I WannaCry about the Plunging Quality of Evil Geniuses

I have something to confess; I have no patience or sympathy for idiots. When imbeciles impale themselves on reality I smirk and guffaw. With such a nasty attitude it won’t surprise you to learn that I really enjoyed the recent WannaCry Ransomware cyber attack. Judging from the mewling soiled diaper press you might conclude civilization was dealt a death-blow and that idiot Trump is to blame.

What really happened?

  1. The NSA “cataloged”1 a security flaw in Windows XP and didn’t inform anyone.
  2. The flaw was leaked.
  3. Hackers exploited the flaw to infect old Windows computers.
  4. They encrypted files and tried to ransom victims using Bitcoin.

It’s stupid all the way down!

To begin, Windows XP is ancient. Microsoft spent years warning people to upgrade to more current versions of Windows. The warnings went on for years and years and years. Yet despite this relentless nagging an army of morons refused to upgrade. Now these shiftless dolts are blaming others.

“Microsoft should support obsolete crap forever for free.”

“Teresa May didn’t give us enough money to upgrade our computers.”

“What’s the point of rudimentary computer security when Trump is going to nuke us?”

Most WannaCry victims are suffering self-inflicted wounds. Let’s hope some of them bleed to death.

As for the NSA, that festering hive of evil geniuses, you would think they would have learned something from the strong encryption battles and the Snowden affair but apparently not. Judging from recent history the NSA stands for NOT SECURE AGENCY. They’re leaking more than a menstruating woman without sanitary napkins. The entire notion of stockpiling software defects to use at a later date is cosmically stupid because it presumes software is static. Software is always changing: sometimes for good reasons. Your backdoor will probably close with the next compiler or OS release. Some quality assurance drone may notice your favorite backdoor and release a patch. This happens all the time, just read the notices that accompany standard updates and patches. At best stockpiling defects is a short-term tactical gimmick. Frankly, I expect more from the deep thinkers at the NSA.

It’s sad but evil hacking geniuses still depend on dumb users. The odds of obsolete, unsupported, and unpatched software being able to fend off NSA hacks is low but it rapidly approaches zero when dimwitted dolts respond to phishing attacks. How many “don’t click on unsolicited links” warnings must be issued before corporate cubicle warmers smarten up?

“But if I don’t click on this link I might miss consuming more useless crap?”

Finally, using Bitcoin for ransom purposes is unbelievably stupid.

WannaCry hackers you’re using the wrong cryptocurrency!

The Bitcoin blockchain is darn close to a perfect forensic tool. Once a transaction is recorded on the chain it can never be altered, erased, denied or fudged. You’re dropping indestructible breadcrumbs. It’s an audit trail on steroids. It’s like the idiot WannaCry hackers want to be caught!

Many feeble minds still think Bitcoin is anonymous. This was sort of true in the very early days of Bitcoin when nobody gave a shit about it and no serious money was changing hands. The world has changed. Bitcoin has been outperforming all fiat currencies for the last two years. A single coin is now worth more the $1,700 US – more than an ounce of gold. Serious money is now changing hands in the Bitcoin universe and when serious money is present the usual financial rapists and apex predators, your local taxation authorities, descend like vultures on a carcass.

Because the blockchain is immutable and open it’s relatively easy to de-anonymize. An entire software industry has sprung up to do just this. Once you associate a person with a Bitcoin address you can easily and reliably follow the money. De-anonymizing Bitcoin has been going on for years. I just assume the entire blockchain is already de-anonymized which makes Bitcoin just about the worst possible choice for ransoms.

Despite all the amusing stupidity on display here, the WannaCry hack has inadvertently established a proper baseline test for an advanced privacy preserving cryptocurrency. A proper private and secure cryptocurrency should be a nearly perfect money laundering tool! I’m looking forward to the day when real evil geniuses, not WannaCry wannabes, stage a massive ransomware attack, collect a massive butload of untraceable coin, and then spend it right under the noses of the word’s taxation and intelligence agencies. When this glorious day arrives we, the little wage slaves, the deplorables, the lumpen-proletariat, will finally have some financial privacy! Remember, if your money isn’t free then neither are you!

Until then I just WannaCry!


  1. It’s not clear they discovered the flaw but however it was found they withheld it.

What is Required: Citizen Environment Sampling Drones

We are well into the drone age. Not long ago drones served only deep-pocketed governments and corporations. This is still the case. Whenever you hear about drone strikes on wedding parties, oops terrorist gatherings, the “responsible” drone is probably a standard overpriced multimillion dollar product of the military industrial crony complex. Why dispatch terrorists with a few bullets when you can spend millions of newly created and freshly taxed dollars instead? War may be hell but business is business.

