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Colin Devroe

Photographer. Podcaster. Blogger. Reverse Engineer.

I’m a huge red onion fan.

Video: How Unmark works

Today I recorded a quick few minute walkthrough of how Unmark works. I use Unmark every single day (and have for years) to store links to read, watch, listen, etc. It is a simple app but has some great features and so I thought I was overdue on a quick video to show how it works.

You can watch the video here or on Youtube.

Unmark is totally free to sign up and use and it is also open source if you’re into that sort of thing.

I’m giving Apple Music another trial month again. It has been a few years since I wrote my observations. We’ll see if it’s improved.

Gorgeous pinhole photograph by Michael McNeil in Ireland

Michael McNeil:

It’s the first time I’ve used this film, so it was all a bit of an experiment.  As usual, I did no research before I went out.

I appreciate how he detailed the struggle and sort of out-of-control feel that pinhole photography can be. Regardless, stunning result.

At a stop light in Scranton, Pennsylvania around 5pm on October 13, 2020. Nothing glamorous today for Micro.blog’s A Day in the Life – just driving to get grocery pick-up.

No matter what Apple announces today, I hope the iPhone 12 proves to be a solid, reliable computing device for Eliza. Her iPhone Xs has given her a lot of issues over the last few months.

Clicking the “Create a new Xcode project” button.

Movie studios should just stop holding onto the idea of theaters reopening. Release them online for a fee – direct to consumer. They may make more money doing so.

Unmark 2020.3 has just been released. It has been running on the hosted version for a little while but today it rolled out to all of you that run it locally. Enjoy!

It is always nice when a post, like this one, begins to hit the front-page of search engines and people experiencing similar issues are able to find the post and fix them.

I’ve been on the Mac since the early aughts and I had no idea I could hide the Menu Bar. Giving that a try for a bit. So far I like it.

I am “my compost pile makes me exceedingly happy” years old.

If you own an Epson scanner you may be able to get Silverfast SE (a much more robust and quicker scanning software) for free. Get your serial number and go here.

Photographing an abandoned Silk Mill in Scranton – September 2020

Recorded in September 2020.

Holy cow a new episode! Finally. Sorry for the wait for those that are subscribed to the podcast. I’ve recorded dozens of episodes that may well never see the light of day – I sort of explain why in this episode.

These images were taken on Ilford’s HP5+ film using the Canon AE1-Program, developed, and enlarged into prints by me at home on the same day. I set out to this location (which was quite the place in the early 1900s) with the express purpose to create some well-balanced and properly exposed negatives so that I can test and learn in my darkroom with confidence. Some of the frames, I believe, meet those goals while others were over-exposed.

Please enjoy the episode, subscribe if you’re not already, and enjoy also just a few of the scanned negatives below.

5×7″ print on Ilford’s paper
Handful of prints, drying

I have tons more photos to process from this day. Hopefully I’ll spend a rainy (or, soon enough snowy) day finishing up this batch.

Give Micro.blog 2.0 features a try for free

Manton Reece:

For the Micro.blog 2.0 launch week, we’ve enabled the new bookmark archiving and highlights feature for everyone to try out.

Personal blogging has gotten a big boost over the last several years. In part due to people’s abhorrence of the policies of the social networks du jour, but also as a direct result of Micro.blog existing.

You can, and presumably will always be able to, syndicate your own web site to Micro.blog for free. You can follow and comment there as well for free. But these two features Manton mentions are new and are a paid upgrade. So it is nice to have a week to play with them.

Seems like now is a great time to give Micro.blog 2.0 a try on the web, on your computer, and on your phone.

See also: Manton with the new features in 2.0.

Watching @adactio‘s screencast demo of a Huffduffer feature was a rollercoaster of emotions. He removed me, added me, removed me! I hope he added me! Good reminder to use Huffduffer again.

Learning this darkroom thing.

We need to disincentivize dangerous photo ops

Dangerous photo ops are all the rage on social media. Countless stories over the last decade or so have hit the news about someone trying to get a selfie on a rock ledge, on the balcony of cruise ship at sea, or hanging one-handed from an under construction skyscraper hundreds of feet in the air – only to end in tragedy.

I won’t link to any of these and no one else should either. In fact, if you see a photo that appears to endanger the photographer, unwitting participants, or animals both wild and domestic – I’m urging you to report or flag the photo rather than liking or sharing it.

I’ve been meaning to write this short post for a while. I usually feel the urge each time I read when one of these unfortunate and altogether avoidable horror stories occur. I read one this morning that, thankfully, didn’t result in anyone’s untimely death but definitely put them at serious risk simply for a stupid viral photo op.

