Tablets are bicycles

At the end of an overall good article, Ben Bajarin writes:

I’m still as bullish as ever on the tablet’s potential. However, my concern is consumers may be extremely stubborn and lean heavily on past behavior and familiarity with PCs instead of going through the process to replicate the workflows and activities they did on their PCs and transition to tablets. This is a year where Apple needs to take great strides in software around iOS for iPad if they want the iPad to become more than it is today and truly rival the PC in the minds of the consumer. While tablets have no doubt grown up, they still have a little more growing to do if they want to truly challenge the PC and Mac.

I don’t understand this insistence on having to transition from a device to another. Why PCs/Macs and tablets have to be an either/or proposition? In my view, “leaning heavily on past behavior and familiarity with PCs instead of going through the process to replicate the workflows and activities [consumers] did on their PCs” isn’t a matter of stubbornness, it’s just common sense. Especially when ‘replicating the workflows’ actually means ‘going through a series of new convoluted steps to achieve on a tablet something resembling the original workflows on the computer’. For some (many?) people, it’s just not worth it. The scenario in which one uses both a traditional computer and a tablet is still much preferable, because you get the best of both worlds and you can be productive with much less friction (apologies for the use of trite tech buzzwords here).

Joe Cieplinski put it better and more succinctly than I ever could:

I stopped thinking of iPad as a replacement for anything a long time ago. It’s a device you use in specific ways for specific things.

Yes, for many users, an iPad alone can be all the computer they need. Apple sells a ton of iPads to these people. But replacing your PC is not the only use for an iPad. It’s not even the most interesting one.

I use my iPad in places where a laptop wouldn’t be as good. I use my laptop in places where my iPad wouldn’t be as good. I have no desire to get rid of either of them.

Everyone knows the famous Steve Jobs’s metaphor when he first talked about the ‘Post-PC era’, comparing traditional computers to trucks and tablets to cars. I have another metaphor for you, which I think best describes the situation at present: traditional computers are cars, and tablets are bicycles.

There are certainly a few advantages in using a bicycle instead of a car: it’s more portable (you can take it into your apartment when you get home), it has fewer parts that may break down, you can carry it almost everywhere, it doesn’t pollute the environment, in certain situations it’s more practical than a car and you can actually get to work in less time if you live in a particularly traffic-congested city. But a car better protects you from the elements and in case of impact with another vehicle, a car runs faster and you don’t have to push it yourself to make it go; a car gives you comfort and many other conveniences; a car can carry more people at once, plus luggage; in a car — provided you do so responsibly — you can more easily multitask than on a bicycle; and so on and so forth, you get the idea.

So, while there are people who can easily transition from using a car to using only a bicycle, that doesn’t mean everyone can. Or should. If one can easily carry their family and luggage on holiday by fitting everything and everyone on a car and reaching a faraway destination in a reasonable amount of time, why should they ‘replicate the workflow’ by putting each family member on a bicycle, splitting the luggage among bicycles, and painfully pedalling for days and days until they reach their holiday destination? Bicycle fans will tell you that it’s actually awesome and you even get to exercise and it’s good for your health! Yeah, sure. Or they’ll tell you: I’ve done it, it’s totally possible; if I did it, anyone can. Okay.

That’s how tablet-only advocates often sound. And back to the tablet: a full transition from a PC or Mac to just a tablet would make sense if the advantages vastly outweighed the downsides (or annoyances, or impracticalities), but as a heavy user of both a Mac and an iPad, I can say that, today, it’s still not the case. Every day I find myself doing something on the Mac that, while not impossible to perform on an iPad, is objectively faster and simpler to achieve on a traditional computer. Then there are tasks that are easier to perform on the iPad, of course, so I grab the iPad. This is my idea of ‘continuity’ when working. This gives me a fair amount of efficiency because I combine what’s effortless on the Mac with what’s effortless on the iPad. I don’t waste time, energy, productivity, in forcing square pegs into round holes.

