For a while now I’ve had this problem where if I click on a link to download a DMG or a ZIP file I just get a blank grey page instead of the file being downloaded, it’s kind-of like I’m actually trying to open the file directly in the browser and it gets really bloody annoying. The problem in my case seemed to be the Speed Download plugin (I won’t link to it, since I recommend that nobody installs it – ever), the solution was to delete the application from the Applications folder in Finder and then delete the plugin (probably close Safari first) from /Library/Internet Plug-ins/SpeedDownload Browser Plugin.plugin
Here’s a quick tip that will allow you to see a a mounted USB drive or CD/DVD from the terminal in Mac OS X Snow Leopard (though this probably works in all versions of OS X)…
This is the location of all mounted drives, including CDs, DVDs, USB Hard Disks, Flash Drives and even Mobile Me’s iDisk – they should all be available as folders below “/Volumes”.
Whilst I’m mildly reluctant to admit it, I was one of those sad people so excited by Apple’s scheduled July 27th announcement that I stayed behind at work so as not to miss the Engadget live-blogging coverage and despite the fact that every man and his dog will be blogging about the iPad over the coming weeks (and yes, dogs blog), as bonafide Apple fanboy I thought I couldn’t resist tossing my opinion into the fray.
My first sight of the thing was of Steve Jobs holding it up and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was about the size of his head, 10″ screen and bezel included. I appreciate that this is an odd feature to look for but many of the rumours I’d read were touting a 7″ screen which to me (more later) would have been utterly pointless but 10″ is a good approximation of a page from a book or a small magazine. Sadly, along with this first sight came the bitter realisation that the thing was to be called the iPad, something I’m really going to struggle getting used to since it’s a crap name – please excuse my use of ‘the thing’ when referring to the new device.
The design is very similar to that of the iPhone, except with a proportionally much larger bezel, making it look a lot more like a digital photo frame and though I’d bet money that this proportional imbalance will be reduced in future versions I also acknowledge that it may be intentional since you’re going to have to rest your thumbs somewhere whilst you’re not pawing at the capacitive screen. The weight is hard to gauge from presentations and so on but 1.5lbs seems weighty but maybe appropriately so, since you’ll want it to feel solid in your hands, I look forward to getting my hands on one to see what it really feels like to hold.
In terms of actually using the device, the demo shots of browsing the web, watching films and thumbing through Google maps all look absolutely superb, very slick, very iPhone, very Apple. I was especially impressed by the look of the calendar since the iPhone has been a godsend in terms of managing my personal life and anything that can help me remember where I’m supposed to be and when is a real boost for me! Despite being a gamer I really wasn’t that interested in that part of the presentation, there seems to be an obsession with trying to present the iPhone and now the tablet as hard-core 3D gaming platforms when I’m quite sure that they’re both rubbish for racing sims and first-person shooters. I’m not saying that games don’t have their place in a mobile lineup but the physics-based genres are far better enjoyed on the XBox 360 or PS3, the real strength of a touch-screen mobile platform is for genius-like casual games such as Geared, Wurdle and Flight Control. I’m also not really interested in drawing, writing or doing spreadsheets on the thing since I can’t draw and I’ve got a proper (read: desktop) computer for doing that sort of thing.
The biggest leap forward provided by the iPad is by far and away it’s use as an e-book reader and for reading newspapers, whilst the rest of the features are stunning by themselves the real revolutionary change that this device (and devices of it’s ilk) will bring is in how we consume ‘print’ media. Steve’s presentation really made me feel sorry for Amazon’s Kindle, seeing a photo of the chunky white keyboarded 1980s-style device followed by as shot of a Jonathan Ives masterpiece must have ripped the heart out of the Kindle team at Amazon. That’s not to say that Amazon as a whole lose out here, their app will most likely work on and compete with Apple’s own iBooks offering and that sort of competition can only be good for end users – my only big worry with the e-book future is that so far all of the major stores are using DRM, meaning that if you bought a book on one store you won’t be able to transfer it to another.
The price is an open verdict still since I’m in the UK but the dollar prices look pretty reasonable in my opinion, $499 for the 16GB WiFi version seems like a steal, though I’m sure I’ll end up getting the $829 64GB WiFi + 3G model since I’m highly likely to stick a tonne of video on it. If the UK pricing ends up being towards the harsher end of the scale (the British always get screwed but it’s usually by our own government so we’ve no-one to blame but ourselves) I may be tempted by the $699 WiFi-only version since I’m pretty sure I’ll be using it primarily at home.
