Crafting Furniture

There is something strangely cathartic about recreating furniture in SketchUp. Given good measurements, I can craft something recognisable in about ten to fifteen minutes.

As we wait for our planning permission to move through its various stages, I have been building up a model of our future home. The bulk of the building model is finished.

Now I am entertaining myself with little models of our existing furniture and, in a few places, items we are going to need.

A log burner modelled in SketchUp
A log burner modelled in SketchUp

Putting together these models reveals all kind of details I had not appreciated before. Dimensions, weights, and volumes all need consideration. You can not cheat with a three dimensional model.

SketchUp is surprisingly productive. It has taken a long while to understand its approach. The software’s demands on you, the operator, are not obvious but they are not too difficult to adopt. I have turned to YouTube tutorial videos many times. Little tips and tricks about typing dimensions, mass copying with keyboard adjustments, are wonderful but utterly hidden in the visual user interface.

As a tool I have found SketchUp impressively productive. The notion of pushing and pulling away material is effective. I initially tried Blender but it never felt enjoyable; a tool I likely need to invest more time into before I get the results I want out.

My growing collection of furniture looks surreal. Floating in a gray space. Ready to be copied and pasted into the house model.

Our growing collection of furniture recreated in SketchUp
Our growing collection of furniture recreated in SketchUp

Autumn Routine

Autumn has arrived. This weekend we will be transforming our apartment into its winter configuration. With the Autumn comes the cold and the damp. A pervasive damp that leaches into our kitchen wall and into our apartment.

I am ahead of myself. My mind is focusing on Christmas and the New Year long before it should. Before then we have a handful of important events to oversee and enjoy. Not least the completion of the first stage of our planning permission paperwork and the festival of lights.

Megan‘s routine has changed, leaving me with a couple of evenings to myself. Traditionally I would continue working through until she returns, however late that may be. My work right now does not lend itself to long stretches of time; the specifics are too complex and time away helps make the time working more productive.

Instead of working, I am walking and listening to lectures and talks. A routine I associate with my weekday lunchtimes in Sydney. During those walks I mapped out most of the surrounding area around the office. I discovered and I escaped the open plan environment of the working day.

We are fortunate to live near parkland in Lyon. My camera comes with me. Photos in the dusk are tricky but not impossible.

A church lit up for the evening
A church lit up for the evening
Illuminated street in Lyon
Illuminated street in Lyon
Leaves reclaiming their energy
Leaves reclaiming their energy
Dusk across the park lake in Lyon
Dusk across the park lake in Lyon
Trees reflected in the park lake in Lyon
Trees reflected in the park lake in Lyon
A railway bridge and entrance to the park in Lyon
A railway bridge and entrance to the park in Lyon
Pumpkins on display
Pumpkins on display
Pumpkins on display
Pumpkins on display
Pumpkins on display
Pumpkins on display

Capturing an Indescribable Quality

I love taking photographs and rarely leave home without my camera. I am frequently reminded that while I love pointing and clicking away, I often fall far short of capturing the view as I remember it.

Often my photos feel lacking depth and contrast. Over the years I have learnt to rein in my camera’s automatic settings and white balance adjustments but my methods are tricks rather than expertise based on real understanding.

Recently I have begun to work on changing that. I have started taking more photos on settings other than the comfortable, forgiving, automatic and program modes.

I have started messing around with one setting at a time; learning what it does, how it affects my photos, and what new types of photographs the setting opens up for me.

The result is many more photos but with few worth keeping. Those I do keep justify my efforts.

Evening in Lyon's large city park
Evening in Lyon’s large city park
Tiles on a dome in Vichy
Tiles on a dome in Vichy
A walkway alongside a spa in Vichy
A walkway alongside a spa in Vichy
A fountain in a Vichy spa
A fountain in a Vichy spa

Those few stand out for feeling better; they have an indescribable quality of being captivating. The moment more accurately evoked – both lighter and darker – less perfect in some ways, but much more interesting to look at.

