Playing around with Plotagraph Pro.

Plotagraph Pro is a new tool that adds movement to still images.

I love the art and process of still photography, but can’t deny that movement draws the eye and the ability to add movement to an image presents an exciting opportunity to add a new dimension to the still photographer’s toolkit.

I first heard about Plotagraph Pro from a tweet or newsletter by Trey Ratcliff (can’t remember which), and have seen a small number of other photographers posting images they have enhanced with the tool.

Plotagraph Pro is a web based tool that works on all modern web browsers1, thus making it a tool that works on both macOS and Windows. On the flip side, this means that you can only use the tool when online, something that the travelling photographer can’t always achieve.

So far I’ve played around with a couple of my images, and I am quite happy with the potential.

The above image (The Surface from Below) was a single RAW image created on my Nikon D200 during a trip to Papua New Guinea. It is thus not a new image. It took a bit of playing around to get just the surface water to move, but once I worked out how to achieve this, I think the result is quite good.

This image was created last year near the spectacular Mont Saint-Michel in France. This took a bit of work to get just the clouds to move, and while I like this image, I want to get a bit more smoothness in the cloud movement.

Plotagraph Pro is currently in beta, and I am certainly impressed with the quality of the output. I will look forward to seeing some fine tuning of the user interface to get to the end result.

Personally I am very interested to see how Plotagraph develops, and how it spurns a new generation of photo editing applications. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll stick with this tool in this incarnation – it is very expensive2 for a tool that effectively performs one trick, especially when it is a trick that you might use on a small percentage of your images.

Trey Ratcliff has posted a good tutorial about using Plotagraph on his YouTube channel.

As an aside this is the first post I’ve made using Ulysses posting directly to my WordPress site. I’ve used Byword in the past, but there is a lot to love about Ulysses.

  1. I have found that Plotagraph Pro works much better in Chrome than in Safari.
  2. US$299 as a special offer for the beta program. For us in Australia this means software that costs over $400.

Thoughts on Evolving to an iPad Only Future

I’ve discussed previously about how more and more people are going iPad only, or at least iPad Primary. People like Federico Viticci have famously gone iPad only, and educator Fraser Spiers wonders if a MacBook Pro can substitute for an iPad Pro.

More and more people are sharing their adventures and epiphanies in going iPad Only, or iPad Primary, and I thought I might share some links to some of those stories…

Drew Coffman discusses his thoughts on Living With the iPad Pro. Clearly Drew has found that the iPad Pro is the ideal computing device for his current needs:

The thing that excites me more than anything is that the iPad Pro is such a young platform. Even with its flaws, I’m still enjoying it more than any other computer I’ve ever used. There’s plenty of room for the iPad (and iOS in general) to grow—but I’m no longer using today’s technology while dreaming of tomorrow’s. I’m more than happy with what exists in the present.

Meanwhile, Khoi Vinh comes to the conclusion that he isDone with MacBooks, though not with Macs:

But now, in contrast to my iPad, my laptop seems altogether much more cumbersome than I prefer to deal with. It’s much, much heavier and bulkier than my iPad, especially when you factor in its power supply and a carrying case.

He is speaking as a designer who relies on the powerful features available in macOS, yet his conclusion is that the best place for the high-end desktop OS is on his desktop, where he can have a high-end computer…

When I think about where I’m most productive with OS X, it’s always at my desk, where I have a huge monitor.

This makes a lot of sense. No matter how good a notebook computer is, a desktop running the same OS is always going to be more powerful and more flexible.

Ben Brooks is another who has a clear view on Why iOS is Compelling

iOS is my everything place now. It’s not only always with me, but it’s always in sync with itself. What’s on my iPad is on my iPhone

Justin Blanton made a prediction on Twitter in 2011 that looks like it might be closer to the truth than fantasy…

In a recent post Justin provides an update on the evolution to iPhone-only

nearly all of my professional (and personal) consumption can be done enjoyably from my iPhone or iPad; and almost all of my professional output is channeled through either email or Messenger, also easily handled by my iOS devices.

