March 31, 2011

My Time Machine Exclusion List

Filed under: 20-minute,mac,tech — Mark Dalrymple @ 4:10 pm
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A friend recently asked me about my opinions on the Time Capsule. I had the first generation device. It was OK, but slow, and eventually died the death of the power supply.

I have the latest gen now, 2TB, and love it. With 10.6 over a fast network, I don’t notice the hourly backups.  One thing I did notice as time went on that the backups were getting kind of big. I want my individual machine backups to be under 1TB so I could archive them to some terrorbyte external drives I already have. If I backed up too much junk too often, I’d exceed that.

My main goal for backups is to restore my data in the event of a machine failure. I don’t plan on restoring the OS or Applications from the backup. I’ll just use whatever OS is on the replacement machine or install my own, and I’ll install applications as I need them.

Backup Loupe is a great application for looking at your backups and seeing what’s being piggy. A file that’s only 50 megs is not a big deal, but it becomes a bigger deal if it gets touched regularly and gets backed up every hour. Using Backup Loupe, and general foresight, I have built this exclusion list over the last year or so. Unfortunately the list is not in any sane order. I’m not sure what order it’s listed, since it’s not chronological.

Time machine exclusions

Some are pretty obvious:

~/.Trash – no need to backup trash.

/Library/Application Support, /Library/Caches and ~/Library/Caches, those will be re-created by applications.  ~/Library/Application Support I do back up since it might have useful goodies.

/Applications, I’ll just redownload and reinstall them.

/Users/bork is a test user I only use for development. No need to back that up.

The various parts peculiar to individual app or companies are there because they’re either big, can be regenerated, or an app touches a file often. Camino is one of them. I don’t use it very often, but every time I do I have to back up 50 megs. So its application support directory is on the chopping block.  Similarly, Chrome gets updated every week, and is pretty big.

/Developer and /Xcode4 are there because I’d fill up the Time Capsule just from Xcode updates. I can always download the latest one if I’m setting up a new machine.

~/junk is a directory I use to throw junk into (hence the name). NoBackup is a similar directory at the top level. I have one in Movies too as a place to store one-off iMovie projects. Once I create the final movie the project can go bye-bye, and I usually don’t feel the need to back it up in the interim.  I can get the original footage from the camera again. If it’s something larger or more important, I’ll leave it in ~/Movies, which does get backed up.

A place for stuff I don’t want to delete right now, but I won’t cry if they suddenly went away. ~/Downloads is in the same boat. If I want to keep it, I’ll put it somewhere that’s backed up.

Lightroom generates previews of photographs so that the UI is more responsive. Those can be regenerated later, so they don’t ned to be backed up.

All system files, including /Library/Printers,and /usr are things that would come with a fresh OS instal. Things in /usr/local I can re-install as needed. Same with /opt.

My music lives on another machine, so I don’t need to back it up

I check with Backup Loupe every now and then to make sure there’s not a new suprise that’s getting backed up.

(subsequently republished and edited a bit to the Miniblog)



March 30, 2011

Your camera lies to you

Filed under: 20-minute,photography — Mark Dalrymple @ 1:57 pm
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A friend dropped me an email yesterday, asking “is there anything you can do with these photos?”.  Here is one of them:


Doesn’t look too bad, does it?  When you zoom in on it, it becomes a disaster:


Out of focus, and terribly noisy.

The image was shot with 12 MP point and shoot, f/5.something at 1/30th, ISO 1600.  Knowing how tiny the sensors are in point and shoot cameras, and therefore how tiny the image wells are for collecting light, I’m amazed that this shot is as good as it is.

Other shots  from the same event had similar problems.  One had the speaker totally out of focus while the audience was in focus.  But it was obvious that wasn’t the photographer’s intent.  So what happened?  Upon further quizzing, the photographer (who otherwise is an excellent DSLR shooter) said that things looked great on the LCD screen.

Camera screens lie to you.  Lying liars lying about lying.

There’s two things to remember when chimping your photos on the camera screen.  The first is that the image being shown is a reduced version.  The camera is downsampling a 12+ MP image into a small, maybe 1 MP screen.  Drastic image reduction makes images look sharper.

The second is you’re looking at a back-lit screen. This photo was obviously taken in a dark environment, so the bright backlight makes the shot look even better.  So it is really easy to understand what happened: a poor shot was made to look ten times better due to the reduction and backlight.

If you chimp (and I am a proud chimper), you should learn how to zoom in on photos to actual pixels at 100%, and a step out, at 50%.  This lets you accurately judge focus and overall sharpness.  On my Nikon DSLRs, I twiddle the menu settings so I can press the button on the multi-selector thumbpad dealie to zoom in to 100%.  I can shoot, chimp, button, check focus, and then move on.

