Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Links for Leap Day (02-29-2012)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Links for 02-27-2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

Links for 02-24-2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Digital to film looks with Exposure 4

Artsy photo filters don't make me as cranky as they do Stephen Shankland. That said, I generally prefer the subtle to over-the-top. And I give B&W a pass even if it's only special pleading because of the many years I spent doing B&W photography with film. Thus, when Alien Skin offered me a look at their new Exposure 4, which can "accurately simulate classic films, like Kodachrome, Polaroid, and Panatomic-X," it caught my eye. It sounded like effects I might actually use rather than dabble with one or twice and then forget about.

The software works with either Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. I use the latter almost exclusively for my photo editing these days, so that's how I tested Exposure. Lightroom is a "non-destructive editor," which means that changes  made within Lightroom are essentially stored as a change log relative to the original image rather than altering the bits in the image itself as Photoshop and other traditional editing programs do. The implication is that because Exposure (and competitive products such as those from Nik Software) have to work outside the framework of Lightroom's non-destructive settings, you'll typically make a copy of an image, work on it within Exposure, and then return to Lightroom. This whole workflow is reasonably well automated though, so it's certainly not onerous.

Exposure has all manner of effects including soft focus and dust & scratches. However, its centerpiece is a wide range of film types that it attempts to simulate. I don't buy their marketing copy that claims "the result is a photo that looks like it was made by a human, not a computer." (And, in fact, I'm not even sure what that means.) However, it's a nice collection of both color and B&W effects, many of them quite restrained. I certainly don't claim to be an expert on the nuances of all the films represented but, for those with which I'm at least passingly familiar, the effects seem appropriate. Below, I apply presets to a few photos in my Lightroom collection.

The first photo, of a dead tree in Utah, shows the conversion from a fairly conventionally processed color image to a Platinum B&W effect.

003 cloud004 cloud

This next takes a woman standing in fog in Montepulciano, Italy and punches it up subtly using a Velvia 50 effect. While I was never a huge fan of Velvia when I was shooting film, in this case I like the pop the effect gives relative to my initial editing.

001 cloud002 cloud

Finally, we have a faded Kodacolor effect applied to a railroad crossing in the Mojave desert.

007 cloud008 cloud

The program has a lot of features but it does a nice job of hiding most of the complexity until you want to dive in. My experience was that using standard effects offered a lot of good options right out of the box. The company says that the user interface was redesigned for Exposure 4. I don't have a comparison point but I certainly had no major complaints.

The one significant downside is one that I suspect will be a show stopper for a lot of potential users: the price at $249. This is a product that is priced for professionals, often I assume portrait or wedding photographers looking for a particular look that they can apply quickly and consistently across many pictures.

Bottom line: Nice interface, nice effects, but at a price that will scare off casual users.

  You can also check out Stephen Shankland's review on CNET.

Links for 02-22-2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Links for 02-16-2012

  • AwkwardCloud: Here’s Hopin’ For Open | Rational Survivability - "“Open Cloud” is described as a set of solutions for those looking to deploy clouds that provide “… better economics, greater flexibility, and less lock-in, while maintaining control and governance” than so-called Enterprise Clouds that are based on what Randy tags are more proprietary foundations. The case is made where enterprises will really want to build two clouds: one to run legacy apps and one to run purpose-built cloud-ready applications.  I’d say that enterprises that have a strategy are likely looking forward to using clouds of both models…and probably a few more, such as SaaS and PaaS."
  • Guidance and perspectives from Vivek Kundra - CA Technologies - RT @AndiMann: EVP & ex-US CIO Vivek Kundra on '#cloud first' policies,security, beating inertia, … ...
  • [Interview] Harish Pillay, Global Community and Technology Architect, Red Hat Inc - RT @marcosluis2186: [Interview] Harish Pillay, Global Community and Technology Architect, Red Hat Inc
  • Decoding the World of Portlandia « Acculturated
  • The Apache Software Foundation Announces Apache Deltacloud as a Top-Level Project - MarketWatch - Deltacloud is now a top-level open cloud API project at Apache. Happy graduation!
  • 451 CAOS Theory » On the continuing decline of the GPL - "The figures indicate that not only has the usage of the GNU GPL family of licenses (GPL2+3, LGPL2+3, AGPL) continued to decline since June, but that the decline has accelerated. The GPL family now accounts for about 57% of all open source software, compared to 61% in June."
  • The 1st Tenet of Open Cloud: Open is About Control | - "Many people think that an open cloud means an open source cloud.  It’s true that open source is an important mechanism for creating an open cloud.  But, an open cloud is about much more than code or even community—it’s about giving you control."
  • Understanding the Controversy Over Silicon Valley's 'Journalism' - Technology Review - "It's easy to dismiss all attempts to put oneself at a remove from the subject of a story. After all, everyone who writes about technology has their preferences—companies we like and don't, and our tastes change over time. What the liberation from old models of objectivity brought us was an escape from the View from Nowhere— that is, the notion that we aren't all biased to begin with, or that we shouldn't disclose it. But wearing your biases on your sleeve doesn't mean you don't have them, or that talking about them is sufficient to inoculate readers against the most pernicious form of delusion there is: your own self-delusion."
  • Envisioning a Post-Campus America - Megan McArdle - Business - The Atlantic - "I can see all sorts of factors that might combine to preserve the status quo, from signaling and status and networking, to the desire of college students for a four-year debt-financed semi-vacation.  On the other hand, disruption never looks inevitable until it suddenly is--if you'd told someone in 1955 that GM was going to have its lunch eaten by some Japanese upstart, they would have laughed until the tears came.  So it's interesting and maybe even useful to contemplate what the college system would look like if this sort of distance learning becomes the norm."

