AnalogSenses

By ÁLVARO SERRANO

When the battery dies →

January 26, 2016 |

Patrick Rhone, on dealing with his iPhone 5’s poor battery life:

Thankfully, I have another option available to me that other might not even consider. One that might be helpful to others as well. One that may help the battery last throughout the day or, at least, longer than it otherwise has been without the battery case… Use the iPhone less. Less “checking in” on Twitter. Less taking photos. Less using it to write. If the battery does die, prematurely, before I’m able to connect it to a power source, learning to be comfortable with that. Let it die.

Sound advice. Your life doesn’t end with your phone’s battery.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to get a bit more battery life out of your aging iPhone, either. If that’s your case, you have another option: replace the battery yourself. You can buy an iPhone 5 battery replacement kit on Amazon for just $19, including the battery itself and all the tools you’ll need. Also, this iFixit guide shows you every step of the way. Trust me, it’s not as hard as it looks.

User reviews on this particular battery kit seem to be good on average, but of course, there are the usual scary stories sprinkled in there for good measure. Try it at your own risk, but in my experience, this is usually a very good way to extend the useful life of your devices.

And if you don’t feel like you can do this all by yourself, chances are you can find a shop in your city that offers a battery replacement service. Coincidentally, my dad owns an iPhone 5 just like Patrick’s, and after more than three years of use his battery was almost dead, too. He had it replaced at a local shop a couple weeks ago, and he couldn’t be happier.

My advice is, go for it. The risks are relatively small, and even if everything goes horribly wrong and you end up with a dead phone, you can always take comfort in the fact that it has already lived a long and happy life.

In the wise words of Mr. Lando Calrissian: “Here goes nothing”.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

January 23, 2016

This has been quite the odd week, as I’ve been focusing most of my time on development projects, and not so much on writing.

On Thursday I launched a new design for the site, which I hope is a substantial improvement over the previous one. I’m very happy with it, and feedback so far has been pretty great, too. I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you who took a minute of your time to reach out and comment on the new design.

The rest of my time was spent wrapping up a big milestone in an iOS development project for a client, something I’ve been working on for the past six months or so. We finally reached a release version and I’ve been managing the App Store submission process for the past couple of days. The app is now in review, and I’m really excited to see it released.

Unfortunately, due to the confidential nature of the project, I’m afraid can’t really go into any further details about the app. All I can say is that it provides a way for the Deaf to access mainstream means of communication that have traditionally been unavailable or extremely unaccessible to them, like the phone.

Though I’m not a full-time developer anymore, I still greatly enjoy working on special projects like this one, and I’m so very glad to have had a chance to be involved in something that will have a genuine, positive impact on many people’s lives. That is one of the loftier goals you can have as a developer, and it feels awesome.

Having wrapped up the current version of the app, I’m now back to writing, with plenty of interesting projects in the pipeline. So let’s get started.

Today, I want to talk to you about Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I have a lot to say about this movie, so I’ll be taking the next few issues of Morning Coffee to do it. For starters, I want to focus on the opening scene of the film, which I believe is one of the best introductory scenes I’ve seen in many years.

Issue #30: About a month ago, in a movie theater not very far away…

Like any self-respecting Star Wars fan, I watched The Force Awakens on opening weekend. I did miss the Thursday midnight showings though, as none of my friends could come with me. I could have gone by myself, but the idea of not having anyone to talk to after the movie was too scary — what if I loved it? what if it sucked?! —  so I decided to play it safe and go the next day, as we had originally planned.

We went to a Friday night showing, and boy, am I glad that I waited.

If you still haven’t seen the movie, this is the point where you should stop reading, or you can skip right to the links section. Everything from that point on is safe and spoiler-free. I promise.

WARNING, HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

I have a bad feeling about this

The few hours prior to watching the movie were by far the worst. I was so intent on avoiding spoilers that I stopped checking Twitter entirely, even though I had plenty of filters set. I was especially concerned on my way to the theater, as I didn’t want to cross paths with people leaving from earlier showings.

In the end, I managed to go in totally spoiler-free, and I’m convinced that is the best way to go for your first viewing. I didn’t know the names of the characters, I didn’t know the basic gist of the plot, I didn’t know anything other than what was shown in the trailers.

The opening crawl

Luke Skywalker has vanished? Seriously? We’re barely 10 seconds into the movie and already the stakes are sky-high. At the end of RoTJ, Luke is believed to be the only Jedi in existence, and possibly one of only two remaining Force-sensitive people, together with Leia. It doesn’t take a huge leap to assume he would have gone on to play a critical role in the restoration of peace and democracy in the galaxy. And now he’s gone? This doesn’t bode well for the good guys, but I am officially excited.

The first scene

The movie’s first scene after the crawl is amazing. We first see a small planet being obscured by a huge star destroyer, and an army of Stormtroopers descending on a desert planet. They are spotted on the ground by a small droid, who immediately flees the scene, no doubt going to warn its master of their imminent arrival.

Among the movie’s human cast, we’re first introduced to Poe Dameron, who we are told is Leia’s — excuse me, General Organa’s — “most daring pilot”. Oscar Isaac is just perfect as Poe, and does a terrific job in every single one of the remarkably few scenes he’s in.

In his first scene, we see Poe retrieving a small object from an old man — the always imposing Max Von Sydow — with the promise that it “will begin to make things right”. We still don’t know what he’s referring to, but it’s definitely important, and it has something to do with the Jedi. And then the small droid we saw earlier bursts into their tent, announcing that all hell is about to break loose.

Indeed, the army of Stormtroopers suddenly arrives, and they proceed to raid the village searching for something. Dameron attempts to escape, but his X-wing is damaged, and he’s forced to stay on the ground. He then places the mysterious object inside his companion droid, and instructs it to flee the scene and take it to the Resistance.

Amidst the struggle in the village, a Stormtrooper watches as one of his partners is fatally wounded, holding his hand as he dies. He is left with blood marks on his white helmet, which make him instantly recognizable for the rest of the scene.

Once the raid is complete and the villagers are apprehended, a sinister figure clad in black robes and wearing a creepy mask emerges from one of the ships and confronts the old man. It becomes clear he’s been trained in the ways of the Force, and that he and the old man know each other, although we don’t yet understand the specifics of their relationship. Meanwhile, Poe watches from afar, unable to intervene.

At this point, we start getting our first answers. The old man tells us the name of the man in black: Kylo Ren, although that wasn’t always his name. Ren, in exchange, tells us he’s looking for a map to Luke Skywalker. The two exchange a few words, but when Kylo Ren loses his patience — which he admittedly has very little of — he slays the old man with his hilted lightsaber.

This finally shakes Dameron into action, firing his blaster towards Ren. And then the first truly surprising thing in the movie happens.

Kylo Ren senses the shot, and is able to anticipate it. He turns, raises his hand and freezes the blast mid-air using the Force. We haven’t seen anything like this in any of the previous films, and it immediately lets us know this is a formidable opponent.

