Apple released Aperture 2.0 last week. Touted as a major upgrade, with over 100 new features, it’s available here in the UK for 129, or 65 if upgrading from Aperture 1.x. Folks who recently purchased Aperture 1.5 can upgrade for less than 10.

I couldn’t resist upgrading as quickly as possible. But was I right to do so, and should you wait before doing the same? Read on to find out what I think.

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Earlier this week, I bought a Mobile Broadband modem from Vodafone. It’s a neat little device that plugs into the USB port of my Macbook Pro and allows me to access the Internet pretty much wherever I am. Perfect for those all-too-common mornings before work when I’m sat in Starbucks and their T-Mobile hotspot is on the blink. Speeds are good (a bit less than 2mbit/sec), and it’s really nice to be online when I want to be. (I’m on a train to Southampton right now as I write this post, for example).

I’m feeling a little less enthusiastic after attempting to check my Flickr account for any new comments and messages overnight.

Instead of seeing Flickr open up in my browser, instead I was greeted with this Vodafone page:

Vodafone Content Control

Naturally, the “About Content control” link completely fails to mention how to remove this restriction (isn’t this always the way with these sort of pages?) Presumably, a simple phone call to Vodafone will sort this out (although that’s going to be interesting … I don’t own a Vodafone mobile phone, something their online systems aren’t geared up to coping with).

I’m just amused that

  • … this restriction (which is documented in their ‘personal’ or consumer section of their website) is in place on a product that’s sold as a business product (which is how they get away with their practice of advertising prices that are exclusive of VAT). C’mon, make your mind up – it’s either a consumer product (in which case, I want the price you advertised, not the price I’m having to pay), or it’s a business product (and therefore it doesn’t need parental controls enabled by default).
  • … there was no mention of this restriction when I bought the device. It’s a good job that I’m not a professional photographer, losing money because I can’t access Flickr. Vodafone already know that I’m over 18 years old, as I had to provide my age when I bought the device. It’s flattering to think that I still look as good as I did half a lifetime ago, but I’m pretty sure you’d have to be registered blind to get away with that (I think the grey hair might just give the game away 🙂 )
  • … Flickr is considered an 18-rated service, but YouTube isn’t. (I haven’t tried more overtly 18+ sites yet. Maybe when I get to the hotel this evening …) There’s a lot more smut on YouTube than on Flickr. Who decides these things? Some irate nimby numpty from the English home counties phoning customer services to complain that their kids have seen something inappropriate on their phone?

Needless to say, there’s a lot of mileage in this one. But the bottom line is that I can’t access Flickr on this mobile broadband device until someone from Vodafone decides otherwise.

It’s great to live in a free country, isn’t it?

PS: It looks like their gateway also attempts to reduce the size of images being downloaded. So maybe access to Flickr will prove to be the least of my worries!

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15,000 Views On Flickr

Posted by Stuart Herbert on November 18th, 2007 in News, Photos.

Here are my twenty most popular photos (according to Flickr’s interestingness ranking) after 15,000 views. It will be interesting to see what the list looks like after another 15,000 views 🙂

Machrie Moor, Arran Machrie Moor Dolphin On The Beach Reflections On Skien (#1) Beneath Whitby breakwater Still & West Country House, Portsmouth Harbour The Cefn Coed Viaduct Cathedral Past, Present and Future In Cardiff 16361 The Abandoned House By Calanais III Macleod Stone - HDR Macleod Stone - HDR The Deserted Beaches Of Harris - HDR Calanais At Dusk - HDR Calanais At Dusk - HDR Calanais At Dusk - HDR Craig Yr Allt and The Garth South Towards Pontypridd Rock, Trees, and Graigwen

Click on each thumbnail to see the full photograph.

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My photo of Cardiff Castle from the grounds of Bute Park has been chosen for use in Schmap Cardiff Guide. This Time Magazine article has more information about Schmap.

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(I’ve only just come across this – I hope John will forgive me for being remiss at moderating the backlog of comments awaiting approval. I get a lot of spam, mostly because of how heavily read my blog was back when I worked on Gentoo Linux).

If I could have one wish, it would be to take my MacBook Pro, my Nikon D200 and the whole GPS satellite system back in time to visit the places I write about back when they were more than the mostly-lost memories that they’ve become today. I’d love to be able to see what the docks were like before the Glamorganshire Canal was emptied by an unfortunate accident in 1951. I’d loved to have walked under the Walnut Tree Viaduct before it was dismantled in 1969. Heck, I’d have even loved to have seen the old power stations that have completely disappeared from Taff Vale.

But I can’t. All these things were gone before I was born, and several decades before I settled in Wales in 2000 (yup, I’m one of those ‘orrible invading English from across the border 🙂 )

Fortunately, there are folks on Flickr who are sharing their photos from these times. It’s an act of generosity that I really appreciate. I just hope the generation that follows us all one day learns to understand and respect the history of South Wales that we’re all trying to preserve before it’s gone forever.

