Thinking about email

Recent questions from a client turned to email and caused me to investigate and re-evaluate my ongoing use of the default on OSX

On one hand I love Mail on the Mac, but while I know it is a bottleneck and that I shouldn’t use it as a todo list – I do anyway.

On the other hand, I know I must revise my behaviour and develop better skills to handle my email and perhaps reach the mythical ‘Inbox Zero’

Below is not a review or recommendation, merely a series of links to interesting options I am hoping to learn more about.

1. Mailhub. Looks a bit low rent, but offers the ability to do powerful things like file or delete by sender and create reminders at the moment you send.

I have had a play with this and I am liking it

2. Mail Pilot: an Innovative, To-do Style Approach to Your Emails (according to app storm)

A very cool looking web based, subscription, non free email client.
This works on the premise that incoming email is incomplete and needs to be actioned
If it does what it says on the tin it will easily be worth the price of admission

3. .Mail
Sounds great, but I’m not sure much will come of it.
Actionsteps are the big feature.

In comes Actionsteps. These three red squares allow you to set the importance of an email and filter out what is important and what isn’t. Think of it as a mini To-Do list, that ranks your emails by three different levels of importance.

4. Attachment Tamer: Attachment Tamer gives you control over attachment handling in Apple Mail. It fixes the most annoying Apple Mail flaws, ensures compatibility with other email software, and allows you to set up how attachments are displayed and sent.

I’ve never really considered inline attachments to be a problem, but clients have asked about them and how to avoid or, on Windows, receive them properly.

I’m most interested because of the ability to attach as icons without polluting my outgoing message window with giant representations of the attached images

5. Cargolifter: One of the big selling points of Sparrow was the ability to send links rather than attachments.

Cargolifter adds this feature to Apple’s

6. Airmail:

Airmail was designed from the ground to retain the same experience with a single or multiple accounts and provide a quick, modern and easy-to-use user experience. Airmail is clean and allows you to get to your emails without interruption – it’s the mail client for the 21st century.

7. Persona: A people focussed email experience where you can manage your message threads with specific contacts quickly and easily.

Sounds good too. I like the messages style conversational view and the attachment view – arriving soon

8. Universal Mailer:

Universal Mailer will be useful if any of these sound familiar to you:

Your sent email contains unwanted ATT00001.htm attachments that prevent some email clients from viewing the complete text, You are used to alternate text and images inside your emails but your recipients can’t see them as intended, Your sent emails are hard to read because they are displayed with a small font by some email clients

No-one has complained…

9. Apple Mail or I teach people how to manage software on their Macs and iOS devices. As such it is important to be comfortable and conversant with their tool of choice.
Switching to Mailpilot, dotmail, airmail or any alternative would make it more difficult to properly help these clients. and have both provided inspiration to improve my lot while sticking with the default OSX mail app

How to Turn Mac Mail Into a Fantastic Email Client

appstormTurning Into the Best Mac Email App

I haven’t yet settled on an option or options, but I will continue to consider them all as I hopefully work towards email nirvana.

How to create a Slow Motion Wedding Photo Booth

I watched this wonderful video yesterday and came to wonder how easy it would be to recreate without a huge budget.

The guys who did this had access to a Red Epic which shoots HD up into hundreds of frames/second (This camera was used on Prometheus, Hobbit and the like)
Even they were limited (to 160fps) by a limit in the amount of light available.
These 160 fps videos are then played back at quarter speed.

So, what about that budget – There are going to be two problems.
1. finding an affordable camera with the right specifications
2. dealing with a requirement for serious amounts of light.

1. Finding a camera – Most consumer cameras with high frame rates or fps drop off in resolution as the frame rate climbs.
Interesting cameras to look at include;

Panasonic Lumix FZ200, which can shoot HD (720p) videos at 120fps and VGA-level (640 x 480) movies at 240fps
Nikon 1, which shoots 640 x 240 at 400fps
Sony A77, which shoots 1080 at 60fps for super smooth slow motion
Note, there are tricks employed by manufacturers to give higher frame rates. Lots of reviews should be read and tests performed in selecting your camera.

Make sure to consider file formats, access to bright lenses, high ISO performance, frame rate (fps), resolution etc.