If things had been left to the druthers of the crony crowd the cozy world of cost-plus drones would have lasted forever but then technology happened. Remember those annoying toy quadcopters that flew around the atriums of shopping malls just a few years ago. You probably thought, “That’s a cute toy” Well those cheap little toys have grown up and are now cleaning power lines with flame throwers, carrying drugs across borders,1 smuggling contraband into prisons, annoying eagles, dropping grenades on ISIS, and taking really great selfies.

It’s an airborne “Drone-cue.”  The age of the drone is just getting started. These gadgets will be put to all sorts of uses. Monitoring the environment, with or without the permission of authorities, is an excellent use of drones.

Small inexpensive drones are being put to so many creative uses that it’s beginning to worry our self-appointed overlords. You don’t need crony connections and millions of dollars to launch drone attacks. Any moron with an iPhone and a drone can declare war on the ruling classes. Not many see it but we’re entering a golden age of drone assassins. Small drones will continue to improve and diversify. They will fly further, faster and quieter. They will creep, climb, tunnel and bore through any obstacle. Whatever silly government legislation and anti-drone measures authorities concoct will be quickly countered and worked around. The drone genie, like strong encryption before it, is out of the bottle and it isn’t going back in. Basically, if you’re somebody that needs killing a drone is being assigned your number right now.

As much as I enjoy drone enabled asshole termination that’s not what I am requiring today. If you’ve been paying attention to what’s precisely labeled “fake news” you’ve probably noticed that a strange tweeting orange ogre has moved into the White House. Yes, it’s the end of the world. One of the ogre’s first outrages was to appoint like-minded ogres to allegedly important government posts. Imagine that!

Of great concern to “so-called” environmentalists is the ogre appointed to behead the EPA. This cruel EPA slayer is not drinking the Earth first Kool-Aid and appears determined to end the cushy pensioned sinecures of all the left-thinking, environment protecting, comrades. Like I said before, it’s the end of the world. Apparently, after a few, and I mean a very few, underperforming EPA comrades are purged this critical government agency will become deaf, dumb and blind.2 All that wonderful EPA air and water quality data will no longer be collected. Only large infusions of newly created and freshly taxed money can prevent this apocalypse.

For Christ sakes, cry me an orange river!

Critics of Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA should keep in mind that the bar for “wrecking” the EPA has been set very low by the Obama administration. It was the EPA that turned the Animas River orange. Yes, it was an unfortunate accident, and sometimes you have to destroy the river in order to save it. Two states and the Navajo Nation are suing the EPA for gross negligence and incompetence and based on images like this I’m guessing they have a case.

If you really care about the environment get off your fat corn syrup enlarged ass and collect your own data with drones. I’ve listened to cis-lefties insist they are smarter, fitter and better looking than their evil cis-righty counterparts for years. Well, here’s an opportunity to prove it. Instead of marching for science why don’t you modify or build drones that can actually do science.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie Erin Brockovich shows our spunky girl-power heroine played by Julia Roberts3 sneaking onto the grounds of a power plant to clandestinely sample waste water ponds. She was caught and shooed away but not before she snagged water samples that contained Hexavalent Chromium: the same, unnaturally occurring, compound that also turned up in the drinking water of people living near the plant. What a coincidence? Erin may have been a spunky go getter but chemistry was the real hero.

Erin was taking a real risk sneaking onto “private property.” In many parts of the world, she would have been shot and dumped into the wastewater ponds. How many of us would take such a risk? If only there was a way to reduce the risks of clandestine sampling. If only there was a small, hard to detect, quiet, remote-controlled device that could fly into “forbidden zones”, sample areas of interest, and then fly out with physical evidence.

It wouldn’t be all that difficult to modify existing drones to do this. It would make a great science fair project. Think of how much better things would be if pinheaded SJWs stopped enumerating new imaginary genders and devoted their time and energy to mastering the technology required to build and operate sampling drones. Instead of being an embarrassing stain on humanity they might actually do some good.

Finally, combine clandestine drone sampling with blockchain based unbannable binary file distribution and it’s possible to create the type of “transparency” political buttheads are always blathering about but never actually provide.


  1. The advent of drones highlights the utter stupidity of Trump’s border wall. How high will the wall have to be to stop drones from flying over it? How many anti-drone-drones will need to be stationed along the wall to secure the border?
  2. Considering that the EPA is already deaf and dumb how bad can blind be?
  3. I admit it; I’ve seen too many Julia Roberts movies. Like many mainly manly men, I have a thing for nice smiles and boobs and no amount of feminist nagging will change that.

