Category Archives: Computer (OSX

Portal 2; what a good game

A word about the screenshots.  The bulbous white thing with wires sticking out of it that’s always in the bottom right corner is my portal gun that I’m holding.  The blue and orange ring floating in mid-air shows where I’ll make a portal, if I fire the gun at a surface that’s allowed to have a portal in it.


Portal 2 is a 3D interactive, animated puzzle game by Steam.  I really like this game, because it’s challenging and funny and the sets are beautifully rendered.  So I want to show you what it’s like to play Portal 2.  (Yes I know, everybody else was playing Portal 2 years ago; I’m so slow.)  You can run it on a PC, a Mac and some TV game boxes.

I’m running a 2011 iMac with 64 GB of memory and MacOS “Sierra” 10.12.3.  I’ve had some problems with Steam on my iMac.  Sometimes it ignores my mouse movements, which I need in order to turn.  To fix this I have to quit Steam and start it again.  Sometimes when I’m using menus my mouse pointer turns invisible.  Then I grope around.

The setting is a vast abandoned laboratory consisting of cavernous semi-ruined chambers where an insane, affectionate robot conducts fiendish “tests” in which you are the subject.  The goal of each test is to escape the room.  Or sometimes to acquire an object.  Or sometimes to not get killed.  You don’t die very often, because you’re tough; you can fall or jump off any height with impunity, and laser beams just make a nasty noise and bump you out of their way.  If you still manage to get killed, you start your last test over again, like Groundhog Day.

Your main tool is a portal gun.  The gun creates a linked pair of blue and orange holes in any white surfaces.  You can move from one location to another by passing thru the portals.  Other stuff can go thru the portals too.  Portals combine with force fields, catapults, weights, laser lenses and various other contraptions to form the elements of puzzles you must solve.

For a sample of Portal 2 action, let’s look at chapter 2, room 09.  It’s taken me about a week to get this far.  Spoiler alert; the fun in this game is figuring out the puzzles.  So if you’re about to explore chapter 2 room 09, you might want to stop reading now.


 

The elevator opens.  I save the game, in case things don’t work out and I want to get back to this point.  I check the movies playing on the elevator lobby walls for useful information, don’t notice any, and head up the stairs.

05-anteroomAn anteroom at the top of the stairs has wildly-flailing, harmless robot panels sprouting from the floor, a billboard with some visual clues about what’s going to happen next, and a door with a blue-green “running man” exit symbol.  I study the billboard for clues and go to the exit.

10-entranceThe exit is the entry into the test chamber, which feverishly configures itself as I enter.  I’m in a square room that has an upper gallery of some kind (top right).  I don’t notice any white surfaces, so I’m wondering how I will use my portal gun.

15-catapaultIn the center of the room is a catapult (I recognize it from earlier rooms).  Signs on the floor show how it works; I’m supposed to step on it and get shot at a target.  I examine the rest of the room.  But I can’t find the target, and there is nothing else to do here.  I get on the catapult anyway.  It does not shoot me at a target.

Instead, it smashes me against the ceiling.  The mean robot has lowered the ceiling so I will bounce off it, fall back onto the catapult, and get smashed against the ceiling again and again.

20-ceilingThe ceiling is white; so I can get out of this situation by making an orange portal in it.  But when I do, it has no effect, because I haven’t yet made a blue portal to come out of.  It’s hard to look around for a useful white surface while I’m being flung up and down, let alone hit it with my portal gun.

I can’t escape the catapult, which is going to smash me into the ceiling for eternity.  So I restart this test from my saved game.  Now that I know what I’m looking for, I explore the room with better effect.  I notice an overhead beam paneled with white tiles, and shoot a blue portal onto it.

25-portals-on-ceilingBack to the catapult I go, to be flung into the orange portal and out the blue one, dropping onto a hinged platform that has swung out from the wall.

30-objectiveLooking around, I see this test’s objective; a laser-powered motor that’s attached to the opening mechanism of the exit door.  The exit door is in a high alcove, and I don’t see a laser beam to power the motor; but perhaps these details will be resolved as I continue.

35-anteroomGlancing left, I do see a laser beam in another alcove.  To the right I see a white panel slanted at an angle.  I’ve learned that I can make a portal on such a panel and launch myself thru it to fly to a high place.

40-ledgeTo the left in the alcove I see a high ledge, and to the right another angled panel that’s aimed at it.  A sign points at the ledge; and a dotted blue line (I think of these as visible wiring) connects it to a cube dispenser that’s hanging from the ceiling of a higher alcove.  The dispenser’s control is on the first ledge (at the other end of the dotted line).