Another thing to consider is the availability of software to interpolate between our frames.
This offers the advantage of increasing the range of cameras to choose from and presumably reducing the need for such high shutter speeds.

vision Effects’ Twixtor, a plug-in for Adobe’s After Effects, is the best-known program for creating slow-motion videos from standard footage. It can produce stunning results with the right sort of input, such as high-quality videos from a Nikon or Canon digital SLR.

Unfortunately, Twixtor costs more than most digital compacts (just over £200) while After Effects costs £911 at This is not a good option for amateurs.

However, anyone who fancies this sort of thing could try the free, open source slowmoVideo.

Jack Schofield
Friday 11 January 2013

Wanted: a cheap compact camera for shooting slow-motion videos

2. Lighting – We have a couple of ways to ensure we have enough lighting.
Being video we must have a continuous light source which ideally doesn’t run too hot (though our subjects won’t remain under lights for more than a minute or two.
It is difficult to describe what lights will be needed since a Sony A77 will be able to handle low light better than a Nikon 1 or Panasonic Lumix due to it’s clean high ISO

You might choose to spend a few dollars on some halogen work lights, but this is going to generate a ton of heat.
You might opt for LED, but this would prove expensive and you would need a lot of them.
You could go for the large banks of lights commonly used in TV Studios for the last couple of years.
You could even manufacture your own lights from a skip full of fluorescent lights.
Problems to solve here include cost, brightness, running cost, convenience (size/weight), suitability (flouroscent lights may cause flickering on video).
This whole area is a bit of a minefield and since your camera, budget and needs will be different to the next person, you will simply need to experiment until you find a solution.

Luckily, here in Australia, we have copious amounts of continuous daylight.
A large scrim or diffuser (or even a large white outdoor tent) might be all we need to get started.

Print range selection feature missing from iPad

I was recently asked how to print a range of pages from the iPad and despite having seen ‘Range’ as an available feature many times in the past I could not immediately fathom why the feature was absent under ‘Printer Options’. Experimenting on an iPhone revealed the same problem.

After a little bit of research it became clear (smacks head) that the iPad will allow you to print a range of pages only in apps that support it.

The penny has now dropped and apps like Mail or Safari will not be able to offer the range option due to the fact that web pages and emails are not structured in separate pages in the same way a pdf or word document would be.

Instead they are a continuous body of content, images, attachments and so on that reformats itself to fit the device or zoom level – for Mail or Safari to print individual pages they would have to guess how much to print on each page and which orientation would be appropriate.

Apps that support ‘print range’ include apps like Quickoffice Pro HD, Pages and iBooks.

If you have a document (for example a multipage pdf) received as an email attachment then you can ‘send’ it to another app (an app with the capability to do ‘range selection’).

Usually a pdf attachment will be displayed ‘inline’ somewhere in the main body of the email. Sometimes attachments are displayed as a simple icon* instead.

Long Tap on the attachment and when the grid of available options appear just choose an appropriate app.

If the attachment is a pdf then you could use iBooks to print.

One problem with sending to iBooks is that the pdf will then be stored in your iBook shelves unless you then follow through and delete it.
Another issue is that a different type of document, .docx for example, might require you to select a different app instead of iBooks.

Further research reveals an iOS app called Print Agent Pro which can handle most of these file types and offers a few more functions.
Print Agent Pro is $6 for iPad and $4 for iPhone. I’ve yet to test it out, but it sure looks to be the ticket.

*Interestingly, a readable attachment that doesn’t display inline can be printed using Range Selection by long tapping, then tapping Print from the available options.

Lessons from the young

Robert Gerrish at posts some compelling lessons learnt from his 12 year old son, Jay

Befriend older, wiser people
Want to know where the table tennis balls are stashed? Or how to get into your locker when you’ve forgotten the code? The way to get ahead is to stalk those in the know. Hang around tall people in long trousers.

Choosing a Wedding Photographer you can brag about

The Wedding Photographer, arguably one of the most important investments of the whole event

Unfortunately wedding photography is an area where couples cut corners or
use that friend who loves photography.
This often results in photos that tarnish the memory of this once in a lifetime event.

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on wedding photography then spend time researching just what you can get within your budget.
A small investment in time will help you choose a great wedding photographer.

1. Talk to married couples about their photographer.
What sort of result did they get? Were they pleased and are they still pleased weeks, months or years later? Can they remember (or do they care) how much they invested?

2. You would expect a high price to indicate a good wedding photographer, but this is not always the case.
Interview your photographer and ask for testimonials from past clients (if clients are delighted with their wedding photographer at least a few should be happy to write a testimonial).

