Shallow Thoughts : : Jul

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing, Science, and Nature.

Sat, 31 Jul 2004

Got the external mouse working again

For some reason X on the laptop hasn't been seeing the external USB mouse. But last night I got it working again. Turns out that /dev/input/mouse0 no longer works; I have to use /dev/input/mice because the mouse number changes each time it's plugged in (which I don't think was a problem with earlier kernels). Thanks to Peter S. for helping me track the problem down.

I also learned (unrelated to the mouse issue) about a couple of very useful Debian apps, deborphan and debfoster, for finding orphaned and no longer needed libraries. I'd always wanted something like that to help clean up my crufty debian systems.

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[ 18:39 Jul 31, 2004    More linux | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Mon, 26 Jul 2004

Kayaking Tahoe

Sand Point, on the northeast side of Lake Tahoe, is a lovely place to kayak, with dazzlingly clear water and great weather. It's also a pain in the butt, with no parking available even after you've paid the $8 entrance fee. Still, it was a fun trip. I wrote a longer article about it.

[ 22:11 Jul 26, 2004    More travel | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sun, 25 Jul 2004

XShapeCombineMask generates an Expose loop

I tried moonroot on blackbird today, under icewm for the first time. It went into an infinite expose/redraw loop. It turns out that XShapeCombineMask (the call that sets the shaped window's shape mask) generates an extra Expose, which of course happens asynchronously so disabling expose handling in the draw routine doesn't help.

What does help is maintaining a static variable to ensure that it only shapes the window the first time, and not on subsequent draws.

I also tweaked sonypid.c a bit -- 2.4.25 is generating two jogdial-release events whenever the machine resumes from bios suspend. But there's no jogdial-press event corresponding, so I fixed sonypid to ignore jogdial release unless there's already been a jogdial press (again, maintaining a static variable; I already had one so that it doesn't trigger a release after an UP+PRESSED or DOWN+PRESSED event, so I just had to tweak that code a little). That should eliminate that annoying paste that was happening every time I resumed from suspend.

Wish sonypi would quit changing, though I shouldn't complain since it's also good to see that it's still being worked on.

[ 22:55 Jul 25, 2004    More programming | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sat, 24 Jul 2004

Virus attack on Shallow-sky

We had dinner with Tim and Pam last night (visiting for AstroCon) at "Skates on the Bay" in Berkeley -- excellent food. so I told Tim about the virus attack on Shallow-Sky a few days ago, perpetrated in his name.

Messages were sent to the list, ostensibly from his address, containing various attachments which were obviously Windows viruses. Unfortunately, I was out on a hike when the attack happened, so five of them slipped through before I found out about it and blocked his address in order to investigate further.

The virus turned out to be W32.Beagle.AG@mm (W32 is obvious, and f3ew tells me that "mm" stands for "mass mailing").

Pasc gave me a procmail rule to block this virus, to put in smartlist's rc.submit. It should have worked, but it didn't, so I ended up using a more general rule to block all base64 encoded attachments (that'll probably piss off some people who like to send images to one of our other lists, but Dave says he's asked them not to do that anyway and doesn't mind having the rule there).

Of course, the messages weren't really coming from Tim: he doesn't even use Windows (Mac and Sun, usually). It turns out they're coming from a Comcast address, which doesn't narrow things down much. There are nine addresses on the list, so I notified them privately, but it could easily be someone else or even someone off the list (though I suspect it's a list member, since it's someone who has Shallow in their addressbook).

I suppose I'll probably never know who it was. The "Tim" attacks have stopped (so I don't even know for sure that my filter works, though it worked for a test message I sent) but I've gotten two attempts spoofing Peter J (who is not currently on the list, so they bounced with "Not on accept list" before they could test the filter).

Grumble grumble Windows security grumble ...

