Thursday, 30 October 2014

Vagranting still

After spending quite a bit of time this week in trying to get a Vagrant box set up I discovered an issue today that hampers its usability. Actually this issue is not with Vagrant, but rather using VirtualBox on Windows. The big benefit of this setup is being able to have all your work stored in Windows, and then having that folder available in the VM. But symlinks can't be created in the shared folder from the VM.

I think I'll probably be able to work around this issue, but it is a pain.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Still trying to set up Vagrant

Today I was still working on getting a Vagrant box set up for my web development environment. To get the box set up you have to create a shell script that will be run when starting up, and in this script you need to install and configure everything.

I wanted to test the script as I write it, to ensure that it works correctly. The simplest way to do this is to ssh into the box and then execute the script from there. However, when I tried to execute the script I got the error ": No such file or directory". I checked the permissions for the script, and execute was marked, so that wasn't the problem. After a bit of googling I found this thread, which had the answer: No such file or directory error when trying to execute startup script in Debian.

When I ran file ./, I got the output:

./ a bash\015 script, ASCII text executable, with CRLF line terminators

Note that it is not a bash script, but a bash\015 script, and also that it has CRLF line terminators. The script needs to use LF line terminators, which I thought that my editor Scite used. Obviously not. After converting to LF, the file command now gave:

./ a bash script, ASCII text executable

With that done I could execute the script, though it didn't work. I found I needed to sudo the script to run it since it installs software. (Not that surprising). Presumably Vagrant sudo runs the script when running it as a bootstrap, since they don't use sudo in front of the commands in the script in their examples.

I found that I couldn't get apache2 to start as my configuration uses SuPHP_UserGroup, and this is not available in the libapache2-mod-suphp build from the Ubuntu repository. So you have to build it from source: How To Install suPHP On Various Linux Distributions For Use With ISPConfig (2.2.20 And Above). But I then had a load of issues getting that to install (no libtool or make installed by default, needing to libtoolize, etc). I need to try it again from fresh to check if all the steps I used in finally getting it to compile are needed or not.

After getting it compiled I still couldn't get apache2 to start. From the log, it looks like this is because the error log directories specified for the sites enabled didn't exist. So this essentially means getting most of my home directory copied from my current Linux VM over to the shared Vagrant folder in Windows.

The issue with doing this was that I have some filenames that aren't acceptable to Windows, such as filenames with '?' and ':' in them. As much as I dislike arbitrary restrictions like this, the only way I could think of dealing with this is to rename the problematic files to remove the problematic characters.

I have a lot of tabs open with setting up Vagrant related stuff, so I'm just going to list them here in case I want to come back to them:

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Trying to setup a Vagrant box

This morning the weather was sunny, so I went out on a walk to take a few photos. I would have preferred a few clouds in the sky, but sun was the main thing I wanted. It was actually pretty hot, even in my T-shirt.

In the afternoon I geo-coded and processed a few of the morning's photos. Then I carried on trying to get a vagrant box set up, which I started yesterday.

The first issue I had was that there was no ssh on my system. So I had to install git and add its bin dir to the %PATH% environment variable.

But with that done I still couldn't get Vagrant working. I followed the tip here: Vagrant stuck connection timeout retrying to modify the VagrantFile so that the VM would be opened in a VirtualBox window. That showed that the VM booted up with no issues. When I tried Vagrant ssh nothing would happen and cmd would just go onto a new line.

I found someone with a similar issue here: Nothing happens when I type "vagrant ssh", though their vagrant up appears to work okay rather than getting an ssh connection timeout as I was. Reading more suggestions in the stack overflow thread, and this comment in particular, I found the solution - downgrade VirtualBox to 4.3.12. After doing this Vagrant up works with ssh connection issues and subsequently Vagrant ssh will ssh into the VM successfully.

Hopefully this will let me drop my VMWare Ubuntu machine and work from windows with the lighter weight Vagrant VM instead. I'll need some time to learn and practice before I can know whether this will actually be practical or not.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Eating Woody Woodson

This morning me, Clare, and Brian went out on a walk. After the walk we went to Wigston, where there was a small shop that sold mainly seafood, but also Pigeon (or 'Pidgeon' as they had on their sale board). Seeing pigeons in the garden everyday, I've wanted to eat one for quite a while.

So I bought a couple, and then spent quite a bit of the afternoon getting them ready for cooking. They were very smelly! Thankfully they were already feathered and gutted.

