Hardware Doesn’t Matter

Since the birth of my daughter 7 weeks ago I’ve had absolutely no opportunity to get out and use my camera. I’ve taken plenty of pictures of my beautiful girl, obviously, but they are private and will only be shared with my family.

I’ve missed taking pictures, and need an outlet. I’m far from being a good photographer, but as is the way with any hobby, you don’t have to be good at it to enjoy doing it. To this end I’ve been trying to at least take some photos, even if they are not with my real camera and I’ve been getting a lot of use out of my iPhone 5s recently. I love the camera on this device, and I think it can produce some impressive results..

Bicycles

One benefit, to me personally, is the option an iPhone provides for post-processing an image. My camera workflow involves taking the photo, uploading it to my iMac and Lightroom, editing and then finally sharing. With my iPhone I can load the image into Snapseed or, my personal favourite, VSCOCam and then edit and share it all on the same device, at the same time. There is a risk, however, in going either too far with the process, or editing just for the sake of editing, with no real understanding about what you’re doing.

Someone I met on Twitter recently, Conor McClure isn’t a big fan of mobile editing for this very reason. In a recent conversation with Conor he said:

Conor also wrote a very interesting article on the subject, which is well worth a read. When you consider how good Conor’s photography is, and how poor mine is, he may well have a point!

Covent Garden Market

As previously mentioned (once or twice, I know, but it bears mentioning), my photography skills leave a lot to be desired, so missing out opportunities to practice and improve need to be avoided. While photos from my iPhone wont be appearing in a Gallery any time soon, I see them as, at worse, an opportunity to improve my composition and ability to at least envision a great photo.

If you ask many photographers you’ll often hear the phase 'hardware doesn't matter' While there are, of course, limitations to lower end cameras and devices, this is fundamentally true. The act of physically taking and processing an image only tells half of the story. If your composition is not right, or at least considered, you wont get a good photo, regardless of the hardware you’re using.

If you take one thing away from taking the time out to read this article (thanks by the way, to anyone that has done so) let it be this: If you want to get into photography, but can’t afford an expensive camera, don’t let that stop you. An iPhone may not be any cheaper than a mid-range DSLR, but there are some very cheap point and shoot cameras available. These will be just as good as an SLR, if not better, when it comes to 'getting your eye in' and learning all about composition. It’s the biggest obstacle I face, so I never miss an opportunity to try and fine tune this.

A cheap point and shoot will give you the benefits of having something lightweight to keep with you at all times, and the absence of advanced settings found in higher end hardware will allow you to concentrate on capturing that perfect moment. Don’t miss out.

Things: Hyrule Historia

I’ve made it no secret that I have a bit of a Nintendo obsession, particularly for all things Zelda. The following image alone is enough to make me giddy with excitement:

ZeldaWiiU

The various games aside, there is one item that all true Zelda fans need in their lives, namely the Hyrule Historia!

Hyrule Historia

According to the blurb of the book, it offers: ' … an unparalleled collection of historical information on The Legend of Zelda franchise.' The official website for the book calls it: '… the Zelda bible', and it’s not wrong.

Hyrule Historia

The book is broken down into 4 sections, namely, “The First Story” or “The Legend Begins” which is an introduction to Skyward Sword and its world. this section is quite extensive. It’s a shame that Skyward Sword, a game that is arguably fairly weak among the series, is featured so heavily. The book was created to tie into this games release, however, so it makes complete sense.

Hyrule Historia

The next section is very interesting as it presents a (rather loose) complete history of Hyrule. It follows the order of events of the series chronologically.

Hyrule Historia

Next up we have “Creative Traces”, which holds a great amount of official and concept artwork along with various sketches.

Hyrule Historia

The tome is then closed out with a lovely, but short, Skyward Sword manga. The story was created by Akira Himekawa, the leading author in charge of creating the manga of the Zelda series.

If you call yourself a Zelda fan, and you don’t have this reasonably priced book, think again!

Hardware: Nintendo Gamecube

Gamecube

I’ve developed a bit of a Nintendo obsession over recent months, ever since picking up a Wii U which I absolutely adore.

I’ve decided to start a bit of a collection of older systems, seeing as there aren’t that many (I won’t be going for all of the handheld units). After the Wii U and Wii, I now managed to find this little beauty, a Gamecube, for just £10. It works perfect, and is in very decent condition.

