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What You Need to Know Before Updating to MacOS Catalina 10.15

Apple Store 5th Ave 9/2019

The newly renovated Apple Store, 5th Ave, New York City 9/21/2019 © Andrew Darlow

I chose the photo above because it fits in with the topic I’m discussing today. I photographed it with an iPhone 11 Pro using the Panoramic mode. Click on the image to view it about four times larger (I did some perspective correction in Photoshop to straighten the buildings, and boosted the saturation a bit).

WHY I’M RINGING THE ALARM BELLS ABOUT 10.15 CATALINA

There’s a new operating system, named macOS Catalina (10.15), coming very soon (potentially as early as October 4, 2019 according to This Article) to millions of Apple Macintosh users with computers that were produced recently enough (or that have sufficient hardware specs) to run it (this Wikipedia article has a list of the specific models). Normally, I would not be sounding any alarm bells about this, but this is a different situation. Many people get into the habit of just clicking on “update” or have their computers set to automatically update to the latest operating system. But I would be very careful about doing that this time. The reason is that macOS Catalina (10.15) will only run 64-bit apps, and there is a VERY GOOD CHANCE that some or many of the apps you have on your Mac are 32-bit apps. Those applications will stop working if you upgrade. 

SO WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

1. The main thing to do is to not automatically approve the upgrade if you are invited via a pop-up message to do so until you are ready. I personally will be waiting at least a few months on my main machine (maybe even a year or more) to upgrade.

2. The next thing you can do is turn off all automatic updates for your current Operating System. For example, I am on macOS Mojave (10.14), so I went to System Preferences>Software Update (located in the 3rd Row in the default configuration), and made sure that “Automatically keep my Mac up to date” was unchecked. See below for what that screen looks like. I then clicked on the “Advanced” button and kept “check for updates” checked, but unchecked everything else. With all that said, I would set a reminder to see what updates are available for your computer if you turn off the “Install system data files and security updates.” Checking that item Will Not update your software to a new operating system like macOS Catalina.

3. If and when you do upgrade, I recommend having two backups of your existing system (a Time Machine backup plus a Clone of your system on an external drive).

Software update screen

Software update screenshots

WHAT IF YOU ARE NOT RUNNING MOJAVE (10.4)?

If you are not running Mojave (Sierra (10.12) or High Sierra (10.3), for example), it’s a bit more complicated. You can find it Software Update under “About this Mac” and then “Software Update”. You can also read about how to upgrade (or avoid turning on auto updates) on THIS PAGE.

RELATED ARTICLES & PODCASTS

On a related note, This is An Excellent Article with a comprehensive overview of what’s in macOS Catalina, and how many things will be changing on your Mac (bye bye iTunes, for example!).

And I thought you may like to listen to This Episode of Connected, one of my favorite podcasts about all things related to Apple Computer, the Mac and iOS (you can even adjust the speed of the playback). If you’d like to cut to the chase, you can skip to 52:32 (you can move the playhead back and forth near the top of the page) to just listen to the section about macOS Catalina, including their suggestion to install an app called Go64 (You Can Find It Here) that will quickly tell you which of your applications on your Mac are 32 vs 64 bit. There are other items called “Kernel Extensions” that are changing, which is quite geeky, but it’s an important change.

If you listen to the beginning of the show, you will hear that the co-founders of the company who produces the podcast (Relay FM) recently helped raise over $300,000 for childhood cancer research by doing a focused fundraising campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Relay FM has more than 20 shows, and their hosts and listeners were very generous in their support. I learned that no family has to pay for the treatment that they receive at St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and I was a bit shocked to learn that the average treatment for a child with leukemia is about $200,000.

I also learned from doing some online research that in the 1950s, nearly all children with leukemia passed away, but today, the survival rate is about 75% thanks to the work of research hospitals like St. Jude. Here’s a link to a six hour “podcast-a-thon” that helped them a lot to reach that goal. They are the same people that you will hear on the podcast and their names are Stephen Hackett and Myke Hurley. Stephen Hackett’s son was a patient at St. Jude’s and you can read about his family’s story HERE. You will also hear a gentleman on the podcast named Federico Viticci, who runs a fantastic site called MacStories.net.