After pulling / cutting the skin away from the breast, I could then cut the breast meat away. I also skinned the wings, which looked like they had a bit of meat on them. There didn't really seem to be any meat elsewhere on the birds.

Pigeons before skinning
Skinned but breast not removed
Frying the wings and a small offcut of breast
Left overs

They must have been Woodies rather than reared pigeons as they had a few bits of shot in them.

We used a Pigeon Casserole recipe, but Clare made some Cheese scones to go on top, and we had vegetables with it rather than in it. You brown the pigeon pieces in a hot frying pan, which is very quick, then add them to the casserole dish. Then fry up the veg (we just used leek) and add that to the casserole dish. Then cover in gravy and cook. We did 15 minutes at 160 C fan I think, added the cheese scones, then 20-25 minutes at a slightly higher temperature.

When it came to eating it, the wing pieces were just too tough. It seems like they are covered in sinews rather than meaty muscle. The meat was cooked nicely, and tasted like liver. So, I can't say I was a big fan. I don't mind liver occasionally, but it's not something I particularly like. Still, at least now I know what pigeon tastes like. I forgot to take a photo of the cooked meal though. Doh!

In the evening me and Billy watched Gandhi. It was very good and featured the actor that plays Dhalsim in Street Fighter the Movie. Really we wanted to watch Thunderbirds the Movie tomorrow, since that features Ben Kingsley too. But sadly that film doesn't seem to be available for download anywhere. (Well you can rent it for £2.50 from the Google Play store, but that seems like an extreme rip-off given the film's reputation).

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Forgot to put a title

I finally received my replacement hard drive today, I ordered it on the 11th, so it took a week to arrive. The postage actually only took one day, but it was only dispatched yesterday. I ordered through Flubit, and the deal provider was given as Fireworks Express (eBuyer).

Looking at Flubit, and how it works, companies sign up with Flubit and for each product they stock, set the price they are willing to sell at. When you request an offer through Flubit, Flubit than takes this base price and adds on a bit for themselves, which gives you the offer price. This doesn't really make too much sense for me, why don't the companies sign up with Flubit just sell at that price level anyway, and then they would also take the 'extra' that Flubit adds on for themselves.

Maybe it's just that most people don't use Flubit, and so if you can sell a product at a higher profit level normally, and just reduce your profit for a few transactions through Flubit, then it makes sense to keep your standard price high. Assuming my hard drive came from eBuyer, it was a lot cheaper than they sell the item for on their website. If they made a profit on the drive they sold to me, with Flubit taking a cut, they must make massive profits on sales through their website.

Another thing with Flubit is about who Fireworks Express are (which was the company providing my order through Flubit) - they are a company owned by Flubit. Fireworks Express has links with 800 companies, and is used to provide products that other merchants aren't covering. What I don't understand is that they seem to work in exactly the same way as Flubit itself works. Why have a company within Flubit that works with 800 companies and Flubit itself also working with X number of companies? Why don't all the companies just sign up with Flubit, since surely signing up to work with Fireworks Express is exactly the same?

Kudos to Flubit though for openly and transparently explaining how they work and who the mystery Fireworks Express are. (I got the above info from the Flubit website).

Yesterday I watched Jurassic Park with Billy, and today we watched The Lost World. It definitely isn't as good as "Jurassic Park" (so many great one-liners), but still pretty good. I really liked the bit near the start where a woman on the island sees her daughter getting eaten by dinosaurs and screams, then it cuts to Jeff Goldblum with a blue sky and palm trees behind him, but the scream continuing. He steps away and you realise the background behind him was just a poster, and he's in a tube station - the screaming sound is the train brakes. Just genius.

Doesn't Steven Spielberg mean Steven Game Mountain?

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Watching and writing

Today I watched Creative Wow: Drone Photography and Creative Wow: Macro Photography, both with Jack Davis on Creative Live. I wrote an article for my photo tips website as well.

Watching the workshops, I got the impression that Jack doesn't really know a lot about what he is talking about. That's not to say he doesn't know anything - he clearly does. Just he does not come off as an expert.

The Drone photography workshop was really just about how to operate a DJI Phantom II and then how to process the images (which is basically the same as any other photo). A lot of the info was new to me, but it seemed like he just had some experience with Drone Photography rather than being an expert. There was a guy in the audience (who was specially invited because of his experience) who obviously new a lot more than Jack.

He said that you can't create a panorama using a fisheye image, so it needs to be defished first. That may be true for Photoshop (I don't know), but certainly isn't true for other software.

