Archive for the ‘software’ Category

Why Not Use DNG?

January 9, 2010

Adobe DNG LogoI read an interesting article on Adobe’s Digital Negative (DNG) format on Scott Kelby’s Lightroom Killer Tips blog here. I’m surprised that DNG has not become more widely adopted and disappointed (but not surprised) that more camera manufacturers have not supported/adopted it. I don’t think camera manufacturers should be competing with proprietary file formats. If I were them I’d be like Leica and get out of the software business entirely.

I made the following comment on the article:

I have been using DNG almost since it was released by Adobe. Initially I was cautious. After all, what if Adobe is acquired, goes out of business or decides that DNG isn’t “strategic” any more? But since Adobe opened the DNG specification I figured that even if they do abandon it there will always be software around that supports it.A while ago I did some tests where I used Adobe Camera Raw on an original RAW image and then with the same settings on an equivalent DNG file. The images were bit-for-bit identical.

But the thing that really convinced me that DNG is rock solid is that both Leica adopted it as their RAW format for the M8, M9 and X1. If it is good enough for Leica it is surely good enough for me.

I hope that manufacturers like Canon and Nikon will adopt it, but it does not seem likely.

Two “Must Reads” for New Lightroom Users

January 4, 2010

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom BoxI see many posts on the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Support forum and the Digital Asset Management (DAM) Forum where photographers are considering Lightroom.

There is almost too much information on Lightroom available on the web. It can be overwhelming. But there are a couple of really good blog posts that summarise the essentials of Lightroom”s capabilities:

I wish I’d read them before I plunged into Lightroom from ThumbsPlus and ACDSee Pro.

ThumbsPlus 8 Available at Last

January 3, 2010

ThumbsPlus LogoI received the official email notification from Cerious Software this morning. They must have been working over the Christmas / New Year break to release it. The Version 8 Release Notes are here. I discussed their long Beta process (8 releases) here.

I really liked ThumbsPlus. I used it as my photo database (Digital Asset Management – DAM to the hi-so) for years. I was pushing its limits and I made the mistake of forsaking it for ACDSee Pro. That was a disaster and I moved to Lightroom 2. I talked about my migration path in one of my first posts on this blog here and discussed my reasons for abandoning ACDSee Pro here.

Sorry Cerious, you were too late for me. I cannot see how they would ever get me back given my investment in Lightroom (time, not money).

For me the biggest advantage of ThumbsPlus 8 is their scalability. You can use it with an external database, for example MySQL. Cerious understands database technology.

That would address my requirement that I want one database for every picture I have ever taken or will take in my life. Thus if Lightroom breaks down on me I may have to go back to ThumbsPlus. Fortunately one of the new features in ThumbsPlus 8 is XMP support. That should mean I can migrate photos easily keeping the keywords and other metadata intact.

I am sure there would be many other headaches. For one, ThumbsPlus has not moved to storing all the editing information in the database like Lightroom. Reverse-migration would be such a pain I don’t want to think about it.

Congratulations Cerious! I wish you success.

I’m a Google Wave Previewer

December 19, 2009

I used be the first kid on the block (as the Americans like to say) to try new software. My PCs were full of Alpha-this, Beta-that along with utilities I’d forgotten I had. But since I’ve moved to Bangkok I’ve adopted a simpler life. I’ve minimised the software on my one Windows laptop to the tools I really need. I uninstall software I don’t like or use. My Compaq CQ40 is over six months old and it’s still humming along. I view that as an achievement – I am a firm believer in “software rot“.

However I made an exception for Google Wave. I wasn’t on Google’s invite list so I requested an invitation. I wrote the Wave team a humourous (for deadpan me) message telling them they needed testers from Thailand where the internet is slower than they are used to.

A couple of days later they sent me an invitation. I doubt a human read my request – Google is famous for automating everything.

Google Wave Preview

Google Wave Preview. Don't try to use the URL to get your own preview. It's a one time code and I've used it.

