Category Archives: Rants

Pre-prefixes

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I think the English language is now comprehensively broken. There’s no point my railing against it any more. It is busted, kaput, knackered, failed, conked out, beyond repair. It has reached the point where the mechanic has sucked his breath in through his teeth, whistled and shaken his head sadly.

When I hear pre-planned (planned planning?), pre-prepared (preparing to prepare something?), pre-ordered (you order something, you reserve something, you don’t order something before you reserve it … ARGH!), my head does backflips. But pre-used is a whole new pre-order of pre-mangled language.

Pre. Used.

Think about it for a second. I think they mean it’s second-hand. It’s used. Someone has already had the pleasure of using this unit. But if it’s pre-used, surely that’s brand new, never been out of the box, unopened? If it’s pre-used, it’s never been used. It’s… Wait… Um…

Sorry. I think my brain just melted and dribbled out of my left ear. Has anyone got a cloth?

BBC News – Fourth South East England hub airport proposal unveiled

BBC News – Fourth South East England hub airport proposal unveiled.

Plans to build a 24-hour £39bn hub airport on large sandbanks off the Kent coast have been unveiled.

Engineering firm Beckett Rankine wants to construct a four-runway airport on Goodwin Sands near Deal.

Director Tim Beckett said it was the “most sustainable solution” to aviation expansion in the South East and would have the “least adverse impact”.

The plan for the hub airport, the fourth proposed for the South East, is being opposed by environmentalists.

The Goodwin Sands are a series of shifting sandbanks, 11 miles long and six miles wide, that are also the site of historic shipwrecks.

They just won’t give it a rest, will they?

But Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) spokesman Jamie Weir said: “Many South East airports such as Manston currently have plenty of runway capacity, so why are new airport proposals being pitched on a daily basis?

“The question of whether we actually need fresh capacity is the one which needs to be answered before we start looking for sites. This proposal, like all of those in the Thames Estuary, fails to even recognise this.

“We believe that the UK government must prove the need for additional capacity before anything like this is contemplated.”

Earlier in the week, BoJo was pontificating on Stansted. That’s another airport outside his jurisdiction. Perhaps Kent County Council, Medway Council and the local authority for Stansted should start proposing wholesale redevelopment of London.

Building an island airport on the Goodwin Sands won’t cause environmental problems? They are completely barking.

Progress

It seems to be inevitable that eventually you begin to hit the end stops of what your computer is capable of. I’ve owned my current Mac, a 2.33GHz Intel Core2Duo MacBook Pro, since the middle of 2008. It has served me well, and still manages to just keep its head above water most of the time. Sadly, software moves on, and I find myself getting frustrated and struggling at times to make headway.

As an example of what I mean, let’s take a look at how my machine handles processing images in Aperture. I import Canon RAW files to Aperture, and do the small amount of post processing I generally require. I rate and make selections, shuffle things about into projects and folders, and export directly to Flickr or 500px via plugins, or export JPEGs for other uses.

Exporting
Exporting JPEGs. According the Activity Monitor, that relatively simple process needs nearly all of both processor cores.

With the Mac maxxed out with 3GB RAM, there’s precious little overhead left for anything else. It’s reaching a point where I have to plan my productivity, deciding which applications to run and when. When running Pixelmator, I even have to periodically reboot the computer to clear caches and memory. It’s like the 1990s all over again!

Activity
The galling thing is a new Mac is affordable, just not right at the moment. After nearly a decade of mobile computing, I’ve decided to put down roots at my desk again. My next Mac will be a Mac mini, and I’ll max out the RAM from the start!

Why is every Christmas TV advert like a nail gun to the tearducts?

Here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun. Well, it isn’t, and they aren’t, but it might as well be. For this weekend, all the Christmas advertising campaigns launched. “Holidays are coming”, chant the perennially joyful Coca-Cola singers in Rainbowland as a giant truck snarls down Main Street, cruelly failing to add “Open brackets, in six weeks’ time, if you’re lucky, close brackets”.

What have we become? What led us to here? What led us to a world in which every single advert ever has to have snow in it, and try and make us cry? What happened? What have we done to deserve this? In Christmasadvertland, it always snows, and families are lovely, and mums do everything, and men are hopeless and buy a turd in a box and have to get helped out, because their rancid brains are full of stupid, and it always snows. Stop the madness. Stop it now.

via Why is every Christmas TV advert like a nail gun to the tearducts?.

As many of you may already know, I have become very dischuffed with the whole Christmas thing over the past few years. I’m not going to go into the whole dreary thing again, but do read the linked article in full. It sums up so much so well about how we have completely forgotten what Christmas used to be about. Two thousand years after a man was nailed to a tree for suggesting people should be nice to one other*, the meaning of Christmas now appears to be entirely about buying more tat to improve the bottom line of big businesses everywhere. Who are we fooling?

* With apologies to Douglas Adams for the very poor paraphrasing.

Shh!

This has been bugging me for a while. I don’t know why I let them annoy me, but they do. What am I talking about? Mispronunciation.

Next time you have a conversation with someone under the age of, say, 40, listen out for the following pronunciations:

  • Shtupid
  • Shtudent
  • Shchool
  • Shtress
  • Shtraight
  • Shtation

It doesn’t appear to affect every instance of English language words beginning with “st”, but it is definitely spreading.

I know. I’m being pedantic. Change is inevitable. I do think some basic elocution lessons should be included in the shchool curriculum, though.

Is it really that difficult?

There’s been another round of updates and refreshes to the digital TV services here in Blighty. New channels have arrived, old channels have gone, and others have been shifted about. It seems the Freeview HD services have had a shuffle about; it seems the standard definition and FreeSat services are unchanged. As ever, I got the phone call from my neighbour to help her sort it out.

