June and July Video Game Report

I forgot to do June last month, so a double header this time.

Contraption Maker (4 hours)

I continued to play and entertain Scarlett with my puzzle-solving skills.

Spelunky (17 minutes)

Dan donated to my Extra Life charity drive and forced me to do a butt-load of pushups. (An arm-load, really)

Civ V (1 hour)

I barely advance our multiplayer games as the timing just doesn’t quite work out between the three of us to go any faster.

Dear Esther (2 hrs)

I heard about this game a long, long time ago. I couldn’t remember much about it, but I was curious what all the buzz was about. It’s a pretty great experience, once again showcasing how video games can tell stories in a similar, but different way than movies. I didn’t like it as much as The Stanley Parable, but I did like it quite a bit. Also, for the first time, Tony showed up in Youtube chat while I was playing a game and that was fun.

Back to Bed (20 minutes)

I got this game as part of a Humble Bundle. It’s a strange puzzle game about a narcoleptic that takes place in a dream world that’s a mix of Salvador Dali and an Escher Drawing. It’s fun because the dream logic means you have to use an interesting logic to figure out how to get this guy back to his bed. It reminds me of how I had to twist my brain to solve the puzzles in Portal.

Yashica A (Developed July 2016) Part 3: Dan and Katie Events

This is a short series I’m going to run here on the blog featuring photos from my most recently developed roll of medium format 120 film taken with my Yashica A twin reflex lens camera. I’m grouping photos together by subject.

Sotero at the Engagement Brunch
Abuelo Sotero at the Engagement Brunch
Yashica A
film: Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 160S
ISO: 160
Shutter Speed: 1/100s
F-Stop: f/16

Between the last post and this one is one photo that didn’t turn out. I’d taken a photo in the woods during my Nude in Nature photo shoot that, unfortunately, was severely underexposed. For a year the camera sat untouched. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to shoot. There isn’t as big a street photography scene  here as there is in NYC. Because I had ISO 160 film in the camera, I couldn’t use it for indoor shots. So what to do? Well, I started talking photography with one of Katie’s aunts and so I decided to bring the Yashica to Dan and Katie’s Engagement Brunch. And, who better to take a photo of than my grandfather. He’d probably been photographed with 120 film when he was young. It’s not a technically great photo what with the leaf shadows. But I like it. Still, this is what shooting film helps you remember – you need to look at all the detail before you shoot. You don’t get a redo by the time you have the film developed.

Guard Lions
Guard Lions
Yashica A
film: Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 160S
ISO: 160
Shutter Speed: 1/100s
F-Stop: f/16

These lions, at the future location of Dan and Katie’s wedding were meant to be photographed with film. Something about them just screams it. I think they would have looked extra nice with a good, contrast-y black and white film. But, alas, I did not have that in the camera.

Dan and Katie at The Special Spot
Dan and Katie at The Special Spot
Yashica A
film: Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 160S
ISO: 160
Shutter Speed: 1/100s
F-Stop: f/16

I’m not going to give away what’s special about this location in case it’s a surprise. But I did think it would be a special photo to take a year before Dan and Katie got married. Because my Yashica doesn’t have a built-in meter (for some reason I can’t understand, even modern medium format cameras often lack features compared to their contemporaries. Maybe they think – you have billions of megapixels, what do you care?) I tend to go by the Sunny 16 rule. If it’s sunny, put the camera at f/16 and then set your shutter speed to 1/ISO speed. That’s supposed to be a great approximation for exposure. And it overall works very well. But Dan and Katie are in shadow. It’s not horrible, but it’s why I’m strongly considering future future forays into film photography with a 35mm camera – particularly a Canon so I can use all the same lenses as my digital camera.

So that’s it, that’s my latest roll on the Yashica. As I said, I really enjoy the look of film. Sure, it could be replicated with filters, but I like it just being that way already. The one thing I really like about 120 film is the square aspect ratio. There’s something neat about it and I think that’s why for so long, Instagram was all about the square photo. I may shoot some digital photos in the future with a square crop in mind. It’ll be a while until I shoot film again. I don’t have any particular photo shoots in mind where I’d use my medium format cameras. If I can pick up a 35mm for cheap I’ll probably shoot some b&w rolls. I don’t think I can wrangle too many cameras to Dan’s wedding with 3 kids, but if I can, maybe I’ll try shooting some black and white there. A lot of people do seem to like this photo from Ho and Lauren’s wedding:

Holga Outside the Reception Hall
Holga Outside the Reception Hall

Whenever I do, I’ll be sure to make another blog series.

Yashica A (Developed July 2016) Part 2: Cherry Blossom Festival

This is a short series I’m going to run here on the blog featuring photos from my most recently developed roll of medium format 120 film taken with my Yashica A twin reflex lens camera. I’m grouping photos together by subject.

