Buca Boot: Flexible, Secure Storage for the Urban Biker

Alas, I’m not much of a bike commuter right now due to the road to my son’s daycare being a blind-corner no-shoulder nightmare. But this just looks cool:

I started thinking … wouldn’t it be great if I could treat my bike the way that everyone treats a car trunk (or ‘boot,’ as they call it in Britain), where you can just toss a gym bag or an extra pair of shoes in the trunk, no problem?

Over the last four years, I’ve enlisted various designers and engineers to realize my vision. We worked through iteration after iteration just trying to nail the combination of features that make the Buca Boot different: security, weather resistance, and a flexible lid system. In 2013, the final team came together and made something we wanted to share with the world.

Launch Center Pro 2.0 Review

Detailed review as always by Federico Viticci. I have a bunch of frequently-used Launch Center Pro actions: I use it to replace the phone dialer, quickly text certain contacts, enter mileage logs, and add items to calendar to to Due. This is a nice update, worth paying for, but offered as a free upgrade.

All week I crib things into pinboard, instapaper, and left-open browser tabs, thinking “oh, this is good — I’ll use|blog|THINK about it later.” Seeing as how it’s not actually my job to do those things, and I have an active life of making lunches, making dinners, and pre-schooler lecturing at home, it feels like I never get to give any of those things the attention that I want.

Baby steps though, right?

Stack this

Reading this about management at Valve I was struck by the difference in tone between discussions of stack ranking at Valve versus at Microsoft — the latter being one off the things said to doom the company:

In the end, the stack-ranking system crippled the ability to innovate at Microsoft, executives said. “I wanted to build a team of people who would work together and whose only focus would be on making great software,” said Bill Hill, the former manager. “But you can’t do that at Microsoft.”

To be sure, the implementation matters a great deal, and the actual ranking practices and cultures at Valve and Microsoft differ, but the public perception of each company undoubtedly shapes our view, too. At Valve this practice is daring and egalitarian (also anarchic and nigh socialism, we are told by internet commenters) while at Microsoft it’s stifling and bureaucratic.

If you haven’t seen it, the “leaked” Valve employee handbook originally circulated about a year ago and is an interesting depiction of a company culture.

Point and click

I spent a lot of time playing games from Lucasarts back in the day. So How LucasArts Fell Apart is an intriguing read. We can on only daydream about all those projects that never made it out the door.

Relatedly, I am eager to see how Steam’s new adventure in living room gaming will work out. I’m interested in being able to move away from requiring a high-specced desktop or laptop machine for gaming, while maintaining the library of stuff on Steam that I really enjoy. For that reason, the streaming to the TV route isn’t ideal at all for me, but with a new Mac on my roadmap it could be a nice intermediate step.

(The most recent game I have really enjoyed is Mark of the Ninja, which recently launched for the Mac. It hits the sweet spot for sneaking around in the dark action.)

My First 100 Days With Google Glass

Many articles have already covered the Glass hardware; simply put, Google has done a good job designing the device. Glass is light and unobtrusive. The screen looks great, even in broad daylight, and the camera and processor are excellent for such a small form factor. Battery life, though, is the bottleneck: with heavy usage, I can discharge the entire battery in half an hour. I expect this to improve over time; it has to, for Glass to be viable.

Thirty-minutes of battery life? That’s just nuts for any kind of consumer electronic, and it seems like lunacy for something that is supposed to be worn and integrated into daily experience.

XOXO Talk Notes

Maciej Ceglowski is among the most honest and insightful guys on the internet.

A few things I stashed in pinboard to read or re-read the past week or so. You might like them, too.

The end of kindness: weev and the cult of the angry young man

Stories like this makes me seriously, seriously question the value of participating in any kind of online dialogue, weighed against the risk of one’s whole life being exposed and attacked by malicious and misguided vigilantes. (See also crazy, off-the-charts hostility in response to any of a number of situations where — primarily — women have made sensible remarks about misogyny at PAX or in GTAV. It’s a loony bin out there.)

