Zack Apiratitham

On Post-processing a Photograph

Francesco Carucci on PetaPixel:

The RAW image, which comes from reading the Bayer Filter Mosaic, can not be visualized without a transformation to create an RGB image that can be displayed on a screen or printed on paper.

The interpretation of the raw file to reconstruct colors from the Bayer Filter Mosaic (what is often referred to as “Color Science”) and produce the final image applies a number of subjective transformations and selectively throws away information. The subjective interpretation must happen somewhere between capturing an image and displaying it. Someone has to take the subjective decisions about what information to throw away, what information to keep and how to transform the information to be able to visualize it.


When you read “no filter” or “straight out of camera”, what you are really reading is “I’m leaving the post-processing choices to the engineers who designed the camera”.

Very well-put here by Carucci. I am a firm believer that a large portion, if not in some cases the majority, of the time it takes into creating a photograph is in the post-processing1. But in this day and age of digital photography, where any image can be conjured up in Photoshop, the words "post-processing" and "editing" have gotten the connotation that the producer of the work is not being truthful. It sometimes feels almost as if those who are so in-your-face about their "no filter" photos think they have some sort of moral high ground for not touching up their photos.

Now with great cameras being so ubiquitous thanks to smartphones, these "no filter" images are in fact so incredibly post-processed that there are probably way more adjustments done to these smartphone photos than how much an average photographer does to process their RAW images.

From Apple's press release for iPhone 11 back in 2019:

Next-generation Smart HDR uses advanced machine learning to capture more natural-looking images with beautiful highlight and shadow detail on the subject and in the background. Deep Fusion, coming later this fall, is a new image processing system enabled by the Neural Engine of A13 Bionic. Deep Fusion uses advanced machine learning to do pixel-by-pixel processing of photos, optimizing for texture, details and noise in every part of the photo.

So yeah, every image everyone takes nowadays is very much so post-processed.

  1. Of course, with the exception here being photojournalism. ↩︎

International Space Station LEGO Set Announced

Brickset (via Ars Technica, tweet):

Build and display this spectacular LEGO Ideas 21321 ISS (International Space Station). Packed with authentic ISS details, including a posable Canadarm2 and 2 rotating joints that coincide with 8 adjustable ‘solar panels’, this 864-piece set is a wonderful gift idea for space enthusiasts, adult LEGO fans or any experienced builder.


This ISS (International Space Station) toy building kit for adults, measuring over 7” (20cm) high, 12” (31cm) long and 19” (49cm) wide, makes a beautiful display model that will catch the eye of every passer-by.

Announcement tweet from the official LEGO account:

An out-of-this-world building experience is coming! 🌙⭐️ The LEGO International Space Station is available February 1st!

Listed for $70 on the product page on LEGO website.

Just take my money already.

Crew Dragon In-Flight Abort Test


SpaceX completed a crucial test of a key safety system of its Crew Dragon spacecraft today. The test involved launching its Crew Dragon using a Falcon 9, though without any actual crew on board. The launch was then intentionally cut short, with the In-Flight Abort (IFA) system triggered to separate the Crew Dragon from the rocket about about a minute and a half into the launch process.


The Falcon 9 rocket used her [sic] had flown on three previous missions, and was in fact the first booster produced as part of SpaceX’s run of human-rated variants of the Falcon 9 design. As intended, the Falcon 9 broke up once the Crew Dragon ejected, with the on-board fuel generating a pretty impressive explosion.

The best clip of the separation from SpaceX:

Crew Dragon separating from Falcon 9 during today’s test, which verified the spacecraft’s ability to carry astronauts to safety in the unlikely event of an emergency on ascent

Then the subsequent explosion of the booster, from Spaceflight Now:

This spectacular series of photos shows the Crew Dragon abort and the expected explosion of the Falcon 9 rocket during today’s launch escape test over Florida’s Space Coast (📷: Katie Darby).

Loren Grush:

RIP Falcon 9. We saw it clearly fall from the sky

Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood | Tarantino at his Most Meta

Fantastic video essay on the new Tarantino film. This channel got an instant-subscribe from me with this video.