Danielle and Scarlett in DC during the Cherry Blossom Festival
Danielle and Scarlett in DC during the Cherry Blossom Festival
Yashica A
film: Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 160S
ISO: 160
Shutter Speed: 1/100s
F-Stop: f/16

It’s interesting that after the photos I took at the park, I put the camera away for almost exactly 4 years – these photos are from 13 April 2015. We don’t go to the Cherry Blossom Festival every year because it seems pretty pointless. The same trees and masses of people do not make for the best of times. But, with Scarlett finally 3 years old we figured she might enjoy it this time around.

Danielle and Scarlett in DC during the Cherry Blossom Festival
Danielle and Scarlett in DC during the Cherry Blossom Festival
Yashica A
film: Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 160S
ISO: 160
Shutter Speed: 1/100s
F-Stop: f/16

And she did enjoy it overall. We did the entire loop which was just a LITTLE too much for her at that age. She kind of threw a fit 3/4 of the way through it. But after that she was fine and it was overall a good time. Unless my mom comes in 2017, we probably won’t go again until 2019 or so when the twins are about 3 years old.

Paddle boats at the Cherry Blossom Festival
Paddle boats at the Cherry Blossom Festival
Yashica A
film: Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 160S
ISO: 160
Shutter Speed: 1/100s
F-Stop: f/16

Yashica A (Developed July 2016) Part 1: The Park

This is a short series I’m going to run here on the blog featuring photos from my most recently developed roll of medium format 120 film taken with my Yashica A twin reflex lens camera. I’m grouping photos together by subject.

Danielle at our Picnic in Centennial Park
Danielle at our Picnic in Centennial Park
Yashica A
film: Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 160S
ISO: 160
Shutter Speed: 1/100s
F-Stop: f/16

These photos were taken on 30 April 2011 when Danielle and I went to Centennial Park. I tend not to be an absolutist with most things. I am neither of the opinion that digital is the only way nor that film cameras are some magical instrument capable of some authentic capture that cannot happen with digital. Instead I cherish each for their different properties. One of the neat things with film cameras (especially given that we have digital cameras and film is just extra), is forgetting what you shot and being pleasantly surprised when you get your roll back.

Runners at the Park
Runners at the Park
Yashica A
film: Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 160S
ISO: 160
Shutter Speed: 1/100s
F-Stop: f/16

Of course, now that we do have digital cameras, part of the tension is how flippant to be with film photos. The roll of film costs money and developing costs money. This roll’s twelve photos cost me approximately $15 when it’s all said and done. But for this roll, I decided I would just treat it the way I normally would – just take photos of whatever interested me. And on this day in April 5 years ago, I was interested in documentary/street photography.

Getting Ready to Kayak
Getting Ready to Kayak
Yashica A
film: Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 160S
ISO: 160
Shutter Speed: 1/100s
F-Stop: f/16

Centennial Park reminds me a lot of the large parks I used to visit when I was a kid. It has a large lake in the middle and  a nice walking trail around it. Before Danielle and I had kids, we used to walk that trail a lot as a way to get out of the house and get some nature-ish experience without having to drive too far.

Lillypads
Lillypads
Yashica A
film: Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 160S
ISO: 160
Shutter Speed: 1/100s
F-Stop: f/16
Kayaking
Kayaking
Yashica A
film: Fujifilm Fujicolor Pro 160S
ISO: 160
Shutter Speed: 1/100s
F-Stop: f/11

Your Fitbit can give away your PIN

My grad school Alma Mater, Stevens Institute of Technology has discovered how your Fitbit or Smart watch could give away your PIN:

Stevens researchers discovered that the motions of your hands as you use PIN pads, which is continually and automatically recorded by your device, can be hacked in real time and used to guess your PIN with more than 90 percent accuracy within a few attempts.

The Stevens team outfitted 20 volunteers with an array of fitness wristbands and smart watches, then asked them to make some 5,000 sample PIN entries on keypads or laptop keyboards while “sniffing” the packets of Bluetooth low energy (BLE) data transmitted by sensors in those devices to paired smartphones.

“There are two kinds of potential attacks here: sniffing attacks and internal attacks,” explains Chen. “An adversary can place a wireless ‘sniffer’ close to a key-based security system and eavesdrop sensor data from wearable devices. Or, in an internal attack, an adversary accesses sensors in the devices via malware. The malware waits until the victim accesses a key-based security system to collect the sensor data.”

After capturing accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer data from the devices and using it to calculate typical distances between and directions of consecutive key entries, Chen’s team developed a backward-inference algorithm to predict four-digit PIN codes.

A few words on Posing

A great photo doesn’t necessarily need good planned posing. Take a look at this shot of Tony, Alex, and Scarlett:

Enjoying Gelato at PitangoI didn’t plan it, but I did have to wait for the right pose to present itself. It would be a tighter story without Scarlett, but I think it still conveys a coherent message: kids enjoying ice cream and conversing. A kiddie version of going to the bar, essentially.

