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Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management. Photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and nature who is exploring the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found.
Author and Blogger. They are not the same thing. Sports occasionally spoken here, especially hockey. Veteran of Sun, Apple, Palm, HP and now Infoblox, plus some you've never heard of. They didn't kill me, they made me better.
Person with opinions, and not afraid to share them. Debate team in high school and college; bet that's a surprise.
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Monthly Archives: August 2010
It’s official. I have committed iPad. I noticed last night that one of the local Best Buy’s had them in stock, so I decided it was time and went and grabbed one. Looking back on what I wrote when it was announced, I think I got it mostly right. I bought the 16G WiFi model, and I’ve been whacking on it since to try to get it set up the way I want and the tools on it I need to get going.
Why now? I’m looking to move forward on some projects and the iPad will make doing those a lot easier. And in some cases, they wouldn’t be possible without. What are those projects?
Well first, a quick side trip:
Anonymous offscreen voice: Chuq! Don’t you work for that company that said it was going to build it’s own tablet?
Why, thank you Anonymous offscreen voice. Yes, in fact, I do. And yes, they did. And no, it’s not announced or shipping yet, and I have things to do and people to see.
In all honesty, the reality is this — everyone in the industry owns stuff on multiple platforms. If you aren’t seeing what the other guys are doing, you’re going to miss important stuff. I think the record at work is someone who carries (CARRIES, not “owns”) four platforms: webOS, Android, IOS and a Treo. I still have my iPhone, and it sits mostly in my backback and gets used as an iPod, it has it’s phone number forwarded to my main phone, and it carries the few apps that I can’t yet find an equivalent on webOS. But I dogfooded my Pre long ago, and I use the apps on it if they exist — because if you don’t dog food your own stuff, you can’t live through the pain points that need to be fixed. So I do, happily, and I think we do a pretty good job (and it keeps moving forward).
But there is no webOS tablet yet, at least not that I can admit to, carry around in public or use on a daily basis. When there is, I’ll dogfood that, too. Until that happens, I need something now that does stuff, and the iPad makes sense.
I figured I should just be up front about this, because we all know there are folks out there who look for things to take out of context and push as negatively as they can. And they probably will anyway, but I felt I could either pretend I didn’t have one (which only works until the first time someone sees me with it, and then I have some explaining to do), or I could just explain up front. So I am. Heck, I could actually be working on some fascinating cross platform thingie that causes sparkling ponies to fly across the room, and if I am, I couldn’t tell you. In any event, the bottom line is the addition of an iPad to the family doesn’t imply anything about anything else other than the iPad is a useful tool, and when I have other useful tools, I’ll get those, too.
So, why did I buy an iPad?
At the start of the year, I made a decision to stop buying dead trees, and I shifted almost all of my book buying electronic. That’s worked out pretty well — I love the Kindle format and I’ve been doing some interesting research into e-publishing myself. It’s really clear that the iPad is a tipping point in the publishing space and I’ve been doing some interesting research into epublishing (more on that later) and I’m at the point where I needed to be able to try things out to mvoe that research forward further. But mostly, it’s because I wanted something more convenient than a laptop to carry about for my reading, and something with a bigger screen than a phone (and my 50 year old nearsighted eyes thank me!). I like getting away from the desk, away from the keyboard and yet more and more of my “downtime” and research time is spent online. The iPad allows me to nicely sit on the couch with Laurie, or pretty much anywhere, and do that.
Another thing I’m looking to investigate is using tablets as part of my photography. I think the iPad would be a nice way to do keywording and annotation of pictures, and I want to start prototyping up some options and see what happens. I think you could do a lot using a combination of a Lightroom plugin to handle migration, Dropbox and some custom code on the tablet to enable browsing and curation through updating the EXIF. Still a bunch of details to work out, but I’m ready to go work them out, and I can’t exactly do that without a tablet.
Finally, Project management. I’ve started doing some planning on a few fronts, trying to get back and moving on some things I’ve let sit fallow for a few months, and I needed something to help me get and stay organized. I grabbed a copy of Things, and I’m starting to figure out what I need to figure out about the projects I’m trying to reboot.
And yeah — the iPad is a damn good piece of work. but man, I miss multi-tasking of applications already.
A long time ago in a galaxy far away — way back in 2005 — I made a decision to get serious about my photography and see if I could go pro in the field as my “career 2.0″, either full-time or as part of something other than working high tech.