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[ 14:13 Jul 24, 2004    More linux | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Fri, 23 Jul 2004

Tried nanoblogger

I tried nanoblogger yesterday, wondering if it would fix the problems I'm having with blosxom (primarily, not being able to limit the display to a small number of entries then offer some way to get to earlier entries). It does fix that, but it has other problems: it has a lot of bugs involving duplicate entries that show up if you remove items or add them to categories, and the category management is a hassle (you have to refer to categories by number, there's no menu offered, and the command to list the current categories is nonobvious though of course it could be aliased).

A slightly bigger problem is that since entries are generated when they are initially input, any change to the entry format later doesn't get reflected in what appears on the web. Only sometimes it does. I wasn't able to find a command that just did "refresh entries" though adding a new entry sometimes accomplished that for older entries (as well as also introducing duplicates and other strange problems).

I was also a little bothered by not being able to preview the site locally (nb hardcodes the site's url, so links all go to the real site rather than the local copy, and css files work inconsistently -- they work on some pages but not others) but OTOH blosxom, being a cgi, obviously can only work through a web server and not as local files, so they both have that problem as far as maintenance on a disconnected laptop (and in both cases it can be worked around).

The default nb look (when it does use the css, which it doesn't always) is much nicer than the default blosxom look. For blosxom I'll have to write css and collect a bunch of plugins to get things that nb offers automatically, like a sidebar with topics and a calendar of past entries. That's an appealing side to nb. I'd be really tempted if those duplicate entries weren't such a problem. Hmm.

[ 09:48 Jul 23, 2004    More blogging | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Thu, 22 Jul 2004

Beta sighted

Saw a chick in the front yard last night, hopping around on the ground and playing with a branch. This chick still has a striped breast; the chick on the wire the previous day didn't. Looks like both Alpha and Beta have made it so far. Hooray!

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[ 09:55 Jul 22, 2004    More nature/birds | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Tue, 20 Jul 2004

Printing working on debian, at last

After a year of no printing on sid, I went back to sarge to see if I could still print from there.

When I dist-upgraded my ancient sarge, one of the questions it asked me was whether to replace printers.conf. That sounded suspicious: I saved the old printers.conf, then allowed it to replace it with its new version.

Well, sure enough, with the new printers.conf it didn't know about my Epson, and when I went to the cups admin url to add it, there was no "add printer" button. Just like I'd always seen in sid.

In sid, someone once gave me the direct url to "add a printer", but when I followed it, I didn't get a working setup anyway. I decided to try copying my old printers.conf on top of the new one.

And voila, it worked! Printing works okay from sarge. (It still has the problem of the cups test page outlines not aligning well with the physical printer page, so it may not work for printing labels, but it's a start.)

So I moved over to sid, and tried the same printers.conf. Voila, something came out of the printer, the first I've ever seen that happen from sid! It didn't entirely work: I printed a few lines using lpr, and the printer printed those lines but then didn't eject the page, and I had to wrestle with the printer to get the paper out. So all is not quite well in sid land, but it's much farther along than it was using only the tools available in sid (rather than my two-year-old printers.conf originally configured on a much older sarge).

The other interesting file that upgrade asked me about was epson.conf, which turns out to be for the epson scanner, not the epson printer. Perhaps by using that (I saved the old sarge file) I'll eventually be able to get scanning working on sid! That would be lovely. For now, I'm using sarge a lot more.

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[ 22:09 Jul 20, 2004    More linux | permalink to this entry | comments ]

At least one chick still okay

Saw one mocker chick yesterday and a couple of times today. It flies well but still has trouble balancing on a wire when the wind is blowing. It still CHEEEEEEEPs instead of making noises like the adults, though I haven't seen anyone feeding it. It landed on the house roof today and did an odd sideways dance, combined with the trademark mockingbird wing-opening ritual, then hopped into the gutter and rooted around there before flying off.

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[ 22:02 Jul 20, 2004    More nature/birds | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Come, Lulu! Come!

