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Jan 152019
 

Now that the click-bait is out of the way, vi movement keys are perfectly reasonable particularly to those who have been using them for decades (which includes me). But for ages, vi itself has supported the arrow keys for movement as well as the tradition cursor movement keys.

For the benefit of those who have not used vi and are wondering what those traditional cursor movement keys are, they are H (left), J (down), K (up), L (right). A bit like the gamer’s set of movement keys – W, A, S, and D, except that the vi movement keys pre-date arrow keys.

There are those who will claim that the traditional movement keys are more efficient as they require less hand movement. And they are. So it is perfectly understandable that many tiling window managers and other keyboard-centric software uses these movement keys.

But someone who hasn’t spend decades hard-wiring the vi movement keys into their brain, will find vi-style key bindings inscrutable. And the fix? Just use the arrow keys as well.

There is no harm in having two key sequences do the same thing; no harm in emphasising that the arrow keys work too. And indeed no harm encouraging the use of vi-style movement keys by emphasising their efficiency.

Don’t forget that someone learning a new tiling window manager (or most other things) can be put off by the silliest of things – such as inscrutable control keys.

Rusty Handrail
Jan 052019
 

Well mine does (which I would recommend, but I’ve no idea what it is), but I don’t know about yours.

Send me it with some cash in it, and I’ll take a gander.

But …

Just how practical is RFID or NFC scanning anyway? The scaremongers would claim that there are people out there, slapping payment terminals to your bum and siphoning off your bank account.

I know from my own attempts at scanning (and you will know similarly from “tap & pay”) that the distance at which you can read RFID or NFC is normally fairly minimal. Sure you can get antennas which can read at distances of up to 700m, but they tend to resemble those old TV antennas.

Which is kind of obvious for someone trying to be at least relatively stealthy.

And if they do grab details they get to make a single limited payment (even a bank isn’t dumb enough to miss multiple payments) and you’ve probably got a good claim against the bank any way.

So it is pretty unlikely, the damage is limited (and may even be none).

So is an RFID/NFS blocking wallet really necessary? Well if you are in need of a new wallet any way, getting one with that feature makes sense. But it probably isn’t worth throwing away a perfectly fine wallet to get one.

But stick your wallet in your front pocket.

Unoccupied
Jan 032019
 

I have been looking at slightly newer cameras than my ancient Canon 1DS III. There are two big things that have happened since I last took a serious look at cameras :-

  1. Serious cameras are increasingly going mirror-less; last time I looked, electronic viewfinders were too low in resolution and suffered too much lag to really replace optical view finders. 
  2. So-called “medium format” digital cameras are becoming slightly less expensive.

Funny thing is that whilst the “film vs digital” argument has gotten a bit quieter, it is still bubbling away. And as a solely digital photographer, my position on “film vs digital” is simply: it is the final print that counts however you got there.

Back in the days when film was the only viable choice the quality difference between 35mm film and medium format film was dramatic. And similarly between medium format film and large format film.

In the digital world, the difference is more nuanced, and there is more choice in the size of the sensor (“film”) – Micro 4/3 (which is equivalent to the old 110 film format), APC, “full frame”, and “medium format”.

The least honest phrase is of course “medium format” – medium format film came in a variety of different sizes; all of which are actually larger than the medium format digital sensors. The largest “medium format” sensor is approximately 54mm x 40mm; the smallest film medium format is 60mm x 45mm.

Comparing digital and film sizes is pretty irrelevant; with film, quality is directly proportional to size whereas with digital many factors contribute to quality; sensor size being just one.

Part of that quality increase in size is simply down to the increased cost – if you have to make a digital sensor expensive because it is big (fewer sensors per wafer and a higher proportion of them won’t meet the quality standard), then you need to make it better in quality or nobody will buy it. Of course there are also scientific reasons why a bigger sensor is better – or the fancy car priced Phase One cameras wouldn’t have big sensors.

But back to digital sensor size – let us stop calling so-called medium format sensors “medium format” and come up with a new phrase – perhaps “super-frame” and give the crop-factor – 1.67 or whatever it is.