Perhaps if we swing the pendulum the other way just a little bit, these will be slightly less popular than they are, and a life or two can be saved. Unfortunately, I’m not naive enough to think these wanton endangerments of life simply for likes on social media will cease.

Can someone with experience using Symfony contact me please? I’m in sort of a bind. Can pay for your time to help me unclog the pipes.

Most people live with technology being terrible

Jay Sitter, on people expecting technology to suck and just leaving the issues in place rather than fixing them:

I’m in no way making light of these people knowing less than me about technology. They’re smart people who just didn’t spend their teenage years installing RAM and hard drives in their basement.

I bring it up because what it indicates to me is that technology sucks, and most people don’t expect technology to be any better than completely sucky.

The examples he gives likely happen to tens of thousands of people every day and they just live with it.

Being the family geek – and also to extended friends as well – I have seen some crazy examples of this. Modern software is so unintuitive I believe it is far, far worse than a few decades ago. And I don’t think this will ever go away. Even with amazing technology and information at our finger tips… most people just don’t care enough to put in the time to learn the ins and outs of every device or app they own.

/via Nikita Prokopov.

Tangentially related: From 2006, take advantage of the things you already own. And, from 2019, an audio bit of reading the manuals for the things you own.

Me: Lay down for a late-afternoon nap out in the backyard.

Apple Watch, a few minutes into the nap: Time to stand!

What I saw somewhat recently #70: September 24, 2020

  • Song Exploder is coming to Netflix – I’ve been a big fan of Song Exploder for a long time. One of my favorite episodes is Arrival but they are all very good. Now it is coming to Netflix.
  • Long Way Up – I was a huge fan of Long Way Round and Long Way Down (and Jupiter’s Travels – which inspired Ewan to do these trips) and this new series is pretty good. The electric bike bit is starting to wear a little though. All three series are available on Apple TV+ so Eliza and I are going to watch them all.
  • Feynman Lectures on Physics – All three volumes are available for free. Consider my winter reading squared away.
  • Web Stories – Google made a WordPress plugin that allows people to create the Stories format that you see on Instagram, et al for your own web site. I can see the motivation; Google can’t index stories on social networks. I’ll be looking more closely at this.
  • Speedbag videos – I never knew this could be so captivating. Via Kottke.
  • Dos Boat – Meat Eater is back with their fishing YouTube series.

The Blacklight tool that is going around shows that I have no idea if you’re on my web site or not. And I plan to keep it that way.

Stephen Hackett on #iOS14Homescreen

Stephen Hackett:

Customization and expression has always been part of personal technology, from this, to MySpace, to putting an Apple sticker on your car, to even picking what brand of home computer you bought in the 1980s. People have always used technology to project something about themselves into the world — just like people do with tattoos, clothes, cars and more.

I agree with Stephen. This isn’t bad for Apple. Anyone complaining about it is crazy. You don’t need to customize your phone at all if you don’t want to. And Apple’s brand has always been about personality. Owning an Apple product – even though it is more popular now than ever – used to be a statement in and of itself.

How to move referenced originals in Photos for Mac

Warning!! I’ve only just hacked this solution together and I don’t fully understand the ramifications of my actions yet. If there are any, I will update this post.

First, a bit of context on how I use Photos for Mac (Photos).

I do not allow Photos to store my original files within its “package”. I have my reasons. When I import photos I check the box labeled “Keep Folder Organization”. This way, I can keep my photos in a directory structure of my choice rather than how Photos chooses to organize them.

I wanted to take one of my photo libraries (I have two) on the go with me on a portable external hard drive that I can keep in my bag. After much searching I could not find anything that explained how to move my original photos from one external hard drive to another and have Photos recognize this change.

So finally, I had a few moments to spare, and I figured I would dig under the hood of Photos to see how it kept the references to these files and see if I could update those references to the new location.

Photos uses a SQLite database to store much of the information it needs to do what it does. Things like facial recognition, album names, keywords, etc. are all stored in a heap in this database. In a few locations, it turns out, it also stores the path to each individual original photo in your library.

So far (one night, as of this writing) this solution has seemingly worked for me. I will continue to play around with the results to see if I can uncover some adverse side effect. Until then, here are the steps I took to move an entire original photo library onto a portable external hard drive.