I’m interested in Google Wave because it is just the kind of software we talked about at HP (Hewlett-Packard) back in the 1980s and 1990s – easy collaboration on projects over a network. It’s surprising how long it has taken to realise our “vision” (a word we used far too much). Maybe Google consciously referred to our “HP New Wave” name from 1988-9. (I doubt it – I bet half the engineers on the team weren’t born when HP New Wave came out).

I don’t have anyone to collaborate with and I need to view the video that explains the Google Wave approach. That could be challenging in Bangkok. Even though my internet access is faster than it was because of Google Public DNS and the Asia-America Gateway (AAG) it is still creaky, especially at night.

I note how much Google is drawing me into their software ecosystem. Currently I am using:

  • Google.com as my default search engine. I have not seen a good reason to use Microsoft Bing. It’s one annoyance is that Google persists in showing its user interface in Thai. I’ve told Google via my account settings that I want my language to be English but it forgets.
  • Gmail as a secondary email account. My primary email is a Yahoo Mail account I’ve had for over ten years.
  • I have a Google Site but I don’t use it much.
  • Chrome as my secondary browser. I use Firefox most of the time.
  • Google Earth and Google Maps. I use Google Earth a lot for geocoding my pictures in Lightroom via Jeff Friedl’s plugin.
  • Picasa and Picasa Web Albums. I downloaded the former mainly to try its face recognition software. I use Picasa Web Albums as an alternative to Flickr. Picasa will never replace Adobe Lightroom as my Digital Asset Management (DAM) solution nor Adobe Photoshop for heavy picture editing.
  • Google Reader. It gives me too much to read – I have culled many sources I used to follow or I’ll waste too much time on topics of marginal interest. Reader shows many more ads than when I started but they are not intrusive. I note that I am still following seven Google blogs.
  • Google Docs as a repository for certain information. I have not used it much for document creation yet: I don’t trust my Internet connection enough. Potentially I could replace my use of Microsoft Office for routine documents and spreadsheets.
  • I have used Google Translate to translate this blog to Thai. Thai people tell me it does an acceptable job. It works in 149 other languages too. I used it to get a translation of some Thai comments somebody put on two of my Flickr pictures.
  • Google Public DNS. It’s working well for me since I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago.
  • I’ve used Google Webmaster Tools and Google Browser Size to optimise this blog as much as WordPress permits it. I wrote about the latter here. I have not changed this blog as a result of overlaying their contour map on this page however.
  • I have Google Gears enabled for a few sites like WordPress – although I cannot see any benefits. It looks like HTML5 will supplant Gears eventually.

I don’t use Google’s Blogger to host this blog. I consciously sought out a smaller competitor with a good reputation: WordPress. Unlike with ACDSee Pro I have not regretted it.

I am amazed how much I’ve been drawn into Google’s world. But the Bangkok Frugal Photographer hasn’t paid them one satang for the privilege. Amazing.

Here We Go Again – Lightroom 2.6 Available

December 18, 2009

Adobe Photoshop LightroomAdobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.6 and its required DNG Converter (5.6) are now available for download from http://www.adobe.com/downloads/updates/. That’s a month since the 2.5 update came out.

This is the release many have been waiting for to support the Canon EOS-7D and Nikon D3s. I don’t know if they made any changes from the Release Candidate that has been available for almost a month.

What if for Lightroom 3 Adobe said that the product will only support DNG files? Then they’d only have to release a new DNG converter to support new cameras. I wonder if the photography community has enough confidence in DNG that they’d accept it. DNG is a mature technology: Adobe introduced it in 2004. DNG has immense advantages over a multitude of proprietary RAW formats. DNG is an open specification so it isn’t dependent on Adobe’s continued prosperity or whims.

Surely if DNG is good enough for Leica it is good enough for the rest of us.

