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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

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Best of 2017 as told by me

To create this list I sat down and wrote from the top of my head the things I could remember being awesome in 2017. The list isn’t exhaustive. It is just what made an impression on me as being “the best” in each category.

Best Blog: fuzzy notepad

Evee consistently writes well-researched, readable, diatribes on topics that could otherwise be boring yet are fascinating and I hang on every word. Here are a few posts from 2017 to get you started:

Best blog redesign: Colin Walker

When I awarded this to Jason Santa Maria so many years ago it was due to his use of color, contrast, typography. But design isn’t limited to how something looks but also how it works. Colin Walker has spend much of 2017 tweaking his blog’s features in subtle ways to work just the way he wants it to. I’m sure he’ll continue to fiddle with it throughout 2018 but I think we can all learn from Colin’s iterative approach. Keep tweaking.

Best new (to me) blog: Brand New

I’ve known about Brand New for a long time and have stumbled across a post or two over the years. But this year I’ve been pushing myself to learn more visual design and one way was to subscribe to more blogs like this. I find these posts, and the community, to be an excellent resource.

Best service: Spotify

This year I’ve used both Apple Music and Google Play Music to see if I could move away from Spotify. Spotify is in a league all its own, the other two don’t even compare well. Spotify’s machine learning robots just do an amazing job at surfacing music that I would like. It is so good it is eery.

Notable mention: Google Photos. I’ve switch from Apple iCloud Photo Library to Google Photos and I’m consistently being surprised by how much better it is.

Best book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

This was a tough call. I read some pretty great books this year. But the one that keeps coming up in conversations, the one I’m sharing the most is Ready Player One. I think it is the sci-fi novel that I read this year that most feels like it could happen within a few years.

Notable mention: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.

Best productivity tool: Bullet Journal

Bullet Journaling has made the biggest impact to my productivity and cognitive load than any other app, technique, or method this year. My “version” is slightly different than the default but I’m loving it.

Notable mention: Trello.

Best phone: Google Pixel 2 XL

I’m cobbling together my notes for a “review” of the Pixel 2 XL in the coming weeks but I can say, unequivocally, it is the best phone of the year. For me. I know the Samsung Galaxy Note8 made many people’s list and of course the iPhone X deserves a mention – but for the price, the quality of the hardware, and the software the Pixel 2 XL is an easy winner for me.

Before I get email, know that I have an iPhone X (Eliza’s phone) and I’ve tried the Samsung models. For me it came down to the camera system (which is actually better than the iPhone X in everything but the second lens), the software (Android 8.1 – Samsung is way behind) and the price. The iPhone X will be better next year and, hopefully, iOS 12 will be much, much better than iOS 11. But, as of today, Google is killing it.

One other side note: Google as a personal assistant is so much better than Siri it is jarring. I may have used Siri a few times per month in the past but today I use Google about 10 times per day with nearly zero mistakes.

Notable mention: Samsung Galaxy Note8, iPhone X.

Best podcast: The West Wing Weekly

If you’re not a fan of The West Wing this choice may not land with you at all. So, for you I would suggest Song Exploder. If you haven’t yet listened to TWWW I suggest starting at the beginning and also watching The West Wing along the way.

Notable mention: Song Exploder / Tim Ferriss.

Best platform: Instagram

When I deleted my social media accounts and didn’t even look at them for a few months the one I missed the most was Instagram. The platform continues to be one of the best and they continue to add great new features all the time while somehow keeping the app’s history in tact. The day may come when they add a feature that is terrible but so far they’ve done pretty well.

Side note: The algorithmic timeline almost pushed this one out for me. It is nearly inexcusable that this isn’t optional. I sincerely hope they find a way to allow users this option this year.

Notable mention: Micro.blog.

Best browser: Firefox Quantum

Perhaps this should be “most improved browser”? Quantum is a great name for the strides Mozilla has made with Firefox. They continue to improve the browser.

Oddly, Firefox is not my “daily driver”. I am using Chrome due to my switch to Android. (I’m ecstatic that I now can choose a default browser) I may, though, give Firefox a try across the board again soon.