The Collapsing Empire: Goodreads Review

The Collapsing Empire (CE) is a breezy fun to read space opera. Because I rate books on Goodreads mostly on how much I enjoyed them I gave CE a solid four. If you’re looking for a few hours away from planet moron (Earth) CE is worth the time. While I enjoyed CE it’s unlikely I will be following this series as it unfolds in however many books the author and his publisher manage to flog in the future. I’ve reached the point in my life where entertainment is no longer sufficient. I demand new ideas and different ways of looking at things from what I read. By this standard CE barely rates a one.

The only moderately new notion here is that of “The Flow.” The Flow is CE’s magic element. It’s the story element that enables a human interstellar civilization. The Flow plays the same role in CE that the ocean does in Moby Dick. The ocean is not considered a character in Moby Dick but try imagining the novel without it! Remove The Flow from CE and you are left with stock characters, stock court politics, stock predictable disputes, and a tiny little universe that, trust me, feels more stunted than a night spent under a clear dark sky looking at real stars.

As a final note: I’d advise the author to refrain from dispensing his opinions about real-world politics. Nothing ruins a book faster than conflating actual authors with their fictional characters. Many years ago I was on the verge of reading Anne Rice’s vampire books but then I had the good luck to see an interview of Anne Rice going on about how her characters were her lovers. She wasn’t being metaphorical; the woman is nuts. I decided right on the spot that it was unlikely such a delusional nitwit was worthy of my sustained attention. Authors labor under an unspoken Fight Club rule. “The first rule of fiction writing is: stay the Hell out of your fiction writing!”

FCC Follies and Monkey Browsing

There is much wailing on the intertubes about proposed changes to FCC Internet privacy rules. That horrible orange Russian stooge is desecrating the Lightbringer’s enlightened decrees and the usual suspects are having boringly predictable conniption fits. Apparently, our Internet privacy is now under attack and horrible things will ensue. You poor dumb fucks. You have no Internet privacy; you never did! I’m amused by Obama worshippers wetting their pants over Internet privacy; didn’t that entire Snowden thing happen while The One was pushing back the seas? Isn’t it a tad hypocritical to whine about the FCC, a very little fish, when great whites, the NSA, CIA, et cetera, are feasting on fools?

Now pay attention, I am only going to explain this once. If you are concerned about Internet privacy you have to look out for yourself. The FCC is not going to help you. Congress will not rush to your aid. The President, orange or black, will not defend your interests. Government, as it is currently constipated, only serves the donor class. Unless you are injecting large bribes into “the political system” you do not have effective representation. I realize it sucks to be a peon but all is not lost. You don’t have any Internet privacy but you are not powerless.

The proposed change in FCC rules is predicated on the assumption that your browsing history is valuable? It seems there are profit driven corporations out there that care about how many cat videos you watch and whether you swipe left or right. They presume that with enough data mining of your clicks, tweets, and pokes they can craft cruise missile adds that will fly under your bullshit radar and score direct hits on your “buy our shit buttons.” This entire shaky premise can be trivially undermined by simple cheap peon countermeasures.

There are two basic approaches: VPN and Dirty Data.

If you want to stop Verizon, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast or some other evil mega-corp ISP from recording your browsing history start using a VPN service. There are many VPN providers available now and this FCC ruling will probably encourage the formation of even more. See, the FCC is making VPN great again!

VPN prevents the man-the-middle from being able to view your browsing history but unfortunately, all this does is transfer your browsing history from a mega-corp ISP to a mega-corp VPN. If your VPN is in the good old fuck-You-S-A it could still sell your porn rights to the highest bidder. If you go with a VPN provider choose one that’s based outside the US.

I’m a fan of VPN but if many peons start bypassing their mega-corp ISPs with VPN our ever-helpful government will probably amend the abominable DMCA act and declare the personal use of VPN an act of domestic terrorism! I know this sounds crazy but these days it’s a criminal act in the United States for farmers to fix their own damn tractors if the repairs bypass or replace embedded device software. Yes, intellectual property rights are that screwed up!

VPN is a viable countermeasure for now but Dirty Data is a countermeasure for the ages. Dirty Data works by sabotaging data. The idea is simple, cheap and extremely effective. Before data miners can extract digital gold they have to purge the garbage in their databases. For most corporations cleaning data is an ongoing struggle. It’s always time-consuming, expensive, and it always threatens the ROI of analytic projects. If there’s too much shit in the ice cream the mixture tastes more like shit than ice cream. So how do you mix browsing history shit into mega-corp ISP ice cream?

If you have lots of free time and you really, really, hate your ISP, you can strike back with monkey browsing. Monkey browsing is an updated version of that famous monkey on the typewriter. To monkey browse, visit random websites and randomly click crap on each site. With judicious keystroke timing, it will be a royal pain for your ISP to extract your real browsing history from your monkey browsing.