Moreover Adobe could surely make the DNG converter more modular so users do not have to download the full product every time. They could release a new DLL (or the equivalent for the Mac).

This is a bigger concern for users on slower internet connections. I guess it isn’t on the radar screen for the Adobe team as they assume everybody has fast connections for their work machines.

I looked at the list of other defects fixed in Lightroom 2.6:

  • The crop tool would unlock a locked aspect ratio after a rotation adjustment
  • For Mac OS X 10.6 customers, visual artifacts could appear when panning an image viewed at 1:1 in the Develop module.
  • For Mac OS X 10.6 customers, the 10.6.2 update included a correction that prevented Lightroom 2 from opening more than two files using the Edit-in-Photoshop functionality.
  • Lightroom 2.6 provides a fix for an issue affecting PowerPC customers using the final Lightroom 2.5 update on the Mac. The issue, introduced in the demosaic change to address sensors with unequal green response, has the potential to create artifacts in highlight areas when processing raw files from Sony, Olympus, Panasonic and various medium format digital camera backs.
  • Lightroom 2.5 and earlier did not support the updated Panasonic DMC-LX3 aspect ratio modes added with the camera’s latest version 2.0 firmware.

From http://www.adobe.com/special/photoshop/Lightroom_26_ReadMe.pdf.

The Crop Tool fix is the only one that affects me and I have never noticed the issue. Again I wonder how Adobe decides what to include in a point-release.

By-the-by, there is something wrong with the Adobe Support Forums I’ve been accessing to ask and answer Lightroom questions. For the past few days the site has been impossibly slow. Other sites are fine with the new Asia America Gateway so it must be something up with the Adobe infrastructure.

Asoke Market, Bangkok

December 15, 2009

When I wrote about the Terminal 21 construction project on Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok I mentioned that there’s still an old market that has not been demolished to make way for the development.

Asoke Market could disappear at any time. So I stopped by on Monday afternoon to take some pictures.

Asoke Market

Asoke Market Sign in Thai, English & Chinese

Asoke Market

Inside Asoke Market. Note the cat

Asoke Market

Fruit Shop

Asoke Market

Dry Goods

Asoke Market

Hardware

I decided they looked best in black & white so I used Lightroom’s tools to render what I think is a pleasing, high contrast picture.The Nikon Coolpix P6000 did a good job with the lens set at its widest setting.

This is one of the few spots in “new” Bangkok where Buddhist monks come in the early morning to receive alms from devout people. Vendors set up to sell food for the gifts. All sorts of people including sleepy bar girls, taxi drivers and businesspeople on their way to work stop here. They receive a few words of blessing in return for their donation. I don’t think the monks will come when there’s a Starbucks on the corner. In the afternoon the market is quieter – the monks return to their temple before noon.

I have not taken pictures of the alms-giving. I am very cautious about taking pictures of monks and the donation is a spiritual moment. I don’t think my lens would be welcome, although Thai people would be too polite to say anything.

Lightroom Crash Worries Me

December 15, 2009

Perhaps this integrated approach to image management has its downside.

I was using my newly acquired skills with the Lightroom Adjustment Brush to try “dodging” an over-exposed portion of a picture.

From This ...

Without any warning the image portion went completely black and Lightroom hung. It was unresponsive to keyboard or mouse.

To This

I had to terminate the Lightroom process. I rebooted my machine (Windows XP, Lightroom 2.5). Everything seemed fine after I restarted but I backed up and optimized my catalog to be on the safe side. The incident wasted 10 to 15 minutes and increased my blood pressure.

I expect Lightroom ran out of memory: a memory leak. I’d been using it for some time without restarting. I read somewhere that the advanced editing tool use a lot of memory. I had not used them much before.

The problem started me thinking that maybe it is not a good idea to combine my photo management database and most of my photo editing in one application. If the editing component crashes it could easily corrupt the catalog database. For performance reasons database applications often delay writing their buffers to disk. The corruption may not show up for some time.