Using Editorial to streamline posting to this site as well as my other writing is just so satisfying. As always, check out what’s going on at Macdrifter and MacStories for the true state of the art (because, dang, Gabe and Federico have it going on), but I thought I’d briefly note a couple of things that have made me happy lately.

I’m using Koken more and more for serving images, because it has such a great integration with Lightroom. Combined with Lightview it makes a nice system for flexible display of images here. Koken can serve cropped images, as in the Rt66 post below, that are blown up to full-size pop ups easily by Lightview. (I do need to tinker with the display size, and of course it’s not responsive, and so but.)

So, for posting using the iPad, I built a small Editorial workflow to help place the combination Koken/Lightview calls. Koken has an easy to use embed option, but it produces an HTML snippet that I usually want to convert to markdown and wrap in a Lightview class; with a Koken image embed link on the clipboard, I can call this workflow, tap the selection for the type of link I want, and it removes the unwanted code, adds my specific parameters and then pastes into the document the properly-formatted markdown image tag and link. Nothing too complicated or sophisticated, but like I said, it’s just very satisfying to be able to so quickly build something Iike that.

Some photos from a jaunt around this year’s Route 66 Days car show. We picked a good time to explore it; our monsoon weather returned early in the afternoon and kept us bottled up inside for most of the rest of the day.

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Seahorse on Line One

This is a fun conversation on The Incomparable about Saga, hitting almost all the things that I really like about it. There’s an ease to the dialogue that is almost always at odds with the apparent otherworldliness of the scene, which cuts through the mostly-calamitous, everybody-is-in-peril story, and reminds me of Aaron Sorkin and Joss Whedon. And almost invariably those scenes close with something beautiful or poignant. It’s good.

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We’re in the middle of a long weekend and I’m out and about with the camera quite a bit, including on a very rainy — strike that, absolutely soaking wet — adventure to the county fair.

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Loving Pencils

People love pencils. They love them. It’s partly childhood nostalgia, partly how a craftsman comes to care for her tools, and partly the tactile experience. It’s also a blend of appreciation for both their aesthetic and functional qualities, and (especially these days, but not only these days), a soupçon of the disruptive passion that comes from willfully embracing what poses as the technologically obsolete.

Great set of notes and links about pencils, from Tim Carmody filling in at Kottke this week.

70Decibels - Generational - 049 - Journaling with Paul Mayne

As a big user of Day One (and a tinkerer of some plugins for it), I really enjoyed this conversation.

Some Stuff from Amazon that Wasn’t Crap

One thing I like about Gabe’s list is that it’s not entirely tech stuff. Nice wheelbarrow!

On leaving academic life – Rethinking Markets

I haven’t really remarked here, or anywhere for that matter, on my transition from academia. Maybe one of these days, but for now Peter Levin pretty aptly describes the why:

Some years ago, for the Columbia pro-seminar, I produced a year-by-year ‘getting through graduate school’ handout. In my little pitch to 1st years, I told them that each year, including your terminal, job-hunting year, you should take stock of your sunk costs, and ask yourself if you still want to be an academic. For me, the answer became no. And for me, like many of graduate students, as well as tenured and untenured faculty, the biggest question was, if not academia, then what else?

Peter has landed what sounds like a fantastic gig with Intel, as a “sociologist in the wild,” and I’m looking forward to hearing about his acclimatization to Portland’s environs. Happy trails!

This week’s episode of Accidental Tech Podcast continues discussion that I have really appreciated, motivated in part by Bradley Chambers’ post on the state of photo management in iOS. The followup conversation this week begins with John Siracuasa’s good-so-far experience with Everpix, and focuses mostly on the dilemma of reliable and accessible backups of one’s photo collection.