Kylo Ren is introduced as a powerful character, capable of stopping a laser blast mid-air with the Force.

Poe Dameron is taken into custody and brought in front of Kylo Ren, and after a couple seconds of uncomfortable silence, he breaks the ice with a cheeky line about who’s supposed to talk first.

That’s an awesome way to establish Dameron’s daring nature, as in, “I’ve been in this sort of situation before and I know I’ll get out of it just fine. I just don’t know how I’ll do it yet”. It could also be a way to tell us that he’s prepared to die for the Resistance, or for Leia. Perhaps both.

In any case, Kylo Ren decides to take Dameron with them, and instructs his lieutenant — a huge figure clad in a shiny, chromed Stormtrooper armor and a crimson and black cape — to kill the remaining villagers. Promptly, the rest of the Stromtroopers line the villagers up and proceed to execute them, but the Stormtrooper we saw before, the one with the bloody helmet, is unable to fire his blaster. Ren notices this, and silently stares at the trooper for a few seconds before ultimately boarding his ship.

All of this is watched from afar by Poe’s little droid, who slowly rolls away in the desert night, mourning the loss of his master but determined to fulfill the mission he entrusted it with.

Later, on the army’s main ship, Poe is taken to interrogation holding, and our lone Stormtrooper is interrupted from having a well-deserved panic attack by his chrome-plated superior, who scolds him for, you know, having feelings and all that, and instructs him to report to division.

 Storytelling at its best

This first scene is absolutely brilliant. It throws us straight into the middle of the action, with just the right amount of exposition and character development to make us care about what we’re seeing, but not so much so as to make us roll our eyes. That is how you tell a story.

Everything about that scene, from the pacing to the many questions that are asked, and the few answers that are given, sets the stage for the remaining two hours of the film.

By now we’re roughly ten minutes into the movie, and we’ve already heard of two of the main characters from the original trilogy by name — Luke and Leia — even tough we still haven’t actually seen any of them. Others, like Han & Chewie, haven’t even been mentioned yet.

Everything we’ve actually seen on screen so far is completely new: new Stormtroopers, new ships, new planets, new droids, and new characters. And yet, the film already feels like Star Wars. That was one of my biggest concerns going in, but I’m happy to say they nailed the experience. And the fact that they managed to do it without showing anything from previous movies is even more impressive.

A new world

Once the frantic opening scene concludes, the film clearly switches gears. From a storytelling point of view, we move from stage-setting into world-building and character introduction. This is when we get to understand the new world we’re in, with its tensions and particular struggles, and it’s also when we get to meet the movie’s real protagonist.

However, that’s a story for another day. Now it’s time to take a look at some of the week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Top Five: dropping nukes by accident, the problem with the American school system, and the Fuji X-Pro 2

This week’s top five is a good one. From an unbelievable accident that could have changed world history, to a wonderful review of Fuji’s next big X-series camera, every one of these links features some top-quality writing and photography. Enjoy.

Palomares anniversary: that time the US dropped 4 nukes on Spain | Lee Ferran →

I’m guessing a majority of readers won’t know that this actually happened, but fifty years ago there was this silly accident where the US dropped not one, not two, but four nuclear bombs on a small beach town in Spain. I’m not kidding:

On the morning of Jan. 17, 1966, an American B-52 bomber was flying a secret mission over Cold War Europe when it collided with a refueling tanker. Seven airmen involved, including all four members of the refueling tanker’s crew, were killed. But American officials feared much worse when they learned that the bomber’s payload, four B28 hydrogen bombs, had broken free in the collision and tumbled down towards the small Mediterranean beach town of Palomares, Spain.

The reason you probably haven’t heard about it is that, since the bombs weren’t meant to be dropped, their fail safe systems were active, and they managed to stop a nuclear reaction from being started upon impact. However, not everything was rosy:

But the conventional high explosives on two of the bombs did detonate, essentially turning those weapons into dirty bombs that blasted plutonium radiation across the countryside.

The story took another dramatic turn when hundreds of American soldiers, who rushed to the accident site to search for the bombs, were only able to locate three of four. As the exhausting search on land continued fruitlessly, military officials turned to the Mediterranean and launched what was then the most complex deep-water search and recovery operation in history – all while Russian ships and submarines lingered nearby, threatening to snatch the missing nuke for themselves.

Oops. Next time you screw something up, you can at least take comfort in the fact that you probably didn’t drop four nuclear bombs on a foreign country by accident. Don’t worry though, things are cool now:

A half century later, there is little obvious evidence of the dramatic incident in Palomares, short of a chain link fence and warning signs surrounding an area in which one of the bombs fell and radiation seeped into the ground. Not far away, on the beach, there is nothing to mark where another crashed down intact – and members of a nearby nudist colony stroll by in their natural glory seemingly without a care that they’re walking within feet of a five-decade-old nuclear accident.

Welcome to Spain.

Keeping Up with Tim Cook’s Apple | Rob Rhyne →

Great piece by Rob Rhyne on the incredible scale Apple operates at today, and the absurd pace they’re working at:

In barely three years, design consideration for iOS has gone from two sizes to twelve. When account for orientation, twenty-four distinct layouts are required. Twenty-four to account for devices which support iOS 9. Madness.

And yet, Apple has managed to keep things simple enough for most developers to be able to work in small teams, some even independently. That’s impressive.

Sure, there are some bugs here and there, but considering the insane pace Apple is keeping in their software release cycle, the overall quality is still pretty darn good.

Via Ben Brooks.

Against School | Aaron Swartz →

This is a great previously unpublished essay from the late Aaron Swartz on the most glaring issues with the American school system:

The solution has been to fight the battle through other names. No Child Left Behind was supposed to have the effect of forcing schools to do a better job educating their students. Who could argue with that? But examining its effects on the ground finds it did something rather different. Students, of course, were not tested on how well they actually understood basic concepts but simply on how well they could answer the standard multiple choice tests. And with so much at stake, schools converted even further from teaching kids ideas to teaching them how to perform well on tests.

Fantastic essay.

A companion for architecture and landscapes – Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 Review | Mathieu Gasquet →

I’ve been waiting for the first few in-depth reviews of the upcoming Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 lens to appear on the web, and this one didn’t disappoint. It’s chock-full of gorgeous shots, and plenty of explanations and details about the lens.

The world of manual lenses is a curious one. On one hand, they’re slower to use and seem almost archaic in nature. On the other hand, they are precision instruments of unparalleled build quality, and they can remain a lot smaller than similarly-specced AF-enabled lenses.

Zeiss has always been one of the most important manufacturers of manual lenses, and whatever your personal preference one way or the other, it’s good to see they’re still committed to releasing high-quality optics for modern systems like the Sony E-mount.

