Evaluating Lightroom 3 vs. Aperture 3

Today I spent pretty much the whole day trying to figure out whether I should use Adobe Lightroom 3 or Apple’s Aperture 3.

Here’s what I want to ultimately accomplish:

  • store my photos on an external drive
  • be able to edit/retouch non-destructively select photos without being tethered to my external drive
  • localized adjustments
I downloaded the trials of both applications and discovered that both can achieve the above. Both allow maintaining multiple libraries (or catalogs in Lightroom terms), have adjustment brushes, stacking, keyword and metadata tagging, and so forth. So in no particular order, here are my observations. (I should note that none of these were really deal-makers or breakers because as I said before, both can accomplish my main goals)
What Aperture Has that Lightroom Doesn’t
  • adjustment brushes for every type of adjustment, including curves (lightroom adjustment brushes “only” let you adjust exposure, brightness, contrast, saturation, clarity, sharpness, and color overlay; not that these options are limiting in any way)
  • Faces detection and tagging
  • Native GPS and location tagging (lightroom can achieve this with a 3rd party plug-in)
  • More advanced slideshow options (e.g. multiple audio tracks which can be interspersed with arbitrary durations)
What Lightroom Has that Aperture Doesn’t
  • Some superior editing features like noise reduction (very impressive) and lens distortion correction
  • Physical folder management with the ability to synchronize to the contents of the physical folder (plays nice with manual copy/move operations you do in the file system)
  • side-by-side comparisons with synchronized panning and zooming
  • cross platform compatibility (but legally, you need 2 separate licenses to install on both mac and windows)
These are by no means a comprehensive list of things which one has that the other doesn’t, but those are just the ones I noticed.
Licensing/Pricing notes
  • Aperture is $79.99 from the Mac App Store vs. $99.00 for Lightroom (Education price; there is also a Student/Teacher edition which is $89.99)
  • Aperture can be installed on numerous mac computers linked to your iTunes account (possibly more than 2)
  • Lightroom can be installed on up to 2 computers with a single license (but again, must be the same platform)
  • both are for personal/non-commercial use at the prices and licensing options listed
So what did I end up choosing? Aperture 3.
But this decision was far from easy and definitive. The main deciding factor was that I have Mac Appstore credit from purchasing my macbook air. If it were not for that, I would’ve chosen Lightroom 3 and paid the extra 20 dollars. Money/cost aside, I actually like Lightroom a little better for the following reasons:
  • One click for applying a previous photo’s adjustments to the current photo
  • when performing undo, an overlay shows you what operation was undone – this is a very nice touch
  • writing metadata changes directly to the master files (this is possible in Aperture supposedly, but seems like there’s a bug and you get an error if you try to write metadata changes to master jpg files)
  • the keyword tagging interface
  • a significantly smaller memory footprint (no rigorous tests performed, but when I had both Aperture 3 and Lightroom 3 open, Aperture 3 consistently took up much more memory). This is a pretty major bummer for me in choosing Aperture 3 instead of Lightroom. In practice, both ran smoothly on the macbook air, so hopefully it says that way after time.
  • smaller catalog size vs. Aperture’s library size (this is mostly because Aperture generates more preview files, which can be turned off).
  • a friend pointed out a rather good point: adobe is more trustworthy and more mature in this area than Apple
In summary, I think they’re both good in terms of functionality and capability. From an interface perspective, both are pretty easy to navigate, but as noted above I like certain things in Lightroom more than Aperture. Memory-wise, it seems Lightroom is definitely more streamlined. Cost-wise, Aperture 3 is cheaper if you purchase through the Mac Appstore.

Life with a CR-48

It’s been 1-2 months since I got the CR-48 (a prototype laptop/netbook that runs Google’s Chrome OS). How has it fit into my habits and workflow?

When It Has Come in Handy

  • Productivity on the BART; 100MB of free 3G data per month for 2 years is a pretty sweet deal. 100MB doesn’t seem like much, but most of the time I’m using wi-fi anyways and I haven’t yet used up the monthly quota. Incidentally, sending emails and editing google docs doesn’t use that much data.
  • Taking sermon notes at church; thanks to the SSD, there’s no more lap burns or noisy fans blowing. The battery life is also sufficient for use throughout a whole day (with wifi and 3G turned off), with more juice to spare.
  • Taking my computer downstairs while I “cook”/prepare my dinner
  • Lying down on my bed to read something without risk of setting my sheets on fire
  • Checking the weather after I’ve shut down my computer
  • I can type in Chinese using pinyin!

