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Has it really been a year?

Tuesday, March 16th, 2021 at 10:34 pm

Today marks a full year from the first day that I started working from home. Like many others I have spoken to, my sense of time is broken. While I have definitely settled into a routine it still seems like it is only new and temporary, even the last six months don’t seem like they have existed.

Our office has reopened, but with reduced capacity, spaced out eating and no use of the meeting rooms or lunch area. A couple of people are going in once or twice a week, but most of us don’t see the point of the commute just to work by yourself.

The Comedy Festival starts next week and while I haven’t booked in as many shows as I would have in the past, I’ve got a lot booked. It will be strange to be working from home and then heading into the city most nights of the week…

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The end of twenty seven metres

Thursday, January 7th, 2021 at 7:14 pm

How long does it take me to use up twenty seven metres of photo paper? Four and a half years.

At least that is the interval between buying the roll of paper and when I am at the end of the roll, with enough for two more prints. Over that time my usage has changed. After the couple of large prints I was making two prints a month (only ten months of the year) for camera club competitions. Then the club comp dropped down to one print per member per month, and then in 2020 we had to drop the print competition.

So what made me get to the end of the roll now instead of early last year, because I have been entering international competitions. I usually only enter digital competitions, but I need to get acceptances from Australian competitions, there aren’t many of those and a big one closing soon is a print competition.

So, after not printing anything for ten months, last night I printed out twenty images:

I had a couple of failed prints so I am glad that when I realised I was at the end of the roll that it wasn’t quite the end.

This all means that it is time to buy some new paper, with a big question being do I want to get another roll, or should I go back to sheets?

The main advantage of the roll is that I have the option of making quite large prints, but a big disadvantage of the roll is that the paper has a curl. If I cut a piece off and want to print with it immediately I need to roll it back on itself to remove the curl, otherwise it doesn’t feed through the printer right and at the start/end it rises up and gets marks on it. This is usually ok as it is outside the image I am printing which is then covered by the matt board, but it would be good to avoid this. (My printer is 13″ wide so doesn’t support the 17″ wide roll, as I am feeding it in 90° to the curl that is part of the issue, if it was fed in normally that would be ok)

If I had planned it out better I would have known I was getting near the end of the roll and saving the last few metres in case I wanted to make large prints, then buying normal sheets for most of my use.

Getting another roll does work out cheaper and if I plan ahead I can cut a bunch of sheets and let them lay flat for a while to remove the curl, though right now I am not able to make the decision as both rolls and boxes of A3+ sheets are out of stock at the local places I know of, so I will have to wait…

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A study in panorama

Friday, January 1st, 2021 at 2:44 pm

Every couple of years I clean behind my desk. I don’t do it more often as this task involves taking everything off the desk, unplugging everything and disassembling the desk. Once clean I then have to put it all back together, all up this takes a number of hours so is generally done when I have time off around the new year.

Previously I have taken a photo of the tidy desk, but this time I attempted to capture most of the room in a panorama:

Study in panorama (Lightroom)

I spent about an hour just on taking the photos for this, camera on tripod, in portrait with my homemade L bracket, and using my widest lens. Each set is eight or nine images and I took around five sets until getting a set I was happy with. I initially considered capturing the full 360°, but that was more difficult to get aligned so I settled on around 280°, skipping the cupboard and room doors.

The above panorama was merged in Lightroom with the built in tool, but if you look at the large image you can quickly find a number of alignment issues. Look along shelves, picture frames, the cornice, etc. A proper panoramic tripod head would have helped, but I don’t have one of those.

I had a try at using Photoshop to do the merge, it essentially gives the same results but with each source image as a layer so you can fine tune where the joins are and then re-merge for exposure. At least that is what I picked up from reading some tutorials, I don’t know how to do that because I rarely use Photoshop.

Thinking back at how I have made panoramas in the past I realised that I wanted to be able to go to a misaligned part and be able to fine tune that section so they were aligned. Something like I remember doing in the Canon PhotoStitch software, but that was 20 years ago and while I do happen to have the install for that, it doesn’t want to run under Windows 10.

Another program that have used is the Microsoft Image Composite Editor which I recalled was an amazing tool, but it was last updated five years ago. I gave it a try anyway, no better than Lightroom and also no fine tuning ability.

It was getting late, so thought that the Lightroom merge was good enough so I uploaded it to Flickr and wasn’t going to spend anymore time on it. Until today when I decided to see what had happened to another tool I remembered: Hugin

Back in 2011 on a road trip from Melbourne to Perth and back I played around a fair bit with Hugin. What I remember of it was that it could give good results, but it was also prone to crashing. I don’t know when I last used it because I don’t do panoramas that often and the one in Lightroom has been good enough when I do make a panorama. Upon finding that it was still an active project and that it had a release only a few weeks ago meant that I had to give it a try:

Study in panorama (Hugin)

I was impressed. While I saw the options to fine tune control points and other things, the above panorama was made using the simple settings and it has come out a lot better than Lightroom or Photoshop. All the big issues I saw before are fixed, with only a couple remaining on the lower right that could be fixed by a small amount of cloning.

