Studio711

Quick Photo Tips

I’m currently editing a bunch of photos from our last trip. While we were there, we talked about combining video from everyone’s phone for a little video montage. I’m still working on that, but I thought I’d pass along the three things I asked everyone to do for the video:

  1. Shoot at eye level. If you only remember one thing, this is it. Whether you’re doing pictures or video, you’ll get dramatically better results if you are at eye level with your subject.
  2. Hold your camera/phone in landscape mode not portrait. This is critical for video but is more of a personal preference for photos. I default to landscape photos and only use portrait when specifically required.
  3. Be still. Frame the shot and let the subject move around in it. If you’re moving around following something, it’s almost certainly going to be too uneven and jerky to use in an edit.

Windows 10 Multiple Desktops

Multiple desktops have been around operating systems for a very long time, but they came to Windows 10 in an easy-to-use feature. I’ve come to really enjoy them and thought I would share how I use the feature in my daily work because I have found that most people don’t know about it.

First off, what are multiple desktops? If you’re reading on your computer right now, you might have a collection of windows open. That’s a single desktop. Now imagine if you could switch to a new desktop and have a completely different set of windows open while still making it easy to get back to the old desktop. That’s multiple desktops.

There are plenty of tutorials online showing how to set it up and move windows between desktops so I’ll skip that part. The key thing for me is that multiple desktops help me context switch and focus at work. Desktop 1 is for email, IM, Spotify and other communication/peripheral stuff. Then I have a desktop for each task that I’m working on. Since I try to keep multi-tasking to a minimum, this means that ideally I only have one other desktop. Working on this other desktop helps me to stay focused on that activity and not get distracted by email, etc. If someone comes to ask me a question, I can flip to a new desktop, open windows to answer their question and then quickly jump back into the work I was doing.

It’s not a perfect solution though. Some apps don’t play nicely with multiple desktops. OneNote is probably the worst offender in my daily workflow. If I already have OneNote open on Desktop 1 and then I try to open it on Desktop 2, it flips me back to Desktop 1 and opens a second copy. Then I have to drag the window to Desktop 2. It’s annoying but not a deal-breaker.

It’s an advanced feature that takes a while to get used to, but consider giving it a try for a week or two to see if it fits your workflow.

P.S. One usage tip: To quickly flip back and forth once you have multiple desktops going, hold down CTRL+WINDOWS and press the left and right arrows.

San Juan Island

A couple weekends ago, Tyla, Elijah and I set off with Logan and Megan on an adventure to San Juan Island. The group of islands in the northern Puget Sound are collective called the San Juan Islands, but there is one individual island called San Juan Island. Since that’s a bit confusing, it’s often called Friday Harbor which is the main town on the island.

It’s a long ferry ride with on a few sailings per day, but thankfully you can make reservations. We snagged a reservation for both directions of our trip and that made life much easier. The boat was incredibly full with more walk-ons and bikers than I’ve ever seen before. The lady on the PA system said it was her biggest sailing this year.

Unloading took a while but we eventually made it off the boat and we headed to San Juan Island National Historic Park. If you listened to the Pig War episode of Omnibus or Stuff You Missed In History Class then you might recognize this island as the site of the famous Pig War between the British and the Americans. This end of the island is the American camp. We walked along the beach and up to the Cattle Point lighthouse.

Along the drive, I realized that we didn’t have a Discover Pass with us. That’s required to park in the state parks. Thankfully, you can now purchase them online and write your transaction number on a piece of paper to stick in your car while you wait for the physical copy to arrive in the mail. Kudos to the state park system for making that easier than it used to be!

Next we went up to Lime Kiln State Park to check out the other lighthouse on the island. Orcas pass by here fairly often, but we missed them that day. They were there around 6:30 in the morning. We walked along the shore and Elijah enjoyed crawling around on the rocks.

Then it was back across the island to Friday Harbor. Logan led us to San Juan Island Brewing for lunch and it ended up being a great choice. He and I both got flights of beer, there was a play area for Elijah and Tyla got to have oysters and clam chowder.

After lunch we parked the truck in the ferry line, walked around to find some ice cream, and then snagged a puzzle table on the ferry ride home. It was a long day and lots of traveling but it’s always fun to get up there and see the magnificent beauty.

Lake 22

Lake 22 is one of the more popular and well-known hikes in the area. That’s usually for a good reason so Logan and I decided to check it out. Popular also usually means “crowded trail” so even with a ~75 minute drive to the trailhead, we were on the trail by 7:20am. Most of the hike is on rock either because it was naturally there or because it was placed there to help avoid damage from the endless streams of water that cross the trail. It’s 2.7 miles and 1350 feet to the lake, but we added some more by walking around the whole lake. I highly recommend that as the opposite end of the lake has a great view looking almost straight up a huge rock face. Our trip down took quite a while as we stepped aside for the never ending stream of people coming up. While we both enjoyed the hike, it’s not very high on our repeat list. There are so many other great hikes with fewer crowds.

Goodbye Comcast TV

I grew up with an antenna on top of our house. We could get some channels from Chicago in addition to the local channels so we had a pretty good selection. But I still remember going to college and having CABLE TV. I was in awe of ESPN. I’ve had cable ever since then, but since Elijah was born our TV watching has gone way down and most of it is via Netflix or Amazon Prime. So last week I took the plunge and totally canceled my TV service.

It wasn’t quite that simple though because we host football parties at our house so I need some way to watch local broadcast stations. I went to antennaweb.org and picked up one of the antennas that they recommended for my location. I mounted it up in the rafters of my garage pointing the direction recommended on the site. The picture looks beautiful! Unfortunately, some of the channels have small glitches every few minutes. But I’m still going for it.

Our cable TV plus 150Mbps internet was $82/month. When the annual contract ended, it jumped up to $98. I really didn’t want to sign another contract that included TV since I’ve been thinking about canceling for so long, but I don’t mind signing a contract for internet since there aren’t many other options around here. I did drop our speed down to 60Mbps to save even more money. I signed a contract that locks in the price at $45/month including fees, etc for 2 years. So even if we go back to cable TV in four or five months, I’ll still come out ahead with the hardware that I purchased for the antenna solution.

And here’s a breakdown of that hardware…

That tuner purchase was a surprise. I forgot that the InfiniTV card in my Media Center PC doesn’t have an ATSC tuner built in (that’s the over-the-air signal format.) Thankfully I was able to find the older model of the HD Homerun for a pretty cheap price. It hooked up just fine to the Media Center PC. I also played around with the DVR/Live TV features of Plex but I was frustrated that I couldn’t watch a show while it was recording. I’m sure that will come along eventually though. Once it does, then I can ditch the separate PC I have just for running Media Center.

So what happens if we’re having a football party and the signal is too glitchy? Thankfully, there are plenty of online cable providers that I can flip on in just a few minutes. In my area, most of the Seahawks games are on FOX and only DirectTV Now and Comcast Instant TV currently have my local FOX affiliate. So I can sign up with them and be back in the action very easily. The Comcast offering is interesting because it’s only $18/month and includes all the local channels that I’m interested in. The Cloud DVR from the Comcast service was a mess to figure out, but I finally realized that you can only schedule recordings from the Roku app. I think that’s due to a patent war that they lost with Tivo which made them remove any kind of browser or phone DVR scheduling. I get why it is like that, but they are definitely not forthcoming about that limitation.

Yada yada yada, now I’m saving ~$50/month and it feels great!