John Briggs is one of those people kindly sharing their photos on Flickr. John’s photos, from his book Before The Deluge: Cardiff Docklands 1970’s, provide an excellent snapshot of life in the docks some twenty years after the Glamorganshire Canal had finally closed, and after the Bute West Dock too had closed.

Two photos in particular caught my eye this evening whilst taking a first look through John’s work, because they provide more information about the Junction Canal that still survives today.

Junction Canal to West is a great shot of the Junction Canal that used to link the Bute East Dock, the Bute West Dock, and Sea Lock Pond on the Glamorganshire Canal. The railway viaduct in the foreground is the Bute Viaduct, which carried trains across the Junction Canal to the western ank of the Bute East Dock.

This is the TVR Viaduct, which carried trains over Junction Canal and down to the eastern bank of the Bute West Dock (originally called the Bute Shipping Canal). From the curve, I’m guessing that this photo is looking west along Junction Canal, but I could be wrong 🙂

You can see more of John’s photos up on Flickr, or pick up a copy of his book Before The Deluge: Photographs of Cardiff’s Docklands in the Seventies.

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As a bit of an experiment, I’ve added a new link to the bottom of each photo of my walk along the route of the Melingriffith Feeder. When you click on the link, Google Earth will open up and will take you to where the photo was taken. You’ll need to have Google Earth installed, and if prompted what to do with the KML file, tell your browser to always open the file using Google Earth.
This uses the FlickrFly service.

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I’ve updated the Merthyr Road project page to include a list of planned articles too, so that you can see what’s going to be coming up over the coming weeks. There’s only time each week to publish one article in the set, but I normally find myself coming back from each trip out with photos for two or three articles at a time. I guess it’s one of the advantages of how all the routes between Cardiff and Merthyr – historical and modern – are intertwined.

The original plan was to spend just one year – the whole of 2007 – on the Merthyr Road project. With the photos I’ve already taken this year, I have enough material today to publish articles right the way through to August. Maybe things will change as the year draws to a close, but today it’s looking like the Merthyr Road project will take up a good chunk of 2008 too.

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Welcome To My New Photography Blog

Posted by Stuart Herbert on January 7th, 2007 in News.

Although it was a pain to leave Gentoo last year, one of the nice results is that I now have a lot more free time to devote to my photography hobby.

To get started, I’ve setup a separate blog just for my photography. It wasn’t very satisfying having the occasional photography item buried amongst all the Gentoo-related posts. I’d look at my blog (especially on Planet Gentoo Universe) and just feel that everything I did was about Gentoo. There’s a lot more to who I am than just Gentoo, but even I was getting hard-pressed to be able to tell!

I’ve also made the switch to Mac. The switch is partly for OS X, but it’s mainly for the hardware. I’m attracted to OS X because, for mainstream photography, Linux is almost nowhere. I physically cringe every time I come across an article listing F-Spot as a headline app for Linux. (You do get excellent editors such as CinePaint, mind – it’s not all doom and gloom on the Linux front). There’s just nothing on Linux that comes close to matching tools like Lightroom or Aperture. You can’t beat sitting in the coffee shop after a morning’s shoot in the museum, using Lightroom to proof and master the shots and to work out which locations you need to return to for a second attempt. Quality, capable apps sell themselves right there and then, by letting you get things done quickly and with no fuss and no frustration.

(It also helps, I guess, that OS X is seductively beautiful to look at. Both Linux and Windows XP (to a lesser extent) are ugly ducklings by comparison. The secret’s in the font rendering – one area where Linux has always been extremely poor, although switching on the TrueType ByteCode Interpreter (BCI) makes it less painful).

The hardware plays a major part in making a great photography platform. The Core 2 Duo MacBook Pro is a first-rate laptop. It really is as fast as folks say, and it’s surprisingly comfortable to use. (I had to use my wife’s Dell laptop yesterday for something, and I was just cursing and swearing at it the whole time. I’ve owned and used Dell laptops for six years now, but after just three weeks on the MBP, I’d hate to have to go back, as things stand today). The keyboard layout is still taking some getting used to (the hash key being on Alt-3 is about the worst thing that I trip up on), but the large trackpad is extremely nice to use.

But the real star is the screen. Before switching machines, I thought I did alright in the screen stakes. I don’t own a decent desktop screen, but I’ve always liked the screen on my Dell laptop, and so have other people. Now I know better 🙂 If you’re currently researching and trying to decide whether or not to make the switch, you’ll probably have seen quite a few comments about the screen being ‘painfully bright’. Well, once you’re used to it, like you’ll probably realise that it’s actually PC screens that are dismally dull. Even without the glossy screen option, colours really stand out on the MBP, and I’m already finding it much easier to adjust photos than I did on the Dell. It’s only a matter of time before I get myself an Apple Cinema display to go with the MBP.

Now all I need to do is decide between Lightroom and Aperture, and I’m all set 🙂

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