45-ready-to-flyI shoot a blue portal onto the angled panel.  Now I need to launch myself thru it with a lot of force.  If I just find a white wall somewhere, shoot an orange portal onto it and step thru it, I’ll stumble out of the blue portal onto the floor.  That’s no good; I need to fly upward.  My experience has been that, to attain that much momentum, I need to jump into a pit with an orange portal at its bottom.

I go back to the hinged platform and look down.  No white floor!  What am I supposed to do here?  Oh yeah, the catapult.  It’s still aimed at the orange portal in the ceiling.  I jump down to the lowest level (jumping any distance is totally safe), step onto the catapult again and get launched into the orange and out of the blue portal, zooming up to the ledge where the dispenser control is waiting.

50-dispenser-controlThe pedestal with the huge red button is the dispenser control.  I push it and look over at the far alcove.

55-dispensed-cubeA cube falls out of the dispenser and is sitting on the floor up there, far from the laser beam.

I jump down.  On my way to move the blue portal to another slanted white panel I’ve noticed and catapult up to the far alcove to get the cube, I pause to look at the laser motor more closely.

60-closer-look-at-motorA short wall is between it and the laser beam.  The wall is white; now I know what to do.

70-redirected-laserI get the cube and jump down to the laser beam level.  This particular cube has lenses that can bend a laser beam.  I put it in the laser beam, and adjust it to shoot at the white wall.

I’m going to need two portals to conduct the laser beam from one side of the wall to the other.  That will mean no more round trips to the catapult without a lot of bother.  But it’s going to be fine.

75-laser-into-blueI get up to the ledge with the exit door in the usual way.  I turn around and shoot a blue portal at the laser-washed side of the wall.  In the main room beyond, I can see the laser beam shooting straight down out of the orange portal that’s still in the ceiling over the catapult.

80-work-is-doneI make a new orange portal opposite the motor on the short wall.  The beam hits the motor.  The line from the motor to the exit door turns from blue to yellow, with a check mark at its end.  The exit door opens!

 

The robot with the love-hate thing about me makes some sweetly nasty remarks.  I consider them carefully in case there are hints amidst the abuse.

85-exitI go up the stairs, thru the door and on to the elevator and the next level.

This room took me about an hour to figure out.  What a good game!

Fun with Trump in Photoshop Elements – Part 3

Last post, we’d gotten to the point where we have one image of Nixon holding his left hand upward, and another image of Trump’s face.  Let’s put them together and have Nixon pulling off a Trump mask!

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I need to move the Nixon image over the Trump one, for reasons I explained last time.  I did some backing and filling last time to try to get the images in the same scale.  But I also need the canvas of the receiving image to be at least as big as the part of the sending image I want to use (which is all of it).  Image > Resize > Canvas in the Trump image to specify the height of the Nixon image. screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-09-38-pm

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In Nixon I Select > All layers.  A peculiarity of PSE is that the select functions are in their own menu, not the Edit menu.  Maybe that’s because there are so many of them?  To copy what I selected, Edit > Copy Merged.  This combination selects everything in all of the layers (let’s not forget the hand we worked so hard on), compressing the result into a single layer.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-10-14-pm

Cue the drum-roll!  In the Trump image, Edit > Paste to put the new Nixon layer in the Trump picture.  In the top right corner, notice that I’ve moved the Trump layer on top of the Nixon layer to keep Trump’s face visible.

I find the result a bit disturbing.  Trump’s face is too lifelike, as if he’d been beheaded.  This isn’t Rome — at least, not yet.

I want to make Trump look more two-dimensional and mask-like.  I decide to remove everything below the jawline.  There isn’t much contrast between the parts I want to keep and remove; so instead of the Magnetic Lasso I try to Polygonal Lasso.  It’s a “dumb” lasso; it just selects what you draw around without trying to help you.  I make the Nixon layer invisible by closing the “eye” in the Layer Window.  But, the Polygonal Lasso doesn’t work!  The problem turns out to be the transparent background.  screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-16-56-pm

As scaffolding I make a layer under the sleeping Nixon layer, Select All, and dump green paint in it with the Paint Can tool.   screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-18-39-pm

Now the Polygonal Lasso works.  screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-19-45-pm

I erase the selected area with the Eraser tool.  Now it’s transparent.

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I wake Nixon up (opening that layer’s eye) and maneuver Trump’s face next to Nixon’s with the Move tool.  I rotate it a bit to approximate the way Nixon is holding his head.  I can’t get quite the right angle with the image I’ve got; maybe it could be warped somehow, but that’s beyond me.  I adjust Trump’s size (I’ll bet a lot of people would like to do that) to approximate Nixon’s by dragging the corner handles of his layer.