The Windsurfer
Jan 032019
 

It seems Piers Morgan has got in all of a lather about vegan sausage rolls being introduced to a well known pastry shop :-

The funny thing is just how pathetic he is with this comment. Personally I’ve never been to a Greggs simply because the vegetarian selection was so rubbish (it’s been a while since I checked). So that’s one customer that Greggs have missed out on, although now I may pop in for a vegan bloody sausage roll just to annoy Piers (although I somehow doubt they’re actually bloody).

Piers is an example of the kind of person who shouldn’t be put in charge of a waste-paper basket never mind anything more important. He’s under the impression that his choices in life are what everyone should be doing, which can be very dangerous indeed.

Greggs are perfectly free to change their menu at will and offering choices to vegetarians and vegans seems a perfectly sensible thing to do. It increases their potential customer base, and frankly the only meat-eaters who complain are the kind of stodgy thinkers that Piers is.

After all Greggs isn’t going to stop stocking “real” sausage rolls whilst they still have plenty of customers buying them.

Dec 212018
 

It is quite astonishing just how much stupidity appears during an incident such as the drone “attacks” on Gatwick airport. Here is the answer to just a few of them …

Shoot It Down

Any scheme to shoot down a drone will have to bear in mind that this drone at least is flying on, buzzing around until it gets noticed, and then going away again. Any sharpshooters are going to have trouble because it will be a fair distance away – after all the drone operators are hardly going to buzz the airport with sharpshooters just a few meters away.

And bullets go places; Gatwick is mostly surrounded by dwellings so the risk is high of causing an injury or a fatality (the probability may be low, but the impact is severe so any risk analyst is likely to veto any gun fans).

If they do get the go ahead, sharpshooters are not going to spray and pray but are going to wait until they have a clear shot they are confident of making before pulling the trigger. This will of course reduce the risk considerably, but also be why the drones have not yet been shot down.

It’s A Conspiracy; There’s No Drone

This one is often tied to the next subject. But really?

Unless this disruption goes on for days or weeks, this is all just a flash in the pan. Most of us who do not have a direct connection to Gatwick (such as being there) will forget this as soon as it is over and something else captures our attention in the news.

At best it would serve as a temporary distraction – which is possible – but in no way would work on a permanent basis.

A few conspiracy nuts have suggested this might be May’s way of distracting from the problems Brexit (and she) is currently enduring; it just wouldn’t work for that because the Brexit problems are ongoing, and won’t disappear if we forget about it for a day or two.

Why Aren’t There Photographs of The Drone?

Such comments come from those who have never tried photographing anything like this or the equivalent (probably something like bird photography).

The drones are only going to be flying for a relatively short amount of time, and are going to be very distant from any cameras. No smartphone is likely to capture anything other than a black dot (smartphone cameras typically have wide-angle lenses).

DSLR shooters are likely to have all their equipment packed, and those that don’t are quite unlikely to have the right lens to hand; in fact most won’t own the right kind of lens (I’d choose an 800mm which would be many thousands).

Looking at the likely (as described) behaviour of the drones, the closest match to photographic “genres” is as mentioned bird photography (there’s a reason why the picture in this posting isn’t a flying bird). This is hard; you’ll be stuck in a blind for hours waiting for just the right moment with an enormous lens that weighs as much as a TV.

In addition I suspect that people just don’t appreciate just how big airports are – it would take many hours just to walk around the perimeter.

The
Swan

It’s Obviously ${X}

Whilst it may be fun to speculate on what motivates the drones operators – “having a laugh”, protesting at the presence of the airport, or full-on terrorists.

But being realistic for a moment, there is no way we will know what the motivations were until the culprit(s) are identified and caught.

So it’s not obvious that it’s this, that, or the other.

Dec 082018
 

I recently bought a second-hand camera – but this is not specific to photography (but perhaps particularly relevant). The seller threw in an old SD card which was nice of them (although unnecessary for me).

After doing the photo thing with the new-to-me camera, and having carefully replaced the SD card, it occurred to me that I could test a file recovery tool to see if there was any previously shot photos on the card.

Using photorec, I fired it off and came back 30m later – not because it’s particularly slow but I have spent far too much time watching the equivalent of a progress bar, and I would rather get on and do something useful.