MY 40 DAY EMAIL CHALLENGE IS IN FULL GEAR!

If you are not currently receiving my preferred email news and tips, I welcome you to subscribe HERE. You will instantly receive an e-book with 25 pages from my award-winning photo tips book, Focus & Filter, as well as some Lightroom videos. I’m also in the middle of a 40 Day Challenge in which I’ve been sharing tips and advice on many topics, including inkjet printing, portrait photography, travel and much more. I hope to see you there!

Alien Skin Software Exposure X4 and X4.5 Overview and Link to Free Trial

It’s truly an amazing time to be a photographer. There is no shortage of incredible tools to edit just about any scanned or digitally-captured image, whether it be a Raw file or many other file types. In September of 2018 I posted an overview of Alien Skin Exposure X3 as well as some of the new features that were coming to Exposure X4. You can find that article here. Recently, the company released Exposure X4.

I was impressed then with the speed and feature set of Exposure X3, and I’m even more impressed now with Exposure X4.5. There are many effects in the application/plug-in that just can’t be found on other non-destructive image editors.

A screenshot showing an image with two LUT (Look up Table) options. LUTs are a new feature in Exposure X4.5. Image courtesy Alien Skin Software

Some of the things that stand out for me in Exposure X4 and X4.5 are as follows:

LUTs: (short for Look-Up Tables) are small files that allow you to apply certain “looks” or color grading non-destructively to your images inside of Exposure X4. This is an excellent article on the topic that shows a number of examples, with a link to some free downloadable LUTs from Lutify.me.

Preset thumbnails: (allow you to see and apply many different effects, such as film simulations), are able to be resized by dragging the panel where they are located. This is extremely helpful when choosing different looks. Like all of the panels, you can even customize where they are located.

Hovering effect for presets is very fast (I tested it on a 2013 MacBook Pro with an i7 Processor). This feature allows you to hover your mouse over a preset, and the image in the center window will temporarily apply that preset, making it very fast and easy to test out different looks.

The “IR” tools are nothing short of amazing. This tool allows you to create different types of “glow effects” that simulate the look of infrared (or you can use them to just add a softer look) in your images. As they say, you have to see it to believe it!

The Bokeh tool (used to create creative blur effects) could be an application all by itself. It’s just mind-blowing.

• Tethered Shooting and Non-destructive Layers: Here is a link to a tutorial that shows some of what Exposure X4.5 can do, especially when put in the hands of a skilled image maker:

User Configurable Keyboard Shortcuts, including one option that makes it easier for Lightroom users to either use Exposure X4.5 as an additional editing tool (standalone or as a plug-in), or for those who want to make the transition from Lightroom Classic to Alien Skin Exposure X4.5.

And here are a few of the newest features that have been added to Exposure X4.5 (from the company’s press materials)

  • LUT (Look up Table) Support;
  • Additional freely moveable light leak overlays, including the new categories of Lens Flare and Haze;
  • Collection membership now appears the Metadata panel, enabling photographers to see a full list of the collections a photo belongs to
  • Support for additional cameras and lenses from a number of manufacturers:
    • Fujifilm
    • Leica
    • Panasonic
    • Nikon
    • Sony
    • Olympus
    • Canon
    • DJI
  • User-requested workflow refinements that include new photo sizing options when exporting, new keyboard shortcuts;
  • Configurable keyboard shortcuts (I also mentioned this above, but here’s a link to an excellent overview of the feature); and
  • Copy Photos from Card tool adds visual browsing and selection of files to be copied.

