The Automattic Photo, 2017 Edition

Last September almost 600 employees of Automattic travelled to Whistler in Canada for our annual Grand Meetup. As is now a company tradition a photograph was taken of everyone who attended. It’s a challenge taking a photograph of that many people. Remember how hard it was taking that family photo? The difficulty of getting everyone to look at the camera at the moment the shutter closed, or even just getting everyone in one place is multiplied when you have this number of people.

The last company photo was also taken in Whistler and we took a photo in the that same location again but it wasn’t good enough. The camera wasn’t up high enough, so people in the back were all but invisible in the photo. This photo was taken around the corner, where the photo was taken from a first floor balcony. Plenty of height and a perfect vantage point.

Taking the photo was one challenge, but then came development of the image. The camera had to be handheld because of the location on the balcony but the photographer took plenty of shots so I had a lot of material to work with.
The first issue was lining up the photos and I tried using Affinity Photo. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite up to the job (at least with the knowledge I have, it’s an excellent tool otherwise) but I learned a lot about working with layers and layer masks as I swapped parts of different images around.

Eventually I used Photoshop, loaded 3 photos in a stack and the auto align did a great job of correcting for changes in each photo.

What turned out to be the biggest pain point in developing a photo like this was removing people from the background. Here’s a few of them:

Blond Guy
This guy stayed in the crowd for about ten images. I only realised he wasn’t part of the group when I saw him with his friends in an earlier photo.
Two guys showed off their bikes for the camera. It was easy to tell they weren’t part of Automattic!
This lady thought it would be fun to join us in the photo. Her friend was laughing in the background and can be seen in the photo below.
This man stood mostly still throughout the photos that were taken making it more difficult to remove him, but he’s gone from the final image. 🙂

I’m already planning for next year. We’ll get some shots of the background to make it easier to to clone bystanders out, and have more volunteers to help organise the shoot so we make best use of the available space.

The Aftermath of Hurricane Ophelia

Hurricane Ophelia hit Ireland yesterday and while it was a baby compared to the monsters that ravaged the Caribbean and US it still did plenty of damage and left 3 people dead. Many areas were left without electricity or running water for most of the day. A day later and there are still areas without those basic amenities. Telecoms services were disrupted too as lines were cut and exchanges and mobile sites ran out of power. 30,000 people were without access to phone or Internet access. A red alert was declared nation-wide. Schools closed (for 2 days), public transport wasn’t running, shops and businesses didn’t open. There was a definite fear and expectation that this would be a big one. And it was. Gusts of 156kmh were recorded off Roches Point!

We were without power from just after 11am, then the mobile phone network, Eir, went down, except my wife’s phone was able to go online for minutes at a time throughout the day. Winds really picked up around 10am, and lasted until after 2pm with driving rain almost horizontal in the wind. Later in the day I walked around Blarney village and from the far corner of the square got a weak signal from a remote antenna and had just enough connectivity to get a few text messages.

Trees behind our home were knocked down by the wind, blocking most of the main Waterloo Road. Luckily the very tallest trees survived as they’re within reach of some of the houses!

Even this stop sign was twisted around by the wind, and mushrooms flattened too..

Two trees were knocked down in the village square, and someone had attempted to drive a car and caravan up that narrow road before getting stuck and abandoning their vehicle!

Power came back late yesterday evening, as did mobile data, but friends are still without power even now so it’s going to take some time before things are back to normal. Our satellite dish is broken, and it’ll be early November before someone can come out to replace it. Parts of my garden fence blew over too, but that was on it’s last legs anyway! A TV antenna ended up in our front garden, but I have no idea who owned it.

This morning there was a lovely sunrise, and the sky was a gorgeous mix of blue and soft orange. 🙂

Next weekend we can look forward to #StormBrian apparently. Hopefully it won’t be as bad as Ophelia.

Irish car insurance is going up because …

The large number of third party claims last year is driving up car insurance premiums in Ireland apparently. At least that’s what the friendly lady at 123.ie told me. They then charged me an extra €196 for cover over last year. Reducing the insured value of my car increased the premium!

Anyway, there may be a law enacted by the end of the year to force insurance companies to tell you why your insurance is going up. It might not tell you much as the current rise in prices might be due to Setanta Insurance going under a few years ago but I don’t think it’s as simple as that.

