Technology

Primitive Technology: termite clay kiln & pottery

Digging clay out of a termite mound, using straw to reinforce it, and making a crude but very effective kiln to fire clay pieces to be used as roof tiles, a water jug, a blower and more. Brilliant.

There are many more of these great videos at the Primitive Technology site and for those who prefer, he has a Primitive Technology YouTube Channel.

[via The Kid Should See This]

Adding weather to Calendar in Mac or iOS

Weather in your iOS and macOS Calendars

I use Apple’s native Calendar application in Mac OS on my MacBook Pro as well as in iOS on my iPhone 6s and iPad Air II. I’ve used other calendars but there’s something about the simplicity and integration of Apple’s native apps that appeals to me.

I think the reason I didn’t think to attempt to include a weather forecast in my calendar on my Mac before was that I was used to using both the weather widget and a third party widget called Radar in Motion in Mac OS’ Dashboard.

Radar in Motion stopped working a while back and while I have weather set up in my Mac Notification Center (off the right side of the screen), I thought it would be more useful to attempt to integrate a weather forecast into Calendar so I could see both events and weather in the same place.

A few minutes of searching and I found Chris Short’s post above which covers adding a Weather Underground ICS calendar subscription file to almost any calendar, including Mac OS’s Calendar. Note, I’ve not tried this directly on an iPhone or iPad but it should work.

I copied this sample URL into my browser:

https://ical.wunderground.com/auto/ical/NY/NYC.ics

and changed the state and city:

https://ical.wunderground.com/auto/ical/CT/WARREN.ics

Note, before you go and do this, please read the following:

I’ve made numerous categories (calendars) in my Calendar: Home, To Do, Event, Hiking and I’m subscribed to Holidays. I color code each of these calendars and it helps me quickly look at my Calendar and see what’s what. I’ve been doing this for many years, since iCal first appeared.

If you don’t make a new category/calendar called something like Warren Weather” and you go too fast through pasting the URL in your browser, downloading the ICS file and adding it to your Calendar, you may accidentally add the weather subscription to one of your existing categories. I did this by mistake and could not, for the life of me, figure out how to undo it. Couple that with the fact that my Calendar is connected to iCloud and immediately synced with my iPhone and iPad and you have a potential issue if you make a mistake.

I recommend creating a new category/calendar called “Weather” or better, “Warren Weather” (substitute your town/city) and when you download the ICS file add it to that category/calendar and give it a unique color.

calendar detail

The last thing to consider is that this ICS file is for a particular place and it will not change if you travel from, for example, Warren, Connecticut to Chicago, Illinois. If you can figure out how to modify the ICS file to make it GPS aware, please let me know. But, short of that, if you find yourself in another city, make a new weather category/calendar for that city and click the X off in front of your home city to hide it temporarily.

calendar

Looks like we’re going to have some snow on Tuesday and I’ve got an appointment I might have to move. Brilliant.

The Art of Listening

This is a documentary about making music, from instrument making to playing to mixing, mastering, and listening. It was sponsored by Sony although there are only a few plugs in it for Sony gear, the rest is a variety of musicians and music producers talking about how they make and share music. It’s about an hour and 14 minutes long.

The comparison to photography is interesting:

Music: one needs a great song, well played on a decent instrument, well recorded and mastered and played on a decent audio player to channel what the musician laid down.

Photography: one needs a great image, well recorded with decent equipment, well processed and seen on a decent screen or a decent print to channel what the photographer saw and recorded.

In the photography world I like to think of Ansel Adams: he chose great subject matter (Yosemite), used a view camera (big negative, high definition), stopped down to small apertures (more detail), used filters (to get the dramatic look he wanted), and he took great care in developing his negatives and making his prints. If you’ve ever seen a large Ansel Adams print, in person, it’s a thing of wonder and you can feel that care in the print, very much like these musicians and producers talking about the care they take in making and sharing music.

[via Uncrate]

Primitive Technology: Tiled Roof Hut

This is a fantastic process video on making the “ceramic” or fired mud tiles for a hut. Another brilliant piece and this one particularly dear to my heart because of my background in ceramics.

There are many more at the Primitive Technology site and for those who prefer, he has a Primitive Technology YouTube Channel.

[via Dale Allyn]

Disassembling the Ricoh GR for sensor cleaning

One of the great things about Flickr is that there are groups of people with similar interests who not only post images, but also have discussions about issues with cameras and other aspects of photography. I’ve been a member of lots of groups on Flickr since joining in 2004 and currently I’m a member of a few Ricoh GR groups. One of them has an ongoing discussion of the Ricoh GR’s problems with dust and I’ve been tracking it: how do/did handle the dust issue?. The other day one of its members, Jamie Collinson, posted a link to a post he’s written on disassembling a GR and if you’re a GR user (or even if you’re not) it’s worth taking a look at and bookmarking for possible future use:

A guide to disassembling the Ricoh GR for sensor cleaning

Many people have had dust issues with the Ricoh GR. It’s both a cult favorite camera and a rather fragile beast. A theory is that it’s retractible lens (the lens telescopes out of the camera when its turned on, then retracts into the body when it’s turned off) is acting like a bellows and pulling dust in when it moves. Another is that the seals on the camera aren’t doing their thing.

If you have a GR and you’re not sure if you’ve got dust on your sensor, the standard test is to stop down (close the aperture) to f/16 and focus on and shoot a clean white wall or a clean sheet of white paper. You’ll see the dust spots (as hopefully differentiated from dirt on the wall or paper). Or, you may have seen spots in clear skies that are shot at small apertures.