It was hot again, so we drove to the coast and went for a hike in lower Purisima Creek. I wanted to try the Bald Knob trail, which neither of us had been on before. Bald Knob is about 2000', one of the highest points around, so as well as being "new steps", it promised a great view.

The bottom trail, by the creek, is in bloom, with lots of flowers I haven't seen anywhere else, as well as several types of almost-ripe berries, and interesting fruits that looked like small cherry tomatoes.

The trail begins to climb, and we climbed for several miles, out of the creek zone and into more typical oak and redwood forest. It wasn't as steep as I remembered it: fairly pleasant.

Then we rounded a corner, and suddenly the trail was full of dogs leaping at us! They were friendly, tail-wagging, just exhuberant. (Did I mention this preserve doesn't allow dogs?) Turns out the total was 7 dogs, only one on a leash, and one woman guiding them (and shouting at them to come back and shouting Sorry at us!)

I like dogs, and they like me, so it was no big deal, just the surprise of having that many dogs come out of nowhere in a place where I wasn't expecting to see any. The biggest one, a Rottweiler-looking dog, made me a bit nervous as he came bounding at me, until I established that he was indeed friendly. Dave wasn't as happy; he's had both good and bad experiences with dogs, and doesn't trust them.

The rest were a motley collection: a dalmatian, a shepherd-mix puppy, a dachshund, a bulldog, a small black longhair, and an old fat mixed-breed dog who waddled along bringing up the rear.

The woman came running up, apologizing to us and yelling at the dogs and threatening one of them (the Rottweiler?) that "You're going to go on the leash now!" The dogs reluctantly left off sniffing us, and the whole convention proceeded down the trail from which we'd come.

Well, not quite the whole convention. The dalmation lingered behind the others, then turned and purposefully trotted up the trail, passed us, and kept going. The woman and her six dogs were already a fair way down the trail, and the dalmation kept going the other way.

Well, eventually she discovered the dalmation was missing. You might think that someone walking one leashed and six unleashed dogs in a steep wooded open space preserve that doesn't allow dogs would keep a pretty sharp eye on them, and keep count. Maybe not. Anyway, we started hearing calls of "Lulu ... Lulu!"

I figured Lulu knew that she was being bad. If we could hear the calls, surely she could? Dave wondered, though, and tried shouting at her, and whistling. Lulu didn't give any sign. Perhaps she was actually hard of hearing.

Lulu explored the trail for a while, well ahead of us, then turned and ran down to explore a ravine. The woman and her pack was making good progress up the trail now, and when the came into sight we pointed out where Lulu had gone. Eventually the group was reunited, with a lot of "I can't believe you're doing this!" and "That's it, you're out of my group!"

All looked well, until the little black longhair decided she'd had enough, and lay down in the trail refusing to move. ("Missy! Missy, get up! We're leaving! We're going home!")

Dave and I continued up the trail, in order not to be any more distraction. The Bald Knob trail turned off just a few hundred feet beyond where Missy lay, anyway. As we walked up that trail, it looks like the group did get going again.

It was a strange encounter. I have mixed feelings about dog bans in parks: it's true that some dog owners aren't good about cleaning up after them, and it may even be true that they'd chase wildlife and cause problems that way (though most pet dogs aren't much at hunting, and no self-respecting wild squirrel or bird would be in much danger). I even have mixed feelings about leash laws, because I remember going for walks with my unleashed dogs, when I was growing up, and it was a lot more fun for them to be able to run and explore and not restrict themselves to my pace. Dog people don't have many places to go, any more, and it's getting tighter all the time.

On the other hand, such an obvious lack of control, in a public place where a lot of people might be afraid of dogs (even aside from the remote possibility that one might turn vicious), seems like a failure of judgement or worse. If I were a dog owner, I'd be pretty upset at someone like this possibly turning people more against dogs, and getting them banned in even more places.

