Tech By marco, December 10 2005

You're the kind of person who forgets a lot of crap, and you're looking for something to set Todo items in your iCal for you, while you're somewhere without actual access to your iCal.

Look no more.

Apple Mail allows you to set Rules on incoming mail. It has the standard action stuff of course -- move to folder, mark as junk, trash-because-I-don't-like-this-person, etc. But also one action that allows for some really interesting stuff: Run Applescript.

So I figured I could use that for some simple remote Todo-ing, via e-mail. I can send those from my phone if need be.

Now, there are a few scripts out there that will do similar things. I found, however, that they're all closed. No sources. For an applescript. They could be doing <i>anything</i> to your system, and you wouldn't know it. You might find your entire home directory empty after sending three todos. So here's an open one instead. It's fairly small so I'll just paste it:

tell application "Mail"
	-- What must the subject start with? This gets trimmed.
	set thePrefix to "TODO: "
	-- What calendar will we add the todo to?
	set theCalendar to "Home"
	set theMessages to (messages of inbox whose read status is false)
	repeat with mail in theMessages
		if the subject of the mail begins with thePrefix then
			set theSummary to trim_line(the subject of the mail, thePrefix) of me
			set theDescription to the content of the mail
			tell application "iCal"
				make new todo at the end of todos of (every calendar whose title = theCalendar) with properties {summary:theSummary, description:theDescription}
			end tell
			-- can't delete unread messages?
			set read status of the mail to true
			delete the mail
		end if
	end repeat
end tell

-- taken from and modified on trim_line(this_text, trim_chars) set x to the length of the trim_chars repeat while this_text begins with the trim_chars try set this_text to characters (x + 1) thru -1 of this_text as string on error -- the text contains nothing but the trim characters return "" end try end repeat return this_text end trim_line

Don't you love how Applescript looks? Anyway, paste in Script Editor, compile, notice it looks even better with colour and indenting, save the resulting script somewhere sane, and make a new Rule in Mail to process e-mails. The minimum I would recommend is a subject check on it beginning with 'TODO: '. Add other checks as you see fit. Last, set the action to 'Run Applescript' and point to the script (really? yes.)

Try it out and have fun.

Tech By marco, December 06 2005

People have been bitching lately about how Apple's Aperture is crap and how they should have never bought it.

Now, these people definitely have a couple of good points. For instance, Apple's engineers apparently didn't think that being able to set curves was a necessity. I can tell you that it is. The levels tool (while more advanced than Photoshop's) just doesn't cut it. Also, its noise reduction is sort of weak and the sharpening needs more detailed control.

A lot of people have also complained about how 'Aperture has a crappy raw importer'. This is where they're just plain wrong: Aperture doesn't have a raw (not an acro, no caps) importer. It uses a system library called ImageIO to do all the work of making the raw file into something aperture can use. ImageIO's engine is by no means perfect. Reportedly, Apple is working that for OSX 10.4.4. I do hope they get it up to par because it doesn't compare to my current favorite raw converter (Capture One). In other words: yes, it can be sub-par (it seems to depend heavily on the camera), but please don't attribute it to Aperture, because it's a flaw in the OSX libraries.

Next complaint: the Library. Again, some valid points. Not being able to use multiple drives is going to be a pain in the ass pretty quickly for professional photographers. But another often-heard complaint about it is how it's a 'proprietary format'. Those people need to get a clue about how Mac OS works. Since Mac OS 9, it has supported a concept called 'Bundles'. Essentially just a folder with a bit flipped so that the finder will show it as a file. Meant to lessen file system clutter. Bundles weren't used much in OS9, but they're very common in OSX. Every (non-carbon) application you can find is actually a folder. Just like the Aperture Library. Control-click on it, select 'Show package contents', and you can browse it like any other.