So, what’s the point of the iPad then? I’ve heard a few people saying that they really don’t see the point and that’s it’s nothing more than a big iPod and to an extent they’re absolutely right, it’s not portable like a phone and it’s not as functional as a laptop. I don’t even think Steve’s cheap shots at the netbook market were quite warranted since I’ve no doubt that the iPad would be useless if I were trying to work remotely from a Starbucks typing emails and using a VPN client to remote control my work desktop. This is something I have done on little Dell Mini 9 many times and it really does work, the tablet market isn’t meant for people who want a laptop and it isn’t for people that want a netbook.
The iPad is for people who want to grab their tablet off of the coffee table, quickly check their emails, see what’s in their calendar for the weekend and maybe pop open IMDB find out whether the guy in the film they’re watching is the same guy that was in Black Hawk Down and Enemy of the State*. A lot of people still have a PC situated at a desk which may be upstairs in a barely used room and unless you’ve taken the step yourself it’s almost impossible to express how your life can change when you go portable. It may sound overly dramatic but my life literally changed when I bought bought my Macbook, having my laptop constantly on standby down the side of the sofa means that any time I’m at home if I have an idea I can execute on it it, I can answer a question, book some tickets, contact my friends, etc. Through having the Internet by my side I’ve ended up in all sorts of adventures including Storm Chasing in the Midwest, discovering new music, attending festivals, going to gigs, exploring abandoned buildings and even meeting my girlfriend.
Most people, especially families, warrant having a desktop – there are times when you need to sit at a desk and write essays, edit photos, etc. and because they’ve already got a desktop many people are put off buying a laptop as well and this is where the iPad comes in. Sure, you could have a laptop but this will be better at its core functions without any need for the complicated side of using a PC such as installing software, worrying about viruses and spyware, etc.
* Tom Sizemore BTW.
Everyone living in a shared house will eventually run up against the problem of sharing broadband, especially if you’re downloading music, movies, games and system updates. I live with my girlfriend and a couple of days ago she was working from home and I really needed to download some Audible books for a long journey I had the next day, unfortunately whenever I tried to do this it kept knocking her off of her company’s VPN connection. Now, I’ve seen download managers and bittorrent clients with bandwidth restrictions but nothing that would throttle a web browser so I did a bit of Googling and found this helpful post. Basically I’d worked out that at full pelt I was getting 135Kbps and this caused a problem with the VPN connection so I figured that maybe a third of that (45Kbps) would be a fair amount of bandwith to take, to do implement the bandwidth cap I had to…
- Open up a session on OSX as the Administrator (I did this in parallel to my existing login).
- Open up Terminal.
sudo ipfw pipe 1 config bw 45KByte/s
This sets up the rule limiting your bandwidth.
sudo ipfw add 1 pipe 1 src-port 80
This enables the rule.
Once you’ve finished the downloading you wanted to limit you’ll need to flip back into the administrator profile and do this…
sudo ipfw delete 1
This deletes the rule.
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. Please note that this only restricts Port 80 which is the general web traffic port, if you had other activity going on (Skype, Bittorrent) then you’d need to add a rule for each relevant port.
Having had my Canon 400D for around a year and a half now I no longer consider myself a beginner, I’d say perhaps that I’m an intermediate-level amateur and so I’d like to share what I think are my 10 top tips that I’ve learned over the past year or so. I appreciate that it can be a bit daunting going from a point & shoot camera up to a fully-fledged DSLR with interchangeable lenses and so I’m aiming here to provide a little bit of guidance that worked for me that said these tips might not work for everyone and you don’t have to do them all on day one, if you have any questions feel free to get in touch.
1. Don’t get disheartened – not all shots are good ones!
It’s easy to think that you’re doing something wrong, or it’s just too difficult but that’s most likely not to be the case. Photography is a learning experience but it’s not like learning your times tables by rote, over time you’ll develop a sense for what works and what doesn’t but even then you should push yourself beyond that and experiment as it usually pays off. Some days you’ll go out shooting and come back with loads of great photos, other days you’ll come back with a card full of average shots but don’t let that get you down – if you take 100 shots and only one of them turns out to be a ‘keeper’ then it was still worth the trip for that one shot. I’ve taken thousands of shots and I’d probably only pick out 10 that I really like, then again – they’re not the same ones that other people like so I guess it’s down to taste!