Water droplets caught mid-air
Water droplets caught mid-air

Excessive Zoom

I have been wanting to settle down and write something useful about the Canon PowerShot SX700 camera. My schedule has not allowed it this month. So a few recent photos will have to tide the topic over for a while.

Like most of my photos, these are untouched and straight from the camera.

Apples for sale in our local market in 6eme, Lyon
Apples for sale in our local market in 6ème, Lyon
Entrance to the marie, 6eme Lyon
Entrance to the marie, 6ème Lyon
An insect sits on the edge of a flower in the park
An insect sits on the edge of a flower in the park

Larger copies of these images are available via my RSS photo feed.

Serious Zoom

The PowerShot SX700 is a point-and-shoot camera with x30 zoom. The zoom is ridiculously capable and has me convinced that x25 is probably enough.

Below are two photos. The first is taken without zoom. The second is zoomed in x30 and then cropped to a 1:1 from an 8 megapixel image; not the highest resolution the camera offers but enough for my general photos.

The camera reveals detail I could not see with my own eyes.

PowerShot SX700 without zoom
PowerShot SX700 without zoom
PowerShot SX700 zoomed x30 - 1:1 crop from 8MP image
PowerShot SX700 zoomed x30 – 1:1 crop from 8MP image

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Making Movie Splitter

Miln Movie Splitter is my second product through Miln. It is also one of the fastest products I have developed.

Driven by a simple need Movie Splitter came together reasonably easily. That is not to say it was technically easy but the process from start to finish was clear and uncluttered by too many time consuming decisions.

New Cameras

Megan and I recently upgraded our cameras. We both opted for Canon point-and-shoot cameras after my positive experience with a PowerShot SX200 and my family’s experience with an A3200.

Our new cameras both came with a feature called Hybrid Auto. This movie digest feature creates a fun short movie as you take photos. While in Hybrid Auto the camera quietly captures a few seconds of footage before each photo. Those seconds of footage and the resulting photo are added to a summary movie of the day. The result is a surprisingly entertaining movie of the day’s events.

iMovie Frustration

Megan has been learning to film and edit. Her experiments led her naturally to want to incorporate the Hybrid Auto movie into her short films.

Try as she might, iMovie was unable to provide the frame accurate splicing of the Hybrid Auto movie she needed. The latest iMovie is great for home movies but does not attempt to provide individual frame control over the final product or the source materials.

After some frustration I noticed QuickTime Player and QuickLook both recognised each section of the Hybrid Auto movie as a chapter. This hinted that it should be possible to automatically find and slice the sections based on the chapter information.

An Opportunity to Play

This observation gave me something I have long been wanting. An opportunity to play with Apple’s new AVFoundation framework. This audio/visual library of code from Apple is reasonably new in OS X and iOS. AVFoundation underpins the audio and video handling of modern Macs and iPhones – and I had yet to delve in to see what it offered. None of my current work demanded it.

So presented with an opportunity to help Megan and play with the AVFoundation framework, I could hardly say no.

AVFoundation Fun

AVFoundation was surprisingly welcoming. The abilities I wanted had been added only in OS X 10.9 but that did not matter. Our Macs are up to date and Apple’s free upgrade path to OS X 10.9 means it is difficult to justify supporting older versions for brand new products.

Thanks to my work with Power Manager, I was comfortable with AVFoundation’s demand that most functions are asynchronous. That is, functions start and wander off into the wilderness of your computer only returning when the job is done. It means the calling code needs to be prepared to fire and forget for a while. Start the job and allow the user to get on with something else in the mean time.

The result is a much more fluid experience where you rarely feel any pauses or delays. Get the interface right and even the long running tasks feel fast or inconsequential enough not to frustrate.

Compare this to the traditional synchronous approach that starts and waits for completion before continuing. A synchronous approach is marked by progress bars, blocked documents, and long waits.

A New App

What came out of my experiments was Movie Splitter. An application that does one task really well.

The user interface was the biggest challenge for Movie Splitter. The final look and feel is deliberately light in tone.