3. Ask for guarantees.
Will the person you meet with be your photographer?
What will happen in the case of illness, poor weather or equipment failure?
Is he/she a well regarded member of a pro organisation like the AIPP (Australia), BIPP (UK) or RPS (UK)?
Do they carry public liability insurance to protect you and your guests?
Do they provide a written contract of what they will deliver and when?

Unfortunately, most photographers who fulfil these criteria have long since realised that catering to budget conscious clients is unsustainable without cutting corners.

4. Look for your photographer through one of the organisations listed above and view their site or blog (where available) to get a feel for their work?

5. Look at some of the other options such as ‘photo booths’.
‘Photo Booths’ (aka ‘smile booths’ or ‘crazy booths’) are simple studios, often with themed props, that offer social photography for weddings and events.
In some cases the guests simply shoot themselves with a remote control, but the best photo booths have a dedicated photographer and produce high quality images.
These images can be posted to Facebook adding a live social element.
Captured images can even be added to your wedding album or printed for your guests.
An example of this is the recently launched ‘myphotoroom’ in Adelaide
They offer fun, quirky and unforgettable images of your guests instead of the cheesy posed shots which are so typical of many weddings.

6. Consider hiring someone to tutor you in photography so that you are better equipped to understand the pitfalls of shooting a wedding and better qualified to choose a photographer.

Congratulations and hopefully these simple tips will help you find a friendly and experienced wedding photographer.

Using Bigpond email with multiple devices

Please note: the following is my understanding and simplified view of a complex landscape of options and protocols
It is intended to provide insight for the inexperienced, rather than a complete and accurate technical description

If you are reading this as a customer of another ISP then just assume that every mention of Bigpond is a reference to your provider. While things that are true of bigpond might not be true of your provider this should still get you most of the way there

Bigpond and others provide email addresses for free with their services, but in reality this is nothing more than a trap to prevent you from switching to another service – in my opinion there is no reason for a Bigpond customer to use one of these addresses

Apple iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc. are portable when you switch to a different Internet Service Provider and remain capable of being used with standard settings anywhere in the world (as do properly setup self hosted emails like myname@myowndomain.whatever)

A bigpond address often fails to send when you are not connected to the Telstra provided infrastructure forcing users to access expensive solutions like global data roaming or clunky solutions like webmail

In addition a Bigpond address is not designed (at time of writing) to properly sync between multiple devices

Why? Bigpond use a protocol known as POP which offers advantages for the provider including reduced ‘chattiness’ between devices and the email server, but none for the user – especially when the user has more than one device*

*status of messages (flagged, read, unread, deleted, forwarded, replied) is not echoed between devices

Other protocols exist – IMAP, Exchange, Google Sync, iCloud

Exchange is a Proprietary (Paid) Microsoft protocol which supports multiple devices for mail, calendar, contacts and notes
It is typically used by businesses with their own domain

Google Sync is similar to Exchange and is apparently based on it
Google Sync, with the right settings makes it easy to sync mail, calender, contacts and notes between iPad, iPhone and presumably other mobile devices
while it works well on mobile, due to licencing restrictions, it doesn’t work fully on the desktop and is quite frustrating and time consuming to configure on a PC or Mac (Purchasing Outlook may be a solution to this)
One major advantage of Google Sync is the ability to set it up with your own domain
Update: Unless you were already using Google Sync or a paying Google Customer, Google Sync is effectively dead –

iCloud is a proprietary (free) protocol for those who own one or more Apple computing devices
iCloud makes it easy to sync mail, calender, contacts, notes, bookmarks, documents, location, device backups, reminders between all of those devices and a few items can sync with a PC running the iCloud Control Panel

IMAP is a non proprietary email protocol which works on any device, but must be supported by the provider of your email;

Bigpond – does NOT support IMAP
(email addresses ending in or similar)

Gmail – Supports IMAP, but I have seen the uninitiated become confused by the way Gmail handles IMAP
(email addresses ending in

iCloud – Supports IMAP, but setting up as iCloud is easier (iCloud email can be easily used on PCs with Outlook, Macs, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Setting up on a different device requires careful configuration)
(email addresses ending,,

email addresses ending in,,,,,
Internode – Supports IMAP
Adam – Supports IMAP
Your own hosted email may or may not support IMAP, although most do
Other providers like Yahoo, Hotmail, Dodo, iPrimus etc. may or may not support IMAP to one degree or another

