Archives For November 2015

the view outside my hotel window this morningAfter over 24 hours of travel (I loose count after 24) I managed to check in and finally get some sleep. Today is my recovery day before I officially start tomorrow, when I’ll be working twelve hour days, seven days/week, up to 12 December. Then back to Tokyo for another business-based task. Just a reminder this isn’t a pleasure trip, but nevertheless quite interesting regardless.

Still, the view outside the hotel window can be interesting and a reminder that Osaka’s environment is different from Orlando’s and Chicago’s, even Tokyo’s further east. The view is looking south across a tributary of the Yodo River (I keep wanting to type Yoda), and the Hanshin Expressway Route 1 Loop if you want to look on Google maps (I had to).

I decided to do this in part to imitate John Scalzi, successful science fiction author and general raconteur, who while on The End of All Things book tour in August of this year photographed outside his bedroom window every morning because he was traveling between cities and book signings just about every day of the tour. The other part? Well, I have taken outside photos in the past, but just never called them out. I never knew they could be so… interesting.

Once again the Apple iPhone 6s+ backside camera is called upon to take the snap. This time the iPhone’s embedded camera software made the decision to use built-in HDR to pick up detail and compress the visual information so that it could be seen on an electronic Retina display. And it is appreciated, let me tell you. When I can take a photo with one iDevice and see it essentially the same across my iPad Air 2 and my Retina MBP, then I consider that a powerful statement about the use of Apple technology for creative purposes.

on the road again, in osaka

November 30, 2015

the jet that brought me to japanBack in Japan for another business trip. Took the “regular” flight out of Orlando on United/ANA through Chicago to Narita, Tokyo. My trip this December, which started November 29th Orlando time, is the most complex, involving two cities (Osaka and Tokyo) and requiring I use Japan’s train system more extensively than before.

the route from tokyo to osaka on the bullet trainThis screen capture of Google Maps shows the essential route from Tokyo to Osaka. I had to take two trains, the Narita Express from Narita to Shinagawa, and the Shinkasen Hikara from Shinagawa to Shin-Osaka, or Osaka. I would have gotten to the hotel about 45 minutes earlier than I did, but the Narita Express was so quiet and I was so tired I slept through the Shinagawa stop. I had to take a train back two stops, and there the very nice train personnel helped me to change my ticket to a slightly later train.

shinkansen hikari at shinagawa riding on the shinkansen bullet trainAfter two years of travel to Japan I’m still impressed by the quality of the Japanese rail system, now even more so after having ridden on the Shinkansen. Compared to flying on a contemporary Boeing 737 jet with a domestic US carrier, the interiors are spacious and comfortable with plenty of leg room, allowing me to lean back and nap. Both the Narita and the Shinkansen are smooth and quiet. One thing I did notice and that’s the apparent speed. While you’ll read the occasional story about high speed runs, the speeds through the heavily urbanized corridor I traveled were more “sedate.” But that’s not a problem when someone else is doing all the driving while you just sit back and relax.


I’m doing something very different for me. Now that I’ve got an iPhone 6s Plus I’m using the back-side camera rather than pulling out my Olympus E-M10. And I’m very pleased with the results I’m getting. I fully understand now why so many prefer smartphone photography, especially on the iPhone. If I were forced to I’d leave all my interchangeable lens cameras at home and just use the iPhone. As it is I only have the E-M10 and a few, very compact lenses.

I’m also using a WiFi hotspot rental I picked up at Narita. For about $10.50/day I have 4G LTE connectivity with unlimited data. My iPhone and MBP are wirelessly linked to it. This gives me the connectivity I need for a lot less money than if I were using AT&T in Japan. AT&T on travel is just too damned expensive.

the kittens are coming

November 27, 2015

kitten pile 2That ├╝ber-cute pile of kittens, taken last weekend, is rapidly reaching the point where they can all be weened and go out into the world. They’ve all discovered the joys of canned cat food, which mother Sunshine is most appreciative of. Three females, all in the front, are Caramel, Nougat, and Maggie (front to back). And they’re all pretty much spoken for by three persons. The two males in the back, Greebo Ogg (front) and Ponder Stibbons (back) are spoken for by me. Greebo’s short name will be Bo, while Ponder will be Ponder. Bo and Ponder. Ponder and Bo. It has a certain ring to it…

I’ve made the decision to fill the gaping hole left by Lucy’s death with a pair of Ginger males. The loss of Lucy is still painful, but time moves on, and there are other cats in this world that need Persons to care for them (and that they can care for back).

I chose to adopt both because my oldest daughter and her boyfriend have both noted how the males are very close to each other. I don’t have the heart to break up the pair by picking just one. So I picked both. This means the cat population at my house will double to four, two females (Ellipse and Lulu Belle) and two males. How they’ll all interact will be interesting to observe. But the first thing that’ll happen to the new guys is they get neutered here in Orlando. I will not have males spraying around the house marking their territory. Right now I’m planning on picking them both up the end of December, with a trip to the vets the first week of January to get them fixed.

rowdy bunchSunshine their mom has been the perfect mother, with the infinite kindness and patience of a saint. Regardless I’m sure she’ll be glad when four of the five are gone; Caramel (the one chomping her ear) will stay, and both are going to get fixed. Mom produces beautiful kittens, but this is mom’s last litter.

