Monday, June 27, 2016

How I shared photos from my old camera on our vacation

On my recent vacation to England and Scotland, I had a photo problem. Yes, I took too many. But also, how would I share online photos that I took with my old point-and-shoot camera? On previous vacations, I took pictures with that camera and shared them when I got home. But it’s 2016 and wi-fi is everywhere, so why wait? I would be able to upload pictures that I took with my iPhone, but I didn’t want to rely on just a phone for pictures of Scotland’s green hills and valleys. I had a few options:

1) take my laptop and upload photos the old-fashioned way. But I didn’t want to shlep my laptop on this trip just for pictures.

2) buy a new camera with wi-fi capability. I looked at a couple of cameras on Amazon, but I don’t use a point-and-shoot camera often enough to make a new one worth the expense.

3) buy a wi-fi-enabled memory card. I thought about this too, but I have four 4 GB memory cards for my camera and I don’t need another one, for a camera I don’t use often.

What I settled on was option 4: use my wi-fi travel router to copy pictures from my camera’s memory card to my phone and upload them that way. I purchased a Hootoo Tripmate Elite travel router/backup battery in 2015 for the few times a year that I need a wi-fi extender for bad hotel wi-fi. It can turn a wired network into a wireless one or extend the range of an existing wireless network. It can also provide a private wireless network without Internet access. And it has two USB ports for charging, one of which doubles as a USB storage input. It doesn’t have a SD card reader slot, so I bought a $7 USB SD card reader on Amazon. The router automatically mounts the SD card reader as a storage location on the wireless network. The documentation on Hootoo's website suggests you can use the router to back up photos and videos from your phone to the USB storage, but I did the opposite. I have 128 GB of storage on my phone, so the phone would be my backup "drive."

At the end of each day of our vacation, I took the memory card out of my camera and inserted it into the card reader, then the card reader into the travel router. I turned on the router and joined my phone to the router’s private network. Then I used Hootoo’s router management app on my iPhone to browse the files on my memory card and copy the pictures to my phone. The app is a little confusing to use: it’s not clear that “Local Device” means your phone when you’re choosing a destination to copy. I get the feeling engineers designed the user interface without user input. But I was able to copy my photos from the camera card to the phone, then reconnect my phone to the hotel or B&B wi-fi so that I could upload them to Facebook and iCloud. This way, I could share my photos while we were traveling and I had the benefit of cloud backup. Even if I’d lost my camera or my phone, I’d have backups of all of my photos. 

One extra benefit of using this method to back up my photos is that with Apple’s confusing iCloud photo backup system, I can never be sure if the photos on my laptop’s Photos application are backed up into the same place as my photos on my phone. But the photos on my phone always wind up in iCloud and in Photos on my Mac and I don’t worry that I’ve lost anything. I should always copy the photos off my camera this way. Or Apple could simplify their photo management options. I won’t hold my breath on that one.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony with the Columbia (MD) Orchestra

It's a few days later and I'm still thinking about the Columbia Orchestra performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection" on Saturday night. It's my favorite Mahler symphony and one that I don't get to hear in concert that often. It calls for a massive orchestra with offstage musicians and a chorus, and it's tremendously difficult to play and conduct. I know one of the musicians in the orchestra well (my brother) and I’ve met a few others, so I feel a bit of a personal connection to the group. Also, I know the piece inside and out, so I was attuned to every entrance, every phrase and cymbal crash. (I had a good view of the cymbal player.) It felt like a bit of a high-wire act for everyone involved. 

It was a phenomenal performance. Music Director Jason Love conducted without a score, something I dream of (but also have nightmares about). Everyone involved played beautifully. The soloists were fantastic and the chorus sang with emotion. There were a few missed notes and a couple of places where the strings rushed a bit and things threatened to pull apart just a little, but it all held together. The music had drama and excitement and the massive crescendos and climaxes were thrilling. Love's grasp of this music was clear not just from his conducting, which was precise and energetic, but also from his "behind the music" mini-lecture before the performance. He discussed the themes of the piece and illustrated them by having the orchestra play brief excerpts. Even for an experienced Mahlerian like me, it was a valuable refresher and pointed out a few things I hadn’t noticed before.
From the opening tremolo to the glorious E flat major chords at the end, I was engaged with the music in a way that was totally different from when I've heard this piece performed by professionals like the New York Philharmonic. Maybe it was my relationship to the orchestra, or maybe it was the high-wire feeling, or maybe it was just that I was sitting closer to the orchestra than I’ve ever sat for this piece, but it was a most exciting performance that I won't soon forget.