Clearly he broadened his thinking to include tablet devices, but he is actually upping the game on his prediction – he now thinks that iPhone 8 will be the tipping point. I like that he talks about the ‘enjoyability’ factor of using an iPhone or iPad.

###Conclusion

Some of these above are going iPad Only, others are going iPad Primary (especially when mobile), and others are even moving to iPhone centric. The future of on-the-go computing is clearly going to be centred on nimble, portable devices like tablets and smartphones.

Notebook and laptop computers are far from dead, but the real place where a desktop OS like OSX or Windows delivers the greatest power will be on the desktop.

Fraser Spiers Asks If The MacBook Pro Can Substitute For An IPad Pro

Fraser Speirs (@fraserspeirs) asks the question Can the MacBook Pro Replace Your iPad?. In this article, Speirs focuses on the strengths of the iPad Pro, and then compares how the MacBook Pro meaures up. Some of his key points are interesting.

On the form factor…

The fact that the keyboard and screen are limited to being held in an L-shaped configuration seriously limits its flexibility.

Discussing input…

The MacBook Pro continues to be hobbled by its lack of touch input.

Considering battery life…

Despite their far greater size, and consequently weight, there is no MacBook Pro model that gets better battery life than the iPad Pro.

And on the topic of connectivity…

If you are a road warrior, the MacBook’s total lack of cellular connectivity options would be a serious hinderance to a cloud-based storage lifestyle in any case.

MacSparky on iCloud Drive Sync Improvements

MacSparky discusses the recent improvements in iCloud Drive sync

The reason I’ve been so critical of iCloud lately is because I haven’t dismissed it.

This is in line with my thinking – I have expectations that iCloud can be a real enabler. But it is true to say that Apple has had an extremely ‘two steps forward, 1.8 steps backwards’ approach to its cloud based offerings.

I think we all need to be critical when Apple makes mistakes. They not always (even ever) publicly acknowledge their mistakes or the criticism, but their (recent) track records indicates that they do listen and act.

IT ‘experts’ and Mac Biases

David Sparks discusses anti-Mac prejudices he has experienced when presenting at various functions.

Many (but hardly all) of the IT professionals serving these industries have been far too busy earning Microsoft certifications to pay any attention to Apple and they are not only unhelpful, they can actively lob hand grenades at your attempts to get any work done with your Mac.

I have a number of friends and colleagues who work as IT professionals who, seemingly, have similar anti-Mac biases.

Macsparky is on the money with the idea that Microsoft Certifications, at least in part, at the core of the problem. Microsoft has done a good job convincing employers that they should hire people with these skills, and thus lots of IT specialists chase those certifications.

In my own pre-Mac days I undoubtedly had similar biases. But it is certainly my own experience in the past six years of Mac usage that plug and play functionality is stronger in Macs than in Windows machines.

I personally try not to present if I am forced to use a Windows machine.

Putting the recipient last… With Let.ter

Email is one of the most important ways people communicate in the contemporary world, yet it is one that is often frought with problems, most of which seem to stem from a lack of attention to detail before hitting the send button.

Over at MacDrifter, Gabe Weatherhead discusses a simple concept:

The last thing you write is the recipient address

Gabe discusses writing using non-email apps like Drafts on iOS and nvAlt on OSX.

I also use Drafts to prepare up new emails on iOS (both iPhone and iPad), but have found what I think is an ideal for preparing new emails on the Mac – the wonderful Let.ter app.

Let.ter starts with a simple blank screen, with four easy steps.

  1. Enter a subject
  2. Write the body in plain text / Markdown
  3. Enter the recipient(s) email address(es)
  4. Preview and then send

In both Let.ter and Drafts I extensively use TextExpander so they are both powerful yet simple apps for sending email.