Is mine some kind of laziness? Not really. When I have time, I like to explore what iOS can do in scenarios I’d go to the Mac first. But when I have time, not when I need to finish an assignment and the deadline is looming. What tablet-only advocates seem to not get about non-geeks is that they treat tablets (and phones) like appliances. They follow the path of least resistance. They typically enjoy the device up to the point where the learning curve starts getting steeper. They recognise whatever is simple to do on a tablet, they quickly learn how to do it, but when it’s time to actively extract additional functionality from the device, they rarely have the patience to research specific apps, learn how these apps can interface with others, put together a workflow that involves too many steps or jumps from app to app. To be honest, I can’t blame them. To make a tablet act like a traditional computer — and to become equally efficient and productive on a tablet like one is on a traditional computer – is still more complicated than simply putting the tablet aside for a moment and using the computer for the tasks it typically excels at.

Making tablets even more useful by wanting to add ‘more pro features’ is great and all, but the balance between outward simplicity and under-the-bonnet powerfulness is a delicate one to preserve. Apart from some minor feature discoverability issues, I think Apple has done a nice job so far with iOS in this regard. But feature creep is a serious threat to iOS’s simplicity and approachability. That’s why I think that, going forward, the difference between ‘consumer’ and ‘pro’ iOS devices has to grow. This way, an iPad Pro can afford to have a slightly more complex operating system, with additional gestures, features, support for specific pro peripherals, etc.; the target audience won’t mind the added complexity if it brings much more power and versatility. While those consumers who just need a friendly, general-purpose appliance, can safely shop for a ‘regular’ iPad and enjoy the low learning curve and immediacy that have been the main reason of the iPad’s (and iOS’s) success.

This way everyone wins: those who want to rely solely on a bicycle can get a pretty powerful one; those who are happy with the flexibility of having both a car and a bicycle can get a nice, lightweight bicycle when they want to grab one.

Category Handpicked Tags , ,

The move

I usually refrain from writing ‘Sorry for the lack of updates’ blog posts because, as my most loyal readers surely remember, my policy has always been to write posts and articles only when I felt I had something to say, not to just keep this place updated for the sake of it. If I make an exception now, it’s because of an exceptional situation. In this past month-and-a-half, I had indeed things to say, things I wanted to talk about, but my concentration and focus have been shattered first in mid-January by the news that my father was not well and had to be hospitalised for heart-related issues. (Thankfully he is now better, they had to change his heart medications and the new therapy is making him feel much better than before, but I was worried because we live in different countries, about 1,500 kilometres apart, and it was impossible for me to just catch the first available plane and be there.)

Then, at the end of January, our landlord called my wife out of the blue and told her that his son and his fiancée want to come live in the apartment we’re now in, and that we had a couple of months to find another place to live and move out.

When you rent a place instead of owning it, you know the day may come, the day when you’re made aware that the owner has other plans for the place you’re living in. Sometimes you’re lucky, like my grandparents, whose landlord was a single man who owned several apartments and was very happy to rent them long-time. Then I have friends who had to move, like, five times in three years because they haven’t been able to find a stable living solution yet. My wife and I have been living in this apartment for the past twelve years, we never had problems with the landlord, and our contact with him has been truly sporadic. The last time we spoke with him was probably sometime in 2015, so this latest development really caught us by surprise.

If you’ve ever experienced the situation where you have to find somewhere to go on a relatively short notice (as opposed to choosing to move someplace else when you see fit and on your own terms), especially when you’ve been living in the same place for a long time and it truly feels your home, you’ll understand how suddenly my wife and I couldn’t think of anything else except browsing apartments for rent on specialised websites and talking with estate agencies. There were days when the inability to write while at the same time being consumed with the need to write was truly killing me. But what can you do when time is short, and you have to 1) find a suitable place with enough room for your stuff and your needs, and 2) take into account a few days to pack, move your stuff, and clean the place you’re leaving behind?

Fortunately we have found a new apartment, and next week the moving process will start for good. We are now in the sorting phase, when you start going through your stuff and do a bit of a spring cleaning ahead of schedule. Since we basically have all March to move out, the idea is to pack and move a few boxes at a time, bring them to the new apartment, take things out and put them in place, then return to the old apartment with the empty boxes and fill them again; rinse and repeat. This is to avoid having to deal with dozens of big boxes and move everything at once, and then having to deal with a new apartment so crammed with boxes you can’t move around, like it happened last time.

