In spite of repeated visits from Old Man Winter (whose visits I love by the way), spring is in the air and the flowers in our garden have been in bloom for weeks. Here are 20 images I’ve taken recently.

If you should like to license an image of mine, I’ve begun to build a catalog at Picfair. You can see it here: photos.raoulpop.com. Of course you can also contact me directly, but it’s probably easier to just get them there, and I think I’ve priced them quite affordably.

Places

Today’s images

Gallery
Thoughts

How will this end?

My thoughts on where this worldwide madness is going. (Cheer up, it will get better eventually.)

Released 05-04-2021
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Thoughts

What are your sources of information?

It is vitally important that you use your powers of discernment these days and that you get your information from truthful sources. It is a period in our history when an incredible amount of manipulation and distortion of the truth is being used in order to control what people think and how they behave.

As promised in the video, here are links to the sources I talked about:

Good information, but beware of disinformation that has creeped in among the accurate information:

Released 03-04-2021
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Reviews

A comparison of the Olympus E-3, E-5 and E-M1X flagship cameras

This is a hands-on comparison of three Olympus flagship cameras: the E-3, E-5 and E-M1X, which I made so you could see the progression in the design and the features of these models from 2007 to the present time. I own the E-3 and E-5 along with all of the PEN models. The E-M1X was on loan from Olympus Romania.

You may also want to see this post where I compare the E-M1X, E-M1 Mark III and the PEN-F.

You can watch this video directly here.

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The theme is the arrival of spring while reminding you of winter. If my schedule allows I’ll publish a separate post with photos from one of these late winter/early spring snowfalls which I love so much. For now, enjoy these photographs!

I’d also appreciate your feedback on whether or not I should set up a proper photo catalog at Picfair. Here’s the one I’ve set up for now, which I’ve maxed out at 50 photographs (that’s all they allow with their free plan). If some of you plan to purchase licenses for commercial uses of my photographs or want an easy way to order prints, I’ll go ahead and upgrade to their paid plan, which will let me put up tens of thousands of my images for sale, but I’d rather not go to the effort and the expense if it’s not going to be used, so let me know what you think.

Also, I’ve decided to increase the number of photographs per each one of these posts from 10 to 20.

Places

Today’s images

Gallery
Places

Italian road trip – Day 7 – Ladispoli, Capalbio, Rosignano Marittimo

Twelve years after our road trip, I still haven’t published the photos taken during its last day. At a time like this, when travel is a somewhat distant memory for most, and draconian travel rules require you to jump through even more hoops in order to board a crowded cattle plane, perhaps these photos, taken during more relaxed times, will provide a bit of comfort to you. So, Day 6 ended with us crashing around 11:30 pm, exhausted, at our newly found hotel in Ladispoli, after having charged through most of downtown Rome earlier that day.

We woke up the next morning to find we were about 20 meters from an unusual beach. We hadn’t come to Ladispoli for its beach — we came because we wanted to find a reasonably-priced hotel outside Rome, on our way back to Pisa, but the next morning, we got to enjoy the beach nonetheless. I’ll let the photos show you what I mean.

You see, Ladispoli is know for its black (blackish) sand. It’s quitely a lovely texture too. Ligia and I actually went back to the hotel to tell the others about the beach, but they were too tired from traipsing through Rome to come down, so we had our breakfast and off we went toward Pisa.

We’re driving along on the highway and around lunchtime, we spot this lovely medieval village on a distant hill. We all agree that we’ll go there for lunch and a little visit. That little village was Capalbio. The lunch was delicious and we had a wonderful time walking through the fortress. Much like many other medieval villages, the entire settlement is surrounded by fortified walls and is set on a hill, with vineyards and fields spread out in the valley below. The houses and overall properties inside the fortress are small and right next to each other, in order to maximize the available space. The actual patrol routes along the walls have now become sidewalks that visitors and inhabitants alike use to get around the place.

By 4 pm or so, we could see the sea (pun intended), with the Gorgona Scalo barely visible in the distance in some of the photos. By 5:30 pm, we made our way seaside in Rosignano Marittimo and found a spot to stop and take photos. It was lovely. In the gallery below, you’ll see I edited the colors in some of photographs quite heavily. Sometimes I can’t help myself. In recent years I’ve begun to do fairly conservative edits but in my younger years, I sometimes ended up doing fairly heavy color manipulation, and these photos were edited years ago. I also snuck in a photo of Ligia and I on the shore of the Ligurian Sea, as it’s called down there. That’s how we looked 12 years ago. How time flies…

We then drove to a hotel in Pisa, where we spent a short night, because the next morning at 6:10 we were on a plane which fiddled around on the runways until 7:06, when it was wheels up and on its way back to Romania.

