Tag Archives: software


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 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!

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!

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.


»The reinvention of Macromedia’s Freehand«

Now that’s a step in the right direction. I wish I had the cash to be able to make a pledge and support this.

The backstory here is Macromedia FreeHand was absorbed into Adobe some years ago. I think Adobe were after Dreamweaver and Flash technologies, frankly. The upshot was the main competitor to Adobe Illustrator was wiped from the face of the planet. There are still some of us out here working with FreeHand, but it’s a case of maintaining legacy systems to support an ailing software, and it’s not sustainable in the long term.

I am always looking for Illustrator/FreeHand alternatives, and I’ve tried a couple. I am currently road-testing something called Sketch, which shows much promise. The problem is most of these smaller developers can’t hope to match all the features of FreeHand. I wish Quasado every success, and I shall be watching progress with interest.

A nasty dose of nostalgia

By nature, I am a hoarder. I don’t like to throw stuff away—it might come in handy one day. At least, that’s what I tell myself. Just occasionally, though, I force myself to go through the somewhat painful process of clearing the hoarded stuff of years.

We’re doing it now, as it happens. I’m blogging while taking a break from rearranging our shared studio space (a back bedroom in our house). We’ve cleared out about a decade’s worth of accrued junk, most of which is finding its way to our local recycling centre. I had stashed a bunch of software boxes under a desk, and because we wanted to shift some cupboards about to make some space, they had to go. 

Well, some of it had to go. Versions of the Mac OS and various bits of software that won’t install, let alone run, on my collection of Apple hardware. It’s useless to all intents and purpose, but I just can’t quite find it in my geeky heart to get rid of all of it.

Take Softpress UniQorn, for example.


To run UniQorn, I need a Mac running System 7 and QuickDraw GX. The oldest Mac I own in working order is currently capable of running OS 8, but that’s too modern—and I don’t even have a copy of that OS any more! So, I keep the UniQorn box, complete with the umpteen 3.5in installation floppies because when I bought the software I didn’t even have a CD-ROM drive on my machine, just for the sheer geeky archaeology of it.


It’s the same with QuarkXPress 4. I can actually run that on one of my Macs, but there’s no point. I think I keep it around simply because of how much it cost me to purchase back in the day. I don’t recall exactly how much it was, but it definitely had four figures before the decimal place…


There’s a part of me that would love to get hold of an old Quadra or PowerPC Mac with System 7 on it so I could install UniQorn again. But then, the realist in me jumps to the fore and reminds me that once I’d played with it, and rebooted a few times due to the inevitable crashes, I’d soon get bored with it. Best to leave it in the box, with all the memories.

Lightroom 4 vs. Aperture 4 | A Lesser Photographer

Lightroom 4 debuted recently and, since, I’ve read a glut of opinion on what Apple should do to play catchup in Aperture 4.

Peppered throughout these pieces is a sense of entitlement along the lines of, “I’ll stop using Aperture altogether if Apple doesn’t implement the follow enhancements: <insert a list of obscure features that somehow weren’t needed until last year and that I’ll use once for the novelty and forget>.”

Mr. Photo Blogger, before you threaten to leave photo software (which I’m sure Apple and Abode fret about nightly), be sure the features you seek can’t be supplanted by being a better photographer.

I am an Aperture user, and frankly I don’t use most of the features the current version has. I can’t understand why people feel this sense of entitlement over new versions of software. We live in strange times.

Watermarking in Aperture

When I first began using Aperture to upload images to places like Flickr, I wasn’t aware that I could readily add a watermark to my images. It was something I didn’t even consider at first, but various external circumstances prompted me to change my mind.

Anyway, like I said, it’s not immediately obvious how you actually go about adding a watermark through Aperture. This may have changed in Aperture 3, but I am still working with Aperture 2. Everything that follows is for version 2, but should still hold good for version 3, I suppose. The nice thing is the watermark is added as part of the export process, so isn’t added to the original images in your library, and you can decide whether to add the watermark or not at export time.