I think that the utility behind Let.ter is that it is truly minimalist, and that it allows the use of Markdown. But since reading Gabe’s post, I am also thinking that leaving the recipient address until last before previewing is part of what makes the app useful.

My Feed Wrangler 12 Month Anniversary

I can’t believe it has been a year that I’ve been using Feed Wrangler.

Feed Wrangler

Which means it has also been a year since Google Reader was shut down.

My use of RSS (Web feeds) has not diminished in the past 12 months—if anything it has increased, and continues to be an incredibly important part of my daily workflow.

I use Feed Wrangler as a back end sync service, and don’t actually use their website very often, and don’t even have their iOS apps installed.

Feed Wrangler is a great sync service, and I love that I can pick the apps that best suit me at the front end[1]:

I’ve tried others, including Reeder on OSX, which is good but I like that ReadKit also serves my Pocket and Pinboard needs. Similarly I’ve played with Unread on iPhone, but keep coming back to Reeder.


  1. Affiliate links. Thanks in advance 😉  ↩

Pro Apps at tomorrow’s Apple event?

There is as expected a lot of noise going around about tomorrow’s Apple event.

Of course there will be new a new iPad – probably both a full size and an iPad mini with Retina. Theres likely to be new MacBooks and I think the long awaited MacPro is bound to get a mention.

OSX Mavericks will also be released.

Personally I am also interested in the app side of things. Updates to iWork for Mac are long overdue and much needed. Rumours have been circulating regarding iLife apps – particularly GarageBand.

But how about Pro apps. You know, to go with the new MacPro and the (new) MacBook Pro models…

I think we’re likely to see a new release of Aperture [1] and perhaps some surprises.


  1. Affiliate link. Thanks in advance  ↩

ReadKit 2.3 Launches with Streamlined Sharing and a Snazzy New Icon

ReadKit [1] has become my favourite desktop app for reading my RSS feeds, and reading and managing articles I save for later reading and/or sharing. ReadKit sports a clean, intuitive user experience, and supports a wide range of feed, read-later and sharing services, including Feed Wrangler, Fever, Feedbin, Feedly, NewsBlur, Pocket, Instapaper, Readability, Pinboard and Delicious.

I first started using ReadKit as a clean desktop app for both Instapaper and Fever. In the case of the latter, it was an interim solution until the long-awaited Reeder for OSX update which promises to support Fever and more.

Today the Webin team have released version 2.3, and along with a snappy new icon, it now supports a feature that I’ve long wanted – a one click ability to move an item from a web feed (such as Feed Wrangler or Fever) to a bookmarking service such as Pinboard or Delicious.

In fact, I requested this very feature via an App.net conversation with the ReadKit team back in May, with the following post

@readkit In v2 beta, is it (or would it be) possible to have a single click to create a bookmark from a Fever post, bringing up the dialogue box to save to Pocket/Instapaper/Pinboard, etc? Thanks!

Within minutes, they came back with this reply:

@desparoz you can drag the posts between accounts. Just drop it on the unread folder of the read later/bookmark service.

My reply indicated I was aware of this, but outlined why I still wanted a one-click process:

@readkit I realise that, but then I have to go to extra steps to bring up the box to type in description, etc. I use IFTTT to pull from Pinboard to App.net & Twitter. So it adds steps to my workflow.

I loved their response:

@desparoz I see. We’ll solve it soon 😉

This is a great example of a developer paying attention to the needs and wants of its customers. I’m hardly the most prolific of bloggers [2] and this simple automation allows me to the quickly share some posts I’ve found to be important and/or interesting.

The ReadKit team has put a lot of thought into my this process as simple as possible. Clicking on the share buttom brings up a list of choices that now includes Pinboard and Delicious. Selecting Pinboard (in my case) brings up a dialogue box with options to edit the title, tags and description. The title and description information defaults from the article being saved.

