Marius Masalar

Photographer, Technology Writer, Podcaster

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TP-Link Smart Bulb & Smart Plug

Plug & Play

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Apartment living tends to limit a smart home geek’s options. In a way, it’s a good thing because it’s forced me to be patient about adding more devices to my home.

Patience breeds perspective, and perspective has allowed me to avoid some common frustrations. With smart home equipment, like anything else, you tend to get what you pay for. Something that at first seems like a bargain (IKEA’s system, for example), turns out to be very poor value once you investigate what it requires and how limited its connectivity really is.

So far, the best balance of value, functionality, and ease of use that I’ve found is embodied in TP-Link’s line of smart home products.

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 Kasa

Many months ago, I got access to their flagship smart bulb, the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi LED Light Bulb, along with their Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug (Slim Edition). As always, I’ve reserved judgement until I could put...

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Amazon Allows Custom Fonts in Latest Kindle Update

Addressing a long-standing request, Amazon has quietly unlocked custom font support in the latest (5.9.6) firmware update.

The update is available to all e-ink Kindle models from the Paperwhite 2 onward and can be installed manually or over-the-air as usual.

All you need to do to make this happen is connect your Kindle to a computer and place compatible OTF or TTF font files into the “fonts” folder. There’s an instructional readme file in the folder with more detailed notes:

You can now install your favorite fonts on your Kindle and choose one of them to read your eBooks.

Any font you install must be either an OpenType (OTF) or a TrueType (TTF) font. All other font formats are unsupported. Also, fonts are usually available as a font family and may consist of several files for different font styles - one each for Regular, Italic, Bold, BoldItalic, etc. For the best reading experience,...

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Things 3.6

The Keyboard Warrior Update

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I may not have been very excited about the powerful workflow features that were recently added to Things, but the latest update is right up my alley.

Version 3.6 of my task management app of choice introduces vastly expanded keyboard support for iPad users. Over 70 new shortcuts have been added, allowing for a keyboard-first approach to working in the app.

While it seems like a very simple thing to accomplish in concept, the work that had to go into making this possible was significant. All of this shortcut work is predicated on the notion of a selection state, but iOS doesn’t have any such thing natively, so CulturedCode had to build it.

 Type Travel

The shortcuts are great, and allow for all the expected functionality like selecting, adding, and editing virtually any aspect of a task.

But they aren’t the exciting part.

One of Things’ greatest...

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My Inbox is For You

At the beginning of April, one of my business partners was away for a couple of weeks.

Her email vacation responder pointed people to my inbox, which gave me an opportunity to experience what email is like for everyone else. I’ve seen the tweets, glanced over at other peoples’ home screens to witness the red doom sausage of ten thousand unread emails, lost in time. It bewilders me.

Chris Coyier (you know him as the guy behind CSS-Tricks, or perhaps as co-founder of CodePen) recently started a blog about email, and a lot of it resonates with me.

From his latest post about people who say they’re terrible at email:

It downright scares me when I hear this from otherwise successful people. It’s straight up saying “I’m unreliable” which is a truly bizarre thing to announce, even if it’s true…I quite literally don’t want to work with someone, in any capacity, who I can’t expect email...

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iPhone X: Five Months In

Better in every way but one

Sometimes, I read other people’s reviews of devices I own and wonder if we’re actually using the same thing. The iPhone X is one such device.

Since launch, a strange narrative has emerged that Face ID—the new biometric authentication system replacing Touch ID—is decent, but definitely not as good as Touch ID yet. Some people are having quite a lot of trouble getting it to work well, it seems.

I believe them, of course, but my own experience has been dramatically different. So much so that it’s forced me to be patient about putting thoughts down about the iPhone X in case I was too blinded by the initial honeymoon glow to see its flaws.

Five months in, I’m confident that any rosey tint has been eradicated from my vision and I can give you an honest account of what it’s been like to live with Apple’s next-gen flagship.