What’s Not So Great

  • As I mentioned in an earlier post, it’s weak in terms of processing power. Any video-related activity chokes and lags at least a little bit; video-chatting in particular.
  • Not optimal for local development. Switching on developer mode potentially makes it possible if you install a text editor and manage to get your programming language of choice compiled on it, but without developer mode, it’s not possible.
    • Alternatively, one can SSH into a development server, but again, not possible without developer mode
    • Cloud-based development is a new trend that’s starting to gain some traction. Recently I started using github with cloud9ide, which is very promising, but cloud9 currently can only run javascript, even though it supports creation of python and ruby files. Git integration still makes it useful for non-javascript development, but again, still not optimal yet.
  • The wi-fi antenna seems a bit weaker compared to my dell xps. My room does not have the strongest signal reception, but my xps can still maintain a consistent and stable connection. The CR-48 though, not so much.
  • Chrome’s native PDF reader is pretty inadequate; no bookmark support, no facility to jump to a certain page; workable, but not convenient. Other PDF reader plugins can’t be used either.
  • Chinese pinyin input is only supported for simplified :(

So this post is probably pretty boring to everyone except for those curious about the CR-48, but I said I would post more about it and so this is my attempt at following up on that claim.

In other news, I decided to go to Stanford for graduate school, and ordered an iPad 2 as well as a 13 inch Macbook Pro, marking the beginning of my transition to the apple ecosystem. I’ll try to “justify” these purchases in a later post.

Body Worlds Vital Exhibit

This past Friday I went to the San Jose Tech Museum (The Tech) with my sister, brother-in-law and dad to see the Body Worlds Vital exhibit. It was my first time going to this sort of exhibit on the human body and it was really fascinating and inspiring on two levels.

The first level was actually a conviction in intelligent design. As I read various descriptions and summaries on certain muscles, the nervous system, circulatory system, and digestive system, I was just so amazed at how truly, every part of the body, down to the smallest blood vessel, serves a purpose. So much is going on in everyday actions like breathing. The body contains a myriad of systems and sub-systems that all work to accomplish a specific task that contributes to the general well-being of the entire body. This is engineering and design at its finest. To me, the complexity and thoroughness of the human body (and life in general) points to the notion that there was and is a creator and designer. As my sister once said to me, the notion that all of this came to be through sheer chance and probability is harder to believe than the idea that someone was behind it all. I realize the evolution vs. intelligent design debate is a rather touchy one, but I’m not trying to specifically convince or refute anyone. These were just my overriding impressions from the exhibit.

On the second level of fascination and amazement, I became inspired to be more active in maintaining and taking care of my body, which basically translates to eating healthier and exercising more. One of the objectives of the exhibit was to motivate people to fight the sedentary lifestyle that humans have become accustomed to, and to be more active. Regular exercise helps fight aging and a good diet keeps the internals running optimally and cleanly. Being able to see our innards (which was both intriguing and grotesque) allowed me to realize just how much an effect (whether positive or negative) diet and exercise can have on our bodies.

This also reminded me of 1 Tim 4:8 – “for bodily exercise profits little, but godliness is profitable for all things.” If now I feel that physical exercise is so important, how much more important is exercising ourselves toward godliness?

Jetlag

Having recently come back from Taiwan last Wednesday, it’s no surprise that I have jetlag. There’s a whopping 16 hour difference and given that I don’t think I fully adjusted to Taiwan time in the first place, my biological clock is whack. Usually these sorts of vacations occur during an extended break so I have a couple free days to recover from the jetlag. But since I have a job now, it is my first time where jetlag actually has negative consequences. Let’s just say, thank God my job allows me to have flexible working hours.