As you can imagine, all this is time- and energy-consuming. Now I feel less stressed than a month ago, because the initial uncertainty is gone now that we’ve finally found a new place. But there is indeed a lot of stuff to pack, a month passes quickly, and I want things to go as smoothly as possible. We don’t have much furniture to move, thankfully. The apartment we now live in came mostly furnished, and the one we’re moving to is fully furnished, but still we own a sizeable amount of books, CDs, vinyl records, cassette tapes, DVDs, personal papers (a lot of written material in my case: old poetry and prose), then there are clothes, home textiles, kitchen utensils, and so forth.

A move is especially painful if you, like me, like to collect and use vintage computers and devices. Fortunately I’ve managed to keep my collection of vintage Macs and peripherals at a manageable size, so it’s not going to be a huge problem moving it out. There are other things, however, which are taking too much space and are too bulky to carry around. It was sad to bring my trusty 17-inch CRT Belinea display to be recycled, but the flat Eizo display I acquired to replace it weighs almost three times less and is six times less bulky. And, with impeccable timing, my old workhorse of a printer, a 23-year-old HP LaserJet 4L, decided to give up the other day. I’m sad, but from a pragmatic standpoint, it’s another bulky thing I won’t have to pack. I’ve been asked what I plan to do with beasts like the Quadra 950 and the Power Mac G4, which are currently not working, but my motto is ‘Leave no Mac behind’, so they’ll come with me and I intend to fix them eventually, especially the Power Mac G4.

Another unwelcome consequence of having to move not because you choose to, but because you’re forced to, is the financial impact. Having to pay certain expenses upfront and all at once, ending up in a place which is way better than this one but is also going to cost a slightly higher monthly rent, plus paying either for the services of a moving company or for the rental of a van, all these (and more) are costs and expenses we didn’t plan for. What we were planning for just before our landlord called and gave us the news, was to upgrade our aging computers and devices, and buy a new set of tyres for our car, among other things. While we’ve been mostly able to weather the storm, so to speak, this move is definitely solving my dilemma regarding my next Mac upgrade (desktop or laptop?) — I won’t be able to upgrade anything for a while.

You know me, I’m not one of those people who change Mac or iPhone or iPad every year. Technically, my 2009 MacBook Pro, third-generation iPad, and iPhone 5 are still capable, dependable devices. But my Mac officially doesn’t support Sierra, my iPhone 5 will certainly not be supported by iOS 11, my iPad is already stuck at iOS 9. For work I sometimes need to test apps: I dread the moment when I’ll have to decline an assignment because an app I have to localise or test won’t even work on my devices. Further, I dread the moment when the software I need for work won’t run on OS X versions older than Sierra. If you have newer devices than those I have, and could donate them or at least sell them at a reasonable price while allowing me to pay via regular instalments instead of all at once, that would be a great help. If you simply want to support me while I’m dealing with this difficult period, you can purchase my ebooks of short stories, or just send a contribution via PayPal. It’s truly appreciated.

In March I’ll try to update this blog whenever I can. If Apple introduces new iPads — as the current rumour goes — I’ll certainly have something to write about. I hope I will also have the time and opportunity to do so. Thanks in advance for your understanding.

Category Et Cetera Tags ,

ADN shutting down in March — A love letter and a rant

Yesterday evening, while checking my App.Net (ADN) timeline, I learnt that on 14 march 2017 ADN will shut down. Yes, the common reaction outside of ADN has been, What? Is ADN still around? Why yes, and I’ve been a proud, active user since subscribing in November 2012. Although I was aware that the day may come (ADN has been in ‘maintenance mode’ since May 2014), nevertheless I am very sad about the shutdown.

