February 9, 2020
Three weeks using the iPad for work
It has now been slightly more than 3 weeks since I managed to destroy my work laptop (pro tip: laptop + water => no laptop). Instead of spending a couple of days in getting an old laptop in “working condition”, I decided to go iPad-only while waiting for a new laptop.
Fortunately, during the autumn I’ve been trying to set up my laptop/iPad/iPhone so that I would be able to do as much as possible from any device, so much of the work was already done. But I hadn’t expect that I would have to actually use it that way.
What have I learned during these weeks? The first and perhaps most important thing is that yes, I’ve been able to most of my work using the iPad (sometimes together with the iPhone). But I haven’t been able to do everything.
Before going into details I better describe what I typically do during a workday:
- Read and answer email
- Write notes
- Prepare lectures and presentations which consists of
- Writing small pieces of code and test them
- Make drawings/diagrams in order to explain stuff
- Generate PDFs from presentations/documents
- Generate HTML from presentations/documents
- Do some planning
- Reading papers
- Writing longer stuff
- Calendar stuff
It’s pretty easy to handle emails on the iPad. While Mail isn’t my favorite mail client it does work, I do miss MailMate but for a few weeks Mail is just fine. However, if I was going to have to use Mail for an extended time I would become really frustrated.
Also not a problem, much of my note writing happens in Bear and since it’s works the same on Mac/iPhone/iPad nothing has really changed. I also use DevonThink and it also syncs between my devices, but the Mac version is nicer for “serious” work.
Writing code and test it
This is slightly more difficult using the iPad. I’m used to using BBEdit (my favorite text editor and probably my most used program) to edit my files, then depending on the language I run the code using iTerm either on my Mac or one of the departments Linux boxes. Well, it does work fairly well on the iPad using Textastic as the editor and then use Working Copy and Secure Shellfish to connect with the Linux boxes. To access the servers I use Prompt . It works well but it’s not as smooth as I’m used to.
Well, here comes one problem. As long as I use my old Keynote presentations everything is just fine. However, I tend to prefer to write new presentations in Markdown using Deckset to make my presentations. But … Deckset is macOS only!!! My solution has been to access a Mac, convert the presentations to PDF and then use GoodReader to make the actual presentation. So this is a significant problem but there is another more important problem, but more about that later.
I use OmniGraffle for all my drawings and it’s a really fantastic program that handles everything I need. And yes, it’s available both on macOS and the iPad … but I don’t have the iPad version. Fortunately I haven’t had any reason to make any illustrations yet and hopefully the new laptop will arrive before I need to make one.
My usual combo here is writing in BBEdit and preview/convert using Marked. Textastic can generate HTML but I like the BBEdit-Marked combo better, so I usually save these documents until I get home and can convert them on my old Mini at home. So it works but …
I use OmniFocus and since it works “everywhere” it’s not a problem.
This is kind of fun, here I normally use my iPad so being forced to use the iPad doesn’t change anything. I use Bookends to keep references and papers in sync between iPad and Mac.
Writing longer texts
On my Mac I use BBEdit and Ulysses so this also works fairly well using my iPad. I’m actually using Ulysses for writing this. But if the text contains a lot of code snippets I really, really prefer BBEdit.
I have all my Calendars on iCloud so everything already worked. On my Mac I use BusyCal and on iPhone/iPad Fantastical.
The biggest problem
So while I’ve been able to find apps that makes it possible to do most of the stuff I need on the iPad, I haven’t mentioned the biggest problem. The problem that really irritates me is the screen, it’s too small for how I work. Hey, I think that the 15” screen on my now dead laptop is too small - I want my 28” screen back !!!
I quickly noticed that I’m used to have many windows open at the same time. Here is what I’m using when I prepare lectures:
- BBEdit with several files open
- OmniGraffle with one window open
- iTerm with at least one session active
- Browser usually with a couple of windows open, usually several tabs in each window.
- Marked (preview)
- Deskset (preview)
- Transmit for file transfers
In addition to this I usually have Mailmate and BusyCal running also and sometimes use them as reference for questions to be answered.
In other words I find it quite frustrating to use such a small screen as the iPad screen (I love it for photo editing, concentrated writing/reading, etc) for doing my daily work. Transferring data from one app to another is quite frustrating with only 2.5 windows available.
Files app - hmmm
I have also noted that sometimes the Files app doesn’t really want to copy/move files. So I’m never sure that I’ll be able to move files to the place I want.
It works, I can do most of my work on the iPad (sometimes I use the iPhone to get more windows) but I really want a working Mac again … soon. I really miss BBEdit, Marked, MailMate, OmniGraffle and Marked, and I look forward to use them again. Soon I also need to run LaTeX with some custom Python scripts and there are some command line programs I would like to run locally.