Fujifilm X-Pro 2 | Marius Masalar →

Marius Masalar got his hands on a pre-production model of the newly announced Fuji X-Pro 2 camera. This is an incredible review, and the X-Pro 2 appears to be a pretty sweet camera. Also, Marius’ photography throughout the piece, both of the camera and with the camera, is outstanding as usual. Excellent work.

Afterword

Like I said in the introduction, this has been quite an unusual week for me. I’m now back to a more normal writing schedule, but it’s been an interesting change, to be sure.

The rest of the weekend will be spent working on my review of the nifty Manfrotto 209, 492 table top tripod kit, which I’ve owned for a couple months now. It’s a truly useful little tripod, and I took it with me on my recent trip to Paris with great results.

The review should be published later in the week over on Tools & Toys. Until then, thank you for reading, and have a wonderful weekend.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

A new design (sort of)

January 21, 2016

As you may have noticed, things look slightly different around here today.

You’re looking at the first site redesign in almost two years, and though things admittedly haven’t changed much, hopefully they have changed for the better.

You see, after years of making occasional tweaks here and there on the site’s CSS, the entire file had turned into a bloated mess, with many redundant and/or contradictory directives, to the point where making even the most trivial changes had become a challenge.

Good CSS hygiene is very important to the well-being of any site. When you discover a horrible bug in the design — and I do mean when, not if — the ability to fix it quickly and safely can save you a ton of downtime, and quite a few headaches.

With that in mind, a few weeks ago I decided it was finally time to clean up my own mess, and I’ve since been rewriting the site’s entire CSS from scratch. Today, I’m ready to publish the revised design, which you’re seeing right now.

For future reference, this is what Analog Senses looked like up until yesterday:

And this is what it should be looking like right now:

Human beings don’t usually like change, but I have to say the new design has grown on me surprisingly quickly, to the point where I can now barely look at the old one anymore.

I’ve been really looking forward to launching it for the past few days, but I didn’t want to rush things. All it takes is one bug to make the entire launch a disaster, so I wanted to make sure I crossed all my t’s and dotted all my i’s before hitting publish. That ultimately proved to be the right choice, as I had to fix a last-minute issue yesterday that prevented me from launching it, despite that being my original target date. Clearly, you can never be too careful.

Reference style guide

When you’re working on a site redesign, a style guide can be a wonderful resource.

The purpose of a style guide is to show how the most commonly used HTML elements are displayed on the site. Style guides are very useful when working on a site’s CSS, as they allow you to instantly see if anything breaks.

As part of the current redesign, I’ve created a reference style guide for Analog Senses, which you can see here. In order to facilitate your own tweaking and testing — on your own site, that is — I’m also making it available as a standalone document.

Said reference document is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, and it’s available as a .markdown file here.

Analog Senses is written in Markdown, and styled using CSS only. For that reason, the contents of that document may largely apply to other Markdown-based websites. You’ll probably need to make a few changes to account for some custom handling of certain elements, but this should be a good starting point.

It should go without saying, but I’m not obligated to offer support of any kind to go with the file, so use it only if you know what you’re doing, and only at your own risk.

Now, let’s go over the new design in a bit more detail.

Subtle changes on the outside, profound ones on the inside

If I had to describe the new design in just a few words, I’d say it’s the Snow Leopard of site redesigns. At first look, not much seems to have changed from the previous design, but changes on the inside have been profound. As they say, everything needed to change, so things could stay the same.

Colors and typography

The most noticeable change is, of course, the color scheme. Gone are the gray textured background and greenish links, in favor of a clean white design with beautiful teal accents. I’ve always loved teal, and luckily for me, it’s recognized by name by HTML, so that was an easy choice.

An important benefit of the new design over the old one is that it doesn’t rely on any image files except for the tiny favicon. That means loading times should be even faster, and pages should be leaner. It’s a win for me, but also a win for readers, as it should be.

Fonts used throughout the site remain the same, but again, colors, spacings and sizes have been changed in order to enhance the reading experience. The header fonts are Lamplighter Script, Futura PT and Atrament Web, which is also used for the headings. The main body font is Proxima Nova.

Media handling

Perhaps the coolest new feature is that the site now supports full width images and videos up to 1,024-pixels wide (2,048 on Retina displays). This is something I’d been wanting to implement for a long, long time, but I never really got around to it. Now it’s finally done, and the results are pretty cool, if I may say so myself.

Again, for future reference, this is what the widest images looked like in the previous design:

You can clearly see the margins at both sides of the image there. This is what that same image looks like now:

Another detail about this is that images are now borderless, which can yield great results when used with the right type of image. Check this image from my Sony E-Mount lens guide, for example. This is what it looked like before:

And this is what it looks like now:

Again, night and day. I don’t know if you’ll agree, but to my eye things look much better in the new design.

Responsiveness

Without a doubt, the feature I’m most proud of is responsiveness, which has been greatly improved in the new design.1

Ever since I started using Octopress to power Analog Senses, back in 2014, the site’s design has been responsive. However, it was full of small inconsistencies that drove me nuts. Things like margins, lists, blockquotes and footnotes behaved very differently depending on the size of the display you were using. Even font sizes were inconsistent throughout the site.

All of that has been fixed now.2 The new design looks great on displays of any size, and it should support every modern browser out there. Of course, despite my extensive testing, there may still be some ninja-like bugs hidden in there somewhere, so if you see anything wrong with the way the site loads on your particular device, please let me know.

Regarding mobile devices, the site should look great on every iOS device, past or present. This is what it looks like on the current iPhone models, for example:

Analog Senses on the iPhone 5s.

Analog Senses on the iPhone 6/6s.

Analog Senses on the iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus.

I really like how the new full-width images look on the iPhone, especially in portrait orientation, where horizontal space is a very scarce resource. It really didn’t make any sense to waste it with margins.

The site looks great on every iPhone, but I like it even better on the iPad:

Analog Senses on the iPad Air 2.

This looks and behaves exactly the same as the desktop version, although internally there are a million things that are handled differently. Those are the types of things that were terribly inconsistent in the previous design.

In particular, full width images now look awesome in landscape mode on the iPad:

Analog Senses on the iPad Air 2.

That’s how you can get the most out of the iPad’s beautiful display. And since the iPad Pro’s screen has a resolution of precisely 2,732 x 2,048 pixels, images should remain full width even on that device when used in portrait orientation.

Final words

This brief but intense redesign project has been very refreshing, to be honest. I’m quite proud of how the new design turned out, and hopefully it will provide a solid foundation for the future of Analog Senses.

Now, those of you who have read this far probably know that a site’s design is never really finished. Instead, it’s like a living creature with a mind of its own. Even now, on the very day I’m publishing the new design, I can’t help but think about the many features I’d like to add in the future, like support for side-by-side images, a grid-like structure with photos, cool header photos with transparent text, and so on.

Those are all interesting and compelling features, and they’ll probably arrive at some point. For now, though, it really is time to go back to writing.