Over the years I have accumulated a series of increasingly-large external hard drives that perform both backup of my active data as well as offline storage and its backup (offline storage being for the stuff, almost exclusively photos, that I moved from primary storage to free up more space). I have had an array of backup regimes including wirelessly mounting these external drives for incremental backup using a terribly fiddly launchd+ unison and later rsync script, which turned out to be fiddly enough and require enough babysitting that I stopped doing it altogether and now rely on somewhat randomly scheduled cabled backups. In addition to these, I have backups from various points in time to cloud destinations like Strongspace and Box.net and utterly gobs of pictures at Flickr and Facebook. (Also Trovebox where I spent some time last year. You get the point.)

I have and will continue to pay good money for the desk- and cloud-based boxes that hold my stuff. Problem is, perhaps in contrast to the ATP conversation, the boxes might be too easy. I’m not suggesting that making Time Machine/Capsule work flawlessly is easy, or that most upload bandwidth allows for efficient creation of comprehensive cloud backups; but what’s easy is filling up platter after platter with data. To be sure, as a general area of computing, not having backups, or not having backups that work are substantial problems (how many of us have tested our backups or could actually perform a restore from them to rebuild a working boot disk?).

But as space gets cheaper and services proliferate, the boxes of disks become for me a minority concern and even exacerbates the problem of retrievability. More important is knowing what I have, and perhaps this is the difference between backup and archiving. I think the real problem in twenty years probably won’t be having my stuff around but using it well, by which I mean:

  • that serendipitous rediscovery of a memory
  • my son could use pictures of mom and dad for a surprise anniversary party
  • not sorting through dozens or hundreds of photos from the same event to find a good one
  • the video I shoot is discoverable
  • it’s possible to find a photo of a person from a location even though I don’t exactly remember when I took it
  • browsing photos is pleasant despite there being gigabytes and gigabytes and gigabytes of them, from different catalogs and sources

Some of this is a problem of discipline: and if I were just more diligent about keywording and filing taxonomy then perhaps this would be easier. But it’s also a problem of scale: Files not only keep getting bigger but we are making massively more of them every year. And unlike the storage element, the problem of scale isn’t getting easier, and won’t get easier without next-gen advances in tools that help with navigating and understanding the content of our photos.

In short, finding what I’ve stored is hard, and it’s made harder by the passage of time, the shifting of things offline as new content gets bigger than always-on capacity, and the arrival of new platforms and devices.

Going back to the beginning, I’m considering Everpix myself not for backup purposes but because they seem to take this quite seriously

It has become easier and easier to take pictures of everything, but technology to manage them has not progressed much. Photographs capture precious memories and emotions, yet a computer stores them as files and bits. Effectively, we, the users, are the only ones for whom these images still have a meaning. Maybe not for long: as photos accumulate by the hundreds, or thousands, on our phones, memory cards, hard drives or social networks, the cost of collecting, organizing, and managing them becomes so high that we also lose touch with these captured memories. Our memories could, ultimately, end up forgotten on some computer memory.

So why am I holding back? My primary reservation is about having Yet Another Service holding my stuff. Everpix would be an easy, no-brainer buy for me if it could do what they offer on my desktop — or my own storage, wherever it is — without requiring me to send them all my stuff. But at the moment maybe that’s the price for (part of) what I ultimately really want.

Editorial Workflow — Insert browser URL as link

Okay, it’s my second workflow, but the first (which rebuilds this site) is not really publish-ready.

Grab the current URL from the Editorial browser and insert as a markdown link in the current document. Opens a prompt for the link text with the default set to the current editor selection.

I sprung for the VSCO slide film pack while it was on sale for its recent launch, and I’m enjoying experimenting with it. Having not grown up shooting film I don’t have expectations for certain looks from the presets, and the sheer number of options is somewhat overwhelming. There’s a huge amount of variety in the array of film styles. Below are a few I’ve liked so far, compared to an out of camera JPG from the X100S:

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clockwise from top left: Fuji Velvia 100F Landscape; Fuji Provia 100F +; Pro Neg. Hi SOOC; Agfa Scala 200 ++

Patrick La Roque has a bunch of inspiring examples of VSCO Film 04 in use.

Editorial for iOS

On the sofa with the iPad, checking out Editorial. It really is all that and a bag of chips, so far: a really nice markdown writing environment with a crazy crazy powerful scripting platform built in.

