Great list of (free!) digital photography guides from Adobe

John Nack, Adobe’s Photoshop product manager, recently compiled a list of 10 guides, one article, and one Photoshop action commissioned by Adobe.

  • The Role of Working Spaces in Adobe Applications
  • A Raw Workflow in the Real World: The March of the Yellow Penguins
  • Preparing Images for Delivery
  • Digital Image Integrity
  • Calibrating the Digital Darkroom Environment
  • Black and White Conversion Tutorial
  • Black and White Conversion Action
  • About Metadata
  • A Color Managed Raw Workflow
  • Making the Transition from Film to Digital
  • Highlight Recovery in Adobe Camera Raw
  • State of the Art

I haven’t worked through all of them yet, but so far I’ve found all of them interesting and insightful. If you’re into digital photography, you will too.

Ladies love a man that's a little dangerous

Dave Winer (who appears to have given up implying that he invented RSS, as long as nobody else can have invented it either) recently made a surprising mention of the movie Idiocracy.

Do I dare admit that I’ve seen the great movie Idiocracy? Nahhh. I haven’t seen it. But if I had, I would say the funniest part is where the Carls Jr vending machine mouths off at a customer.

Since (1) Idiocracy isn’t available on DVD for another week and (2) Dave knows everything, apparently the new rule is that it’s okay to publicly admit to illegal downloading as long as you also say “not” (or a variant, including but not limited to “nahhh”, “just kidding”, “fooled ya sucka” and “got your nose!”) in the same paragraph.

I’m obviously way ahead of rest of the blogosphere on this one, so I’m lobbying NBC to air a The More You Know segment on this ASAP. This is too important for everyone not not to know. (Got your nose!)

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Make your Windows apps DieHarder

The popular interpretation of Moore’s Law is that computing power doubles every 18 months-ish. Happily, RAM and hard drive speeds and capacities follow a similar exponential curve. Yay tech-for-tech’s-sake!

Sometimes — okay, rarely — advancements in computing power are dedicated to making the computing experience suck less (see the giant leap to the GUI, and a few other hops here and there). Mostly, additional resources go toward making computers suck in the same way that they always have, only faster.

Restoring a bit of my faith in humanity, along comes DieHard. The dry summary is that DieHard:

  • Prevents some kinds of memory-related errors outright
  • Reduces the chances that other kinds of memory-related errors will cause problems
  • Makes it nearly impossible for malware to know where vulnerable bits of data live, in turn thwarting a variety of attacks

Nothing’s free, of course, and using DieHard means trading resources for reliability. With DieHard, protected apps will use 50-75% more RAM. However, DieHard won’t noticeably hurt the performance of most apps unless you’re RAM-starved.

On Windows, the initial release of DieHard only works with Firefox. Let’s hope it’s extended to support other popular apps soon, and enhanced to give users an easy way to run it automatically on startup. Get it, install it, use it, and give Mr. Berger some love.

Windows Vista "RC1" release (still) doesn't install on my (ordinary) desktop PC

I was fine when, after several hours of churning away, Windows Vista Beta 2 decided that it couldn’t install itself. I was a bit surprised, since there’s nothing unusual about my system and I’ve never had a problem installing various flavors of XP, but it was nice that the installer didn’t trash my computer.

However, it’s completely unacceptable when Windows Vista RC1 does the same thing. “Release Candidate” my shiny metal ass.

Today, Brian Valentine — Microsoft’s Senior VP in charge of their Core Operating System Division — left Microsoft for At least that saves Microsoft the trouble of firing him.

Interview: Paul Colton, founder of Aptana

Here’s a PlaybackTime interview (:30-ish) with Paul Colton, the founder of Aptana.


Listen to learn about:

* Paul’s pionneering pre-Apatana history
* His work with Xamalon, and how Ajax trumps Flash as a runtime philosophy
* What Aptana shares and doesn’t share with Eclipse
* An emerging JavaScript standard called ScriptDoc, and how it helps Aptana support so many Ajax/JavaScript frameworks
* The future of PHP support in Aptana
* Apatana-the-company’s business model (a.k.a. “We love the free, but we also want you to eat”)

Enjoy! A future entry will describe the tools and process used to produce the interview.

