Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Importing Kindle Notes into DEVONthink Pro

After fighting with web clippings and research type information for a couple years, earlier this year I finally broke down and bought DEVONthink Pro Office 2.0.  While it may not be for everyone, I find that it’s particularly well suited for the type of research and reading I typically perform.  Therefore, all notes, quotes, and other miscellaneous information I’ve found online eventually makes it’s way into this huge database.  Once there, I can perform searches, and even better, let it find “related” items. While this works great for online media which I can easily copy and paste into DEVONthink, I was still at a bit of a loss for printed media such as books and magazines. Continue reading

2010 MacBook Pro – Initial Impressions

After waiting close to a year, Apple announced their new line of MacBook Pro laptops.  I’d been in the market for a new laptop to replace my 3+ year old white MacBook, and the introduction of the high resolution display pushed me over the edge.  I ordered the upgraded, glossy, high resolution screen on the base 15″ model.  After waiting close to two weeks, it arrived today!

Unboxing

As always, Apple’s packaging is almost as beautiful as the product itself.  I tried to document the unveiling with photos, but I’m afraid they do little justice to the actual beauty of the product.

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
MacBook Pro 15" Shipping Box
NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
Shipping Carton Open
NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
Back of MacBook Pro 15" Box
NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
Front of MacBook Pro 15" Box
NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
Box Open

At this point, it’s easy to see the actual beauty of the product.  (It’s really not as shiny as the photo may indicate since there is a protective plastic film covering the laptop).  Perhaps I’m a bit of the odd man out here, but I had never handled the unibody MacBooks.  There is no Mac store within 50 miles of my home and none of my friends have one.  So let me just say that taking it out of the box was quite the experience.  To start with, the engineering is simply beautiful.  It’s very easy to tell that this was made from one solid piece of aluminum.  There are virtually no seams and everything lines up perfectly.  The second noticeable thing was simply how solid it felt.  Because of it’s unibody construction, it feels oddly solid and dense, yet not overly heavy.  It’s somewhat difficult to describe.

Removing the plastic film and opening the display was just as stunning.  While not everyone likes the look of the glossy display, I really like them.

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
Glossy Screen and Keyboard

The other item which caught my attention was the black keyboard.  My white MacBook came with a white keyboard (clearly) and frankly, it always seemed to look dirty after being used for a couple of days — necessitating a good cleaning.  The black keyboard not only looks great against the aluminum housing, but I think will prove to be less revealing with regards to dirt and grime.  Great job Apple.

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
Beautiful Design!

User Interface

While it comes as no surprise that the user interface on an Apple product is good, I have to give very high marks to those items which have changed since my last MacBook.  The first, and most obvious, is the new trackpad design.  Apple has opted to get rid of any discrete buttons and instead equip their laptops with one very large trackpad.  Even my old MacBook had the best trackpad I’ve ever used.  This one is even better.  The entire bottom two thirds of the trackpad is physically a button (which depresses with a click).  While this may sound odd at first, it’s actually very intuitive.  Not only that, the inertial scrolling feature Apple added makes so much intuitive sense to me that using my work computer’s scroll feature (the right edge of the trackpad) seems awkward and inefficient.  For those who haven’t heard the hype, the whole idea behind inertial scrolling is that if you use two fingers to scroll up and down in a document, flicking them down makes the document keep scrolling a little even after your fingers have left the track pad.  This flicking motion makes it very easy to scroll very large documents.

The other huge feature that cannot go unnoticed is the display.  I absolutely love the high resolution display!  I’ve seen some negative comments regarding text sizes with the higher resolution display and will admit that packing extra pixels into a display of the same size will shrink text — that’s a given.  But personally, I don’t find anything unreadable while the laptop is comfortably sitting in my lap.  The higher resolution really shines when photos are displayed.  They are stunning!  Finally I can actually see a decent sized rendition of my photos in Lightroom while having toolbars on the side of the screen!

NIKON D200 @ 50mm — ¹/60 sec, ƒ/4.5, ISO 160 | zoom in
My Desk with External Monitor

Performance

Please bear in mind that this is, indeed, an initial review.  Also please bear in mind that there are numerous speed tests available on the web for these processors.  And I really am not into benchmark numbers or other synthetic tests.  With that said, I am willing to say the performance is really good.  What do I mean by that?  I mean that I find that I no longer have to wait for previews of my photos to render in Lightroom.  I find that clicking on Firefox or Thunderbird produce almost instant windows.  In short, I rarely find myself waiting for the computer to do something.  And that, for me, is what really matters!

Conclusions

Thus far, I’m completely satisfied with my purchase!  I really love the solid aluminum unibody design.  I love the high resolution display!  As I’ve said before, the performance is such that I never feel that I’m having to slow down my workflow to wait for the computer to catch up.  In all actuality, I have to say that this is the best laptop I’ve ever used.  I’m not, by any means, done writing about this wonderful new tool!  In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I’ll be doing much more in-depth reviews of individual aspects.  If there is something specific you’re curious about or interested in, I’m open to suggestions!

New York Times: A Moment In Time

This looked interesting!

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/20/readers-9/?hp

Apparently, the NY Times is encouraging as many people as possible to take a photo on May 15th at 15:00 GMT (11:00 am for those on the East coast).  Their goal?  To make a “Moment in Time”.