Simple Pinboard sharing with ReadKit

So far this works brilliantly. The only feature request I can see to date is to have an option for selecting whether a post should be private or shared from the dialogue box.

I now use Pocket instead of Instapaper, and Feed Wrangler instead of Fever. Even though Pocket has a beautiful OSX app, the simple integration of these services, and Pinboard, makes ReadKit an absolute winner. I’m no longer waiting for an update to Reeder for OSX [3].

If you’re using an RSS service, read-later and/or bookmarking services and you’re a Mac user I strongly suggest you give ReadKit a try.


  1. Affiliate link. Thanks in advance!  ↩

  2. I do try to be more regular, but there is a lot of good stuff going on in my world at the moment. So I’ve had focus my limited time and attention.  ↩

  3. I love Reeder for iPhone. On the iPad, I prefer Mr Reader. These and ReadKit on OSX allow me similar workflows to quickly share items using Pinboard with an IFTTT recipe to share to App.net, Twitter and LinkedIn.  ↩

A New Dawn for RSS

It’s morning here in Sydney, Australia on the 1st of July 2013. In a few hours time, Google Reader will be no longer.

As an RSS power user for many years, Google’s evolution from embracing to dominating then ignoring and finally abandoning the RSS market has been astonishing. I first started using RSS well before the advent of Google Reader, initially with web based tools then Google Reader through the browser and most recently to Google Reader as a backend to tools like Mr Reader (for iPad), Reeder (for iPhone, iPad and OSX) and others.

Like most people, I was disappointed but not entirely surprised when Google abandoned Googe Reader, but I have cometo the opinion that this move might well be a good thing for the future of web feeds, and might have interesting and positive benefits for personal privacy issues.

For web feeds, once Google dominated the RSS market, in many ways it stopped innovating and there was little effort to build further on top of the nascent capabilies in RSS. The barriers to entry for others to get in were high – Google held near 100% market share, and provided a free offering. For its own part, Google had few options to monetise a free offering, especially when many users (myself included) simply used it as a backend to smart phone, tablet and computer based apps.

So advertising revenue (Google’s primary income source) was limited. I can only assume that Google could not find a way to extract value from knowing what information sources its users were subscribing to, reading and clicking through on.

On the personal privacy side, I am a great believer that we, individual users, need to be more responsible when it comes to how we share our information. I think it’s responsible to not put all our eggs in one basket (be it Google, Facebook, Apple or any organisation), especially when dealing with free products. With such free products, we are not the customer, but the information we provide and generate is the product the company sells to its actual customer – the advertiser.

So I now spread out my digital footprint across multiple services, and I favour those that charge a realistic and fair price, and who have a good privacy policy. This may cost a little more in subscription fees, but it means no one company has a complete picture.

So what do I use now?

I have two back ends that now work with an identical set of front end apps.

For the back end providers, I user the cloud based service Feedbin and a self-hosted Fever installation. Overall, I like the idea of the self-hosted service, and the developer has done much to create something unique. But, Fever is low on his list of priorities, and I am not confident there will be regular, continued development of new functionality. Already, the app API does not support subscription management, something I consider important.

So Feedbin is my primary RSS management system, and for $2 per month ($24 per year) it meets my needs nicely. It works well (especially since an infrastructure upgrade last week), and has a nice web interface supported by an API that has a good legion of apps.

At this point, my primary tools for accessing my Feedbin feeds are Mr Reader on the iPad and Readkit on OSX, supported by Reeder on iPhone when I am out and about. These apps all support both Fever and Feedbin, giving me a consistent user experience (in so far as this is supported by the API).

I really like fact that there is serious competition in the RSS marketplace now. I am keeping an eye on services like those offered by (or soon to be offered by) companies like Feed Wrangler, Digg, News Blur and others. Whilst my platform of Feedbin/Fever and Mr Reader/Reeder/ReadKit support my needs well now, I will be keeping a close eye on further developments and evolutions, and am excited by the future of RSS.