As I was taking pictures this weekend I thought about how I want people to be able to use my content and thoughts. Part of this was sparked also by my recent appearance on AVNation’s AVWeek Podcast Episode 189: I Know Who To Call. Tim brought up some topics that I have both experience with and opinions about, so I shared them with everyone. I was pleasantly surprised when I was also quoted heavily in an article on Commercial Integrator as well. So it got me to thinking, what are the rights I want to reserve or share? I am currently listening to Cory Doctorow’s book Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age (hardcopy). This link is to the self-published audiobook read by Wil Wheaton. One of the things I am learning from these thoughts is the question of how much do I want to share my created content.

I have already created some content obviously you are reading some now, I have have images available at that can be used. I have until now been keeping a tight leash on the images with watermarks and right click protection. I plan on keeping some protection in place, not quite sure how much yet or how it will be set up. However I want to share the information and experiences with more people. Yes, I would like to earn some money along the way, however at the moment that is not the key goal for me. I want to create things and put them out in the open for people to enjoy. I just want to know when things I create are being used.

So having said that you can see the description of the usage rights I have created at the page The idea is that if you are using my content for personal use, you may do that with attribution. If you want to use my content for commercial use, there is still licensing issues to be discussed. I encourage you to consider how you want your content handled, keeping in mind that many of the tools we are open source and are being shared as well.

I recently purchased a pair of high performance headphones. Not high performance by brand but by specifications. Yes, I know how to read them. They are rated for 10Hz to 30kHz and they are relatively flat, with variable tuning plugs to change their response curve acoustically. I decided to give them a little test run using various material in my home system. I was surprised by the results. Now first allow me to explain and indicate that this is by no means a double blind test. Yes, there are lots of things I could have done to improve it but I was still surprised with the results.  I am purposely trying to leave product and brand names out of this post as the desire is to talk about the signal flow and process. It is very easy to get into the debate of is Brand A or Brand B the better product. Instead I am just talking about the signal chain and process. I am also going to not share the number thresholds I found, each person’s needs and opinions will be different. The entire point of this is to not let the bigger number be the better number, just because it is bigger.

The basic signal flow was the following:

  • Source – 44.1kHz 16bit WAV files (1411kbps), MP3 153kbps (VBR) files, MP3 320kbps files
  • Playback Engine – iMac based, Digital Audio Workstation Software (Adobe Audition CC 2014 & Audacity)
  • Output Device – USB connected Digital to Analog converter running at 44.1kHz locked to computer sample clock. (D/A (24 Bit) 106 dB typical, A-weighted, 20Hz – 20kHz via headphone output
  • Headphone Output – 1/4″ TRS for stereo converted to 3.5mm TRS via passive adapter
  • Headphones – 10Hz to 30kHz passive devices in ear style with acoustic tuning plug at flat

So I tried a few different sample tracks. Ones that I had extracted as WAV files, same file extracted as MP3, original WAV files purchased directly from the artists, MP3 encoded by the artists. They were all well produced tracks ranging from full band rock and roll  to acoustic pieces. The artists ranged for well established musicians (Peter Gabriel, Nine Inch Nails, and Robert Fripp) to less well known musicians (Jonathan CoultonMarian Call, and California Guitar Trio). These were all tracks I am familiar with. What I would do was import the files into the audio editing software as stereo tracks, both the WAV files and MP3 files. I would place them on adjacent tracks that I could exclusively solo (screen captures at end of post). The sample rate of the project was set at 44.1kHz and 16bit to minimize coloring by the audio software resampling. This configuration allowed me to play both the MP3 and WAV track simultaneously and switch between them easily. The switches were typically very fast and with little artifacts. I found that the numbers of bits flowing had less of an impact than I expected at higher rates. I really like that many musicians are providing uncompressed formats, but Marian Call gets a gold star for providing me WAV files. (If you listen to her stuff, the typewriters are not sound effects they record them as part of the process.)

