mjh

Mark writes about Microsoft Windows, computer topics, and digital photography.

May 012017
 

Just received a new zoom lens: Pentax HD DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3 ED PLM WR RE Lens for use with my Pentax K-50 16MP Digital SLR Camera with 3-Inch LCD.

This lens is a replacement for the Pentax HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8 ED WR Lens . However, the new lens is smaller and lighter than the old. More importantly, focus is absolutely silent. The old lens used a mechanical rod to drive focusing. It was noticeably loud, especially if it had to seek focus.

In this photo above, PENTAX DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL Weather Resistant Lens for Pentax Digital SLR Camera (Discontinued by Manufacturer) is on the left and the old zoom is on the right. In between the two is the new lens. Extended, the new lens is the same length as the old.

 Posted by at 5:05 pm
Jan 112017
 

I bought my first pedometer decades ago. About 5 years ago, my brother and sister-in-law turned us on to Fitbit Zip, a smart pedometer that connects to one’s phone or computer.

A year ago, curiosity about my heart rate and sleep quality led me to explore fitness trackers, which do more than mere activity trackers. I selected the Microsoft Band 2, which had more sensors (and more data) than any other device at the time (even UV). As a second generation device with frequently updated software, it was the state of the art — briefly. I bought it despite the well-documented tendency for the rubber strap to split. Indications were that MS was working on a new strap and was very good about replacing damaged devices.

It’s silly to use a word like ‘love’ about a device, especially given the pace at which new technology obviates old. Still, I liked the Band’s design, interface, and data. I learned my resting heart rate (HR) during the day tends to be in the low 70s beats per minute (bpm). At night, HR drops to the low 50s. My greatest exertion comes during volleyball and vacuuming, both of which push me above 140 bpm. My fastest walking pace is 16 minutes per mile, though 18 is more comfortable. As for sleep, I average more than 8 hours per night, sometimes half of which is deep/restorative.

My Band wasn’t 5 months old when the strap split. I was please by how easy it was to set up a return online, with MS paying shipping. I was shocked when my Band was returned unrepaired with the claim that I had damaged it beyond warranty. Not true. I had to protest and find someone receptive at MS. I got a new Band but was without one for 3 weeks. I started paying attention to the other fitness trackers, just in case. And I gave up hope for a version 3 of the Band — Microsoft abandoned that market.

My replacement Band cracked within 3 months. I had seen reviews saying some people had received two or three replacements. However, MS refused to replace this one, despite earlier assurance that my warranty had been extended.

The short-term fix was electrical tape around the cracks, which blended nicely with the original black band. On Sunday, that wasn’t enough. My Band went from 98% charged to 0% in a blink and never took another charge. Dead.

Of course, I could live without a fitness tracker, but I like the information. My new tracker has to have GPS, as well as HR and sleep monitoring, along with the standard activity tracking (steps, miles, guestimated calories, calculated stairs). I’ve ordered a new Garmin vivosmart HR+. I’ll follow up after some experience.

 

 Posted by at 3:33 pm
Mar 092016
 

I’ve been aware for quite a while that my hard drive frequently showed 100% activity. Indeed, it rarely dropped below 100% for more than a few seconds. Does this matter? Well, it seemed this had to be connected with frequent hangups in which input would freeze frequently, which caused havoc when I was typing.

I investigated the situation primarily using Task Manager’s tabs. At first, I thought it was a problem with OneDrive, which seemed logical because it syncs with the Cloud periodically. In fact, if I killed OneDrive, the C drive would drop below 100%, but only for a while; it still hit 100% when nothing much seemed to be happening.

Could it be MS built-in antivirus software being over-vigilant in scanning for trouble. I killed the process and saw only temporary relief.

Next, I suspected Search Indexer, which examines files and builds an index. Here, too, if I killed the operation, performance seemed to improve, but only briefly.

I also consider that I might have insufficient RAM, though 4GB seems like a lot to an oldtymer like me. I remember when 1MB was a big deal. So, I bought RAM and jumped from 4GB to 12GB. It does appear that MS doesn’t fully commit available RAM. By that, I mean I used to see up to 3GB of RAM used when the max available was 4GB, but when RAM increased to 12GB, I was using 5GB or more for the same general operations. So, RAM helped. However, it did not eliminate the problem.

