’m building the new one, it can now be seen at this address. That’s one advantage of having loads of domain names, I can always pick one to use for something random…

UPDATE: Well, I’ve got a basic design which I’m reasonably happy with, I’ve recreated the Portfolio, so the new site is now officially live. The 500px portfolio no longer exists, and the spare domain name is once again spare, and pointing to a holding page.

Now that’s what I call a memory leak

I’ve seen some impressive memory leaks before: a moderately impressive one from Safari in 2010 and a much fancier one from Firefox the following year. But I think they’ve been beaten. In this case, the application in question is NetNewsWire, but I suspect it’s not entirely to blame. I’ve noticed it eating lots of memory a few times before, but this time I managed to put two arbitrarily large numbers together and made another one. What I think is happening is similar to what broke Firefox: a badly behaved script. I’d left some tabs open in NetNewsWire when I left for work, and one of those had some ad banners and possibly even a video on it. And the result of leaving that all day? Well, my iMac wasn’t too unhappy – it responded quickly enough when I unlocked the screen, but displayed a message indicating that it was out of memory and would I like to quit some applications.

Remarkably, Activity Monitor came up without much of a struggle, which allowed me to see what was happening. Sure enough, NetNewsWire was using over 21GB of real memory and a crazy amount of virtual, taking the total to an impressive 70.96GB. I was able to Force Quit it, and then closed a couple of unresponsive applications, at which point the iMac carried on as if nothing had happened. Here’s the evidence, which will get bigger if you click on it:



TextExpander: Not much to Smile about

Oh dearie me. I do get a bit annoyed when companies I’ve been doing business with for quite some time lose the plot. And that’s what seems to have happened to Smile, creators of the actually very good TextExpander apps for OS X and iOS.

TextExpander, for those not familiar with it, is, as its name suggests, a utility which lets you store  blocks of text and have them typed in for you at the press of a shortcode – before I had a Mac, I used something similar on Windows, and it’s one of those things I really like to have. TextExpander was an ideal solution for me, and it was one of the first apps I bought for my Mac Mini back in early 2008.

Since then, I’ve been happy to buy an upgrade every couple of years. It’s one of the essential things I install when I get a new Mac.

It can do clever things with variables, so you’re not restricted to fixed bodies of text – I use it for my daily report titles, so I just have to type a code of my choice to get the title filled in with the current date, which saves a bit of time, and avoids typos, me forgetting the date and other such things. It does a lot more that I don’t need, but that’s fine – it does what I need it to and it’s been reasonably priced. It happily syncs all my bits with Dropbox, so I have the same setup on the iMac and the MacBook Air, which is just how I like things to work.

But it seems the developers have decided that they don’t want to do that any more. The new version 6 is now tied to a subscription. You no longer buy software updates, you’ll just get them as they’re ready, so long as you’re a paying customer. This is all tied up with a new website, the ability to share your snippets with other subscribers (not something I need, and I suspect not something most home users particularly need). And while there’s an initial discount, the basic price of this subscription is on the order of $5 a month. With the general volatility of exchange rates, you might as well call it £3. Now that’s not a huge amount of money, but let’s do a comparison with some software I currently have on subscription:

Adobe Creative Cloud Photographer’s plan – that gives me Lightroom and Photoshop for £8.57 a month. This is actually good value, and much less painful than paying for full upgrades every year or two.

Microsoft Office 365 – gives me the latest versions of Office for all my Macs, and I can also install on Windows and other devices, all for £7.99 a month, which is again much easier than paying the eye-watering prices Microsoft used to charge for the full suites.

So, is TextExpander worth a third of Lightroom and Photoshop? Or Nearly half of MS Office? Well, no. Not even close.

It looks like they’re hoping that their even more expensive business package will catch on with businesses who want their users to share text snippets. Perhaps they’re right, and there’s a huge untapped market for this, and they’ll Smile all the way to the bank. And perhaps not…

While Smile have said they’ll continue to support the current version on OS X 10.11 and “the next release”, I’ll be looking for alternatives. I’m quite happy to pay moderate amounts for useful software, and to buy the serious expensive stuff by subscription, but I can’t see that a subscription model makes any sense for an easily replaceable utility.

It’s also worth noting that if you do go for the subscription, your data lives on their servers. If your subscription lapses, it seems the app won’t even let you see the data you’ve entered. That’s not very friendly at all.


Creative GigaWorks T40 Series II Speakers

Back when I got my first iMac, I decided that the internal speakers were just about good enough for me not to bother using the computer speakers that I had at the time. and when I replaced that with the current beast[1], I still didn’t feel inclined to improve the sound.