Of course, most of us can’t devote a few hours a day to monkey browsing but fear not; the monkey-browser-bots are coming! It wouldn’t be all that hard to automate monkey browsing. Many techniques would work. Trust me, in short order, an army of monkey-browser-bots will be delicately stirring shit into mega-corp ISP ice cream. When the signal to noise ratio exceeds mega-corp ISP ROI thresholds they’ll stop trying to filter shit out of ice cream and move to the next corporate delusion. Peon poop is powerful people!

Only cartoons and comedians are allowed, to tell the truth in our grievance seeking culture. It’s not your grandmother’s Internet anymore. Surveillance is a fact of life, and as sad as this sorry fact is cheer up! Half the idiots monitoring you are barely capable of locating their own buttholes with both hands and a flashlight. American intelligence agencies have been so wrong, so often, that it’s a good idea to always discount whatever they’re saying until there is overwhelming independent corroborating evidence. In the meanwhile, you can cheaply punk the “data” they are collecting. Remember, you can whine or undermine!

What is Required: Hybrid Books

It’s time for another product suggestion. Last year I threw out the need for caption printing on the back of photographs. It’s an obvious thing to do but only a few vendors partly support backside caption printing. Eventually, the masses will notice this glaring deficiency, grab their pitchforks, and demand backside captions. We’re not a very smart species but we can learn; especially if we’re motivated by fear. Today’s suggestion is little more esoteric and lacks the “aha-ness” of backside captions.

The world needs a way to combine the virtues of Books and eBooks.

If you read at all I don’t need to convince you that books are nearly perfect. The near perfection of the printed book was brilliantly highlighted in Isaac Asimov’s famous 1973 essay The Ancient and the Ultimate. Asimov’s essay is not readily available on-line and that’s too damn bad because he completely nailed it. The Ancient and the Ultimate should be required reading in English classes worldwide; it’s that good!

Plain old printed books are nearly perfect but nearly perfect is not perfect! eBooks do three things better than printed books.

  1. Duplication: It’s easy to copy eBooks.1
  2. Portability: You can carry entire eBook libraries around on your phone.
  3. Multimedia: eBooks can easily embed sound recordings and video.

Printed books reign supreme when it comes to:

  1. Durability: There are printed books that are hundreds of years old that are still human-readable. Binary formats and media are infuriatingly unstable. I’ve complained about this in the past and I will continue bitching until the long-term binary storage problem is solved.
  2. Privacy and Security: eBook readers, cell phones, tablets, and laptops can be hacked. Plain old printed books do not spy on you or mutate while you’re reading them. They also don’t bombard you with hard to ignore advertisements.
  3. Aesthetics and Beauty: Great printed books are extremely valuable works of art. It’s going to be a long time before eBooks command such respect.

Given that eBooks have a few virtues that printed books do not the obvious question is, “Can we combine the two and form a more perfect book?” Of course, the answer is yes but, like I warned you with backside captions, don’t hold your breath!

A proper Hybrid Book, or hyBook, will look, smell, and taste like a printed book. It will have all the glorious heft of a thick well-bound tome but embedded within it’s covers will be a machine readable version of the book. Ideally, the embedded digital version would be something like an RFID capable of storing a few gigabytes of data for at least two centuries without bit rot.2 To maintain a high level of privacy and security the digital version must be completely off-line, passive, battery-free, immutable, and hashed with the hash prominently printed on a number of pages of the printed version. Such a hyBook would combine the virtues of the printed and digital worlds.

hyBooks, like their conventional printed cousins, would be durable and human-readable over long periods. This sharply contrasts with eBooks. eBooks, with their lamentable DRM policies, geographic restrictions, user monitoring, oligopolistic pricing, and built in obsolescence are essentially self-burning books. You cannot depend on eBook longevity because you don’t control them; they can be conveniently memory-holed without warning. With hyBooks you are in control.

Finally, hyBooks mitigate the most important limitation of printed works: duplication difficulty. As we move into an increasing DRM’ed and censored future with every aggrieved party screaming for limitations on free speech it will become more important to preserve, duplicate, and distribute offensive, blasphemous, pornographic, and opprobrious wrongthink! With well-distributed and hidden hyBooks functioning as highly redundant off-line backups it will be extremely difficult for authorities to suppress ideas. Whenever some twad3 forces the content of a hyBook off-line it will pop up again somewhere else. To memory-holing censors everywhere hyBooks will be like floating turds; one flush will never suffice. Is there any better recommendation than that?