MODIFYING KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS – A Real World Example

I try to use keyboard shortcuts whenever possible to save time, and two that I constantly use in Lightroom are the “-” and “=” keys to make thumbnails larger or smaller in the Library Module. With that in mind, I was able to change the default keyboard shortcut in Exposure X4.5 for those keys (they were previously assigned to “Toggle Pick Flag” and “Toggle Reject Flag”. Now the keyboard shortcuts match between both applications.

NEW VISUAL BROWSING OPTION FOR CARD IMPORTS

I found the new visual browsing option when copying photos from a card to be very well designed and easy to use. The thumbnails can be made quite large (almost full screen if you like), which is great for quickly making selections. Here’s what it looks like (click on image to see it larger):

The card import dialog box in Alien Skin Exposure X4.5

TUTORIALS

A screenshot from the tutorials page for Exposure X4.5

Alien Skin Software has an excellent collection of tutorials to help anyone get started or hone their skills with their applications. Here is a link to the tutorial page for Exposure X4.5, and here is a link to their YouTube channel.

I would be remiss not to include at at least one screen shot from my testing. I praised this feature in my review of Alien Skin Exposure X3, but this tool never ceases to amaze me. It’s the Overlays panel, and if you like the idea of being able to create a wide variety of custom borders for your images, I would reserve a few hours for yourself to dig in and enjoy!

One of my photos being edited in the Overlays panel. Photo © Andrew Darlow

EXPOSURE X4.5 PRICING and 30 DAY FREE TRIAL

Alien Skin Exposure X4.5 is free to all owners of Exposure X4, and is available in two configurations for Mac and Windows OS:

Exposure X4 (US $119). I should note that this is a $30 savings compared with the previous price of Exposure X3.

• Exposure X4 Bundle (US $149), a $50 savings compared with the previous Exposure X3 bundle. It includes Exposure X4, Snap Art, and Blow Up. As I noted in my other article, Blow Up is an amazing application that can enlarge your images quite a bit while retaining good detail and minimal or no visible artifacts. Snap Art’s forte is transforming photos or other artwork in many different ways. Effects include many different looks, including pastel, oil painting and watercolor. For more on Snap Art, visit this page, or see the the video below:

and here is a quick video overview of Exposure X4:

Re: upgrades, the cost to upgrade from previous versions of Exposure to Exposure X4.5 is $79. The company also frequently releases updates to support the raw files of new cameras, make bug fixes, etc.

I highly recommend downloading a copy of Alien Skin Exposure X4.5 and giving it a test drive. Even if you are happy with your current Raw processing app or other image editor, you may find that some of the tools are well worth the cost of the application. If you’d like to try out  Exposure X4.5 for free for 30 days, visit this page.

Hands-on Review of Twindom’s 3D “Cloning” Service – My Experience Being Scanned and Turned into a Figurine

There’s no denying that many people love figurines, action figures, etc., whether they are used for play acting or to just keep on a shelf or display cabinet. One of the most interesting companies whose booth I visited at PhotoPlus Expo 2018 in New York City was Twindom. They make Full Body 3D Scanners that can capture images in about a quarter of a second in a high-tech photo booth. Those scans can then be used to create 3D figurines. The samples they showed were AMAZING, and I decided to have a scan done at the show with my good friend Ron Wyatt. We are usually on the other side of the camera, but this was too much fun not to try! Below is a photo that I took of the final product, which is a seven inch figurine.

My overall impression of it is WOW! I’ve seen a lot of action figures over the years, and even with millions of dollars of equipment at their disposal, they usually fall short (in a big way) in representing the action hero or superhero’s facial features. In the sample they sent to me, it definitely looked like me and my friend to my eyes, and the truly amazing part is the color accuracy and how the folds of the clothing are rendered. If I were to describe the texture of the figurine, it would be like that of sandstone.

Important note: I was curious how many people and/or pets can be captured in one 3D full-body scan using the system, and I received some information from Twindom, which may or may not be 100% applicable depending upon where and when you have your scan done. If you have a small dog, cat, baby or small child that’s being held in someone’s arms, then you can still have four people in addition to the baby or pet. If there are already four people in the scan, a pet on a leash might still be able to fit in the scanning area, and there may be an extra charge for the touch-up and additional material that would be used for the figurine. Just to be sure, I would ask about the number of people and/or pets that can be in the scan before going to the location to have a scan done.