That’s easy to say. Making it happen? That’s the hard part. but when I sat down to figure out a path between that starting point and making the decision to make it happen, I came up with a long list of things that needed to be done.
But if you think about what the critical path is, it’s simple: until the craft you want to build the business around is good enough, nothing else matters. You can build the worlds best website, you can market the hell out of your work, you can promote and twitter yourself until you’re blue in the face, but if the photography isn’t good enough, it doesn’t matter.
So job one was to become good enough — and that’s been my focus. Every few months I’ve sat myself down and evaluated where I stand and my decision has been that I still have work to do to get where I believe i need to get to be successful.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t made progress; I thought I was a pretty good photographer when I started this (and I guess I was at some level), and along the way I’ve become a much better photographer. Many times I look back at my older images that I thought were pretty good and wince; some are salvageable through what I’ve learned about post-processing — many are being retired and put into storage. the more I learn, the more I study — the more I realize I need to be able to do to be successful at this.
Earlier this year I made a winter trip to Yosemite. That trip was (among other things) a test — to put myself into a situation well outside my comfort zone, to create a list of images that I needed to create and do so under deadline conditions, implement that plan when I get on site and adapt to the conditions and situation to see if I could still accomplish the goals (and to see what else was available when I got there, of course), and then see if I could reliably create quality images to the plan. It was a conscious attempt “on assignment” under conditions that weren’t fully under my control and see if I could turn out work that I felt met the requirements of the assignment at a quality I was satisfied with — and most importantly in some ways, that the images were “made”, not just taken.
That latter point is crucial in many ways, because being pro isn’t just about being able to produce an image, it’s about being able to produce the images that are needed and produce them when needed and reliably. It’s about making images, not just taking them. Anyone can get lucky and take a publishable shot. you can’t build a business around getting lucky — you have to make your luck, so to speak, and be able to produce reliably.
I felt that I succeeded at pretty much all levels. I was quite happy with the images, and the images were what I envisioned and planned. Feedback on the images was positive. All of the challenges I put in front of myself to “prove” I was ready to go pro were answered. So a back in April, I sat down and started planning what my next steps were going to be.
And a funny thing happened on the way to going pro….
One of the realities you have to understand about running a photography BUSINESS is that it takes time and energy; you have the bureacracy of running a business (paperwork and taxes, business licenses, managing finances, etc, etc…). You have to spend time and and energy soliciting business and supporting your customers, fulfilling requests, billing, managing inventory, marketing and promotion… Businesses aren’t magic. Things don’t happen, you have to make them happen.
The time to do those things has to come from somewhere. Since I have no intention to “give up my day job” any time soon (if for no other reason I’m enjoying what I do for a living. And there’s this thing called a paycheck) where is the time to start the business going to come from?
Yup. The most likely place that time will be sucked from is the time I spend doing photography. Physics wins, folks.
So I made the decision – surprising to myself at the time — that the best way to guarantee my long-term success as a professional photographer was to wait and leave it to a later time. It’s better for my to put my time into continuing to take photos and work on improving my craft (and especially working to widen my portfolio into areas I’m currently not strong at). I worried that my photography might stagnate if I put cycles into marketing instead of shooting — at the least, I’d be complicating my life, and the reality is, I don’t NEED to create an income stream right now, and it just doesn’t seem to make sense to try to force it to happen now.
My life priorities have changed in the last few years. there have been some speed bumps in my life the last few years — health issues, my dad dying, the hysical realities of middle age — but I seem to be beyond that, I feel better and I feel healthier than I’ve been since probably 2003 and except for my weight there aren’t any life complications I have to worry about. I do, however, have to worry about the weight and focus on getting it off, and the things that have happened the last few years has changed my attitude somewhat, and I am trying to live a little more for now and a less for someday — in the last two years I’ve lost two friends to cancer, my dad to his heart problems and I’ve had other friends my age have major cancer or health scares. It’s made me realize that my situation (diagnosed with diabetes almost a year ago but well controlled, and the joy of middle-age — arthritis) isn’t all that bad. But it also reminds me that you can’t always assume for tomorrow, either.