I move the Trump head over the hand.  But the fingers are behind it.  Oh yeah — the hand layer got combined with the main Nixon layer when I brought them over.  screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-25-15-pm

Back in Nixon world, I make the hand the active layer in the Layer Window, and Select > All and Edit > Copy.

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Edit > Paste in Trump world (sort of like WestWorld, a theme park you wouldn’t want to visit).  Now Nixon has two left hands.  In the Layer Window I make the new hand the top layer so the fingers will be on top of Trump’s chin.  I move it exactly on top of the hand in the underlying layer.
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Drum-roll!  I move Trump’s face into the hand with the Move tool.

I’m not quite happy with this.  For one thing, Trump’s head is much fatter than Nixon’s.  (I’m just talking about the image; I mean nothing personal.). I could squeeze a side handle with the Move tool while holding down the Shift key to suppress the automatic maintenance of proportionality.  But then it might not look like Trump.  Guess I’ll let it go.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-34-18-pm

The other thing that bothers me is that Trump’s eyes make the mask too lifelike and disturbing.  At high magnification, I use the Eraser tool to remove the eyes.  Like the Brush, the Eraser’s effect depends on how long you use it in an area.  I go over the eyes heavily to completely erase them.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-40-06-pm

To help those kids who aren’t sure who Nixon was, I use the Text tool and type in Nixon’s most famous quote.  What a thing for a president to say — but “Grab her by the _____” still takes the cake.  The Comic font seems appropriate.

mask2

All ready for Facebook!  Hahaha

Fun with Trump in Photoshop Elements – Part 2

In Fun with Trump in Photoshop Elements – Part 1 I modified a picture of Richard Nixon to show him holding his left hand in front of him.  Now let’s make a Donald Trump mask for the hand to hold!

I google for pictures of Trump’s face looking slightly to his left — the same position as Nixon’s face.  I notice several pictures that combine Trump and Nixon!  Other people have been thinking the same as me.  One of them has the Trump face I want.  It’s in color.  I decide that’s a good thing; it will make the mask stand out in the black-and-white Nixon photo.

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As with Nixon’s hand, I need to get rid of the background around Trump’s face.  I use the Magnetic Lasso.  It’s too big to select all at once in the magnification I’m working in; so I set the Magnetic Lasso’s Add option.  This lets me select part at a time, and each new part will be added to those before to form a single selected area. screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-9-34-49-pm

Erasing a background replaces it with the background color.  But I need the image surrounding the face to be transparent.  So in the Layers window I right-click the background and use the floating menu to convert it to a layer.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-9-36-38-pm

I invert the selection, protecting the face.  I erase everything around it.  But the darkness of the flag that Trump was standing in front of has polluted his hair!screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-9-43-01-pm

I’m not up to recoloring his hair.  So I invert the selected area again, and go back with a strongly-feathered eraser tool to lighten up the edge of the hair.

I’m hot to copy Trump’s face and paste it into the Nixon picture.  But when I try it, Trump’s face turns black-and-white.  I’m guessing that some internal color palette is established by the first layer in an image?  I can’t figure out how to tell PSE that color is really okay now.  I’d rather do the thing than research it; so I’ll move the Nixon image into the Trump one.  (I don’t expect Nixon to turn colored, and it doesn’t happen.).

There’s just one problem; the Trump image has higher resolution than does the Nixon one.  I don’t want the result to be pixellated, so it’s no good increasing the pixel count of the Nixon picture.  I need to reduce the pixel count (or maybe the Nixon count?) of the Trump picture to approximate Nixon’s.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-9-44-09-pm

I do an Image > Resize > Image on Nixon, just to see its pixel dimensions, and cancel.  I do the same with Trump.  The real comparison should be between their faces, not the whole images; but PSE 11 doesn’t have the Measure tool.  On a scratchpad, I try to approximate the proportion of each image’s height in pixels that is face.  Dredging up some high-school math, I decide to reduce the Trump pixel count by 37%.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-01-24-pm

Image > Resize > Image, and this time I’m going to do it.  In Pixel Dimensions I switch the unit of measure to Percent and enter 37.  I hit OK!

Cliff-hanger!  hahaha.  Join me in Part 3 to see how this pans out.

 

Fun with Trump in Photoshop Elements – Part 1

Q: How can you have fun with a man who might grab you by the … whatever?  Uh, when he’s president of the United States?

A: With your imagination, in Photoshop Elements.

During his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump called Barak Obama “The worst president in history.”  Baby-boomers will quickly offer an even worse president — the only one in history to resign in disgrace.  Richard Nixon.