* [Aptana][Aptana]
* [Aptana TV][Aptana TV]
* [Direct link to interview (MP3 file)][Interview]
[Aptana TV]:

Posted in Web

Aptana: The first Web 2.0 development environment

Even though I hadn’t really used it in a while, I’ve faithfully upgraded Dreamweaver with each new release. A few weeks ago I dusted it off, thinking that it’d be the perfect tool to start a new project I’m toying with.

Ooof. Dreamweaver has made progress over the years, but not enough. It’s slow, has a flaky UI that feels foreign on Windows and Mac OS, and (sparing you the details since they’re beside the point of this post) provides only weak support for the standards and technologies that modern, dynamic web sites depend on.

Enter Aptana. Aptana is an exciting new multi-platform web IDE, and it’s the first tool I’ve seen that could be the Firefox of web development. Why?

* Multi-platform support. Aptana supports Windows, Macintosh and Linux, plus is available as an Eclipse plug-in for good measure. It can do this because it’s written in Java, but I should note for all the J-haters that Aptana feels at least as fast and native as Dreamweaver.

* Markup support. Aptana not only “knows” XHTML, HTML and CSS, but it knows your target browsers better than you do. This means that it not only points out errors and warnings for your markup in realtime, but also provides live feedback on which browsers support that markup.

* JavaScript support. Core Language and DOM documentation is integrated directly into Aptana — no more scouring through reference books or websites to find the parameters. Code assist allows you to choose from available methods and properties as you type.

* Ajax framework support. One of the more exciting aspects of Aptana is its built-in support for popular Ajax and JavaScript frameworks, including [Dojo Toolkit][Dojo], [Yahoo! UI Library (YUI)][YUI], [Prototype][Prototype], [Scriptaculous][Scriptaculous], [MochiKit][MochiKit], [jQuery][jQuery], [AFLAX][AFLAX], and [Rico][Rico].

  • Document outline. An always-available document outline view shows CSS, XHTML and JavaScript, all in the same outline.

    * Realtime online help. Aptana features an online help system that pulls content directly from wiki-based community documentation, so it’s always live and up-to-date.

    * Extensibility. JavaScript “actions” do for Aptana what AppleScript does for enlightened Mac OS applications. You can use a library of built-in actions, create your own, and contribute generally-useful actions to the community.

    * FLOSS (because it’s good for you). Aptana is free/libre/open source software. I predict that a lot of smart people will be attracted to this important project.

    Aptana was founded in 2005 by Paul Colton, who also started Live Software. (Adobe now owns Live’s [JRun][JRun] product through its acquisition of Macromedia through its acquisition of Allaire through its acquisition of Live Software…whew!)

    * [PlaybackTime interview: Paul Colton, founder of Aptana][Paul Colton interview]
    * [Aptana][Aptana]
    * [Aptana TV][Aptana TV]

    [Aptana TV]:
    [Paul Colton interview]:

  • Posted in Web

    Cory Doctorow: "OMG DRM is r33ly bad!"

    Ahhh. Another week, another anti-DRM…well, **screed**…by author, blogger, and Disney fetishist enthusiast [Cory Doctorow][Cory].

    In _[Apple’s Copy Protection Isn’t Just Bad for Consumers, it’s Bad for Business][Cory article]_ — more honestly titled _How iTunes Screws the Music Industry and the Public_ on his blog — Cory points his blamethrower at Apple and boldly claims that DRM “**makes media companies into [Apple’s] servants**”.

    Let’s set aside for a moment that (1) Apple couldn’t be a successful content retailer without having mutually-beneficial relationships with content providers, (2) content providers (presumably) have _some_ free will when it comes to deciding whether to work with Apple, and (3) DRM was a prerequisite for Apple’s entry into digital music sales, as dictated by its content providers.

    Right off the bat, Cory claims that the “only possible” outcomes of DRM are:

    * A popular single-vendor system that’s bad for the industry and general public
    * A multi-vendor system that’s bad for the industry and general public

    Even if you assume that this gross oversimplification of the content value chain to “the industry” and “the general public” is useful, that’s a not-terribly-productive Chicken Little view of DRM in general, and an unfair characterization of Apple’s DRM specifically.