2. Learn how your camera ‘sees’ light.
This one is all about research, I won’t provide precise suggestions for where or how you do this but if go down to your local book shop or library you should find plenty of books that talk about photography in general otherwise you could always go on the Internet – remember Google and Wikipedia are your friends. In terms of what you research, you really need to understand how light gets into your camera and how that affects your photography – key concepts you’ll need to grasp are:
- Aperture an F-Stops
- Shutter Speed
- ISO and Grain
- Light Histograms
- Rule of Thirds
3. Get used to Manual settings
Once you’ve done your research you’ll be in a good position to start using the manual settings on your camera, I strongly recommend that you immerse yourself in the world of manual settings (leave the lens on autofocus though) and completely ignore any of of the automatic or semi-automatic (Tv, Av, etc.). modes. At first you will find yourself being quite slow and you may miss a shot or two through fumbling with the controls but with practice you’ll be as quick as you like and you’ll really understand when to use the semi-automatic modes and when you need full control. From the moment I first bought the camera I pushed myself hard to understand the manual settings and it really paid off for me, now I spend 80% of my time on manual but I’m beginning to use the semi-automatic modes when I’m shooting in variable light conditions (e.g. tracking a flying bird).
4. Replace your kit lens
This tip depends on which lens(es) came with your camera but as a rule, the kit lenses are not the ‘best of breed’ lenses and usually compromise on both build and optical quality. A dead giveaway is to compare the ‘body only’ price and the ‘kit’ price for your camera, my 400D cost £500 with a kit lens but if I wanted to buy a body-only package it would cost £490. No lens that retails for £10 is going to produce great results! I replaced my 18-55 kit lens with the Tamron 17-55mm f2.8 and it revolutionised my photography, it’s probably the best £300 I’ve spent ever. My advice for you here is whatever you do, make sure your replacement lens is wide (goes down to 17mm or 18mm), goes up to a ‘normal’ focal length (e.g. 50mm) and make it at least an f2.8 – the Tamron is perfect because it is f2.8 at 17mm and 50mm.
5. Buy a tripod and a cable release.
One problem of shooting with the camera in your hand is that you’re limited in the shutter speed you can select, if you choose a slow shutter speed there’s a good chance that you’ll get blurring due to unsteady hands. In low-light conditions you can always increase the ISO but that introduces grain, a pretty simple and straight-forward solution is to buy a tripod to keep your camera steady. When you choose a tripod go for one as light as your budget can afford but you don’t have to spend a fortune to get the benefit, I picked mine up for £45 and it’s far from the lightest tripod out there but it does the job. Another addition to your kit is a cable release, I picked up an unbranded one on eBay for £10 and it does the job perfectly. Cable releases for DSLRs are not quite the same as on old film cameras, mine is a small thumb-sized box with a button and has a 1m cable that plugs into the side of my camera. This allows you to take a picture without even touching the camera which is important if you’re on uneven ground, also the button can lock down so that if you’re doing a variable ‘bulb’ exposure you can keep the button held down for as long as you like and you’re finger won’t get tired or slip off.
6. Shoot in RAW
Your DSLR will likely have several options of how to record your photos, shooting in JPEG (possibly with various quality levels), shooting in RAW and probably the option to do both (JPEG+RAW). So, what is RAW? Your camera has a digital sensor that captures light and records certain information about that light (colour & intensity), if you have your camera set to JPEG mode it converts this basic information into a compressed JPG file and discards the detailed data. RAW files on the other hand contain all of that detailed data and allow you to perform a much deeper level of processing after you’ve moved your photos to your computer, in many cases I have taken photos in RAW that look under-exposed but have been able to alter the exposure on the computer and turn a bad photo into a good one. The down-side of using RAW is that you must process them afterwards (most DSLRs come with sofware to do this), although it may seem daunting to have to process hundreds of photos a lot of the work can be automated and it gives you a good opportunity to review the day’s results.
7. Invest in software – Lightroom or Aperture
Most Digital SLRs are bundled with some software from the manufacturer, whilst it may be possible to get by with this software I would strongly recommend moving up to a premier photo editing & management tool, the leading packages are Adobe’s Lightroom (PC + Mac) and Apple’s Aperture (Mac only). Both packages have advantages and disadvantages but they both do a great job, if you’re on a Mac and have to choose between them I would recommend downloading a trial and using both. Personally I use Lightroom and have never used Aperture, whilst I’m on a Mac now I used to do all of my editing on a PC and just moved my Lightroom catalog over to the Mac. These tools allow you to organise your photos in a variety of ways (names, keywords, collections, tags, by lens, by ISO, by camera) and also to alter many factors about the image to really make your photos ‘pop’, amongst other things you can alter the white balance, exposure, contrast, brightness, saturation, correct for vignetting & chromatic aberation and alter the composition (through cropping).