I was able to tell that there were differences between the compressed and uncompressed formats, no matter what the bit rates were for the MP3’s. However what I was more surprised was how subtle the differences were between each step or file in the process. I then took it a step further, I took the same WAV file I extracted from a CD as well as a purchased WAV file and created different MP3 streams. ranging from 320kbps to 32kbps. I used a batch converter, I did not go in and tweak each encoding as can be done with better audio editing software. I then loaded up all the files into both editing software packages and once again went through and used the exclusive or simple solo feature. I saw surprised at how far down the sample rate could be set before I found the music quality objectionable. This value changed based on the material I used. Let me say that again, the minimum bit rate value I found acceptable changed based on the material being used. Multiple points of diminishing returns were found. Yes, I understand what the numbers mean and how more data is typically better. But at the higher bit rates with good converters the differences were smaller than expected. As soon as I crossed a threshold, it was a point of no return. The number was lower than I expected as I had been applying my knowledge of the encoding processes previously, now I was just listening as objectively as possible. it also varied by the material as I indicated.

If I am listening to a podcast, does it need to be 44.1kHz, 16 bit, stereo for the human voice? I don’t believe so. Especially as most podcasts are just the human voice. Voice over IP studies have found most vocal information is in the 3,500Hz and under range. Transmitting at the higher sample rate is just wasting bandwidth and storage for the listener typically. But that is a discussion for a different time.

I still find and believe uncompressed audio files to be the best. Especially if one is tuning and adjusting an audio system. There were definitely shifts in the tonal and temporal qualities of the music. However for listening while traveling or as background sound, perhaps the lower data rates are the proper solutions. I do know that for my travel selection, encoding down to a more reasonable file size makes sense. I can place lots of music on the portable player. I am listening in an environment, especially when on an airplane, that is less than ideal. Yes, I am still keeping my music library as WAV files, yes those are my preferred format. However when I want to load up 8,561 songs for a ten day business trip onto my music player or laptop I am sated (not satiated – yes, there is a difference) with downconverting to MP3’s. I will still travel with WAV files for critical listening as well, often on an optical media.

So I encourage you to try this yourself. There is open source software such as Audacity that I used so that you can do your own tests. However like me, I believe that you will find that picking quality by the numbers of bits flowing is not always providing a full or simple answer.

This image shows the way multiple tracks were stacked and then individually soloed in Audition
Adobe Screen Capture
This image shows the way multiple tracks were stacked and then individually soloed in Audacity
Audacity Screen Capture

An Update: The Logitech G13 is no longer compatible with the latest Mac updates The replacement I am using is the Elegato Stream Deck, as it provides cross application features. I was considering a Razer Tartarus V2 as it is Mac Compatible

October 4, 2020

Often times the controls for a piece of software are not the friendliest locations for one-handed operation. By one-handed operation I mean one hand on the keyboard, one hand on the mouse. When working in graphic programs I find myself working that way quite often. It could be as basic as a drawing program where I need to use the Z key to initiate the zoom function and then using the mouse to decide where to zoom. Other times it is more complex, such as selecting an image, zooming into a one pixel to one pixel rendering, panning, and then marking the image as a keeper or a chucker. It could just as likely be a drawing program where I am documenting an idea. For my #AVTweeps, just think  AutoCAD.

Recently I found myself being sore at the end of an image review session from unnatural movements. My data management workflow is outlined at previous blog post. However looking at the actual process I began to find lots of moving of the hands. My review process is based around the use of Adobe® Photoshop® Lightroom® (quite the mouthful so Lightroom for short). The program itself is very powerful and does help me manage my images, pictures, and photos. The program lacks some ergonomics for the one handed user.

The way I cull images is I go into the library mode and review the images at a resolution to fit onto the screen. I then quickly look at it and decided if it is a Pick, Unmarked, or a Reject. These selections are done using the P U and X keys. Notice how they are laid out on the keyboard.

Keyboard with PUX highlightied

Not very easy to navigate with one hand. Now let’s say I want to zoom into an area, one can either use the mouse to enter a 1:1 view or press shift and spacebar to enter the same mode, then use the mouse to zoom to areas. I do this to see how much aberration is viewable and if it is in focus, once again I decide if it is a pick, unfledged, or rejected. Lightroom has a setting to advance to the next image after assigning a value to the image.

