Return to Taronga Zoo

After an amazing trip to Taronga Zoo on our last visit to Sydney I was a little unsure about returning this time in case the magic failed to repeat itself. What I had forgotten is that, (a) the children love animals and (b) they are 4 years older and thus were engaged in completely different ways to before. As a result, it was a fantastic outing for all, and likely one of the highlights of the holiday. Fewer photographs of animals this time as keeping up with excited, enthusiastic children (and later, carrying very tired children) took all my time!

Synchronisation woes with macOS Signatures

This blog post applies to macOS 12 (Monterey), other versions may differ.

It used to be that setting up a new computer involved the difficult choice of spending hours tweaking settings and trying to remember what arcane incantations were required to obtain the perfect setup, or cloning your old computer and importing years of cruft which quickly removed much of the sheen and speed. To its credit, Apple have been quietly chipping away at the configuration synchronisation for many years now, with Mail settings such as accounts, signatures and rules magically appearing on a new machine when you set it up. Typical of Apple’s slow-but-steady approach, it turns out that for Mail this is actually achieved via iCloud Drive so it is to some extent controllable via the toggle in Preferences➡Apple ID➡iCloud Drive➡Mail.

One reason that developers shy away from synchronisation is that it is a feature fraught with edge cases that make it deceptively hard to do reliably, and unreliable synchronisation is worse than none, at best leading to head scratching frustration and worse, loss of data. This was illustrated to me when my email signatures were failing to appear on a newly configured Mac. I was happy to import them manually but locating the correct place to put them was hard to track down, and iCloud Drive synchronisation meant that it took many attempts to get everything working.

The symptom of the problem was that all my accounts were showing up with 0 signatures. Moreover when I added one manually, it would disappear as soon as I quit Mail. iCloud Drive appeared to be working correctly, with all my other files present. In hindsight I suspect the download process was stuck but iCloud remains frustratingly opaque to troubleshoot and when even a reboot could not persuade the missing files to appear, it was time to attempt surgery.

Confusingly, Mail configuration is stored in multiple places. After much trial and error, my conclusion is that the iCloud synchronised files live in Library/Mobile\ Documents/com\~apple\~mail/Data/V4/Signatures/ (all paths relative to your home directory unless otherwise stated). However adding files to this directory did not fix the problem and at one point I tried deleting this directory and that deletion synchronised to another computer–be warned ⚠️ (Thank goodness for Time Machine backups.)

I was finally able to make signatures work again on the errant Mac by shutting down Mail, and then adding them to Library/Mail/V9/MailData/Signatures/. I believe I also disabled Mail in iCloud Drive but then I restored it afterwards and it did not complain. However on the second Mac where iCloud Drive copied down bad data, any files added to Library/Mail/V9/MailData/Signatures/ were removed the next time Mail started if Mail was enabled in iCloud Drive. Trying to convince iCloud this was a file newer than the server copy by editing the .plist file did not work. This was eventually fixed by copying the contents of Library/Mail/V9/MailData/Signatures/ to Library/Mobile\ Documents/com\~apple\~mail/Data/V4/Signatures/ and re-enabling Mail in iCloud Drive.

And so our tale of synchronisation woe has a happy ending. Credit to Apple for continuing to use text files for configuration, the ability to manipulate these via the terminal and easily restore them from a Time Machine backup were crucial to the successful outcome.

A Sunday in Tokyo

Compared to the staid and professional financial district of Otemachi where I had spent much of the week, Shibuya on a Sunday afternoon was a fizzing hive of youthful energy and activity.

Arriving at Shibuya via the efficient metro system, I first attempted to photograph the famous crossing, with (initially) limited success. I had read there was a Starbucks overlooking the crossing, although it is actually part of a multi-storey record store with a vast inventory of CDs and vinyl records, the like of which I thought been consigned to history. As promised, there was bar seating next to the huge windows although every seat was full, not of the gawping tourists that I aspired to be, but mostly students, either alone with laptops or chatting with a friend. There was also a huge queue for a coffee so I left and instead enjoyed a very good pasta lunch at a window table in Café L’Occitane just around the corner while capturing a time-lapse video of the crossing.