When ADN launched in 2012, I had my share of scepticism. Like others, I superficially viewed ADN as a sort of Twitter alternative. Many were unhappy with Twitter at the time, but I wasn’t, so I could very well have ignored ADN. I know that the service was more ambitious and aimed to offer many more interesting features that went beyond the social superstructure, but still — and despite my being fine with the experience I was having on Twitter — I decided to give it a try and signed up. I chose to pay monthly, so that if the first months weren’t satisfactory, I could leave and be done with it. But after a few weeks something clicked. I was loving the place. I thought the first interactions and mutual follows would involve people I knew (and knew me) from Twitter; instead I was welcomed by others I didn’t know from anywhere. A sense of ‘community in the making’ was quite palpable.

And things only got better from there. I’m speaking about my experience, of course. ADN felt like the early days of Twitter, possibly even better. A basic feature like having 256 characters available in a post, instead of Twitter’s 140, turned out to make a huge difference. Conversations lasted longer, got deeper, and with longer posts, people could explain themselves in a much better way than the average quipping in Twitter’s exchanges. Private messages, too, could be longer (2048 characters). The whole atmosphere was different than Twitter’s. To me, it felt more like certain close-knit forums or mailing lists or user groups driven by people who share the same passions, willing to help and have a conversation. I felt a level of camaraderie and ‘tight ship’ I never really experienced on Twitter. ADN felt like a place where people paid attention and cared, not a social network where basically everyone shouts and spills sarcasm from their pedestal, broadcasting themselves more than having a real two-way conversation, like on Twitter (with exceptions, sure, but I have to generalise here, you understand).

Perhaps it was easier, given the small scale of the ADN user base, but another aspect of ADN that positively impressed me was its self-policing. Spam on ADN never became an issue (thanks to the fact that there weren’t free accounts, at least at the beginning); the few people who engaged in questionable behaviours were soon marginalised (if I remember well). In short, morons on ADN didn’t last long. On Twitter, on the other hand…

I have loved the ADN community these past four years, and I’ve done my best to support it. Since I’m not a developer, I haven’t been able to contribute to it in an operative/creative way, but (a) I kept paying for the service monthly instead of annually, so that I could give ADN a little bit of extra money; and (b) I’ve been purchasing and using most ADN clients and related apps over time as a way of showing my support and saying thank you to the various developers who invested their time and energies to provide different ADN-based solutions.

I’m presently too irked to sit down and analyse what went wrong, but one thing that has always annoyed me during ADN’s run was a certain generalised defeatism in how ADN was viewed and treated on the outside, undoubtedly fuelled by the lukewarm reaction and commentary of many prominent tech pundits. Their scepticism didn’t help ADN at all, and it has eventually become a self-fulfilling prophecy. When ADN went in maintenance mode in 2014, in App.Net is not over, I wrote:

…And their attitude doesn’t help, either. Mind you, I’m not saying they’re wrong (they’re not). I’m just saying that their contributions — promptly popping up little after Dalton Caldwell’s announcement — are limited to being negative remarks, an occasion to reiterate their criticism towards App.net, but offer very little in the constructive department. Telling their readers See, I told you App.net was doomed only emphasises the perception of how doomed App.net is, instead of spreading a message like Look, App.net is facing a critical moment. Mistakes were made but it’s a platform that deserves support, which is certainly a more helpful attitude. Because, let’s be honest, if you’re not on App.net but you trust the opinion of Gruber, Arment, and the like, would you want to join after reading their commentary?

Everyone, of course, is entitled to express their opinion and criticism, yet I can’t help but feeling that this kind of attitude is wrong and a bit unfair.

[…]

Yes, maybe over time App.net has lost some of the initial focus; maybe it lacked a strong campaign to invite people to join the platform, either as users or developers, but I also think that many people (prominent pundits included) made the terrible mistake of viewing App.net and Twitter as an either/or proposition. Joining App.net didn’t — and doesn’t — necessarily mean leaving Twitter behind. They could have taken the opportunity offered by App.net to expand their network and extend their reach, instead of trying to replicate their Twitter experience. (For what it’s worth, it’s what I did. I’m both on Twitter and App.net and try to actively participate in both networks. I appreciate differences and what ultimately matters is people and where the conversations are.)

