The pendulum swings.

You know how in life the pendulum swings back and forth? Thesis leads to antithesis, resulting in eventual synthesis, and so on?

Well, right now Apple is swinging backward.


Let’s do a thought experiment. Imagine you wanted a tech company to fail. A recipe for failure for a company like Apple would have components like:

  • Let’s kill professional/prosumer apps like Aperture, Final Cut Pro, and so on.
  • Let’s kill the only web design app that’s any good: iWeb.
  • Ignore the iMac; make everything iOS. Pretend you can have one platform everywhere (my Apple TV auto-installs apps I buy on my iPhone, for instance).
  • Make the User Interface so complicated that people like me have to Google simple actions like “how do I watch Apple special events on my Apple TV”.
  • Make WatchOS 3 “the best running experience”. Fine, but I am not a runner.
  • Hang everything on Siri, which probably works fine – as long as your accent is average. If you’re me, it sucks.
  • Make it unreliable. Both my Apple TVs, Gen 3 and Gen 4, crash when I watch the Apple Special Event. The Gen 3 crashes after ten seconds; the Gen 4 after half an hour.
  • Let’s lag behind. We now get Touch ID, meaning using your fingerprint to unlock the Macbook Pro. Cool new feature! Only, um, I had this in 1999 on my IBM Thinkpad. That’s 17 years ago.
  • And worst of all: let’s remove connectors. I use power, USB, HDMI, connect displays… When teaching, for example, I always connect a laser pointer, my iPhone, and a VGA display. I need more USB ports, not fewer! But no: let’s kill all those connectors so that I have to carry a plethora of dongles.
  • Oh and the SD card, let’s kill the SD card slot!

But there’s no way Apple would do those things, right? Right?

Except they did.

Innovation is not removing useful ports and forcing people to buy dongles. I noticed that in today’s Apple Special Event, the audience looked subdued, bored and un-impressed. Oh wait. Someone smiled – after 35 minutes, finally.

Mr Cook is no Steve Jobs, unfortunately.

EDIT: added next day:

I see that they have also removed the best feature of the Apple laptops: the MagSafe power connector. That magnetic connector, that lets go when you trip over the cable (instead of dragging the computer to the floor), has saved my laptop probably a dozen times. Without it, my computers will not last more than six months. Remove MagSafe? Now I know Apple has lost it.


Is Lion really a Chihuahua?

Apple new OS, Lion is the talk of the town, of course. As of last week, Finally, it is here.

With a whimper. And it has, to me, looked a little like a Chihuahua instead of a ferocious King of the Jungle.


Since I always want the latest, I upgraded my Macbook Pro and my Macbook Air. But not my iMac – and I am not going to, at least not for now.  And that’s a first for me, not upgrading. Almost like Vista, in the Bad Old Days.

First, because there is nothing very compelling in Lion for me. And second, because there are a lot of problems.

Like Windows, Apple’s OS X  is basically just a shell around a “real” OS. That real OS, in this case, being the best OS there is – UNIX. That is why I switched to Mac in the first place. And I still use the command line often – I have written scripts that cannot be done using a GUI.

But the latest shell is not so intelligent – it is dumbed down. It appears that Apple wants to make the OS foolproof – simple enough to be used by anyone’s grandparents. A noble aim – except when it kills usability in the process. Foolproof becomes foolish.

Take the following example. I have a document I want to adapt for a new client. Easy in Snow Leopard: I open “Quote-Fred.doc” and use SAVE AS to save it as “Quote-Joe.doc”. Then I simply edit that (simple, because I am in that file already) and I am done. Safe – I never end up with the wrong file – and quick.

Not in Lion. There is no more “save as” function in most of Lion’s apps. To do this, now I need to create a “Duplicate”, then go to the finder to rename that, then open that in the app. Of course I need to have “state memory” in my head while I do that (rename the right one, find it, remember what I was doing in the first place).

Then there are many other annoying GUI functions.

  • Scrolling the wrong way around – up is now down. This might make sense when you are touching the screen, but not when you aren’t. And your Lion computer is now fundamentally different from every other computer (Linux, Mac OS, Windows) out there. Well done, Apple. Like Ford issuing a car whose steering wheel needs to be turned left in order for the car to turn right.  Dumb move.
  • And the new app-based paradigm. Instead of clicking on a file, to edit it, you can now do it by (and will increasingly be steered in the direction of) clicking on the app, in the launch pad that looks exactly like the home screen of an iPad (and has the Apple apps on the first page, of course). App-based computing… wow. Back from Windows 95 to Windows 3.11. Back to the future.
  • Disappearing scroll bars: another poorly thought out move. You look at a folder that shows you 16 files. Unless you start touching that folder to move things around, you do not see the scroll bar that tells you there are actually hundreds of files in that folder! What were they thinking?
  • Another odd choice is the new spell check that increasingly interferes by correcting my spelling, unasked for. Fine, but if you speak multiple languages, uh oh, Apple is too dumb to realize that quickly.
  • The user’s Library, where many important system files are kept, is now hidden. Huh? Come on, Apple. A heavy user needs to go there quite often.
  • Mail now shows mail in “conversations”, but it cannot handle forwards. So you are perpetually looking for emails. Dumb.

But wait – there’s more!

Half my JPG files, on the Macbook, now say they are “Documents” instead of “JPGs”. The extension is the same, but the Mac now thinks it does not know what they are, for some odd reason. So I get no thumbnail previews and cannot sort by kind. Well done, Apple, you ruined that, too.

Mission Control – don’t start me. Spaces was good, although it would have been better with a “cube” interface like in Linux. But it was good. Its replacement, “Mission Control”, is poorly designed at best.

Full screen apps. Riiiight… so now how do I drag a file into an email, if the email app is full screen? The whole point of windowed systems is that is makes multitasking computing easy. A fact Apple seems to have forgotten.