First up, create your watermark. Any decent pixel-editing application will let you do this, provided you can save the resulting image out with a transparent background (alpha channel). I used Photoshop to create my watermark, simply a copyright symbol and my name in white letters, reasonably large (96px high, if I recall), with a subtle drop shadow to hold it against lighter backgrounds. The image was saved as a .psd.

Next, step into Aperture.

From the Aperture menu, choose Presets and Image Export.


Choose the output style you want to add a watermark to, and click the plus button to make a copy of it.


I rename it to add “WM”, so it’s clear it has the watermark embedding feature enabled.


Now, click the check box next to Show Watermark to enable the panel. Click the Choose Image… button to locate your watermark image. The other settings are personal preference.


Once you’re happy, click the OK button to dismiss the dialog. You can now experiment by exporting a file to gauge the size of the watermark in the final image. You might need to return to the Presets > Image Export dialog a couple of times until you’re happy.


Now, when exporting as files or as uploads to web sites, you can choose the “WM” version to add the embedded watermark. Aperture 3 has built-in Flickr uploading, but I still use the Flickr Uploader plugin.


Just for completeness, I always upload to Flickr using the “JPEG – Fit within 1024 x 1024 WM” option, and if I can be bothered to send something to Facebook, I have the 640px setting.

This post was prompted by a new Aperture user who commented on Twitter they liked my watermark. I hope folk find it useful, even though I am aware there are plenty of other people out there who’ve explained how this almost hidden feature works.

Decisions, decisions.

I’m in the fortunate position of owning two Apple laptops.

One was an upgrade decision, and replaced my previous G4 PowerBook as my main working machine. The other is the result of an unfortunate incident involving water and the PowerBook. In the latter case, the house insurance provided us with a new MacBook Pro, which Best Beloved uses for his hobbies and stuff. I also regard it as my backup machine should the worst happen to the main box.

As things turn out, the main machine has had all the love and attention, and is currently running the latest variant of Mac OS X 10.5.8. It’s a prime candidate for the move to 10.6, now the wrinkles have been ironed out with that release. It’s a bit of a no-brainer, as the “upgrade” cost for Snow Leopard is £25.

I’d quite like to bring both machines up to the same level. I spent a fair bit of time today updating the second-line machine’s OS, and it’s reminded me how old OS X 10.4 Tiger looks. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be possible to simply upgrade Tiger to Snow Leopard. It would have to be a “wipe and install”, which isn’t something I’d be happy to do for a second-line machine.

Now, Apple’s answer to this is to offer what they call the Family Pack. This comprises Snow Leopard, all the iLife apps, and all the iWork apps, licensed to be installed on up to five machines. I would actually quite like to upgrade all the iApps that came installed on the laptops, so this – at least on the surface – seems like a good plan.

Then you spot the price. The Family Pack is a not unreasonable £183. That is, however, quite a big jump from the £25 I had mentally budgeted for. That would also eat up my Aperture 3 upgrade price into the bargain.

I do have a Leopard “upgrade” disc. This is the one that you could acquire from Apple if you bought a new machine with an old OS installed, just before they announced a new OS. I could upgrade the Tiger machine to Leopard, then get the £25 Snow Leopard disc. I wouldn’t then have the iApp goodness, but then I have to wonder whether I really need them anyway. I don’t use iMovie or iDVD much, iWeb never gets used, Garageband is fun to play with occasionally, so only iPhoto would be useful – and as I use Aperture iPhoto is not really essential anyway.

That leaves the iWork package. I’m not sure I really need Pages or Numbers, but Keynote might be useful – especially if Best Beloved gets invited to make more talks. A single user iWork box is £71.

Decisions, decisions.

I think, on balance, Best Beloved is happy to retain Tiger on his machine. At some point we could upgrade it to Leopard, then jump to Snowy. I can get Snowy and run it on my machine, save some cash to get Aperture 3, and then we can consider iWork down the line.

I had kind of convinced myself and BB that we should shell out for the Family Pack. Having now worked it through, I think the cheaper route is the better one.