Side note: I saw this film in the theater when it came out and really enjoyed it. Regrettably, I actually had never heard of Tate–LaBianca murders or Charles Manson before seeing the film. Only after I came out of the theater did I finally learn from my girlfriend what that whole subplot was actually about.

Now I'm going to have to rewatch this film with this newfound perspective and context...

Some Thoughts on the AirPods Pro

I never owned the regular AirPods. It's not that I didn't want them — I really did — it's just that I never had good enough reasons to get them given my audio listening habits and what they had to offer. Plus a pair of regular EarPods with wires chopped off didn't really sound all that special to me. But since the release, the people on the web and those that I know in person who own them all say that the AirPods are some of their favorite Apple products. I think I would have gotten a pair if they had something more: perhaps noise cancellation or if they don't fall out of the ears so easily. After all, I loved those classic Apple's wired in-ear headphones.

Enter the AirPods Pro. After months of speculations, Apple announced in a press release and made available the long-awaited upgrade to their wildly popular and loved product, all within a two-day period. This pushed me over the fence, and I am now an owner of these headphones.

It just so happened that I was going to be on some long-haul flights not long after I got the AirPods Pro, so they were the perfect testing grounds for comfort and noise cancellation. Prior to the flights, my initial guess was that my Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series I, ver. 3.0.3) would be more comfortable for such an extended usage, but it turned out the AirPods Pro were way more comfortable. It must be something to do with my ears because after a couple of hours with the Bose headphones on, my earlobes would always start to hurt as the earpads were pressing on them. With the AirPods Pro, that is not an issue. I'm not as sensitive as some people might be with this type of in-ear earbuds — I actually prefer them over regular earbuds that just sit on the edge of the ear canals — so I was able to wear them hours after hours on those flights. I even went to sleep and woke up with them still in my ears feeling no discomfort around or in them.

As you might know, there are usually quite a few announcements during long flights like these. With the Bose, I would have to either take them off completely, or move an earcup up off one of my ears onto the temple to be ble to hear the announcements. With the AirPods Pro, a click to pause followed by a 1-second hold to activate the Transparency mode was all it took to be able to hear the surroundings. Alternatively, I could just take one out of my ear and it would pause whatever media playing as well as turning on Transparency mode for the other ear. I personally found it to be a much more seamless and less of an annoyance than traditional headphones are in this situation.

The noise cancellation is way better than I expected. In the aircraft cabin at cruising altitude, the ambience noise was, according to my Apple Watch's Noise app, around 70-75dB, which was a perfect environment to test this. I compared them with the Bose headphones with no music and, to my surprise, the AirPods Pro did better at canceling out the noise than the Bose headphones. I did not at all expect this to be the case. And to get a similar level of isolation, I had to turn up the volume a bit more on the Bose. I believe this is due to the nature of the in-ear earbuds creating a seal in your ears blocking much of the noise, combined with the superb Active Noise Cancellation system.

Though when the music is playing, I find that the Bose headphones perform better when it comes to sound quality. This isn't really a fair comparison to begin with and I am no audiophile or have that acute a sense of hearing, but I can tell that the AirPods Pro do sound a bit flatter than the Bose. However, the AirPods Pro do produce quite a lot of bass in such a tiny package.

During one of those flights, I was pleasantly surprised that there was a baby crying a few rows ahead of me which I was completely oblivious of until I turned off the noise cancellation. I happily turned it back on again. The transition from Transparency mode to Active Noise Cancellation is super satisfying. It feels almost literally like the world disappearing right in front of you and you're now in your own world. By the time I flew back in another stint of flights totalling over 24 hours, I ended up just using the AirPods Pro the majority of the time. The only time I had to use my Bose headphones was when the AirPods Pro needed recharging.