Thank you for reading.


  1. Excuse the bragging. It’ll only be for today, I promise.

  2. Fingers crossed.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

January 16, 2016

Hello there, welcome to the first edition of Morning Coffee in 2016.

As you may know, I took a couple weeks off at the end of last year and beginning of this year in order to recharge my batteries a bit. If working hard every day is important, so is having enough time to rest. And by rest I mean, properly rest, as in, not-going-anywhere-near-the-Internet rest.

These days it’s so hard to disconnect from the constant stream of news in any meaningful way that staying offline actually requires planning, and effort. Even if all you do is check Twitter every couple hours, you’re still mentally chained to your desk. Unless you move away from the computer for a few days once or twice a year, staying fresh and motivated becomes a real struggle.

I have to admit, I was beginning to feel a little burnt out towards the end of the year, which is why I decided it was time for a break. I used that time to be with my family, enjoy the holidays, and even do a bit of traveling, something I’d missed tremendously. But more on that later.

The best of all is, I actually managed to clear my mind and breathe, and regain some clarity and perspective. Now, I’m happy to say I’m back, ready to tackle the new year and motivated to do great work.

Let’s get started.

Issue #29: The times, they are a-changin’

I’ve been thinking about how to make Morning Coffee better for readers for a while. The current format is fine, but I do believe there’s room for improvement, and that applies not only to Morning Coffee, but to the site as a whole, as well. I’d like to talk to you a bit more about that today.

I feel like I’ve been letting things coast for a while, and it’s time to shake things up a bit. Ever since I started writing online as my primary job, Analog Senses has been steadily growing. That’s fantastic, and I’m super grateful for every single reader who, over the past 18 months or so, stopped by to read some of my work. You’re the reason I do this, and the reason that makes it all worth it.

Unfortunately, we’re in a period when I need to worry about the site’s sustainability, as well as my own. For that reason, I’ll be taking some steps towards helping the site stay in the black in the near future. Up until now, the site’s income has been limited to Amazon affiliate links, which have worked very well — far better than I hoped, actually — but which unfortunately are not enough to keep the site running as it is or, rather, to justify the amount of time and effort I put into it every day.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be introducing some changes to this weekly article, but also to the way the site operates, how content is presented, and how I interact with readers. I can’t promise that all changes will be for the better — the way these things work, I’m certain to screw something up along the way — but I will try to be as careful as possible, and if something doesn’t quite work, I have no problem rolling things back and trying a different way. This is uncharted territory for me, so we’ll see.

Of course, during this process reader feedback will be more important than ever. If you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to get in touch. Anything you feel could improve the experience would be of tremendous help. Thank you.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (turn and face the strange)

As you may have noticed, some small changes have already been rolled out. Let me walk you through them for a moment.

For starters, I have created a new section on the navigation bar called “Guides” where, as its name implies, I’m curating the best how-to guides I’ve published here in the past.

These are historically some of the most popular articles on the site, and every now and then I get email from readers saying how they came across one of these pieces when searching for an answer to a problem, and how it helped them find a solution. These emails usually make my day, but I felt like there was more that I could do to make those articles easier to find.

One of the disadvantages of the traditional blog format is that, once an article is phased out of the homepage, it gets buried far too deep within the archives. Hopefully, by creating a place where important articles can be curated, I’ll be making it easier for people to stumble upon them.

Another thing that has changed is that, starting from now, I’ll be using all three of my Amazon affiliate accounts — the US, UK and Spain — for the links in the articles. For now, the only way I found to implement this is to present all three links at the end of each article, or the relevant section, but I’m working towards finding a seamless way to present readers with just the appropriate link based on location, or maybe a preference setting. I know such a tool used to exist for Wordpress-based blogs, and there’s even a Javascript/PHP plugin that does it. I’m trying to figure out how to implement that feature on this site, but so far that’s still a work in progress. If you have any leads, please let me know. In the meantime, I’ll continue to use my US affiliate account as the default option when embedding links within regular paragraphs.

Content-wise, I’m changing Morning Coffee a little bit, and I’m altering the site’s publishing schedule as well.

I’m trying to put more original writing into Morning Coffee and indeed, the site as a whole, so I’ll be emphasizing that aspect going forward. The links section of Morning Coffee will be limited to five items per week, and I’ll do my best to make them as relevant and interesting as possible. You could think of it as a top-five list of the very best writing on the web, which is actually a lot closer to my original vision for it. I feel that some past issues of Morning Coffee ran far too long, with too many links, and I’m afraid that could have turned off some readers. Hopefully the new format will make things better for everyone.

I will also be changing up the way each issue is structured. Going forward, I will be placing the original writing section at the beginning of each issue, and leaving the links for later. I believe some of my previous writing on Morning Coffee has been diluted by having to get through so many links first. By the time you reached the afterword, chances are you were already exhausted. Call me selfish, but if you’re not going to make it through the entire issue, I’d rather have you read my words first.

Scheduling-wise, I’m going to stick with a Saturday morning publishing time for the next few issues of Morning Coffee, but I’m also considering moving it to a different day. I believe a big problem with the previous format is that it wasn’t that different from the kind of news people had been reading all week. Understandably, some people may not want to keep doing the same kind of reading during their free time, which is why I want to do something about it.

With the above changes, I believe I can keep Morning Coffee interesting enough to stay as weekend-reading material, but if things don’t really work out, perhaps publishing it on a weekday would be a better way to go about it. What do you think? Would you rather see a Friday-published Morning Coffee?

As for site-wide content changes, I’m going to aim at publishing one long-form piece each week, on Wednesdays. I believe committing to a regular publishing schedule will help me stay motivated, and organized. Now, I’m committing to only doing these two weekly updates over at least the next few weeks, so I’ll probably slow down the link posts substantially for a while.

In the past, failing to publish a couple links every single day used to make me feel anxious, and guilty. I’m now giving myself permission to only publish when I want to say something, as opposed to merely echoing what others are saying. It’s an important distinction, and one that hopefully will help improve the site as a whole.

Of course, I still enjoy sharing links to cool things on a daily basis, and I’m not going to completely stop doing it. That said, I will probably just use Twitter for that going forward, so if you’re not following me there, you totally should.

Those are the main changes that are already in place, but of course, there are more to come in the near future. In order to reach sustainability, eventually finding a way to encourage direct support from readers seems inevitable, but let’s take things one step at a time. For now, I’m just trying to keep my eyes on the ball.

My goal is not only to make Analog Senses healthier and sustainable, but to make it better. Above all, I want it to be respectful of my readers’ time and attention, and I want it to provide interesting and useful content. That’s the only way this is going to work, so rest assured, that’s where my focus is.

As I said before, if you have any comments or suggestions for the site, there’s never been a better time than this to share them, so please feel free to get in touch. Thanks!

Now, that’s entirely enough blogging about blogging for today, so let me close this year’s first issue with some of the week’s most interesting pieces of writing.