And that was my last, long overdue post on this road trip. You can wind your way through our days on the road in Italy from start to finish by following these links:

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed the photographs!

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How To

A (final?) upgrade to my 2013 iMac

Yes, my main computer is still my late-2013 iMac. It’s still great as my photo editing and video editing (including 4K) machine. How is that possible? It’s simple: it was top of the line when it came out, with a maxed out processor and video processor. The rest was upgraded along the way. My latest upgrade, as I suggested in my previous post on the subject, is the replacement of my Fusion Drive setup (HDD + NVME) with an SSD. I wanted a big SSD, so I could fit all my regular work on the computer, only resorting to external hard drives for the big photo and video files. I also wanted to bypass the whole argument of whether to split or not to split my Mac’s Fusion Drive.

I waited for the SSD prices to come down, so I could get a 4TB SSD at a decent price, which happened in late 2020. I got a SanDisk Ultra 3D NAND SSD at 314 Euro (at the time). Now it’s at $470.

Back in January, I set to work on the upgrade. Those of you who’ve opened up iMacs released from 2012 onward know how much “fun” it is to pry open the adhesive strips that hold the display affixed to the aluminum body. I’ve bypassed all that crap, given how many times I’ve had to open up my iMac, and I use four strips of black electrical tape to hold the display to the case at each of its four corners. It works. It’s not pretty, but it’s not ugly, particularly if you cut the four strips equally and neatly, and you affix them at fairly exact points. You can’t even see them from the front of the computer. The display is black, the tape is black, it blends right in. You only spot them from the back. Anyway, it’s a lot easier for me to open up my iMac than it is for those who stubbornly cling to using the adhesive strips every time (there’s a joke in there somewhere).

After I opened it, it looked a bit grungy (the fan pulls in a lot of air and dust), and it had been almost a couple of years since I’d last cleaned it thoroughly, so I decided to take the heatsink assembly off the motherboard and replace the thermal paste — give it one last proper once-over, so to speak.

Off came the NVME card and its adapter. Now you can have a proper look at that supposed metal mount for the Apple SSD, which on this iMac is simply set with adhesive on the motherboard. As I said previously, it’s a design flaw, more like an afterthought. There are circuits on the other side of the motherboard going right under the mount, so there’s no way they could have put a proper mount with a flange there. The application of the adhesive was cleaner from the factory, but when I worked on it things got messier.

So now, I have no more NVMe SSD, no more Apple SSD, no more Fusion Drive, just one big SSD, plus my external drives. I figured it’d be a simpler setup, and it is.

Little did I know when I decided to be thorough with my cleaning, that it was going to be more of an adventure than I bargained for… First, I should set up the double-whammy scenario by saying that the way the heatsink assembly attaches to the motherboard is one of the most awkward and accident-prone setups in hardware design history. If I had put a cuss-count device on my desk as I worked on this stage of the process, and more so, every time I worked on this stage of the process, I’d have surely racked up some serious numbers. Now for the second part of the double-whammy: the way the CPU connects to the socket, which I guess is still part of the heatsink clusterfuck, since the CPU doesn’t sit in its socket without the heatsink, and when you attach the heatsink, the CPU can slide around in its socket, possibly sitting crooked and bending the feck out of the little socket connectors, each of which have specific connections to make and cannot short with each other and cannot be bent in weird ways… aaaaargh, aaaaaargh, well, you get the picture.

So I go through my whole spiel, clean everything up, put everything back together, including the heatsink assembly, tighten up all the screws, put the display back on, confident as ever, and instead of the Apple startup chime, I hear three nasty beeps. The iMac doesn’t boot up. Nothing. I go online and everyone’s posted about the RAM modules not sitting right, about various connectors on the motherboard not being connected properly, not sitting right in their sockets, etc., but EVERYONE forgets about the biggest damned connector on the motherboard not sitting properly in its socket, namely, the CPU! It turned out the reason my iMac wasn’t booting up was the reason no one was talking about: during the heatsink re-assembly, which requires you to do acrobatic work with the motherboard while holding the heatsink in place, flipping and turning the damned thing more than a burned pancake, the CPU somehow shifted about (which it shouldn’t do, because it’s got a very specific spot in there, but it still does, because you have to hold the heatsink over it with your fingers as you flip the motherboard to gain access to the screws from the backside and tighten those as you hold more screws on the other side with your fingers as you tighten them from the other side… anyway, this is so badly designed it’s bound to go wrong, and it definitely went wrong for me.