We continued on our climb. The Bald Knob trail is lovely! It leaves the redwood forest and climbs through manzanita chapparal and into a woodland of moss-covered, gnarled, twisted shrubs. Occasionally you get tantalizing glimpses of a stunning view down to the ocean, or south toward the mountains north of Santa Cruz. Dave found a huge raven feather and presented me with it; I stuck it in my ponytail. Then I found one, and added it to the headdress, and he found a third and stuck it in. I'm sure I looked perfectly silly. But they were nice feathers. Finally, we got to the end of the trail, where it meets another trail ... and to the right, leading up to the top of the knob, was a gate saying "Private Property ahead. Do Not Enter." What a gyp! What an anticlimax! A map that clearly shows a high viewpoint, labelled by name and by elevation, inside the park boundary, but no trail actually goes to it! We waz robbed!

It was pretty disappointing. There really is no place you can see a large portion of the obviously stunning view. The trail was first rate, but their map is misleading and Bald Knob is not in fact a destination. On the way back we kept our eyes peeled for places we could wildcat through the brush, but it was always too thick, and we didn't try.

9.6 miles total, longer than our usual hike. Tired feet. But it was a nice day!

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[ 22:00 Jul 20, 2004    More nature/trails | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Mon, 19 Jul 2004

Great joke from Yosh

Q: What's the difference between Kerry and bin Laden?

A: Bush is willing to cut short his August vacation to stop Kerry.

[ 09:34 Jul 19, 2004    More humor | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sun, 18 Jul 2004

Tried Blosxom

I'm testing out the possibility of switching to Blosxom. It was very easy to set up, and wasn't even that hard to move my entries over (thank goodness there weren't that many of them, though) but there's a showstopper: I can specify $num_entries, the number of entries shown on a page; but there's no way to get to the previous entries! You can specify a date if you know it, or a year, or a month; but in each case, it will only show you the first $num_entries entries for that time period.

Who would want to have a blog but have a bunch of unreachable entries?

I've asked around, googled, and spent an hour or so in the source (which makes it look like $path_info is set if a date or topic is specified, otherwise unset, and patti found a yahoo posting that suggested doing something like

$num_entries = ($blosxom::path_info ? 999 : 3);
but in fact, $num_entries is always null). I've been through all the plugins, too. How could this popular package be broken in such an obvious way?

[ 22:59 Jul 18, 2004    More blogging | permalink to this entry | comments ]

FPOA Star-b-q

Hiking up to the top of Fremont Peak before the FPOA Star-b-q started, we saw the Ghost and the Darkness, squirrel style. A couple of ground squirrels hidden in the tall grass startled as we walked by, and whisked off through the grass, occasionally twitching a tail-tip up above the tops of the grasses but otherwise mostly invisible.

Down in the parking lots, there were some interesting ant or wasp-like insects: furry scarlet head, black thorax, furry scarlet abdomen. The wings were black, too, and they could fly at least a little. No idea what they were.

Learned a new word reading scoops on the way down: Anecdotage, that advanced age where all one does is relate stories about "the good, old days."

Turned out Jeff Moore was the speaker at FPOA. He always gives good talks, but this one was especially good: interpretation of the Mars Rover geologic results so far. Some of his slides showed terrestrial scenes (mostly Death Valley) for comparison with the Martian geologic features, and he mentioned that the terrestrial slides were easy to tell because they were the ones with the pocketknife showing (for scale). So the following morning, I got inspired to whip up a few counterexamples.

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[ 09:00 Jul 18, 2004    More science/astro | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Wed, 14 Jul 2004

Pho Makefile now builds under either gtk1 or gtk2

I fixed the pho Makefile to build under either gtk1 or gtk2, which required some grody bash code. I wish I knew of a better way to do that. Aren't massive API changes fun? Whee!

Patti told me about a park I didn't know about: the Ulistac Natural Area. I drove by it today after Toastmasters. It's a very small linear park along a levee, with one wooded area and a longer and skinnier open area. I didn't go in -- the combination of migraine and hot sun sapped my interest in a walk.