My biggest gripe about the complaints is that damn near all of them fail to see that Aperture, in it's version 1.0, has some very good ideas that aren't available in any other application. Stacking is brilliant. So is the loupe. Granted, some other applications have something similar for the image you're working on, but none will let the loupe work on the thumbnail in your file browser, except aperture. Full screen mode isn't just a slide show like most other applications. It's entirely possible to switch to full-screen mode and do all of your edits. Versioning is a concept previously unheard of in this type of application, yet apps working with raw files can be very easily architected to have such a feature, because the non-destructive editing is always required when working with raw files. And what other raw converter will allow you to make a book of your photos and have it professionally printed, without having to learn how to use applications like Quark XPress or Adobe Indesign?

All in all, people are forgetting the most important thing about Aperture: it's only the first version. It hasn't been (ab)used by the general public yet. I'm entirely sure most, if not all, of the common complaints will be fixed in the next version. I've heard say that Apple is already working on fixing the single-volume-library thing. Unfortunately, Aperture is too slow on my Mac mini, without support for CoreImage. But I do like how it works a lot, and I see a great future for it.

General By marco, December 02 2005

Work of art? Sony?

Yes. Not a product, but the commercial for a product. For the Sony Bravia LCD TV to be exact.

What's so special? Well, they took 250.000 bouncy balls, and launched them off a hill in San Francisco. They could have done it with Computer Graphics, but they did it for real instead. Add some nice music to it and film it with high speed cameras, and the result is stunningly beautiful. I think it's also the first television advertisement with a website dedicated to it, including behind-the-scenes footage.

You need Quicktime (or something compatible) to play the videos. Be sure to check out the 2.5-minute extended version in its h.264 high quality version.

Tech By marco, November 04 2005

MacOS X 10.4.3 promised updated raw support for digital cameras. I happen to have one that can write raw files, but wasn't recognised by 10.4.2 and earlier. I hoped the 10.4.3 update would fix this, since Apple has announced that Aperture, their upcoming photo editor app, would support the 350D.

I was, unfortunately, disappointed.

Well, the list of supported cameras says that Aperture would support the Digital Rebel XT. It's essentially the same camera as the 350D, but named for an american market. So in most cases, 350D == Rebel XT. Not in this case, though.

I found this webpage, explaining how to make OSX like the 350D. Apparently, OSX determines support for CR2 files by the model name of the camera that it contains. So it now supports the Digital Rebel XT, but not the 350D (or the Kiss Digital N, the Japanese name for the same camera). This means support is easily added by editing the Property List file containing the definitions.

The page shows you how to fix it by duplicating the 300D's info in a Raw.plist file, but doing it just like that causes images to be mostly very green. An addition was made to the page that is supposed to fix it by multiplying pixel values, but I find it's too yellow because the multiplication values were taken from the info for a Compact Camera. They are very sensor-dependent, and there is absolutely no comparison between the 350D's sensor (or any digital SLR's, for that matter) and a compact camera. The real fix, making the images look just like they should, is to just multiply the Red and Blue pixel values by two.

So after you paste in the XML-snipped from the webpage referenced above, change the three lines that read 'premul' like so:

                <key>premul0</key> <real>2.00</real>
                <key>premul1</key> <real>1.00</real>
                <key>premul2</key> <real>2.00</real>

The technical background for this is that the sensor in the 350D (and other DSLRs) contain twice as many green pixels as they do red and blue ones. Apparently the sensors in compact cameras are different.

Update: yes, this makes Aperture work with the 350D, too.Update again: MacOS X 10.4.4 includes built-in support for the Canon 350D and KISS Digital n.

Work By marco, October 24 2005

Marti Guixé and Mediamatic invite you to FOOD FACILITY, conTEMPORARY eatery for those dining in restaurant comfort with living room mentality. Based on digital search engines Food Facility is symptomatic of the change in analogue thinking and acting after the emergence of internet.

Food Facility

We do fun stuff at work in our Groundflood exposition space. For instance, we did the Flickr Peepshow there. Now it's time to turn it into a restaurant. Of course we're not about to employ a full staff of waiters, cooks, hosts, etc. So we'll just skip all that and order take-out food for the customers instead. The image above is a sketch of how it'll work.

I think it's brilliant.