Dec 112016
 

When the digital revolution arrived to photography, one of the side-effects was a demand for enterprise class storage even by the most amateur of photographers. Every digital photography course ever offered has always hammered this point:

Always use the best quality storage devices and always make sure you have two backups.

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Apr 082014
 

As part of my workflow, I use Photo Mechanic 5 to import the images from my memory cards into my Mac Pro. As part of the ingestion process, I have PM5 make a backup copy of all incoming files on my Thecus NAS. Everything was hunky-dory until the most recent update to Mavericks (10.9.2) where Apple switched over to SMB2 from SMB. If you are connecting to newer Windows machines, this is not an issue. But older devices (or Linux-based ones running Samba) don’t support SMB2 and data transfer rates suffer immensely because of it. Normally, a 1200 image session would take about an hour to process, but this transformed into a 21 hour torture session. This needed to be fixed now.

I have tried various workarounds to force my Mac back to SMB but they do not seem to make any difference. My Windows machines all talk to the NAS without issues. I tried to mount the share using NFS (Network File Sharing – a Unix/Linux network protocol) but I configured my NAS with ZFS (Zettabyte File System) which precludes the use of NFS. Another solution needed to be found.

I had noticed that if I FTP to my NAS, I can connect quickly and transfer files very rapidly over the local network. Using an FTP client (or even a command line script) was impractical as PM5 could not work with it directly and it would add an additional step in the process. What was needed was an FTP client that could mount FTP sites like local drives.

Searching around, I first tried a freeware solution, MacFusion. However, this application depends on MacFuse to be installed and the MacFuse project is dead and there is no support for Mavericks. Fuse for OS X supports Mavericks, but MacFusion is not setup to call it and the developers have also moved on to other projects. Searching around some more, I discovered ExpanDrive – a commercial utility that allows you to mount remote file systems as local drives. ExpanDrive supports: SSH (SFTP), FTP, Amazon S3, WebDAV, RackSpace Cloud Files, OpenStack Swift Storage, DreamHost DreamObjects, Box.com, Dropbox, and Google Drive.

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The native FTP server on my NAS is a little flaky so I loaded up a copy of Filezilla Server on one of my Windows servers. Once I configured my account to include a virtual folder pointing to my Photo share on my NAS, it was child’s play to set up ExpanDrive to mount that as a drive on my Mac. Now I can upload images to my backup location at full speed once again.

[DISCLOSURE: I purchased a copy of ExpanDrive after I tried the free trial. I have not contacted nor have been contacted by the developers in any way. Nor have I been compensated in any way (other than being able to upload my photos at reasonable speeds once again).]

Nov 062013
 

SAN RAMON, Calif. – November 6, 2013 – The SD Association today announced a new high-performance option and symbol specifically designed to support a wide array of 4K2K television and video products. A new Ultra High Speed (UHS) Speed Class 3 (U3) symbol will indicate products capable of recording 4K2K video and will operate exclusively on SDXC UHS-I and UHS-II memory cards and devices and SDHC UHS-I and UHS-II memory cards and devices.
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The UHS Speed Class 3 defines a sizzling fast 30 Megabytes per second constant minimum write speed to ensure high-quality video recordings. This means 4K2K video, live broadcasts and content can be recorded on high-performance cameras such as Digital Single Lens Reflex (D-SLR),  Digital Single Lens Mirrorless (D-SLM), camcorders and video cameras and then played back smoothly. Consumers will benefit from a single card that is capable of meeting all of their video, photo, music, document and data storage needs.
“The world’s favorite SD memory card continues to evolve and meet shifting industry needs,” said Brian Kumagai, president of the SD Association. “Our new UHS Speed Class 3 standard will give consumers and businesses more flexibility and capability as the market shifts to 4K2K video formats. Both SDXC and SDHC memory card standards already offer the massive storage needed to support 4K2k video with enough room to store photos, music, documents and other data on a single portable card.”
New devices offering the UHS Speed Class 3 will be backwards compatible and will work with existing SD memory cards. The SD Association continually meets the challenge of providing a comprehensive menu of standards to meet the needs of a wide variety of devices with different capabilities. Selected features are marked with performance symbols that appear on products to help users identify feature functionality.
UHS Bus Symbols:
UHS-I and UHS-II symbols indicate bus interface for data transfer. UHS Speed Class symbols, such as U1 and U3, indicate minimum write speeds for real-time video recording.