That setting seems like it would save time, and it does quite often. However if I want to assign two things to an image, I have to back up to the image. If I find an image of the same subject later in the batch that is better than a pick I decided on, I go back to unmarked the previously picked image. So now I have a few options. I can expose the filmstrip at the bottom of the application window and click on it with the mouse and then press U. If this image was just the previous image I can use the arrow keys. If you notice both of these options require me to take my right hand off the mouse and place it on the right half of the keyboard. Now I could also just use my left hand on the right side of the keyboard however that still means changing positions.

Let’s say I want to see if a crop makes an image better. An example of a crop changing an image happened at the baseball game I took pictures at, since I was sitting in the stands some of the images have the back of people’s heads in them. Cropping the heads out made the pictures better, but some were still chuckers not keepers. In Lightroom I enter crop mode by pressing R, this would enter Develop module, where I would use the mouse to make the crop. I would then finish with the crop. I would then want to mark the image as a keeper or chucker. I cannot do that in the Develop mode, I have to be in Library mode. To return to Library mode I would either  take my right hand off the mouse to do the keyboard contortions or move the mouse away from the work area. Neither solution is very ergonomic.

There are keyboards available that are designed to fix some of these issues by changing the keyboard layout and having labels on the keyboard. However some are more expensive than the program itself. Also they are dedicated to the program, so I would still need my regular keyboard for such things as entering text. Not really an idea I was looking for.

I started thinking about it more and more and came up with a more practical solution in my not so humble opinion. I purchased a customizable gamer keypad, a Logitech G13 Programmable Gameboard with LCD Display as it is Mac compatible – yes it is also Windows compatible. (If you decide to buy one after reading my blog, using this link will give me a little commission.) This would let me decide how the keystrokes would be used. I could lay them out to my satisfaction.

I then determined what keys I used most. They are both left and right handed, and some of them require multiple hands, such as entering Library Mode (Command + Option + 1).

Commonly Used Keys on 110 Key Keyboard

These main keys were then assigned to the keypad as I found would work best for me. (Drop me a line if you would like to copy of the configuration file.)

Key Assignment for Gamer Keypad

I had 200 plus images from a business trip and figured that would be a great way to test it out. So I went through the images, did the rating, cropping, and keywording in about an hour including uploading to a SmugMug gallery. There was another benefit that occurred that was unexpected, I was able to hide all of the tool palettes in Lightroom so the images were bigger on the screen during the review, remember bigger is better. I do not have exact times for similar tasks using the “standard” keyboard commands but the important thing is I was not sore and it was not as tiring to me.

The keypad allowed the thing that I think all tools should do, get out of the way and let me work. It did just that. Other than when I had to type in keywords, I used just the keypad and the mouse. I did not have to move my hands around the keyboard and mouse.

I also learned a couple more tricks in the process. I can use the keypad in more than one program, but keep the key functions the same. By key function I mean that the same key that sends an R to enter Crop mode in Lightroom can be configured to send a K in Photoshop or Command + K in Preview to perform the crop functions. The same key press to me, sends different keystrokes to the application. Much easier than having to remember all the different commands, similar to Cut, Copy, and Paste being the same in almost every program. That is a fine example of what I was trying to accomplish; cut (Command + X) copy (Command + C) and paste (Command + V) are not great mnemonic devices at first blush but the arrangement of the keys makes it very easy to use.

As things are becoming more and more automated, I feel that the understanding of the process is being lost. I believe that tools should make my life easier and allow me to spend my time doing other things. However there is a downside, does one always understand the automation that is being accomplished? While these can be great timesavers, what happens when it doesn’t work or you don’t like the results? Understanding the process that the automation process is simplifying is key.

A common example is defining an IP network. Most people simply connect to a network and let a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server assign the address. This happens at the office, the home, the coffee shop, pretty much everywhere. When it doesn’t work for whatever reason understanding where to start troubleshooting is a mystery to some. I use DHCP quite a bit; I also do know how to do the entire process manually. I can manually – not that I want to – calculate the subnet network and assign the addresses. When there is no DHCP, I am still able to get connected. If I am still unable to get connected, I am able to call tech support and describe the problem effectively.

