Moving to Mac: Aperture

Ok, ok… So this is less of a “moving” post and more of an “introducing” type thing. Aperture has no equal. My apologies to the Photoshop Lightroom team that might be reading this, but Lightroom just doesn’t cut it.

Aperture is a great tool for those of us with DSLR cameras, and maybe, but only barely, those of you who take a *lot* of pictures. If you come home from a half-day event with a few hundred shots or you wish you could find a better RAW workflow, keep reading. Everyone else, feel free to look at iPhoto (it’s better than Picasa).

If you’re using a DSLR camera and are not shooting in RAW format, you’re missing out. Aperture has some neat features for detail recovery when you have photos with blown out whites and blacked-out shadows, but it only works with RAW pictures. Once they’ve been compressed down to JPG’s, that data is gone.

The next great feature to cover is the workflow for picking the winning shots. When you look at a project’s shots, you get to organize them into stacks, just like you might if you were dealing with physical photos or slides. The keyboard commands for quickly comparing shots, setting ratings and keywords, and everything else are great *and* customizable. Anything that you can do, you can set a keyboard command for it if one does not yet exist.

My personal favorite feature, however, is tethered shooting. This lets you hook your camera up via USB to Aperture. As you take pictures on the camera, they’re automatically sent directly to the computer (skipping the memory card on my Canon Digital Rebel XT). Combine this with the great full-screen mode, and you can very easily see if your shot is exactly what you were looking for. This is especially helpful with macro photography, as it beats previewing & zooming on the camera’s tiny LCD screen.

To see these features in action, be sure to spend a little time watching the tutorial library that Apple put up at http://www.apple.com/aperture/tutorials/.

One more little feature to mention… It’s nice that you don’t lose any of the iLife features with Aperture… Pretty much anywhere where you’d be able to pick an iPhoto picture or album, you can do the same with Aperture, including syncing photos with your iPhone.

Now, for my gripes:

#1… I have a laptop and a desktop. There currently is no workflow for having some sort of mobile library that reports back to a desktop Mac’s library. You can always export the originals from the laptop and import them to the desktop, but that’s not how Apple software usually works. Aperture’s data is actually just a SQLite database, which makes it very tempting for me to just write my own code for pushing pictures & data from my laptop to the desktop, and then clearing out the laptop’s library. I could also try an automator or applescript, but hopefully Apple will come up with something in the next version so I don’t have to.

#2… There’s no way to archive older images. Your Aperture library is one giant package, and must be on a physical disk attached to the computer (no network storage). I’d love to auto-archive some stuff, even if it’s only the non-preview/thumbnail files to an external or network drive, yet still have access to the metadata & previews. Hell, I’d even settle for just archiving things to an archive library, a-la Outlook and old emails. My library is growing by 1-2GB per shoot, and it quickly overwhelmed my poor laptop’s hard drive (which is part of the problem with my #1 gripe). I’m about to break down and get another

#3… Vaults. Vaults are Aperture’s automatic way of backing up your library. The weird thing is, though, that the backup ends up being larger than the library itself, and, from what I hear, it takes a LONG time to restore a lost library using a vault. Wouldn’t it be easier to just make a mirror copy of the files? Apple, are you listening? Oh, and like the main library, you can put a Vault on network storage, either. Exactly how many external hard drives do you guys expect me to buy, and how could that possibly help with off-site backups?

Overall, considering the alternatives (there are none that I know of within my price range), Aperture is a great package. Can’t wait to see what 3.0 has in store for us.

Moving to Mac: SVN

I loved TortoiseSVN. I miss TortoiseSVN. I’ve found a great tool for the Mac that does a very poor impression of TortoiseSVN, but is still useable. scplugin is a Finder contextual menu item that exposes most SVN commands. It’s worked like a charm, so far.

Wanting to also see some GUI stuff, I downloaded svnX, which is a great tool, also. The combination of the two I think will suit me just fine.

Yes, I have subclipse installed, but just like on Windows, I don’t like using it. The only reason it gets installed is so .svn directories don’t get copied over as assets when I compile my Flex projects 🙂

Moving to Mac: Text Editor

So notepad.exe was my bread & butter on Windows for doing text editing. Not very powerful, but it got the job done. While attempting to play with various config files (more on that in subsequent blog posts), I came across the program TextMate. It’s got all sorts of neat text-editor features, but the best one, by far, is the ability to use the GUI text editor from Terminal. Just type in something like “sudo mate /private/etc/apache2/httpd.conf” and it opens right up in TextMate. Hit save, and it prompts for your password again, but is otherwise very very slick.

Review: Plantronics .Audio 480

I’ve always wanted earbuds with a boom mic. I’ve wished for years that they make one. Finally, Plantronics got around to it with the Plantronics .Audio 480.

I saw the package at BestBuy, and didn’t hesitate to pick it up. When I opened the package, however, I got a nice little surprise. The buds have two plugs at the end (mic and headphones), as expected. But, the nice thing is, it also came with a USB adapter. No more too-short cords… Just get a USB hub however close you might need, and you’re all set.

Also included are a stylish leather(ish?) case with magnetic clasp, a few different size support tabs, and additional sizes and styles for the buds themselves.

Because these are earbuds, there’s no discomfort while wearing glasses or a hat. If you’ve worn either for extended periods of time while wearing over-the-head headphones, you know what I mean. The left earbud is the one with the boom mic attached, so it weighs a tiny bit more, but it’s still extremely light.

Audio quality is excellent using the USB adapter or not. With XP Pro SP2, there were no drivers to install, it just worked moments after I plugged it in. I recently wore them at a LAN party, off and on for about 12 hours, with only mild discomfort at the event, and no problems the following day.

Rating:

A+

Price:
$100

Plantronics GameCom X30 and XBox 360 Messenger Kit Review

Last week, I was in the middle of some Team Fortress 2 when everyone started yelling at me that my mic was producing nothing but static. It would seem that the frail little wire that connected it to the controller must have shorted out. It was time to get a new headset.

First I went and got the Plantronics GameCom X30. I love Plantronics headset quality, so I figured it would be perfect. It probably would have been, except that this headset grabs onto your ear from the bottom. Now, I don’t have ears like Will Smith, so it kept falling off. If I turned or tilted my head at all, it would end up half-hanging out of my ear.

I took it back to BestBuy, and figured I’d just get another one of the standard Microsoft headsets. When I got there, the price for the headset alone was $19, but the price for the XBox 360 Messenger Kit, which also comes with the same headset, was $29. I figured for $10, I might as well try it out. I’ve had it for a couple hours now, and I must say it’s not bad. It’s definitely faster and easier to type out messages. Connecting it was a tad tricky, but no big deal. The headset that comes with it is the “revised” headset. You can tell the difference by the connector… It’s just the plug. The volume and mute switch are actually halfway up the cord. This headset actually provides richer sound, better base response, and the microphone actually seems to pick up my voice more accurately.

By reading the manual (You’re surprised, aren’t you?), I discovered that this keyboard has another trick up it’s sleeve… You can hook up any standard 2.5mm headset. So now, you can actually get a nice telephone headset (not the cheap-o ones for wireless phones, but ones actually designed for people who wear a telephone headset all day like customer service reps or receptionists) and use it with your 360.