  1. This only applies to non-DRM’ed eBooks. DRM‘ed eBooks are broken. They should be avoided at all costs and their publishers should be tarred and feathered and stuffed head first into septic tanks.
  2. Currently, (March 2017), there is no cost-effective durable and passive technology that can store a digital image of a book within its covers for two centuries.
  3. Twit asshole and dolt: pejorative invention is one of my many specialties.

Affinity Photo Review

There’s a new image processor on my computers. Recently the chief developer of one of my favorite image editors, Picture Window Pro (PWP), sent out a sad email letting all PWP users know that he is stopping PWP development. He thanked us for over twenty years of support and as a last gift converted the final version of PWP to freeware. You can now download and run Picture Window Pro without a key. PWP is a superb program! It’s still the fastest and meanest image editor I have ever used and I am constantly trying image editors. If you’re interested in getting a free copy of PWP download the program before the distribution website shuts down.

I was saddened by this news but all good things eventually end. With PWP going away I decided, for the nth time, to look for alternatives. I reconsidered Photoshop. I’ve used full-blown Photoshop but frankly, I’ve never been impressed. It’s expensive and slow! I use an old copy of Photoshop Elements, mainly to remove blemishes on film scans, but in my opinion, the only Adobe image processing product worth paying for is Lightroom. Adobe is the evil image processing empire. They squeeze you with sluggish performance and abusive subscription payment models and then act like they’re doing you a favor. It didn’t take me very long to abandon Photoshop (again) and keep looking for PWP alternatives. Lucky for me there’s this thing called DuckDuckGo that quickly led me to Affinity Photo.

Affinity Photo is a relatively new image editor that got started in the Mac world and, as of November 2016, is also available for 64 bit Windows systems. Affinity has snagged dozens of positive reviews and, unlike Photoshop, is reasonably priced. I decided to give myself a little Christmas present and bought Affinity Photo.

The Affinity Windows download file is large: over 200 megabytes. Affinity Windows depends on  .Net 4.6.2 which is also installed if it’s not on your machine. It took a few minutes to suck down and install all the required bytes but things went smoothly and I eagerly started the program.

Before relating my impressions of Affinity Photo I will describe my binary image format philosophy. Image editors typically create and manipulate vendor specific proprietary binary image files. Binary image files like PSDs, NEFs, DNGs, and now Affinity’s AFPHOTOs, have a nasty tendency to evolve on vendor whim. This poses fundamental long-term image storage problems. Even if you conscientiously backup and archive your original image files you may discover, a decade hence, that you can no longer load them with current software. I hate this! Photography is for the ages, not the marketing cycles of software and camera companies! If you have ever wondered why the lowly JPG image format still reigns supreme despite its abundant technical deficiencies stop wondering. The JPG format is an open and well described eight-bit channel format. Any competent programmer can write software to read and write JPGs. The same holds for TIFs, PNGs and a few other open formats. This is not true for vendor dominated formats. The specifications, even if disclosed, can change on a moment’s notice.

How can photographers deal with transient binary image formats? There are two basic approaches. You can convert all your images to an open image format. Some photographers convert camera RAW files to high bit TIFs. Converting large numbers of image files is a tedious and resource hungry process but it’s probably the best bet for long-term storage. I use the second lazier approach: maintain at least two independent image programs that can read and write the binary image formats you work with. I use Nikon cameras; they crank out proprietary NEF binaries. Currently, I have four programs on this machine that can read NEFs: PWP, Lightroom, Affinity and ThumbsPlus. I will tolerate proprietary binaries if and only if I have options. Don’t let software and camera companies box you in.

I started using image editors about fifteen years ago. My first editor came with my first digital camera: a one megapixel HP. I cannot remember the name of this program; I only used it long enough to discover its appalling deficiencies. Within a week I had purchased my first version of Photoshop Elements (PE). I was happy with PE until I encountered posterization (read the link for the gory technical details). Posterization wreaks prints and it’s easy to posterize eight-bit channel images. The answer then, as it is now, is to increase your working bit depth. Adobe recommended upgrading from PE to full Photoshop. Why fork over $70 bucks when you can fork over $500? Photoshop Elements has a long history of half-assed support for sixteen-bit channel images and the reason is painfully obvious. If Photoshop Elements fully embraced sixteen-bit channel images there would be very little need for full Photoshop. You could save yourself hundreds of dollars. Adobe decided not to compete with themselves and adopted the time-tested pseudo-monopolistic practice of sodomizing the customer. I did not embrace the butthurt! I started looking for low-cost programs that properly handled sixteen-bit images. It didn’t take me long to find PWP.