[ 19:00 Jul 14, 2004    More programming | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Mon, 12 Jul 2004

Idiot gtk designers removing accessibility features

Someone posted on #gimp his review of the new gtk2 file chooser, someone else pointed to the file chooser spec. I spent most of the afternoon angry. The file chooser has no text field to type in or paste a file path! What is it about the idiot gtk2 designers that they continually insist on removing accessibility features, like keyboard access, and moving everyone to a mouse-only form of interaction? Do they want to keep keyboard-only users from using their library? Are they getting kickbacks from doctors treating RSI injuries? Or are they actually Windows developers who want to make sure that linux is even less usable than Windows?

Sometimes I think that just about the time linux is getting usable, I'm going to have to find some other OS to use, because all the linux apps will have purged all accessibility features and it will be too painful to try to get any work done.


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[ 19:00 Jul 12, 2004    More linux | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sun, 11 Jul 2004


I finally whipped up an app I've been thinking about for a while: a little moon drawn with a shaped window, so you can put it on your root like that OS X moondock applet that Dave uses. Partly it was an excuse to play with shaped windows, which I hadn't used before, and partly it's that I hate seeing stuff that OS X can do that Linux can't.

I put it up (currently temp-named "moonroot" on my software page.

I also caught some nice shots of a hummer at the feeder (through the screen) and added them to my Hummingbird Photo page. A fairly productive day, really, including a nice hike.

[ 19:00 Jul 11, 2004    More programming | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sat, 10 Jul 2004


Carla (I think it was Carla, anyway, under a differnt nick) got foulmouthed on #debian-women tonight. She was quoting a line from a doggerel song:
When you're sliding into home, and your pants are full of foam, diarrhea.
I thought that was gross, so I countered with:
When you wish your bird was blue, and there's nothing left to do, dye a rhea.
Later, she posted another line:
When you're running up to first, and your stomach's going to burst, diarrhea.
So I countered with
When you need to make a plot, and Illustrator you have not, dia free-a.

[ 20:00 Jul 10, 2004    More humor | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Chicks flying

I spotted one of the mockingbird chicks this evening, first sighting in several days (though I've heard cheeping so I was pretty sure at least one was still healthy). I'm not sure which one this was, but it flew like a pro, sat on the house roof cheeping to be fed, then swooped down to the lawn and pecked for bugs (cheeping occasionally; I guess it's still easier to have mom feed you than to hunt your own insects). It has a long tail now, and white wing patches just like the adults, but a spotted breast and that funny wide yellow "baby bird" bill.

I got a few pictures.

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[ 19:00 Jul 10, 2004    More nature/birds | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Fri, 09 Jul 2004

Why do packages install yucky fonts?

This evening, thanks to Rob Weir's Debian Font Guide and some suggestions from Rob himself, I finally got rid of that ugly oversized scaled-bitmap helvetica (or similar) font that has plagued all my Debian installs since I first started using Debian. It turns out that it comes from the gsfonts-x11 (ghostscript and gv). Remove gsfonts-x11, and gtk windows now use a much much smaller, clean, truetype helvetica font. Alternately, keeping gsfonts-x11 installed, but removing /usr/lib/X11/fonts/Type1 from the font path, gives me a medium sized, cleanly rendered helvetica in gtk windows. I may have trouble viewing postscript documents in gv; we'll see. But having all my other windows use clean fonts makes it worth risking some gv breakage.

Other things I had to do: install x-ttcidfont-conf (defoma was already installed); disable the font server (comment out the unix/:7100 line from XF86Config-4, plus update-rc.d -f xfs remove); reorder the FontPath lines in XF86Config-4 as suggested in the font guide, and remove (comment out) the /var/lib/defoma/x-ttcidfont-conf.d/dirs/CID line.

Strangely, even if I list the Type1 directory after all the others in XF86Config-4, it still takes precedence over all the other helveticas. Neither Rob nor I could figure out why.