    In Coryland, a “good” outcome in regards to DRM can’t possibly exist for the industry or consumers. But even if you believe that, the concept of a **neutral** or **balanced** outcome — one which has both pluses and minuses, but on the whole is a reasonable compromise — is conspicuously missing from that worldview.

    **All successful DRM systems must result in _at least_ a neutral outcome for both the industry and consumers.** Any DRM system that’s bad for both the industry and the general public dies quickly, if it gains any sort of toehold at all.

    > Steve Jobs sells [restrictions on the media] — though you’d be hard pressed to find someone who _values_ those restrictions.

    _Hard pressed?_ C’mon, it’s not rocket science — content **providers** value digitally-enforced restrictions because they want _some_ friction in the otherwise-frictionless world of file sharing in order to feel comfortable selling their goods digitally. Content **retailers** value digitally-enforced restrictions because without those capabilities, they have no content, and therefore no business.

    Also, saying that Steve Jobs “sells restrictions” is like saying that Cory “sells non-recycled paper”. Both generally (but not always) come with the territory of selling digital music and works of fiction respectively, and other than that are really beside the point (which is, after all, selling content).

    > No one but Apple is allowed to make players for iTunes Music Store songs, and no one but Apple can sell you proprietary file-format music that will play on the iPod.

    But the corollary to that is **everyone is allowed to sell unprotected music that will play on the iPod**, which is exactly what Cory wants. So what is he complaining about?

    By emphasizing what a travesty it is that no other content retailers can sell DRM-encrypted music to iPod users (which we know is not his goal anyway) Cory panders to the interests of “the industry” in hopes that they’ll hog-pile on Apple. What he doesn’t understand is that (1) the industry is generally happy with their relationship with Apple, (2) the industry is learning from Apple, and (3) the industry knows that Apple’s unusually-high marketshare in paid digital content is a temporary artifact of the industry’s youth.

    He also implies that this somehow reduces consumer choice, which is silly. Here are several completely legal ways to get music that will play perfectly on your iPod:

    * Buy and rip CDs
    * Buy DRM-free music from eMusic
    * Buy DRM’d music from the iTunes Music Store
    * Buy DRM’d music using any system that lets you burn CDs, then rip it
    * Download free (public domain, Creative Commons-licensed, etc.) music
    * Subscribe to music-focused podcasts

    > Apple has already demonstrated its willingness to abuse its monopoly over iTunes players by shipping “updates” to iTunes that add new restrictions to the songs its customers have already purchased.

    Meh. It’s true that before version 4.5, iTunes let you burn a playlist containing music purchased from the iTunes Music Store ten times instead of the current seven. However, iTunes 4.5 also raised the number of computers that you could authorize to five, up from three.

    > Steve Jobs and Apple managed to lure the music industry into licensing the copyrights for the iTunes Music Store even though the Store’s use-restrictions are comparatively mild.

    Right…Steve **lured** the poor, defenceless music industry into licensing their content for the iTunes Music store, which (at the time) had — wait for it! — **zero million customers**.

    > Steve Jobs really doesn’t care how many CPUs you play an iTune on, or whether you burn a playlist seven or 10 times.

    Here, Cory simply shows that he has no idea what he’s talking about. Could anyone really be so naive as to believe that these are the initial terms that content providers offered, and all Steve did was say “yes”? Steve fought like hell for the current terms — not for the good of all mankind, but because he knew the pricing and rights that would enable the iTunes Music Store to be successful.

    > There’s no good answer to designing a “good DRM.” Or rather, no DRM is good DRM.

    That’s the kind of crazy digi-hippy talk that is **not** going to advance the cause. Cory’s also not thinking about how DRM could work for us — I’m personally looking forward to the use of DRM to protect and control access to individuals’ private data.

    So, Apple didn’t invent the concept of DRM. The iPod doesn’t force you to buy DRM-encrypted content, and there’s _lots_ of alternatives. And consumers don’t seem to particularly _mind_ Apple’s DRM implementation a whole heck of a lot. So why the angst in his pants?