This early experience shaped my entire image processing approach. Instead of adopting a single monolithic “industry standard” program and joining the nerd herd I decided to go my way and use many small programs. Instead of a Goliath, I went with many Davids.1 When you take the David approach interoperability moves to the top of the stack. The output of one program must effortlessly become the input of another. How programs play together matters. Additionally, when you apply the David approach, you never look to completely replace your tool set. General purpose tools like Affinity may be able to do all the things more specialized tools can do but probably not as efficiently or as well.

So, before adding Affinity to my trusted tools I asked:

  1. Does Affinity play nice with others?
  2. Is Affinity’s user interface (UI) tolerable?
  3. Does Affinity streamline common tedious tasks?
  4. What new capabilities does Affinity offer?

With these points in mind let’s look at Affinity Photo.

Does Affinity play nice with others?

One of the first things I look for in image processors is tolerable loading times. Part the reason I’ve never been able to stick with full Photoshop is because it takes forever to get the damn thing up. Affinity on Windows easily beats full Photoshop but it’s still slower than good old C coded PWP. PWP comes up in a flash. It’s one of the many reasons I stuck with it for over a decade. Affinity’s loading speed is comparable to GIMP, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom: fast enough to not drive me crazy.

After loading Affinity, I immediately started testing the program’s ability to read and write sixteen-bit TIF files. The basic single layer sixteen-bit TIF file format is one of the best supported lossless image formats. It’s often the only way to move information from one program to another without trashing bits. JPGs are universal, but every time you write a JPG you lose data: that’s the lossy part of JPG compression. Lossy image formats are fine for the web and final presentation but are a total disaster for image editing. Affinity can read and write sixteen-bit TIFs. It can also read and write a number of other important formats like Photoshop Elements PSDs. Affinity converts PSD layers to AFPHOTO layers. It also handles JPGs, PNGs and many RAW formats like Nikon’s NEFs. Affinity plays well with others.

Is Affinity’s user interface UI tolerable?

Once I had satisfied myself that I could slosh bits through Affinity I started evaluating the program’s user interface. UIs have ruined many editors. I’m immediately suspicious when reviewers start lauding a program’s UI before spending a few hundred hours using it. UIs either help or hinder. Affinity’s UI is decent. If you have ever used a layer oriented image editor you will quickly adjust to how Affinity works. I strongly recommend watching the Affinity tutorial videos; they are among the best video tutorials I’ve seen and quickly show what the program can do.

Once Affinity is loaded it’s pretty zippy. Common image handling operations are fast enough to fly under my annoyance radar. Image processing can be very demanding. Don’t expect to stitch 500-megabyte panoramas from original RAW files instantly. With current hardware and software, some things will take time. It’s fair to say that Affinity’s performance compares favorably to other image processors. I can put up with Affinity’s user interface.

Does Affinity streamline common tedious tasks?

After playing with Affinity for a few days I used the program to help restore some old scanned slides. Old pictures are always damaged; they all need a bit, or a lot, of retouching. The problems most people associate with old pictures, tears, color changes, and loss of tone are usually easily fixed in most editors. The biggest job is removing thousands of scratches, spots, and stains. Most restorers give up and crop or blur away such defects but I’m with Lady Macbeth: “out, out damn spots.” Any tool that helps me hunt down and exterminate spotty pests will be lovingly embraced.

The Affinity inpainting brush works a lot better than the corresponding Photoshop Elements healing brush. In particular, it crosses linear backgrounds, buildings, fabric patterns, and so forth without unduly destroying detail. Removing long linear scratches that cross regular structured detail is a soul draining chore. Whenever I see such defects I typically give up and find another picture to restore; I have a big backlog of scans awaiting restoration! This slide of the southern end of Beirut Lebanon, taken by my

I am still exploring the Affinity Photo image editor. I used it to restore this scan of a Kodachrome slide my father shot from a hotel window of the south coast of Beirut Lebanon in 1968. The Continental Hotel is visible in the lower left corner of this image. My mother often stayed in the Continental when she visited me in Beirut. I fondly remember having continental breakfast in the Continental. The original slide was overexposed and covered with splotches and sky fingerprints. The retouching tools in Affinity Photo are better than corresponding tools in Photoshop Elements. I particularly like the Affinity inpainting brush; it works well on textured and linear subjects. I was able to remove long scratches cutting through the buildings in this image without unduly wreaking building detail. I also used the inpainting tool to remove a cutoff street light and a car it was shading on the bottom of the image. It's easier to remove objects with Affinity Photo than it is in Photoshop Elements.