  • UHS- I bus speed makes the massive storage found on SDXC and SDHC memory cards manageable and even more portable. This symbol is used on SDXC and SDHC products capable of supporting data transfer speeds between the memory card and the device of up to 104 Megabytes per second. Users should pair their devices with memory cards having the same symbol for optimum performance.
  • UHS-II bus speed makes the massive storage found on SDXC and SDHC manageable and even more portable. This symbol is found on SDXC and SDHC products capable of supporting data transfer speeds between the memory card and the device of up to 312 Megabytes per second. Users should pair their devices with memory cards having the same symbol for optimum performance.

UHS Speed Class Symbols:
UHS Speed Class symbols are found on SDXC and SDHC products with either UHS- I or UHS-II symbols. The U1 denotes a 10 Megabytes per second minimum write speed, and U3 denotes 30 Megabytes per second minimum write speed. Users will achieve optimum video recording performance by pairing their devices with the appropriate SDXC or SDHC memory cards with the same marks.
Legacy Speed Class Symbols:
The existing Speed Class symbols for non-UHS SD bus mode (this includes non-UHS bus mode operation of UHS memory cards) are Class 2, Class 4, Class 6 and Class 10. They refer to the minimum write speed performance of the memory card for video recording. The symbols are found on SD, SDHC or SDXC memory cards and devices.
Learn more about these speed classes by visiting www.sdcard.org/consumers/speed/speed_class. The Association offers two videos showing best uses for the variety of SD memory cards available today; to view, visit www.sdcard.org/videos.  The Association also offers an online resource, www.sdcard.org/cardchoice, for users to explore the variety of SD memory card types for new and existing devices.
SD Association
The SD Association is a global ecosystem of more than 1,000 technology companies charged with setting interoperable SD standards. The Association encourages the development of consumer electronic, wireless communication, digital imaging and networking products that utilize market-leading SD technology. The SD standard is the number one choice for consumers and has earned more than 80 percent of the memory card market with its reliable interoperability and its easy-to-use format. Today, mobile phones, Blu-ray players, HDTVs, audio players, automotive multimedia systems, handheld PCs, digital cameras and digital video cameras feature SD interoperability. For more information about SDA or to join, please visit the Association’s web site, www.sdcard.org.

Oct 042013
 
Minneapolis based NuMac LLC announces its optical disc burning solution for Apple’s new Mac Pro. The NMBDR6x supports the reading and writing of Blu-Rays, DVDs, and CDs. In order to keep clutter to a minimum the NMBDR6x stands less than 2 inches tall from top to bottom, and features a round, low-profile aluminum enclosure designed to sit beneath Apple’s new Mac Pro. The slot load design has no tray to get in the way or break off. Both Power and data are sent via the single USB cable.
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Minneapolis, Minnesota – NuMac is excited to announce the NMBDR6x, a single cable solution for burning optical discs with Apple’s soon to be released Mac Pro. The round, low-profile design of the NMBDR6x allows the device to sit right beneath the Mac Pro, keeping clutter to a minimum.
Built with a durable and sleek aluminum enclosure and non-skid base, The NMBDR6x is designed to sit directly beneath the 2013 Mac Pro, so it takes up no additional desk space. With both power and data being transferred via the single USB cable, there is no need for another clunky power adapter.  Because of the slot load design, the NMBDR6x has no tray to get in the way or break off. Just slide your media right in and start burning.
The NMBDR6x features Quad Layer burning support for Blu-Ray discs. This technology allows the burning of discs up to 128GB in capacity. 6x BDR burning (25GB & 50GB discs) and 4x burning for BDXL (100GB & 128GB discs). DVDs and CDs burn quickly and accurately on the NMBDR6x as well.
Pricing and Availability:
Features Plug & Play compatibility with OS X 10.6 or later. The NMBDR6x stands less than 2 inches tall from top to bottom. Lifetime warranty. Assembled in the US. Available now for $149 (USD).
Apr 122013
 

As we plan for our big vacation this year, I look back on previous trips and tried to calmly, methodically and (hopefully) dispassionately figure out what I did to safeguard my images and what I did wrong. I have used a variety of devices over the years to safeguard my images, but none of them were a good fit for me.