I don’t know if this is normal, but the side effects seem worse after a few days. Worse in the sense that I’m having more trouble going to sleep before 2am and more trouble getting out of bed when I wake up when I’m supposed to. It’s kind of interesting how my body functions in this state. I start feeling SUPER tired at around 2pm (just like the 5-hour energy commercials describe the 2:30 feeling), but try to keep myself awake for the remainder of work. Then after dinner around 8-9pm, I feel this huge crash. But by the time I get ready for bed around 10-11pm, I’m not tired anymore and my eyes are wide open. Then I lie in bed, toss and turn, look at the time, and repeat until sometime after 1:30 or 2am. But when I do go to sleep, it’s a pretty light sleep and I immediately get awakened by my alarm at around 7am. I snooze instinctively and tell myself I’ll just lie a little longer in bed. But then I drift off into sleep again and this time it’s a DEEP sleep that renders me completely deaf to my two subsequent alarms which are auto-snoozed. And then I wake up later than I was supposed to.

Case in point: on Thursday I got out of bed at 11am. I suppose the deeper sleep is shortening, since today, I came to my senses at 8:40am which is only an hour after my last alarm. But now my neck and shoulders are really stiff and sore for some reason, and sitting in a chair is largely uncomfortable.

Not a good way to kick off the new year when people are gearing up for better self control and discipline. I still need to take out some time for resolutions and reflections, of which self control will be a recurring theme. Spiritually, I think at this time last year I was a little more focused, so I have some catch up to do…

Some Videos from Taiwan

A few video clips that I took in Taiwan with the Canon Rebel T1i. Please pardon my shaky hands, noob focusing, and american-accented chinese.

Youths from Sabah singing hymn 389 in Malay

All of the youths, save one, are related. I believe three are siblings (children of a Pastor Joshua) and the rest are cousins. A few of them play piano and are quite talented in embellishing/improvising, and it’s interesting how their style of improvisation is slightly different from what I usually hear in the states (at least, to me). They prepared at least several pieces with and without music to read from so that was pretty remarkable. I wasn’t able to record others because I had to conserve my camera battery, but they also presented songs in mandarin and English. The whole concept I think is really neat; they’re like a traveling TJC choir. Taiwan/Hualien is a great place to make this kind of trip because there are so many local churches to visit and a lot of amazing things to see. It would be fun to do something similar with some church friends.

Cute Hualien Saleskid

Here’s the saleskid I was describing in an earlier Taiwan post. I wish I had thought to start recording video earlier; it was so funny to hear him say, “Hen pien yi ah!!”

Taiwan: The Beginning of the End

We are now situated in the Farglory Hotel in Hua Lien, which is probably the most baller tourist hotel in the area. As my sister described it, it looks and feels like a Vegas hotel. It’s the last night for Whei and I; my mom and Hain-Sing (to his great dismay) are in Taiwan until the 8th. My mom said to my Whei and me, “Aiya, ni men ming tien jiu hui qu le…”

Then Hain-Sing asked, “Aww c’mon. Why can’t we leave earlier?”

We also bounced around ideas on what my mom should do in the near future concerning retirement and relocation and where Hain-Sing should go. We think it would be ideal if my mom moved in with dad in Taiwan, to which Hain-Sing immediately objects. Then Whei said, “Well you never know; now you think you couldn’t live in Taiwan but after staying for awhile it might be okay.” Then, to my mom, she says, “We should just make him adapt.”

Hain-Sing: “WHEI!!!”

Whei: “I said ‘adapt,’ not adopt!”

Hain-Sing: “WHEI!!!”

Earlier today we did some walking around in Taroko National Park (we spent all day there yesterday too) before leaving for other sites. It was rainy so we decided to go pao tang in hot water springs/a spa. Apparently it’s a place that is frequented by the pastor (who I finally caught on to be Pastor Yeh) with other members, so we were able to borrow towels free of charge, since we didn’t bring any. Even though it was rainy, it was still VERY relaxing. I was also happy that it was NOT one of those places that required you to be butt-naked, which was a slightly traumatizing experience in Japan. There were multiple pools of varying temperature, including a full-size swimming pool which was not temperature-regulated. I actually took a swim in it even though it was freezing cold. Pastor Yeh was already swimming laps in it and he watched me ease myself in. I only had my legs in and my whole body was experiencing large-amplitude shivers. Fortunately, after submerging myself and moving around, it wasn’t that bad and I could swim. Going from cold water to hot water was pure “Ahhhhh…..”