    * [InformationWeek: Apple’s Copy Protection Isn’t Just Bad for Consumers, it’s Bad for Business][Cory article]

    [Cory article]:

    Overview of popular open-source Ajax toolkits

    InfoWorld’s Peter Wayner wrote an good overview of the most popular open-source toolkits, including a helpful screencast about each. Specifically, he covers:

    * [Dojo][Dojo] _([screencast][Dojo screencast])_
    * [Google Web Toolkit (GWT)][GWT] _([screencast][GWT screencast])_
    * [Microsoft Atlas][Atlas] _([screencast][YUI screencast])_
    * [Rico][Rico] _([screencast][Rico screencast])_
    * [Yahoo! User Interface Library (YUI)][YUI] _([screencast][YUI screencast])_
    * [Zimbra Kabuki Ajax Toolkit][Kabuki] _([screencast][Kabuki screencast])_

    Which to use? Well, GWT is dependent on Java, which makes it a **non-starter** for everyone I know. Atlas (not surprisingly?) **doesn’t play well with others** — there are Firefox or Safari compability issues, and although the _client_ part is technology-agnostic, the _server_ part is ASP.NET. Rico is neat, but less complete. Kabuki looks interesting, but it’s also missing interesting features.

    That leaves us with **[Dojo][Dojo]** and **[YUI][YUI]**. You can’t go wrong with either, and any time you spend learning them now will pay off for years to come. I believe these two toolkits will evolve into the dominant frameworks for standards-based client development.

    I personally use and recommend YUI because of its feature set, it’s excellent documentation (including Web 2.0 UI patterns), and the excellent support you can get directly from its developers on via the [Yahoo! JavaScript Developer Group][YUI list] mailing list.

    * [InfoWorld: Surveying open-source AJAX toolkits][InfoWorld]

    [Dojo screencast]:
    [GWT screencast]:
    [Atlas screencast]:
    [Rico screencast]:
    [YUI screencast]:
    [YUI list]:
    [Kabuki screencast]:

    Posted in Web

    Thoughts on "Thoughts on MCE beta feedback"

    Matt Goyer, a Program Manger for Microsoft’s Windows Media Center (motto: “Before we were a Vista feature, we were an _entire operating system!”)_ recently posted that he’s frustrated by people who say that Vista’s Media Center capabilities offer no compelling improvements over Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 (a.k.a. MCE 2005).

    In response, Matt posted a [long list of features][Goyer] that help illustrate why MCE Vista is a vast improvement over MCE 2005. In my opinion the list is embarrassing, and — if you take the post as a litmus test for how “in touch” Microsoft is with consumers — doesn’t make me optimistic about MCE’s future.

    (Note: This isn’t a random critique, nor is it intended as Matt- or Microsoft-bashing. I’ve been an MCE user since 2004. I built my current MCE, a 3 GHz box with a dual analog tuner and an OTA HDTV tuner. Other than an Xbox 360 for gaming, my MCE is the only thing that feeds my TV.)

    Let’s look at the list.

    > _Support for 64bit machines_

    Makes sense, since 64-bit versions of Windows have been out for well over a year. But there are no intrinsic performance- or feature-related benefits to using MCE on a 64-bit processor vs. a 32-bit processor. **Consumer value: None.**

    > _You can upgrade to Windows Vista Media Center from XP_

    Any MCE install for a PC _used primarily as an MCE_ should be a clean install. For upgrades on PCs used primarily as PCs, it’s a questionable convenience to be able to avoid a clean install, and it was already possible to use Windows’ Files & Settings Transfer Wizard to achieve the same end. Frankly, this should’ve already worked — MCE is just Windows — and it certainly no reason to upgrade. **Consumer value: Dubious.**

    > _Media Center is included as part of two Windows Vista SKUs_

    This is pointless, since you’d never buy Windows Vista Teh Ultimate XXL 3000 Windows Vista Ultimate for a machine intended to be your MCE PC. **Consumer value: None.**

    > _No need to buy a Media Center. You can install yourself_

    …just like you could with MCE 2004 and MCE 2005. (Plus, this is incorrect if you want CableCARD support…see below for more on this.) **Consumer value: None.**

    > _Domain join_

    This refers for the ability of MCE to join Microsoft Active Directory domains, used by only large enterprises. This feature is meaningless for 99.9% of MCE users. **Consumer value: None.**

    > _Available worldwide in every locale that we ship Windows to (160 new locales! 15 new languages!)_

    It’s great that Microsoft is localizing/internationalizing MCE functionality, although you have to wonder what took so long. **Consumer value: Some**, if you haven’t previously been able to use MCE because of localization/internationalization issues.