RSA, who provide motor insurance for 123.ie beat expectations when they announced their profits for 2016. That’s the British arm of the company however.

Operating profit for the year came in at £655m, compared with a company-supplied consensus forecast of £626m.

Unfortunately, the Irish section isn’t doing so well..

Meanwhile, the former chief financial officer of RSA’s Irish business was yesterday fined £35,000 and banned for three years by Britain’s accounting watchdog.

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) said it had fined Rory O’Connor and banned him for three years from the accounting profession for approving “materially inaccurate” financial statements.

Mr O’Connor also agreed to pay £18,000 towards the watchdog’s legal costs.

RSA said in 2014 that a review of its businesses found that the accounting irregularities were confined to its Irish business, where there had been “inappropriate collaboration” among a small number of executives in Ireland.

It was forced to inject £200m into its Irish business at the time and RSA Insurance Ireland said yesterday it has strengthened its control framework since 2013.

They’ve also had to set aside £50m “to cover the costs of accidents in 2014 and 2015” according to this Irish Times article

RSA Insurance Ireland’s operating loss widened by 62 per cent last year after the country’s once-largest provider of motor and property coverage was forced to set aside £50 million (€59.1 million) of reserves to cover the costs of accidents in 2014 and 2015.
The local subsidiary of London-listed RSA Group posted a £42 million full-year loss compared with a £26 million loss for 2015. The performance was described by the parent as “disappointing”, especially as it had returned last year to writing new business on a profitable basis, as it and the wider industry hiked rates.

We shopped around, and rates from other insurers were comparable. Roll on the electrification of cars and autonomous driving!

MacOS Sierra and Lightroom 5

If you updated your Mac to MacOS Sierra and you use an old version of Lightroom you may get a shock when you try to import anything.

Lightroom Import Dialog

The destination and rename panels are missing from the sidebar! Luckily there’s an easy way to fix it, at least temporarily, thanks to The Lightroom Queen who figured out how. Right click on one of the panel headers and you can enable the missing panels again in the menu that appears!

missingpanels

Unfortunately the change doesn’t stick and the next time you import photos you’ll have to enable those panels again if you want to check those settings.

I can’t imagine Adobe will update LR5. I didn’t think Lightroom would start to break down so quickly after an OS upgrade as the app isn’t that old but I guess we’ll all have to jump on the Creative Cloud bandwagon sooner or later.

Star Wars actors arrive in Cork

Nice. They’re getting off the plane directly into cars.

I was wrong, they had to walk to the main terminal and go through passport control.

20160516_144901-PANO

And here are their drivers who kindle posed for a photo. The film crew came out a few minutes later.

20160516150336_img_1837-01_1280x720.jpeg

The missing bit

image

There may have been a bit missing from the Ferris Wheel on The Grand Parade yesterday, but I’m informed that all bits are accounted for now.

PHP Notice: Undefined variable: _SERVER in ..

I upgraded Linux on this server a while back and in the course of that upgrade PHP was upgraded too, to version 5.5.9.

Since I had a modified php.ini it asked me to check over any new options. There were a few but I fixed anything that looked like it might break things. I saved the php.ini and let the upgrade go on.

Clearing up bugs

Some time later I saw odd notices in the PHP error log. Usually it referred to wp-comments-post.php but files outside of WordPress raised the warning too:

PHP Notice: Undefined variable: _SERVER in ..

It turns out the fix is rather easy. Jacques Marneweck on his blog posted a solution. Simply switch off “auto_globals_jit” in your php.ini and restart Apache (if required).

From the PHP manual entry for auto_globals_jit:

When enabled, the SERVER and ENV variables are created when they’re first used (Just In Time) instead of when the script starts. If these variables are not used within a script, having this directive on will result in a performance gain.

The PHP directives register_globals, register_long_arrays, and register_argc_argv must be disabled for this directive to have any affect. Since PHP 5.1.3 it is not necessary to have register_argc_argv disabled.

A bug

It looks like the bug is ancient although I’m not using APC, and the JIT compiler can be fooled if you access the super globals like _SERVER through variable variables. Sneaky!

The default for auto_globals_jit is “On” so next time you upgrade PHP keep an eye on the error log.