The Transparency mode is interesting. With my Bose headphones, I'm used to this "headset" mode that happens sometimes during conference calls in which it relays the sounds the microphones pick up back into the headphones. It is a very off-putting experience since the headphones are canceling out the ambience noise but at the same time that very same ambience noise they're cancelling out, plus your own voice as you talk, is being played back. It kind of makes you feel like you have hyper-hearing or something. And with the AirPods Pro, I was half-expecting Transparency mode to be something like that. Again, to my surprise, it's better than I had anticipated. I can definitely tell that they're playing back what the microphones pick up but the effect is definitely not as startling an experience. To me it's very close to sounding perfectly natural, except it sort of has this quiet background static noise added to it. I can definitely hear the surrounding way more compared to when the Transparency mode is off. This is a very useful feature if you want to have a conversation while wearing them or be mindful of your environment when you're out and about.

The AirPods Pro also work with the Find My app (I actually have no idea if the regular AirPods do). What's really cool about this is that in the app there's a "Play Sound" option to help with locating them, just like with the iPhone and iPad. It starts with a quiet beeping that gets progressively louder. I thought this would only work if there's a device currently connected to them because clearly the AirPods Pro themselves are not connected to the internet to be able to receive the command to play the sound wherever they are in the world. But I did some testing by disconnecting them from my phone and going outside so they are out of range. I hit the "Play Sound" and after a few seconds the app said the sound was being played on them. A little puzzled, I came back inside and indeed the beeping sound was playing, and yet they were still disconnected from my phone. A notification then popped up on my phone saying that they were found by my iPad which was sitting in range of them.

IMG 5862

So I think what happens when you hit "Play Sound" on the Find My app is that the phone would first try to connect to the AirPods and play the sound on them. If it cannot find them, it would cycle through other devices you have signed in to your iCloud account and try to connect to them to play the sound. I tested this theory by bringing both my phone and my iPad out of range of the AirPods Pro and doing the same thing in the app. And sure enough, no sound was played. This is such a little thing but I find it so thoughtful and delightful. For all I know, this might already be the case with the regular AirPods and I'm just finding out about it now.

When you go into the Bluetooth setting and tap on the little "i" icon on the AirPods Pro, it brings up a custom settings page that allows for quite a bit of customization. This includes changing the name, select the noise control, and pick if you want the press-and-hold on the stem to trigger Siri or switch between noise modes, which can be set differently between the left and right ones.

Towards the bottom of the page, there is this interesting little option labeled Ear Tip Fit Test with caption "Check the fit of your AirPods1 ear tips to determine which size provides the best seal and acoustic performance". The test itself just plays this 6-second sound and uses the microphones to determine if the seal is optimal for best noise cancellation. It would tell you if the seal isn't perfect in one or both of the ears. Amusingly for me, I ran this test with all three ear tip sizes and they all reported perfect fits. So I'm just using the medium ones and saving the others as spare parts.

Some other nuggets:

  • The tip takes much more force to pull off than I thought. It felt like I was definitely going to break it.
  • The force buttons on the stems work great and require no getting used to. I thought the act of pressing on the stem would have pulled out or loosen the seal in my ears but they remain unaffected even after repeated pressing.
  • Despite the case being a bit larger than the regular AirPods, they fit perfectly in the tiny change pocket on my Levi's 511 jeans.
  • The case and the AirPods themselves do get dirty quite easily. And now with the in-ear earbuds, it's gonna be earwax town all up in there.
  • When you're charging the case on a wireless charging pad, you can tap on the case near the indicator light and it would lit up showing the charging status. Green for charged and amber for charging. Interestingly, this doesn't work if you're charging it via Lightning cable.
  • There were no Apple stickers in the box.

  1. Interesting omission of the "Pro" here despite the press release never calling the AirPods Pro just generic AirPods. Not sure what the official Apple style guide for this is. ↩︎

Fully Decked Out Mac Pro

mac pro decked out

So now that the new Mac Pro is available for sale, I figured I would go take a look at how much it costs with everything upgraded to the highest possible configuration. And as you can see in the screenshot above, it will cost you $52,748.