By the time I came back, it had recovered in excess of 1,000 images and videos. It turns out to be probably the most boring collection of photos you can imagine – an ordinary collection of family (not your own) photos would be interesting in comparison.

I won’t be including any of those recovered photos here because that would be unprofessional and potentially embarrassing to the camera seller (although they would most likely never find out). 

But you can easily imagine how such a recovery could be potentially embarrassing; even distressing. We usually choose whether a photo should be made public or not.

So how do you protect such things from happening? Is it sufficient to format a card in camera?

No it isn’t. Tools such as photorec are designed to recover images from cards where the images have been deleted or when the card has been formatted. Surprisingly enough, formatting a card does not overwrite all of the data blocks on a storage device; it merely replaces the data structures that allows an operating system to find files with a new blank structure.

So what are the solutions to keep your private photos to yourself?

It should be emphasised that this is advice intended to protect you from personal embarrassment; if there are legal or risk to life issues involved, seek professional advice.

The first rather obvious solution is to never give away or sell old cards; if you want to dispose of the cards, destroy them. It is not as if you could recover much by selling them – who wants a 5-year old 512Mbyte SD card?

If you do want to let others use your old cards, then use a special utility to destroy the contents completely; optionally (but nice for the recipient) is to then format the cards afterwards.

If you are using Windows (or macOS although the following Linux recipe can be adapted), then you will need a tool such as SafeWiper. There are those who claim that Windows format can do the job, but I wouldn’t trust it – the “quick format” option is the default which definitely doesn’t erase the data from the disk, and I have not personally checked that a “slow format” really removes the data beyond recovery with normal tools.

Whatever method you choose, check, double-check, and triple-check that the device you are erasing really

The first step under Linux is to identify the block device path to erase. You may well find that your SD card is automatically mounted when you plug it in. So running df from the command-line will give you a device path (/dev/sdb

But to double check, run lsblk

✓ mike@Michelin» lsblk -o NAME,FSTYPE,MOUNTPOINT,VENDOR,MODEL,SIZE | grep -v loop 
NAME                    FSTYPE      MOUNTPOINT                      VENDOR   MODEL              SIZE
sda                                                                 ATA      SAMSUNG MZNTY128 119.2G
├─sda1                  vfat        /boot/efi                                                   512M
├─sda2                  ext4        /boot                                                       732M
└─sda3                  crypto_LUKS                                                             118G
  └─sda3_crypt          LVM2_member                                                             118G
    ├─ubuntu--vg-root   ext4        /                                                         114.1G
    └─ubuntu--vg-swap_1 swap        [SWAP]                                                      3.9G
sdb                                                                 Generic  USB  SD Reader     3.8G
└─sdb1                  vfat        /media/mike/disk                                            3.8G

Note that how we have “USB SD Reader” alongside /dev/sdb and that it’s size is just 4Gbytes. So we have three confirmations that this is the device we want to erase.

To erase it, first we unmount it, run a hdparm command to erase it, and erase it a second time :-

✓ mike@Michelin» umount /dev/sdb1
✓ mike@Michelin» sudo hdparm --security-erase NULL /dev/sdb
security_password: ""

/dev/sdb:
 Issuing SECURITY_ERASE command, password="", user=user
SG_IO: bad/missing sense data, sb[]:  70 00 05 00 00 00 00 0a 00 00 00 00 20 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
SG_IO: bad/missing sense data, sb[]:  70 00 05 00 00 00 00 0a 00 00 00 00 20 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
SG_IO: bad/missing sense data, sb[]:  70 00 05 00 00 00 00 0a 00 00 00 00 20 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
✓ mike@Michelin» sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb bs=64M

Whilst we’re waiting for the “dd” command to finish writing zeros all over the SD card, why are we erasing this twice? 

We’re using hdparm

And I then suggest using the old slow method of “dd” as well because there is nothing wrong with being cautious in this area.

Misty Trees
Nov 212018
 

To use a phrase I’m known for: Well yes and no.

There is no doubt that nothing quite beats a huge (A3+ or bigger) print of a really good quality landscape photo. But what proportion of all the world’s photographic images are available as such a print?