The histogram can be your friend, especially with one of these “shooting in a dark environment” scenarios.  The backlight will make everything look great, even if your image is a stop or two underexposed.  Take a quick peek at the histogram to make sure you don’t have a lot of leftover headroom.

What could have been done to make this particular shoot a success?  A couple of things:

  • Use mechanical stabilization.  Even though the P&S had in-camera image stabilization, the shot was still blurry.  1/30th is hard to hand-hold well, and slower speeds even harder.  I would have tried to brace the camera on a table, chair, building support column, or something.
  • Lower the ISO a stop or two to gain image quality. This will put your shutter speeds into really slow range, but take enough and you may get one sharp one, especially if the speaker isn’t dancing around like a madman.
  • Use a better camera.  A DSLR, especially something that just drinks in the light like a D3[s] or a 5D would let you shoot at higher ISOs without too much worry about image quality.
  • Use a faster lens.  With a point and shoot you don’t have any choice.  On a DSLR, an f/5.6 lens means you will have to shoot at even higher ISO or a slower shutter speed than if you have an f/2.8 lens.

But if you have a bad image, and need to use it, you need to use it.  I made some adjustments in LightRoom to get this “after” picture:

Medium fixed

I used LightRoom 3’s noise reduction (which is most excellent), turned up the contrast and clarity.  You can see there’s a lot more definition in the speaker’s face, and a lot of the noise is gone.  Plus I healed-out the little white blobby thing.

March 29, 2011

Why I don’t go out much, part 1

Filed under: 20-minute,rants — Mark Dalrymple @ 5:24 pm
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Gollum crabI tend not to go to movies. I think I’ve been to two films in the last year : Up, and Despicable Me, and that was mainly at the insistence of my close circle of friends who really wanted to see these films. I tend also not to go to the symphony, which is a shame because the Pittsburgh Symphony is a truly amazing organization. I also tend not to go to local performances, like high school musicals, community orchestras, or band concerts.

It’s not that I’m agoraphobic, or anti-social. I just have a curse. It must be punishment for the sins of a previous life.

I attract horrifically annoying people.

I’m not talking about the “oh, let me check my email half-way through the movie” type, or the occasional “what was that?” whisper during a strange scene. I’m talking about the pathologically and willfully rude .

Here are a couple of examples.

Lord of the Rings 1: Sharlotte and I went to our local theater on the last week of the theatrical release, on a Wednesday at 8pm. We were the only folks there. (Rapture!). About an hour into it, a family of Large People showed up. He in a mullet, she had a kind of mullet too, and two too-young children. It was too dark to check their mullet states. Maybe ages 7 and 9. It was a school night, after all.

And, of course, they sat on our row, blocking us in. They then proceeded to consume Mass Quantities of very noisy food. Because they missed the first hour, there were many (loud) cries of “what’s that? What the hell is that?”. About half an hour before the film ended, they left and went to the lobby to play video games.

Lord of the Rings 2: we went with a group of friends on opening night, at another theater about 15 miles away. We sat in the back row so nobody annoying would be behind us. Little did we know that at the end of our row a guy with a bag of pistachios had set up shop. A solid hour and a half of “crinkle crinkle crinkle; Snap; crunch, chew-smack-chew, rattle rattle”. The last rattles were the pistachio shells hitting the floor. As expected, the rattling got louder and longer as more and more shells accumulated on the floor. Turns out this guy was hard of hearing, as was his wife. So once Gollum showed up on screen, the refrain of “what the hell is that?” “I dunno, what the hellis that?” was frequently heard.

Lord of the Rings 3: My friend RedToade didn’t believe me when I said I’m cursed. We saw the third LotR movie in his part of the world, about 50 miles away from home. He had us sit in the middle of the sparsely attended theater. “Yay! I might be able to enjoy a movie for once!”. But no. Right before the previews started, a father and young son set up shop behind us. The boy was one of those open-mouth chewers who could extract the maximal amount of noise from one piece of popcorn, and he had one of the 30 pound jumbo bags. I could only stand an hour of it until I turned around and asked him to chew with his mouth closed. He also had large fizzy drinks. In fact, he had two of them, and spilled them both. We had to keep our feet up on the seats in front of us, lest we get sticky feet.

Lord of the Rings Symphony: Howard Shore, the composer of the LoTR sound tracks, was on a tour conducting his “Lord of the Rings Symphony”. He was in Pittsburgh, so Sharlotte and I went. We had good tickets on the rim of the “family circle”. The rows were just four seats across, and along the side of the auditorium, with the orchestra-section seating on the floor below us.