We also visited an AMEI bakery factory and sampled/bought lots of mochi-related goods.

One of the interesting things here is that church members are pretty prominent/well-integrated in the society, and as a result we end up meeting some in the places we are touring. Yesterday we went around Taroko National Park and stayed at a hotel in the Bulowan Recreational Area. There is an indigenous elderly church sister who works there creating fabric hand-weaved things like bags and garments. We watched her do the weaving and she insisted on giving each of us a free money bag, which was really nice of her obviously.

A church couple also works in the hotel we stayed in. Pastor Yeh introduced us and we were able to get discounts/freebies for dinner.

And then, this morning when we went hiking in one of the trails in Taroko, we bumped into another church sister who works there as maintenance (that’s what it looked like to me anyways). I had met this member the night before because there was a special evening service in one of the churches to introduce the youths from Sabah and our family.

After the service, Pastor Yeh invited us over to his house where his wife served us a second dinner with two kinds of wild chicken (one of which actually flies), ginger soup/tea, and tang yuan. Later the youths from Sabah also came by (they were chaffeaured by another pastor, Pastor He). And then, a third pastor came by (Pastor Chang). All three resident pastors live pretty close by (Pastor Chang and Pastor Yeh are literally neighbors). Pastor Chang was a funny guy partly because he has a very soft voice and gentle tone. One of the first things he said to me was, “Oh! You’re a handsome boy!” which made Whei crack up.

It’s just kind of neat that wherever we go, we are greeted with a “Hallelujah!”

And now, for more pictures. Need to sleep soon; the plan is to watch the sunrise tomorrow morning…

Taiwan: Arrival in Hua Lien

We are now in the Ola Hotel in Hua Lien after arriving around 4:30pm. A local pastor and his wife picked us up and took us around for the evening, including a couple of the churches in the area. It was really nice and the best word I can think of right now to describe their love and hospitality is “genuine.” This pastor is a “true” Taiwanese native in that he looks kind of indigenous. He’s also a really chill and jolly person.

After touring the new Hua Lien church building (which, by the way, is awesome and includes a student center/dorm), we visited another TJC. It just so happened that several youths from Sabah, Malaysia were visiting during their break and they sang a couple hymns for the local youth and us who were just stopping by. It was really quite good and again, the word that comes to mind is “genuine.” They sang so joyfully and happily and with spirit, not embarrassed to even do a song with gestures and motion, which most of us consider to be a kindergarten/E1 thing. In the states the church choirs always have to be reminded to smile when they sing, but these youths were really just enjoying singing praises. It was really something.

Also, I can’t help but think how amazing it is when we all kneel down and pray together. We had only seen them for the first time, but when we pray together, it’s like we already have such a strong common background and experience. We feel very welcomed by the members here and it’s such a great testament to God’s grace. I think life is simpler for them there, too. I hope we can bring this back to the states.

Afterwards, the pastor and his wife took us to a stone market street where we browsed a lot of stores selling polished/carved gems and such. In one store there was a mother with her super cute little boy who tried to sell me a small back of rings. He spoke like a seasoned salesperson and it was the cutest thing.

He ran out of the store to me and said, “Yao bu yao mai, ah?” (Do you want to buy this?)

I said, “Mai yao ji kuai?” (How much?)

pause…and then he said, “Hen pien yi.” (Very cheap)

I chuckled and asked, “Duo pien yi?” (How cheap?)

He said, “Hen pien yi ah!” (Very cheap!)

Then he ran back into the store. And a few minutes later he ran back out to me and said, “Hen pien yi ah!!” And ran back in.

And then finally he ran back out to me and said, “Song gei ni hao le.”

Unfortunately, it did not occur to me to take video until the last part, so I don’t have him saying, “Hen pien yi!” But I will post the video soon. This kid was just too cute.

And another unfortunate thing is that I left my camera charger in my dad’s apartment -_-. My camera only has about half of its juice left, and we’ll be in Hua Lien for another 2 whole days. I’ll need to really shoot conservatively.

Here are several random photos from the past few days. Shitou, Tainan, and Hua Lien.