Notable mention: Safari for turning off auto-play videos and ad tracking by default.

Best app: Apollo for Reddit for iOS

Though I’m now using Android I have to list Apollo as the best app. If you ever kill time by looking at Reddit (which I do a few times per week) I have to suggest you try this app. It is so well made you’ll wish it’s developer made every app you use.

Notable mention: Snapseed and Google PhotoScan (search App Stores).

Best code editor: Visual Studio Code

VS Code has improved a lot over the last year and has now overtaking Atom as my default text editor and code editor for all projects. While I still build native apps in Visual Studio most of my web work and text editing happens in VS Code.

The shared workspaces are the big feature for me this year. I can combine several code repositories into a single workspace and use Spotlight to launch all code related to a particular project in less than a second. It also has git and terminal integrated so I’m usually able to do all of my work in a single window.

Notable mention: Atom, Visual Studio for Mac.

Best YouTube channel: First We Feast

Specifically, Hot Ones. First We Feast has an interview show called Hot Ones that I just discovered this year and I can’t get enough of it.

Notable mention: MKBHD

Those are all of the categories I wanted to feature this year. Again, I simply pull this list together from the top of my head. Just like all years I saw so many amazing things it’d be very hard to create a real list. I suggest following my blog for all of 2018 because whenever I see something worth linking to I do so.

There are, however, some other companies, people, and products that I think deserve a shout-out. Here they are in no particular order: SpaceX, Khalid, Tom Hanks’ lost gloves tweets, The Last Jedi hype, Chris Stapleton, Joe Rogan’s Powerful JRE Podcast, Amazon Kindle and library loans, letgo, Google Maps, OK Google, Logitech MX Master 2S, USB-C, cast iron pans, Amazon Prime.

See you next year.

 

 

What comes after Instagram?

Victoria Wright on Twitter:

Photo friends// are you regularly sharing your work somewhere other than on @instagram? I’m so over them deciding what I see and don’t see

The thread is interesting. Most photogs point to VSCO.

I think Instagram still has a long runway ahead of it. And I still think it is very, very good. However, if I had a single complaint it would be the algorithmic timeline.

If photographers begin to jettison Instagram than normals will follow 24-36 months later. I don’t see that happening with Instagram – at least not to a service like VSCO since that isn’t social enough. The masses need likes and comments (sorry Micro.blog). But there is room for something to come along and upend Instagram and it will likely be a network that is simple*.

* This is how these things work. A new app or service is created. People flock to it because it is simple. Then it grows. It tries to address the needs of a much broader audience. Then people beg for even more features. Until the breaking point. And then it starts over again somewhere else.

Recent grams

I’m trying my hand at Instagram again. This time I’ve created my own filter using Snapseed which I’ve named ColinGram2018. I’m taking some photos I’ve published here and re-editing them with some cropping, blurring, and using ColinGram2018 and then publishing them on the gram.

Here are a few example images I’ve posted so far.

Curiosity takes a selfie

APOD:

This selfie was compiled from many smaller images — which is why the mechanical arm holding the camera is not visible.

In case you’re not impressed, notice this comment on Reddit by djellison who is Engineering Camera Payload Uplink Lead on Curiosity and Opportunity.

This spacecraft – Opportunity – in a REALLY GOOD day – gets a total downlink to Earth of around 80 Megabits.

That’s 10 Megabytes.

For everything.

Read the rest of his comment.

Doug Lane’s Micro.blog photo challenge

Doug Lane:

I thought we could start on Saturday (Nov. 11) and go for seven days.

He has a theme for each of the 7 days. I’m in.

“My Fares” by Joseph Rodriguez

Joseph Rodriguez:

It was not unusual to see shoe-shiners outside of Grand Central. They’re not there anymore. I think it’s a Banana Republic now.

Incredible photo portfolio backed with incredible stories.

/via Kottke.