But I’ve been listening to more music on the iMac lately, and I began to think that a speaker upgrade might be a Good Thing. I approached this with a moderately open mind – all I wanted was a pair of stereo speakers – no separate subwoofers to vibrate the floor, no surround silliness or anything like that. And so I started looking, and reading reviews. I hadn’t actually thought of Creative at first – I started looking at some Bose speakers, which looked quite nice, but the more I read, the more I found people pointing at these as a better option at the price. After a bit of dithering, I decided to give them a try, and ordered them from Amazon.

As you’ll see from the image above[2] These are tall thin speakers with nicely positioned front-mounted controls on the right-hand speaker. This was important – recent experience has taught me that having to reach behind things to make adjustments is likely to hurt, so I don’t want to do that.  There’s a mains power supply (brick with separate mains lead, not the wall-wart kind), a lead to link the two speakers (quite wide enough to surround a 27″ iMac with room to spare), and a standard audio lead for connecting to your computer. In addition to the main input at the back, there’s an extra aux in connection at the front, so you can connect another device at the same time as your computer. However, there’s no input selector, so if both things are sending sound at the same time, both will play through the speakers. This seems to be a common feature, and it’s not something I find too annoying. Next to the aux socket is a 3.5mm headphone socket, which is much more accessible than the iMac’s rear-mounted one (which you can’t use as the speakers are connected to it). Above that are three nicely made control knobs – bass, treble and volume. All move smoothly and feel like good quality components. The bass and treble knobs have a distinctly feelable[3] centre position, which is more useful than the faint visual marker. The volume knob doubles as the on/off switch and has a nice blue glow so you can see that the speakers are on.

Setting up involved screwing the bases to the speakers, putting them in position and connecting everything up, which is pretty much what you’d expect.

And the sound? Well, I’m pleased. Getting the volume right is the usual balancing act between setting a suitable level on the speakers and adjusting the computer sound level – given the way different tracks can have wildly different levels, I find it easier to leave the volume control in the 12 o’clock position and tweak the level as needed from the iMac’s keyboard. And there certainly is plenty of volume for my environment. But it’s not just about volume, is it? We want a bit of quality out of our speakers, don’t we? Well, my impressions after a few days of use are that the Creative speakers deliver that quite nicely. You’re obviously not going to get ribcage squashing bass out of such small drivers, but bass sounds are nicely clear, instruments and vocals come through well, and the overall sound is a distinct improvement over the iMac’s own speakers.

As an added bonus, I’m using the aux input for my little digital radio – this is a neat device with decent performance but an internal speaker that is diabolically awful. Think of a really cheap old battery powered radio tuned into medium wave. I did have it plugged into one of those little Bluetooth speakers[4], which made it usable. But plugged into the Creative speakers makes it actually sound pretty good, so I’m nicely covered for 6 Music in the mornings.

And for the benefit of those who can’t see the Amazon-hosted image above, this is what they look like:



Camera: X-T1
Aperture: ƒ/2.8
Shutter speed: 1/125s
Focal length: 20.6mm
ISO: 3200
Taken: 13 February, 2016

[1] Which I’m surprised to note is nearly three years old
[2] If you can’t see the image, you’re using AdBlock. And quite right too.
[3] This may not be a proper word, but it does describe what I mean, so there
[4] Using its aux input. The radio doesn’t do Bluetooth

A slight memory issue

No, not me forgetting things. I’m so used to that happening that I forget all about it.  :rofl:

This is more of a software thingy. I follow a variety of sites (general tech, photography, web comics, etc etc) through their RSS feeds (yes, it’s still a thing). And for a long time my software of choice has been NetNewsWire. Well, when NetNewsWire stopped doing the synchronisation thing, I used a few other things, but never found one as much to my liking. So when it was relaunched a while ago with a sync service, I was happy to switch back.

And it works nicely, for the most part. Occasionally something funny happens with some subscribed sites, which involves a load of old posts (sometimes going back a few years) suddenly appearing as unread, but that’s a minor issue.

But yesterday, I noticed that both NetNewsWire and my iMac generally seemed a little sluggish. A quick look in Activity Monitor suggested a possible cause:

How much?!

How much?!

Yes, that’s one app using a quite impressive 41.87GB of memory, which is quite impressive.  Closing NetNewsWire and restarting it seems to have made the problem go away for now, but I can see I’ll have to keep an eye on it.