Why do packages include fonts like that? Abiword used to have a font like that on Redhat. It's almost always for helvetica (which has a gazillion other implementations anyway, so it's not as though they have to worry that they won't be able to find a helvetica on the system if they don't install theirs).

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[ 18:00 Jul 09, 2004    More linux | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Thu, 08 Jul 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11

I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 tonight. Well done. It had some typical Michael Moore silliness, but less than I expected; most of the movie was spot on. Two weeks after release, on a weeknight, the theatre was still fairly full (and it was playing on two screens).

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[ 23:00 Jul 08, 2004    More misc | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Pho and window managers

I worked some more on pho yesterday, trying to fix some of the problems Dave has been seeing in other window managers, particularly Metacity. I got rid of most of the problems, but metacity still asks him to place and size the initial window. I have no idea why; I'm specifying initial window size, and no other program asks him that. I also haven't solved the problem of the window getting focus after it resizes out from under the mouse cursor (in lots of window managers, such as openbox). Typing that, I just got a brainstorm: maybe it's a race condition, that the focus loss doesn't happen until after expose, but the "ask for focus" happens before the resize has propogated through the X server. Must try!

[ 14:00 Jul 08, 2004    More programming | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Wed, 07 Jul 2004

Rewrote Pho

I finally got around to rewriting pho! The code is much cleaner now -- images are stored as structs in a linked list, no more motley collections of weird global arrays. Code is factored better, and it builds for gtk2. But the main motivation for rewriting it was to have it make a new window for each new or resized image, replacing the old window, to solve a bunch of window manager bugs I keep hitting:

I handed the new pho to Dave for testing, and he hates the "new window each time" model; it takes too long in the window managers he runs. He says he wasn't that bothered by the repainting/resizing problems.

Fortunately, the rewrite factored the code so that it should be easy to provide both options (that was the plan anyway), isolated in the NewWindow routine. So I'll put back the "resize and reposition existing window" code, as a switchable option, and maybe try to grab focus to solve the pointer focus issues that have been plaguing me. I don't know what to do about the window manager resize/repaint issues; more research is required.

[ 22:00 Jul 07, 2004    More programming | permalink to this entry | comments ]

DRI works after all

Got an account on alioth, akkana-guest.

Discovered that the tuxracer problem I've been having isn't actually Debian sid having broken DRI, but merely some problem with the commercial tuxracer (probably not loading the gl libs properly or something). Free tuxracer still works. Yay.

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[ 19:00 Jul 07, 2004    More linux | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Mon, 05 Jul 2004

midi/Timidity working!

Cool -- moray on #debian-women worked with me a little on midi, and I finally have timidity working!

The trick is that there's a tarball I downloaded a while ago (which means I no longer have the url, but I think it was linked from the main timidity site) which extracts into a timidity.cfg and an "instruments" directory (plus a couple of readmes that don't explain anything, which is why I hadn't unpacked this before). Turns out that if you put that .cf into /etc/timidity.cfg, then add a line that says

dir /usr/local/share/timidity
(or wherever you unpack the tarball, as long as it contains "instruments") then voila, timidity starts working.

That means not only that I can play .midi files (big whoop), but, more important, I can use all those programs like denemo that come in the education-music package, plus all the java music API stuff like the CA music code (for some reason, all these things output only midi!)

So I played with denemo a little (found out how to enter a chord) in brief spurts, between long interludes in the house because it's TOO HOT out here in the office.

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[ 19:00 Jul 05, 2004    More linux | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Sun, 04 Jul 2004

Chicks are growing

In mockchick news, we haven't seen either chick for quite some time, but until yesterday we were still hearing regular cheeping from two directions. Today I'm only hearing cheeping from one tree; it may be that Alpha has graduated to bug hunting, and even Beta doesn't seem to be begging quite so often.