 Face ID

Let’s just get this out of...

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Nope.

An album of rejected cues, sketches, demos, and other orphaned works from my musical catalogue

🎶

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Over the years I’ve spent writing music for media, there’s been a slowly-accumulating pile of work left languishing on my hard drives.

Innocent victims of cancelled projects, creative differences, or their own experimental nature.

It’s a big pile, but I recently plumbed its depths to uncover some of my favourites, and today I’m happy to share those with you in the form of a new album called Nope.

Over the course of more than 30 tracks, you’ll hear a wide range of music spanning several genres and a decade of effort. Some of these were written for film and advertising, others for games, and others still were demos for sound libraries or my experiments with new instruments.

It’s an eclectic collection, including some old gems and featuring a few tracks that have never before been...

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How to Remove the ‘OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA’ Caption From Your Photos

Ridding yourself of the mandatory metadata

For whatever reason, Olympus hasn’t yet fixed this peculiar firmware frustration on any of their cameras, including the flagship E-M1 Mark II.

Any photo taken on an Olympus camera is assigned an all-caps ‘OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA’ label in the caption field of the metadata. This can be annoying because it’s not immediately evident that this is happening, but whenever you post it on a social network or other platform that surfaces this data, you’ll suddenly find it attached to your photo as the title or description.

Luckily, while there’s no way to stop the camera from adding this metadata in the first place, it’s easy enough to remove automatically on import if you use Adobe Lightroom.

Here’s how:

  1. Open Lightroom’s Library tab
  2. In the sidebar, find the Metadata section and click the Preset dropdown at the top
  3. Choose Edit Presets… and in the...

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“A Dollop of Permission” Craig Mod on Creative Tools →

Craig is one of those drop-everything-and-read-his-new-piece kind of essayists.

He’s talking about tools this time, and describing a way of looking at the relationship between creatives and the tools they use:

I’ve come to think of tools as granters of permission. Things from which an artist can divine permission — the permission flowing either from the formal attributes of the tool to artist, or from the artist’s perception of the tool back into themselves. Either direction gets you to the same place. Many of us, to varying degrees, fetishize certain objects as having magical powers that enable, most often, creative processes.

It’s no surprise that he uses cameras as an example, and this ties back to what I’ve been struggling to internalize myself. Gear isn’t irrelevant in the discussion of creative work, but its importance is often misattributed to technical excellence. That’s not...

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Olympus E-M1 Mark II

My Camera

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What would it take to convince you?

I started asking myself that several months into owning and shooting with the E-M1 Mark II. What would it take to convince me that this smaller-sensor flagship could handle not just my travel and personal shooting, but the full load of professional work as well?

I asked myself while I had a review unit shortly after the camera’s release. I asked myself when I subsequently bought my own copy. I asked myself when I took it out on its first job. I asked myself when I stopped taking my X-Pro 2 to work shoots, then to personal shoots. I asked myself when deciding which camera to trust with my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Africa.

I trusted the E-M1 Mark II as my camera on that trip, and near the end of last year, I licensed a photo to Apple; it was shot on my E-M1 Mark II.

I had my answer.

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 The Grass is Always Greener

I’m a geek, but worse...

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The Thing Is…

Filed under the same category as my frustration with people who say they “could care less” when trying to express the opposite sentiment, I want to talk about “the thing is”.

I don’t know why, but in recent years I’ve heard a dramatic and terrifying increase in the appearance of these sorts of nonsensical redundancies in people’s speech:

  • The thing is is that…
  • The reason being is that…

Otherwise perfectly articulate and intelligent people have started succumbing to this syntactic syndrome. Podcasts, talks, daily conversation…I hear it everywhere. Is it contagious? What is going on here‽

I understand that language evolves, sometimes at the expense of grammar, but this isn’t some quirky colloquialism: it sounds uneducated.

And so, a humble plea: if you’re going to use these phrases, take a moment to think about what you’re saying. Eloquence matters.

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