Austin Mann’s iPhone 8 Plus camera review

Austin Mann:

While the iPhone 8 Plus looks essentially the same as the phone we’ve had since the 6 Plus, there are some new features in the 8 Plus which really impact creative pros across the board — most notably Portrait Lighting, along with a few other hidden gems.

As per usual for Austin, he does an excellent job highlighting the capabilities of the latest iPhone’s camera system. The results are gorgeous.

One thing I take away after pouring over his entire review; we’re at a point now where every single adjustment and improvement that Apple makes to this camera system is seemingly subtle but has dramatic results. 

For example, the new file formats are invisible to the user yet save 50% space on both device and in the cloud. As someone who paid Apple for 1TB of iCloud storage (which they recently upped to 2TB for free) and who stores nearly 100,000 photos and videos … this means I will be able to store four times the amount I was able to before this update. This is a marvel at nearly every level of technology – hardware, software, and file system.

Other examples are HDR in Portrait mode, the new Lighting effects (which is one of the most practical uses of ARKit that I’ve seen yet), the Lock Camera setting, the new “smarter sensor”, etc. When you see Austin’s photos the improvements are absolutely stunning. You can tell he is even surprised by the results.

I’ve long been impressed at the camera system in the iPhone. It is my primary reason to upgrade from one iPhone to another each time I do. But we’re now in a territory where Apple will soon be selling not just the most popular camera in the world, but the best camera in the world.

/via Matthew Panzarino on Twitter.

Capturing the ISS’s transit of the Sun during the eclipse

This is quite a feat.

Photographer Trevor Mahlmann figured out where you’d need to be within the path of totality in order to capture the International Space Station transiting the sun during the eclipse. That alone is pretty awesome. But there was a hitch.

The land area that you’d need to be on in order to capture it is private land. By happenstance Destin from Smarter Everyday has a friend whose child was midwifed by a woman who knows (or is married to?) the landowner? Incredible.

So the three of them teamed up to get what I would say is easily the best photography done during the eclipse so far.

You can watch Destin’s video on Smarter Everyday and then also head on over to Trevor’s Patreon to help support his work.

Aerial photos of a few wineries

In late April Eliza and I took a weekend day drive to visit some wineries in the tristate area of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. We wanted to visit a few wineries we had never been to before and the beauty of that region alone is worth the drive.

We both take tons of photos on days like this but for a change I thought I’d take a photo of each winery we visited with my drone. I didn’t know how this would work out logistically – would the wineries let me, would it be a pain to do, would it take too long and put a damper on our day? It turns out none of my fears were founded. It was super easy to do (with some initial set up) and the results came quickly and easily.

Here are the aerial photos along with my personal ratings of the wineries.

Belmarl Winery and Vineyard – ★★★★★

Brotherhood Winery – ★★★★☆

Demarest Hill Winery – ☆☆☆☆☆ (sorry, it was terrible)

Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery – ★★☆☆☆ (region worth visit, spirits are not)

Now that you’ve seen the photos, I’ll give you a quick rundown of how I prepared so that taking these photos wouldn’t ruin our day. Before we left I set up the drone and my small take-off table in the trunk of the car ready to fly. Props attached, batteries in, bag unzipped. The only thing I needed to do at each winery was find a safe place to fly, turn the drone on, take a photo or two, land, and turn the drone off. I focused on only taking two or three photos of each winery. So I chose my angle, flew to a decent height, took my shot and left. These were only for my own personal collection anyway. My guess is that my longest flight was 5 minutes long.

This idea of looking at things slightly differently using the drone fits my principle of having an excuse to explore.

I wouldn’t change much about my technique here. And it likely seems like an odd thing to obsess over. But, I’m satisfied with the shots (they are photos that I never would have if it wasn’t for owning a drone) and my set up. I hope to do this again on similar jaunts.

Multiple photos and videos in a single post on Instagram

Instagram:

With this update, you no longer have to choose the single best photo or video from an experience you want to remember. Now, you can combine up to 10 photos and videos in one post and swipe through to see them all.

Fantastic update and finally one that is different than most, if not all, other platforms.