September 11th, 2019 by Mike Fulton
Categories: Adobe, Application Design, Creative CLoud, Uncategorized

Adobe Lightroom is an application designed to catalog and organize your collection of image files like digital photos, scanned images, or even just all that porn you keep downloading. There are two versions of the program these days. The first is Adobe Lightroom Classic. This is essentially the modern version of the original Photoshop Lightroom v1.0 from 1997. The other is Adobe Lightroom (originally known as “Lightroom CC“), and there are some hugely important differences. In fact, I personally think the name handling is a big mistake on Adobe’s part. The newer version should be called Adobe PhotoCloud or something like that. It would more accurately describe what’s going on and reduce confusion.

The Original Lineage

When it first came out, LightRoom was closely associated with Adobe’s flagship desktop application, Photoshop, but they couldn’t quite decide what the branding was supposed to be. There were some very distinct differences like the fact that Photoshop was very clearly oriented around editing individual images and getting into them at the pixel level. Lightroom was clearly descended from the mass-consumer product Photoshop Album and was oriented around managing collections of images and the editing functions were designed to work on entire images, not pixel by pixel.

Photoshop got it’s start when high-quality image editing started with a high-resolution scanner. In fact, my first copy of Photoshop came bundled with my first really good flatbed scanner.

Lightroom was born when digital cameras started to become a thing you didn’t need to take out a second mortgage to buy. The move to digital meant everything about Photography was changing. Wedding photographers used to shoot film and come home with a bag of exposed film which they’d have to go drop off at the lab and then wait a couple days get dozens or even hundreds of small proof prints. Now, Wedding photographers might come home from a shoot with a bag of memory cards and a few hundred digital images that deeded some sort of post-production work, like tweaking the exposure or the color balance. The scripting and batch automation functions in Photoshop could do the job in a pinch but it was not an optimal process.

At first, photographers would discuss and debate which was the right product for them, but it slowly became clear that Photoshop and Lightroom were complementary products, more than competitors.

One of the really cool things about Lightroom back when it first came out was that it was designed around the idea of non-destructive editing, You could import a bunch of images from your digital camera, select one, and then apply your basic color and exposure adjustments as desired. T he program was well integrated with the RAW image formats used by better digital cameras, so you could dial in your adjustments and save a preset development setting with that information. For example, you might have a group of pictures which were taken on an overcast day and you want to adjust the color balance and contrast. Once you’ve done that with one image and created a preset, you can easily select another 50 images, or 200, or even 2000, and then select that preset to apply your color balance and contrast settings to the whole batch. Instead of the old fashioned method of actually going into each image file and adjusting the pixel values o each one, which could be possible to undo later, Lightroom simply makes annotation in the catalog of the adjustments that have been made. From that point on, whenever the image is displayed, printed, exported for web output, etc., those adjustments will be applied. You can make further adjustments at any time, or even reset everything back to the original version.

Classic also had a bunch of other cool features like the ability to create web galleries from the images in your catalog. It would generate HTML files, thumbnails, resized images, and then either save the whole thing out to a specified location or upload it directly to a website.

It could print contact sheets for you. Select a batch of photos, and it could print sheets of images ranging from full page down to the size of a slide. You could also connect to photo sharing sites like Flickr and upload images.

Common questions in those early days included , how is Lightroom different from Photoshop? Which one is right for me? The answer is that Photoshop is for advanced editing of individual images, while Lightroom is designed to manage collections of images and provide some basic work-flow oriented editing. In addition to the things we’ve mentioned, Lightroom has functions for removing redeye, and basic touchup for skin blemishes, but it doesn’t let you get down and dirty and edit thigs pixel by pixel. It doesn’t give you access to all of the filters and special effects add-ons. .

One major problem with this dichotomy between the two versions of Lightroom is that if you started with the original v1.0 and then upgraded until you got to Classic, you’ve trained your brain to think in certain ways that don’t apply if decide to start using CC, and which you can easily trip over an when you do.

Classic keeps track of your images using a database file known as a “catalog” This database stores all of the information about what images have been added, what adjustments have been made to each one, and metadata like keywords or image ratings. You can have one catalog file for all your images, or you can have multiple catalog files.

Your image files are not stored as part of the catalog. When you add images, Classic adds a link to the original file location. You can also optionally have it copy new files to a designated location but even if you do this, the images are only pointed to by the catalog, not contained in the catalog.

Earlier versions kind of encouraged the use of multiple catalog files because the program had a tendency to become sluggish as more images were added to a catalog, but it’s been many years and many program revisions since this was an issue. With the modern version, I’ve got catalogs w with upwards of 60000 images and you don’t see slowdowns unless you do something like edit the keywords for all the images at once, or if you force it to rebuild image previews, but those slowdowns are predictable and expected.