I wrote this post in Editorial and then used a short python script to publish and rebuild the blog, all right here within the Editorial interface. (Thanks to Gabe for his FTP upload script from which I cribbed the keychain module usage.)

Hot.

Pop Culture Happy Hour

I’ve become a big fan of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. It’s casual but also focused, so the discussion never gets lost in a lot of banter or insider-ness. Recent episodes have featured San Diego Comic Con, Orange is the new Black, fall TV, and Doctor Who. The show often features familiar voices from other NPR programming, and it’s fun to hear them outside of their normal context.

Exiftool | Diving Into x-Pro1 and X100 Metadata

Patrick La Roque had exactly what I was looking for this morning: A quick discussion of using exiftool to get detailed EXIF data from Fuji X100/X100S JPGs. I’d love to figure out a good way to automatically pipe the film mode detail back into a Lightroom keyword for those out-of-camera JPGs that I keep; maybe I’ll make that a project for next weekend or so.

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Robert Boyer seems unfairly prolific at the photography-writing thing. I cribbed from his post about Fujifilm X100S settings and found his tips a great starting point.

Another influence was a forum discussion about telling stories through photos; that thread (dpreview?) is lost to me now — should have saved to pinboard — but a google search led me to another of Boyer’s recent posts, Fuji X100S - Story Telling Device:

If we bottom-line this whole photography endeavor the entire exercise boils down to telling a story. With all the pigeon-holed genres the one thing in common is that inside each an images success or failure is ultimately based on how effectively it tells a story or maybe part of a story.

This is so key. Debates over bokeh and pixel-peeping, smeared foliage and focus speed (all weighed against price and/or status as a “real” camera/photographer) fill the internet with noise but so often the technical details leave out the quality of an image to tell a story.

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I won’t claim to be any good at this, but I’m trying to keep this all in mind.

So. We went on vacation the past week or so, road-tripping through southern Utah and on up to the Salt Lake City area, and man I shot a ton of photos. At one point in Bryce Canyon, stopping to shoot every hundred feet or so along a trail winding up the rim of an amphitheater, I self-consciously noted that I really didn’t have any idea what would make one of these photos better than the others. Deepening sunset was changing the light, and as we walked our angle changed, too. I made some in black and white, did some panos, experimented with depth of field and persuaded my exasperated wife to stand for just a few more portraits against the canyon background.


(A note on black and white: There’s a lot to love about the out-of-camera JPGs from the X100s. The great flexibility I get from shooting in JPG+raw is that I can work up a raw image if I don’t like the JPG so much; and if I shoot a black and white JPG and start to wonder what it looks like in color, well there’s the raw.)

(But, and this aside is becoming less of one, using film modes such as the BW setting gives me a valuable intent. This one’s black and white I tell myself and the X100S chimps at me to prove it after I click the shutter. The same goes for the other film mode settings: Great sunset, let’s try it in Velvia, etc. I’m eager to get those full-size JPGs off the card to see how they match my vision at the time and my intent with the film mode. Thinking about those film modes becomes part of the telling of the story — If I have the presence of mind to compose it, of course.)


In his post, Robert Boyer lists a handful of storytelling questions to ask of his photos, and I love how detailed he gets in this inventory:

  • What’s going on here at the image at the top?
  • Girl or boy?
  • How old?
  • What’s the time of day?
  • Time of year?
  • Hot or cold?
  • Modern or antique?
  • Sunny or cloudy?
  • Indoors or out?

So anyway I’m thinking as I take photo after photo of this spectacular landscape something to the effect of “I don’t know what will make this one of the tree more interesting than this one with just the hoodoos, so I’ll keep shooting lots.” Later, in Lightroom, comes trying to filter the photos and look for some keepers with questions like:

How did we get way up here? What’s it feel like to stand in that spot? Can a photo hint at the smell of rain way out there? (Also: Am I focused where I want to be? Should I adjust exposure? DOF?? Was that lightning? The signs at the trailhead said to get the hell off the ridge if there’s lightning.)