Enjoy.

Top-Five

In 2016’s first edition of the top five links of the week, we learn one key aspect about achieving our goals. We also learn what it’s like to dine in an overrated high-profile restaurant in NYC, and we witness an interview with one of the world’s most wanted drug lords. Then there’s a wonderful review of one of my favorite MFT cameras and, finally, a great piece on the importance of online privacy and freedom.

The great myth about getting in shape (and every other goal) | David Cain →

Like clockwork, David Cain is ready with another inspiring piece to help people conquer their New Year’s resolutions. In this case, the focus is on exercise, but really, this applies to everything in life:

The great myth about goals is that they require us to trade quality of life now for quality of life later. This doesn’t work unless you’re a robot. We’re too interested in keeping our lives enjoyable. You cannot voluntarily make all your days worse for months in the name of optional rewards in the future. A good goal has to improve your life now, and nearly every day between now and the final result. The long-term reward is never going to drive you to keep living a life you don’t like in the short term.

Your friend who is always posting her Crossfit achievements on Facebook—do you think she hates lifting, and is just suffering through it to have that beach body come summertime?

Spot-on, as always.

At Thomas Keller’s Per Se, slips and stumbles | Pete Wells →

The New York Times’ restaurant critic Pete Wells absolutely destroys one of the only six restaurants in NYC that had a 4-star rating.

El Chapo Speaks | Sean Penn →

Hollywood actor Sean Penn pays a secret visit to Mexican drug lord Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, A.K.A. El Chapo, one of the most wanted men in the world:

With Kate translating, I begin to explain my intentions. I felt increasingly that I had arrived as a curiosity to him. The lone gringo among my colleagues, who’d ridden on the coattails of El Chapo’s faith in Kate. I felt his amusement as I put my cards on the table. He asks about my relationship with the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez with what seems to be a probing of my willingness to be vilified through associations.

The Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II Review | Josh Ginter →

My friend Josh Ginter wrote a spectacular review of the Olympus E-M5 Mark II over at Tools & Toys. I really liked this one, and I believe it’s some of his finest work yet. The pictures are gorgeous, his insights are useful, and his honesty is incredibly refreshing. This one is absolutely worth your time.

Why privacy is important, and having “nothing to hide” is irrelevant | Robin Doherty →

Great primer on the importance of online privacy and freedom by Robin Doherty:

Our “digital lives” are an accurate reflection of our actual lives. Our phone records expose where we go and who we talk to, and our internet usage can expose almost everything about ourselves and what we care about.

Even if we trust the motives of our current governments, and every person with authorised access to our data, we are taking an incredible risk. The systems of surveillance that we entrench now may be misappropriated and misused at any time by future governments, foreign intelligence agencies, double agents, and opportunistic hackers.

The more data we have, the more devastating its potential.

Food for thought.

Afterword

As I hinted at earlier in the piece, I took a brief trip to Paris with Miriam during the holidays. We flew there on New Year’s Eve and spent four days visiting the city. Paris is an amazing town, even though it was rainy and cold. We didn’t have enough time to see everything, but we did cover quite a bit of ground, and more importantly, we had a terrific time.

I took my Canon EOS 3 film camera and a Canon 35mm f/1.4 L lens that I rented, and shot three rolls of film during the trip. For the first time, I had these developed and scanned by a professional lab, instead of scanning them myself. I’m happy with how they turned out, but I don’t see enough of an improvement to justify the extra cost, so I’ll probably keep scanning my film at home in the future.

Anyway, I shared a Flickr album with a few shots from the trip, both from the EOS 3 and my Sony α7 II. I’m still processing most of them, so I’ll definitely write a proper post about the trip later on. For now though, consider this a teaser.

Have a great weekend, and thank you for reading.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

UPDATE, July 16, 2016: This article was originally published on May 21, 2014. Since then, it’s consistently been the most popular piece on this site almost every month. The original text is still valid, but SSD recommendations are now outdated.

As of July 2016, the consumer-grade SSD I recommend is the Samsung 850 EVO. If you want something fancier, both the Samsung 850 Pro and the SanDisk Extreme Pro are excellent, as well. That said, keep in mind that in this case the bottleneck will be your iMac’s 3 Gb/s SATA 2 interface, so any of these drives will have nearly identical performance. Prices vary slightly on Amazon but you can’t go wrong with any of these, so my advice would be to get whichever is cheaper at the moment.

Even though it will not be supported by the newly-announced macOS Sierra, my Early-2008 iMac is still my primary Mac. It’s a terrific machine and I have no plans to replace it anytime soon. The rest of the article has been preserved in its original form for historical accuracy.

Set everything up in a comfortable environment and get to work!

Introduction

A couple of weekends ago I finally had time for a project I’d been wanting to do for months: upgrading my iMac’s internal hard drive to an SSD. This is an account of how the upgrade went, the difficulties I found, and whether I recommend anyone do the same (Spoiler alert: yes, very much so). Before I begin, please note that this article is not a how-to manual, and as such it should never replace the excellent step-by-step guides available on iFixit and elsewhere on the Internet. I followed the iFixit guide throughout the entire process and if you’re thinking of upgrading your own iMac, I suggest you do the same. Also, the Amazon links in this article are affiliate links, so if you buy anything through one of those links, I’ll get a small kickback from Amazon. Thanks!

Why

Ask around the Internet and most people will tell you that the single most important upgrade you can make to an old computer is an SSD. It’s absolutely true, followed closely by adding more RAM. In old computers, the most frequent performance bottlenecks in day-to-day use are caused by having to wait for the hard drive. It normally takes the drive a few milliseconds to get ready to read/write the desired data and, worse than that, those milliseconds add up quickly as the drive gets filled, because it has to look for different pieces of data that are scattered across the drive’s surface, and that takes time. Moreover, if you’re short on RAM, the system will try to create Virtual Memory by writing data to disk instead of RAM, which takes significantly longer. What the combination of these two situations amounts to is simple: you start seeing more beach balls, your entire computer appears to be frozen for a few seconds at a time, and the general “snappiness” of the system is gone.

An SSD, on the other hand, has no moving parts to spin, and it doesn’t have to go looking for pieces of data anywhere, so all those waiting times are cut down to effectively zero. That’s the main reason people swear by their SSD’s: if you put a modern SSD inside an old computer, it’s like rolling the clock back a few years. In fact, your machine can perform better than it ever did, even when it was new.

How

My iMac is a 24-inch model from early 2008. It was the top-of-the-line configuration then, with a Core 2 Duo processor clocked at 3.06 GHz. About two years ago I upgraded it with the highest amount of RAM it can get: 6 GB. Apple officially supports only up to 4 GB, but it’s been tested many times on the Internet that these iMacs actually support up to 6 GB, so I decided to go for it and had no problems whatsoever. Then, about a year ago, my graphics card died. I thought long and hard about whether it was time to replace my then 5-year-old iMac, but I decided to take it to the Genius Bar and see how much it would cost to repair it instead. It turned out to be a relatively inexpensive repair, about $180, so I figured it was worth it to keep my iMac around a bit longer. I like to use my computers for as long as possible and this one had served me well, so I saw no compelling reason to spend upwards of $1000 to replace it.