In the Macro workshop he kept referring to dynamic range when he meant Depth of field. (If he did mean Dynamic Range, then what he was saying wouldn't make any sense). I think he does understand the difference between DR and DoF, just kept using the wrong term without realising it.

He stated that a reversing ring allows you to get much closer with any lens (or something along those lines), but actually any true macro lens above 50mm won't focus as close when it is reversed.

He said that using a really small aperture gives you image noise. But this is only true if you boost the ISO to compensate for the small aperture (or underexpose).

Now, this may be my misunderstanding, but he stated that the higher the bit depth, the greater the dynamic range. My understanding is that the bit depth deals with the gradation of tones (more tones = more even gradation) rather than the absolute exposure range that can be produced. I should probably read up on that a bit more to understand whether he is correct or not.

His macro shots he took using a high ISO, which resulted in grainy images. I guess that's a personal preference, but I think the images would have looked a lot better shot at a low ISO (and properly exposed).

When taking a shot with a zoom lens on extension tubes, he zoomed it in (to 200mm) and used the focusing ring for focusing. Maybe he mentioned it in a bit I missed, but I got the impression that he didn't realise that the shorter the focal length, the higher the magnification (with both a reversing ring and extension tubes).

I don't think he covered the use of close-up diopter filters or reversing a lens on another lens (both have the same effect) at all.

He didn't cover the use of flash at all (unless it was in a short bit I missed).

Most of the work he covered was close-up and not macro. I don't think he mentioned what macro means, though he did say that he would have preferred the course to be called Close-up and Macro photography, so maybe he did understand that.

He did cover focus stacking, but just in Photoshop and Helicon focus. He didn't cover any of the technical details of the best way to shoot a focus stack. And it's my understanding that Zerene stacker is the premier stacking software. Covering something like Zerene, CombineZP, and Photoshop CC probably would have made more sense than the PS CS6 - PS CC - Helicon Focus comparison he did.

He mentioned a few times that the Nikon D7100 has an FX size sensor, which gives a 1.5x multipler compared to a full frame DX sensor. (He got the terms FX and DX mixed up, F stands for Full Frame).

None of this detracts from his artistic ability. You don't necessarily have to understand how something works to achieve great photos. But I do think that understanding the technicalities behind how something works can help you achieve better results.

I also suspect that when you are presenting a show it is probably very easy to forget to mention things or use the wrong term to describe something. So it may well just have been the pressure of doing a live show making it look like he didn't know a lot.

One thing I had always thought was that adjustment layers in PS were non-destructive. In the sense that if you pull curves down in one adjustment layer and then pull the curves back up in another adjustment layer, then PS would calculate the processing based on all the adjustments together, in effect not performing any pixel munging. However, Jack stated that the adjustments in PS don't work the same way as they do in ACR, where it calculates the actual adjustments needed based on all the adjustments made to an image. I just tested this, and he appears to be correct. It looks like PS does process the image at each adjustment layer, moving up the layer stack.

So having a lot of adjustment layers can result in image degradation. It seems strange to me that PS should work like this.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Investigating cloud storage solutions

This morning I finished processing the pics I was working on yesterday. Then I looked to see if there was an alternative to Microsoft OneDrive that didn't have sharing limits (or had generous sharing limits).

Google Drive is one possibility, but it appears they have undisclosed limits, just like the Microsoft solution: Does Google Drive have a download bandwidth limit? and Google drive limit number of download. Like Microsoft, Google do not make this information easy to find. Indeed, the 'best answer' chosen by a Google employee states that there is no limit, so it seems like Google are trying to purposefully mislead people, which is even worse than Microsoft.

Still, I get the impression that the limit on Google Drive is likely higher than the limit on MS OneDrive.

Copy sounds like an interesting alternative, but again, they do not supply any information about sharing limits. There is a question on their forums about it (Fair usage limitation - are there any?), but it doesn't have an answer. So I messaged their support to try and find out the answer.

Another cloud storage solution is Box. While they're not up front about their sharing restrictions, they do have it covered in their help articles: How Does Box Measure Bandwidth Usage?. The article tells you the limits, and I get the impression that you can monitor how close you are to your limit from your account.

There is a max file size of 250MB for free accounts, which would mean that uploading a zip of RAW files might be too much. But they are up front about this, you don't even have to search their support docs to find this out.

Yandex.Disk has sharing restrictions. They won't tell you what they are, but do at least tell you they exist in their FAQ: Yandex.Disk FAQ: Why is access to a public file restricted?

Most of the rest of the day I was working on an article for my photo website.