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Podcast: Red Hat's MRG-Grid Cloud Access

Discussion of cloud interoperability tend to focus on technical aspects. But there are business aspects too. One of the programs that Red Hat has put in place to simplify moving workloads from on-premise to a public cloud is called Cloud Access. In a nutshell, this allows enterprise subscriptions to be transferred for use in a public cloud such as Amazon. We began the program with Linux but have begun expanding it to, in this case, our MRG-Grid software that's used primarily for high performance computing-style workloads. (PR here.)

If you're interested in learning more, I recorded a podcast with Red Hat's MRG-Grid product manager Tushar Katarki las week. (For a little context, take a listen to the podcast I recorded with Tushar last December in which he discusses grid, MRG-Grid, and how customers like Dreamworks are using the product.)

MP3 version (5:15)

OGG version (5:15)

Open clouds: Beyond a veneer

After one too many shouts punctuated by "In the name of the Queen!" by London's Master of Revels, Judi Dench's Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love rises to intone: "Mr Tilney! Have a care with my name -  you will wear it out."
I sometimes feel similarly when it comes to the ferocity with which a lot of vendors apply the word "open" to cloud computing. Especially given that not a few of those involved aren't very, well, open but make up for the glancing and incidental ways their software and approaches are open with the volume of their rhetoric and the font size they use to display "OPEN" in their marketing literature.
But what does "open" mean in the context of building a hybrid cloud? (In this context, I'm primarily focused on building hybrid Infrastructure-as-a-Service clouds, although a lot of the principles carry over to other forms of cloud computing as well.) It certainly doesn't begin and end with the submission of some format to a standards body or with an announcement of partners endorsing some specific technology platform. And open source may be (or should be anyway) a given. But it's more than that too. In getting ready for a Red Hat Webcast that I helped put together, I did a lot of thinking about the different aspects of openness. Here's what I (with the help of others at Red Hat) came up with. An open cloud:
  • Is open source. This allows adopters to control their particular implementation and doesn't restrict them to the technology and business roadmap of a specific vendor. It lets them build and manage clouds that put them in control of their own destiny and provides them with visibility into the technology on which they're basing their business. It provides them with the flexibility to run the workloads of their choice, including proprietary ones, in their cloud. Open source also lets them collaborate with other communities and companies to help drive innovation in the areas that are important to them.
  • Has a viable, independent community. Open source isn't just about the code, its license, and how it can be used and extended. At least as important is the community associated with the code and how it's governed. Realizing the collaborative potential of open source and the innovation it can deliver to everyone means having the structures and organization in place to tap it fully.
  • Is based on open standards, or protocols and formats that are moving toward standardization and that are independent of vendor and platform. Standardization in the sense of “official” cloud standards blessed by standards bodies is still in early days. That said, approaches to interoperability that aren't under the control of individual vendors and that aren't tied to specific platforms offer important flexibility. This allows the API specification to evolve beyond implementation constraints and creates the opportunity for communities and organizations to develop variants that meet their individual technical and commercial requirements.
  • Intellectual property rights owners offer freedom to use IP. Recent history has repeatedly shown that there are few guarantees that intellectual property (IP) assets will remain accessible to all from one day to the next.  To have confidence that you will continue to enjoy access to IP assets that you depend on under the terms that you depend on, permission needs to be given in ways that make that technology open and accessible to the user.  So-called “de facto standards,” which are often “standards” only insofar as they are promoted by a large vendor, often fail this test.
  • Is deployable across a customer's choice of infrastructure. Hybrid cloud management should provide an additional layer of abstraction above virtualization, physical servers, storage, networking, and public cloud providers. This implies—indeed requires—that cloud management be independent of virtualization and other foundational technologies. This is a fundamental reason that cloud is different from virtualization management and a fundamental enabler of hybrid clouds that span physical servers, multiple virtualization platforms, and a wide range of public cloud providers including top public clouds.
  • Is pluggable and extensible with an open API. This lets users add features, providers, and technologies from a variety of vendors or other sources. Critically, the API itself cannot be under the control of a specific vendor or tied to a specific implementation but must be under the auspices of a third-party organization that allows for contributions and extensions in an open and transparent manner. Deltacloud, an API that abstracts the differences between clouds, provides a good example. It is under the auspices of the Apache Software Foundation and is neither a Red Hat controlled project nor tied to a particular implementation of cloud management.
  • Enables portability to other clouds. Implicit in a cloud approach that provides support for heterogeneous infrastructure is that investments made in developing for an open cloud must be portable to other such clouds. Portability takes a variety of forms including programming languages and frameworks, data, and the applications themselves. If you develop an application for one cloud, you shouldn't need to rewrite it in a different language or use different APIs to move it somewhere else. Furthermore, a consistent runtime environment across clouds ensures that retesting and requalification isn't needed every time you want to redeploy.
Of course, none of us have a perfect grade in every respect. Communities take time to develop. There are finite developer hours but an almost limitless variety of potentially supported infrastructure. And there will always be tradeoffs between value-add and perfect portability. However, I'd argue that the more aspects in which a cloud is open, the greater value an organization can gain from that cloud.
If you're interested in seeing my thoughts fleshed out in a bit more depth, here's a white paper that I wrote on the topic.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Links for 02-14-2012

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Links for 02-09-2012

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Links for 02-02-2012

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Links for 02-01-2012