In the old days when I used Thumbs Plus I would edit a picture in Photoshop. Photoshop was a separate operating system process. So it was very unlikely that a Photoshop crash could affect the Thumbs plus (Microsoft Access) database.

Almost 30 years after the PC was introduced software is still unreliable and always will be. It’s written by humans and it’s fiendishly complex. I wonder if I am putting too much reliance on one piece of software (Lightroom) and it will come back to haunt me one day.

As the Thais say, I “think too much.”

Picasa Face Recognition

December 12, 2009

Picasa LogoI read this article on Jeff Friedl’s blog about the trouble he had with face recognition in the Google Picasa 3 photo management application. See http://regex.info/blog/2009-12-07/1388 . I used version 3.6 for the PC.

Jeff had a lot of trouble with the user interface. His method was to point Picasa at about 20,000 pictures and left it to process the pictures. That took a day and a half (!) and it found about 100,000 faces.

He then had a lot of work going through the photos and telling Picasa who was who.

I tried a different approach for test purposes. I exported a few pictures of friends and family from Lightroom to a new directory and let Picasa digest them. That was much more satisfactory as I limited it to a population of around 50 individuals.

I found the user interface to be quite flexible. For example you can drag pictures to people it’s already found instead of typing their names and selecting whether it is a new or known person.

It did seem to repeatedly show me pictures I had told it to ignore but with a small number of photos it was not too annoying.

I do not like to have multiple copies of photos on my PC – the master managed by Lightroom and then a small copy for Picasa. But this was in the nature of a test so I did not worry much about the optimum workflow.

The face recognition is surprisingly accurate but it did come up with several false identities. It is amazing for free software.

Maybe now Picasa has been trained to recognize the main people I want to identify in my photos I can point it at my Lightroom masters. I want to be able to tell it “do not bother with anybody outside this set I have identified already”.

If you try it let me know how you get on.

Did I mention that Picasa is a free download? I like free.

Volvo Amazon / 122 in Bangkok

HD Video & Digital Cameras – Dpreview.com

December 11, 2009

Beginner's guide to HD video

http://www.dpreview.com/learn/?/Guides/hd_beginners_guide_01.htm

I have written before that I am not a video person. But this is a very useful and timely beginner’s guide to the video capabilities of the latest cameras. Shooting video is one of the reasons I may buy a Canon EOS-7D next year. I want to learn the technology. If the EOS-7D’s video is good enough for many professionals it is good enough for me.

My Nikon Coolpix P6000 has some very basic video capability. I have used it occasionally but it is not impressive.

With the inclusion of video on so many cameras now it is surely becoming an imperative for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to support it. At least for import and metadata purposes. It is infuriating that Lightroom 2 ignores it completely and refuses to even import a thumbnail.

Jeff Friedl attempted to address this with a Video Asset Management plugin but he was limited by Lightroom’s architecture and it is not a good solution. I tried it and deleted it.

I wonder how the Lightroom team view the video challenge? I don’t think there is anything about it in the Lightroom 3 Beta release.

If I was a Lightroom product manager I would want to keep the product’s focus on still photography but I would:

  1. Allow users to import video files to the Lightroom catalog. Indeed I think Lightroom should import all files and provide at least basic indexing for them. Leaving files un-imported is unforgivable.
  2. Provide thumbnails in Grid View at least.
  3. Allow users to add metadata in the same way as for still photos. If they cannot embed the metadata as XMP blocks in the video file then store it in sidecar files as they do for RAW pictures.
  4. Don’t address video editing in Lightroom 3. Instead allow users to edit the video by linking to the user’s selected video editor in the same way they link to Photoshop or another photo editor today. This would also make the Lightroom team friends with the Adobe Premiere team.
  5. It’s probably easy to display the video using a standard plugin.

That should not be a lot of work. Good for the tick sheet!

It will still be a while before you see anything from the Frugal Bangkok Photographer on You Tube.