Update: a few minutes after I wrote that, I saw one of the chicks up on a wire, cheeping to the parent sitting next to it. The chick is almost as big as an adult (and fatter), has a tail that's almost as long, and flies quite strongly now (flew off before I could get to my camera, alas). It didn't look like the parent actually fed it anything; I suspect they're mostly hunting their own food now.

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[ 19:00 Jul 04, 2004    More nature/birds | permalink to this entry | comments ]

Musings on photo workshops and classes

Dan's party was last night, including an group which was giving an informal workshop on night photography.

The presentation was a little disappointing, just people showing slides of recent photographs. No discussion of techniques or interesting ideas for night photography, things to try out that night.

It was mildly fun for the couple of us who were Linux users to watch the Windows people fumble with their JASC slideshow program trying to get it to present photos at a reasonable size. Whenever I wonder why I bother to keep maintaining pho, I look at what Windows and Mac people have to go through to look at photos and am amazed all over again.

But strangely, before heading off to Marin yesterday, I did some searching for other linux image viewing programs, to see if they'd solved the window manager problems I've been wrestling with for pho. Amazingly, I couldn't find a single free program in Debian that did what pho does (namely, view a list of images serially, at full size or screen resolution). I had to search for xv source (not in Debian, probably licensing issues), which requires a couple of tweaks to get it to build on linux, and which has the same window management issues pho has. I guess I'll keep maintaining it after all!

After dark we trooped up the hill to photograph lights (Richmond and the Richmond-San Rafael bridge were visible, along with parts of Marin) and wait for moonrise. I took an SLR and the Minolta, and wish I'd taken the Olympus -- nearly everyone else had digital SLRs (Canon) and I wished for something with a decent zoom which would still give me exposure feedback. It's not as if bay area skies can support long star-trail exposures anyway. Moonrise was lovely, a sliver of moon emerging above a thick cloudbank centered over the San Rafael bridge, and growing into a full-sized moon. I hope some of the film photos (on old expired PJM multispeed film!) come out.

Most of the photographers there knew each other from previous classes (I wasn't clear how many are students versus instructors) and most of the group spent the hour before moonrise clustered together taking turns taking the same shot, a person silhouetted against the lights of Richmond while someone else fired a flash from behind the person, back toward the camera, giving an "aura" effect around the silhouette and lighting the nearby grass a bit. Not really knowing anyone, I hung back and instead worked on photos of the various photographers silhouetted against the sky (which may or may not come out; I was shooting from 10 sec to about 3 min, betting on the Marin sky being too bright for longer star trails, but we'll see. One of the other solo shooters was shooting 10 minute exposures and people kept walking into her frame.) Dave shot a few Canon digicam images before the sunset light was completely gone, then the wind got to him and he went back to the house and didn't wait for moonrise.

I'd wondered about maybe taking one of their regular workshops, but this outing was a bit like the couple of other photo workshops I've done: no real instruction or sharing of ideas, basically just a bunch of people wandering around taking photos. If you have specific questions or know the instructors already you might be able to get questions answered, but as a person new to the group, I felt like I'd probably do just as well just going somewhere on my own and taking a lot of photos.

It may be that their multi-day pay workshops involve more instruction, and more feedback the next day on images taken at the workshop. I'm curious about that; the few photo seminars and classes I've taken have also promised feedback afterward, but haven't had much, if any.

Sometimes I think that the ideal format for a photo workshop is an online class: give assignments, then people post their photos a few days or a week later, and everyone discusses them, then you go off to the next assignment with what you learned based on the feedback. The important parts are the discussion and the feedback, not being in the same physical place during the shooting (since not much instruction seems to take place then, for most participants, and if it does it seems to be of the type "everybody line up and take exactly the same photo"). It's hard to do feedback in a several-day workshop at a place like Death Valley when people are shooting film and you can't get it developed quickly enough; a digital camera might be a prerequisite to getting much out of that sort of workshop.

[ 10:00 Jul 04, 2004    More photo | permalink to this entry | comments ]

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