So my priorities are different now. When I redid my blog in July, it was to bring my photography more front and center in the design and make it a better showcase for my images, but I consciously decided not to try to put out a shingle and creating a business around it. that doesn’t mean I won’t license something if it comes along (I need to work on my smugmug site to make that possible), but that’s different. My attitude today is about simplifying my life and enjoying it more, keeping the stress manageable (and cutting stress out where can), more living in the moment instead of investing for someday. And doing really good photography and continuing to expand my skills instead of marketing and selling it. Letting someday happen and see what it is rather than always pushing to make it be something. Because you never know whether it’ll be there.
I don’t regret the goals I set along the way — and in fact, especially when I was dealing with dad and all of that entailed, my photography was sometimes the thing that kept me centered and sane — but you can’t be afraid to re-evaluate your goals and change them when circumstances change. I still think “going pro” is something I want to do, but later, when I’m thinner and older and ready to step away from silicon valley. But I’m not — it’s way too much fun these days. So while I still want to make this happen, I want to make sure i do it in terms that it the quality of life I’m trying to maintain today as well.
And that means sometimes the answer is a surprising “not now”…..
(and now, the camera is calling…)
(continuing a discussion on my recent birding/photo trip along the central california coast. go here to start at the beginning)
So it was now time for me to explore Morro Bay. But first, a digression.
Why Morro Bay?
I live in Silicon Valley, and have for for over 25 years, but I grew up in Southern California and my family still lives down there. This implies I’ve travelled the roads to LA a few times. I long ago got over feeling like the hour I save by driving down I-5 is “worth it”, so my preference is to head up and down 101 along the coast. A bit slower, but worth it.
In 2008, Dad got sick. Went into the hospital. Didn’t come home. Between Christmas 2007 and October 2008 when we finalized all of the details on the estate, I logged about 12,000 miles on the car JUST driving back and forth across the state. I honestly can’t tell you how many trips I took, 2008 was and probably always will be a grey blur. But a lot of those trips were long weekends, and on a lot of those trips, I started doing short side trips on the way home to unwind. Occasionally my “weekend” consisted of driving a couple of hours out of my way and seeing what I found (sometimes up highway 1, sometimes crossing from 5 to 101 through one of the passes like 198 or 46 — just checking out different parts of the state. Driving, far away from people, responsibilities and cell phone towers — was a bit of an escape.
I also started stopping in Morro Bay, because (among other reasons) it’s about half-way between the two ends of this journey. Drive four hours, stop for a couple of hours, grab a meal, then carry on. Many times, that was my weekend. I first visited Morro Bay when I was trying to decide how serious I was about birdwatching as an avocation, and hit a point where I wanted to get out and on my own and explore a bit and see if this really was something I wanted to commit myself to; I chose Morro Bay because it’s a major birding area with a great diversity to it — and I loved the trip and the location. Ever since then, I’ve used Morro Bay as a stopping off point on trips up and down state or when I need to get away. It’s close enough that I can daytrip if I really want to, but it’s a perfect place for an overnight trip or weekend to get away and unplug.
It’s no secret Laurie and I have talked about retiring (or relocating) out of the valley at some point. I’ve wanted to move to the Oregon Coast for years, and we have a great love for cities like Seattle and Portland and Vancouver. I could settle in to a city like Newport or Astoria quite happily, though, and some day, we might. Morro Bay, I found, embodies much of what attracts me to the Oregon Coast, and that became a great attraction. The town is small and friendly; it’s casual and has a nice, slow pace, but it’s close to civilization with San Luis Obispo within reasonable drive. It’s a great outdoor town and I’ve come to learn it’s full of really interesting people — many of whom used to work in Silicon Valley and fell in love with the area and moved down there when they could. There’s a very active birding culture, and there’s are a number of very good and fun photographers that I’ve come to know either in person or in email. It’s very common — almost every trip — for someone to wander up if I’m shooting around the harbor just to say hi and talk photography for a bit, or to offer suggestions on interesting places to take pictures or find an interesting bird. it’s just one of those places you occasionally find that you visit and it makes you feel like you’re home (or want to be).
So Morro Bay became my escape, and as I visited it, I learned more about it and I found new and interesting things to do there, and now it just seems weird if I don’t spend some time around the town if I’m in the central coast. When I need to crawl into a cocoon for a bit, it’s a great place for me to do it. And because it’s like that (Victoria, BC is another town like that for me) that’s one reason I was careful to make sure I stayed in Santa Maria and explore new locations — it would have been fine to just stay in Morro Bay for the weekend, but I wouldn’t have really pushed myself or done anything new, and I needed the break, but I needed to push myself, too. This trip succeeded at both.
