Let me give it to you straight: Photoshop for iPad isn't great. Over the past year, creatives who rely on their iPadOS tablet to take care of photographic business have been promised the moon by Adobe. Instead, we got handfuls of green cheese. It was supposed to have the all of the power and capabilities of the desktop version of the app at launch. Nope: I, along with what I am sure are many others, was disappointed to find that the company that pretty much wrote the book on computer-aided image editing had released an app that was easily outclassed by apps like Affinity Photo and Pixelmator, the latter of which has been around since 2014. Happily, Adobe took a baby step towards climbing to the top of the mobile photo editing dog pile by adding a feature to Photoshop for iPad that should have been there since day one: the Subject Select tool.
From The Verge:
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This addition marks the first real improvement to Photoshop for iPad since it was released last month to disappointing reviews. The tool should go a long way toward quelling one of the biggest criticisms of the v1 version of the app, which was the lack of a Magic Wand tool.
Aside from Select Subject, Photoshop for iPad is also getting some UI improvements and speed improvements for its Cloud documents. Cloud PSDs, which were introduced with the app and allow users to access their Photoshop files from any device, will now upload and download up to 90 percent faster.
It's no secret that Jason Weisberger and I have little love for the Freewrite. While it allows for distraction-free writing, it's design, build quality and software limitations make it a pain in the ass to use. Having found that the device just isn't for me, the last several years have seen me hunting for a highly portable distraction-free writing device that I can use when I'm not plugging away at my day job. The ability to constantly check in on Twitter, look at what's new on Flickr and look up random, interesting but in the end, useless facts sucks the marrow out of my creativity and robs me of the small amount of personal writing time I have at my disposal. Happily, I finally found the tool I've been longing for: the KingJim Pomera DM30.
I imported mine from Japan (although you can sometimes find it on Amazon) after doing scads of research on the thing. It weighs less than a laptop and most tablets and when not in use can be folded up to around the size of a paperback novel.
When you're ready to write, simply flip up its E-Ink display (which also turns boots the DM30 up in under two seconds,) unfold its near full-sized keyboard and you're good to go. The DM30 boasts a Japanese keyboard layout which, at first, is a little vexing. Keys that North American Qwerty keyboard users have come to expect are not always where you'd assume them to be. To type an apostrophe, for example, its necessary to hit Shift and the number seven. Read the rest
I love Adobe's Lightroom app. It makes editing my photos, one at a time or a bunch all at once a pleasure. I use it to catalog my photos, too: Apple's Photos apps on Mac OS and iPadOS just don't do it for me. That said, I loath the number of hoops I have to jump through any time I want to import RAW photos from my camera into the iOS or iPadOS version of the app. Yeah, there's a Siri Shortcut to give shutterbugs a hand. But I don't use Siri. Happily, earlier today, I discovered that the two hundred and eleventy steps required to import photos into the app from my much-loved Sony RX100 III will soon become a whole lot more reasonable.
Next to Scrivener releasing an iOS version of its spectacular writing app for iOS a few years back, the possibility of easily importing RAW images to Lightroom without having to deal with any bullshit is one of my favorite developments to come to the iPad since I bought my first one back in 2010.
Image via Séamus Bellamy Read the rest
As populism and a tilt to the political right has prompted many nations to question once welcoming immigration and refugee policies and embrace xenophobia, a nation with a centuries long reputation for insularity has decided to move in the other direction. With its rapidly aging population and an underwhelming birthrate, Japan is opening its doors to large-scale immigration.
From The New York Times:
Under a bill approved by Parliament’s upper house in the early-morning hours, more than a quarter-million visas of five-year duration will be granted to unskilled guest laborers for the first time, starting in 2019.
Under the new measure, between 260,000 and 345,000 five-year visas will be made available for workers in 14 sectors suffering severe labor shortages, including caregiving, construction, agriculture and shipbuilding.
The measure also creates a separate visa category for high-skilled workers, who will be allowed to stay for unlimited periods and enjoy greater benefits, including permission to bring their families to Japan.