Behind us was a gum-chewer. All through the first half I heard “chomp smack SNAP POP smack smack”, including lots of loud pops during Gollum’s Song, my favorite part. On the floor below us was a family of five: two oblivious parents and three young boys doing the “stop touching me you’re touching me” routine. Luckily the gum babe left at halftime. But she was replaced with a guy with a mohawk who sat in front of us. That guy was the most well-behaved individual of the evening. I wanted to hug him, but I feared for my eyes getting poked out.

And so, please don’t be offended if I decline an invitation to attend a public performance with you. It’s not you.  It’s me.

(There’s a Part 2, too)

March 28, 2011

Borkware’s First-Timer’s Guide to WWDC

Filed under: "humor",20-minute,programming — Mark Dalrymple @ 4:19 pm
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Atm machienSo, you’ve just purchased your first WWDC ticket. Congratulations!  Many folks have have published their “first-timer’s guide to WWDC”, so being a veteran of 6 or 7 of them, both in the modern age and during the Dark Times, I figured I’d hop on the bandwagon.

1) The ticket is expensive, so you’re probably short on cash now.  Don’t worry about booking a hotel.  The weather in San Francisco is really nice.  It hardly ever rains.  And if it does, there are many store fronts and office building entrances you can use for shelter.  It’s also pleasantly warm 24/7.

2) Go to as many sessions, labs, BOF sessions, and parties you can at the Moscone center.  It’s a virtual firehose of firehoses of information and activity.  You won’t have time to bathe, so don’t even bother.

3) Get into the keynote line early.  Most hardcore attendees start lining up Sunday afternoon.  You’ll be guaranteed of a good spot if you get there late Saturday night.  There’s really only 700 spaces in the keynote room, even though the videos make it look deceptively large (*cough* CGI *cough*).  Due to health concerns, Steve’s Reality Distortion Field doesn’t extend past 10 or 15 rows these days.  :-(

4) Don’t worry about food.  In fact, you don’t have to really bring any money, credit cards, or Automatic ATM Machine cards.  I can never remember my PIN Number anyway.  Apple always lays out a huge spread of food from dusk to dawn and back to dusk again.  Make sure to hang around friday evening for Prime Rib and Champagne night, in celebration of the end of a good conference.

5) A secret: you don’t have to wait until the end of a session for Q&A.  There are microphones around the room.  If the one you are at happens to be turned off, no problem.  Bring your own bullhorn.

6) When asking questions in sessions, be sure to state your name, where you work, which platform you work on, which version of Xcode you prefer, and your opinion on the App store and C++ vs Objective-C.  Be sure to complement the speaker on their sartorial choices.  The sound systems are run rather hot, so please don’t speak too loudly into the microphone.  Of course, if you brought a bullhorn, you can tailor its output to the conditions of the room.

7) Follow proper Labs etiquette.  The labs where you can chat with Apple engineers are an invaluable resources.  It is a scarce, shared resource, so treat it like you would computationaly: pretend to be a mutex. You walk into the lab you want and shout “I AM ATTEMPTING TO OBTAIN A LOCK ON THE MEDIA PLAYER FRAMEWORK ENGINEERS”.  If an engineer is free, you’ll hear “LOCK SUCCEDED” from the back, and you can go to the engineer who just shouted and ask your questions.  If no one responds wait until you time out, and try again.  Expert tip: “spinlock”.

8) We’re all friends at WWDC.  If a session looks to be standing room only, feel free to find an available lap.

9) The Thursday night beer bash is actually just a giant mosh pit.

10) Don’t forget that recording devices are forbidden.  So please leave your voice recorder, iPhone, video camera, DSLR, pens and paper at home.  The TSA has been contracted to provide session information security.

Have a great time!  WWDC is an awesome experience.

(subsequently republished and edited a bit to the Miniblog)

The Secret to Sight-Reading

Filed under: 20-minute,music,skills — Mark Dalrymple @ 1:19 am
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Newt music

I’m known in the local musical community as being a good sight-reader.  I’ve been invited to sight-read concerts, subbing in groups that have had a player go missing for whatever reason.  Put a piece of music in front of me, and 99 times out of 100, I can play it.  I might not play it perfectly, and I definitely play them better after I’ve had a chance to work on them. but I can play them with enough confidence that folks are impressed, or else think I’ve put a ton of practice time in on it.

The funny (scary?  lame?  sad?) thing is that I’m a good sight-reader because I hate to practice.  I love playing my horns in groups, or the occasional solo, but I loathe practicing.  I dread the idea of unpacking my trombone or bassoon alone in a room somewhere, and then playing through some etude or exercise or piece over and over again, alone.  And then packing up alone and heading back to whatever else I was doing.  I rarely practiced during my formative band years from fifth grade through my senior year.  Even today, I rarely practice.  Maybe I noodle on stuff before rehearsal, but that’s it.