Imagine Trump pulling off his face, which turns out to be a mask, to reveal that he’s really Nixon!

Will history repeat itself?  We’ll see.  In the meantime, what an interesting PSE project.  I haven’t totally mastered PSE, and I’m crutching it with version 11.  So if even I can pull this off, think what you can do!

First I need a picture of Nixon, preferably one in which he’s close to the position I need — holding one hand out in front of him.  I googled a good one; and it has a simple background in the area I need to edit.  This is important; I discovered by hard experience that if you remove an unwanted object from a picture, you don’t get what’s behind it — you get a hole in which you have to somehow reconstruct a background.

My picture is black and white, but that gives it an old-timey ambience, which is a clue for any kids out there who aren’t sure who Richard Nixon was.

Here we go!

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-4-23-02-pm

I enlarge the hand, and use the stamp tool to cover the hand with background.  What I need is a hand that’s holding a mask upright, not this hand.

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I use the rectangular marquee to select Nixon’s other hand.  I don’t need the pen, so I cut it off.  I make a new file for the hand copy with File > New > Image from clipboard .

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After some experimenting with my own hands to reassure myself that the little finger should be to the front, I flip the hand vertically with Image > Rotate > Flip layer vertical.  The thumb is just peeking out behind the middle finger.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-4-32-49-pmI use the Magnetic Lasso to select the hand and omit everything else.  This tool automatically follows a border between contrasting color areas.  I help it by clicking on anchor-points I want the line to extend to, when it seems unsure.  If the line starts to veer off, I can just hit delete to take out an anchor-point.

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I invert the selection.  Now everything BUT the hand is selected.

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I erase the stuff around the hand with the Eraser tool.  My selection works like an eraser shield. (Kids, that’s a thin sheet of metal with variously-shaped holes in it that we used in the 20th century to limit the scope of our erasing.)  It protects the hand.

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Select > All the edited hand, and Edit > Copy it.  Edit > Paste it on Nixon’s left arm.  Not very convincing!

How can I make it better?  (There’s a lot of trial and error going on here; with Undo to back out mistakes, why not?)

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Because the paste created a new layer, I can select that layer and move it around.  I hover my mouse near a corner handle and drag to rotate the hand into a better position.

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I fix up the hand, erasing extra junk that came along with it and stamping more back and wrist from the skin I have to work with.  I give up on the hidden thumb; let’s say it’s behind the mask.  Okay, it’s not perfect; but I’m hoping that the Trump mask will distract you from my bad anatomy.cuffsI use the color-selector and the brush to extend Nixon’s shirt- and jacket-sleeves around the rear of the hand.

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From a distance, not too bad.

Next; Trump’s face!

Flickr 2016; make a web album

Let’s do this in a way that’s computer- and app-independent.  I have my photos stored as files in a folder.  If you’re using album-managing software such as iPhoto, export the photos to files before you start.  (Oh, and you already have a Flickr account, yes?)

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  1.  In your browser, go to Flickr.  In the top right corner, click the cloud icon.  Its mouse-over label is Upload.  Flickr displays the Upload Page.screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-3-16-33-pm
  2. Arrange your screen so both this page and your file manager, such as Finder, are visible.  Drag the photo files from your file manager to the upload page.  Select all the photos (click the first one, then SHIFT-click the last one to select the range).  The selected photos get purple borders.  In the left sidebar, add any tags you’d like to the whole set.  Click Add to album.  Flickr displays the Album Selector box.screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-3-16-57-pm
  3. Here you could add your uploading photos to any of your existing albums.  But you want to make a new album.  So click Create a new album.  Flickr displays the New Album box.screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-3-17-48-pm
  4. Give the new album a title, and optionally a description.  Click Create album.  Flickr returns to the Album Selector box.screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-3-18-05-pm
  5. You should see your new album at the top of the list, and already checked.  Click Done.  Flickr returns to the Upload Page.screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-3-18-43-pm
  6. Check that your new album is shown in the left sidebar under Albums.  In the top right corner, click Upload x photos.screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-3-20-05-pm
  7. You should see your new album in the top left position of your albums list.  Click it to edit it, share it, etc.

Photoshop Elements 11; Put an arrow on an image

Let’s use layers and the Cookie Cutter tool to make an arrow that points at something on a screen-capture image.  This is a handy tool for making instructional material.

Bring the image into PE.  Make sure that the Layers window is visible.Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 2.31.57 PM

Add a layer, by clicking the “folded sheet” tool at the left end of the Layer Window tool-bar (top right corner of screen).