As The New York Times points out, over the next 25 years, Japan's population is set to shrink by 16 million people, or 13 percent. During the same period, the number of old folks in Japan will increase to make up 1/3 of the population. This leaves an incredible vacuum of caregivers, laborers and other positions that must be filled.
Not everyone is thrilled with the country's fresh, welcoming approach to immigration. But their feelings on the matter are moot: unless the Japanese start having a shitload of babies, which they're not, the nation will be in a serious bind when the bulk of their current population becomes too old to be able to keep the nation's infrastructure and businesses humming along efficiently. Read the rest
I wish I could wear running shoes, but I shouldn't. When I was a teenager, I tore all of the ligaments in my right ankle. Six weeks of physiotherapy and now, close to 20 years later, I'm still walking around on wobbly scar tissue. My ankle loves to roll out from under me, for any excuse at all. So, for extra support while I'm out strutting around, I wear combat boots. They tend to last longer than comparably priced hiking books and, depending on the boot, can be gussied up for special occasions. The downside to wearing combat boots is that even the lightest among them can still be pretty heavy.
Enter GORUCK's MACV-1. They call it a "Jungle Rucking Boot," but it's not at all dissimilar to the lightweight duty boots from companies like Magnum or 511 Tactical that I used to wear to work. Available in black or coyote brown, they ride just above the ankle and, at 14 ounces each, are one of the lightest pairs of boots I've ever lashed to my footies. Despite their light weight, they seem, so far, to be well made. The majority of the boot is made using full grain leather, which comes out of the box already holding a shine. It didn't take me long to wear the shine down to nothing, but it's the thought that counts.
The rest of the MACV-1 is comprised of 1000D Cordura and, for extra ankle support, a strip of 2" nylon webbing that runs down the back and side of each boot. Read the rest
I dig Moment's high quality smartphone camera lenses for the convenience that they offer. I don't always have my Sony RX100 III on me. It often isn't even charged and ready to use. But where ever I roam, I typically have my smartphone with me: thanks to Moment's lenses, I'm able to up my iPhone's photographic game to almost reach the heights that my pocket-sized Sony shooter affords. What's more, the money I've spent on their glass feels like a good investment. Should I ever pull together enough scratch to upgrade to a new iPhone, all I'll have to do in order to use the lenses I own is buy a new case for it. Currently, Moment makes cases for Apple, Samsung, and Google hardware and, as of earlier this week, OnePlus.
The one Moment lens that I used more than any other was their 60mm tele lens. It provided 2x optical zoom over what my old iPhone SE could manage on its own. My dual lens iPhone 7 Plus? Same thing, only better: when paired with the iPhone's native optical zoom, you wound up with 4x optical magnification. A couple of years ago, it allowed me to shoot this:
Not bad! But here's the thing: when you use the 60mm with a dual lens camera phone, like the iPhone X, which typically has a wider field of view, the images captured aren't as crisp at the edges as they are in the center. With the photo above, I was able to crop and correct for some of this in Lightroom, but it's a pain in the ass. Read the rest
A couple of years ago, I was asked if I'd like to review the reMarkable tablet. If you're unfamiliar with it, the reMarkable is an E Ink slate and pen solution that provides a digital note taking and sketching solution that feels eerily close to writing on paper. I was excited to take it for a spin: despite the fact that I type for a living, my note taking and a good chunk of my writing is decidedly old school.
So far, I've had no luck in finding any hardware solution that serves me better than a piece of paper and a fountain pen can. Unfortunately, at its release, the reMarkable wasn't all that remarkable. While the latency of the tablet's E Ink display and pen were close to non-existent, the rest of its software felt under baked. The UI was far from intuitive. It functioned as an e-reader, but only barely. While you could export what you'd written to a smartphone or computer, there was no way to edit the text once it was there. It felt like a slog to use. I asked a colleague in Canada if he'd like to give it a try. I mailed it out to him and, a few weeks later, it came back to me, marked not "deliverable." I didn't have time to ship it out again as I was preparing to spend several months on the road. I threw it into the back of my workspace's storage cupboard. It lurked there until today. Read the rest
We left Claresholm after eating a continental breakfast of terrible coffee and decent muffins. The hotel’s owner chatted lazily with us as we noshed. He had been a manager of Woolworth's department stores, from Toronto, Ontario to Terrence, British Columbia. He served the chain loyally for decades of his life, never questioning when they sent him north, east or west. They fired him after 27 years of service. He’d become redundant.