POP – Some of these emails support POP, but I generally recommend avoiding it. If you have a bigpond address which you have shared with many people and you now use multiple devices it is normally*** best to switch to an iCloud or Gmail address and have your incoming Bigpond emails redirected there

***Not all bigpond addresses are equal. In all cases we can forward emails received at a bigpond address to another address, but it is not always possible to prevent the bigpond inbox from continuing to fill up requiring us to keep checking in

Update:I have experienced varying interfaces with Bigpond webmail and settings.
In all cases those settings allow mail to be forwarded to another address, but most of the time there is no option to stop the Bigpond inbox from continuing to fill up. Since writing this blogpost I have helped people set this up 3 or 4 times and it is starting to appear as though address ending are of the inferior variety (inbox continues to fill) while those ending in appear to be capable of forwarding emails WITHOUT, at the same time, continuing to fill up themselves

We can use pieces of each protocol – for example

A bigpond user might use POP for his email, but use iCloud for his Calendar and Contacts

A Gmail, internode or Adam user might use IMAP for email and Notes with iCloud for Calendar and Contacts

While these solutions work they require more configuration than a single solution like Exchange or iCloud (Google Sync is similar but much less easy unless we are only interested in using mobile devices)

iCloud seems to be the best overall solution, but your needs will vary depending on your email address, willingness or ability to change address, current devices, future devices

Now go and have a lie down…

Update:Adam it appears do not allow email addresses provided by them to be forwarded at all – if you are an Adam customer I recommend avoiding their free email accounts like the plague

Update March 6, 2013:Chariot – www, – also omit options for forwarding, but a call to their helpdesk reveals that they can set it up manually for you

Happy XNY – I’m starting a thing…

My signature for Christmas, as of just now, is going to be Happy (or Merry) XNY

I just don’t like the full ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’ greeting anymore so I simmered it down to the most basic I could imagine using (in actual fact it could become :-) XNY, but there has to be something to make it clear to all)

To see if this greeting is already popular with a quick Google Search today (for Happy XNY and Merry XNY) revealed nothing.

Perhaps by next year I will have forgotton all about this new greeting with the world never noticing, but if not – this post is ground zero (off I go to hit send on the first ‘Happy XNY’ signed message)


Jaycar Techview Camera Review

After some shopping around for security cameras I recently opted to try out the Jaycar Techview QC3834 for it’s low cost and wireless capabilities

Like many devices this new range of wireless IP (QC3834 – QC3836 – QC3832) cameras is almost fully Mac compatible despite no information about Mac installation

Readers may not be familiar with some of this terminology, so before I go into any further detail about setup I will give a few definitions

  1. IP Address
    An IP address is like a unique numbered seat at the blackjack table – without a seat you are not part of the game (every device that needs to download, upload or share data with the internet or locally with another device needs a seat at the table)
  2. Router
    A router is a device that moves data around and delivers it to the appropriate device (the router is equivalent to the dealer at the blackjack table who collects and distributes chips (data) between players and the house)
    Most of us have Modem/Routers which would be plugged into our phone line or Cable internet
  3. DHCP
    DHCP or Dynamic Something Something Protocol is like the Maître d’ who decides where you sit at the table. For many reasons your seat number (IP Address) might change or be reassigned to other devices – as you can imagine this would make it difficult for the dealer to assign chips to the right seats

To set up this camera we are going to need to assign an IP address that can’t change – since our IP Camera Viewer relies on that address to show us the feed, but first we are going to need to work out which IP address is assigned automatically by our router when we plug it in to our existing network and then fix a different address that is not part of the normal pool of IP addresses (my router has been reconfigured to automatically dish out addresses from 1 to 200 out of 255 available leaving me with 55 manually selectable seats)

That last point is important, your router must have a range of addresses that are not part of the pool – if you are not able to set this up for yourself, get some help or risk temporarily breaking your network. Once that is set up, read on…

Step 1 – Log-in to your router and make a note of the currently assigned range of (just the un-named ones) IP addresses – this process should be easy but will vary depending on the brand of your router (Look for a button that says ‘DHCP Client List’ or similar)

In my case my router is accessed by opening a web browser on my computer and typing using ‘admin’ as the user name and ’admin’ as the password (you might open a web browser and instead type ‘routerlogin’ or ‘’ or something else. Don’t guess – if the login information is not printed on the back of the router or in the instructions then it will be available by searching online for the model and brand of your device)