Screen Shot 2016-05-30 at 2.22.14 PMName the layer “Arrow.”  Make the layer translucent.  Click the down-arrow next to Opacity and drag the slider tool to set an opacity you like.  Even if you want a solid arrow, do this now so you can see what you’re doing; you can change the opacity later.

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Make sure Arrow is the current layer, so you don’t wipe out your image.  Make sure your primary color is the color of arrow you want (I’m using red).  Click the Paint Can tool in the left tool bar.  Click on the image to turn the whole Arrow layer red.

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Click the Cookie Cutter tool in the left tool-bar.  It has several settings to pay attention to.

  • First, pick a shape; I like arrows.  Don’t worry about the direction or proportions of the shape; you’ll be able to change them shortly.
  • Make sure the proportions are unconstrained.  (Because working with “Constrained” feels like writing while the teacher controls your pencil.)
  • Make sure “From Center” is not checked.
  • For an arrow that isn’t fuzzy, make sure the Feather slider is all the way to the left.
  • Make sure “Crop” is not checked.  Crop would chop off most of your image after you drew your arrow.

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Draw a box to cut your “cookie.”  This is the part of the Arrow layer that will stay visible; the rest of the “dough” gets thrown away.  Don’t click the green check-mark yet.

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Move, stretch, squeeze and rotate the cookie.  If you mouse near the handles, you’ll see your cursor turn into the appropriate tool.  When it’s the way you want it, click the check.  If you change your mind after that, just Undo.

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You might be wondering how I annotated the images in this tutorial with yellow highlighting.  I used PaintCat, a much simpler program–but it doesn’t make arrows!  8)

iTunes 12.x; Edit all songs that aren’t in any playlists

I play playlists 99% of the time.  So, songs that aren’t in any playlist are “orphaned” for me.  I forget I even have them. 

They usually get this way by accident–for example, because I delete a song on my computer and then sync my iPad that still has the song.  In that case, I get a warning that there are “purchases” on my iPad that aren’t in my library and a chance to add them in.  I’ve forgotten what I might have purchased with the iPad, so I add them in just to be safe!  And then when I see them I go “Oh, no, not that again!”

So, periodically I check all the songs that aren’t in any playlist, and either add them to a playlist or delete them.  Here’s how I do it.

But first, some brief definitions:

  • A song is a digital audio performance that iTunes manages in a way similar to how an operating system manages a file.  Every song has a number.
  • A playlist is a list of song numbers.
  • A smart playlist is a set of rules for selecting a list of song numbers.
  • A folder is a container that can hold playlists and other folders.
  • Click means point your mouse at something and tap the left button.  Or, if you’ve reversed the functions of its buttons, tap the right button.
  • Alt-click means point your mouse at something and tap the other button.

What to do:

Organize the folders and playlists so they all reside in one “super-folder.”  I named mine “All my playlists.”  (You can keep this folder and use it over again each time you do this.)Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.34.22 PM

Select All my playlists.

Select the first song in it.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.35.52 PM

Drag the right-hand scroll-bar handle to the bottom.

Hold down the SHIFT key.  Select the last song in “All my playlists.”  Now all of the songs in “All my playlists” are selected.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.38.40 PM

Alt-click on the song list; a floating menu appears.  In it select “New playlist from selection.”  I named mine “My playlist songs.”Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.41.13 PM

Open the File menu.  Select New… .  A submenu appears.  Select Smart playlist ...  A Smart Playlist definition window appears.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.46.28 PM

Set up the rule “Playlist is not All playlist songs.”  Click OK .  I named this smart playlist “Not in any playlist.”Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.51.46 PM

Select “Not in any playlist.”  Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 1.53.18 PM

Now you’re ready to deal with all your songs that aren’t in any playlist.  If you just want to deal with them all at once, you can select all of these songs at once by opening the Edit menu and selecting Select all .  But I prefer to deal with a few of them at a time.  On my system, podcasts are included in this list, and I usually want to keep those.

As with songs in any playlist, you can’t delete these songs by selecting them and pushing the DELETE key.  That just removes the song numbers from the playlist.  Instead, hold down the ALT key and push the DELETE key.  Click through the usual “Are you sure?” dialogs to get rid of every vestige of the songs.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 2.09.40 PM

When you’re done editing your no-playlist songs, delete the playlist “All playlist songs” that you created when you started this process.  Because it can’t update itself dynamically, it’s not going to include any newly-orphaned songs; so it has no use.  Alt-click the playlist; a floating menu appears.  Select Delete.Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 2.36.02 PM

Also, Delete the smart playlist Not in any playlist.  Now that All playlist songs is gone, this smart playlist is broken and has no use.