The device itself is surprisingly attractive, and compact. You also can’t help to appreciate the charm of a console with a carry handle built into its design. You can say a lot about Nintendo, but you can’t say they don’t take risks or experiment with some interesting designs.

If anyone has a NES, SNES or N64 they want to donate to my cause! please get in touch!

A Photography Experiment

Since having our baby a few weeks ago, my wife and I have not had a lot of time to ourselves, so my photography has tajes a bit of a backseat, unless you count 100s of photos of my daughter.

Now I’m back at work I do get a chance to get out a little during my break. I work in Central London so there are quite a few photography spots available to me, as long as I can get to them within about 30 minutes.

Due to my lack of spare time, I’ve had to look at alternatives to my usual photography process of taking the photo, importing inti Lightroom on my iMac, editing and then outputting and sharing to various sites. I’ve started experimenting with a mobile only solution.

While not as powerful as Lightroom with access to the Nik Collection, there are some quite decent options for light editing on iOS devices, such as Snapseed or VSCOCam

While my experiment continues, I still prefer to edit pictures on my computer and really take my time with it. I can now save a little time, thanks to the Lightroom iOS app. I can import images directly from my camera to my iPad and then sync them to the desktop version of Lightroom for real editing later.

Either way, as long as I’m getting out there and improving my photography that’s the main thing.

The image above is the National Gallery in London.

It was taken with my Sony NEX-3, loaded onto my iPad and edited using VSCOCam, SnapSeed and then synced back to my iMac using Lightroom mobile.

Screened: Ronnie Lutes

Welcome to another edition of my Screened series. Next up we have Ronnie Lutes, one half of the Pocket Sized Podcast. Enjoy!

Let’s start with some basics. Can you tell the readers your name and a little about yourself?

My name is Ronnie Lutes and I have an iPhone homescreen addiction, it actually borders on psychosis. I am the very lucky husband of Shawna and the proud father of two. I’ve lived in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA long enough to be considered a local.

Before we get to your setup, what is your mobile OS of choice, and why?

I enjoy Apple products. I enjoy them because of their simplicity and because they “mostly” just work. I believe that Apple cares about security and privacy and they are implementing even more measures in iOS 8, this aligns closely with my own belief system. I also have a Mac and an Apple TV so I’m fairly deeply integrated into their ecosystem.

Which device will you be sharing today?

Today I will be sharing my daily driver, a silver iPhone 5s. It’s actually my only iOS device, our family has an iPad but I very rarely use it.

Here is the device in question:

homescreen

What is your primary use case for the device?

I use my iPhone to keep me organized at work. I manage 40+ people and I need to be able to quickly get things done. I’ve used most every to do/task management app available and if I wrote this next week I might have totally different apps on my homescreen but I always seem to come back to the system I’m showing you here.

What are your top 3 ‘most used’ or ‘must have’ apps for your device?

Wow! That’s a tough question because there are so many but I guess I’ll go with the following:

  1. Launch Center Pro by Contrast is probably my most used app and it actually hides some of my other most used apps in folders on my second screen. Launch Center Pro would be hard to explain in a short interview like this but if you’d like to know more you can go to Alex Guyot’s Unapologetic or Philip Gruneich’s Blog. We’ve also done a couple of Pocket Sized Podcasts about it, one with Alex Guyot: Episode 152 and one with Phoneboy: Episode 153.
  2. GoodTask by haha Interactive is what Apple’s Reminders.app should be. GoodTask could be considered a Reminders.app client like Tweetbot is a Twitter client. It has an x-callback URL used with Launch Center Pro which is a must for me and it also has a Mac app that is nice but not necessary. At this point (I’m sure this will change in iOS 8 and extensibility), Apple’s Reminders.app is the only task management app allowed to be on the Today tab of the Notification Center and since GoodTask utilizes reminders from Reminders.app, you can mark them complete directly from Notification Center. I have tried a lot of other task management systems but only Apple’s Reminders.app clients have this ability. It’s nice to be able to swipe down in your lockscreen and complete tasks without ever opening your phone, it certainly saves a lot of time.
  3. Fantastical by Flexibits, which you won’t see on my homescreen, would have to be my final choice. I actually use Planner Plus by Appxy to view my calendar but I use a Fantastical Launch Center Pro action to input calendar events. Fantastical has the best natural language input method I’ve found but I’ve never really been fond of it’s looks, hence Planner Plus on my homescreen. Planner Plus is more powerful than just a calendar viewer but I love it’s look so that’s what I use it for.