I have a few standard visiting places in the Morro Bay area. I normally start at the sweet springs preserve in Los Osos:
I love that place.
After that, it was time for lunch. Over in Baywood, across the estuary is the Good Tides Coffee house, a nice cup and a pastry, and the ability to sit and watch the estuary for a while (in the same location is Maya, a nice mexican restaurant I like to eat at; in fact, I came back to it for dinner that night).
I then drove up into the estuary and towards Morro Bay proper. I usually stop at the bayside marina because it can be a good place for otters to hang out, And then the Cormorant Rookery near the golf course in Morro State Park.
I’ve been experimenting with shooting that rookery a few times now. I must admit that for the most part, the rookery is winning. it’s a freaky place; you hike out to it along the water (hope for low tide). It’s up on a bluff a bit, and the cormorants are nesting up in the trees, so it’s hard to get good angles that show off what’s going on up there. I had fog this trip (of course), and that complicates it further. I’ve been there at times where the fog’s been heavy and turns the area into something really spooky — if you’ve never heard a rookery’s noises, you can’t understand what it’s like being near it in the fog.
Double-crested cormorants, egrets and herons all nest there. Pelagic and Brandt’s cormorants nest on the rock with the western gulls and peregrines. it’s both very accessible and difficult to photograph well, and I guess I’m going to have to keep trying…
After the rookery, I stopped at tidelands park; the main harbor was really quiet, so I headed over to the rock, where it was pretty quiet birding but there some otters hanging out. As it turned out, I ended up hauling out my camp chair and sitting down and watching and photographing the otters for about three hours. there were three hanging out and mostly sleeping, a young male, a mom and her young pup.
To sleep, Otters wil wrap themselves in a kelp plant because they use that as an anchor. It prevents them from drifting off as the tide changes.
Like Pelicans, I can sit and watch otters forever. I never get tired of photographing them, and they never disappoint.
After that, I was beat. 11 hours on the road, over 1,000 images taken. I headed off to the hotel room to check in and put up my feet and start importing the images. Importing ended up taking over 7 hours — one reason I decided it was time for that new laptop. I crashed early, got up early (but slept through my alarm) and headed out to the rock again to see if there was anything interesting to photograph. Other than a small flock of Brant Geese on the far side of the harbor, the answer was no. I did get a chance to say hi to one of the local birder/photogs who was out early as well, and we chatted a bit about the upcoming Morro Photo Expo and whether we were going, but that really needs to be its own posting.
After that, I headed north on highway 1 looking for things to shoot. What I mostly got was fog, I admit that the previous day had worn me out and I was looking forward to being home, but there wasn’t a lot that really caught my eye. what did — a few vistas around Big Sur — were out in the sun, but mid-day and flat lighting made those things to come back adn explore more some other time.
Point Lobos was encased in a fairly heavy fog, so I bagged it and drove in. Some days it’s just not worth it to fight for an image.
One lesson learned: I’ve lost enough hair that I can no longer pretend I can get away without a hat (and sunblock). Sitting out along the harbor for hours with the otters, even under a heavy fog/marine layer and no real sun, left me nicely sunburnt. Which, being a southern california boy, I don’t feel like it’s summer without one good sunburn, but I spend the next week or so doing a great imitation of a bad zombie movie as everything flaked and peeled, so before I do that again, I need to get a good hat and some good sunblock, and I just have to get in the habit of using it.
I do, actually, have a birding hat, a Tilley’s I’ve worn for years. But it’s getting a bit long in the tooth, and it’s a bit — informal — for general wear. And the reality is, like my dad, I need a hat I wear habitually when outside, and I have to find one I will wear that doesn’t (as Laurie has so described my Tilleys) make me look dorky. Okay, dorkier. So off to REI I go. (there’s a practical reason fo rthis beyond sunburn; my dad had multiple class one melanomas in his later years; that puts me at about 20% higher risk of melanoma than the normal population; my history as a bit of a sun hound in my SoCal youth doesn’t help that, either — so I need to get serious about protecting myself outside more than I do. That, and when I peel, I itch…..)