If I have anything negative to say about the final “print” as they call it, it’s that there are some faint vertical lines going through my shirt and some other areas, which is something that can happen with the printing process. That being said, at least in my case, the lines look as though they could have been a part of the design of my shirt, and under typical room lighting, they almost disappear. In other areas where I can see faint lines, they are extremely faint and I can’t see them at all under most typical lighting. I took the “selfie” photo above in strong afternoon daylight to show as much of the detail as possible.

FIGURINE OPTIONS

Please note: As mentioned below, I would consider the prices shown here to be “list prices,” because I’ve seen a range of different prices for all sizes depending on where and when you have the scans done and where you order figurines.

Twindom also offers its clients (those who purchase their scanning system and provide the scanning service) the ability to order the figurines for their clients (the end customer) with a number of different options. People can also be sent a link to order figurines themselves, but I’m not sure if all providers allow this option. A few of the options I noticed when checking the ordering page shown below include:

•  Ability to choose a figurine size from 3-14 inches.

• Ability to have your figurine placed on a white base. I would highly recommend this for most people because the figurines can fall over fairly easily without a base. This adds about $15-30 to the overall cost depending on the size of the figurine, but I noticed that at least one company includes this in their pricing for some sizes.

• Ability to choose TwinProtect™ coating, which gives the figurine a semi-gloss finish and also protects it more than if it had no coating. The coating adds about $20-30 to the overall cost depending on the size of the figurine, but like the base, I noticed that at least one company includes this in their pricing for some sizes.

• Ability to choose between a crystal and 3D print. If you’ve visited a mall in the last five years, you’ve probably seen images embedded inside of crystal.

• Ability to choose from full body, half-body or bust (some companies may not offer that option).

With a base added, the 7 inch figurine that Twindom created for me and that’s pictured above would cost about $259. I think the smallest size (3 inches) could work well as a wedding cake topper (though 6-7 inch figurines would make more of a statement). A three-inch figurine would cost $109-$130 depending on the options you choose. I would consider the prices I just mentioned “list prices,” because I’ve seen a range of different prices for all sizes depending on where and when you have the scans done and figurines made.

WHERE TO HAVE YOURSELF “CLONED”

If you’d like to have a scan done of you and/or your loved one (I think pets are ideal subjects for this), there are some pop-up installations at Bloomingdale’s stores in New York City and San Francisco this holiday season (until 12/30/2018). You can find the addresses for the stores and a link to book an appointment here. I would not recommend just showing up to make an appointment, but you can always call the store and ask what’s best. There are a number of other locations around the world. Here are a few in the United States that the company shared with me:

Holodeck 3D – Washington State
PeoplePrints3D – Pennsylvania
Mini Me Factory – Georgia

And here is a company in Japan who offers the service. Their site has a lot of photos of different figurines that show how the technology is being used.

Here’s a video overview of the scanning and printing process:

I found Twindom’s website to be very informative for those who are interested in finding out how to set up a 3D photo studio. According to their website, the cost of a system is US$29,995, plus a $299/month Cloud Subscription. That’s certainly not inexpensive, but I think it’s a very interesting business opportunity.

This technology seems to me like it would be a great option for artists to create limited edition pieces for sale (it’s probably being done already!). It reminds me a bit of the Polaroid 20×24 camera system because you can’t just take a photo with any camera and send out for prints. Here’s a great video about the 20×24 Polaroid process in case you are curious.

Overall, based on my hands-on experience, I highly recommend the Twindom scanning and printing process. Please let me know if you have a scan done. I’d love to see a photo of you in 3D!

Full disclosure: Twindom sent the figurine pictured above to me so that I could write this review. I received no other compensation for this review.