However it is nowhere near as convenient as selecting the images in Lightroom and clicking Photo Merge > Panorama. Instead I exported full size versions as TIFF, loaded those into Hugin, generated the panorama, copied the result into the directory for Lightroom to see. I also took the final image into Photoshop for some content aware fill of floorboards in the corners and tweaked some levels before exporting the final JPEG for Flickr.

I don’t know if I will use Lightroom or Hugin for my next panorama, but it is good to know that suitable alternatives exist.

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The middle mouse button

Sunday, December 27th, 2020 at 3:19 pm

My computer mouse of choice is the Microsoft IntelliMouse Optical 1.1A:

I don’t recall when I first started using this mouse, but it was a long long time ago with a white version in 2006 and then black versions from 2008 on. I have tried some other mice, but kept returning to this one. I prefer it so much that at some point I picked up a few of them (new old stock) as spares.

Over the years these have been very reliable for me, typically the fault being with the scroll wheel which is rectified by disassembling the mouse and giving the whole thing a clean. Having the spares meant that I could swap out the mouse immediately, then clean it later.

There has been one fault that a clean doesn’t resolve: when the middle button stops working.

Some people I know don’t think this is a problem, but I use the middle button a lot (second only to the left button) so for me it is a big deal. For example in a web browser to open a link in a new tab do I ctrl/command-click or do I right click and select “open in new tab”? No, I simply middle click on the link…

Good thing I have those spare mice as my first action was to grab one of those from the cupboard. Still doesn’t work. It it is software issue with Windows? Reboot, still doesn’t work. Grab my work Macbook, still doesn’t work. How about Linux? Doesn’t work there either. What about a different spare mouse? Ah…

I then tested the other spare mice and found that it was only those two (the one I had been using and the first spare I tried) that didn’t have a working middle button. Time to open one of them up to see if I could see anything obvious like dirt wedged in the button, nope it all looked good. Having two mice out of action would mean I would be down to one spare and replacements at this time are quite expensive.

While I had the mouse apart I noticed that the switch for the middle button appeared to be the same as the switches for the side buttons, the side buttons that I never use, so what if I unsoldered the switches and swapped them around? It took longer to get the soldering iron set up and find my solder wick, but I was able to restore middle button functionality.

Repeating the procedure on the other broken mouse meant that these two mice are now in the cupboard as spares, not being thrown away.

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Ten years of possession

Monday, December 7th, 2020 at 10:58 pm

Ten years ago was the day that I picked up a set of keys, I predicted that settling in would take up a lot of my time, and it did. While I have done a number of things to make this place my own, there are also some things that are still on my todo list.

In rough order of outside to in, these are the bigger things that I have done over the ten years:

  • concrete edging between the lawn and garden beds, giving a nice clean line that is easy to maintain
  • removed large trees/shrubs that closed in the front yard and entry, the replacements will never get as big
  • weeded and mulched the garden, this is really an ongoing task, weeding always needs doing and I need to re-mulch
  • replaced locks and added an entrance set to the front door, having all the locks keyed alike makes it so much easier
  • replaced gutters/downspouts and had tiles repointed, the old gutters were rusting through so needed replacing
  • replaced the flimsy screen doors with more substantial security ones, on hot nights can have doors open for airflow but still be secure with the screen doors
  • added a garage door opener, without this I kept my car outside and had to use the side door and gate to get my bicycle in and out
  • cleaned and oiled the deck, though this is well overdue to be done again
  • ethernet from my study to the TV and additional TV aerial in my study, though there are only a couple of shows that I record from free-to-air TV and wireless has improved a lot
  • control the central heating from my home automation
  • replaced side counter top in the kitchen with a piece that matches the other counters
  • put images up on the walls, mostly my own photos but also some posters, everything framed in a consistent style

But what about the things that where intended but are not yet done?

  • paint the hallway to have off-white instead of white to match all the other rooms
  • redo the laundry to have a broom cupboard and a benchtop over the washing machine
  • paint under the eaves to match the gutters and screen doors (from white to a cream, should have been done when I did the gutters)
  • planter boxes to go on the deck, also some outdoor furniture

I really should get moving on these tasks, but as there is no urgency I hope they are not still pending after another ten years. I do have a todo list from seven years ago, some of the items have been done, but some have not…

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