My next trip? hopefully up to Bodie, Mono Lake and Tioga pass for 3-4 days or so. We’ll see. I’ve been doing a bit more research and have a better feel for what I want to accomplish up there, and it’s an area I really want to see soon. But honestly, it’s been a few years since I’ve made it up into Oregon and the pacific northwest, and that would be nice, too… but that’s a more extensive trip, and I’m not planning more than a long-weekend kind of thing for the next few months. And honestly, I keep thinking that if I can get a longer trip organized somehow, it sure would be nice to get back to Yellowstone… (but that ain’t gonna happen this year…)
View central coast trip in a larger map
(don’t forget to check out part 2.)
So a couple of weeks ago, I went down to SoCal to visit family and spend a few days at the old homestead. I arranged things so that I could take a couple of days on the way back and go a bit of a road trip and relax and do some photography.
I’m trying to turn these trips into challenges, to use them to stretch my photography and to explore new areas or new techniques (or preferably both). One thing I’ve realized is that I’m very comfortable (and pretty good) at shooting the type of work I normally shoot but really uncomfortable away from those specific styles. Not a huge surprise, most folks are like that — but I feel that to really take my photography to the next level, I need to widen the types of photography I do and become capable and comfortable in a much more diverse set of photography formats. Push myself way out of my comfort zone, and then get comfortable there. (at the SAME time, honestly, photography is still one of those things I do to relax and recharge the batteries, and so there’s a tension here between never relaxing and never growing. These days, with everything that’s been going on, the needle is pointing further towards relaxing, but I need to change that up a bit).
I purposefully didn’t plan the photo trip until I got to SoCal, because I wanted to spend some time researching options and deciding what to do on the fly. With only two or three nights in a hotel, the options were somewhat restricted (no Bryce or Zion, for instance, because I’d spend too much time traveling and too little time on site). Part of the exercise here was to treat this as a photo assignment and do the research, choose the venues and the shooting plan — and then do it and see how the plan and the results match out and how well I adapt the plan to the conditions. It’s an attempt to simulate getting an assignment and then being able to understand how to carry it out.
I ended up having to decide on two ideas. One was to work up the 395 along the eastern Sierra and explore the Bishop to Bodie region (tioga pass, mammoth, bodie, etc). The other was to head up the coast and do some coastal shooting.
I ended up opting to stay on the coast for two reasons; first, I felt that a couple of nights in the eastern sierra was just too short for what I wanted to cover and I reducing the scope to fit the time available just made no sense. Since it’s been decades since I’ve been in that area, I’d need time to explore and scout as well as shoot, and I just felt I was trying to cram too much in (instead, I’m hoping I can take a trip out there for a few days after labor day. maybe. we’ll see. If not, it’s on the short list. But then, a birding trip to Salton Sea has been on my short list since 2006 and I still haven’t gotten there…)
I didn’t, however, want it to turn into another trip to the same places in Morro Bay, I knew there was a place in Pismo I wanted to go back and shoot, so I decided to overnight further south on the coast and then spend a full day shooting from the starting point into Morro bay, and then a second day in Morro and then take highway 1 home and stop in Point Lobos for a few hours of shooting.
One complication — a feature — is that along the coast, this time of year, it’s often foggy, grey and misty. In all, potentially a challenging shooting environment. That sealed the deal, let’s go find new stuff and go shoot it in the fog!
I ended up holing up for the night in Santa Maria, which was far enough north to minimize the travel needed before I started shooting, but far enough out that I was able to cover a fair amount of ground I’d never explored before hitting Morro Bay and more familiar territories. I chose two locations to explore: Guadalupe Dunes park for the possibility of some interesting dune formations, and Oso Flaco lake, because it’s a fairly well known birding site and I could accomplish a couple of things at the same time (perhaps). Adding in Pismo, that gave me two areas I’d researched but never visited, a third I knew about but had only visited for a short time a few years ago, and whatever caught my attention in the meantime.