I named my two males after characters from Discworld, in honor of Sir Terry Pratchett. Long before there was Potter, we had Rincewind and the far more entertaining Discworld to explore. And before you ask, yes, I can tell them apart. In color or black and white. Now I just have to get through two more trips before the end of 2015 and another four weeks and get the house prepared for their arrival…

all in with apple – part 1

November 26, 2015

Taken with an iPhone 6s Plus

For the past year (since November 2014) I’ve been┬ásurreptitiously moving from a reliance on Windows, Linux and Android based devices to devices using Mac OS X and iOS. It started with the purchase of an iPad Air 2 in November 2014, the one to the left with the picture of Lucy on the lock screen, and continued until this November and the purchase of the 15″ Retina Macbook Pro on the right. My Olympus E-M10 is in the mix for a sense of scale. And because I like that little camera.

My shift started with my growing dissatisfaction with Android, especially how Samsung was handling Android on my Galaxy S4. Especially with regards to security updates. I have two other Android devices, a pair of 2013 Nexus 7 tablets. I’ve watched those tablets upgrade over the air from version 4.4.2 to 5 and recently to Android 6. It took a long time from Google’s announcement to OTA upgrade, far longer than Apple takes with iOS after an Apple announcement. And Samsung? It did eventually upgrade to 5, then 5.0.1, and finally 5.0.2. Complete with Samsung’s skin and apps. A mess which I was willing to put up with when I first purchased the S4, but after two years of constant exposure, it finally wore me down.

I didn’t realize at first just how dissatisfied I was becoming with Android. And yet, in hindsight, it was inevitable. That dissatisfaction was first expressed with the purchase of the iPad Air 2. At the time I was trying to decide between the iPad and a Samsung Galaxy S2 10″ tablet. The Samsung was about $150 cheaper, but was only available in 64GB maximum internal storage. After two days of vacillating I purchased the iPad with the idea of learning how to do sophisticated image post-processing while on travel. I’d purchased the Olympus E-M10 in September of that year because of a key feature, WiFi interconnectivity with any mobile device running Olympus’ OI.Share app. You could get that app for both Android and iOS. When I got the E-M10 I naturally installed the Android version on my Galaxy S4. And I was very impressed.

The problem was I only had 16GB on the S4, even though I had a 64GB micro SD card installed in the phone. OI.Share couldn’t be coerced into storing the E-M10’s images in the micro SD card, and as a consequence the limited internal 16GB began to fill. After a time I moved some of the images up to Google Drive, and some of them to Flickr, and the majority of them off to my Windows PC. It was awkward but doable, but it added additional steps to my workflow of using camera and phone together for photographic work. And I am not a fan of automatic upload to Google Drive or any other location in the “cloud.”

So in November I purchased the iPad with 128 GB of storage, a Logitech Bluetooth keyboard and cover, installed a few apps, and took the whole combination to Japan for Yama Sakura 67 in December 2014. I’d also taken my Samsung 17″ running Windows 8.1, but I’d left my primary photo storage drive, a 1.5 TB WD My Passport Ultra. I didn’t want it lost or broken. With the external drive at home I didn’t want to use Lightroom. I decided to work everything on the iPad.

The iPad worked pretty well for the most part. I discovered a lot about using the iPad for creative work, and learned to “trust” JPEGs again. That’s because there are no RAW converters for Olympus RAW files on iOS (nor on Android for that matter). In spite of some quirks, the combination was good enough that I depended on it again in April of this year on another Japan business trip, and I’m going to use it once more this December in Japan. The iPad Air 2 and the E-M10 make a portable, potent combination. With WiFi connectivity I can push my finished work up to Flickr, Instagram, and WordPress (especially blogging). And with the purchase of an iPhone 6s Plus, I can use either iDevice to pull images off the E-M10 and use pretty much the same post processing workflow. I still need the iPad with its keyboard for writing.

I was happy enough that by March I purchased a refurbished late 2012 Mac Mini Server model. That allowed me to begin to tie backups from my iPad and my wife’s mid-2012 MBP together. And it was from the Mac Mini that I grew comfortable with OS X. And that helped to ease the decision to purchase an iPhone 6s Plus to replace my Galaxy S4 in early November. That, and Apple’s Upgrade Program. With the Upgrade Program, combined with Apple’s software upgrade policy across their iOS devices, I can now maintain an up-to-date iDevice, the phone. Every year now I’ll get a new ‘S’ device. Right now my opinion of the iPhone with Apple’s custom ARM chips is that anything else is a waste of money. The iPhone is that good.

All of which led me to the purchase of the MBP. I purchased that for the express purpose of replacing, over time, my Samsung 17″ Chronos 7 notebook running Windows 10 as well as my much older Samsung running Ubuntu 15.04. The MBP is combining what I consider the best attributes of both.

The desktop should remind Ubuntu users of Ubuntu’s Unity desktop, with the dock to the left. I chose this combination because I learned, on my Mac Mini Server, that I could have the equivalent of Windows and Linux under one environment. The key Windows feature I want and need is Office. The pieces of Office I need are Word, Excel and PowerPoint. And they work pretty much across either Windows or OS X. There is no office for Linux and there may never be. Trying to work with complex Office documents with LibreOffice, the best of the free office suites on Linux, is a recipe for slow madness. I know, I tried.

And if I need a “pure” Linux? I’ve discovered I can get that by running one or more Linux distributions on OS X via VirtualBox.

Languages such as Oracle’s latest Java, Google’s Go, Python, and Rust are dead simple to drop into the OS X environment. The biggest and the best, Swift, is available through Xcode. And I can share, via a common folder on the OS X file system, files between the Linux VM and native tools on OS X.

Time permitting I’ll do a more detailed comparison between the individual Apple devices and everybody else. But for now I have to say I’m pretty well satisfied. It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s better than most else I’ve been dealing with over the past two-plus years. In spite of what the current critics may say, Apple’s hardware and software is more than good enough, and in many cases, better than the current state of the competition for my use. Your milage, as they always say, will vary.

For me, however, I’m all in with Apple.