Movie Splitter shipped with a document window of three parts. Mostly white, separated by titled sections: Source Movie, Sections, and an Export… button at the base. Simple and fairly unassuming for the brutish work it world save the user.

Miln Movie Splitter's document window
Miln Movie Splitter’s document window

Apple is tending towards a new look and feel. I have no idea when OS X will change its appearance but I will not be surprised when it does. The signs are there and clear for all who know where to look; a change is on the wind.

When the change comes, I hope Movie Splitter will be well placed to straddle both realms.


I have always preferred iconic icons over the photo-realistic and often comic feeling icons common on OS X today.

Miln Movie Splitter's icons
Miln Movie Splitter’s icons

Icons should be strong and reproducible at many resolutions without great feats of effort; I am not a graphic artist and just can not afford the time such a burden would demand of me. Movie Splitter’s application and document icon still required artwork in many sizes just to produce something that looked good on retina and normal displays.

I am pleased with the final look of both Font Pestle and Movie Splitter’s icons. They feel cut from the same cloth.

Miln icons - cut from the same cloth
Miln icons – cut from the same cloth

Judgement Day

Submitting a new application for inclusion to Apple’s Mac App Store is a moment of mixed emotions. I have encountered too many stumbling blocks to feel positive about the experience. Getting Movie Splitter into the store took longer than normal. The first review led to a second and that delayed the process.

Until an application – a manifestation of your effort and hope wrapped up in a bundle of bits – is reviewed and accepted, it could yet be rejected. Rejection can be absolute with no chance of acceptance. Rejection can be a trivial change or something more subtle but you never know until all the work is done and you are ready to submit the application.

Movie Splitter was accepted into the Mac App Store. That was a good moment. One Megan and I have yet to properly celebrate; traditionally, launches require a decadent slice of chocolate cake or another treat.

Improving and Refining

I submitted a minor bug fix update for Movie Splitter to Apple today. A link to the included help book was not working. The update fixes it. I expect it will be a few days until the new version appears in the Mac App Store.

There are a few improvements I plan to make to Movie Splitter. I want to be able to integrate the application into a workflow. It seems ideal for the purpose but how depends on how Megan ends up using Movie Splitter. I would be tempted by AppleScript but I suspect Automator or another approach will be a greater priority for her. We shall see.

Follow Along

I am trying an experiment to see how effective a social site is for sharing updates and news about an application. In the past I would rely on my own site almost exclusively. For Movie Splitter, I thought an experiment would be fun.

If would like to be kept informed about Movie Splitter, like Movie Splitter’s Facebook page,

Hot Water

After two weeks without hot water, I am looking forward to running that hot tap soon. The plumbers have just finished and are leaving behind a brand new water heater. The new heater looks identical to our last but this one is not leaking water through the electrics.

Beneath the leaking hot water heater
Beneath the leaking hot water heater

Having dealt with leaks from the apartment above twice since moving to Lyon, it came as no surprise to once again suffer another leak. This time our wall mounted water heater was the source, rather than the apartment above.

Two weeks ago Megan walked into the kitchen and let out an odd sound; a sound something between surprise and confusion. I rushed to the kitchen to find her trying to determine why a sizeable area around our sink was covering with water. A thin layer of water coated the sink, the nearby floor, and our cooker top.

A slowly forming drip from the water heater fell, hit the edge of our drying rack, and splattered.

The water was leaking from the base of the heater, near the red power light, and seemingly far too close to the electrics hidden inside. I quickly cut the power at our power box and then cut the water to the apartment.

A few minutes examination revealed an obscured tap to cut off just the water to the heater. After those simple steps we had isolated the now dangerous device.

The dripping continued for another hour and stopped.

Our landlords were not slow but instead a combination of multiple visits by the plumber, securing an invoice for the replacement, and scheduling time all mounted up. The final visit was postponed. Another client of the plumber having a “big problem”. So it is only now our new heater has been installed.

It will not be long now until we get back our steady, reliable, hot water. I will not miss having to heat water in a pan.