Apparently there is an 8TB SSD option coming soon so it will definitely be well over $53,000. For context, the MSRP for a brand-new BMW 5 Series is $53,900.

Then we can also add the Pro Display XDR with nano-texture glass with a Pro Stand which will add $6,998 to it. And why not make it a dual-monitor setup while we're at it.

So now this whole setup will set you back $66,744, excluding taxes.

mac pro cart

Well, at least the shipping is free.

16-inch MacBook Pro First Impressions Roundup

Marco Arment:

I’m on cloud nine. Look at this glorious keyboard! An Esc key! Inverted-T arrow keys! A millimeter of key travel! Enough spacing between the keys for our fingers to accurately orient themselves! And keystrokes will probably work, 100% of the time, for years!


The biggest change is that I finally don’t feel like it’s constantly fighting me. Its design doesn’t feel spiteful. It’s a computer that doesn’t seem to hate being a computer. I’m not afraid to use it in the world, and I’m not avoiding using it because it’s unpleasant. The butterfly keyboard was the opposite, it never got better, I never got used to it, and good riddance to it.

Following in the footsteps of the fantastic iMac Pro, updated Mac Mini, and upcoming Mac Pro, the release of the 16-inch MacBook Pro ends a painful chapter of neglect and hubristic design of the Mac. Apple has finally turned the ship around.

John Gruber:

Really, I don’t think there’s anything I can write here that will convince you how good these speakers sound. However good you think I’m saying they sound, they sound way better than that.


We shouldn’t be celebrating the return of longstanding features we never should have lost in the first place. But Apple’s willingness to revisit these decisions — their explicit acknowledgment that, yes, keyboards are meant to by typed upon, not gazed upon — is, if not cause for a party, at the very least cause for a jubilant toast.

This is a MacBook you can once again argue is the best laptop hardware money can buy.

A lot of high praises for this new 16-inch MacBook Pro. The 15-inch MacBook Pro has been my main personal computing device since the 2010 model and now the 2019 model for work. So I spend a lot of time on them. This upgrade sure does look like it has almost everything I wish for.

Jason Snell (via Michael Tsai):

[D]espite the reduction in bezel size, this is a larger laptop than the 15-inch MacBook Pro—14.09 inches wide (up .34 inches or about 9 millimeters) and 9.48 inches deep (up .2 inches or about 5.2 millimeters). The 16-inch MacBook Pro is also thicker, by less than a millimeter, at 0.64 inches (1.62cm) thick.


Clearly Apple’s design philosophy here was to optimize for performance and battery life and allow the laptop to get a little larger if needed. After many years of Apple seemingly prioritizing thinness and lightness even in its products targeted at professional users, this is a refreshing shift.


The new studio-quality mic array has a signal-to-noise ratio that is so high, it rivals that of popular professional-grade standalone digital microphones. With 40 percent less hiss than before, recordings sound superclean and capture much more of the quieter detail


If you’re someone who was waiting to throw out the industrial design of the MacBook Pro for something that looks different, or to add back MagSafe and a card slot, this laptop will disappoint you. Apple apparently didn’t have those features high on its priority list, if they were even there at all.

And a little bit of insight from Phil Schiller in an interview with Roger Cheng:

To make this new scissor mechanism work appropriately in a notebook, we had to adapt it to the angle, which is different in a notebook than in a slanted desktop design for ergonomics. And it had to work in a design that had a backlight, which the notebook has that desktops do not.

Lewis Hamilton Won the F1 2019 World Championship

Lewis Hamilton has stepped out of the great Juan Manuel Fangio’s shadow to join Michael Schumacher as one of only two drivers in history to have won as many as six F1 world championship titles.

What an incredible achievement. One more to go to match Schumacher with the most world titles of seven. I hope Hamilton will surpass him though I don't think it will be easy with the regulation changes coming up in the next couple of years.

Side note: I'm a complete newcomer to F1 but I highly recommend Netflix's documentary series Formula 1: Drive to Survive. It's what got me started with this sport.