That got me thinking. Why should anyone need help to sort out tuning on their TV?

The answer, really, is quite simple: the manufacturers make it too complex.

Between us we have around five digital receivers of one kind or another. As things happen, they’re almost all from different manufacturers. Consequently, although they’re all aimed at the British market and designed to receive British free-to-air digital transmissions, they all have completely different and generally incompatible user interfaces.

Most people aren’t geeky. They buy a telly, plug it in, step through the initial set-up (which is usually painless these days—at least some things are getting better) and never bother to change anything ever again. When they get messages similar to the one above, it might as well be in Mandarin. I spent a good 20 minutes with my neighbour, stepping through two utterly different menu systems on her TVs in order to retune them. I don’t mind admitting on one of the systems even I was confused about where the tuning menus were. To make it worse, we haven’t seen the messages because we don’t have a Freeview HD receiver.

Would it be difficult for the manufacturers to come to some kind of agreement about making things easier? Why can’t tellies just pop up a message that says something like “I’ve detected some changes to the TV channels I receive. Would you like me to retune and set them up for you now? [Yes] [No]“. One message, one button to push. No hunting around the fiddly remotes to work out where the designer hid the Menu button this time, no fumbling around a software engineer’s idea of how a user interface is supposed to work, no confusing the bejeezus out of the elderly.

In the immortal words of Jeremy Clarkson “How hard can it be?”

Passed. Passed what?

It was expected to be just another lump of dull basalt, but the first rock examined up close by Nasa’s Mars rover proved to be a little more interesting.

The pyramidal object, nicknamed “Jake Matijevic” after a recently passed mission engineer, had a composition not seen on the planet before. Scientists have likened it to some unusual but well known rocks on Earth.

These form from relatively water-rich magmas that have cooled slowly at raised pressures, said Edward Stolper.

This story about Mars Opportunity is full of fascinating information about recent discoveries the car-sized rover has made in Gale Crater on the Red Planet. I have to say I usually like what the BBC’s Jonathan Amos writes, but this one made me stop and wonder.

A recently passed mission engineer. What has he passed? Wind? Go, and not collected £200? His 11+? A-level Chemistry? Driving test?

(With apologies to Mr Matijevic’s family, of course. No offence intended.)

Ah, of course. It’s that odd American English way of saying someone has died.

 

’E’s not pinin’! ’E’s passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! ’E’s expired and gone to meet ’is maker! ’E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ’e rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed ’im to the perch ’e’d be pushing up the daisies! ’Is metabolic processes are now ’istory! ’E’s off the twig! ’E’s kicked the bucket, ’e’s shuffled off ’is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!!

UPDATE: 14/10/12 Someone at Auntie must read this blog, or sees my Twitter feed. The word “passed” has been edited to “deceased”.

David duChemin – World & Humanitarian Photographer, Nomad, Author. » Snake Oil & Comb-overs: A Rant.

Amazing photographs are not made with plug-ins or Photoshop actions. They are made with the imagination and the heart and the mind. They are made with hands that know the camera well and with a mind that understand how to use it in service of vision. They are made from amazing light, great lines, and astonishing moments. No plug-in in the world will turn a mediocre photograph into something amazing. Patience makes great photographs. Composition makes great photographs. Vision and a desire to express makes great photographs. A great many things make great photographs; plug-ins are not among them, because if a plug-in or an action is a part of polishing a great image, and they can be, that image was already great.

I respect someone who is prepared to stand up and say what they really think. David duChemin is someone I respect.

I am someone who is learning the craft of getting it right in the camera. It doesn’t always come off, but that’s part of the learning process. Yes, I do use some presets in Aperture, but I use them to make a good photo better. I hope I’m good enough to spot when I am trying to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.

Backing up

As you may know, I am one of the four people on the planet still using Apple Aperture for processing my photos. Aperture has a feature that lets you create what the developers call a “Vault”. Essentially, it’s a locked down database of your library, including all the information such as ratings, meta data, and processing. The idea is should your main library (or libraries) become corrupted due to disk failure or similar, you can reload your library from the vault.

Which is all fine and dandy. I’ve been maintaining a vault for a couple of years. Since my library contained virtually everything I have shot since I started seriously shooting with digital, it was getting a bit unwieldy, and when it was about to outgrow its current home I made a decision to create a bunch of smaller libraries and to archive the stuff I don’t need to access regularly.

The problem was I couldn’t get Aperture to make new vaults for the new libraries. Whatever the reason for the failures, in the end I gave up and developed a new backup strategy.

Having a pair of almost matched 500GB drives available, I decided to use them as backups for the RAW original image files. I plan to copy new images from the CF cards directly to Drive A, then import them into the relevant Aperture library. At regular intervals, I will use a utility to copy new files to Drive B, which will be pretty much an identical clone of Drive A. One can then be stored off-site. As the archive grows, I’ll acquire new matched drives and continue to archive to them, leaving the old ones in storage.

Now, obviously, I want all my old files on this archive. Which means I have been patiently plodding through my old library exporting originals to Drive A. I am not bothered about saving processed images. Processing originals again is easy: I may even find I process them differently if it happens. What isn’t so easy is taking the photograph again. If you like, I am backing up the negatives for the twenty-odd thousand images I have taken since 2002 or so.

Interestingly, having this opportunity to sift through my back catalogue has made me realise one or two things. First, I’ve got some awesome shots I have forgotten about, which I really ought to revisit at some stage. Second, I keep an awful lot of rubbish images. I think I will be a good deal more choosy about shots in the future, rather than just dump everything from the card into the library.

So, what’s your backup strategy for your digital photography? Do you even have one?