While IP networking is a common example it occurs with other technologies as well. I do have an interest in photography and have been doing more processing on images. For some of the process I do it manually, for others I do use automation tool. An example of this process is this picture of Martin Brodeur I took.

Straight out of camera, no processing

I took the shot in a manual mode, shutter priority, I also told the camera where to focus to get Brodeur in focus and the background blurry. I could have accomplished a very similar effect using the Portrait Mode preset in the camera, but I wanted to control the look of the picture. After I took the picture I did some work on it in Lightroom, and Nik Software. In the process I adjusted for the lens, applied a vignette, applied noise reduction, and converted it to black and white. This process was a mix of manual and automated. I could have just clicked a few buttons and called it done. Instead I made decisions along the way, and I understood the impact of those decisions. I was able to decide the final mood of the image as a result.

Processed picture, click to see entire gallery

This result is much better because I controlled the process and got the result I wanted. Did using the automation for part of it save time? Yes it did save time. Since I had taken the time to learn about the conversion process I was able to understand the questions and obtain the result I wanted. Now if you will excuse me, I need to troubleshoot my network as the Wii is not connecting to the Internet.

Recently I ran across this story about a picture that was taken from a photographer’s Flickr site and was being used around the world. He was not being compensated. It is both an amazing story of how something can go around the world from just being good and how at times people’s work is stolen. The video is 10 minutes long and is well done. The back story and video link is available here at

Notice what I have done above, I clearly indicated where the information is located. I could have just as easily gone into YouTube and gotten an embed link to put into my blog. I also could have just as easily downloaded the video and edited out the credits. But that is an insult to the people who created it. I am basically stealing their time and effort.

I know that some of my readers are more familiar with audio video system integration than with photography. The same thing occurs there and other places as well. It might not be a picture it could be a grounding scheme or a user interface panel just for a sample. Perhaps it is finding information on a manufacturer’s website and including it in your information package. Often manufacturers are okay with that, if you are using the information to sell and use their products. However that does not always happen.

Last year I was very surprised when someone called me to complain about a training video I did that was on YouTube. I was not surprised that I got a complaint, rather I was surprised that it was on YouTube. I did not upload the video there. I uploaded it to my work website. Not a huge deal as it was information about our products, however it then started to sink in. This website had taken someone else’s work, made some edits, and were then presenting it as their own work. They even placed their company logo over the video as well.

Someone else was supplicating all of the time and effort placed into the video. I understand how anything on the Internet is capable of being copied. Basically that was what annoyed me the most was that the effort put forth to collect and present the information was not being recognized someone else was just taking it.

That seems small, no one harmed, right? That is somewhat correct. My company paid for me to make the video and the product was still being promoted. However what happened if it was not a sales tool but rather a picture of a landmark, a presentation about a topic, a system design, or a configuration file for a piece of equipment.

The information is being provided without compensation to the creator or even acknowledgment. Basically that person’s time, effort, and knowledge is being stolen. If it is licensed under Creative Commons terms the creator expects certain respect in the process. If it is not expressly stated that it is okay to use, it should not be used.

The best example is someone who is creating a presentation or proposal and need a picture of a movie theater. I found a nice theater image on Wikipedia taken by Fernando de Sousa from Melbourne, Australia and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. That license requires attribution. Mr. de Sousa is a professional photographer. He takes pictures for compensation. He shared his work, the results of his skill, equipment, experience, and knowledge. All that he asks for is credit. Will you provide it?

Think about it another way. You went through the process of creating a proposal for a project. You outlined the equipment and process you are going to use. You provided information about why you chose that approach. The person you made the proposal to decides not to hire you. Instead they take your proposal package and use it to create the project themselves. Would that annoy you? Would you expect compensation? How about if all you asked for was attribution?

So I ask everyone to please respect the Intellectual Property, time, effort, and knowledge that is provided on the Internet and provide attribution at least. Don’t take credit for other people’s work.

I am off to go place watermarks on my stuff, if you would like to use an image without it, just ask.