Have you found any ‘hidden gems’ in your App Store of choice many users may have missed?

1Writer by Ngoc Luu is an exceptional writing app, in fact, I’m using it to write this post. It has a fifth row keyboard with all the commonly used Markdown functions and has a nice URL scheme, which is integral to any app I use.

And finally, do you have any final words you’d like to share, or a website for people to find out more about you?

I’m an app minimalist, which means I keep very few apps on my iPhone at any one time, however I try tons of apps. I’m @ronnielutes on Twiiter and I co-host the aforementioned Pocket Sized Podcast with my good friends, Scott Willsey and Vic Hudson of App Story Podcast.

Choice

Author Stephen Covey once said:

There are three constants in life… change, choice and principles.

It is Stephens 2nd point I want to discuss today, namely choice. You’d think this statement would be pretty obvious to most people, if not all, but if you ever spent time on any social networks like Twitter or Google+ you’d think the principle of everyone having at least some form of choice was a complete fallacy.

The Android vs. iOS / Google vs. Apple debate has been raging on since the introduction of said OS’s, and it shows little sign of letting up. There are even people that make a living out of monetizing their far from unbiased views on the subject. Let’s take, for example, a post from Google+ personality Armando Ferreira.

The video from Mr Ferreira, which is of course monetized, promises to reveal the truth about the iPhone 5s after a whole week of use. What is this great truth that will soon be shared with the world? Will it be revealed that it was in fact an iPhone that took the shot from the Grassy Knoll in ‘63, or that Steve Jobs was at the wheel of the car when Diana passed (too soon?). No, it turns out the big reveal was, in fact, that Armando just doesn’t like the iPhone. Earth shattering stuff, I know. If you’re a glutton for punishment and read the rest of Armando’s posts you’ll see that about 90% of the posts from this Android user revolve around what Apple products can’t do, or how they are just down right terrible.

The issue isn’t isolated to this vocal individual however. A quick search across Google+ or Twitter will bring up many similar sentiments. This leads me, neatly, back to my original point about choice. The comments, aggression and annoyance from posters such as Armando are completely valid, if you don’t take into account the fact we all have a choice.

We all have a choice, within reason, of what job we decide to take to earn a living. In the same vein, we also have a choice about how we spend what’s left of that money once we’ve paid for our mortgage, bills and food. Those of us that are lucky enough to even have a few pounds left after all of the above has been taken care of then have the free will to choose any piece of technology that takes our fancy and, more importantly, fits the specific needs we have as users.

Something that also may shock many people that share Armando’s mindset is that this level of decision making even applies after you’ve decided on a device. There is a belief that, because you cannot run an app from the Google Play store on an iPhone or vice versa, you are some how locked in to that ecosystem until the end of time. This is simply not true. There is nothing stopping you from deciding that the iPhone 5s is the perfect phone for you and that your tablet needs are best served by a Nexus 10. Despite popular belief, the world will not end if you cross the streams.

The whole Product X vs. Product Y is likely as old as time itself and, as the excellent comic below from Scott Johnson shows, society always has, and always will, believe their views are so important the whole world needs to hear about them.

SharingIsCaring

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything wrong with people sharing their views and the pros and cons of different products. In fact, I think this is very important. A healthy and educated is the only way to ensure improvements and developments take place across a fast moving industry like technology, but profiteering and even belittling people for making choices in their lives, particularly choices that affect no one but the individual making them, is both petty and rather disturbing.

To put things into context a little, I have owned various Apple and Android devices including a Nexus 4, various iPhone’s and iPad’s and even 2 Nexus 7’s. I have made my choice of devices, but am open enough to change, should I decide to, when the right device comes along.

If you take anything from this article, should you have made it this far, let it be the appreciation that personal choice is one of the few things we have control over, and you should not let the forceful views of others take that away from you. Use and learn from others experiences, absolutely, but let the choice be your own and, ultimately, do what makes you happy.

Google Killed My Puppy!

If you have been anywhere near the internet recently you’d have thought that Google had been on a one-company mission to do a great deal of evil and malicious things to their entire userbase, hence the title above. Before I invite any legal action from Google I should just mention that Google did not, in fact, harm my puppy. Truth be told, I don’t even have a puppy, but when did the truth start getting in the way of sensationalist blog post titles?

