The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 48: Adventures with Dan Bailey

Photographer Dan Bailey is our guest this week to talk about his book FUJIFILM X Series Unlimited: Mastering Techniques and Maximizing Creativity with Your FUJIFILM Camera — though we’re not focusing on Fujifilm cameras. We’re more interested in questions such as how many of your camera’s features you should understand, whether technical details really matter, and how Dan became a pro photographer and expert in the first place.

Check out other episodes at the PhotoActive website, subscribe to PhotoActive on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Overcast. Follow PhotoActive on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.

Intego Mac Podcast, Episode 94: Preparing for macOS Catalina

We discuss some ways to check that your apps are all compatible with macOS Catalina. We also talk about Apple contractors listening to Siri recordings (but Kirk also adds a last minute update about Apple’s change of heart), how the Facebook “Like” button can be a privacy problem, and how Google has discovered some new iOS vulnerabilities.

Check out the latest episode of The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.

The Next Track, Episode #155 – Running a Small Record Label: Another Timbre

We welcome Simon Reynell, who runs Another Timbre, a one-man record label that releases experimental and contemporary music. Simon tells us how he started the label, and what it’s like to run a record label in a niche of this kind.

Check out other episodes at The Next Track website, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, or Google Play, or follow The Next Track on Twitter at @NextTrackCast.

The User-Unfriendly Feature and Pricing Structure of OmniOutliner

I use a wide range of apps in my work. From Apple apps that are included with the operating systems I use – Mail, Messages, Pages, Numbers, etc. – to third-party productivity apps, as well as apps across many categories. In addition, as a journalist and reviewer, I test many apps. So I have a very good understanding of the different ways apps are marketed and sold.

One company stands out for its odd structure of features and pricing: The OmniGroup. At some point – I don’t recall exactly when – they made the decision to offer two versions of many of their apps. On the Mac, for OmniFocus, there is a Standard version ($50) and a Pro version ($100); for OmnOutliner, there is an Essentials version ($20) and a Pro version ($100); and for OmniGraffle, there is a Standard version ($150) and a Pro version ($250). (iOS pricing is $50; $75 for OmniFocus and $20 and $50 for OmniOutliner; and $60 and $120 for OmniGraffle.)

I’m a long-time user of the first two apps. I bought OmniFocus when it was first released, and used it extensively at the time, because I was involved in managing some fairly complex writing projects. For many years, I didn’t need it, but I have recently started using it again to organize the tasks I need to do for my work. And bought I OmniOutliner many years ago – perhaps not when the first version was released – and have used it to outline all my books since then. I don’t use OmniOutliner for anything else, but I’ve written enough books that I want a powerful outliner to help me in the planning stage.

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Intego Mac Podcast, Episode 93: Hacking humans: How to avoid social engineering scams

Kirk and Josh take a close look at how you can be scammed by social engineering techniques. They also discuss Apple’s recent updates to iOS 9 and 10, a report about the increase in malware targeting Macs, and some good and bad news about Google.

Check out the latest episode of The Intego Mac Podcast, which I co-host with Josh Long. We talk about Macs and iOS devices, and how to keep them secure.

The Zen of Everything Podcast, Episode 4: Good Days, Hot Weather, Ikkyu, Happiness, Politics, Anger, Appliances, and the Ugly Lama

Jundo explains why all days are good days, and Kirk laments the hot weather in Europe. They revisit Ikkyu (“that old horndog”), and discuss politics, anger, a dead appliance, and the Ugly Lama.

Check out other episodes at the Zen of Everything website, and subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Overcast.

Review: The New (2019) Kindle Oasis

When the Kindle Oasis was first announced, I thought it was a bit odd, and I didn’t think it was great. I did, however, like the 2017 model, which was waterproof. The display was excellent, and I loved the extra width of the display, since I read with fairly large fonts.

Amazon has just started shipping a new model, which differs from the 2017 model by having a few more LEDs to light the display, and it now offers a warmth setting, allowing you to change the tone of the device. I like this idea, something that is common on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac, because as the day gets later and the light changes, you can have the screen change from a bluish tint to an orangish hue. I find that, in the evening, reading my Kindle Oasis without this setting feels a bit uncomfortable on my eyes. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

The body of the device is identical, and it works with the same magnetic case as the previous Oasis. The device comes with multiple storage capacities, and with and without cellular access, and is also available in a champagne gold color. (I got graphite.) It has 25 LEDs, compared to 12 for the previous model, and at first glance, this wasn’t very noticeable, but when I started reading on the Kindle, it was clear that the extra lighting made the fonts seem a bit crisper. I used to read my Oasis with the bold setting at the second level; I have lowered it on this one to the first level.

However, the “warmth” setting is interesting. By default, the new Oasis display is a bit warmer than the previous model; you can see it here: the 2017 model is on the left, the 2019 model on the right.

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I’ve tried to get these colors as precise as possible. Since the screen emits light, it’s hard to get them to look exactly right, but the difference is quite visible.

The Warmth setting is available in the same place as the brightness setting. Here’s a series of photos showing the warmth at different levels, from off to the warmest possible setting.

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Again, I’ve tried to get the colors as precise as possible, but it’s hard to really convey just how odd the warmest color is. It’s almost the color of a fake tan. However, upping the warmth just a bit looks very comfortable, and will make for excellent reading, though if you did like the bluish tint of the Kindle, then you might be disappointed. And if you look at both models in sunlight, with the backlighting off, the new Kindle looks a bit greenish compared to the previous model.