So while going iPad only isn’t realistic for me at work I would have no problems using it on extended business trips or vacations. I would actually prefer the iPad then.
February 2, 2020
It has now been almost two months since my cataract surgery, two months of having one eye that can focus in the range 4-8 cm and the other can who can “focus” on about 20-30 cm (details about this in another post). There have been several interesting experiences during this time, most of them expected but one that I didn’t expect was how hard old habits die.
I’ve had glasses for about 45 years now but these two months I’ve had one contact lens and no glasses at all. And every time I want to scratch my eye I behave like I still have glasses on, when I get irritated that I don’t see clearly I try to push up the non-existing glasses, after showering I’m looking for the glasses, etc. It’s kind of comical.
But I also need to learn some new habits, for example how to avoid getting snow in my eyes, wear eye protectors when I’m doing various things, etc.
These are of course minor issues, things could be much, much worse but I find it interesting to see how strong old habits are.
December 21, 2019
Is Adobes subscription model that bad?
In the last 4-5 years there have been a lot of discussions/rants about subscriptions, are they good? bad? Are the companies holding our data hostage? Shouldn’t all change to apps with “perpetual licenses” instead? And yes, I used to think that subscriptions were something really horrible and I started to look for non-subscription apps. I actually stopped using one piece of software when they went to a subscription model. It’s an really nice app that I was using every day, but the new price was too high in my judgment so I stopped using it.
Today I don’t know if subscriptions are as bad as I once thought, Sure, some subscriptions can’t really be justified, but others make sense to me. When it comes to photography Adobes Photography Plan is the subscription that have made people most upset. And yes, I was also really upset when Adobe moved to their subscription model … but now I don’t know. The rest of this post is about Adobes Photography Plan.
Why this change in opinion? First of all, I’ve seen how some other companies behave and I really dislike how they handle software updates. It can look like this:
- The company makes a big PR drive about their new software with all the features that is going to be in the version released reel soon.
- The company offers you to pre-order a copy for $80 (regular price $100), but you have to order really, really quickly.
- The software is released and you can buy it for $100 … for a short time. Unfortunately not all of the advertised features works as advertised.
- Some bugs get fixed but there are still problems.
- It’s possible to buy the app using various discounts so the effective price is $80
- After about 6 months there are rumours about the next major version, that will be delivered in about 6 months.
- You can now find the current version in various app bundles that makes the effective price really low.
- There are now rumours of new fancy features in the upcoming version … but very little about the missing features that was advertised for the current version.
- There is an offer to upgrade to the new version for $80 if you upgrade soon.
- New version is released, unfortunately there are some features missing because they couldn’t be completed in time for the release.
And this cycle keeps repeating. To me this is basically a subscription model which “forces” me to upgrade to the latest version since I want the functionality that was promised for the original version + bug fixes for those things that never worked.
“But wait!! You can keep using the older version”
Yep, true … however, I’m the type of person who sees the new shiny features and want to play with them, so I would probably upgrade to get access to these new features.
Compare this to the subscription model of Lightroom which is more expensive - I think I pay about $150/year - which seem a lot. But remember that I also get access to Photoshop and some other programs & services … both on my desktop/laptop and my mobile units.
My subscription gives me access to the latest versions of all included software without me having to worry about the cost for the next update etc. Also, $150/year might not be that bad if you compare to the alternatives, some are considerable more expensive (assuming paid updates each 12-18 months), others are cheaper but usually doesn’t offer all the features of the Lightroom/Photoshop/etc combo.
“But once you stop paying the Adobe Tax, you don’t have access to your photos anymore!!”
Well, the photos are still there on my hard disk so they are not lost. But it’s true that I can’t access all the features of Lightroom anymore … I can “only” use everything except the developer module. This means that I can still do anything to my photos except making adjustments to them … something I’m probably not interested in if I’ve stopped my subscription. So I’m basically OK with how Adobe handles this.
“But Adobe can increase the price as they want and make it really expensive”
Also true and I expect them to increase the price at some time. But they have had the same price all the years I’ve been using the subscription version so they don’t seem to raise the price that often. As any company they are free to set the price as they see fit … and I’m free to pay that price or stop using their software.
But I find it difficult to decide what I should use today based on what might happen some time in the future. The only thing I can do is to judge what Adobe has done so far and that is that they have kept the price at the same level for as long as I’ve been subscribing and they have improved both Lightroom and Photoshop during that time.
That said, if Adobe were to raise the price substantially then I would re-assess and see if I would get my money worth by continuing subscribing. If I think it’s too expensive then I’ll switch to some other app … but I’ll wait until that happens.
“Don’t you see any problem at all?”
I don’t like subscriptions and try to avoid them as much as I can. However, sometimes they make sense and in the case of the Photography Plan I think I get my money worth and I currently can’t see any real alternatives (for me at least).
“Why not use X instead?”