I am still exploring the Affinity Photo image editor. I used it to restore this scan of a Kodachrome slide my father shot from a hotel window of the south coast of Beirut Lebanon in 1968. The Continental Hotel is visible in the lower left corner of this image. My mother often stayed in the Continental when she visited me in Beirut. I fondly remember having continental breakfast in the Continental. The original slide was overexposed and covered with splotches and sky fingerprints. The retouching tools in Affinity Photo are better than corresponding tools in Photoshop Elements. I particularly like the Affinity inpainting brush; it works well on textured and linear subjects. I was able to remove long scratches cutting through the buildings in this image without unduly wreaking building detail. I also used the inpainting tool to remove a cutoff street light and a car it was shading on the bottom of the image. It’s easier to remove objects with Affinity Photo than it is in Photoshop Elements.

father in 1968, is typical of many images in my backlog. There were dozens of long linear scratches running through the buildings. It would have taken hours to fix them with PE. All it took was a few passes with Affinity’s inpainting brush to remove them. I was impressed. This single tool significantly speeds up restoring scratched and spotted images and justifies Affinity’s purchase price all by itself.

Another Affinity tool that streamlines common image processing tasks is the Affinity panorama tool. Most modern image editors have fairly decent panorama tools and building a panorama is easier than it used to be. In the image editing Dark Age, you had to manually select control points and master blend masks to build decent panoramas. It could take hours to align a single image. Current editors use effective automatic control point detection and advanced blending algorithms. In most cases, it’s a simple matter of using good capture technique followed by loading the individual images into a panorama tool to generate decent to excellent results.

We are living in a panoramic golden age but there are still problems. I shoot entirely in RAW because RAW preserves the most information and affords the greatest post processing options. Panoramas often encompass scenes of high contrast. Image tones will vary from extremely bright to very dark. It’s not uncommon for ordinary panoramas to span twelve or more stops of dynamic range. When processing high dynamic range pictures it’s extremely advantageous to do all your work on sixteen-bit or thirty-two-bit channel images. Blending eight-bit panoramas can release the posterization Kraken; trust me, you don’t want that monster savaging your scenes.

Unfortunately, the Photoshop Elements panorama tool is inherently eight-bit. This means I must do all my major tone adjustments in Lightroom before panorama stitching. Adjusting the tones of a single image is tedious, doing it for many panorama frames is cruel and unusual punishment. Adobe’s answer is always the same; give us a lot of money and we’ll release you from eight-bit Hell! Lucky for us Affinity gets us out of eight-bit panorama Hell for a lot less.

The following panorama of the mountains near the eastern entrance of Glacier National Park was directly generated from Nikon NEF RAW files. All feature detection and blending calculations were high-bit. Tone adjustments were aided by regular tone mapping. Tone mapping is like an automatic Zone System. Compared to what I used to put up with ten years ago Affinity panorama building is almost as easy as scanning scenes with an iPhone. Affinity significantly streamlines routine retouching and panorama building.

Looking west from just outside the eastern side of Glacier National Park near Saint Mary. The weather was grim and dark, just the way I like it, when I braved the rain to snap the frames that went into this panorama. I built this panorama directly from Nikon NEF files in the Windows version of Affinity Photo. My favorite image processor, Picture Window Pro, is being retired and I am exploring alternatives. I rather like this result.

Looking west from just outside the eastern side of Glacier National Park near Saint Mary. The weather was grim and dark, just the way I like it when I braved the rain to snap the frames that went into this panorama. I built this panorama directly from Nikon NEF files in the Windows version of Affinity Photo. My favorite image processor, Picture Window Pro, is being retired and I am exploring alternatives. I rather like this result.

What new capabilities does Affinity offer?

So far, the features I’ve discussed are common to most image editors. Does Affinity offer anything new or special? There is one Affinity feature, the FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) Denoise filter, that greatly mitigates one of my long-standing retouching nightmares: regular patterns.

Many old portraits were printed on patterned paper. The following is a crop of an old (1935) baby picture of my mother.

evelynpattern

My mother as a seven-week-old baby. This 1935 picture was printed on patterned paper. Patterned paper often adds luster and depth to photographs but it also makes it more difficult to retouch them. The Affinity Photo FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) Denoise filter can remove regular patterns without unduly softening images.

As you can see the entire picture is covered with tiny regular hexagons. Patterned prints were popular in the early and mid-20th century. The pattern adds depth and luster and has the nice side effect of making prints difficult to copy. Patterns also make retouching difficult. Retouching spots and scratches on patterned backgrounds tends to make them more, not less conspicuous. If only there was some way to remove the damn pattern before retouching. Affinity’s FFT Denoise filter does just that.

I applied the FFT Denoise filter to my mother’s baby picture and then ran through my regular retouching regime: see the following before and after diptych.