I think the point as I do this more is to try to front-load the picture-taking itself with those questions (the same way that using a film mode begins to hint at the intended effect of a photo), and then compose the photos accordingly. But one step at a time, right?

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After all that, did I get a story? Well hell, hard to say. I do know that I really love trying. Right now, figuring out the balance of right technical elements and narrative components of the photo is just a great ball of fun.

administrivia

Did you notice you can click the images in this post to bring up a lightbox view of all the images from the post? It’s something I’m trying out, using the lightview toolkit.

And life’s pretty good. Today we begin our drive back home, for a short southern Utah stay and then a few more days of down-time before work and school begin again.

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Posted today:

The excellent quality of the X100S’s in-camera JPEG processing means that for many purposes it makes perfect sense to shoot JPEG+RAW with the intent of using the JPEG by default, and only resorting to the Raws when you want to pay an image special attention, as in the examples above. The most obvious case when you’d need the extra latitude of a Raw file is when you want to adjust white balance post-capture.

This is exactly how I shoot with it, and I’ve found it to work really well. If an image doesn’t have some quality I’m looking for and some minor adjustements to the jpg don’t give it to me (Lightroom can do a lot with a jpg!), I work up the raw file and see how it goes.

On dynamic range:

An alternative way of thinking about this is that DR200 is like underexposing a stop to retain highlights then adjusting the brightness afterwards, and DR400 is like underexposing by two stops and adjusting further. Because of this, the minimum ISO available in each mode is limited: ISO 400 at DR200, and ISO 800 at DR400. The flipside to this approach is shown by ISO 100, which is effectively the opposite; i.e. ISO200 overexposed by a stop then pulled-down in processing. This results in the loss of stop of highlight range - to all intents and purposes it counts as DR50, and should therefore normally be avoided. (Note ISO 100 is only available in JPEG anyway).

As usual for DPR, this is a detailed review that can teach someone already using the camera a lot about how it’s put together, what its capabilities are, and how to get the most from it.

Between ISO 200 and 800 the X100S delivers images which contain effectively no visible noise. This, coupled with the inclusion of a 3-stop ND filter means that it is entirely possible to shoot at ISO 800 outdoors in bright daylight for the sake of better dynamic range (see DR expansion modes section on the next page). In our everyday shooting we alternate between DR200% and 400% in especially tricky conditions, and we’ve learned not to worry about the consequent increase in ‘base’ ISO.

I had a great evening at the best pizza place around this weekend — got a few photos I enjoy, too.

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I am so far behind on a certain category of my reading that I’m intimidated enough to mostly avoid opening up Instapaper altogether. But I keep saving things to “read later” all the same. Aspirational bookmarking at its best, I suppose. At least neither the Instapaper or Pinboard queue show up with red badges on any of my various screens.

It’s not that I’m not reading, though. I’m reading a ton, probably more this year than in quite a while. On the treadmill at the gym I’m slowly making my way through Passage of Power by Robert Caro, a genuinely fascinating — and challengingly lengthy — telling of LBJ’s journey to the presidency. It’s enthralling, and also 736 pages long, which, when rendered in Kindle format sufficiently large to read while bouncing along at the five to six miles an hour I can manage on the treadmill, results in something like 20,000 “locations” in Kindle-speak. I’ve borrowed it three times from the local library, which I suppose is a sign that a) I enjoy it and b) I don’t read it particularly quickly, and c) nobody else is borrowing it.

The treadmill or bike at the gym seems to be the primary place where I do most of my reading, these days, being as they are among the few places where a 35-inch-high pre-schooler isn’t eagerly seeking my attention. This beautiful summer season, I feel somewhat guilty for not being out on the trails, but time and attention are the resource now most in demand and shortage, so fresh and piney air often fall third in the priority list to a good workout and enjoying some reading.

I’m still getting out and about quite a bit, too. It’s a beautiful monsoon season here, so far.

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