500px

For anyone enjoying my photography, I’m maintaining my favorite photos on 500px.

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Iceland: Day #1

Ever since visiting Norway last year, it’s been in my heart to visit Iceland. I’ve spent the past year looking at photos of Kirkjufell mountain and the Aurora Borealis, in anticipation for this year’s trip through Scandinavia. Day #1 of a two-week expedition through Iceland and Norway was well spent. With no sleep for 36 hours, my wife and I somehow managed to find some of the most beautiful parts of Grundarfjörður, a small fishing village in western Iceland. Over the next few days, we’ll be exploring and branching out, as well as meeting a local professional photographer for a photo tour of some of his favorite spots. There’s really no word other than magical to describe Iceland, and its beauty. Waterfalls everywhere you look, old lava fields now growing moss, giant towering mountains – it’s intimidating in a way that makes you feel small to nature; it’s an amazing feeling.

Many of these photos were taken during a very long sunrise, on a day accompanied by high winds, freak hail storms, and a number of other threats from nature. We had to fight hard to get crisp photos today. This involved numerous shots, tripod spikes, and a lot of patience. It was worth it.

Classic Kirkjufell #2 Continue reading

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Low Country Boondocks #2

Low Country Boondocks SM

I decided to re-process a number of my photos lately. I’m learning that processing photography is like make-up: less is more. The best photos need very little. You spend hundreds of dollars on Photoshop post tools, like Nik and Topaz (which are great), but then you lose sight of what’s really important: good photography. I disagree with those who say that “the pro’s” do everything SOOC. In fact, many grew up that way, because you didn’t have Photoshop back in the 70s: you just went to print, perhaps with some minor burning and dodging, or other simple darkroom tricks. Not every shot will be like that; this photo needed a bit of editing, but not nearly as much as I layered on there before. There’s something to be said for minimal post processing as well; some of my best shots have been straight out of the camera, with very little editing. “Cabins”, which I posted a few weeks ago, is a prime example of this; almost no editing at all, and it’s one of my best photos.

I loathe photographers who abuse the vibrance control, or layer so much on top of their photos at 100% opacity; at best, they look like video games. At worst, you can tell they’ve been heavily processed. I’m getting better with time; my personal goal is to do everything I need in Camera Raw (basic raw processing).

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Before the Storm

Before the Storm SM

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Vacuum every SQLite database

find ~/Library -type f -exec sh -c “grep ‘^SQLite format 3′ \”{}\” && echo ‘VACUUM;’ | sqlite3 \”{}\” ” \;

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Eerily

IMG_0229.JPG

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What You Need to Know About WireLurker

Mobile Security company Palo Alto Networks has released a new white paper titled WireLurker: A New Era in iOS and OS X Malware. I’ve gone through their findings, and also managed to get a hold of the WireLurker malware to examine it first-hand (thanks to Claud Xiao from Palo Alto Networks, who sent them to me). Here’s the quick and dirty about WireLurker; what you need to know, what it does, what it doesn’t do, and how to protect yourself.

How it Works

WireLurker is a trojan that has reportedly been circulated in a number of Chinese pirated software (warez) distributions. It targets 64-bit Mac OS X machines, as there doesn’t appear to be a 32-bit slice. When the user installs or runs the pirated software, WireLurker waits until it has root, and then gets installed into the operating system as a system daemon. The daemon uses libimobiledevice. It sits and waits for an iOS device to be connected to the desktop, and then abuses the trusted pairing relationship your desktop has with it to read its serial number, phone number, iTunes store identifier, and other identifying information, which it then sends to a remote server. It also attempts to install malicious copies of otherwise benign looking apps onto the device itself. If the device is jailbroken and has afc2 enabled, a much more malicious piece of software gets installed onto the device, which reads and extracts identifying information from your iMessage history, address book, and other files on the device.

WireLurker appears to be most concerned with identifying the device owners, rather than stealing a significant amount of content or performing destructive actions on the device. In other words, WireLurker seems to be targeting the identities of Chinese software pirates.

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Samples: DxO OpticsPro 10 ClearView Haze Removal

I’m truly stunned. Check out DxO OpticsPro 10’s new ClearView haze removal feature. This is the original image (taken somewhere between Pahrump, CA and Death Valley on a hot summer day).

Before

Now check out the photo with ClearView’s default setting (50% strength). I turned off all of DxO’s other adjustments, so that only ClearView is being used.

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Yosemite Could Easily Support LTE-Enabled MacBooks in the Future

With Yosemite’s release comes a lot of brand new code from Apple, and much to be explored. As you would expect, much of Yosemite’s codebase is shared with iOS 8. With this includes cellular capabilities, which could make it very easy for Apple to support cellular data on the desktop platform. Yosemite does currently support hotspot tethering, but the overlap in codebase could also support something else in the future: MacBooks with integrated LTE functionality.

Apple’s recent announcement of an “Apple SIM” went largely unnoticed, and while convenient for new iPad owners, is quite an undertaking for a product that has already saturated the market. On the other hand, you don’t buy your laptops from Verizon or AT&T, nor would anyone want to buy a laptop that was tied to a particular cellular carrier. The Apple SIM makes much more sense if Apple’s ultimate game is to release a MacBook Air with the ability to subscribe to any cellular network.

This morning, I decided to have a look into Apple’s new download continuity manager (nsurlsessiond),which led me to also look at networkdfindmydeviced and other daemons, on both Yosemite and iOS 8. Both codebases are virtually identical, with the cellular components simply compiled out of Yosemite’s build. Here are some examples.

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Damage Warning on C-SLIDE Webcam Covers for Laptops

About a year ago, I installed some of those little C-SLIDE plastic sliding webcam covers (from @WebcamCovers) on all of our laptops in the house (the kind that are now ubiquitous and private branded by everybody). This week, I had to take one of the laptops in for repair at Apple due to problems with the LCD. There were about a dozen horizontal lines at the top, and a small cone shaped black spot in the middle of the LCD directly underneath the iSight camera. The total repair was over $600 (talk about a markup).

In chatting with the Apple tech (I refuse to call them geniuses), he felt the most likely cause was a pressure crack inside the LCD. Given the machine was only a couple years old, and treated with care, we determined the most likely cause was the added pressure created by the little stick on sliding cov when you close the notebook. Even if you close it gently, the magnets create a pull on the top of the notebook screen. Additionally, even after it’s closed, all of the pressure on the LCD, thanks to the camera cover, is now concentrated on the small area in the center of the notebook, instead of distributed across the entire panel. This means that even while its in your laptop case, any pressure on the lid is focused on one small area of the LCD. The plastic sliding camera covers are very convenient, however it looks as though over the long term, they have the potential to cause severe damage to your laptop screen, even if you care for your machines. I would advise avoiding them and look into solutions that do not interfere with the amount of pressure distributed across the LCD.

As it happens, @WebcamCovers admits that their own products cause damage “when pressure is applied”, however what they don’t tell you is that, even if you don’t abuse your notebook, the “pressure” applied from normal use alone over a prolonged period of time, can cause damage to your notebook’s LCD. In comparison, the little $5 piece of plastic is not worth the risk IMO for a $600 screen. EFF has some good alternatives on their website: stickers that can easily be peeled back and forth, and will re-adhere with no problems. If you care about causing damage to your laptop, I’d recommend looking at this alternative, or others, instead.

NOTE: @WebcamCovers has ignored my request to have the damage caused by their product reimbursed.

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Preliminary Findings on Whisper

At the suggestion of @kashhill, I did a brief analysis of the Whisper iOS application, which appears to be at the height of controversy with respect to user privacy. My preliminary observations follow. Note, I am only looking at the technical aspects of the application, and make no political conclusions about the motivations of the company. I do not see any horribly underhanded malicious code in the application, although it is a large application and my analysis was brief. In spite of this, the Whisper app does not appear to be a social networking application with analytics; it appears to be an analytics and user acquisition application that also happens to have a social networking component. With this come a few concerns about privacy and anonymity.

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