Photos’ SQLite database viewed in Sqlitebrowser
  1. Make a copy of your .photoslibrary file. Just in case.
  2. Copy all the original photos from one drive to the other. For me, this was simple. I keep my photo library originals in separate directories so I can copy a single directory and grab them all. For me, this was /Volumes/Hard Drive 1/Carbonite Photo Storage/Photography Projects/ to /Volumes/Hard Drive 2/Photo Archive/Photography Projects/
  3. Open the Photos.sqlite database found within the Photo Library package contents. Secondary-click on your .photoslibrary file, select Open Package Contents and navigate to database/Photos.sqlite (I used Sqlitebrowser)
  4. Update the ZNAME and ZVOLUMEUUIDSTRING fields in the ZFILESYSTEMVOLUME table. To get the new values, open the System Information app on macOS and find the new values for your hard drive under Hardware > Storage. I could not find ZVOLUMEUUID anywhere so I left it as-is. No idea if this will come back to bite me.
  5. Update the ZFILESYSTEMBOOKMARK table with the relative paths to the originals. To do this, I ran the following SQL – UPDATE ZFILESYSTEMBOOKMARK SET ZPATHRELATIVETOVOLUME = REPLACE(ZPATHRELATIVETOVOLUME, 'Carbonite Photo Storage', 'Photo Archive')
  6. Update the ZGENERICASSET table with the new paths for all photos on the ZDIRECTORY field. To do this, I ran the following SQL – UPDATE ZGENERICASSET SET ZDIRECTORY = REPLACE(ZDIRECTORY, 'Hard Drive 1/Carbonite Photo Storage', 'Hard Drive 2/Photo Archive')
  7. Save the Sqlite database file.
  8. Open Photos!

One way to tell if this worked for you is to open Photos, choose a photo from your library, and select “Show Referenced File in Finder”. This will open a Finder window with the selected file in its location. If it opens to the new hard drive you copied your originals to, it worked.

I’m going to be using this library a fair bit in the coming days and so I hope that if there are any issues with this approach I will find them quickly and can update this post. See also the comments in case others try this and leave some feedback.

The #iOS14HomeScreen tag is interesting to watch. Customizing my computer when I was younger helped me to learn so much that led to a career in computing. I wonder if that will be the same for some customizing home screens.

Duck.com keeps growing. You should use it.

In 2014 I linked to a post that showed DuckDuckGo‘s daily search volume at roughly 5 million searches per day. In 2015 they had grown to 12 million per day.

I hadn’t checked in to their stats in a long time until I saw this tweet from them. They are now averaging 67 million searches per day.

Their steady growth is impressive but I think this number should be much, much higher. If you haven’t already done so please consider switching away from Google for the vast majority of your searches on desktop, mobile, and tablet. It is very easy to do.

Why switch away from Google search? Having any one company own search is bad for a variety of reasons. And they are obviously abusing that power. Having Duck.com eat into that market share even a little will help force Google to be more honest, hopefully. Also, when you use Google they are using that information in ways that are helpful and ways that are creepy. I understand the benefits of making search results that are tailored to you – but the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.

Use Duck.com for as many searches as you can. Use Google only when Duck.com can’t find what you’re looking for. For me, that is about 1 or 2 searches per month at this point.

No, this isn’t an ad.

A few basement darkroom test print strips. I’m able to steal a few minutes in the darkroom now and then.

NetNewswire 5.1 for Mac

Excellent update to my preferred desktop feed reader, NetNewswire. I especially like “Reader View”. Here is how it is described.

Some sites only publish extracts of their full articles. Reader View can fetch the full article text and show it to you in NetNewsWire, so you don’t have to go to another app.

There is a button to make this happen but I prefer using Shift + Command + R. I have a number of feeds this is super useful on.

Side note: I still want this fix. After chatting with the developers in Slack over several months and pleading my case it appears I will have to roll up my sleeves and submit a patch myself for this to happen. Which I understand. They have other priorities. But that likely won’t happen until the snow flies. And my guess is that I’ll have to re-learn Swift since it has been so long since I’ve written any.

Goodreads isn’t very good

Sarah Manavis:

After numerous frustrated attempts to find a major new release, to like, comment on, or reply to messages and reviews, to add what they’ve read to their “shelf” or to discover new titles, users know they’ll be forced to give up, confronted with the fact that any basic, expected functionality will evade them. Sometimes even checking what they’ve already read will be next to impossible. Across a huge range of reading habits and preferences, this the one thing that unites millions of Goodreads users: that Goodreads sucks, and is just shy of unbearable.

She goes so far as to say that Goodreads is bad for books.

Goodreads, the app, is terrible. Nearly two years ago, if my memory is correct, they hired a new person to lead product and they “redesigned” the entire app. It did improve, in my opinion, but the app has always been super slow, very difficult to use, and just about the worst app on my phone.