Step 2 – Plug the camera into power and then plug it in to your router using a network (ethernet cable)

Step 3 – Refresh the window in your web browser – a new item should appear. This new item might be called ipcam_xxxxxxxxxxxx (the x’s represent numbers that are unique for each device)

In my case this was followed by a newly assigned IP address –

Step 4 – Type whatever IP address was shown into your browser and click enter

Login to your camera setup with username:admin with password:admin and you will be able to see a range of options under 3 headings at the top right

Step 5 – Click ‘Device Management’ then ‘Basic Network Settings’
In the window that appears you must;
Untick the dhcp server box

Type an IP address that is not part of the pool and is not assigned to another device already – in my case I used

Type the Subnet Mask, gateway, dns server and port then click ‘submit’

I wasn’t sure what to enter for DNS yet (this will be important to access the camera from anywhere that isn’t our home network), so I just put for now

The subnet mask and gateway might be different depending on your routers default settings, but in my case the subnet mask is and the gateway is

Port number was set to 80

At this point it should be possible to type into any browser on my network to view the camera feed or further change the settings
In addition I also downloaded an iPhone/iPad App called CamViewer (free) and a Mac App called Security Spy (Paid) and was able to view, control and record from the camera

You might also like to set up the camera with WiFi so that it can be plugged in anywhere within the range of your network – this is done under ‘Wireless LAN Settings’ and though my network did not show up I was able to type it’s name (and password in the ‘Share Key’ field) to connect easily

Viewing from the internet is also possible, but I’m still not quite there on the right settings (DNS, Open Ports, Firewall etc) to make this work

One important thing to keep in mind though is that the correct settings will mean anyone can view the feed from this camera – to prevent this be sure to click ‘user settings’ and type a password in the first password field and, if you wish, change your username (don’t forget to click ‘submit’)

So, what do I think of the camera?

I don’t have a great deal of experience with security cameras, but my photographic background means I know enough to say that it is good value for money but will not wow you with the quality

Of the 3 cameras that are available I chose the QC3834 which also offers PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom), I’m sure the other two are almost identical except for the housing

Picture Quality – At 640×480 (max) the picture quality is adequate and colour is good. I’m sure there are much better cameras out there, but few will offer IP network connection at this price point

Focus – The camera appears to be fixed focus and due to it’s small sensor images are reasonably sharp at any distance

Low Light – The camera will automatically turn on it’s LED illuminators as the light level drops. The led’s can be turned off in the web view and if there is some light this might be preferred since the led’s create quite a hotspot.
Subjects that approach the camera will be overexposed very easily by the LED’s and strong light sources within the frame and close to the camera are best avoided

Options – The web view allows a few things to be controlled including;

4 user presets for position
Image flip or rotate to support surface or ceiling mounting
Vertical Patrol
Horizontal Patrol
Illumination on/off
Alarm (motion detects and triggers via an external alarm socket)

Since my goal is exterior security I have to decide whether to return this camera and exchange it for the outdoor version, but I really like the ability to control the Pan Tilt and zoom. Perhaps I can purchase a weatherproof dome enclosure separately

Snapseed – Nice Photo Editor for iPhone

Having had a quick play you when I first downloaded Snapseed months ago, I finally got around to giving it a proper go over the last couple of days.

It really is quite an amazing little app with a lot of options that I was surprised to find on an iPhone app, including such things as control points and a ’tilt shift’ effect.

Below are a couple of images created in Snapseed with the untouched images included at a lower Resolution for comparison.





Easily removing ghost text while scanning

When scanning pages from books and magazines it is common to see a ‘ghost image’ of the text from the back side of the page being scanned.

There is an easy fix for this and it’s so obvious you will kick yourself

During the scan, simply place a sheet of flat matte black paper immediately behind the page you are scanning.
This destroys the contrast of the ‘ghost’ text or images rendering a much better quality scan with little to no visibility of the reversed image from the page behind and no visibility of the next page either (I have seen people use white paper, but this only solves part of the problem)

The one downside is that it reduces the contrast of the scanned image too, but that is easily fixed by adjusting the highlights – for example (if I remember correctly) by dragging the right hand slider to the left in the Photoshop ‘Levels’ tool

Please link to this one if you find it useful