It’s interesting how everyone seems to complain about Twitter (and Facebook) on a daily basis, wishing for a better product, a better network, a better and less abusive place, but no one or very few people really gave ADN a chance — ADN, which has been a better network and offered a better experience the entire time. It’s a bit disheartening to see just how ADN could have thrived had people been more supporting, shown more commitment, been less cheapskates, and so forth. Sure, ADN wasn’t perfect, but again, it’s interesting to see how, at the first sign of things not going 100% well, everything immediately translated into a failure, which in turn generated more talk about how ADN was doomed, which in turn drove more users to abandon the platform, in a sad and stupid chain reaction. While many, too many users are willing to put up with how bad Twitter has become because, uh, they don’t want to compromise the great exposure it gives them? And similarly, too many users are willing to put up with all the shit that comes with Facebook because they have apparently no other way of keeping in touch with their friends or following the news. Really, I find it hard to understand the Twitter and Facebook complainers who never quit the networks they seem to loathe so much. It’s like witnessing people in an abusive relationship or (not) dealing with substance addiction.

And yet, despite not being an engineer or software developer, I don’t think building an alternative is that difficult. The collective brain power and skills of a small percentage of the people I follow would be enough.

I’m hoping that in these two last months of ADN activity, something new, a new project, a new initiative, even a temporary place, will come up. Something big and interesting enough to keep the last group of hardcore ADN users together, avoiding a social network diaspora. I have accepted an invitation to join 10Centuries, just in case, and pnut is another effort worth mentioning.

I’m also keeping an eye on Manton Reece’s latest initiative. Micro.blog looks like an interesting and well thought-out project, whose spirit doesn’t seem very different from ADN’s. Reece is one of the ‘good guys’ and is respected by the Circle of Cool and Influential Pundits, and that certainly is going to be a good push towards success. Snark aside, I do hope Micro.blog succeeds and becomes another great place as ADN has been.

My sincerest thanks to Dalton Caldwell, Bryan Berg, and everyone who contributed to make ADN such a great network. Thank you to everyone I’ve met there, for the conversations, discussions, pieces of advice, humour, support, and attention.

Category Tech Life Tags ,

Talking about the iPhone, in 2006

The other day I received an email from Thomas, someone I had met back in 2004 at a meetup with other vintage Mac users and collectors. I hadn’t heard from him in a while, and after the usual “How are things going?” and “Long time no hear” introductions, he told me: After reading online about the iPhone’s tenth anniversary, I was reminded of our email exchanges in late 2006. Do you remember when I asked you for some predictions?? With hindsight, I think you were on the right track!

I had almost forgotten about this. So I went digging in my email archives and finally found this little gem. At the time I used to write more via email and on mailing lists. (Thomas was among those who insisted I should blog more and talk about Mac and technology publicly, on the Web. Good thing I listened.)

In November 2006, Thomas contacted me and asked my opinion about that possibly upcoming new mobile phone from Apple. This is the screenshot of my response to him. The text is small, so I’ve also copied and pasted it below. It turns out that my ‘long shot’ about a touch-based interface for the iPhone wasn’t so out there as I thought.

IPhone email 2006


 

On 20 November 2006, Thomas S. wrote:

Hey Rick, sooo… What’s your take on the rumored Apple cellphone? Will it look like an iPod but cooler? Will it be like a PDA with pen input, like a mini-Newton? And what about the o.s.? Maybe what they’re using for the iPod is good enough? Dunno… As for the cost, well, we all know it’s not gonna be cheap!! Still, I’m sure Apple will come out with something that’ll make people talk A LOT!! What do you think? Exciting times ahead…

My reply:

Heh. Predicting an entirely new Apple product is not an easy task, and I’ve been wrong before (for ex., I remember being stubbornly sure they would not release an iPod with video, given the iPod’s small screen). But let’s see:

