Square Photos, farewell Windows Phone, and goodbye Sony A6000′

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Some time ago, I wrote at length about my Windows Phone.

Sadly, I abandoned it – because Microsoft did too! Poor support, and constant re-boots made it virtually unusable, so I had no choice other than to ditch it.

I now have an iPhone SE which after a lot of getting used to, and a fairly steep learning curve is my constant companion for everything – with an unexpected side effect:

Since I started using the iPhone, my Sony A6000 has become irrelevant. Sure, It takes great pictures and so on, but in truth, the user interface is awful, and the controls are so fiddly, especially the thumbwheel, meaning that more often than not, the camera ends up at a different setting by the time I’ve finished a session. I shoot manual only all the time, so nothing should change THAT easily!! I didn’t even take it on holidays this year!

And the square photos?

I am completely sold on Instagram.  More posts on this to follow in quick succession!

 

https://www.instagram.com/gerlawlor/

Regards,

Ger

 

 

 

 

 

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View from the Opera House

It’s said that one can see a church from every upstairs window in the National Opera House. Here’s a view of Mary Street, the Franciscan Friary, with St. Peters college and Pugin Chapel in the background. The view is from the fourth floor stairs window.

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Italy 2016 – Sony A6000

Testing my new Sony A6000 on a recent holiday. I brought two lenses, the standard 18-55 oss, which I’ve owned since I got my Nex-3, and the Zeiss Touit 12mm, which is new.

The camera is taking a while to get used to. Apart from the rotten controls/buttons and convoluted menu system, processing the files in Capture One is very different from my usual Canon workflow. IMAGES ARE COPYRIGHT.

A review will follow in due course.

If some of these look grainy, its because they were shot at iso 3200-6400…. (I think you can read the exif?)

 

A Friday evening treat…

 

foodThe last recipe I posted received a lot of attention, so here’s another, but more complicated one: Rib-eye steaks with a rosemary and garlic cream sauce, served with sauteéd mushrooms, asparagus and serrano parcels and chilli roasted baby potatoes. Just the thing after a long week. Cost: just under eight euro per serving.

This only got a phone photo as it was too nice to spend time photographing it…..

TIMING and multitasking is everything with this, and two ovens would be a help as well.

The whole recipe takes about 35-40 minutes start to finish. Best part is there is very little prep.

You need:

  • Rib Eye steaks, not too thin.
  • Serrano Ham
  • Mushrooms
  • Baby Potatoes
  • Chilli sauce
  • Fresh Rosemary -some sprigs and some roughly chopped
  • Onions, red and white
  • 3-4 Cloves of garlic crushed and roughly chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • Thyme
  • Cream
  • Olive oil – good quality extra virgin is best.
  • Butter
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Parmesan cheese, grated

 

Steam the asparagus until it is just a little crunchy and then run it under cold water to stop it cooking on. I usually cut it in half and give the stalk end a little longer. Dry it. Wrap it in nice little bundles with the ham, arrange on a baking tray and sprinkle generously with some grated parmesan, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Set aside until it is time to put in the oven with the baby potatoes – for about ten minutes until the cheese has melted and the ham starts to cook a little. Alternately, grill them. Try to time it so they aren’t hanging around too long once cooked. (Just to admit that the ones in the photo are a little overdone)

Slice the mushrooms, put them in a saucepan with a sprinking of thyme and pepper, stir in some olive oil and some butter.  Sauteé on a low heat, covered until cooked to taste. Re-season if necessary.

Put the baby potatoes on a roasting tray, with thinly sliced red and white onions, drizzle with chilli sauce and olive oil, about half and half or it gets a bit too sticky. Season with pepper and mix them all around until covered. Cook in the oven at around 180 degrees until done – Don’t let them get overdone. Toss them around half ways through. You could do them at 200 degrees but the onions might burn too much.

Now for the hard part. Your steak should be at room temperature to start. Marinade it in some olive oil, pepper and balsamic vinegar for half an hour or more. (but not too much of it). Next you need a heavy pan. Heat the pan as hot as it will go (that doesn’t mean that its glowing red, however). Make sure the steaks aren’t too oily. They go straight onto a DRY pan.The point of the next part is to get both sides sealed so that the steaks don’t dry out in the cooking – turning them over repeatedly is better than completing one side at a time. Put them on the hot pan and after thirty seconds turn them over, cooking the other side for thirty seconds as well. (If you can’t hear a good sizzling sound, you are in trouble, so once both sides are sealed, if the pan has started to cool down, set the steaks aside for a minute, dry the pan (reserving any juices) and heat it up again.  Use two pans if needs be). Turn them back over and give them about a minute for each side, (by now it’s not more than 3 minutes since you started) add a good sized piece of butter, some chopped garlic, a little olive oil and the rosemary to the pan, scattering it on the steaks. Season with salt and pepper. Turn them over fairly quickly a few times to absorb the flavours and then put the steaks and the juices from the pan on a baking tray. Put this into another oven at around 140 degrees for not more than ten minutes to relax the meat and finish it off. All of this gets you a nice pink steak with a crunch to the outside, but not too rare. If its overcooked it won’t be nearly as nice – you may need to experiment the first few times.

Plate everything up as fast as you can. (having warmed the plates thoroughly first) Sprinkle some sea salt on the asparagus and the potatoes. Put the baking tray with the juices over a moderate heat and stir in some cream and add a bit of butter too. Check the seasoning. Pour the sauce over the steak and serve as quicly as possible.

Serve with a good solid red wine.

Recipes and content © Ger Lawlor 2016 http://www.gerlawlor.com 

 

Irish Stew with a twist.

