eXtensions - Monday 20 April 2020


Monday Diversion: Counterfeits and Art; Finally Moving to Catalina - Positives and Problems

By Graham K. Rogers


Recently a Swiss camera company won a decision in the Chinese courts. Their high-end cameras had been counterfeited for years, but the courts gave ALPA the win for artistic reasons. A release of photo-editing software was a catalyst for finally updating to Catalina, although this was not without some problems.

Some people here may remember the dubious values of Phantip Plaza. It used to be one of the best sources for hardware including computers desks accessories cables and repairs. It was also a major center for pirate software. Although the police carried out rates from time to time, they were generally unsuccessful. I have an ethical problem with how things were back in the late 1980s and 1990s because although you could buy computers here, you could not buy software. I tried on several occasions to buy software from companies in other countries, but the moment I said I was in Thailand the deal was off.

Apart from Apple and Amiga, for ordinary folks it was impossible to buy an operating system, although corporations would generally able to do this. Some businesses, however, would buy computers without the operating system relying on the dealer to provide a free copy. I tried to buy computers, including legitimate versions of windows 3.1, for an office I was working at. I was told that this was to add 3000 baht to the cost of each computer and when I told my head of department, she was horrified and questioned this as disks only cost 15 baht.

That same department already had several Macintosh computers, bought at inflated prices, but were unwilling to shell out for the more widely used PCs with Windows. They switched over completely a year or so later. I was a user of MS-DOS at the time and attended the announcement of DOS 5.0 at the Hilton hotel in Wallace Road where we were all told that for 500 baht, our pirating sins would be forgiven. I went for that. I also bought DOS 6 when it was released, but my 386 computer died not long after and I was offered a Mac.

As well as pirated software, it was also possible sometimes to buy counterfeit hardware, and I remember fairly well the iPods that were on sale with odd capacities like 3 and 8 GB. They were branded Apple but they had been made in China. The Thai authorities did clear those out, but most companies have very little success with combating this type of product piracy in China.

This week it was reported, however, that a Swiss company has had a major copyright success over its cameras, with a decision in its favor for artistic reasons. Michael Zhang (Petapixel) writes that the court decided, these are "objects of applied art" that are worthy of protection. Zhang has a number of images that show the original and counterfeit versions.

A look at the ALPA site may show why they are worthy of protection. They have several cameras, all of which are beautifully made with the advantage that they can either be used with film or with digital output. They are not cheap. The site does not show prices, but a look on eBay has some items starting around 25,000 baht and rising to well over 150,000.

iPad Pro
iPad Pro - Image courtesy of Apple

I have made a number of comments over the last couple of years about the iPad Pro particularly as iOS and iPadOS has changed the way I use computers. I have been able to move most of my work over to the device, with an unexpected side benefit, that I am now able to mark up papers on the iPad and no longer need them to be printed out. Before I would use a pen and make suitable comments and suggestions: on grammar, spelling, word choice, clarity and readability.

It is a problem when people ask me to work on papers but I have to read sentences several times before I can understand them, or at least a close guess of what they intended. I decline to retype the content for them. For me that is an ethical problem and it is doing the work that they should be doing. Clearly some people do not check the work and rely on their first typing, which can often be wrong.

With the Apple Pencil I can now make my comments and suggestions directly onto a PDF, which I can then send back to them, in the hopes that they will take up the suggestions and improve the work. Experience has shown me however that when I am asked to check again, I have to highlight some of the same errors again: in one case recently, this happened 5 times.

I use the iPad Pro mainly for writing my own items, and for some photography. The suite of tools in Photos is fairly simple but there are one or two tricks regarding Perspective and Keystone that are not available in Photos on the Mac. Basic editing can be done in Photos on iOS and the iPad, although there are better tools for this on the Mac. Nevertheless I have several applications available to me which I make use of often. These include Darkroom which was recently updated, Pixelmator and Pixelmator Photo, Affinity Photo and several more.

Raw Power on the Mac
Raw Power on the Mac

This week a couple of writers online were rather excited by an update to Raw Photo. I had already downloaded the updates but had not checked them out. I have used this application in the past both on the Mac and iOS devices although I found the other applications I have more to my liking. This was particularly so on the Mac because of poor access to the Photos library, like several otherwise-excellent, high level photo editing applications. With the end of Aperture, and in the absence of anything else that was suitable, I learned to compromise with Photos, mainly because it is the one way I can synchronize images across all my devices.

There are shortcomings with the way Photos handles metadata (e.g. EXIF), editing tools are limited, although acceptable for basic tidying up; and it took me a while to organize albums to my liking. Some third party applications are accessible from within the Photos editing panel as on iOS Photos, although in some cases these are not the full application (Graphic Converter is a notable exception).

Raw Power The update to Raw Power is significant. Not only are there more features, but as Jeremy Gray on DPReview notes, "is the first, and currently only, third-party application to include full support for Apple Photos libraries on macOS and iOS". One of the features I noticed was that, like Pixelmator Photo, the toolbar can be positioned on left or right. This was a feature of Aperture that I sorely missed (being left-handed), but Raw Power also has some of the feel of Aperture to it, perhaps because one of the developers, Nik Bhatt, was in the Aperture team at Apple.