  • I think it has to be small like a regular iPod. I saw silly mockups on the web; there even was a guy who imagined the new Apple phone to open and close like a flip phone in the style of the Motorola RAZR, but I’m not convinced. Design-wise, it has to look like an ‘iPod evolved’ if you know what I mean.
  • The operating system and the user interface are the other two aspects that got me thinking a lot as well… I mean, an iPod-like touchwheel could make sense, but a menu-oriented navigation doesn’t scale very well. I guess this new “iPhone” (or whatever Apple decides to call it) will feature at least some applications and utilities like my humble SonyEriccson or even like other smartphones like Palm’s. And navigating through a series of applications using menus and a clickwheel doesn’t look very intuitive to me. Who knows, maybe Apple will use some sort of mini-trackpad to move around the UI. I certainly am not holding my breath for any kind of pen input — Jobs doesn’t strike me as being fond of the Newton.
  • This is a long shot, but I remember reading about a patent filed by Apple at the beginning of this year, titled Touch-sensitive electronic apparatus for media applications and methods. This led to speculations about Apple making a touch-based Mac or tablet… but what if they’re going to try with the phone first? (BTW I can send you the link to that patent if you’re interested.)
  • Speaking of the Newton, a modernised NewtonOS would be cool as the new phone’s OS, with icons and applications, and powerful flexibility under the hood.
  • In general, I think Apple is going to showcase a device with a simple, effective design, something sleek and elegant, taking clear inspiration from the iPod design and form factor, but at the same time pushing things further. If it has buttons or visible moving parts, they’ll be reduced to the minimum possible (I say, forget swappable batteries, and flimsy battery doors on the back). The interface, whatever it will be, it’ll be something equally intuitive to use, easy to navigate. I bet a lot of people will look at it and think: how come no one else thought about this before?
  • I know, I’m being a bit vague here, but this is a tough guessing game. For example, I still have no idea what Apple is going to use as CPU and GPU. The new phone will certainly need more processing power than an iPod, but they can’t exactly stick an Intel processor in such a small device. As for the storage, I seriously doubt they’ll put, say, a 30 or 60GB hard disk inside, like on the iPod. Flash storage saves battery and is lighter, though forget such capacities!

Well, as you can see I get carried away easily on these topics. Apologies for my verbosity. Thanks for writing and for valuing my opinions.


 

In retrospect, as claim chowder goes, it wasn’t so bad after all.

Category Tech Life Tags , , , ,

People and resources added to my reading list in 2016

About a year ago, when talking about what/who I periodically read online, I wrote:

When it comes to the list of resources I check on a daily basis, in 2015 there have been more subtractions than additions. Nothing in particular triggered this clean-up and reorganisation of my RSS feeds, but in retrospect I can say that it was a consequence of different factors, including:

  • The need to read more physical books and ‘offline stuff’;
  • A perceived decrease in quality of a few resources I used to follow;
  • More time devoted to my writing and the production of original content (fiction and non-fiction), leaving less time to keep up with the once-manageable reading list.

This trend persisted throughout 2016 as well, driving me to drop even more feeds, and to add very few new ones. Several blogs, and most tech news websites have been demoted to being checked every now and then, instead of having their updates delivered via feed subscription. The main reasons for such demotion are:

  • For individual blogs — (a) Authors getting progressively focussed (read: obsessed) on specific subjects I don’t particularly care about. (b) Articles devolving into linked lists or podcast episode announcements, for podcasts I don’t even follow, so no interest there. (c) All of the above, in a couple of cases. (d) It’s a technicality, but I had to remove a couple of blogs whose authors, perhaps to boost the direct visits to their sites, decided to truncate their RSS feeds to a point that keeping them in my reader was useless. I can understand their reasons for choosing truncated feeds, but Christ, at least don’t also truncate the first article paragraph mid-sentence!
  • For tech websites — Their sheer article output (hello Macworld, hello iMore). I was spending more time marking things as read than reading articles. This kind of feed management was becoming a chore, and not worth the time and the trouble.

Podcasts

I’m still subscribed to the same podcasts as last year, but the two I manage to keep up with the most are Covered with Harry C. Marks, and Release Notes with Joe Cieplinski and Charles Perry.

