Saying Goodbye to a Faithful Friend

It is with sadness in my heart that I must announce the passing of my Cateye Enduro 2 cycling computer.

I acquired it in early 2002 when I bought my road bike, and it has been a rugged companion since then, logging and recording over 9,000 miles on the bike.

It was not the first (my first cateye was on a roadbike I bought in 1988), but it will be remembered as the last.

The Cateye Enduro 2The UI was meh. The process to set it up and program the correct wheel circumference was a bitch. But it kept decent time (I think I reset the clock only a couple of times in the 12 years it was on the bike).

But its real strength was in the design. As an embedded system, with a very limited size envelope, it lasted 12 years on one CR2032 battery. Crazy in this day of having to recharge your cell phone every day.

The engineers who designed this fine piece of equipment knew how to optimize for low energy usage, and long battery life. 12 years, 9000 miles of pulses on the speed sensor is a mighty impressive feat.

But alas, in the era of the iPhone, GPS, and cool bluetooth connectivity, I log more and better data to my phone than ever before. The concept of a dedicated cycling computer is dying.

I will miss it, but the future is bright.

Photo Management, An Odyssey

I was a relative latecomer to the digital photography world. We got our first digital camera in 2003, a Canon sureshot.

It lasted us a couple years before the desire to go DSLR bit hard. But this isn’t about the camera, but instead about how to manage the deluge of images that come poring in.

Alas, us mere mortals take lots of pictures and have no discipline as to the filing, organization, and culling of the stream. As well the early days of wonderment lead to a burgeoning collection of images that threaten to bury us.

The early days – iPhoto

Being Mac people, my wife and I used the bundled photography app with our Macs, iPhoto. It groks most cameras, it imports, and it “just works”.

In 2003 it had tools to create projects, albums, and grouping of photographs. You could tag photos, and later versions also included facial recognition. You could do some rudimentary processing of images (adjust exposure, remove redeye, fix horizon tilt and some more).

But it’s downfall was that it keeps all images in a big library (hidden in a folder) and managed it with a database. When your collection/library gets close to 20K images, it begins to choke.

Aperture

Not sure when Apple launched Aperture, their pro photo app (2008 or so), in 2009, I took the plunge. It was iPhoto on steroids. Better management, better tools, and some assistance for the “workflow”.

Its plusses:

  • Much better handling of a large number of images. I probably got to 75k images without it borking.
  • Projects. Your library is easy to put into separate projects that are somewhat self contained (even if they are buried in the main library). Also tools for archiving and restoring projects. Good workflow enhancements.
  • Much better tools for image optimization. Color balance, adding presets, customizing presets. All sorts of cool things. Also it allowed easy export and import with Photoshop or some other external photo editing tool.
  • Great tracking of versions and masters. When you edit something it creates a copy. You can undo things easily.
  • The lightbox mode. Create lightboxes within projects to again instill a workflow to get to the best and most useful images.
  • It can handle a lot more images without choking. Libraries that would bring iPhoto to its knees are manageable. Additionally, there are plenty of tools for having multiple libraries, and to save them to different drives.

But it isn’t all cookies and unicorns. There are some shortcomings.

Its minuses:

  • The default storage is as a monolithic library. Yes, it can work with a plain directory structure, but it really guides you into a monolitic library structure.
  • If you acquire bad habits with iPhoto, it will let you continue them. This is a lot bigger of a deal than it sounds, as at some point you need discipline, and this tool will not force that discipline.
  • It is just a Mac tool. If you are multi platform, then you can’t have a single workflow across all your systems.

But, in the balance, it is a huge step in the right direction to a good photography workflow.

Google Picasa – not really a contender

During the time that I was a Mac Aperture user, I started doing more with my work PC, so I grabbed a copy of Picasa.

Picasa has been around a while, and was acquired by Google some time ago. It is an OK photo tool. It has some image manipulation tools, and it can handle most raw format files. But it isn’t really a workflow tool.

Yes, you can create albums, and it will search your computer and index ALL your images. But its organizational schemes aren’t very robust. It is, like many Google products, more of an aggregator service. It will find all (and I mean ALL) of your images and mash them together. It will let you email them (and conveniently scale them to be reasonable), and if you are one of the 3 power users of Google Plus, it will make managing your online images a snap.

But it falls very far short of a workflow management tool. I am pretty sure that Google is fine with this. They target the casual user, and Picasa fits that need. But even with my limited needs on my work PC, it quickly fell on its face.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Lightroom has been in the Adobe portfoliofor some time. As a partner to the iconic Photoshop, Lightroom has some great features.