I arrived near dinner time in Santa Maria and checked in and grabbed food — Santa Maria isn’t the most diverse culinary city in the universe, so I ended up at a Red Lobster (perfectly acceptable) followed by the starbucks for a coffee for dessert. And then went on a scouting drive. I drove about 40 miles E up the 166 towards the central valley looking for interesting stuff. One project I’ve been thinking of kicking off is a series on the california oak, looking for especially interesting trees and the remains of the fallen warriors. I’ve done a little shooting towards this, but haven’t really dedicated a lot of time to it. the trees on the 166, to my eye, were younger and just not very grizzled and not really all that interesting. One or two possible candidates but nothing I’ll prioritize going back for soon. Perhaps the 95 degree weather affected my judgement (it being a major heatwave in the state at the time….). Still, it was an interesting drive and exercise to explore for a purpose. But I really need to start keeping a formal scouting journal and a list of candidate locations for variious projects and potential shots…
Next morning I got up really early and got on the road and drove into Guadalupe and off to the dunes. I arrived — to fog.
Expected, but heavier than I had hoped. Guadalupe dunes looks like a fascinating place, but at 7 in the morning in the fog, it was me, a ranger, some really insane surfers and the sand. I spent some time trying various things, but ultimately, I wasn’t really happy with the results. the fog was heavy enough that the surf was effectively invisible (did I mention the surfers were insane?), and shooting birds in the fog just makes them look grey and uninteresting, at least with fog that heavy. I spent most of my time looking for interesting shooting options with the dunes, but just not finding many.
The sand just didn’t have much in the way of interesting textures for close up work, and the wide angle stuff in the fog was just — boring.
I do feel like I continue to struggle with this type of shot in general; there are a couple of things I need to focus on here. My lens setup doesn’t go wide enough for my tastes (I’ve talked about that previously here) but rather than blame it on “not the right gear”, I’m trying to push myself to figure out how to take interesting shots with what I have before succumbing to the “new toys” syndrome, because I really see this as a lack of technique and what I need to do is force myself to practice and work on this; if I did buy a wider lens or two, what I’d end up with are boring pictures set at 10mm instead of 28mm.
After that, I drove up highway 1 to Pismo, where things got better.
Laurie and I discovered Margo Dodd park in Pismo a few years ago when we were looking for a place to take a break during a drive back from visiting my family. It’s right on the water, a small grassy area with a few picnic tables — but it overlooks a wonderful rocky area, tidepools and some interesting vistas. I’ve always meant to go back and photograph there. it’s next to a rock where gulls and cormorants nest (and it turns out pigeon guillemots!) and I thought there were going to be some interesting opportunities. I also knew I’d run into brown pelicans, and if you haven’t figured it out by now, I can watch (and photograph) pelicans forever…
So I did. The fog was much lighter. it was late enough that the cormorants were fledged, but a few were still feeding young. I found a couple of fairly young gull chicks, but very little in the way of active nesting, it was all later than that. And pelicans flying everywhere in formation…
But that location was more than birds. Instead of closing off photography, the fog here gave me opportunities to create some interesting images. I especially like this one. If the fog were lighter, I think it would have been boring, it gave the tree just that right tough of mystery. If there were more fog, well, it just turns into a grey blog. This was what I was looking for when I decided to go up the coast and shoot in the fog.
Oh… astute readers will realize that I haven’t talked about Oso Flaco at all. When I arrived there, I realized that the location left my car a bit too exposed for my comfort level; with it fully packed and full of “stuff” and gear, I really wasn’t hot to let the car out of my sight to go hiking, so I aborted and filed it away for another trip, later. Especially given how foggy it was there…
So onwards towards Morro. And I’ll talk about Morro and the rest of the trip in the next posting.
When last we talked I’d just picked up my new laptop and was about to delve into migrating my universe onto it. I”m now fully migrated and settled in, and so it’s time for a bit of a post-mortem on the process and discuss what I did (and why) and which parts I like and which parts I probably need to think about some more…
The first thing I needed to do was install the upgraded hard drive (500 Gig, 7200 RPM). thanks to some very nice instructions from Other World Computing (where I bought the drive) and the fact that Apple made the unibody Macbook Pros easy units to swap drives in (Thank You Apple!) that took all of ten minutes. I’ve done that enough times by now I could pretty much do it in my sleep, but it’s not always easy.
Once I did that, though, a bit of a quandry. I now have a Mac with an unformatted drive, a drive attached to nothing with MacOS X on it, and a need to get MacOS X on the new drive somehow. There are all sorts of ways to do that; I ended up using the recovery DVD and simply booting it, formatting the drive, and installing fresh from the DVD. That took about 30 minutes, very painless.