I have occasionally listened to a few episodes of other podcasts. Worth mentioning are:

Tech blogs

As I said, the list of new entries is rather short — only three new additions in 2016:

  • Hey Cupertino — by Patrick Dean. It focusses mostly on reviews of iOS apps, but there are also other articles and general commentary. I really like Patrick’s review style: each review is detailed, well written, and accompanied by meaningful screenshots. One immediately notices how Patrick decides to review an app only after having extensively used it on his device. This means his reviews are generally less superficial, and his recommendations are always worth checking.
  • Mac Kung Fu — by Keir Thomas. It’s mostly tips and tricks for Mac OS, iOS, Apple TV, Apple Watch, etc. Keir is a competent power user and writer. There’s always something to discover, even if you’re an experienced Mac or iOS user, and Keir often manages to surprise you. I think it’s worth adding Mac Kung Fu to your feeds. [Note: the website doesn’t load if you’re using some kind of ad blocker. Consider supporting Keir by whitelisting his site.]
  • Revert to Saved — by Craig Grannell. Main subjects, as helpfully suggested by the masthead itself, are technology, Apple, gaming and design. What I love about Craig’s style is that it’s concise and to-the-point. He contributes regularly to other sites too, such as Stuff, MacFormat, TechRadar, Macworld UK and TapSmart. Like Patrick Dean above, Craig is also a great app reviewer.

Photography

Like 2015, 2016 was a great year photography-wise for me. My film camera collection expanded a bit more, thanks to a few more acquisitions but also gifts, and I’ve enjoyed shooting mostly film as usual. Still, I decided to get a DSLR too, for experimentation’s sake for the most part. Being on a relatively tight budget and not needing anything state-of-the-art, I opted for a vintage semi-professional Nikon body, the 11-year-old D200. Unsurprisingly, I’ve been using it with a film photographer’s approach, which in my case means shooting slowly and thoughtfully, using mostly manual focus prime lenses instead of favouring big AF zooms.

But I’m digressing.

When I was researching Nikon equipment (both digital and analogue), I found these places to be truly helpful:

  • byThom Sites — Thom Hogan’s portal. Thom is a professional photographer and has written countless reviews and guide books on Nikon cameras and lenses. I’d trust his advice implicitly. I even contacted him directly a couple of times to ask for clarification and he responded with astounding promptness, considering how busy he must be on a regular basis.
  • This database of Nikon lenses, maintained by Roland [I couldn’t find his last name anywhere, sorry], has been quite handy while looking for manual focus lenses on eBay, to check year of manufacture and other lens characteristics. Terrific resource.
  • Nico Van Dijk’s Nikon site. It has nice photos and lots of interesting information.
  • Through the F-Mount — by Jürgen Becker. The articles section features many lens reviews, tips & tricks, etc.
  • Lens Survey and subjective evaluations — by professional nature photographer Bjørn Rørslett. This is a sub-section of the legacy naturfotograf.com site, which is now Nikon Gear. If you want to read detailed evaluations of many MF and AF Nikon lenses, you should definitely check the links at the bottom of the page. I chose to look for two specific lenses for my cameras thanks to this resource.
  • Nikkor is an amazing resource (available in English and Japanese) if you’re interested in the history of Nikon lenses. I’ve enjoyed its The Thousand and One Nights section, a growing collection of historical chapters written by Haruo Sato and Kouichi Ohshita, each dedicated to a single lens, explaining its design and development.

If, instead, you’re researching manual focus Konica cameras, there’s basically one resource you ought to add to your bookmarks: Andreas Buhl’s Konica SLR System 1960-1987 website (in English and German).

Similarly, a reference website for all Pentacon/Praktica cameras is Mike’s Praktica Collection. It’s a bit of a labyrinth to navigate — and the 1990s look and feel doesn’t help — but it covers all Praktica models with detailed data sheets and information. Useful if, for instance, you want to know whether a particular Praktica model used to be powered by an old mercury battery or it accepts newer silver-oxide or alkaline button cells.