After that, rather convoluted introduction, I should get to the point of this article, namely Google, their recent policy changes, and some very entitled users.

As of 11th November 2013, Google will start using your face in their advertisements across their various sites. This caused a flood of faux shock and 'click hunting' headlines from various news sources and blogs. The fact the option can easily be turned off is seemingly not important when a nice, dramatic headline can earn you a few clicks, and a few quid.

I’m a heavy internet user (as in I use the internet heavily, not that I’m heavy and use the internet, though that may also be true), so I’m not naive enough to not know that people like to just have a moan. I’m British for goodness sake, we practically live to moan. With this in mind I read a few comments, adjusted my settings and moved on. Besides, Google have been doing this for about 3 years now, by linking '+1s' across Google Search, YouTube and Google Play to name a few. This is just the logical next step. Regardless of what some blogs may be reporting, you will not see that photo of you in your mankini from Ibiza five years ago plastered on a 50ft billboard1 any time soon. Take a look in the mirror. I’d be willing to bet you don’t see David Beckham looking back at you.

It wasn’t until a recent conversation with David Chartier on Twitter that I got thinking about the reliance people seem to have on Google, and how, recently, concerns about supposed privacy online has led to a lot of frustration for some.

The conversation with David started as follows:

The whole conversation may be worth reading, if you’re interested. The rest of this post isn’t a stab at David, at all. I completely understand his reservations and concerns, but I don’t have to agree with them. I think a lot of these issues stem from a massive sense of entitlement people seem to have these days. Again, I should stress this isn’t directed at David, he was just the catalyst which got me thinking about this subject.

You Are Not A Customer

One of the arguments many people have is that Google’s approach to using it’s users data leads to a bad 'customer experience' or that not respecting users privacy was unacceptable. To this I say, "how much do you pay for using Google services?" The answer is nothing, in a monetary sense. In my humble opinion, if you’re not paying for a service you are not a customer. Google is, and always will be, a data company. It’s their business to collect, share and monetise data. You are not a customer to Google, you are a commodity. You pay for the use of all of Google’s services by providing them with a 'data currency'. Much like I cannot dictate to Apple what they spend the money I have given them for my iPhone on, I also cannot dictate where Google spends my 'data currency', or can I?

You have a choice

Something that amazes me is the moaning and raging that comes from Google users. Every single complaint would be completely well founded if not for one very important fact. We all have a choice.

While it may seem it to some, Gmail is not the only email service. In fact, shock horror, there are hundreds, possibly thousands of other options out there. Don’t like using Google Play? No problem, either use your basic, pre-loaded apps on your Android phone, use the Amazon store, or just get a Windows Phone or iPhone. You may have a challenge to find a decent alternative to YouTube but, guess what, you don’t need an account to view YouTube content and you, again, have plenty of options to share your video content elsewhere.

Don’t Share Anything Online You Wouldn’t Want Your Mum / Wife To See

My philosophy on sharing anything to the internet is, don’t share anything you wouldn’t want your mum to see. I would not post an image of my junk to Twitter or Google+. Not only because I’m not a fifteen year old sexual deviant, but because I would never be stupid enough to assume that anything I share, however supposedly secure, would ever be truly private. You should always assume anything you share will be publicly accessible to someone, somewhere. With this in mind, what is the worst these 'Oh no, Google don't respect my privacy' people think someone will find out about them. I think a lot of people are under the impression they are far more interesting than they actually are.

A final note I wanted to write, while I’m at it, is Google’s recent change to YouTube comments. If you missed this news, the company basically tied the commenting to a Google+ account, in an effort to address the scumbag troll community surrounding the site. This, as predicted, brought out the entitled muppets, such as this charming individual. PsychoSoprano indeed!

There seems to be some confusion, by some ill-informed individuals, about the nature of Google, Google+ and YouTube. The very simple story is, they are one and the same. There is nothing strange or malicious about a company unifying their services or requiring you to have an account with their service. You cannot use iMessage without having an Apple device. You cannot post onto Facebook without a Facebook account, and you can’t use any of Google’s services without a Google account. It’s as simple as that.

Something also worth noting that, the change also seems to be working. Don’t tell the trolls, however. They’d be ever so disappointed …

No one is sitting behind you, with a gun to your head, insisting you use Google services. You do have options so, if Google’s terms are not acceptable to you, do a little research and find alternatives. It really is as simple as that.