One really goofy thing is that Adobe doesn’t allow you to create or use catalog files based on a network volume. The images, yes, the catalog files, no. The reason usually cited is that it uses SQLite as its database engine. SQLite is an SQL database library which you can embed directly into your program and therefore avoid the need to have another database installed like SQL Server or MySQL. However, SQLite isn’t designed to be multi-user.

The problem is that Adobe is erroneously equating “network-based file” with “multiuser” which are two entirely different things. It’s reasonable to decide that you don’t want to support multiuser functionality where different users on different stations on the network would all be accessing the file t the same time. However, if you’re worried about that, it’s very easy to restrict a network-based file to being used by one user at a time, I it’s a mystery as to why Adobe has a blind spot on this. But I do know it’s a pain in the butt because it means I can’t keep my catalogs on my NAS box.

With the new “Lightroom” it’s all designed around “the cloud” and it leaves behind the notion of having multiple catalogs or having your files located wherever they happened to start out. There is a single catalog file and when you add images, they’re copied to your local image cache and then synced to your Adobe Lightroom cloud account so they’re shared with your other devices using Lightroom CC.

Lightroom is superficially similar to Classic if you cross your eyes and don’t look too hard. A lot of old features are gone, like printing contact sheets, creating web galleries, or accessing photo sharing sites. What’s left over is the ability to browse through your catalog and do basic editing tasks.

If you have images you don’t want synced to the cloud, do not add them into your Lightroom CC catalog.

Conversely, if you’re primarily interested in syncing photos to the cloud across multiple devices, and won’t miss the various features of Classic, Lightroom may be what you want. But before you start trying to switch, I strongly urge you do research everything to make sure it’s what you want.

Lightroom CC has the ability to import Lightroom Classic catalogs. On The Mac, it also has the ability to import images from the Apple Photos app library (aka iPhoto). However, if you’re already into the Apple ecosystem and are using iCloud for photo sharing, I don’t really see any strong reason why you’d want to switch

September 10th, 2019 by Mike Fulton
Categories: Apple, iOS, iPhone

I remember when Steve Jobs and Apple first announced SIRI, the voice activated… assistant. Yea, let’s call her an assistant…. try to keep a straight face. It seemed pretty cool.

In the nine years since, Siri has come to be known as a somewhat less than precise and reliable means of telling your phone to play some music.

There have been few disappointments tied to the rise of smartphones on a par with the spectacular failure of SIRI to live up to the promise of that original announcement. Let’s have a look into things.

Speech recognition

The first big thing about Siri is that it does continuous voice recognition, listening for your command. In practice, this isn’t always as reliable as one would like. However, the real problem is that Siri doesn’t really do much besides initiate media playback or do web searches. We were promised more.

It Ain’t Privacy

Sure, there ae probably a few neat tricks Siri could do if it didn’t mean someone would scream about “privacy“. But that’s not the biggest part of this problem.

The problem is that SIRI has no real ability to parse text more complicated than a simple verb-object command. So you can say “Play Beatles” and Siri can figure out that “Beatles” means a particular artist and/or song, and then it can perform the “play” action on it. But it has no ability to decipher more complex commands and it has no ability to track a conversation and keep a context of what’s being said. When you get right down to it, Siri’s text paring isn’t as advanced as a 1980 8-bit computer text adventure game like Zork.

Imagine a more interactive scenario.

You: “Hey Siri, what time is that movie playing?”

Sir recalls that you asked about the new Star Wars movie earlier in the day and looks up local showtimes.

Siri: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is playing at the AMC Marina Pacifica at 8:45PM and at 9:40pm, and at Regal Lakewood at 7:55pm. Do you want tp purchase tickets?”

You: “Is that in 3D?”

Siri: “Only the 7:55pm Regal Lakewood showtime is 3D”

“OK get two adult tickets for the 3D show.”

That would be like a thousand times more useful than anything Siri has done since day one, and it’s all done by adding the ability to keep track of the conversation to a very minimal degree.

And there was no personal information in this exchange. So tell me, Apple, why wasn’t Siri upgraded to do this like 8 versions ago? Do we need to call the old Infocom Zork programmers and get them on the team?

Not Just Appple

By the way, while I’m calling out Apple and Siri specifically here, most of this applies equally to Amazon/Alexa, Hey Google, and Microsoft/Cortana. Some o them do better than others at certain things, but none of them is at good as Zork. At least you can kill a grue in Zork.

August 31st, 2019 by Mike Fulton
Categories: Microsoft, Windows

Microsoft has released build 18970.1005 of Windows 10. This what they call a features update, as opposed to a “bug fix and security patch” update.

The two big changes here are an updated UI for tablet devices, and a change to the Windows Reset feature that allows you to download Windows files instead of using a local recovery partition on your hard drive.