I told him that I remembered eating grilled cheese sandwiches at the Woolworth’s lunch counter where I grew up. There was pride in his voice as he told me that, before McDonald's came along, the department store’s lunch counters were the biggest restaurant chain in the world.
The sun was high for it being so early in the day. We heated the RV’s engine for a half hour before wheeling south.
It’s a strange time to write for a living. Where normally I expect to raise an eyebrow when I tell folks what I do, my vocation of late has roused opinions and suspicions. I wasn’t sure if I would stand up to questioning at the border. I needn’t have worried: the border guard was more concerned about where we were going, how long we’d be there and whether we had any contraband onboard. In her rear view mirror, my wife saw our border guard staggering through a pee-pee dance from her booth to the border patrol facility a few feet away as we drove off.
The mountains are different here than they are in Alberta. Read the rest
I've always felt a spiritual connection with grizzly bears. They're slow, chunky and have an overwhelming affection for peanut butter--just like I do. From time to time, I'm fortunate enough to spot one, or at least the signs of one's passing, while we're in Alberta. But, as they generally don't want anything to do with people, being able to spend a prolonged amount of time with one is an incredible treat.
It's a treat that I had the opportunity to partake in earlier today.
Around 30 minutes outside of Bozeman, Montana, we saw the first sign for it: Montana Grizzly Encounter. I wasn't into it at first: captive bears aren't cool. I checked out their website as we drove. Rescue bears. Rescue bears are very cool. Five minutes later we were pulling into the Montana Grizzly Encounter. Sixteen bucks for two adults and a score of steps later, we were in.
MGE was founded in 2004 and has been giving homes to bears rescued from cruel captivity ever since. Five of the six bears that MGE shelters were rescued from inhumane situations from all across the United States. Their sixth bear, Bella, was an orphan discovered in Alaska. On her own, she wouldn't have stood a chance. At the sanctuary, she's living the best life that she possibly can. You won't find any bars or cages at MGE. The bears have a temperature controlled enclosure that they can enter or exit as they please. There's a large area for the bears to do bear things in outside of the public eye. Read the rest
Blizzard games have staying power. They're incredibly well crafted and designed to run on a wide spectrum of Windows PCs and Macs, both low powered and high. New content? They're all over it. I can't think of a single one of their titles that hasn't received multiple updates, oft-times for free, in the past decade.
I played Diablo III on my Mac. When it came out for PS3, I played it there, too. It's a game that I return to time and time again, not because it is particularly challenging, but because of the grind: there's always something new to find--a new piece of gear that'll give the character that you're playing a slightly different way to play. So, when I tell you that Diablo III Eternal Collection for Nintendo Switch is pretty much the same deal as Diablo III played on any platform, you'll understand that what I actually mean is that it's great.
I've always preferred playing Diablo III with a game controller over a mouse and keyboard. I like that a wee flick of the right thumbstick will send my hero rolling out of the way of danger. This was one of the first things I tested when I loaded up the copy of the game that Blizzard sent to me last week. The thumb-flick works with the Switch. The rest of the game's controls are similar to what I remember from my PS3 as well. You can't remap your controller's buttons, but your powers and attacks are laid out well enough in the game that it's not a hassle to use them, arbitrary or not. Read the rest
When I need to futz with an Android device, OnePlus is the company that I typically turn to. For the money, you won't find a more capable handset in North America. The OnePlus 6, thanks largely to its zippy performance and Android Oreo's being a joy to use, was the first Android device I was able to live with as my daily driver. The OnePlus 6T is, with the exception of a few minor tweaks, very much the same handset as its predecessor. I'm very OK with this.
Under the hood, there's not much to see: OnePlus has used the same Snapdragon 845 processor. The version of the 6T that I took for a spin comes packing 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It's a speedy-feeling set of specs that served me well with the OnePlus 6 and now, the 6T. Apps, fly open, I've yet to see any interface lag and I've no complaints about how quickly either smartphone does anything.