Digging deeper, I looked at event logs to find more technical documentation of the situation. That led me to a couple of event names which in turn led to the linked blog entry that seems to have fixed my problem. (In short, a power option was causing my system to rev the hard drive.)

Event ID 129 – storachi – Reset to device, DeviceRaidPort0, was issued. | Kevin Holman’s System Center Blog

Thanks, Kevin!

 Posted by at 10:00 am
Nov 232015
 

Come on, Verizon, don’t make me wait a year for this phone!

Lumia 950 sales begin today | Microsoft Devices Blog

But today is about the launch of the Lumia 950, which goes on sale in the US through AT&T retail and online stores with a starting price of $149 for a standard two-year agreement. With the Lumia 950, as well as the Lumia 950 XL, we set out to create the phone that works like a PC, and we succeeded – and are thrilled for our fans to get their hands on these new and exciting devices.

As a company, we have obsessed over delivering a more personal computing experience in Windows 10. And since we launched, more than 110 million devices are already running Windows 10 – a very strong start! Today, with the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, we’ve combined the familiar and consistent Windows experience with powerful hardware, stunning displays, innovative experiences like Continuum for Phones and Windows Hello beta for Lumia, and top-of-the-line imaging to deliver our best smartphones yet. These phones were designed to increase your ability to get things done, easier and faster, and are the most productive smartphones on the planet.

Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL

Lumia 950 sales begin today | Microsoft Devices Blog

Surprise fan review: Lumia 950 | Microsoft Devices Blog

To wrap up, it’s clear that Microsoft has focused on their fans with this device; they are not throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks, they have listened to their enthusiasts and gone with tried-and-true features that we all love, like Glance and Qi-charging, but they’ve also gone the extra mile by introducing market-first features such as Windows Hello beta for Lumia (which I still think is like living in the future!) The device is a beautiful slab of the latest mobile technology that I would be proud to show off to my friends and family. Windows 10 mobile simply sings on this hardware, and the hardware… well it clearly speaks for itself. The folk at Microsoft have truly outdone themselves with these two flagships. The wait was definitely worth it.

Surprise fan review: Lumia 950 | Microsoft Devices Blog

 Posted by at 5:53 pm
Aug 262015
 

I’ve been shopping for a new camera. This has led me back to a website I have previously recommended. I’ve found a couple of others that are a bit more technical but worth digging through.

http://snapsort.com/
http://www.digicamdb.com/
http://www.dxomark.com/

Each of these sites takes you deep into specifications and lets you compare two cameras side by side.

With the first few cameras I bought, my interest was in an ever-longer zoom lens. I started with the earliest superzooms, jumping from 5x to 10x, then 20x, 30x, and stopping at 50x (though the market has gone on to 60x, at least).

Be wary of the ‘x.’ While it is likely that a 20x camera zooms closer than a 10x, two 20x cameras might actually zoom differently. A safer comparison is the 35mm equivalents of a given camera, which compares newer cameras to the older film standard.

Two cameras ago, I hit the limits of zoom with the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS . Everyone but me loves this camera. It is particularly popular with birders. Its 50x zoom is comparable to a 1200mm in the old film realm. If those numbers don’t click for you: that’s a big-ass lens capable of getting you amazingly close to a distant subject. Despite this, the camera itself is rather small and very lightweight. I had trouble framing a moving subject with such a powerful zoom and holding the framing, though the Canon has a cool zoom-assist feature poorly place on the barrel of the lens. Moreover, like most superzooms, the lens is electric, making it noisy and hard to stop short of extremes (all wide or all zoom).