8. Share your photos – join Flickr
Taking your photos and looking at them on your own will only get you so far, to improve your photography and your interest in photography you should share your photos with others. For months I have been sharing my photos with the members of a video-gaming forum who are also enjoy photography over at the Gamercast Network, following on from that I joined the massively popular photo-sharing site Flickr where you can upload photos and other people will post comments on your work. There are also Flickr Groups where you can find communities of people that are interested in the same thing and these range from broad subjects such as ‘Black and White’ to narrow subject such as ‘Graffiti’, or ‘Dogs’. In these groups you can ask for constrictive criticism of your photos and find tips on how to photography you favourite subjects.
9. Don’t be afraid to copy others
I just mentioned joining Flickr to share your photos but remember that sharing works both ways, you should explore and comment on other people’s photos and you’ll learn about the composition and styles that other people like and use. The best part of looking at other people’s photos is that they will often give you ideas for shots you could take and it can be a great inspiration, if you can’t get the same results as someone else then you can get in touch and ask them how they acheived a certain ‘look’.
10. Listen to the professionals
Now unless you come from a photographic family or know a professional photographer they’re pretty hard to come by and probably don’t have too much time to spend helping out beginners like us, even though many of them would like to. The solution that some professionals have arrived at is podcasting, if you don’t know what podcasts are they’re essentially like radio shows (although some include video) that you can download from the Internet and listen to anytime (and anywhere) you like, the most common place to look for podcasts is through Apple’s iTunes store and a perfect way to listen to them is on your iPod on the way to work. I’m sure there are many photography related podcasts but the two I’d recommend are This Week in Photography and Tips From the Top Floor, I listen to TWiP religiously and find it both entertaining and informative, they regularly have professional photographers on as guests and cover everything from tips, news and equipment.
Well that’s it for my tips, I hope you find them helpful – if you want to ask any questions or offer suggestions please feel free to get in touch. If you want to look at a collection of my photos please find my pages on Flickr
I told myself for months that I wasn’t going to upgrade to Leopard right away, instead I thought I’d wait to see what bugs came out of the woodwork and if there were any other annoyances. Even on release day I was still working to plan, none of the confirmed features were killer-apps for me until I heard the Macbreak Weekly panel saying that Leopard’s networking is so much faster and slicker.
I own two Macs, a 13″ 2GHz Core 2 Duo Macbook that’s my main machine and an old 500MHz G4 PowerMac with 512Mb of RAM that I rescued from a skip last year sometime. Obviously the Macbook would be fine but I wasn’t so sure about the G4 so when I finally went down to the Apple Store on Regent’s Street in London I asked one of the clerks in the store who assured me it would be fine (having asked how much RAM I have in it). So based on the clerk’s recommendation I bought a family pack (allows up to 5 machines) only to find out when I got home that Leopard has an artificial floor of 867MHz for the processor. My emotions ran through a journey of being pissed at Apple to pissed at the clerk from the Apple Store to determined to make the damned thing work.
I did some checking on my own but couldn’t find the file responsible for the limits, thankfully I found a collection of sites with some helpful info:
Unfortunately neither method exactly fit my situation so using info from there and some general knowledge I did the following…
- Rip an Image of the Leopard Install Disk, make sure you pick Read/Write.
- Mount the Image.
- Make a folder on the Desktop called OSInstall.
- Open Terminal (make sure you have full permissions, might be worth elevating to root temporarily).
- Type: “cd Desktop”, then press enter.
- Type: “cd OSInstall”, then press enter.
- Type: “xar -x -v -f /Volumes/”Mac OS X Install DVD”/System/Installation/Packages/OSInstall.mpkg”, then press enter (this empties the contents of the package to the current folder).
- Use TextEdit to open the “Distribution” file (don’t quit Terminal yet).
- On line 15 change the “var minRm = 512;” to whatever value of RAM you need (e.g. “var minRm = 256;”).
- On line 39 change the beginning of “866000000″ to match your processor (e.g. ”400000000″ for 400MHz).
- Save the file and quit TextEdit.
- Back in Terminal type: “xar -c ./ -v -f /Volumes/”Mac OS X Install DVD”/System/Installation/Packages/OSInstall.mpkg” (this rebuilds the package including the file you just edited), you can quit Terminal now.
- If you have dual-layer DVDs you can skip the next part and just burn a disk directly form that and skip the next steps, otherwise secure yourself an external firewire or USB drive.
- Use Disk Utility to create a partition of 10GB on the external drive, make sure you use the Apple Partition Map if the disk is to be used with a PowerPC Mac.
- Use Carbon Copy Cloner to restore your image to the 10GB partition (Disk Utility might work but for me it gave me loads of errors).
- Boot from the drive (hold Option / Alt during boot to select the boot disk).
- Install Leopard!
Well, the install launches and it’s taken ages so far and still says there’s 30 minutes to go but once it’s done and I’ve got some use out of the system I’ll let you know how it runs.