The app adds several features that had been in Aperture, but were not available in Photos, which was rather bare when first released. To be fair Photos has improved considerably, although with the latest iOS, the iOS/iPadOS versions do not match the Mac version: interface and tools. When necessary, I use 3rd party apps on each platform to make up

I tried Raw Power 3 out first on the older iPad I have and the wide range of tools put this near the top of my favorites list immediately, although there was some jerkiness using straighten and perspective sliders. There was no jerkiness when I tried this on the iPhone 11 a little later, although the size of the screen does set limitations. When the image is viewed in portrait mode tools are at the bottom of the screen. When landscape mode is used different information sets are available including metadata and the library. The user would need to become familiar with the different displays when using this app on the iPhone. It is however, like Darkroom, an extremely powerful editor for iPhone users, particularly if like me they work in Raw.

Raw Photo on iPad Pro
Raw Photo on iPad Pro - Albums

On the iPad Pro I found none of the jerkiness that I had experienced with my older iPad earlier but noticed a slight discrepancy with the file size. The raw files were shown as 45.4 MB, when I had thought these were around 96 MB. I checked the camera and that was OK and tried a number of shots, some of which I knew had not been edited, so there would have been no change to the file at all. It still showed 45.4 MB. I looked at one of those unedited images in Darkroom and saw the metadata gave me the correct 96 MB file size: on the Mac they ranged from 96 - 99.1M.

Raw Photo on iPad Pro
Raw Photo on iPad Pro - Editing

I will presume for the time being that there is some optimization as the image is brought in for editing, as a way to save resources. As finished files can either be saved to photos with the original can be overwritten if required, or to Files. This seems to be a fair economical way of working. Although it is not something I had particularly noticed before.

On the Mac it is somewhat different. I could see the new interface but when it came to photos access that was not available. I checked information, I looked at the Help files, and then I noticed an entry in the file menu. Photos access is only available to those with Catalina. This was the catalyst that finally pushed me into updating from 10.14.6 after all this time.

Downloading Catalina
Downloading Catalina

With isolation in full swing, I have been backing up and running check processes and decided to finally make the leap. This is the first time ever that I had not updated to a new version of MacOS (or OS X) since Jaguar was released. I bought the 10.2 disk for around 6,000 baht (we paid in those days) at Siam Discovery Center when the sales began at 6pm, then went home and updated the iMac before going to bed. I still have that iMac, although now it runs Panther. I will be writing more about the Catalina update (or my return to Mojave) soon, but to start with there were a couple of problems.

  • Although I had cleared out the 32-bit applications, one I had missed remained and I was warned of this, so deleted the application. I had not used it in a while, so have lost nothing really.

  • I was worried about updates from the App Store as my beta experience had not been good, and this is one of the reasons I went back to 10.14. An update was available in the App Store the morning after and that was installed with no problems.

  • As I had experienced before, I was asked to login to my iCloud account again, but had to do this several times before the warning would disappear. As part of the process I was also asked to type in my user account password (for access to Keychain) and mistyped this several times. That was eventually sorted.

  • There have been several articles written about Time Machine in Catalina and this is not working as I want at the moment. I tried two Time Machine disks and both reported that there were two disks with the name Macintosh HD - Data and that one should be renamed. I only see Macintosh HD and one with the name Macintosh HD - Data, but as this was not going to start a backup, I made a slight change to the disk name and that seemed to be accepted. Whether this causes problems down the line, is another matter.

The disk I tried first began with the usual warning of Preparing backup and then changed to "Backed up Zero KB - Freeing Space. . . " It stayed like that for a while so I left it overnight. It was the same in the morning. I had read that it might be necessary to start again with a backup disk. My next step was to reformat and start the Time Machine process again: that worked.

Backup on the Mac
Failing backup on Catalina

For the time being, I will keep the other disk with the Mojave backups, just in case, but I really do not want to go back if this can be avoided. Once the erase was done, I renamed the disk and set it up as a Time Machine Disk (again) starting from scratch. It has now backed up several times during the day. When I have a couple of days of backups, I will do the other disk.

As a note, Raw Power, which pushed me into this update is working exactly as I wanted, so there is a silver lining.

A comment from Oliver Haslam at Redmond Pie on the beta release of macOS 10.15.5 suggests that there will be a new charging feature for most Macs made after 2016 that manages the charging system. Batteries deteriorate over time: that is chemistry and physics. However it is known that those who keep a notebook computer plugged in all the time reduce the life of the battery. The device should be run down often and then charged, then the power cord should be pulled out. That may not always be possible, for example with overnight backups of large amounts of data ( and other reasons). Sometimes we just forget.

The idea behind the new feature is that it charges as normal except it stops before reaching maximum charge, although the user will see 100%. Back as far as the 17" MacBook Pro, Apple had introduced power management with its new flat battery designs. There is a useful video on that . Inevitably, if this extends battery life, users will not need to replace the battery which is more economical (although less income for Apple - peanuts anyway in the big scheme of things).

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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