These are worthwhile updates, but they’re not really something many people will get too excited about. And that got me thinking…

We haven’t really heard much about what’s coming after Windows 10. What and when is the next big version of Windows?

Several major versions of Windows ago, Microsoft was doing press previews of new features they were working on. This was a year or two before the new version in question was released, and when it did come out, many of hose new features were nowhere to be found. I presume they either couldn’t get them working like they wanted, or else they simply decided they weren’t the great idea that they first seemed to be.

Here Are Things Microsoft Needs To Fix, And New Fefatures They Need to Add

Cleanup Desktop Clutter — The problem of desktop clutter goes back to the earliest days of the GUI. If you let users put unlimited numbers of icons anywhere they want on the desktop, that’s exactly what they’ll do.

I’m not saying users shouldn’t be allowed to do that soft of thing, but it’d be nice if there were better tools for dealing with it when it gets out of hand.

When I was a System Admin, I couldn’t help noticing how messy and cluttered some people’s desktops were. A few here and there were neat and clean but they were far outnumbered by the cluttered ones.

Aside from the aesthetic question, the main problem here is that the mess makes it hard to find specific items. It’s like playing a less fun version of Where’s Waldo.

Microsoft needs to come up with a way of organizing t his mess, even if it’s a temporary while-you–look-at-it fix.

My approach would be something like, Control-Click on an icon and it fades out or hides all other types of file. Like if you Control-Clicked on a PDF file, it would fade out all other file types like JPEG, TTXT, XLSX, etc. Hit the ESC key and the files unhide or fade back in.

File System Metadata

One thing Mac users have enjoyed pretty m much forever is the ability to use file system metadata. The Finder allows them to add custom notes to each file, assign files to categories and so forth. The Mac implementation of this idea is fairly simple but eyry, very useful.

This sort of thing is decades overdue for Windows users and let’s take things a step or five further than what the Mac does, just so you can say you didn’t copy it, if for no other reason.

  • Add notes to each file or folder
  • Assign each file or folder to one or more categories
  • Assign tags to each file or folder
  • Search by any of these

Last but not least, these things need to work regardless of the underlying file system (i.e. NT FS, FAT32, EXFAT, etc.) and the metadata has to move with the file regardless of what tool might be used to move or copy a file.

I didn’t say it was going to be easy.

Improved Start Menu Editor

It took a fair amount of trial and error but I really like the Start Menu as it currently stands. But it’s a pain in the ass to customize so many users don’t even bother. Microsoft needs to come up with a better option. This should include:

  • Method(s) to select multiple items – shift click, control-click, rubber band selection
  • Resize all items in current selection
  • Option to Rename A Start Menu item

Finish Moving Stuff To The Settings Panel

Once upon a time we had the Control Panel: a unified place to access various settings and system options. This worked pretty well but it wasn’t always as user friendly as one might like, so Microsoft came up with the Settings window starting in Windows 8. This was essentially the same basic idea of the Control Panel but redone using the UI conventions of Windows 8. However, not everything in the Control Panel was to be found in the Settings panel. In fact in many cases the Settings Panel simply had links or buttons that led to the original Control Panel items. Over time, the Settings Panel has been updated so that the original Control Panel items are used less and less, but plenty of them are still there.

Microsoft needs to finish this migration.

Update The Damn Command Prompt Already!

The Command Prompt, s text-based command line shell, isn’t going away any time soon, and that’s good as it’s a useful tool. However, the Command Prompt is essentially unchanged in the last 40 (holy freakin’ crap!!!!!!!) years. That’s not so good. T here are several minor updates that are long overdue.

Better Editing — You can mark a block and cut or copy it, but it’s a pain in the ass. This needs to work better.

Change Font Options — You can change font settings, but it’s limited nd again, a pain in the ass.

Tear Down The Text/GUI wall — A text-based command shell can still have some GUI mixed in. Fixing the editing functions would be a step towards this, but there’s more t hat can be done.

One of the things I’ve always hated about text-based command shells is navigating drives and folders and doing thigs like entering long filenames for something several folder levels deep. I Can’t think of a single reason why one couldn’t have a toolbar button that brings up a GUI for navigating to a drive and folder. Another button could lead to a GUI file selector. None of this would prevent you from typing in things the old-fashioned way but now you’d have options.

History Browser — How about a op-up window that lets you view your command history? Yes, you can already use the up and down arrow keys, but it’s easy to lose track of things with that setup.

Update T he Task Bar

The Task Bar hasn’t changed much in quite awhile but there are some updates I’d like to see.

Sizeable Icons — I wat a slider that goes from teeny tiny to way too feakin’ big.

Icon Stacks — Or maybe you’d call this Icon folders. Basically, the ability to have an icon that leads to other icons. I could have a “Games” icon that leads me to icons for individual games.

« Previous Entries