Because I couldn’t find any help for this online, I had to take the whole computer apart while carefully examining every connector and every piece that slid into another piece. Sure enough, after I took apart the heatsink assembly, I found the problem.

I present to you before and after photos of the CPU socket. The after photo (on the right) may not be perfect, but it works, and it’s after sitting there for about an hour with needle-nose tweezers and a magnifying lens, trying to bend the damned things back into shape and making sure they don’t touch each other.

After straightening those bent nose hairs with the tweezers, I began the re-assembly process. Keep in mind I had to clean off the thermal paste and re-apply it (always a fun task). When I tightened up the heatsink screws, that’s when I noticed that one of them was sliding in and out of its threaded socket, which is a big no-no. It means the threads have worn off, which is bound to happen given how much tension the Apple designers designed into the back bracket that holds the heatsink to the motherboard. It’s likely designed to work 2-3 times, and after that it’s anyone’s guess when the threads will strip off.

So what did this mean? I had to find a heatsink assembly on eBay, one that came with all the screws. If you’re also looking for one, be careful, some people only sell the heatsinks, and the set of screws is separate. I wanted the whole thing just in case something else might break on it. I ordered it on the 20th of January from someone in Italy, and because of the COVIDiocy rules in place in Europe it only arrived earlier this month, not quite but almost TWO MONTHS after placing the order.

In the meantime I wanted my computer up and running, so that same night, I took the risk and re-assembled the heatsink with only three working screws. I knew I was running the risk of overheating due to an uneven heat transfer between the chip and the heatsink, but I also suspected the chip had some sort of heat management logic built in, and would probably run at a slower clock speed if it saw a heat spike. Indeed, that’s what happened: my iMac was a little bit slower in the interim.

So, I finished re-assembling all the parts and my iMac was back in business, but that wasn’t all of the story, because it would have been too easy… The heatsink assembly arrived, but the back bracket for the graphics chip was too small for my machine (see below). Everything else fitted, but not that. Thankfully, the bracket from my own heatsink worked just fine, but this was yet another kink in the process.

In the course of re-assembly, after once again having to clean off and re-apply the thermal paste, I managed to somehow allow the CPU to re-seat itself in its socket, but this time it was more serious: after re-assembling everything, my computer wouldn’t boot at all and there was a strange humming noise coming from somewhere behind the motherboard. No beeps were given either. This time I didn’t bother to look it up on the internet, I went straight for the carotid, so to speak — right back to the CPU.

I take everything apart and now, not only are those damned little connectors in the socket once again bent in weird ways, but the corners of the CPU are bent, because it was pushed down into the socket by the heatsink after it came loose from its precise slot during re-assembly. If you’re delicate, you may want to skip over the rest of this paragraph. What the hell was I to do? I had nothing to lose. I didn’t know if the CPU would work again, so I took some needle-nose pliers and carefully straightened the corners. Thankfully, there’s a literal safety margin built into the edges of the chip, with no visible circuitry there, just the fiberglass backing (I think). Then I set about re-straightening the little connectors. You would not have wanted to be near me when I did that. So much cussing… I was too busy cussing to take any photos of this step of the process.

I put it all together again and wonder of wonders, it was booting up just fine. But wait, there’s more… For quite some years now, I’ve been pissed off by some fine dust that’s somehow gotten inside the display assembly and has been showing up in the both lower corners of my display. Now the display assembly itself is sealed with adhesive and with special tape, all around its back. It’s not made to be disassembled by the end-user. It’s made to be replaced. It can only be opened up in a special static-free and dust-free environment. Did I let that stop me? Heck no! I was pissed off by all the dust and I figured now that I tempted fate so many times with my iMac, it was time to tempt it once more by opening up the display. Now if you think, given what I’ve said above, that I surely couldn’t have cussed any more as I was working on the display, you’re wrong. I think it was one long, continuous cuss that just flowed out of me for about the half hour it took to clean the inside of the damned thing.

First, there’s adhesive tape that must be removed, all around the perimeter of the display, while being very careful not to mess with the display wiring harnesses. Also, there are a great many tiny screws, all around the perimeter of the display, that must also be removed. Once that’s done, the metal backing of the display comes off, revealing a stack of plastic sheets of differing transparencies and textures that make up the actual display assembly. Don’t ask me how it works that way. I don’t know. But I do know dust had somehow gotten in there, in-between those plastic sheets, and I needed to clean it off.