Then there are a few places I found while looking for information on different vintage film cameras, websites that are usually maintained by collectors and enthusiasts who also write brief reviews of their equipment. The following are worth a mention:

  • The Camera Site — by Reijo Lauro
  • Simon Hawketts’ Photo Blog. Detailed reviews and test photos of many vintage cameras (check the Camera Index page for a direct access to the reviews), not to mention various tips for camera repairs. You’ll find many reviews of Minolta, Miranda, Olympus, Pentax, Praktica and Ricoh cameras among others.
  • The Favourite Cameras section of Gary Seronik’s Film Advance blog.
  • I probably already mentioned this, but despite not being actively maintained anymore, I still find Alfred Klomp’s Camera Page an interesting read, especially with regard to Russian film cameras.

As for general photography blogs and suchlike, here are some special mentions:

  • Silverbased — by Ross Orr. Ross doesn’t update it very often, but his blog is definitely a keeper for several interesting articles in its archives. Tips on which vintage cameras to search for and which to avoid, DIY solutions, etc. Do visit and explore.
  • Dave Lawrence Photography — Dave is a friend and a terrific photographer. His personal photography blog is always an interesting read.
  • Women and Dreams — by Ashley Pomeroy. This was a revelation, and a blog I actually added to my RSS feeds. I discovered Ashley Pomeroy through a mention on Lewis Collard’s site. I was instantly blown away by Ashley’s writing style and his photography. But calling his Women and Dreams a photography blog is rather limiting. As you’ll find out by reading a few posts, Ashley loves to digress, and many articles aren’t directly about photography at all. He may talk about music, cinema, or video games (his recent article on Half-Life 2 is astounding, by the way). A post that’s supposed to be a ‘Photoshop tutorial’ is actually… something else. Ashley is witty and quirky, and his style is something you either love or hate. I happen to love it. If you don’t care for his blog, you can find more of his photos on Flickr.

Finally, for quickly looking up information on cameras, a great resource has been Camera-Wiki.org. In my opinion it’s much better than Camerapedia, easier to navigate, especially because it’s not drowned in advertisements. If you find Camera Wiki useful as well, please consider making a donation to help it survive.

Addendum — If you’re into vintage film cameras or if you’re starting to explore the world of film photography just now and you’re looking for camera manuals, before getting ripped off by certain websites offering you a PDF download at a price (sometimes ridiculous prices, too), please stop by Camera Manual Library, by Mike Buktus. He has done a terrific work over the years and scanned dozens of camera manuals, and offers them as free downloadable PDF files (or you just can read them in the browser). If you find them useful, please support Mike by sending a donation.

A note about websites with ad-blocker blockers

I’m not against ads, and I understand that plenty of websites need them to stay afloat. That said, I also believe a lot of websites utterly disrespect their readers by not being very discriminating with the ads they choose to display (and their underlying technology). Thus, my current policy is to use ad blockers and anti-trackers (thanks Ad Block, Ghostery, uBlock Origin, and Better) and to occasionally whitelist sites and blogs showing ads in responsible (code-wise) and tasteful (display-wise) ways.

 

Allow ads. Not.

However, in recent times, an increasing number of big sites which usually employ plenty of intrusive ads, instead of working to ameliorate the issue, have decided to implement ‘ad-blocker blockers’; that is, if you visit them, and they detect you have installed an ad blocker in your browser, they won’t display their content. They will ask you to disable your ad blocker(s). Well, I will not do that. I will, instead, stop visiting your site altogether, and I’ll tell other people to do the same.

My RSS management

Unchanged from last year. To recap: on my main MacBook Pro I’m still using Reeder, while I keep older versions of NetNewsWire on my PowerPC Macs (version 3.2.15 under Mac OS X Leopard, and 3.1.7 under Mac OS X Tiger). On iOS, my RSS reader of choice is still Unread. Unread is also my absolute favourite iOS app with regard to gesture-based navigation. It’s really good and well-designed. A special mention goes to Feed Hawk by John Brayton, a very useful iOS tool to quickly add a website’s RSS feed to your reader of choice. My nano-review of Feed Hawk is here.

I think that’s all for 2016.

Past articles

In reverse chronological order:

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