In practice, I found that I was comfortable with the warmth setting just up one notch. Any more than that, and it started seeming artificial. Since the default coloring of the screen is already a bit warm, it doesn’t need much more to be comfortable; however, it would simply be weird to want to put it all the way up.

It’s worth noting that I have the original fabric cover by Amazon, that was discontinued a few months after the 2017 Kindle Oasis was released. This held the device with magnets front and back. On the new Kindle, it doesn’t stick on the back, but does on the front. The current case that Amazon offers is a shell case, which I find defeats the purpose of the one-handed design of the device. To grip it correctly with one hand, you have to remove it from the case shell. So if you do have that original cover like I do, you can use it with the new Oasis, but you can’t use it as a stand (it’s Amazon’s “origami” cover that folds), since it doesn’t stick to the back of the device.

It’s fair to say that this is a very minor upgrade. If you already have and like the Kindle Oasis, you probably don’t need to upgrade. But if the addition of the warmth setting is something you find useful, and if you want some slightly sharper fonts due to the better lighting, you might want to check out the new Kindle Oasis. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

Pixelmator Pro Brings Powerful Editing Tools to Apple’s Photos App

You have long been able to use external photo editors with Apple Photos, but the release yesterday of Pixelmator Pro has made Apple Photos a much more powerful photo editing tool. When you open a photo in other external photo editors via Photos, make changes to the photo, then the finished photo is saved back to your Photos library. If you want to go back and tweak your changes – say you want to adjust your exposure a bit more, or change the saturation – you either work on the edited photo or you start over from your original.

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With the new Pixelmator Pro, your edit history is saved, and when you re-open a photo you edited with it as an external editor, you can go back and tweak any of the adjustments you have made. This is a game-changer for Apple Photos, and it now provides the best of both worlds: simple photo library management, including in the cloud, and powerful editing capabilities. (To access a photo editing extension, select a photo and press Return to open it in Edit mode, then click the little circle with ellipsis icon and choose Pixelmator Pro.)

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Pixelmator Pro’s ML Enhance (ML for machine learning) is an interesting tool that can automatically optimize your photos. Similar to clicking the magic wand in Apple Photos, or other automatic adjustments in various photo editing apps, I find that it is sometimes a bit heavy handed, but for many people, this is an excellent way to enhance photos. I found it especially good at correcting the white balance and skin tone in this photo, which I shot with my iPhone the other day.

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However, I wish Pixelmator Pro had automatic adjustment options for individual adjustments. For example, in Apple Photos, I can click Auto buttons for Light, Color, Black & White, White Balance, and more. Each group of tools has an Auto button. With Pixelmator Pro, there are “ML” buttons for some tools – the ones that display by default – but not all. For example, I recently learned how the Curves tool in Apple Photos can help improve the contrast and dynamic range in my photos; I now often use the Auto button to see how this looks. In Pixelmator Pro, there is no such option for Curves, Levels, or even Black & White.

While Pixelmator Pro’s auto-adjustments are useful, the real power comes in the wide range of editing tools available. You need to take some time to explore the interface.

Pixelmator3In the photos above, I’m in the Color Adjustments section, which is where you will probably make most edits to your photos. By default, only a few adjustments are displayed, but if you click Add at the top right, you discover a menu with more than 15 tools. And when in the Add Effects tool, clicking Add displays ten menus with dozens of options (including vignette, which is one I use often, though subtly).

If, like me, you appreciate Apple Photos as a way of managing your photo library, and making it available across devices, but still want more powerful photo editing, then Pixelmator Pro used as an extension is a great addition to this app. The ability to return to your photos and adjust your edits is powerful, and I would expect other photo editing tools to try to emulate this as well.

For more on photo editing apps for Mac – Pixelmator Pro, Luminar, Affinity Photo, RAW Power, Capture One, and others, check out this episode of the PhotoActive podcast, where my co-host Jeff Carlson and I discuss the many options available. I wish this version of Pixelmator Pro had been available when we recorded the episode; our discussion would have been quite different.

Theater Review: Ian McKellan on Stage

For Ian McKellen’s 80th year, he has embarked on a tour of 80 theaters in the UK (to be followed by a run of 80 shows in London at a West End theater). The goal of this tour is to give back to the theaters he worked in over his career, and others. As such, all the proceeds of these performances go to specific projects for each theater.

I’m celebrating my 80th birthday by touring a new solo show to theatres I know well and a few that I don’t. The show starts with Gandalf and will probably end with an invitation to act with me on stage. In-between there will be anecdotes and acting. I open at my local arts centre in January and end up by August in Orkney.

Live theatre has always been thrilling to me, as an actor and in the audience. Growing up in Lancashire, I was grateful to those companies who toured beyond London and I’ve always enjoyed repaying that debt by touring up and down the country myself, with the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Prospect Theatre, the Actors’ Company, as well as with commercial productions.

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The PhotoActive Podcast, Episode 47: Jeff Becomes an Event Photographer

Photoactive 400Recently, Jeff was the event photographer for the CreativePro Week 2019 conference in Seattle, a task that requires a different approach to making photos. You’ve probably been asked to shoot some type of event, so we talk a little about specific gear to deal with low-light situations and catching candid shots in a crowded setting.

Listen to PhotoActive, Episode 47: Jeff Becomes an Event Photographer.

Find out more, and subscribe to the podcast, at the PhotoActive website. You can follow The Next Track on Twitter at @PhotoActiveCast to keep up to date with new episodes, and join our Facebook group to chat with other listeners and participate in photo challenges and more.