Here’s where the static-free and dust-free environment comes in. For as I wiped each of those plastic sheets clean on both sides, with a special dust cloth, they began to attract more dust. Hey, they’re plastic and they get charged with electricity as you wipe them, particularly in the dry late winter/early spring atmosphere. I had a static-free mat, but I couldn’t find the special wire that connects it to the house ground to discharge the static electricity. So I worked as best I could, cleaning each of those plastic sheets from the display sandwich while constantly cussing because I’d bothered with this and because who the feck knew a display was made of semi-transparent plastic sheets that attracted dust like a magnet!

I got it done and put it back together, half-expecting to have screwed it all up, but surprise, surprise, it worked! So now I don’t have those annoying dust spots in the lower corners, but I have a couple of textile fibers, one about 1 cm long and the other about 4 mm long, each about 1/20th of a mm thick, clearly visible in the lower part of the display, plus 5-6 minute specks of dust sprinkled around for good measure.

I hope I never have to open the damned display again, but might have to at some point, given yet another design flaw is clearly apparent here: a factory-sealed display assembly somehow sucked in dust, and now that I’ve had to break the seal to clean it, it’s likely that more dust will get in there.

My computer is working great again and it is back to its normal self. I tested it with Geekbench, and while it was slower in the interim when the CPU couldn’t cool properly, it’s back to its usual perky performance now. I’ve upgraded pretty much everything I could have upgraded on it, so I think the performance I’m getting now is just about all I’ll get from it, and it feels good to know that I’ve squeezed all the practical use out of it. If NVMe storage ever drops in price and increases in capacity to the point where I can get a 4-5 TB module for the price that I got my SSD now, given the huge increase in speed between a regular SSD and an NVMe, I might spring for one, but I don’t know if the iMac can truly handle those speeds. There might be a bottleneck somewhere, perhaps in the SATA connection itself, in the bus, who knows… I also don’t know how much longer it’ll last and if it breaks, what will break and whether it’ll make sense to replace that part, at that time. I am happy though, knowing I’ve made very good use of it while it worked.

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There’s no particular theme in this collection of images. Just nice colors and shapes that go along nicely with the hashtag I’ve been using on social media since last year: #phototherapy. I hope they cheer you up!

Places

Today’s images

Gallery
Four Olympus 40-150mm lenses
Reviews

A comparison of the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 PRO and f4-5.6 R telephoto MFT lenses

This is a hands-on comparison (with sample photos) of the M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 Pro lens and the M.Zuiko 40-150mm f4-5.6 R lens from Olympus, both made for the Micro Four Thirds system. I also talk about the original 40-150mm f4-5.6 MFT lens, which is now discontinued, and about the Zuiko Digital 40-150mm f3.5-4.5 lens made for the Four Thirds system. This comparison was made for those of you who are thinking of getting one of them or upgrading to the Pro lens and would like to find out more details.

The E-M1X, the E-M1 Mark III and the 40-150mm f2.8 PRO lens were on loan from Olympus Romania.

You may want to watch this video, where I compare the E-M1X, E-M1 Mark III and the PEN-F. You may also be interested in this video, where I talk about the macro converter that can be used with the 40-150mm f4-5.6 lens.

This is not a paid review. It is my honest personal opinion on this matter.

You can watch this video directly here and here. I am also including a gallery of the sample photographs presented in the video.

Released 02-03-2021
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Olympus 25mm f1.2 PRO lens
Reviews

A comparison of the Olympus 25mm f1.2 and f1.8 prime MFT lenses

This is a hands-on comparison (with sample photos) of the 25mm f1.2 Pro lens and the 25mm f1.8 lens from Olympus, both made for the Micro Four Thirds system. It was made for those of you who are thinking of getting one of them or upgrading to the Pro lens and would like to find out more details.

The E-M1 Mark III and the 25mm f1.2 lens were on loan from Olympus Romania.

You may want to watch this video, where I compare the E-M1X, E-M1 Mark III and the PEN-F. You may also be interested in this video, where I talk about the macro converter that can be used with the 25mm f1.8 lens.

This is not a paid review. It is my honest personal opinion on this matter.

You can watch this video directly here and here. I am also including a gallery of the sample photographs presented in the video.

Released 28-02-2021
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