John Gruber's AirPods Pro First Impressions

John Gruber of Daring Fireball:

[T]here’s no question how AirPods Pro compare to regular AirPods. The difference is like night and day. Amtrak trains are pretty noisy — especially at what we in the U.S. so adorably consider “high speeds” — but with AirPods Pro the clackety-clack rumble was effectively blocked out.


My corner store has a noisy refrigeration unit. With AirPods Pro on — playing nothing — I couldn’t hear it at all. I couldn’t tell that my dishwasher was running even though I was sitting right across from it in my kitchen.

The AirPods Pro's noise cancellation seems to be better than expected. Even MKBHD thought so too. I'm pretty sure it's no better than those in Bose and Sony over-ear headphones. But I'm going on some long haul flights soon and they are perfect testing grounds for this. I'll report back in a couple of weeks.

Also, an interesting tidbit:

The force sensor — the flat section on the earbuds stem that faces forward when in your ear — is effectively a button. But it’s not a button. It doesn’t actually move, and it doesn’t provide haptic feedback. But it acts like a button and — most importantly — sounds like a button. When you press it, the AirPod Pro plays a click. I use the singular AirPod there because the click only plays in the bud whose force sensor you pressed. The effect is uncannily like clicking a real button. In a similar way to how force touch trackpads on modern MacBooks and Touch ID iPhone home buttons feel like they truly click, the AirPods Pro force sensors feel like actual clicking buttons. They actually have more of a premium clicky feel than the truly clicking buttons on Apple’s wired EarPods, even though they don’t actually click. It’s uncanny, and Apple at its best.

Ultralearning by Scott H. Young

Great book with a lot of useful tips and interesting anecdotes about how to learn effectively. A lot of these principles can be applied directly to your own learning goals. I'm quite inspired by it and planning to start my own ultralearning project soon using these techniques I learned from the book. A must-read for any lifelong learners.

Check it out on Goodreads.


  • Directness is the practice of learning by directly doing the thing you want to learn. Basically, it’s improvement through active practice rather than through passive learning. The phrases learning something new and practicing something new may seem similar, but these two methods can produce profoundly different results. Passive learning creates knowledge. Active practice creates skill.

  • First, deep learning provides a sense of purpose in life. Developing skills is meaningful. It feels good to get good at something. Ultralearning is a path to prove to yourself that you have the ability to improve and to make the most of your life. It gives you the confidence that you can accomplish ambitious things.

  • The opposite of this is learning optimized for fun or convenience: choosing a language-learning app because it’s entertaining, passively watching trivia show reruns on television so you don’t feel stupid, or dabbling instead of serious practice.

  • Your deepest moments of happiness don’t come from doing easy things; they come from realizing your potential and overcoming your own limiting beliefs about yourself.

  • Professional success, however, was rarely the thing that motivated the ultralearners I met—including those who ended up making the most money from their new skills. Instead it was a compelling vision of what they wanted to do, a deep curiosity, or even the challenge itself that drove them forward.

  • The best ultralearners are those who blend the practical reasons for learning a skill with an inspiration that comes from something that excites them.

  • The first problem that many people have is starting to focus. The most obvious way this manifests itself is when you procrastinate: instead of doing the thing you’re supposed to, you work on something else or slack off.

  • Make a mental habit of every time you procrastinate; try to recognize that you are feeling some desire not to do that task or a stronger desire to do something else. You might even want to ask yourself which feeling is more powerful in that moment—is the problem more that you have a strong urge to do a different activity (e.g., eat something, check your phone, take a nap) or that you have a strong urge to avoid the thing you should be doing because you imagine it will be uncomfortable, painful, or frustrating?

  • If you actually start working or ignore a potent distractor, it usually only takes a couple minutes until the worry starts to dissolve, even for fairly unpleasant tasks. Therefore, a good first crutch is to convince yourself to get over just the few minutes of maximal unpleasantness before you take a break.

  • Flow is the enjoyable state that slides right between boredom and frustration, when a task is neither too hard nor too easy.