At that point, a couple of years ago, I could tell that a 60x, 70x, etc, wouldn’t improve my shots unless it was on an articulating stalk that followed subjects on its own. Most people who ring all they can out of the consumer all-in-one cameras move on to DSLRs — cameras with interchangeable lenses and other more-advanced and expensive features. I took the intermediate step with the Fujifilm X-S1. This was the first camera I bought with less zoom than the previous one — only 28x (roughly 640mm, half as powerful as the Canon). What possessed me? The Fuji has a much larger body, like a DSLR, which isn’t a plus for most people but which means it’s very stable and the weaker zoom meant I was less likely to lose my subject by over-zooming. More importantly, the camera zooms (or focuses) with a twist of the barrel, like an old-school film camera — quiet, quick, precise and stays where I leave it, even if I turn the power off. (Electric zooms retract to starting position.)

But the kicker is that the Fuji has a larger image processor than any other consumer all-in-one. That suggests it will perform better in lower light, among other things. So, the Fuji *should* take better photos than the Canon, just not as zoomed in. That is debatable.

Now, after so many years and so much money spent on high-end consumer-level all-in-one cameras, I’m ready to move up to DSLR. I want sharper images under a wider range of conditions. An even larger processor should make that possible. But this opens a new can of worms: the lenses are separate and not interchangeable among brands (with some exceptions). So, you buy a body and a lens, sometime separately. It does not make shopping any simpler. (Use the sites above plus various review sites, including Amazon.) And, ironically, I can’t afford a lens as powerful as the one built into the Canon or even the Fuji, so once again, I’ll sacrifice zoom for other features. It’s a new direction for me.

Here is how each of the sites above compares the Canon and the Fuji:
http://snapsort.com/compare/Canon-PowerShot-SX50-HS-vs-Fujifilm-X-S1/specs
http://www.digicamdb.com/compare/canon_powershot-sx50-hs-vs-fujifilm_x-s1/
http://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Canon-PowerShot-SX50-HS-versus-Fujifilm-FinePix-X-S1___848_756

See Why does a larger camera image sensor capture better images?


 Posted by at 4:36 pm
Aug 082015
 

If you pay close attention to the cloud icon that appears in the Windows taskbar, you may notice the update overlay (blue arrows). If you click on the icon, you may see an indication that x bytes in y files are updating. Sometimes those numbers are absurdly large. Sometimes they never change, no matter how long you wait.

My advice: Don’t bother with Permissions or Security solutions until you try something simpler. If you don’t know what Permissions or Security mean in this context, don’t bother figuring it out. If you do know, you may be following the wrong trail. I changed permissions repeatedly only to find they had changed back. Many of the solutions I’ve read online say it’s a temporary fix until the next restart.

My fix: Leave the Homegroup. The Homegroup was Microsoft’s effort to simplify networking. You *can* setup and join a Homegroup to share access to folders, files, and resources like a printer. My experience was that when I left the Homegroup, the OneDrive problem vanished immediately.

In the lefthand pane of File Explorer, select the Homegroup heading. If you are not in a Homegroup, you’ll see a message on the right about creating or joining one. Don’t. There are other ways to share resources through the older Network heading. If you are in a Homegroup, right click the Homegroup heading and select Change HomeGroup Settings (you may note the inconsistency of the capitalization of the first G in Group). On the settings screen, chose Leave the Homegroup.

Admittedly, any change to network / homegroup settings can have unforeseen repercussions. My main reason for writing this is to help someone like me who has tried other solutions to the very specific problem of a never-done OneDrive update.

 Posted by at 9:45 pm
May 012015
 

Watch at least the first 2 minutes of this 20 minute video. (It starts abruptly partway into the demo.) Amazing. Note the very cool weather app at about 37 seconds, the wall-sized video screen that will follow you around *anywhere* and the calendar which could literally block your exit so you can’t miss it. Then consider that ANY app written for Windows 10 could be used this way. Crap-apps will be unbearable.

After the former lead singer of Depeche Mode appears on screen, don’t give up – skip ahead past the architecture demo.

I’m very curious how we are able to see the virtual world of the demonstrators in this. I can imagine seeing what they see, but I don’t know how we see them and what they see – that slight-of-hand may misrepresent this technology. Still, the potential is huge.

Futurama envisioned people entering a virtual Internet interface in which ads were flying billboards that actually attacked observers like pterodactyls. Minority Report imagined ads that recognized where you were looking and your retinal scan. And Brainstorm foresaw the hazards of such technology with porn.