While it doesn’t have to be pre-planned, there does need to be good posing, though. Otherwise it’s just a snapshot – something that looks disorganized and takes the mind away from what the image is meant to convey. The larger the group in a photo, the more important the posing is. Let’s move to this example from a few days ago:

Four Generations of Mesa MenI’d been planning this shoot for months. I looked up examples of how not to have awkward family photos and I refreshed myself on posing guidelines for groups. One of the most important guidelines is to create pleasing configurations. Although every rule is meant to be broken, one of the best ways to arrange groups involves creating triangles. The mind loves that. Before I really started nerding out on photography and moving away from snapshots, I would have just had us stand in a row and one of us would hold Sam. You’ve seen it a million times. It’s BORING and it looks unprofessional. What I have above, however, is something I’d be happy to put up on my wall. I have two triangles going on here – or essentially a diamond. Of course, this photo also reveals the unfortunate results of not having another photographer behind the camera. My wife, who took the photo, did not let me know that I needed to move Sam to my right to make the diamond not be lopsided. That screams at me – “I COULD HAVE BEEN WONDERFUL!” Here’s another example:

Lots of Mesa MenAgain, this could have worked so well if we’d had another photographer around. Someone to mention that with the addition of my youngest brothers, that we had to move them all to the right to create a neat, overlapping triangle. Instead we have a lopsided photo. It’s not as horrible as it would have been if I hadn’t been thinking, but by being unable to see the composition from the outside, I couldn’t tell how lopsided it was.

One last photo to contrast against these. Unlike these photos where I’d been planning the arrangement for a long time, there was the rushed family photo before Dan’s engagement party:

A family portrait before going to Dan's engagement partyThis is a lot more of a snapshot than I would have preferred for what will probably be our most dressed up photo until Dan gets married next year. What is wrong with it? Well, for starters it’s a bit lopsided without reason. Yes, we’re in a good rule of thirds spot vs the middle, but we’re not looking off to the side, so it just ends up looking lopsided. Danielle and I should be a lot closer to each other and holding the children in front of us instead of between us. It almost looks like a metaphor. Then there’s Scarlett. She should be in front of the twins. It’d block their feet and also make her less lopsided. Finally, it should have been a portrait shot so that Scarlett wouldn’t look like an afterthought at the bottom. Perhaps we’ll do a slightly less formal shot sometime soon. Of course, we’d once again be in the quandary of not having the photographer able to observe things from the outside. But I think, given the short stature of the children, perhaps a sitting/lounging portrait would work best.

I hope you found that helpful with the provided examples. I also would love to hear any suggestions.

Creating VSCO-Like Photos with RawTherapee

Lots and lots of people ask on Reddit every single day how to get photos that look like they were created with VSCO. Basically – crushed blacks and split-toned. Everyone always gives instructions on how to do it in Lightroom. But no one ever talks about how to do it in RawTherapee, so I decided to create this little tutorial.

Take what you learn here and adapt it to fit your style.

Family Portrait

We’re hardly ever dressed up so nicely. So when we all got dressed up for Dan’s engagement party, I wanted to get a quick family portrait before we left. The pose wasn’t perfect due to the rush, and I’ll be elaborating a bit more on that in a future blog post, but I do like it as a bit of record keeping. Slightly more than a snapshot, but not how I’d have done it if we weren’t in a hurry.

A family portrait before going to Dan's engagement party

Using Flatpak to install LibreOffice on Fedora 24

After someone told me that a PDF I’d created in Calligra Office was illegible and having issues with spreadsheets loading slowly, I decided to install LibreOffice. However, rather than go with the version in the repos, I decided to go with Flatpak – which allows for a more advanced version via the usage of runtimes. First, I had to install Flatpak:


sudo dnf install flatpak

Then I needed to install the runtimes. The LibreOffice page uses the –user tag, but I think that is just for installing it just to yourself rather than for the whole system. So I am omitting that.

wget https://sdk.gnome.org/keys/gnome-sdk.gpg 
flatpak remote-add --gpg-import=gnome-sdk.gpg gnome https://sdk.gnome.org/repo/
flatpak install gnome org.gnome.Platform 3.20

That took a bit and said things like “Writing Objects” on the terminal. Eventually that was done. Then it was time for LibreOffice. I grabbed the file from the website, then:


flatpak install --bundle LibreOffice.flatpak

After doing that I did an alt-F2 to see if it could launch like a regularly installed application. It did not show up. Perhaps Flatpak only works well with Gnome for now?

flatpak run org.libreoffice.LibreOffice

Worked, though.

In the future if I want to update it, I need to run:

flatpak update --user org.libreoffice.LibreOffice</pre>

I do have to say that I’m disappointed it doesn’t appear in my alt-F2 menu.

Multi-Generational Photos

Ever since Sam was born, I’ve been looking forward to a 4 generation male portrait. I’d done a female line portrait with Scarlett up to her great-grandmother. It was finally time to do the same for me. While we were out there and dressed up, we took a few other configurations of family photos. All the males are wearing guayaberas, a traditional shirt worn in the Caribbean, especially in Cuba.

After having had my grandparents here for a week, I’ve been so used to thinking in Spanish that I keep trying to tell Danielle things in Spanish. Last night I even dreamed in Spanish. I guess it does show that those neural connections just snap right back when immersed in the language.