Now it’s a year later and the iMac continues to perform admirably for a machine of its age. However, I was starting to feel a little uneasy about the internal hard drive, a 500 GB, 7200 RPM model from Seagate. Commercial-grade spinning hard drives have an average lifespan of about 5 years, so mine was probably nearing the end of its life. I do keep up-to-date backups so I was prepared for an eventual failure, but modern consumer SSD’s are finally affordable enough that upgrading the internal drive started to make a lot of sense. I’d rather anticipate the drive’s failure and deal with the upgrade process on my own terms.

As for what SSD to get, when you’re coming from a spinning hard drive this is probably not a critical issue, since there are massive performance gains to be made by switching to pretty much any modern SSD. Still, I’m a nerd, so I like to do my research and make an informed purchase whenever possible.

WARNING: These SSD recommendations were originally published in May 2014 and are now outdated. Check the update notice above for the current recommended models.

Fortunately, the general consensus seems to be that right now, the best consumer SSD in terms of performance vs. price is the Samsung 840 EVO, so I decided to go with that one. The size question is trickier, though: prices scale almost linearly with capacity, so you don’t save much money by going bigger. On the other hand, it’s been suggested that the bigger flavors of the 840 EVO (500 GB, 750 GB and 1TB) have better performance and more durability. While that may well be the case, the smaller drives (120 GB and 250 GB) are already plenty fast and durable, so this is not a decisive point either.

I was initially leaning towards the 500 GB model, which retails on Amazon in Spain for 216€ (about $295). It would match my internal drive’s size, so I would not give up any space in the transition, which seemed like the best way to go. However, I never really used all the space in my internal drive. Most of my storage needs are for my media collection (music, TV shows, movies and photos), which I keep on an external drive anyway. I typically only use about 100 GB of internal storage, which include the OS, my applications, documents, my Dropbox folder and little more, so what’s the point of buying a large SSD if I’m not even going to use half of its capacity? For reference, the 250 GB version retails for 120€ (about $164). After careful consideration, I decided to buy two 250 GB drives instead of the 500 GB, and use the other one to upgrade my 13” Mid-2010 MacBook Pro. That way I could upgrade both Macs for only a little bit more money.

Scary, I know, but it’s easier than it looks.

Getting my hands dirty

Upgrading the hard drive in a Mid-2010 MacBook Pro is relatively simple, just follow the iFixit guide and you’ll be fine. I will focus here on the iMac. In order to install a 2.5” SSD into an iMac, you need to use a special adapter. The iMac’s bay is designed to hold 3.5” drives, so if you try to install the SSD as-is, it will not be properly secured and it will move around inside the iMac. Obviously, you do not want that to happen. I recommend using the Icy Dock EZConvert adapter, which is cheap and will get the job done without any issues.

Other than that, all you need is a Torx T-8 screwdriver, a Torx T-6 screwdriver, two heavy-duty suction cups to remove the glass panel, and you’re good to go. Disassembling the iMac, especially for the first time, is a bit imposing and not for the faint of heart, but it really is quite simple. The whole process from disassembly to reassembly can probably be done in under an hour, if you know what you’re doing.

I have uploaded an album with some photos to my Flickr account, in case you want to see it in more detail. Each photo includes a brief description of what’s going on. It’s fun to look at the pictures and think, “hey, I did that”, but there’s really nothing there that you won’t see on the iFixit guide.

I do have a few comments that I thought were not sufficiently clear on the guide, though:

  1. The screws that hold the aluminum bezel in place have different lengths depending on their position. I took some pictures with each screw next to its original hole to help me remember where each one went.

  2. When you’re about to remove the LCD panel (Step 11 on the iFixit guide), DO NOT DISCONNECT THE LCD POWER CABLE FROM THE POWER SUPPLY END. Seriously. Instead, disconnect it from the other end, where it attaches to the LCD panel itself. It’s extremely difficult to reconnect that cable, since the awkward position underneath the power supply makes it almost impossible to handle. I didn’t connect this cable properly the first time and my iMac’s display would not turn on. After getting through the entire process, I had to disassemble everything again, including four additional screws that hold the power supply in place so that I could tilt it and gain access to the connector. I then realized I had bent one of the connector’s pins, which was causing the problem. It was only thanks to the comments section of the iFixit guide that I found out about this. They really should change the guide to state this more prominently, since it is a potentially dangerous situation: had the pin broken, I probably would’ve had to replace the entire power supply, with the added cost and difficulty that would have meant. This is the only complaint I have on what’s otherwise an excellent guide, but it’s kind of an important one.

  3. When you’re mounting the SSD inside the adapter, thread the thermal sensor cable through one of the ventilation openings and attach the sensor to the SSD using duct tape. I found this to be easy with the Icy Dock adapter, which is one of the reasons I recommend using that one. A wrongly-attached thermal sensor may cause your iMac’s fans to work at full-speed all the time, thus killing one of the greatest features of the iMac: its near-silent operation.

  4. This is probably an obvious thing, but I’ll say it anyway: this is a great opportunity to thoroughly clean up your iMac’s interior. I assure you, the amount of dust you’ll discover inside will surprise you. Make sure you clean everything before reassembling your iMac. I used a compressed-air spray to remove dust from the trickier components: fans, motherboard, speakers, etc. Put special care into making sure there are no dust particles caught between the LCD and the glass panel. Remember, a clean Mac is a happy Mac.

Restoring the System

The last part of the process is, of course, getting your new SSD up and running. Here you have basically two options: you can restore from a previous Time Machine or SuperDuper! backup, or you can start fresh by installing OS X from scratch. For the iMac, I decided to restore from a backup, since I’d made a clean install not too long ago. For the MacBook Pro, however, I chose to do a clean install instead. I booted the newly-assembled iMac from a SuperDuper! backup I had on an external drive and used SuperDuper! to restore the backup to the SSD. The restoring process took about 90 minutes and it was absolutely flawless. When it was done, I was up and running again without any issues whatsoever. I really cannot recommend SuperDuper! enough. If you own a Mac, you should definitely be using it.

It’s Alive!