After exploring some uniquely Japanese shops such as Tokyu Hands and Mega Don Quijote, I walked into an adjacent area and enjoyed a coffee break at Lonely Planet recommended Fuglen. This may be a Norwegian coffee chain by origin but the coffee was good, and clearly adopted as the neighbourhood hangout by the locals.

After dinner, another Lonely Planet recommendation allowed me to capture some sunset photos of Shibuya from the 9th floor of a nearby arts centre/theatre building. The final photo of the three below was captured near the more serene Imperial Palace.

The joy of a window seat on a fine day

I chose a window seat for my first plane trip in over two years and I was not disappointed. After taking off from Heathrow we turned to the east and traced the route of the Thames to the sea. The summer weather meant there were crystal clear views of the green and pleasant land south of London, bisected by the M25!

After flying over Kent, the picturesque coast of France came into view, along with the busy shipping lane that is the English Channel–I had forgotten just how captivating it can be to study the earth below—no reading book or other entertainment was needed for the first thirty or so minutes of the flight. A few hours later I saw some astonishing cloud formations over Germany, and then at the end of the journey I was treated to my first views of Tokyo.

On this Day: Samoëns 2020

January 2020—a month late for “On this Day” but I wanted to try out the newly release Luminar Neo and realised I had never posted any photographs from this trip.

First impressions of Luminar Neo upgrading from Luminar 4 are that it is a completely new program and consequently as a 1.0 release there are a number of features from Luminar 4 are not implemented yet. There is also (yet another) new interface which will take some getting used to. Skylum have promised frequent releases so I expect the gap will close shortly—for now I will be sticking with Luminar 4.

Merry Christmas

With few opportunities for great adventures, 2021 has been a quiet year on this blog. However my camera did get a run out on Christmas Day, and so I thought I would post some food photography to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Here’s to more adventures in 2022.

Lockdown Entertainment: Cheese Night!

Working from home and eating dinner with the little ones at 5pm means I am often foraging in the cupboards for an evening snack. I remembered reading sometime last year that cheese is one of the many culinary experiences you can have delivered to your doorstep and decided to break up the monotony of lockdown with an Introduction Box from The Cheese Collective.

The website ordering process was slick and efficient, and allowed me to state whether I want to exclude blue cheeses and goats’ cheese–handy if you are put off trying traditional selection boxes because of the risk that you will definitely not like a significant proportion of it. The Cheese Collective supply only British cheeses, although the supplied little tasting cards note to which well-known cheese it is similar. The cheeses I received hailed from Hampshire, Scotland, and Somerset—all fantastic classic cheeses from small producers. This is perhaps not the box to try if you are looking for something with more je ne sais quoi.

On This Day: Skagway and the White Pass Scenic Railway

18th September 2010: overnight our floating hotel had conveyed us to another beautiful harbour, the town of Skagway (population 968). Our morning began with the walk around the preserved and restored Klondike gold rush era central business district, learning about the history and conditions of frontier life.

Later we took a trip on the incredibly scenic White Pass & Yukon Route Railway. This follows the same path as the prospectors up into the mountains, and crosses into the Canadian province of British Columbia. The train continues to the Yukon Territory but we alighted at the customs post in B.C. and enjoyed an exhilarating bicycle free-wheel back down the road to Skagway.

On This Day: Tracy Arm Fjord and Juneau

The 17th September 2010 was our first day in Alaska, the previous one being spent at sea cruising up from Vancouver. The first item on the itinerary was to cruise into the majestic Tracy Arm Fjord in glorious sunshine. We later docked in Juneau—the State Capital, which can only be accessed by sea and air—and took an excursion to see Bald Eagles and Humpback Whales.

Trafalgar Square Fountain

Trafalgar Square Fountain

Photographic entertainment while the Little One enjoyed an ice lolly during a day out to see the sights of London. This was taken by resting the camera on my backpack, which was across my lap. I had to do quite a lot of work on the RAW file but the end result is surprisingly good for basically a handheld shot in the middle of the day.