I normally use an Android phone but I was so intrigued by the, iOS only, photography app Hipstamatic that I brought a used iPhone so that I could try it out. Hipstamatic is an app that allows you to select different “equipment”; “lenses”, “films” and “flashes” that control the final look of your photograph. There are a limited number of these available initially but more can be added via in-app purchase.

The earlier version only had an interface that looked like a “toy camera” as can be seen below. The original interface forced the user to select the lens, film and flash before shoting and gave no possibility of changing this later. The app has a “shake to randomise” feature that allow a random selection of the “equipment” from a selected range of lenses, films and flashes.

20151227_131402The latest “300” version of Hipstamatic add many more facilities. There are manual options for the camera (shutter speed, focus, etc.) and the possibility to change the equipment post shooting. There is a new shooting interface to control this (although the old interface is still available if required).

20151227_131533_001As with all things photographic the real proof of the app is in the photographs that it takes. Below are a selection of my own photographs showing some of the effects that can be created with Hipstamatic.



As a bit of an experiment I have brought myself a Chromebook. Specifically the ARM based Samsung built 303C. This cost £229 from PC World which is very cheap for something that looks a bit like a Macbook Air 🙂

Obviously the Chromebook is a cloud based device and not a full laptop but as long as it is in WiFi range it does a good job of providing most of the facilities that I use on a daily basis. One thing that is missing is software development tools but this can be somewhat overcome by using a cloud based IDE such as Cloud9.

I have not yet experimented with what is possible with the Chromebook fully off line or with how usable it will be “out and about” with a MiFi. I intend to try out both of these scenarios in the coming weeks.

Text Editors

The choice of text editor is a very personal thing, especially for a programmer. If you are going to spend several hours a day working with a program then you had better make the correct choice! The correct text editor can make a huge difference in programming productivity. However, in order to get the full benefits the programmer has to put in the time to learn the editor well enough that the major commands are in muscle memory and can be executed without thinking about them. This means that changing editors involves a significant investment in time and effort.

In the early days of my programming career I used the Brief editor under DOS and grew to know and love its key bindings. When the world moved on to Microsoft Windows, I moved onto CodeWright but still using the Brief key bindings. These days at work I am not doing as much programming but can still use CodeWright pretty well when required.

At home I generally use Linux on my computers and so can’t use the Windows specific editors that I use at work. When moving to Linux, I looked at what editors were available and decided to use of the big open source contenders so that I knew that it would be able to do anything that I needed and that support would never be a problem.

I never really considered VIM as I could never get on with the modal nature of vi when I used it at university. For a while now I have been using emacs and getting on OK with it but I have never got in to using the emacs specific keys for cursor movement, I still use the arrow keys etc. This means that I am not getting the full “move your hand as little as possible” efficiency. Recently, for this reason and general curiosity I decided to have another look at the text editors available in the Linux space.

The available editors have not changed much since the last time that I looked. The one editor that I have now tried is Sublime Text 2.

Sublime is a very good editor with some unique facilities but I was put off spending significant time learning it fully because it is not free / open source. There appears to be a slowdown in the pace of development of Sublime and this is worrying. The author could could stop development of the editor at any time and there would be no chance for the community to take over.

For now I have decided to stick with emacs and take the time to learn the cursor movement keys and at the same time brush up on my touch typing skills!

iPod under Linux – I give up!

After spending quite a bit of time trying to get my iPod Nano to work reliably under Linux, I have finally given up!

I have tried Rhythmbox, Banshee, gtkpod and gPodder but can’t find any combination that works as I need for both music and podcasts. Rhythmbox worked for a while (even though it does not provide a “by random” option for its smart playlists, which was a pain) but eventually failed.

I could get all of the above programs to work after resetting the iPod using iTunes but after a few sync cycles the iTunes database on the iPod would get corrupted. Sometimes this could be fixed by attempting to delete everything from the iPod and putting it back on. However, this left more and more “ghost” files that could not be deleted and eventually the iPod stopped working.

I have now ordered a SanDisk Sansa Clip+ and hopefully this will work better. At least with this mounted as a USB drive I can simply copy on the files I want even if I can’t get synching to work. This option is simply not available with an iPod!

New Linux desktop PC

After a period of deliberation on whether I actually need a desktop computer, I have now gone ahead and brought a new one!

The machine is more “low cost” than “high end” but is fine for what I will use it for. It has a quad core AMD FX 4100 processor, 8 Gigs of RAM and a 1TB disk. I did have plans to do a full PC build myself but in the end I brought the machine ready built as I didn’t think that self building this time around would result in any added value.

The machine will mainly be used for photo processing, video editing and software development. It is actually replacing two older desktop machines; my old Linux box that I killed by knocking it over 🙁 and an old Windows 7 machine that I have been using for video processing and iTunes.

I am now back in the situation where all of my computers are running Linux. I am still having some problems with iPod handling under Linux but maybe that is a story for a future post!