Well, I’ve looked at many of the alternatives (to be honest I still miss Aperture … although the memory is fading) and I can’t find anyone that is better considering value for money (or functionality).
So while I don’t especially like Adobe or their software I’m going to keep subscribing to the Photography Plan … for now.
December 5, 2019
Just a short note on my initial experience of Photo Mechanic. During the weekend I took photos at a sports event and came home with 2500+ photos, which was less than I had expected.
Before the weekend I had watched a few tutorials on how to use Photo Mechanic, I also launched it and tried on a couple of images. So when I pointed PM to the photos I had no real experience of how to use it but I knew the basics.
And … wow, PM is fast, really fast. The culling that usually takes several evenings (I actually have a similar number of photos from last years event that I haven’t culled yet!) was done in about 2 hours. I didn’t use all the features and only basic keywording so I expect things to improve even more.
Only the speed improvement makes PM worth it for me, but I expect that keywording will be another important part when I’ve learned more about how PM works.
So the verdict so far is: if you come home with 20 photos PM probably isn’t worth it … but if you have 2000+ images it could save you a lot of time.
December 4, 2019
There are a huge number of camera apps for the iPhone … and I’ve played with a fair number of them. There are some which I have fond memories of but doesn’t exist today, there are some which was really bad but there are also a number that I like and use regularly … and one that I for some reason keep coming back to.
Camera - The first camera app is of course the built-in camera app. It has been hugely improved since I got my first iPhone (3Gs). At that time the Camera app was really basic and if you wanted to do something more fun you had to use a third party app. Today, things are really different. It has a fairly good feature set and the tight integration with Photos and third party editors makes it really nice. I think that the Camera app is exactly what most people want … well done Apple.
Camera+ - The first app I used that really improved on Camera with many editing options and other features. I used it and liked it but after a couple of years it seemed to stagnate. However, the last 2-3 year it has made a comeback and is now a good alternative to the built-in camera app. Personally I use it only once in a while when I want to do something specific, like long shutter times, or when I get bored at using my favorite app. It’s not that it’s something wrong with Camera+ per se, it’s more of a preference thing.
Halide - In my mind this is the newcomer, “everybody” seem to say that this is the best camera app around, etc. Well, yes it’s good and I really like the way you select which lens you want to use. The integration with Darkroom works well and together they form a powerful combo. Halide ends up in the same category as Camera+ … good but not the one I normally choose when I want to take a photo.
Hipstamatic - This is one of the apps I’ve been using the longest. You can really have fun with it combining different “lenses”, “films” and “flashes”. I often use it when I bored and have nothing to do. I recommend this app if you think playing around is fun - it’s biggest problem is that is difficult to find the lens/film you want to use (sometime a simple alphabetical list is really functional although not as pretty …).
VSCO - This is a really interesting app. The basic idea is to modify what you capture using different film filters, these filters are mostly made to emulate analog films and get that “old school” look. The effect is much more subtle than for example Hipstamatic and correctly used the result can be really nice. Unfortunately it has also one of the most difficult to use user interfaces I know of. I’ve really tried to use it but find that I spend more time trying to figure out how to do something that thinking about what I want to do.
ProCamera - This is the app I always come back to. For some reason I like the UI, it’s not pretty but in my eyes very functional. It has a number of features I like and my personal favorite is the HDR mode. The HDR mode allows you to select between 1 to 5 different versions of every exposure: B&W, Natural, Vivid, Dramatic and Faded. The best of these 5 versions is B&W, I don’t know what it is but I really like takes photos and use this mode. I’ve tried to achieve the same result using my DSLR + Lightroom but so far I haven’t quite managed to get something that I like as much as the HDR B&W mode. Additionally, ProCamera has many of the features you expect: filters, editor, optional separate storage of photos (not in Photos), RAW, TIFF, etc.
So ProCamera is my default choice, I’ve tried to make other apps “my camera app” but after a few weeks I come back to ProCamera. I think the reasons this happens is the combination of features and UI, and of course that HDR B&W functionality.
November 30, 2019
Since it’s the end of the year everybody have to publish their top-list of something. So here are my top podcasts and youtube channels
For podcasts I have only one “you should really, really listen to this” recommendation:
- He shoots, he draws - it’s a really fun and interesting podcast by Glyn Dewis (photographer) and Dave Clayton (designer). Most episodes are conversations (or “chit chats”) between the hosts where they talk about photography, design and other things. A number of guests have also appeared, some who are well known like Joe McNally while others are unknown to most people.
I also listen to these:
Before going into YouTube I want to give a recommendation: if you see anything that includes Joe McNally (wikipedia), David Hobby - The Strobist (wikipedia), Steve Simon or Zack Arias you should really watch/read it - you will learn something new !! There is a huge number of photo channels on YouTube, I have probably only seen a very small percentage of them but my three favorites are: