How to stop Photos.app opening whenever you connect a memory card

Yo Apple, Photos.app is really great and everything, but those of us who use third-party photo production software for ingestion and processing don’t want to see it EVERY TIME WE PLUG A MEMORY CARD INTO OUR MAC. (We don’t want to see it when we connect our iPhone, either. We only do that when Facebook Too Much Very Important Work has killed our phone battery.)

A user-friendly toggle to disable this for all devices would be super. Perhaps under System Preferences > CDs and DVDs?

Meanwhile, fellow photographers, here’s a terminal command that will safely disable the automatic opening of Photos.app when you least expect it. Copy and paste everything after the $ into Terminal.app and press Return:

$ defaults -currentHost write com.apple.ImageCapture disableHotPlug -bool YES

Unlike some of the other workarounds on the Internet, this one works even when you regularly re-format your memory cards (as most of us do). And it doesn’t require you to delete Photos.app, which might potentially break something somehow. No reboot required, either.

Update (27-Nov-15): If, for some reason, you want to reverse this change and return to OS X’s default behaviour, here’s the command to run:

$ defaults -currentHost delete com.apple.ImageCapture disableHotPlug

The Voices: even the genre is schizophrenic

This is the 4th post in my November writing challenge series. Yes, I’m a bit behind. I’m OK with that. Hope you are too.

Michelle has had the hots for Ryan Reynolds since Two Guys and a Girl, so when our Apple TV offered up The Voices as a “Top Movie”, the horror / psychological thriller / crime comedy become our Friday night entertainment.

It would be fair to describe it as Dexter meets Ted, which I say as a bigger fan of Dexter than of Ted.

We knew from the trailer that it was going to be bizarre, but we were still in disbelief when The Voices lurched from comedy to horror and back again. Given the main character (Jerry, played by Reynolds) is schizophrenic, and the movie carries us deeper and deeper into his alternate realities, this volatility makes sense, but it’s very confronting at times. Especially when there is blood. Lots of blood.

Most of the comedy is delivered through Jerry’s cat and dog, who provide the main “voices” through which he does battle with his delusional thoughts. Their good cop / bad cop routine moves briskly between hilarious, crude and dark, but as we get to know Jerry better, it’s increasingly tragic — these voices, after all, are torturing him and have made him (and several others) their victim.

I don’t know enough about schizophrenia to offer any comment on how realistic the portrayal of mental illness in The Voices might be, but I can say that Ryan Reynolds created deep sympathy for his character – while not diminishing or trivialising the horror he brought to those around him.

The ending of the movie is just weird.

Whipping horses for fun: another great Aussie tradition

This is post no. 3 in my November writing challenge series.

Another Melbourne Cup has come and gone, and most of Australia has had a fabulous time pretending not to notice that the centrepiece of their frocked-up outings / office sweeps / drunken gambling was a race in which humans used whips to force animals more athletic than themselves to run so fast they might die.

Here’s my Facebook post on the topic:

There’s no nice way to say this.

If you placed a bet on today’s race, or found some other way to actively participate in Melbourne Cup festivities, then you–yes, YOU–are complicit in the flogging and maiming and killing of beautiful animals for no purpose other than your own entertainment.

This unforgivably cruel industry only exists because it’s profitable, and it’s only profitable because of people like you.

I say this not to make you feel guilty, but in the hope that next time a day like this comes around, you will stand against cruelty and injustice.

Together, we can end this national disgrace.

Of course there’s more to Melbourne Cup Day than cruelty to horses (which isn’t limited to one day of the year anyway). There’s also the destructiveness of the gambling; the repulsiveness of the drunkenness / waste / rubbish; the barely concealed money laundering by criminals; and perhaps worst of all, the millions of dollars of government funding that subsidises the whole sorry mess.

Ah, Straya. The land of shameful parties too sacred to cancel.

At least we’re not as bad as ancient Rome.

Why Android still sucks

This is the second post in my November writing challenge series.

I’ve been an Apple convert for a few years now (I started to see the light in 2010-ish), but every 12-18 months, I grab a Google-endorsed device that can run the latest version of Android and put it through its paces.

I do this because I feel obliged to speak without ignorance on the advantages and disadvantages of the major mobile platforms. Also because playing with new tech is fun.

There’s more to it than the UI

When it comes to Android vs. iOS, the differences are much bigger than user experience. Apple’s business model is completely different to Google’s, which impacts on everything about its hardware, software and online services.

Some of the differences are less obvious than others. For example, Google’s efforts to retain and profit from its users’ data are no secret, but most people don’t realise just how much of their personal information is being passively disclosed. Apple, meanwhile, draws most of its profit from hardware sales and actively avoids the disclosure and retention of user particulars.