The Verdict

Upgrading my 2008 iMac with an SSD has really given it a new lease of life. I couldn’t be happier with the result, and I sincerely recommend doing the same if you own one. The performance improvement is nothing short of spectacular: apps launch instantaneously, file transfers are a breeze and the entire system keeps up with my workflow without breaking a sweat. These days, computers are so over-specced that there really is no need to upgrade as frequently as before. The 24-inch iMac is an amazing computer, and it’s so well-built that it really makes sense to keep it around for as long as you possibly can. With the added performance of an SSD, my iMac will probably always be “fast-enough” for my needs, so I intend to keep it around until it breaks apart or it is no longer supported by new releases of OS X. Whatever comes first.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Zeiss and Fellowes launch iPhone accessory photography lenses →

January 07, 2016 |

Interesting news to start the year. From Zeiss’ own official press release:

The first three lenses – wide-angle, telephoto and macro – are scheduled to be launched in late Q2 2016. The wide-angle and telephoto lenses offer excellent image performance with outstanding edge-to-edge contrast. The macro lens features a zoom function – unique for accessory lenses of this type – for flexible image composition. The new lenses can be used on the Apple iPhone with customized mounting brackets.

These will be iPhone-only at launch, but they plan to release versions compatible with other phones in the future.

I always thought add-on lenses like these were little more than a marketing gimmick, but if Zeiss is getting involved with their brand, there may be more to them than I thought. These ones certainly look the part, at the very least.

Still, I wouldn’t be interested in buying something like this, because it just seems too much hassle to be worth it, especially considering I already own and use a dedicated camera. That said, I can totally see the appeal for iPhone-only or even iPhone-first photographers.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

My review of the Apple Smart Battery Case was published today on Tools & Toys. Long story short, I was surprised by how good the case is, despite the unsightly hump.

Alas, my brand-new iPhone 6s has more than enough battery life for my current usage, so I won’t be keeping the Smart Battery Case. If I were in the market for a battery case, though, I would probably go with this one.

By the way, while I was thinking about the review, I recorded a small video trying to show how to put the iPhone in and out of the case. It somehow ended up turning into a mini-review of sorts, and I’m actually quite happy with how it turned out. Check it out:

If you want to know more about the Smart Battery Case, head on over to Tools & Toys for the full review.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Happy Holidays

December 23, 2015

Dear reader,

I want to take a minute to thank you for being there another year — and boy, what a year it’s been. I wish you nothing but the best for this holiday season, and I hope you have a chance to spend some quality time with your loved ones over the next few days.

For my part, I will also be taking a much-needed break. There’s some really cool stuff in the pipeline that I can’t wait to share with you early next year, but for now it is time to rest, and to recharge my batteries. Before I sign off, though, I have something to ask of you.

Times like these we take for granted all too easily, but trust me when I tell you, they are precious. One can never have too many opportunities to show our love to the people we care about. Please, make it a point to do just that this holiday season. Forget about this crazy Internet family of ours for a little while, and pay some more attention to them instead.

Don’t worry, we will all still be here when you get back. I promise.

Oh, and one last thing: happy holidays!

Love,
Álvaro.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

December 19, 2015

Hello there, welcome to another issue of Morning Coffee, my weekly roundup of interesting writing.

Issue #28: Star Wars, film, and photography

After a few months of hiatus caused mostly by the pressures of work, these days I seem to be looking at film with a renewed interest once again.

Let’s get to it.

Review: the iPad Pro is a line in the sand | Stephen Hackett →

Roughly a month after the iPad Pro was released, the second wave of reviews are starting to pop up around the Internet. I really liked Stephen Hackett’s take on it, as usual:

And that’s why the iPad Pro, with its crazy-powerful CPU, super-accurate Pencil and 12.9-inch screen is such a mind-bending device to me. The hardware is more Mac-like than ever, and iOS is more flexible now than ever before. In many ways, the iPad Pro feels like a line in the sand. Will we all cross it eventually, or will the computing world remain fractured between those who can use a tablet for everything, and those who can’t?

Travelling Indonesia with an iPhone 6S | Nick Heer →

Great travel log and in-depth iPhone review by Nick Heer.

So you married a supervillain: watching Jessica Jones as a trauma survivor | Kia Groom →

Must-read piece over at The Mary Sue (spoiler alert for Jessica Jones, though):

This is why Jessica Jones is triggering, and this is also why Jessica Jones is vital. While it masquerades as a show about heroes and villains, ultimately, Jessica Jones is not a fantasy. It’s the reality of existing in a patriarchal society that does everything it can to silence, dismiss, and ignore women—that strips power and agency from us at every conceivable level: domestically, romantically, politically, legally, and in the media.

The Force is with film! Dan Mindel on Star Wars: The Force Awakens (no spoilers) →

I was surprised — and delighted — to discover yesterday that the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens, was shot entirely on film. The majority of the movie was shot on Kodak Vision3 35mm film, except for a few scenes that were shot on Kodak Vision3 65mm film. Considering episodes II and III were 100% digitally shot by Lucas, this represents a wonderful change for the better.

Before you go all pro-digital on me, let me remind you that movies need to endure for generations. Episodes II and III were shot 13 and 10 years ago respectively, and were two of the first fully-digitally shot movies ever. However, they were shot at a then-state-of-the-art 1080p resolution at 24 frames per second, a standard that is already starting to become obsolete. That means these movies can’t be converted to 4K resolution without upscaling. That the master recordings of these movies have only managed to last a decade or so before being out-resolved by existing consumer-grade technology is absolutely unacceptable.

On the other hand, the original trilogy — episodes IV, V and VI — were shot on 35mm film, meaning the existing masters, as complicated a history as they’ve had, offer more than enough detail for a 4K scan and eventual release. In fact, several 4K restorations of the original trilogy are either complete, or currently in the works.

Let me say that again: a movie shot on film in 1977 can be released in 4K today, but a movie shot digitally in 2005 can’t — not without losing detail at least. If there’s a better example of irony in the history of cinema, I don’t know it.

Untouched is impossible: the story of Star Wars in film | Ben Kuchera →

Speaking of Star Wars and film, this great 2010 article by Ben Kuchera for Ars Technica shined some light on the current available copies of the original Star Wars film. Famously, Lucas said a few years ago that the original negative had been heavily damaged in the process of creating the 1997 Special Edition restoration. This was a hard blow for fans of the original theatrical release, many of whom still have hopes of eventually seeing a modern restoration of the original versions of these movies.

To find out if such a release is even possible, Kuchera interviewed Michael Kaminsky, author of the book The Secret History of Star Wars, and this is what he had to say:

Kaminski points out that a duplication of the original negative—commonly printed for the sake of protection—doesn’t seem to exist for Star Wars. Something better was created, though: separation masters. “These are special silver-based copies that do not fade, and in theory should be almost identical in quality to the original negative itself, so even if the negative was destroyed you still have a perfect copy (which is the point of making the separation master).” Duplicates from these prints were used to replace damaged sections of the negative during the restoration before the release of the Special Edition.