GL Stew © Ger LawlorToday’s experiment – I try different variations every time I make stew!

  • 1 large onion – sliced
  • 1 head Celery – sliced
  • 4 large carrots- chopped roughly
  • 1.5 lbs stewing beef in chunks
  • 2.5 tablespoons (or so) of flour
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • A good glug of Worcester sauce
  • 1 bayleaf
  • Salt and pepper
  • A handful of mixed herbs, preferably herbes de Provence, or if using ordinary mixed herbs add some extra rosemary. Don’t be mean with them.
  • 1 level tablespoon of cocoa powder – honestly – trust me!
  • Olive oil
  • Hot water
  • 500 ml can of Guinness (optional)

Prep time = 15 minutes.

Cooking time = 2-3 hours

Serves less than 4 as you’ll want second helpings, or 4-6 if you have starters/dessert.

Heat the oven to 150-160 degrees celcius

Take a large cast iron casserole and soften the onions gently, on a low heat in some oil. Set aside. Redden the pan, add some more oil and brown the meat all over, in about three lots. Set aside. Deglaze the pan with some more oil, stirring in the carrots and celery. Turn down the heat. Add the meat and onions back in. Sprinkle the flour and the cocoa powder into the pan until the juices are soaked up – don’t overdo it on the flour, it will thicken. Be careful it isn’t too thin either. The mix should be dry’ish at this point.  Add the hot water (and if you like the Guinness) just until everything is covered – allow for some evaporation in the oven. Add the herbs, bay leaf, Worscester sauce and the Oxo cube. Season with salt and pepper – don’t stint on the pepper. Give it a stir. Put on the lid, pop it in the oven for two hours or a bit longer, until the meat is really tender and the onions and celery have begun to disappear. Check and adjust seasoning as necessary

Serve in soup plates with some nice onion mash – buttery mashed potatoes with half of a small onion chopped finely and mixed through, add a little cream as well if you have it. Put some chopped fresh parsley on top if you want to impress even further.

P.S.

To make it into a posh Boef Bourgignon, double everything except the celery, leave out the water, Guinness, oxo cubes, Worcester sauce and Cocoa, and cover it with a bottle or two of nice burgundy wine instead. Add some chopped mushrooms and some lardons of fried streaky bacon half an hour before the end. Serve it with rice this way.

P.P.S. A blatent advert: I photograph food for clients. www.gerlawlor.com

(and I cook for friends)

 

 

Windows 10 Mobile – A Mini Review

 

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Today I’m taking a look at windows 10 Mobile (beta) running on my Lumia 640.

I’ll update this review as time goes by – These are my views and I might even make the odd mistake….

Overall it works, which is just a well, as this is my main phone.

REMEMBER WHEN READING THIS – it’s a beta OS release.

Upgrading was verrrry slow – the phone seemed to stop towards the end, but got there eventually – like after about two hours. The first thing I noticed was that a good number of the apps didn’t work properly straight off.

  • The phone seems a bit faster than when running 8.1
  • Text messages didn’t notify or appear in the window – SERIOUS
  • New items in the calendar didn’t sync into my microsoft account, but insisted on going into my google calendar, which is obsolete, but the account stays on the phone for other reasons. SERIOUS, but subsequently solved.
  • No week view in the Calendar – YUK
  • A horrible month view in the calendar app
  • No picture icons for websites pinned to the start window – we’re stuck with Edge rateher than Explorer, which may be the reason?
  • Voice/speech recognition doesn’t work any more, unless, apparently, the phone was set to USA English  before the upgrade. Going to USA now might work, but I couldn’t suffer USA predictive English! A roll back might and re-upgrade work – not worth it
  • The phone still randomly reboots
  • ‘Groups’ in the people app is very different – you can’t text a group without opening the group first, which is a pain. I use this feature a lot.
  • When you start a text to a group, only the first six or so members show in the window, so it isn’t possible to remove others – as you would if texting some but not all members of the group.
  • The back arrow doesn’t close the apps any more, they all continue run in the background unless closed manually
  • Tweets don’t seem to be downloading pictures all of the time.
  • Photos in the screenshot folder aren’t syncing with OneDrive, those in camera roll and saved pictures are.
  • Bluetooth seems flaky (i.e unreliable)
  • Fitbit doesnt sync as well as it used to.

 

FIXES (and outstanding problems):

  • The phone did a further upgrade all by itself a day later.
  • Manually updating ALL of the apps sorted out a lot of it – over 20 apps updated.
  • A lot of the apps look different.
  • A lot of the apps opened very slowly the first time after the upgrade, but then were fine
  • The Calendar is better now, with a nice week view and it now  works with the MS account.
  • Groups still not right – A SERIOUS PAIN
  • No voice recognition for now – PAIN
  • Still no icons on links in Edge – Irritating, as the icons can’t be reduced the smallest size, ’cause there’s no text either, then.
  • Tweets still don’t always have pictures
  • Still randomly rebooting
  • Bluetooth seems to have settled down
  • The jury is still out on the fitbit connectivity.
  • I can’t as yet get screenshots to sync – PAIN

 

I LIKE:

  • The phone reminds me whats in the calendar when its shutting down!
  • The clean UI
  • Finding new sites with fixes and workarounds (thats irony, by the way)

 

CONCLUSION:

This has a way to go yet for real world use. I’d say, unless you are a techie, don’t go near it, but then, you probably don’t have a windows phone unless you are a techie anyway. I kinda like it overall, notwithstanding the outstanding items above. But as you probably don’t have a windows phone anyway, just enjoy the read, and try not to laugh at those of us who follow the path to eventual perfection…..

One of these days Microsoft WILL rule the world!

The Easter bunny is on his way and all….

G