For some restorations, the ones that please or annoy me, I create a before and after diptych. I want to convince myself that my restoration work was worthwhile. Most of the time the restored image is better but in more cases than I would like the original scan is superior. And, every now and then, I cannot decide which one I like the best. This rendering of an old faded patterned print of my mother as a baby is one of those images. The original print is on patterned paper. The pattern imparts a quality that the restoration lacks. Ansel Adams once wrote that the negative is the score and the print is the performance. For restorers, the scan is the score and the restoration is the performance. Sometimes the music is glorious and clear and sometimes it's rap – rhymes with crap!

For some restorations, the ones that please or annoy me, I create a before and after diptych. I want to convince myself that my restoration work was worthwhile. Most of the time the restored image is better but in more cases than I would like the original scan is superior. And, now and then, I cannot decide which one I like the best. This rendering of an old faded patterned print of my mother as a baby is one of those images. The original print is on patterned paper. The pattern imparts a quality that the restoration lacks. Ansel Adams once wrote that the negative is the score and the print is the performance. For restorers, the scan is the score and the restoration is the performance. Sometimes the music is glorious and clear and sometimes it’s rap – rhymes with crap!

Affinity Conclusion

Affinity, like PWP, is a great value. The first Windows version is already superior to every version of Photoshop Elements I’ve ever used. It’s not as comprehensive as full Photoshop, but if you subtract the marginal features of Photoshop and keep the essential core elements, you’ve basically described Affinity’s feature set. Affinity is a layer editor but it’s not a Photoshop clone. The UI is completely modern, RAW development is built in, sixteen-bit layers are the default, and useful stack operations like automatic alignment are a click away. Affinity also supports thirty-two-bit HDR file formats and high dynamic range composites. There’s a lot of bang for the buck: strongly recommended!


  1. If you remember what happened to Goliath siding with David doesn’t seem like much of a risk.

My Final Facebook Fuckoff

It’s the start of a new year and much has changed. This week we moved into a new house. Our move has been an eight month and four state ordeal but I am hoping we will be here for some time. I am tired of moving and our frequent moves are confusing our self-appointed digital overlords. This afternoon, after unpacking and assembling the table I am now writing on, I tried to login to Facebook using a borrowed library hotspot. The Boise Library consortium is now lending out Internet Hotspot devices. My wife put one on hold about a month ago and she got an email the other day that the device was ready to be picked up at the Eagle branch. It will be a week or two before our local broadband supplier can wire up our new house so the hotspot perfectly hit our Internet dead spot. We picked it up and I’m using it now.

Getting back to Facebook. My login attempt failed. Facebook detected yet another change in my connection IP address and asked me to verify my account. I’ve done this before. I was expecting a text or reset email but no, this time the bastards had the sheer unmitigated gall to ask for proper government ID. They want scans of driver’s licenses, passports, social security cards and so forth. This was the last straw. I couldn’t even login to delete my account so I sent this message to security@facebookmail.com.

Dear Security at Facebook,

It’s so good of you to ask if I was trying to access my account from a new IP.  Yes, that new login attempt was me. For reasons that do not concern you I move around a lot. It’s irritating that you track IPs and harass users when they go to another coffee shop or library.

This has happened in the past and I have jumped through your irritating hoops to reset the account. Prior to, today you did not ask for PROPER GOVERNMENT ID! There is no fucking way in hell I will be uploading scans of driver’s licenses, passports, social security numbers, or any other form of official ID. It’s bad enough that proper authorities force us to use these documents but, the last time I looked Facebook is not an authority! We don’t have to show proper ID to vote in many states but apparently it’s required to browse your steaming pile of distracting rubbish.

me

My Facebook profile image. Apparently, it is no longer ok to use avatar images on Facebook. I started using this image a few years ago primarily to screw with their facial recognition programs. I will not aid and abet Facebook user profiling. I am not hiding you can browse scores of my pictures by clicking on the gorrilla. Of course, these images are not under the legal purview of Facebook so they cannot legally use them for profiles.

I have always hated Facebook and the only reason I have maintained my tiny footprint in your sewer is to catch a little gossip from real friends and family members. I have done my best to keep my friend list short, my security options on maximum, and my profile information scant and useless. I know you are a giant data mining operation. You entice idiots with cat videos then quietly monitor their mostly boring and pointless lives with the sole aim of selling this information to third parties. Well, count me out! This will be the last byte stream from moi. If I could login I would delete my account but I since I will not change my lovely gorilla profile picture or give proper ID I will have to simply orphan my account. I have already deleted my phone app and purged my browsers of your vile links. I will never login to Facebook again.

I always knew this day was coming. I had long ago decided to drop Facebook when a few family members tired of your trash. I don’t waste a lot of time on Facebook, but be honest, even you know it’s nothing but a complete waste of time.

In this case, parting is not sweet sorrow, it’s like being released from an insane asylum. 

Anonymously yours 
John D. Baker