Other options: I could have wired the original drive into a housing and booted the mac onto it, then cloned the drive (or cloned the drives via my old Mac, or… or… and in reality, all of the other ways to do it would have been more complicated and taken longer, IMHO. That’s why the recovery DVD exists…
First thing I did: Cloned my old laptop drive (via Superduper) and then put that boot drive far away from potential chaos. I also took my old backup drives and put them far away as well. Before I started, I had THREE current, bootable copies PLUS my Time Machine backup. I took my secondary firewire drive and turned it off and unplugged the firewire so I couldn’t accidentally trash it (there was a 2nd current copy of that data in Time Machine). More copies a good thing when it comes to backups.
Once the OS was installed on the new drive, I booted onto it and it ran through Apple’s standard setup process. Put my old mac in firewire target mode, connected the two, and let Apple’s software copy the data. 4.5 hours later, data is copied and my new mac looks like my old Mac (except where it doesn’t… there are a couple of things to remember here….)
Then you fire up Software Update and let it download all of the updates. That took about an hour.
Then I fired up the Application DVD and fired it up (it is also the hardware test DVD in this generation of new-machine disks) – since I never upgraded to iLife ’09, I needed to restore the applications that were on the disk I didn’t use, and I couldn’t do that until after the migration was done. That took another 45 minutes or so.
One thing that isn’t done by the migration assistant is XCODE; if you have the Apple developer environment installed, it won’t migrate it. That’s not a big deal, and there was an update I needed to install anyway, so the last thing I did before crashing was start a download of the latest tools from the developer site. And then I crashed.
Started about 5:30PM, crashed at 1AM with the migration complete and the system fully functional (minus XCODE). And almost all of that time was doing things I wanted to do while the system was doing whatever it was doing. I probably spent an hour total actively working on the update, the rest was the computer doing things while I waited.
I know some people still prefer to move stuff over manually and don’t want to trust the migration assistant, and I suppose if you’re someone who’s off hacking the guts of the system, you might need to. My view is “have fun. let me know when you’re done”, and I long ago learned to trust Apple knowing how to do this better than me. I also learned long ago not to hack the parts of the system that Apple “owns” — if I need a custom version of Perl or want to run an Apache server, I create a user and install the software into that user and build my own custom versions and run those instead. That does two things: it isolated the installed system from breaking because I inadvertantly step on something it depends on, and it isolates my custom stuff from being broken at a bad time by a software update that steps on my customizations. Everyone wins — and since it lives in a user account, it’s compatible with the migration assistant. (this was a trick we learned to figure out how to build custom hacks into Perl and Apache while still being generic and compatible inside the Apple data center, so the data center could maintain the boxes and OS without impacting production systems, and we could build the tools we needed without the data center staff having to be involved or approving stuff. works great, once you get in the habit of doing it).
One thing to realize when you upgrade your computer is that a few things are going to change. In my cast, the necessary changes were that my old laptop had a DVI video out, and my new one has this new mini-video plug thing. Also, my old laptop was Firewire 400, the new one is Firewire 800. That meant a trip to Fry’s for a new video dongle and cable, and some replacement firewire cables with the new plug types. While there, I realized they had a 2Tb drive for $110, and that solved my backup problem. This all happened while my data was migrating, so it was all ready when the new machine was ready…
Next morning was installing the dev tools, upgrading a few apps I realized needed patches (especially Parallels and the XP partittion), and then setting up backups.
These things are easier if you’re careful how you store stuff on disk. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty careful about where I put my data — yes, I use Documents and Pictures and Music and Movies and I keep stuff where it “belongs”, and I limit what lives on my Desktop to active files and projects. That REALLY simplifies major migrations like this. Times like this ARE a good chance to go through your files and identify stuff that you can throw out or archive offline, and in fact, I did take about 250 Gigs of data (mostly low-quality pictures) and copied them to two separate drives, one which will live in my desk, one which will live offsite. Next time I do this kind of archiving, I’ll buy a couple of new drives, copy the data from this archive onto it, add the new archived data, and then store a copy offsite. One way to limit the “I can’t read my only copy of this” is to keep two copies, and the other important way is to refresh the archive every so often. Given you can buy 2TB drives for $110 today, there’s really no reason not to simply replace your archives with a new, really larger drive every couple of years. And so I shall. And remember, THIS is the data I never expect to ever need or touch again, but am keeping around in case I’m wrong. So I’m comfortable only keeping two copies of it…
I plopped the new 2Tb drive in the dock. I ALSO took the old 2Tb backup drive and stuck it in a static free envelope and it and the offsite copy of the archive data and my old laptop then were put far away from my working area so I wouldn’t accidentally do something to them. In the morning, when I go to work, the offsite data will go with me. In a week or so, once i’m absolutely sure I have everything I need off of it, I’ll wipe the disk on the old laptop, and then it’ll go to a friend who refurbishes them and lends them out to underpriviledged kids that otherwise wouldn’t have computers.