    > _More content on screen in our photos/music/videos/TV libraries_

    This means that MCE Vista uses widescreen displays more efficiently. That’s nice and all, but this hasn’t proven to be a problem with MCE 2005. **Consumer value: Dubious.**

    > _Faster perf for the music library_

    One problem that’s always haunted MCE is that it’s never been able to efficiently deal with even moderately-large music libraries. **Consumer value: None** to anyone new to MCE (of course it should work), and an **insult** to current MCE owners who’ve been waiting years for a fix.

    > _OCUR/CableCARD support_

    This is true only if you buy a _new_ MCE with Windows Vista that’s been “approved” by CableLabs. Current MCE users will need to toss their current setups and start over. **Consumer Value: Significant**, but at a very high price.

    > _It was very hard to use a mouse in MCE 2005. We’ve made some big improvements to mouse handling._

    It was not difficult to use a mouse (even the terrible thumb-pointer on Microsoft’s Remote Keyboard was tolerable) with MCE 2005. **Consumer value: None.**

    > _Likewise, hard to use with a touch screen before, should be better now_

    This is great news for the twelve people that use a touchscreen as their interface for MCE. **Consumer value: None.**

    > _Run on your Tablet PC_

    MCE already ran on Tablet PCs. **Consumer value: None.**

    > _New start menu to get you to where you want to be faster_

    The old Start menu got me to where I wanted to be almost instantly. **Consumer value: None.**

    > _Start photo slideshow from Music Now Playing_

    No one does this, except Microsoft employees demonstrating how cool it is that MCE can play death metal _at the same time_ it’s showing pictures of your vacation to Philadelphia. **Consumer value: None.**

    > _Now playing item on the start menu, should be more discoverable_

    From what I’ve seen, MCE Vista’s UI “improvements” made the Now Playing item less discoverable, and now we all need to pay for that with a useless Start menu item. **Consumer value: None.**

    > _More ways to slice and dice your music collection_

    It’s nice that playlist creation within the MCE interface sucks less, even though the MCE 2005 workaround (i.e. use Windows Media Player to create your playlists) works fine. **Consumer value: Medium.**

    > _New music Now Playing_

    **Consumer value: None.**

    > _Way better queue management_

    I imagine that somebody must care about this. **Consumer value: Low.**

    > _View photos and videos by folder or date_

    Wow, folders…just as we’ve determined that’s it’s really inefficient to wade through and manage folders. **Consumer value: Low.**

    > _Mini TV guide_

    The guide already worked as well as any DVR’s, and it’s rarely used except to set up (generally recurring) recordings anyway — if you’ve got a DVR, you rarely (if ever) watch live TV. **Consumer value: None.**

    > _TV favorites/most viewed_

    Again, the guide is rarely used except to set up recordings. **Consumer value: None.**

    > _TV categories is now discoverable_

    This assumes people search for shows by category. “Honey, I’m really in the mood for a police procedural tonight.” (Hint: Nobody does this.) **Consumer value: None.**

    > _TV guide is an overlay_

    Instead of seeing the current channel in the lower-left corner, we get to see it obstructed by the entire interface. **Consumer value: None** (and possible negative).

    > _Easy to get to TV categories_

    This is a duplicate of “TV categories is now discoverable”. **Consumer value: None.**

    > _Thumbnails in recorded TV library_

    Because how could you possibly know that the show called _House_ was really _House_ without a thumbnail of a commercial? **Consumer value: None.**

    > _PAL exhaustive channel scanning_

    This sounds more like a PAL-related MCE 2005 design flaw related to PAL support rather than a new feature. **Consumer value: Moderate** to PAL users bitten by this problem in the past.