A more obvious difference is in the area of version fragmentation. Android hardware vendors aren’t obliged to provide timely software updates for their devices–even if they contain critical security patches–and most of them don’t. Meanwhile, iOS updates are made available, to all devices capable of running them, simultaneously. You can guess which of these ecosystems is riddled with unpatched, deprecated operating system software.

But let’s talk about the UI anyway

Assuming we’ve made peace with Android’s underlying constraints, the next question to ask is: how does its user experience stack up?

To find out, I tested Android “Lollipop” (5.1.1) on a Nexus 7 (2013 version). I tried to use it productively for about a week, in place of an equivalent iPad.

I accept that without migrating all of my data to Google’s cloud services, my experience of the platform wasn’t completely immersive, but hopefully you’ll agree that it was immersive enough to make a few meaningful observations.

1. Reading and typing

iOS always set a high bar when it came to the display, entry and editing of text, but with Lollipop, Android has caught up pretty comprehensively. Its new font (Roboto) is crisp and appealing; the default keyboard has an improved layout and responds without the lag of earlier versions; and working with text selections is much less frustrating than it used to be.

It’s not just the keyboard that’s more responsive. Animations are vastly smoother, and scrolling is finally on par with iOS. I can’t overstate the importance of these these improvements–they significantly increase user enjoyment and confidence.

2. App updates

Android’s built-in apps receive updates via Google’s Play Store. This allows core apps to be updated without the overhead of a full operating system update (great!), but it also makes for a volatile experience when the Play Store app itself needs updating (not so great!). After factory resetting my Nexus 7, I had the Play Store app crash, then declare it wasn’t installed, before eventually starting to work again. Unfriendly much?

The Play Store also had trouble resolving dependencies between core apps while they were being upgraded. A bunch of “You must upgrade X before you can upgrade Y” notifications were thrown at me after I hit “Update All”. This sort of thing shouldn’t happen ever, much less immediately after a factory reset (i.e. with no third-party apps in play).

3. Settings, settings, settings

The design of Android’s “Settings” app has improved significantly since previous versions, but I still found it relatively cluttered, with too many superfluous “advanced” options offered too prominently. Your mileage may vary.

Enterprise users will be annoyed to find that proxy auto-discovery remains unavailable in Lollilop. Manually entering a PAC file URL is still necessary. Apple has been all over this for years now. C’mon, Google!

Also, disabling those annoying keyboard tap sounds is not a simple task, because settings for “Sounds” aren’t all in one place. (I eventually found the toggle I was looking for–deep in “Keyboard” settings. Argh.)

Finally: IMAP users still can’t configure the stock email app to use custom mailboxes for Sent messages and Trash. Their names are hard-coded into the app.

4. Notifications

I liked that I could turn off all notifications for a set period of time (unlike “Do Not Disturb” mode on iOS, which needs to be manually switched off). I didn’t like that I could allow “priority” interruptions during this notification blackout–simply because it’s not clear what a “priority” interruption is (“Did I configure this? Do I trust my former self to have configured it properly? Is my presentation going to be interrupted by a Facebook message?”) I also didn’t like that the UI for this feature only appeared when I used the volume rocker. It belongs on the main notification panel.

My verdict

Android as an operating system isn’t bad. Like iOS, it has annoying shortcomings in some areas, but overall, it’s fast, beautiful and easy to use. When it’s not, pop-up tips pick up the slack.

So why do I think it “still sucks”?

It’s the apps.

Or, to be more specific, it’s the tablet apps.

Android has been tablet-friendly for years now, but a large of number of app developers (including Facebook) stubbornly refuse to build tablet versions of their apps. With a few exceptions, most of the apps I tried on the Nexus 7 opened as stretched or magnified phone apps. I could access all of my content, but the apps were so useless I couldn’t do anything with it.

The iOS App Store, meanwhile, is full of high-quality tablet apps.

Also, iOS plays nice with IMAP.

Also, Apple doesn’t hunger and thirst for my metadata.

NaNoWriMo: TL;CW

Halfway through October, I started feeling strangely compelled to participate in NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as writing roughly 1666.67 words per day for an entire month.

Unfortunately no inspiration for my first full-length work of fiction had materialised by 31 October (much less an outline, developed characters or any of the other things novelists are supposed to have figured out before they start writing), so I’ve decided to reboot my writing with a more realistic challenge: one blog post per day in November. (Once upon a time, this was called NaBloPoMo.)

Paltry as it is, this introduction will have to do for 1 November. Thankfully 29 opportunities remain for more substantial content before this challenge is over.