Automatically change exported photo timestamps the not-so-elegant way

20130325-automatorI have mentioned in the past that I prefer to keep the file timestamps of photos I export from Aperture in line with the EXIF dates, so that the photo file appears to have been created on the date when the photograph was taken.

I like doing this because many basic tools such as Finder work well with file times and I would rather not fuss around with trying to get tools to read the EXIF times inside the files.

I wanted a totally automatic way of doing this with as little pain as possible, and here’s how I did it: (more…)

Doing away with the family grocery list on the wall, the Siri way…

iStockphotoOne of the many benefits of having teenagers who can drive living in your home (or twenty-somethings in my case) is that you don’t need to do your own grocery shopping anymore. Just send them off with a list and a credit card and they approach the task with vigor—the novelty has not yet worn off. And as long as you are willing to pay for random teenager food that wasn’t on the list (e.g. the pricy pomegranate juice my nephew buys), it’s a pretty good gig.

As I was watching the two of them go over the list today I wondered why we couldn’t use our expensive iDevices to collaborate on the one and only grocery list. I was ready to buy some fancy family shopping list app and began to hunt around.

Then I found out that you can do this for free, with minimal effort, using Reminders and iCloud. Read on for details. (more…)

My new Drobo 5N came in yesterday!

Drobo 5N image from Drobo website

I have been putting off buying more NAS storage for years, letting the venerable D-Link DNS-323 protect my data with a mirrored pair of 500GB drives. Like everyone else, I have noticed that the media files just keep getting bigger, and I have two college kids at home with their computers, needing some place to store their backups.

I felt that a two-bay NAS just wasn’t enough for me anymore, and I also wanted a machine that could take advantage of gigabit ethernet to do transfers a little bit faster than the pokey DNS-323.

So I searched high and low for the best NAS for my situation, and I settled on the brand new Drobo 5N with three WD Red 3TB drives.

Read on for my initial impressions… (more…)

Keeping Mountain Lion from Sleeping on the Job

iStockphotoA few weeks ago I began reformatting some video files on my aging iMac, and it was taking f-o-r-e-v-e-r. I queued up several files in HandBrake and went to bed, expecting to find the work mostly complete by morning. What I found was a stone cold snoozing iMac. I tapped on the keyboard to bring it from its slumber. The computer mocked me by displaying the “You didn’t disconnect your USB drive correctly” warning. The video processing had simply halted fifteen minutes after I went to bed the night before.

The release of Mountain Lion brought with it a change in the standard Mac OS X sleep behavior. In previous versions, application disk activity was sufficient to keep your machine awake; in Mountain Lion, each application must actively tell the OS not to sleep while it works. Apparently HandBrake doesn’t do this.

Here are two simple ways to keep your machine from stopping in the middle of the night shift. (more…)

Adding tab close buttons to a JTabbedPane in Java Swing

Any Java developer who works with tabbed panes in their applications knows that the basic JTabbedPane doesn’t provide out-of-the-box functionality to close tabs. Ten years ago that was fine, but these days we expect to be able to click little buttons on our tabs and close them. Until Java 6, it just wasn’t possible to add buttons to tabs. These days, we have the ability to add our own customizations to the tab via the setTabComponentAt method.

There are several examples of how to do this on the web, but most of them show the basics of adding a button to a tab and leave it at that.

I wanted to have an easy way to add the  to any tab, while still allowing a custom tab icon and text, and I wanted the close-tab button to support rollover effects, so that it is only red when you hover over it.

Here a short sample program that demonstrates using a simple method to decorate tabs with little close buttons. (more…)

An ordinary guy’s snapshot sorting workflow in Aperture

It has been far too long since I have sat down to sort through the accumulating mass of digital imagery on my machine—I still haven’t even tried to winnow down the hundreds of photos we brought back from Brazil in September.

Last Tuesday morning I went outside for a walk to see what damage hurricane Sandy had brought to our neighborhood, and I took a few dozen photos of far too many fallen trees. This evening as I set out to organize those images, I realized that after all these years I think I have found a system that works for me.

Using some of the tools in Aperture along with a few simple manual steps I am able to take a jumble of hundreds of photos and come out with a very nice set of edited images ready for uploading to my photo gallery.

Read on for the nitty gritty details. (more…)

Mountain Lion from Scratch—Not as difficult as I thought it would be

Two weeks ago I gave in to the temptation to install Mountain Lion on my aging iMac. Immediately, I began to see evidence that entropy was catching up to me after years of upgrades. The first sign was when my password safe application crashed every time I launched it. Their support team started asking me to try this and that and send them logs, but things weren’t looking promising. I then tried to open iPhoto and that application crashed. And it continued to crash. Even if I uninstalled it, reinstalled it, moved the library, held down five magic keys while clicking my heels together on startup, I could not get iPhoto to launch.

That did it for me: if Apple’s own application is crashing, it’s time for a clean wipe and install. Here are some notes on my efforts and progress. I hope my brief adventure can help others to also have a smooth installation experience. Read on for the gory details… (more…)

What I learned today: You can’t tell how old a file is in Linux

I’m certain that there are all kinds of filesystems in the Linux world that support file creation dates, but the plain fact of the matter is if you perform a vanilla Ubuntu installation, your files will remain ageless.

Why should I care? In a word, Photographs. I keep everything I own on network attached storage devices that are formatted with popular Linux or Unix file systems that lack this information. When I move files between my Mac and one of these devices, the file creation time just doesn’t survive the trip.

I like to have the file creation timestamp match the EXIF time that the photo was taken—normally not a problem since the camera sets the EXIF time and file creation time at the same moment. Keeping the creation timestamp in sync with the EXIF timestamp makes it a snap to sort image files by chronological order. (more…)

Happiness is a new Linux machine!


In my last post I was lamenting the premature demise of my old Squeezebox server, caused by a nasty plague that afflicts tech gear: burst capacitors.

After a long search, sifting through eBay listings, reading the fine details of each offering, comparing options, I was able to find a nice newish Shuttle server, sporting good drives, far better cooling than my older one, much more memory, much better processing power, and a snazzy paint job applied by the former owner.


May my Squeezebox Server rest in peace

It has been quite a long time since I have posted anything here—the spam bucket was choked with well over a hundred pages of who-knows-what when I first came back.

One thing I did notice was that several folks have taken advantage of the iTunes-to-Playlist script that I put together last year, and that’s always encouraging. I haven’t really done any work on tweaking or refining the script because there was a small bit of a problem in the homestead: my happy little Shuttle server died an untimely death.

I bought it off of eBay brand new for a little over a hundred bucks last February and was quite pleased with my purchase. It was a Shuttle K45, a pretty old platform with a lightweight processor, but more than enough horsepower to be a home Squeezebox server as well as a Wiki server and a CVS server.

But it was too good to be true. After I had settled in and set up my workflow around my silent little Shuttle box, it simply died one day. I pressed the power button to restart it and was greeted with a blinking light that was anything but encouraging—the server was dead. An autopsy revealed the probable cause of death to be bad capacitors.

If you find yourself dealing with wonky hardware problems, such as a PC that doesn’t boot or frequent BSOD when watching video, pop open the case and give the caps a gander. You might save yourself hours of troubleshooting effort. See below for details… (more…)