Probably a tiny minority; in the past when everyone shot film, most photographs were developed as prints 5″ x 7″ (or similar) which is tiny. At an estimate of 200dpi (which is probably an overestimate of the average print), that is a resolution of 1000×1400.

Now if I compare this with pictures shown on the web on my laptop screen (a rather titchy display), it compares rather favourably – a Facebook photo capture was around 850×850, and an EyeEm photo capture was 1212×900. Of course it is also shown somewhat larger – the laptop screen is 13″.

And on my main desktop screen (a very elderly 30″ screen), the same two pictures are far bigger and in a higher resolution – 1028×1300 for the Facebook picture and 1200×1800 for the EyeEm photo.

And finally, on my 4K TV, the photos are shown at only 2/3 (very roughly) the resolution of the original files, and far, far bigger.

Yes the display pitch is less, but the size is far larger and unless you have spectacular close vision you will be able to see far more detail with a screen image than an average print.

Again I say that this is not intended to bash prints – in many ways a photographic image isn’t finalised until it has been printed, and a really good print at 300dpi and printed large is far better than the screen. Even before you consider the permanence of the print.

This is aimed at those who snootily dismiss low-end photographic equipment as being “only suitable for the web” – they may be surprised that even relatively modest screens can compare favourably with 5×7 prints and it won’t be long before even larger prints are surpassed. 

Hill Conquered
Nov 112018
 

If you use the Unix or Linux command-line, you may very well wonder about the origins of some of the “special” characters. One of those is tilde (~) which is expanded by the shell into “home” :-

✓ mike@Michelin» echo $HOME                        
/home/mike
✓ mike@Michelin» echo ~
/home/mike
✓ mike@Michelin» echo ~root
/root

This doesn’t of course work in general; just in the shell.

But where did this usage originate?

As it turns out, it was the markings on the keyboard of the ADM3A terminal :-

If you used Unix in the late 1970s/1980s, you may very well have used the ADM3A terminal and it seems that those who added the tilde feature to the Unix shell were amongst the users.

Nov 112018
 

Horseshit.

Normally on Remembrance Sunday, we remember the dead of all wars, but this one is a bit special – it’s exactly 100 years since the armistice that brought the killing phase of World War 1 to an end.

Around this time of year, there are often those who make grand pronouncements about the sacrifices those who fought made for some sort of noble goal – our freedom, the freedom of others, to defeat a really nasty enemy.

None of that applies to those who died in WW1; some of them may have felt

Austria-Hungary and Serbia fought because of the assassination of a single man. Russia fought to support Serbia; France fought to support Russie; Britain fought to support France. And Germany fought because Austria-Hungary fought. This gross over-simplification happened remarkably quickly – all of the declarations of war occurred within about 1½ weeks.

So no great debate on the aims and goals of what the war was for then.

So whilst those who fought (and in some cases died) in wars are not to blame, not all wars were fought for good reasons – certainly you’ll find it hard to find a good reason for WWI. 

Light’s Shadow
Nov 062018
 

There are plenty of arguments to be had with the alt-right, beginning and ending with their repulsive policies. But this post isn’t about that …

I’ve encountered the alt-right’s asinine attitude to political violence before, but I was reminded about it again this morning (obviously some time ago now) with the news that someone had sent George Soros, Hilary Clinton, John Brennan, and Barack Obama a letter bomb.

Yet the alt-right would have us believe that it is the left who are more violent than the right. And both less violent than the Islamic extremists. Turns out that is not the case.

It is not even close. The overwhelming majority of terrorist attacks in the US are perpetrated by the right-wing.

The bête noire of the far right – Antifa? Never murdered anyone; in fact if you add together all of the political murders of the far left in the US over the last 10 years it adds up to 7-8 people (2-3%) whereas the far right are responsible for over 70% of the murders.

Antifa may well be more violent than you are happy with; their purpose after all is to tackle the fascists, which isn’t done without breaking heads. But they don’t intentionally go out to murder people – so don’t be taken in by the main stream media’s portrayal of them when they are busy denying that the far right (and “alt right”) are far more violent.

Even more than those evil islamic terrorists (who are pretty much the same as the far right).

Denying your own side’s violent actions and pretending it is the other side who are really the violent ones is classic gaslighting.

Ruins
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