It seems to me that they were thinking “we want to make this into iOS. So we can control it. And make it suitable for extremely stupid people. At the expense of people who actually want to do sophisticated things with their computers, like organize files in file systems.” While I sympathise with the wish to not have support calls all day asking “where is the “any key”?”, I think they have gone too far.

This control freakery has already lost me as an Aperture client – I use Adobe Lightroom – much better app for photographers. For my production machine, it has now also lost me as a Lion client. Well done, Apple – woof.

The good news – many of these can be turned off. So your Mac starts looking like a Snow Leopard Mac again. Alas, quite a few cannot – and for now, the lack of “save as” and the failure to recognize my files, are show-stoppers.

I’ll have to do it eventually, of course. Just like bistro restaurants were replaced by McDonalds – dumbing down is inevitable. Apple will make sure that new functions work only on Lion, soon enough. iCloud needs Lion, and to sync calendars, after MobileMe dies, iCloud will be the only way. Apple has me by the short and curlies, as the Brits would say.

But I have a while of using Snow Leopard, an extremely solid OS that does what it should do, and does it well.  Perhaps during that while, Apple will make some improvements?


What is in my bag?

I am often asked “what is in that Domke bag of yours”?

Here. Too much, many would say…:

Photo Bag by Michael Willems

Photo Bag by Michael Willems

The bag is a Domke bag, and it contains:

  • Two lenses (Which ones? That varies per shoot).
  • A speedlight (Canon 580-EX II).
  • My off-camera flash cable.
  • My point-and-shoot camera (a Panasonic Lumix GF-1 Micro Four Thirds camera).
  • The indispensable Hoodman Hood Loupe (Get one. Now.)
  • Memory cards… always carry spares.
  • Fong Lightsphere – for safe shooting when I need safety rather than creativity.
  • Honl Photo reflectors/gobos.
  • A Honl gel set in a Honl roll.
  • My iPad .. plus, just in case, its charger.
  • Spare batteries for every camera and for flash. Never travel without spare batteries.
  • Lens caps for the lenses that are on the camera. I do not use them on the cameras I am using.
  • Cloths, plastic bags, headache and stomach acid pills.
  • Note pad, pens, comb, small brush, business cards.

And an important note: no camera. That is (or more accurately, those are!) over my shoulder.

iPad Sort Tip

Do you use Lightroom on a Mac? And have an iPad? And want to sort the images you see on your iPad?

Perish the thought.  Unless you also want to use iPhoto in parallel to Lightroom (which makes little sense), that is difficult.

But it is possible.

And you do it as follows. If you are an advanced user, that is!

  1. Install EXIFTOOL (Google it. It’s a great little command line tool that you will need for this).
  2. In Lightroom, make a collection, add your selected photos to that, and sort them any way you like.
  3. Now click the A-Z icon at the bottom to reverse the sort order. (Apple sorts the images in reverse order for some odd reason!)
  4. Export to a folder (While we are at it, use the maximum file size the iPad accepts, 2304 x 1536 pixels)
  5. In the export dialog, change the filename to a number, instead, e.g. a number from 00 to 99. You can select this (rename file) in the export dialog.
  6. Now open a command window, go to that folder.
  7. In that folder, type something like exiftool -alldates=”2010:08:22 13:00:00″ *.jpg
  8. Delete the *-original” files from that folder
  9. Now move that folder to the place where you have told iTunes to sync photos to your iPad (if you tell iTunes such a folder, all folders and photos you put within that folder will be synchronized with the iPad.)

That is all.

That is all? You need to be a computer scientist for this?

Yes, it is a little involved – that’s thanks to Apple mandating that no sorting must be done unless it’s by creation time. or unless you use iPhoto so you manage your photos twice. Or give up using Lightroom, which is what Apple really wants you to do, I suspect.

But at least you now know there is a workaround. And it works like a charm.

Geez, Apple. Sort it out already!

So I love the iPad and use it all the time.

As a photographer, I use it to show my images. As you might imagine. Using the only viewer available: the built-in one. Apple in its typical dictatorial fashion seems to prohibit other viewers – there are none on the App store, except a few that look at your Flickr portfolio – let’s not go there.

No, to view files you must use the Apple viewer, and to transfer them, you have to use iTunes.You can tell iTunes what folder (with subfolders) to sync, from anywhere on your computer, and it does that.

So I select some images in Lightroom and write them to JPG files in that chosen sync folder. So far so easy.

But you cannot in any way sort them. I thought that you could sort them by renaming, but no such luck. They always sort by “date taken”.

GROAN. Imagine that I have a selection of model images. And that the earliest one is NOT the one I want to see first, and when people look at the list of folders. Alas, that is what  happens. Misery: that earliest image always shows as the key image for that folder, since it is the first one in it.

One way around: use iPhoto and sort in iPhoto “events”.

Which of course is not practical: managing the RAW images in Lightroom, and then having to further manage the JPG images in iPhoto? Nah, think again, Apple.

One trick, which just took me a while to work out: use the excellent EXIFTOOL command line utility to change the date EXIF tags in the file. Open a command line, run EXIFTOOL (I have written about this before: search for it on the right), and run a string like:

./exiftool -“DateTimeOriginal”=”2008:03:12 10:03:40” -“CreateDate”=”2008:03:12 10:03:40” -“DateTimeDigitized”=”2008:03:12 10:03:40” -“ModifyDate”=”2008:03:12 10:03:40” /Users/michael/Desktop/Kat-20030312-IMG_3202.jpg

Simple it isn’t. But one good thing: you do not have to type the filename. When it comes to the filename, just drag the image from your desktop into the command window, and the Mac enters the fully qualified file name, with path. And yes, that also works in Windows.