Photo processing under Linux

As I have moved back to Ubuntu I needed to install some Linux photo processing software. Looking around the Internet it appears that much of the software that I used before is still available and recommended. For example:

  • GIMP
  • UFraw
  • Hugin

I have also installed some software that is new to me but appears to work well so far.

  • Geeqie – a very fast photo viewer
  • Raw Therapee – a “Lightroom like” RAW processor

One good thing I have found out is that both UFRaw and Raw Therapee will successfully process the RAW files from my Canon G12. Photoshop Elements 8 (that I used on Windows) would not do this. Adobe wanted me to upgrade to Version 9 just to get an updated RAW processor 🙁

Back to Linux

I have returned to using Linux, specifically Ubuntu 11.10, on my main laptop.

For the last couple of months I have been switching between Windows 7 and Linux but could not settle on one or the other for a number of reasons. Windows is “the standard” and most of the applications that I want use run on it with no problems. However it is a bit boring and and not so good for software development. I have also had many problems with long startup times and lots of disk thrashing.

I love to use Linux but some of my favorite applications are not available, specifically My Life Organised and Evernote. I have now solved the first by switching (again!) to Toodledo for my “Todo List” and Evernote is now usable with the web interface and the web clipping add-on for Firefox.

Part of the reason for deciding on Linux was reading an article (which I now can’t find to reference) about how you learn so much more by using Linux than you do by using Windows. I have found this to be the case myself. For example, I brought a QNAP NAS a couple of weeks ago and last night spent some time using the rsync man pages to setup a backup mechanism for the laptop. It was very satisfying to do this myself rather than “cutting and pasting” a solution from a post on the Internet.

So, at least for now, I am back to enjoying Linux 🙂

Adventures with an iPad 2

As a (pre) Christmas gift to myself I purchased an Apple iPad 2. For a while I had been trying to decide what to buy by comparing the iPad 2 with the current crop of Gingerbread / Honeycomb / ICS Android tablets. My research followed the normal paths and, as others have found, shows that both options will provide a tablet that will get the job done and the decision must be based on the different philosophies of the two platforms.

Apple iPad 2

  • Closed Apple ecosystem
  • Development tools cost money and only the Mac is supported
  • Many apps optimised for the “big screen”
  • Designed to “just work”

Android tablet

  • Open system
  • Free development tools that run on multiple platforms
  • Programmable on the device
  • Less tablet optimised apps
  • Very configurable

In the end my decision was made because I planned to used a tablet as a way to consume content and not create it. I have desktop, laptop and netbook machines to allow content creation in a much more comfortable environment than that provided by a tablet. At this time the quality of the apps on the iPad is higher than that on Android, particularly in respect of using the larger screen of a tablet. I am sure that this will change as ICS is deployed more widely but we will have to wait and see.

So, I now have a second iOS device to join my iPod touch. How has it been so far?

The iPad hardware is beautiful, there is no other way to put it. As well as the aesthetic qualities it is also built to last. I thought that I would miss the configurability and widgets of Android but so far I have not. The iOS launcher is a little dull but very functional; it gets you were you need to be, in an app and consuming content, with as little fuss as possible.

The main advantage of the iPad over my other devices is its “instant on” quality. When I need to look something up on the Internet it is now my first port of call. For heavy use of the Internet I will still use a PC but for reading news, social networking etc. the iPad is perfect.

Two new Android devices

This weekend I took possession of two new Android devices. The first is a Samsung Galaxy SII phone which I got as an upgrade to my old HTC Hero. The second is a Tabtech A816 tablet ordered from Amazon.

The phone is an amazing upgrade from the Hero! Mainly because of the screen and vastly increased speed and memory but also the Android jump from Eclair (2.1) to Gingerbread (2.3.3). The Super AMOLED plus screen appears huge after the Hero but I am sure that I will soon get used to it. The change from Sense to TouchWiz 4.means that it is taking some time get the home screens setup to my taste but I am almost there. Gingerbread is not greatly different from the older version of Android but appears to be a little better in almost every area.

The tablet appears, from research on the Internet, to actually be a HeroTab M816 and is one of the great number of “Generic” android devices coming over from China. The device is definitely “no frills” with a resistive touchscreen and hacked phone version of Gingerbread. However, despite this, it works fine, the screen response could be a lot better but it runs all of the Apps I have installed with no problems. I brought this to “dip my toe” into the tablet market as I was not sure that I would actually use a tablet and didn’t want to waste a lot of money! So far it is working well as a way to surf the net whilst watching TV.

Both devices will take some time to setup and get familiar with. However, I will have some fun going through the process!

Interactive Fiction

After writing a small adventure game in Python a while back I have decided to have a go at writing some more substantial interactive fiction. This time I will use a special purpose tool rather than a general purpose language.

I took a look at the tools currently available and have decided to give Inform 7 a go. This may seen a strange choice from a programming language geek, being a “natural language” system but, as they say, “a change is as good as a rest”!

I will write a short review of Inform once I get a chance to play with it.