  1. Though if you happen to find an SD card full of pictures of a strikingly handsome Brit in a mankini, please get in touch. I’ve been looking for it everywhere ….  

Screened: Richard Heath

I’m finally back in the swing of posting to my blog, so I wanted to get this series up and running again. The individual I’ve interviewed this time around sent me this months ago, so apologies to Richard for the delay in actually using this! Without further ado, here it is.

Let’s start with some basics. Can you tell the readers your name and a little about yourself?

I’m Richard Heath. I live in the South West of the UK with a blogger / photographer wife and a couple of boys & dogs.

I’ve worked on the web for the past few years, in marketing in the automotive industry before that, and now I’m developing my own tea brand which should be launched soon once I stop obsessing about packaging design. It’s great fun, but fairly daunting.

Before we get to your setup, what is your mobile OS of choice, and why?

iOS – I’ve used a Mac for 10+ years and an iPhone since the 3G – I love Apple and I’m institutionalised at this point.

But I really like what they’ve done with Windows Phone and would buy a Lumia … if I needed a secondary phone.

I just don’t get Android from what I’ve seen of Samsung devices, I’m afraid.

Which device will you be sharing today?

iPhone 5S, 32GB, in white / silver with a red Apple leather case.

I could probably live with a 16GB 5C, but nowadays it’s only camera I use. Touch ID isn’t quite there yet, but you can see the potential.

The leather case is certainly premium, but makes the Sleep / Wake button hard to use (though you can take a knife to the back to loosen it up).

I splashed out on a couple of Elevation Docks for my desk and bedside table – great design, classy product, but pricey (I got one in their original Kickstarter and the other as a factory second).

And here is the screen in question:

What is your primary use case for the device?

Everything, really – it’s a huge part of my life, which is sad I suppose.

It’s my only phone for work and home so I have an unlimited minutes plan, but I don’t use much data as I rarely leave the house these days! With family & friends around the world, iMessage and FaceTime are indispensable (if not totally reliable).

It’s also my only camera since I fell out of love with “formal” photography. I lost interest a little on the iPhone too, and stopped using Instagram a year ago. But I’m ready to pick it back up again and interested to explore VSCO Cam.

It remains my main reading device since our (original) iPad mini is somewhere in the kids’ playroom, covered in sticky fingerprints, and stocked with Toca Boca games.

Reading these days is less books, more articles:

I’m fully-invested in renting my music from Spotify (I didn’t get on with Rdio). I still have an iTunes library preserved only in Match, but it hasn’t been opened for over a year. I sold my CDs (and DVDs) to go digital-only, but I still buy music I really love on vinyl (as hip as I get).

I use various apps to Get Things Done: Things mainly for work projects and Clear for specific errands on a given day, then iOS Reminders for timed or location-based tasks, generally input via Siri (which is all I really use it for).

Vesper for notes has so much potential once it syncs, especially to Mac. Soulver I can’t say enough good things about.

I have a set of Philips Hue bulbs in our bedroom – such luxury and total gimmick, but so great.

What are your top 3 ‘most used’ or ‘must have’ apps for your device?

  1. Tweetbot – I’ve followed Tapbots closely since their early days, and they’ve perfected their approach with Tweetbot 3: incredibly well thought-through with well-balanced visual design.

  2. Castro, or any premium podcast client – I listen to the usual suspects (ATP, The Talk Show, Radiolab, Nerdist) plus a few from BBC R4 (Desert Island Discs, The Film Programme, The Media Show). Interested to see how Marco Arment approaches the podcast client with Overcast.

  3. Mailbox – I actually moved to Google Apps for Mailbox because it fits perfectly with the way I work and definitely has the potential to solve the email problem if you use it properly. Can’t wait to see the Mac version.

Have you found any ‘hidden gems’ in your App Store of choice many users may have missed?

Velocity – A slick speed-reading app that integrates with read later services (Instapaper, Pocket) and shows one word at a time so you can read effectively at ~400 words per minute. Amazingly, it really works (but don’t use it before bed).

Blur – Makes nice gradient wallpapers from photos in your camera roll or Flickr that fit iOS 7 perfectly. My current wallpaper is a blurred screenshot of a Clear list which you can download if you like.

And finally, do you have any final words you’d like to share, or a website for people to find out more about you?

I have a website at Space36.com which I keep meaning to write on more – seems Twitter ate it, but I’ll take it back one day. In the mean time, you can follow me on Twitter @Space36. Cheers!