One thing I hate worse than practicing, though, is sucking in public.  I hate messing up a solo.  I hate missing an entrance, or worse, coming in early.  I hate a run that’s uneven.

That’s quite a dichotomy.  You not-suck by practicing.  And here I am bragging that I don’t practice.  That’s where the sight-reading skills comes in to play.  All during high school, after I figured out I didn’t want to suck, I determined the best way to not embarrass myself in public: become a good sight-reader.

So what makes a good sight-reader?  There’s a couple of things to know, but the big ones are knowing your scales and arpeggios.  Which, of course, you learn by practicing.  “Gee MarkD, going around in circles again, aren’t we?”

I was lucky enough to take some bassoon lessons from an awesome teacher when I was growing up.  Each lesson or two I had to master a scale, straight eighth notes spanning two and a half octaves. The bassoon has a nice wide range, so even a fairly new student can do two-plus octave major scales.

So I learned my scales and arpeggios.  When you look at music closely, a lot of stuff is based directly on scales and arpeggios.  I the Loudoun Concert Band was doing the Holst Suite # 2. There’s a run at the beginning for the tubas and the euphs.  They just weren’t getting it. Finally the director said “guys, it’s just a freaking F scale”.  The next downbeat, they played if perfectly.

If they had realized “hey, it’s just a freaking F scale” before the conductor told them, they would have looked totally studly.

Likewise, trombone parts in band marches frequently have some fast, seemingly difficult parts.  These are usually based on, you guessed it, scales and arpeggios.  Also, the same kinds figures tend to turn up over and over again from march to march.  If you keep aware of what you’re playing you’ll see the same figures again and again.  When you see a familiar figure, you can just sit there and toss it off, not worrying about learning it beforehand, alone, in a practice room somewhere.

It also helps to sight-read a lot.  I love the sight-reading rehearsal for a new concert cycle.  You get used to figures, patterns, plus it’s no longer stressful if you do it a lot.  Plus I have a bit of musical ADD, and love reading new music.

Scales and arpeggios.  Spend your alone time building yourself some good tools, and you can escape the lonely drudgery of practice.  And sight-read a lot.  Soon you too can become studly.

March 26, 2011

It’s a small world

Filed under: 20-minute,bassoon,music,small world — Mark Dalrymple @ 3:20 pm
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Speaking of BassooneryColin Barrett, I had a small-world experience with him awhile back. Back when I worked for Google, I would go to the mothership out in Mountain View a couple of times a year. At Google I had met AnneKate™ Halsall, one of the webmasters. Together we launched a pretty difficult project, which forged one of those friendships in adversity and shared pain and suffering. On one of my Google visits, I was lamenting the lack of good Mexican food back home in Leechburg.  The closest Mexican was a Taco Bell 5 miles away. AnneKate said “let’s go to this great hole-in-the wall Taqueria. They have awesome burritos.” I’m always up for burritos. Colin met us there.

While waiting for the goodies to arrive, we started chatting.  Colin and I have hung out on IRC and exchanged email and technical questions, but hadn’t met in person, in general knowing each other by reputation. Somehow the discussion got turned towards music, leading to the inevitable “what do you play” question.”  Oh, trombone and bassoon. Not many people know about the bassoon”, which is true. During instrument petting zoos, instrument demonstrations, or just being out in public with it, people go “what is that thing? Is that legal?” Turns out Colin’s dad is principal bassoon of the Honolulu Symphony, one of the major symphony orchestras. So yeah, Colin knows all about bassoons.

Awesome! It’s great to meet someone who is actually familiar with the instrument, things like reeds, and so on. Turns out Colin is not a bassoon player (bummer), but has played violin in orchestras. After that we had a good afternoon talking music.

The 20-minute blogge

Filed under: 20-minute — Mark Dalrymple @ 2:51 pm

Thanks to Colin Barrett, I’m going to try the “Write for 20 minutes a day, and publish things” thing.  (edit: OK, I mis-read the original article, where they do this once a week, but I think 20 minutes a day is very do-able, plus should get my writing chops so I can finish the final stretch for AMOSXP III)

Everything labeled with “20-minute” was written in 20 minutes.  Once my FlexTime routine says “publish, dammit”, I click SendToBlog in MarsEdit and that’s that.  I don’t go back and edit.

Rather than pollute the Borkware MiniBlog with non-technical stuff, this will be the home for the random writings.  Most mac-technical stuff will be duped over at the miniblog, and get a little editing that these posts won’t get.


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