This is all fascinating. As for whether film continues to be a good format for long-term archival, Kaminsky says yes, very much so:

It’s unclear how the film exists digitally within Lucasfilm, but Kaminski does know one thing: the scanning done in the past has become obsolete. “The 1997 SE scans were done in 2K and the 2004 Special Edition was done in 1080p, but now the standard is 8K (4 times the 1997 SE and about 7 times the quality of the 2004 SE), and the color reproduction is better too,” he says.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, the original film remains important as the most robust way to store this information. Hard drives fail, and data is vulnerable to time. “This may seem silly because everyone always talks about how fragile film is, but film is the most robust, durable image technology we have ever invented. There are reels of film that date back to the 1920s that still look pretty good.” He claims that color Eastman Kodak film has a half-life of around 50 to 60 years. Oddly enough, the negative film used in the 1970s to shoot Star Wars is less stable than the film used before or after. We’ll get to a point where all we have left are digital copies, but technology has only recently allowed digital copies to rival the original celluloid in quality and detail.

Fujifilm X100T: a camera review | Erin Brooks →

Erin Brooks wrote a fantastic review of the Fuji X100T camera:

The camera is digital, but the results are made to look like film, and it has film filters built in that I can select before I shoot a photo. I love the look of film, so this is a huge bonus in my eyes. The tones and colors are nicely dynamic, with lots of detail captured in shadows and highlights. It’s not exactly the same as film, but it comes close enough for me to enjoy that part of it thoroughly. And, the fact that it’s digital means I get the immediate gratification of having my photos right away. It’s the best of both worlds as far as getting a film look, without the wait to develop the roll. I still usually edit my photos in post, but honestly, I don’t have to with most of my FujiFilm X100T images if I don’t want to: they already look beautiful straight out of the camera.

Built-in film presets are without a doubt the main reason Fuji cameras are so appealing to me, and the X100T in particular seems to capture the essence of shooting film better than any other digital camera out there.

Review: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II | Jordan Steele →

Wonderful in-depth review of the Olympus E-M10 Mark II by Jordan Steele:

The E-M10 II lacks the E-M5 II’s high res mode, has a smaller EVF and lacks weather sealing. However, aside from those major points, it is almost identical. The original E-M10 was also a great value, but Olympus did cut some key things to differentiate the camera. This time around, it seems they cut almost nothing. The E-M10 Mark II feels like a complete camera, with outstanding in-body image stabilization, robust construction, outstanding haptics and ergonomics and an exceptionally long feature set.

Looks like the successor to my favorite small camera is another winner from Olympus.

Sony’s Sky HDR app review | Anastasia Petukhova →

Sony cameras have a rather unique feature: their PlayMemories app store, where you can download apps that provide extra features directly to your camera. Sky HDR is one such app, and it does precisely what its name implies: it allows you to capture high dynamic range images by combining multiple frames shot with different exposure parameters entirely in-camera.

The bad news is that the app will cost you $9.99, which is rather ridiculous considering what you already paid for the camera. It does appear to be pretty useful, though:

There are a few essential uses for this app. First of all you don’t need to carry the whole filter kit and worry about dust and glare. You also don’t need to worry about combining anything in post production. You get as much data in one image as you can get. And for all of us Instagram lovers and social people, you can export this shot right to your phone and post it right away on the spot. You also save money by not buying extra gear that typically is needed to get similar results. Filter kits can go from $50 to $500 if you’re really into it. I know many landscape shooters spend a lot of time in post production, but this is the quicker way to get at least a portion of the job done. This app is not designed to be everything for everyone, so keep an open mind and see if this $10 investment is right for you.

London - November, 2015 | Michael Fraser →

Michael Fraser goes to London armed with a Mamiya 7, a Leica MP, a Wista VX, and lots and lots of film. Lovely images.

Afterword

It appears film is making a strong comeback in the filmmaking industry and I, for one, couldn’t be happier about it. Many critically acclaimed directors like J.J. Abrams and Christopher Nolan are unapologetic in their love of film, and this points to a bright future in the industry.

Shooting a motion picture on film not only helps achieve a certain look that is preferred by many, it also enforces a series of logistical limitations in the way productions are handled and shootings scheduled. The slow nature of film has a way of ensuring things are not rushed, and demands that a substantial amount of thought and care be put into every aspect of the shoot.

This may seem like a logistical nightmare in the digital era — and to some extent, it is — but when you see the end result, more often than not the increased complexity and difficulty end up being completely worth it.

As for future-proofing, the fact that 35mm film — not to mention 65mm or even 70mm film — still out-resolves most state-of-the-art digital recording systems should be all the argument we need to persevere in the use of film. It doesn’t matter how good a digital system may look today, the odds of it being rendered obsolete in just a few years’ time are substantially high, and that’s too big a risk to take when we’re talking about movies with budgets in the several-hundred-million-dollar range.

I’m sure there will come a time when digital is unequivocally better than film for all practical purposes, but it appears we’re not quite there yet and, truth be told, I’m in no hurry to get there at all.

On the work front, I’ve been testing Apple’s new Smart Battery Case for the past week or so, and I’m now working on my full review of it for Tools & Toys. It should be ready for publication soon.

Admittedly, at first glance the Smart Battery Case looks terrible, with a super-weird hump on the back. Once you get past that, though, I’ve found it’s actually a pretty good accessory for your iPhone 6/6S.

Now, it’s true that there are other cases out there with bigger batteries inside, but for most people I think the Smart Battery Case will offer plenty of power. Just for reference, I managed to get over three full days of regular use after starting with both my iPhone and the case at 100% charge. Add to that the built-in Lightning port and the integration at the iOS level that only an Apple-made case can provide, and you have a compelling product that will surely sell well despite that unsightly hump.

I’ll have much more to say about the Smart Battery Case in the full review, so stay tuned.

And on that note, we’ve reached the end of this issue. As usual, thank you for reading, and have a great weekend.

♤ ♧ ♡ ♢

Apple puts Phil Schiller in charge of the App Store →

December 17, 2015 |

Interesting news from Apple today. Jeff Williams, writing for Ars Technica:

SVP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiler is now in charge of all App Stores across all of Apple’s platforms, which now include iOS, OS X, WatchOS, and tvOS.

Schiller is taking over the App Store from Eddy Cue, who as Apple’s president of Internet Software and Services is still in charge of things like Apple Music, iCloud, Apple Pay, Siri, the apps formerly known as iWork and iLife, and other initiatives.

On one hand, developer relations is under the App Store division, and Phil Schiller strikes me as a far better person to manage that than Eddy Cue ever was. On the other hand, everything else in the division has little to do with Schiller’s area of expertise, so I can’t help but wonder if he has what it takes to run it by himself. UPDATE: Looks like I got this wrong. Developer relations has always been under Schiller, with the rest of the App Store management falling under Eddy Cue’s iTunes division. This shuffle brings everything App Store-related under Schiller’s supervision, which should help improve consistency and mitigate some of the issues that plague 3rd-party developers today. It’ll be interesting to watch what future changes, if any, Schiller introduces in the way Apple runs its various App Stores, that’s for sure.

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