With the OnePlus 6T, users get a 3,700mAh battery. Given that I've grown accustomed to the low level of battery that my aging iPhone 7 Plus leaves me with at the end of the day, I was pretty pleased with how much juice was still left in the 6T when I set it down for the night. While it might not come with wireless charging baked into it, the OnePlus 6T's Dash quick charging technology more than made up for its absence. I'll take a rapid charge over the simplicity of not having to plug a cord into my hardware any day. Read the rest
16 October, 2018
My wife drops me at the airport in Calgary. I'm traveling to Chicago. A fancy audio hardware company called Shure invited me to the city to check out some of the new tech that they'll be releasing in the coming months.
I pass through security with no issues. As I lace on my boots, I am certain that I have my passport. It is in my hand as I board my flight. I place my passport in a buttoned pocket in my jacket before sitting down on the plane. Standing up at the end of my flight, my passport is still there. Upon landing, I pay it no further mind. I'm on the hunt for a cab ride into Chicago's downtown core.
"They say they don't have any money but Jesus: lookit alla this construction," my cab driver says to me. "It's alla the time." I tell him that we have construction season in Calgary, too. But yeah, the traffic headed into the downtown is weaponized bullshit. My smartphone says that the trip should take 35 minutes. Curb to curb, it is a 90-minute ride.
I pay the driver his due and step out of his hack.
In the hotel's front door to the hotel's front desk. I have my luggage. I have a reservation. I have a credit card for incidentals.
I do not have a passport.
I don't have a driver's license, either. I haven't had one for years: my PTSD makes my being behind the wheel a bad idea. Read the rest
I destroy Apple Watches. It's not intentional. It just kinda happens. The first Apple Watch was a Series 1 piece of wrist candy. I loved how it kept reminders for me to take my medication, pay my bills, and all of the other things that my PTSD-addled brain refuses to keep track of on my wrist. I hated how slow it was to respond to requests and that it wasn't possible to hide apps that I never used from its interface. It died in a torrential downpour.
Same thing for my second Apple watch. It was a Series 2. While it was a little bit faster and the OS was a tiny bit more agreeable, it was unable to avoid being smashed by a passerby at a street market in Costa Rica. From the impact, it looked like it had met with a single, focused impact, like the tip of a knife or another object that wouldn't be agreeable to have in my body. I'm sure that it's over reacting to say that my Apple Watch saved my life, but I think about this often.
I am not made of money. I cannot afford to buy watch after watch (although that's kind of what I've ended up doing). Smartwatches provide me with a level of utility that makes my life a lot more manageable. It took some time, but I came to the conclusion that the best smartwatch for me was one that I could not kill.
Enter the Garmin Tactix. Read the rest
I've been playing Civilization, in one form or another, since the mid-1990s. I love the depth of the game and the multitude of ways that it can be played. Read the rest
I pay for a monthly subscription to Adobe's suite of photo editing apps. They streamline my workflow on my Mac, iPad and iPhone. What's more, they allow me to make my mediocre photos almost look like they were taken by someone who knows what they're doing. I'll be the first to admit, however, that subscription-based software is bullshit. Yes, you'll always have access to the latest updates that the application developers have to offer, but for all of the money you're paying over the course of months, or even years, you never end up with a product that you can say you own. Stop paying that monthly fee and you're left with bupkis. I don't much care for how that feels. I'm also not crazy about how much horsepower Adobe's software needs to perform well. Photoshop and Lightroom work great on my 2015 MacBook Pro. The same goes for Adobe's mobile apps on my iOS devices and Android smartphones. Unfortunately, the pixels flow like mud if I attempt to do any image editing in Lightroom on my Microsoft Surface Go. It's just not powerful enough. Happily, I discovered Affinty Photo a few years ago. It's a low cost Photoshop alternative for iOS, Mac OS and Windows that, for many image editing tasks, is just powerful enough to get shit done.
On my low-powered Surface Go, Affinty loads in half the time that Photoshop does, allowing me to get in and out of working on a photo quickly before uploading it to go along with a story. Read the rest