  • Native directory organization. Everything is in a human navigable directory structure. No monolithic libraries. If you handle and move files from within LR, it will never lose track of them. This also makes it easy to backup, and to archive.
  • Support for the Adobe Digital Negative format. dneg files are a standard raw data format. Not a big deal if you only shoot one brand of camera, but if you have several, it does simplify the organization, and long term storage of files. Of course, this isn’t a mandate. If you prefer to keep it in the RAW format, you are free to.
  • Extensive, and customizable importation. If you are a pro, you can streamling the importing with your IPTC tags, copyright terms, and others. For us mere mortals, it allows us to save common terms.
  • Multiple vehicles for grading, sorting and ranking images. COmparable to Aperture, but the interface is a bit cleaner for setting flags, tags, and priorities. Little things make a difference, and LR has clearly put a lot of thought into the process
  • Huge variety of image processing options. In fact, much of what I would jump over to Photoshop for can be done right in LR. Aperture has much of this, but LR has more, and more extensible options. You can also choose to process each image you import with one of the processing options (but I will admit this isn’t too useful to me).

I have just started using Lightroom, and I like it. There is, like with many pro quality applications, a learning curve. Fortunately, there are some really high quality training and videos available from Adobe.

Final thoughts:

Of course, making the transition is a bit of a pain. I have to extract files from my Aperture library, and then reimport them. But this gives me time to plan my organization a little better, so I don’t have to go through my entire library. I can also deep storage archive some(many) of my pictures that aren’t needed to be at hand.

I have a CSS license for Photoshop and Lightroom, so I can (legally) have it on both my work computer, as well as my home Mac.

Check back as I relate my experiences further.

(Oh, today I shoot with two main cameras, a Canon 5D and a Canon sureshot G12, both take wicked awesome pictures.)

My Nomination for the Stupidest Drivers is:

I would like to formally nominate the drivers in Phoenix AZ as the stupidest in the world.

This AM, on the way into the office, there was an accident (not surprising) just before Chandler Boulevard crosses the 101. You could easily see that 2 lanes of traffic were closed about a mile and a half before this (pro tip: 8 or so police cars with lights flashing should tell you something.)

Of course, seeing that, I got into the far right lane, the only through lane.

Of course, idiots kept going into the middle and left lane because they were free. Only to beg and try to squeeze in.

Sigh, I guess that as well as not teaching people in Arizona how to ride bicycles and signal their intent, they also don’t teach them when to merge right due to shutdown lanes.

Idiots.

Pleasant Surprise – Cell phone

Yesterday I had a great experience at the local AT&T store, and I have to share.

My wife has been a Verizon customer forever. She chose them way back because they had better coverage where she spent a lot of her time. Being somewhat of a luddite, she has been using a flip phone (a pretty plain, but solid LG flip phone) for about 5 years. As time went on, she began to use it more, and often went over limits on messaging and phone calls, so she has increased her plan accordingly.

About 2 months ago, I spied one of her bills, and almost threw up. She was spending $80+ a month on her boring, non-smart phone. About the same time AT&T came out with their mobile share plan, where all phones/tablets etc were pretty cheap to add, and shared a big pool of data.

We can thank T-Mobile for starting this trend, but it is really refreshing.

I had been dallying lately on getting her moved/added to my account, and giving her my old iPhone 4S (still very serviceable) since she had been dealing with her parents, and other things that kept her away from home.

Yesterday, we just drove to the AT&T store in Gilbert at the San Tan Village. In the space of about 20 minutes, that phone was reactivated, added to my mobile share account, my ipad moved to it, and we have a 10G plan to share.

As a last thing they asked who I worked for, as I might qualify for a discount. Thinking this was a waste of time, I played with them. Sure enough, I will get an additional 22% discount on my bill. Net results is that we add my wife to the plan, get two iPhones, plenty of data, and my ipad, all for about $40 less than we paid for our separate cell plans.

Oh, and it took about 15 minutes for her number from Verizon to port over. Sending calls immediately, receiving them before we left the store.

Awesome.

Dreaming time – SR500

I have long desired to own a Yamaha SR500. A big, single cylinder street bike. Fun to ride. Not a lot of power, but enough. Light, easy to ride, and distinctive.

The Yamaha SR500, the classic big single street bike
The Yamaha SR500, the classic big single street bike

Several times in my life I have run across one for sale, but never had the money to buy one. And, when I had the money, they were scarcer than hen’s teeth.

Yamaha took the SR500, and its successor, the SRX600 off the market in the US in the mid 1980’s, but the bike has lived on in many markets. There is a market for a reliable, easy to maintain, frugal with the petrol conveyance.

For 2014, Yamaha brought the SR400 back in the European market, and in mid 2014, will bring it back to the US. Slightly less displacement, but it is still the same basic bike.

Alas, my riding days are over. A shame, as I could totally see myself with one of these in the garage.

Getting old sucks.