Backups… When you’re schlepping around half a terabyte of data, it takes time. I fired up Superduper to clone my new boot drive to the 2TB drive and set up a timed refresh for every night at 1:30AM. Once that was done, I fired up Time Machine and got it started.
DAMN but Time Machine is slow. It copied data at maybe 40% of the speed of SuperDuper, and SuperDuper is pretty much as fast as you can get. I keep finding reasons not to like Time Machine in large data environments, but not enough that I’m ready to turn it off. Just don’t depend on it as your primary backup, folks, not if you do large data sets like this. For my mom — it’s great. For me, I get annoyed a lot.
Once my boot disk was copied (twice — once cloned, once Time Machine) I plugged in my secondary firewire and turned it on. And then fired up the backups on IT. And timed them, because I was now annoyed at Time Machine and wanted to make sure there wasn’t a performance problem with the dock. It took me 2 hours to finder copy 280 gigabytes to a 5400RPM drive in the dock. It took me over 5 hours for Time Machine to back up 165 gigabytes from that same source drive to that same dock with a 7200 RPM drive in it.
DAMN but Time Machine is slow.
And once that was done — I was done. Total time invested: about a day and a half of clock time. 7.5 hours of upgrade and migration, of which my time spent actively involved was about 1 hour. Getting backups set up and all of the data backed up? About 12 hours, of which I probably spent 2 hours actively involved and the rest of the time puttering. And about 2 hours involved in getting XCODE re-installed and doing the various updates I did (most of the time updating was getting XP patches up to date and getting the anti-virus stuff updated…)
Pretty much everything went as planned. there was one thing I did I want to do differently: I bought a VGA dongle and a VGA cable to replace the DVI setup I had. I don’t think it’s as crisp as the DVI was, so I’m going to go get a DVI dongle and go back to the old cable. I do need the VGA dongle as well, but it’ll live in my bag and get carried around for when I need to wire into a project for a presentation… All in all, not bad at all.
I also need to find and invest in a few really short (1-1.,5 foot) 800-800 firewire cables for neatness sake. Maybe a firewire hub; and clean up my cable monster behind the desk, now taht I know where everything needs to go…
When doing something like moving everything to a new laptop I find it’s a good time to reconsider how you use the system and what needs to be fixed or changed or upgraded. There have been a couple of projects I’ve been meaning to get to — and this seems to be a perfect excuse to actually get to them. One is that my contact list/address book has become a complete shambles; some of you are in my gmail lists, some in my Mac Address book, some in my entourage book at work, some on my phone and nowhere else. That’s long-term untenable and potential disaster, so I’m merging everything into a single list again (using gMail, and that syncs to my mac address book, and THAT syncs onto MobileMe and back out onto my phone), That’ll at least get the chaos under control for awhile, and keep it organized to the degree that I’m smart enough to only add data to the primary address book (but don’t bet on it…).
the other is that it’s well past time to get more paranoid about online accounts and passwords and get all of that data out of the way too useful but not terribly secure browser autofill and into something a bit more — discrete. And that is 1Password, a secure wallet that can keep a set of data and make it available on my Mac and iPhone/iPod_Touch (and there’s a way to sync data out to webOS via Dropbox). I’m going to be installing it tonight and as I start hitting up sites setting them up in 1Password, changing all of the passwords (way overdue) and getting that data out of the browser. If you haven’t done that yet — you really need to think about it. Just for peace of mind, if nothing else.
The new box? awesome. Spent some time in Lightroom 3, and rendering of images is a LOT faster, which makes me happy. I haven’t done a test import, but I can definitely feel the speed difference, so I’m hopeful. We’ll see, I’m going to head out and shoot monday or tuesday and see how import speed goes.
All in all, I don’t miss the larger screen or faster CPUs at all. At this point, that seems like money well not-spent.