You will be able to submit your photo to the New York Times website and they will be publishing a selection.  I’m not sure exactly what this will turn into, but it could be a really neat project!

MacBook Pro 2010 – A Photographer’s Dream?

After almost 10 months of waiting, Apple announced the latest upgrades to their MacBook Pro line of computers.  And while many seem disappointed with Apple’s latest product release, I’m thinking that this may represent the new standard for photographers and other media professionals.

For those who haven’t been following the release closely, the latest generation of 15″ and 17″ MacBook Pro models have been upgraded to use Intel’s latest Core i5 and i7 processors.  (For those curious, the 13″ line of MacBook Pros has stayed with the Intel Core 2 Duo line of processors, but did see a speed bump as well as more RAM standard.)

In addition to the upgraded processors, the other hot news is the change in graphics cards.  All 15″ models now come with a discrete graphics card – an NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M.  Models are available with either 256MB of graphics memory or, for the higher end model, 512MB.

For a full review of all the latest options, I suggest reading the Engaget’s description of the updates, or their Review of the MacBook Pro Core i7.

So what does all of this mean to photographers?

Processing Power

Pure processing power has always been on the list of necessary features for a photographer’s laptop choice.  Converting RAW images, running programs such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom or Apple Aperture and storing / cataloging the hundreds of images taken every day is simply a processor intensive task.  And while the previous MacBook Pro machines were indeed powerful, over the course of the last 10 months, a lot of upgrades have come about in mobile processors.

In an effort to stay competitive, Apple made a smart decision to include the latest Core i5 and i7 processors in this generation of MacBook Pros.  Early benchmarks of these Intel processors has shown very favorable results and these should prove to provide an even better user experience to anyone doing complex computing.  While there have been many complaining about the lack of a quad core option, Apple has always been conservative with their laptop specs.  I guess, in this case, I’d rather have a rock solid laptop with slightly slower processor than the latest and greatest processor at the sacrifice of stability and build quality.  However, I’m sure many would not agree.

Screen Resolution

While the upgraded processor is a huge draw for running Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom, the other huge news is the ability to add a higher resolution screen to the 15″ product line.  For me, this alone makes these a huge step above the previous generation MacBook Pro for any sort of photographic tasks.  And while the 17″ does have an even higher resolution, many mobile professionals can’t justify the additional bulk.  In fact, most professional photographers I’ve conversed with feel that the 15″ is the best option with regards to bulk and horsepower.

While some may argue that there is really very little gain from the new higher resolution screen, let’s do some quick math.  The 13″ screen has a standard (non-upgradable) resolution of 1280×800 or 1,024,000 pixels.  The standard 15″ resolution of 1440×900 pixels equals a total pixel count of 1,296,000 (for those doing the math, that’s only a 26.5% increase over the 13″).  And while this does indeed make a difference, if you’re anything like me, the more pixels the better — especially for a program like Adobe Lightroom.  Enter the new upgrade option from Apple.  For only $100 more (for glossy, $150 for a matte option), the latest 15″ can be ordered with a 1680×1050 pixel resolution for a total pixel count of 1,764,000.  This is a 36% increase over the standard 15″ configuration and a whopping 72% increase over the 13″ model!  That’s huge!  I’m sure we’ll see many people upgrading for that feature alone.

Graphics Processing

The NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M has received its fair share of criticism in the last week.  However, since this chip was manufactured exclusively for Apple, and has only been released for a week, I really feel it’s too early to pass a harsh judgment.  In fact, early reports show it being more than adequate for most users.  Also, according to many (including the above Engadget review), the latest version of Photoshop (CS5) will take full advantage of the upgraded GPU.  I can only hope that Lightroom 3 (when released) will also follow suit as rendering a couple GB of images can currently take a noticeable amount of time.  Only time will tell how well this graphics option will perform.

Conclusion

Personally, one of the biggest reasons I’ve stuck with my 3+ year old MacBook was the fact that the MacBook Pro line simply didn’t offer enough incentive to upgrade for my uses.  And when Apple announced the new 13″ Pro models, I thought I’d finally found my next laptop.  However, with the discrete graphics option now standard on the entry level 15″ models, and the option to add a higher resolution screen, I really feel that the 15″ MacBook Pro is the perfect portable photographic companion!

Update:

The new MacBook Pro arrived and my Initial Impressions are posted (as well as unboxing photos).

New Sigma Lenses Announced!

Finally!  Some lenses to actually get excited about!  With the recent Nikon lens announcements, many pros were more satisfied.  But what about those of us who don’t have thousands of dollars to shell out on lenses?  This is when brands like Sigma really shine.

In fact, they just released two new lenses that really caught my eye.  First off was the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM prime.  Those who know me know I love prime lenses!  Most of the photos I post here are shot with my Nikon 50mm f/1.4D lens.  While an 85mm prime on a DX sensor is a bit of long, it still could be a lot of fun!

Also, since Nikon seems loathe to update their version, this just may become a must have for many pros.

The other lens that fascinates me is the updated Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM.  It’s quite a mouthful, but the idea of a really fast zoom in this range with Optical Stabilization (OS) could be the perfect walk-around lens for most people.

I’m not exactly sure when Sigma will actually start selling these as they were just announced today, but they both look really interesting!