PS: I’m not rushing to buy a HoloLens, though I think it is very cool. I have a Kinnect I threw money away on that I never was able to use and is no longer compatible with newer systems. Screw me once, shame on you.

 Posted by at 3:52 pm
Mar 122015
 

Microsoft Is On The World’s Most Ethical Companies List 5 Years In A Row

The World’s Most Ethical Companies designation recognizes companies that truly go beyond making statements about doing business “ethically” and translate those words into action.

Microsoft on The World’s Most Ethical Companies list 5 years in a row – Microsoft on the Issues

World’s Most Ethical Companies – Honorees | Ethisphere® Institute

Google and Intel are also on the list. Apple is NOT.

 Posted by at 8:15 am
Mar 112015
 

While people gush over the new gold Macbooks, for half the price you can get a much more capable Windows portable. These machines are close to the Mac’s thinness but with more ports, more powerful processors, and touch-capabilities. Why pay more for less?

ASUS Zenbook UX305FA Is The Cheapest Alternative To The Newly Announced Apple Macbook By pradeep on March 10, 2015

ASUS Zenbook UX305FA is an elegant, ultra-slim, and plenty powerful  laptop that measures under a half-inch thick, weighs only 2.65 pounds, and has an Intel Core M processor.

ASUS Zenbook UX305FA Is The Cheapest Alternative To The Newly Announced Apple Macbook

Dell XPS 13 Vs Apple Macbook Spec Comparison By pradeep on March 10, 2015

As you can notice from the above table, Dell XPS 13 easily beats Apple Macbook in many categories. Above all, it is affordable to millions of customers around the world.

Dell XPS 13 Vs Apple Macbook Spec Comparison

Apple Macbook Vs Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Spec Comparison By pradeep on March 9, 2015

 Posted by at 8:09 pm
Feb 282015
 

This is a good summary of features that were added in Windows 8 and removed in Windows 10 (or downplayed or made optional). Ironically, much of what made Windows 8 radically new is gone and won’t be missed by the majority. That said, Windows 10 is good and should please more of those who cling to XP (come on, it’s 20 years old) or Win7.

Annoying Windows 8 features that won’t appear in Windows 10 By Brian Burgess, February 26, 2015, for Gizmag

 Posted by at 8:14 pm
Jan 212015
 

I’ve been intrigued by Joe Belfiore for some time. He is a big-wig at Microsoft, but he dresses like he works for Google or Apple (not an insult to anyone). Flat asymmetrical hair, t-shirt under sportcoat, sneakers, and never a tie. I’m OK with that – honest! – I’m just surprised Microsoft is. IBM never would have been. Today, I saw Alex Kipman for the first time. He’s an Xbox big-wig (are these wigs?). If these two are in the same room, it must look like Cure concert.

Joe-Belfiore-VP-for-Windows-Phone

Above: Joe Belfiore. Below: Alex Kipman.

Alex-Kipman 

Below: The Cure.

The Cure

 Posted by at 8:13 pm
Dec 162014
 

You install the Gestures Beta from the link. I don’t have all the options shown, but it’s a great idea. The Glance screen update is automatic but requires a restart. I see the options, but my Lock screen photo doesn’t display on the Glance screen as predicted.

Glance screen update and innovative new Lumia gesture controls incoming! – Lumia Conversations

 Posted by at 4:31 pm
Nov 112014
 

Windows Has Changed An Awful Lot In The 30 Years Since Its Unveiling | Business Insider

Bill Gates tablet 2000Bill Gates with a Microsoft tablet in 2000.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 30 years since
Microsoft first showed off Windows to the world.

It’s changed an awful lot in that time.

Thanks to better hardware, the rise of the Internet, and competition from long-time rival (and occasional ally) Apple, Microsoft has managed to stay relevant by releasing updates that meet the needs of hundreds of millions of people all around the world.

Here are the 30 years of Windows, in pictures:

Windows Has Changed An Awful Lot In The 30 Years Since Its Unveiling | Business Insider

 Posted by at 8:01 pm