I don’t think its worth doing this surgery for a single dust spot when you can easily clean it up with an image editor like Lightroom but people who get dust in their cameras generally have a number of spots and that can be a tedious clean up process (in software).

If you generally shoot with an open (wide) aperture you’re less likely to see the dust, unless you’re really loaded with it, it generally only shows up at smaller apertures.

It’s worth it to have a look at Jamie’s post just to see what the inside of the Ricoh GR looks like, he’s got great pictures.

The only thing I’d add to his otherwise excellent post is a technique I learned doing surgery on early Macintosh computers (mostly powerbooks and early MacBook Pros) with small sets of different sized screws that might get mixed up. List the steps of the disassembly on a piece of paper and pile the screws next to their corresponding steps. For example, in his post with 7 steps, one might divided a piece of paper into 8 boxes, put a number in each box and put the corresponding screws in a box. Just make sure to not move the paper.

Primitive Technology: woven bark fiber

This is a fantastic process video on gathering bark, turning it into thin strips, spinning those into “thread” and then building a loom and weaving the thread into mats.

There are many more at the Primitive Technology site and for those who prefer, he has a Primitive Technology YouTube Channel.

[via The Kid Should See This]

Update on home made Time Capsule

A month ago I posted on my experiment with a Home made Time Capsule and I’ve learned some things and changed some things since that long post.

First let me say that while I think this setup is fantastic and every Mac user should be doing something like this, this is not my only method of backing up my computer. I’ve continued to use SuperDuper to do a complete clone of my computer every day.

R0001255

This setup worked perfectly, when it worked. Time Machine works in the background so the only way I knew it was working or not was to check it’s system preference pane from time to time to see when the last backup was. Time Machine is supposed to attempt a backup every hour when the computer is awake and connected to the network but I was noticing that there were times when it was skipping 1/2 a day at at time.

Something was up. So, I left the system preference pane open so I could watch what was happening. I watched as Time Machine attempted a backup but the drive never spun up and mounted. If I unplugged and replugged the USB cable of the drive it would spin up and Time Machine would find it and work.

I wasn’t sure what the problem was but I had a feeling that the portable USB 3 bus-powered drive I was using wasn’t getting the wakeup message from Time Machine, either because USB 2 (what’s on the AirPort Extreme) or the drive itself was missing the intelligence to wake the drive from sleep at the needed time.

Bus-powered drives tend to be 2.5″ HD mechanisms for portability and these smaller mechanisms don’t need as much power to run so can run off of the power in a USB cable connection to a computer (they’re what are inside laptops as well as portable cases). Desktop drives tend to have 3.5″ HD mechanisms in them and have power bricks. And, they cost less for a lot more storage.

I thought maybe a desktop drive might solve this problem but I decided to pass this question (bus powered or desktop) on to someone I knew had a similar setup on his home network. He’s a developer who I met online many years ago through a mutual friend but who I’ve never met in person: Scott Gruby (this seems to be quite common these days).

Scott agreed: the bus powered drive was probably the problem and a desktop drive might solve it. He uses a Western Digital RAID drive on his network and I don’t need RAID but decided to look into their standard desktop drives. The Western Digital My Book seemed like a good way to go. 4TB for about $110 and decent reviews on Amazon. Its a larger case with a 3.5″ 4TB drive in it, no fan, and a power brick.

Given that there are many drives in this category I decided to take a look at the BackBlaze Hard Drive Reliability Review for 2015. Interestingly, in 2014 Western Digital was their most reliable drive but in 2015 it had been overtaken by Seagate.

In looking through the Amazon reviews of the Seagate 4TB desktop drive I noticed one comment/review that caught my eye. A Mac user attempting to use the drive as I am, connected to an AirPort Extreme for Time Machine over the air backups. He found that the drive did not mount on time for the backups to work. So, for me, that eliminated the Seagate and I ended up with the WD 4TB My Book for Mac. The Mac and non-Mac version cost the same so I figured I’d get the one with “Mac” on the case. I partition and format all of my drives so it doesn’t matter to me if the drive comes pre-formatted for the Mac.

R0000530

The new drive came, I formatted it and got it connected to the AirPort. It’s very quiet, no fan and the spinning drive makes very little noise. I can hear it but it’s not obnoxious.

I decided to start from scratch and redo the Time Machine backups of both my wife’s MacBook Air and my MacBook Pro on the new drive. I started with my wife’s machine because it doesn’t have much on it. The initial backup took about 2 hours and worked flawlessly. Over the next two days my wife’s computer backed itself up to the new drive every hour. The drive went to sleep, then awoke for the backup every time. This was great, exactly what I was hoping for.

Then I started the initial backup of my MacBook Pro. Estimated time: 12 hours.

The great thing about Time Machine is that even on the initial backup I was able to close my computer (stopping the backup) and move to a different part of the house, open my computer (continuing the backup) until the initial backup was done.

Over the next few weeks I’ve kept track of Time Machine’s system preference pane on both my computer and my wife’s and the new drive is spinning up and mounting every time. If both machines want to back up at the same time Time Machine knows to form a line (so to speak).

I think the power supply of a desktop drive is probably essential for this application, but, there must also be something in each drive’s controller that allows it to be awaken by Time Machine. I can’t say that I’ve tested other desktop drives at this point but I take that Amazon commenter at his word that the very popular Seagate drive didn’t work for him. It might be that other brands work, I don’t know but I do know that the drive I got has been flawless so far.

Time will tell.