I have used laptops, but they can be big and heavy (I would like to get a MacBook Pro Retina 13.3″ TBH, but I don’t have the funds right now), especially if you are going to be doing a lot of walking (like nature hikes or pounding the tradeshow beat). Ultrabooks are much lighter, but they cost as much as a Mac Book Pro, so why get a wannabe when you can get the real thing? Like the MBP, Ultrabooks are out of my budget.

iPads and other tablet computers are certainly light enough and have features that I need (I am sitting in a bookstore writing this article on my iPad Mini using a Bluetooth keyboard), but their non-standard way of accessing hardware makes it a bit cumbersome.

I’ve also used “image tanks” – portable hard drives with card readers attached that come with some software to ingest and, on some of the more expensive models, display your images for review. These devices can be pretty pricey and are limited to what RAW files they will display. If you don’t own a CaNikon, chances are slim you’ll see more than the embedded JPEG from the RAW file. (Assuming you don’t shoot RAW+JPEG, but that will cut down on the number shots you can take, or JPEG which will limit your ability to post-process the image).

Ultimately, what I needed was a small computer with an iPad sized screen, built-in card reader, USB ports, WiFi, and a reasonably sized hard drive. I found my answer sitting on my shelf:

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A Netbook.

Netbooks are small laptops that were all the rage before iPad rose from the sea and crushed them. The few you can find today are being sold at fire sale prices. Netbooks were notoriously underpowered, but only if you were running Windows. There was the trick. Instead of running some species of Windows (mine came with Windows 7 Home), I replaced my Redmondian OS with a flavor of Linux. Specifically, Linux Mint 14.

Linux Mint is a fork of Ubuntu Linux (which is derived from Debian) which comes with a GUI called “Cinnamon” pre-loaded. Cinnamon is very lightweight and modern looking and fits well on the netbook’s smallish screen. Windows 8, in contrast, cannot run Metro UI on a netbook because the resolution is too low. Ubuntu Linux uses the Unity UI which is more touch oriented and needs a bit more screen real-estate to make it not feel cramped.

 

Giving your netbook minty fresh breath (Installing Linux Mint)

Netbooks do not come with optical discs. You can connect a USB powered external disc and install that way, but it’s something else to buy. Instead, I used a 4GB USB drive (I have scads of these laying about from trade shows) and created a bootable disc image on the drive. Linux Mint 14 comes on a DVD sized ISO file so a 4GB USB drive is the smallest size you can use. I purchased this one online. It is by Verbatim and has the virtue of being physically small and thus hard to break.

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In order to install from a USB drive, you have to properly install the boot image onto the drive. The Ubuntu linux website has some excellent documentation covering this for every platform imaginable. You can read about it here. Insert the USB stick into an open port and boot the netbook (you may have to enter the BIOS by pressing F2 during POST to enable booting from the USB stick). Follow the instructions on screen and install the OS (be sure to use the entire drive dedicated to Linux). Once Linux Mint is installed, connect to the Internet and make sure you run the software updater. This is very important as it will upgrade the OS and all apps to the latest versions.
Once you have the OS installed and configured, you will need to add three applications:
  1. Rapid Photo Downloader
  2. Digikam
  3. Filezilla

You could use Software Manager to install the apps but it is faster to use the command line. To install the applications, open a Terminal window and type the following commands:

sudo apt-get install rapid-photo-downloader
sudo apt-get install digikam
sudo apt-get install filezilla

After the first command, you will be asked for the superuser password. Simply enter your password and you will be granted temporary superuser access. There will be a lot of gibberish flying up the screen between each command. The apt-get tool downloads all of the components needed to install and run the requested app. You will not be asked the password for the second and third commands.

Once you have the software installed, you will need to setup the USB hard drive. This means reformatting the drive. Linux can read, but not write to NTFS. There are some tools you can set up to allow you to do this, but we want to use the drive as a backup to the laptop drive. The easiest way to do this is to format the drive to EXT3 or EXT4 filesystem. You can read a complete set of instructions here. One thing I did find is that in order to make this work, you have to grant yourself security privileges on the external drive. From the command line type:

sudo chown yourid:yourid /dev/diskn (where n is the the disk number of the external drive)
sudo chmod 755 /dev/diskn
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Once you complete these commands, you should be able to create files and folders on the new drive. At this point, launch Rapid Photo Downloader and configure it to import photos when a card is inserted into the built-in card reader and make sure that you enable the “backup at ingestion” function and configure it to point to the external drive.

You will need to configure Filezilla to access your FTP server. Test to make sure that you can upload files there. Once you import the files, logon to your FTP server using Filezilla and upload your image folders to it.