    > _Microsoft DVD codec_

    For those of you who haven’t used MCE previously, it’s true — you really couldn’t watch anything without a third-party decoder.

    If you previously built an MCE PC, you knew this and either bought an MPEG-2 decoder or installed a free one. If you previously purchased an MCE PC, it already came with a MPEG-2 decoder and you didn’t have to worry about it. **Consumer value: None.**

    > _Native burning solution_

    By “native”, Matt means that you can now burn DVD Video discs that can be played in any DVD player — useful for sharing episodes of American Chopper with grandma. (Previously, MCE only burned nearly-useless data DVDs.) **Consumer value: Medium.**

    > Extender platform. Now any hardware manufacturer can integrate a MCX into their TV, DVD player, etc.

    Which is what absolutely everybody nobody is clamoring for. **Consumer value: None.**

    > _Tighter integration on start menu for third parties. You’re no longer buired in More Programs_

    This will save me 30 seconds a month at first, and then cost me more and more time as my Start menu becomes overrun with add-ons. **Consumer value: None** (and possibly negative).

    > _Windows Media Center Presentation Layer, now you can build apps that have the same fidelity as Media Center_

    It’ll be nice to use MCE add-ons that don’t look like absolute crap, and potentially even work kind of like MCE. **Consumer value: Medium.**

    > _Windows Presentation Foundation, re-use your Avalon code to build Media Center applications_

    This is a gross oversimplification. **Consumer value: None.**

    > _Hotstart_

    I rarely need to restart my MCE, so this would save me about 10 non-contiguous minutes a month — time that I use to, say, grab a refreshing beverage rather than stare blankly at the TV while Windows reboots. **Consumer value: None.**

    After the list, Matt continues on for a bit. This jumped out at me:

    > Something not on that list that we’ve likely spent more time on than anything else is getting Media Center to integrate with the Vista codebase. It was a lot of work getting Media Center to work with Vista and all the changes to the things we’re dependent on like drivers, graphics infrastructure, sound infrastructure, networking, etc.

    Ooof, sad…it’s not like they’re writing to the metal. MCE is basically a .NET application that uses higher-level APIs.

    I’m sure the MCE team got sucked into the Vista vortex like everyone else at Microsoft. It’s likely that they wasted people-years worth of engineering time building, testing, and rebuilding on very shaky versions of Vista. There are probably some heroic efforts behind the few genuinely-useful features that are new to MCE Vista.

    Yeah, it looks cool, and yeah, I kinda want it. But it’s clear that MCE Vista is a dubious upgrade at best.

    * [Matt Goyer: Thoughts on MCE beta feedback][Goyer]


    Gave my PC a heart/spine transplant

    Ah, the joy of PCs. Mine had been acting up for awhile, randomly freezing at progressively shorter intervals — days at first, hours by the end.

    For the last few months I’d incrementally ruled out everything but the motherboard and/or CPU. Eventually I arrived at the “acceptance” stage of PC death, and took the requisite trip to Mount Olympus Fry’s.

    I didn’t want to spend much, so I decided on a $79 Gigabyte motherboard that would work with my current DDR RAM and AGP graphics card, plus an Athlon 64 3200 to go with.

    When it comes to my system I’m fairly measure-twice-cut-once, simply because screw-ups are such a pain in the ass. After I removed the organs and cleaned out the chassis with a mini-vacuum and compressed air, I used my beloved $12 combination magnetic screwdriver/flashlight to perform the operation.

    Other than a moment of doubt when I wondered if that grey square on the top of the CPU was *really* thermal grease or just the place where said grease was supposed to go, the procedure went as smoothly as I could’ve hoped.

    I connected power and I/O, and after a test boot to an almost immediate (and expected) crash, I routed cables and closed up the patient. I booted from my XP CD and I did a Windows Repair so that Windows would stop rejecting its new host, and once again all was right with the world…

    …at least until I decided that I wanted to cross-grade to Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 from XP Pro. That pain is too fresh, so I’ll save it for another day.

    * [Ten Tips for Easy Motherboard Upgrades](,1697,1910093,00.asp) (ExtremeTech)