  • Researchers generally find that people retain more of what they learn when practice is broken into different studying periods than when it is crammed together.

  • Multitasking may feel like fun, but it’s unsuitable for ultralearning, which requires concentrating your full mind on the task at hand. It’s better to rid yourself of this vice than to strengthen bad habits of ineffective learning.

  • When we learn new things, therefore, we should always strive to tie them directly to the contexts we want to use them in. Building knowledge outward from the kernel of a real situation is much better than the traditional strategy of learning something and hoping that we’ll be able to shift it into a real context at some undetermined future time.

  • Many ultralearners opt for projects rather than classes to learn the skills they need. The rationale is simple: if you organize your learning around producing something, you’re guaranteed to at least learn how to produce that thing.

  • One strategy I’ve seen repeatedly from ultralearners is to start with a skill that they don’t have all the prerequisites for. Then, when they inevitably do poorly, they go back a step, learn one of the foundational topics, and repeat the exercise.

  • [S]omething mentally strenuous provides a greater benefit to learning than something easy.

  • Whether you are ready or not, retrieval practice works better. Especially if you combine retrieval with the ability to look up the answers, retrieval practice is a much better form of studying than the ones most students apply.

  • Fear of feedback often feels more uncomfortable than experiencing the feedback itself. As a result, it is not so much negative feedback on its own that can impede progress but the fear of hearing criticism that causes us to shut down.

  • Ultralearners carefully adjust their environment so that they’re not able to predict whether they’ll succeed or fail. If they fail too often, they simplify the problem so they can start noticing when they’re doing things right. If they fail too little, they’ll make the task harder or their standards stricter so that they can distinguish the success of different approaches. Basically, you should try to avoid situations that always make you feel good (or bad) about your performance.

  • One of the pieces of studying advice that is best supported by research is that if you care about long-term retention, don’t cram. Spreading learning sessions over more intervals over longer periods of time tends to cause somewhat lower performance in the short run (because there is a chance for forgetting between

  • Psychologists theorize that the difference between grand masters and novices is not that grand masters can compute many more moves ahead but that they have built up huge libraries of mental representations that come from playing actual games.

  • Simply spending a lot of time studying something isn’t enough to create a deep intuition.

  • One way you can introduce this into your own efforts is to give yourself a “struggle timer” as you work on problems. When you feel like giving up and that you can’t possibly figure out the solution to a difficult problem, try setting a timer for another ten minutes to push yourself a bit further.

  • Explaining things clearly and asking “dumb” questions can keep you from fooling yourself into thinking you know something you don’t.

  • In a fixed mindset, learners believe that their traits are fixed or innate and thus there’s no point in trying to improve them. In a growth mindset, in contrast, learners see their own capacity for learning as something that can be actively improved.

  • Experimenting is based on the belief that improvements are possible in how you approach your work.

  • Experimentation is the principle that ties all the others together. Not only does it make you try new things and think hard about how to solve specific learning challenges, it also encourages you to be ruthless in discarding methods that don’t work. Careful experimentation not only brings out your best potential, it also eliminates bad habits and superstitions by putting them to the test of real-world results.

  • The biggest obstacle to ultralearning is simply that most people don’t care enough about their own self-education to get started.

  • I recommend setting a consistent schedule that is the same every week, rather than trying to fit in learning when you can. Consistency breeds good habits, reducing the effort required to study.

  • Finally, take all this information and put it into your calendar. Scheduling all the hours of work on the project in advance has important logistical and psychological benefits.

  • [I]n my own experience, I’ve noticed that enjoyment tends to come from being good at things. Once you feel competent in a skill, it starts to get a lot more fun. Therefore, although a tension between the two can exist in the short term, I think pursuing aggressive ultralearning projects is often the surer way to enjoy learning more, as you’re more likely to reach a level where learning automatically becomes fun.

  • A hungry person can eat only so much food. A lonely person can have only so much companionship. Curiosity doesn’t work this way. The more one learns, the greater the craving to learn more. The better one gets, the more one recognizes how much better one could become.