mjh

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

Apr 142014
 

Two more detailed articles on the changes coming in Windows Phone 8.1. The second link includes video demos and many screenshots.

Windows Phone 8.1 Review | Windows Phone content from Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows

Pay no attention to the version number: Windows Phone 8.1 is a major upgrade for Microsoft’s smart phone platform, one that provides improvements virtually everywhere.

Windows Phone 8.1 Review | Windows Phone content from Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows

Windows Phone 8.1 review: A magnificent smartphone platform | Ars Technica by Peter Bright

Windows Phone 8.1, therefore, has a lot of work to do. It needs to take further steps along the path toward Microsoft’s vision of a unified operating system. It needs to work better on a wider range of hardware to both strengthen its position at the low end and give it a chance of making inroads at the high end. It needs to also offer features: it needs to do things to get people talking about the platform while attracting both users and developers.

Remarkably, Windows Phone 8.1 delivers on all fronts.

Windows Phone 8.1 review: A magnificent smartphone platform | Ars Technica

 Posted by at 10:31 pm
Apr 142014
 

Download Windows 8.1 Update Power User Guide for Business from Official Microsoft Download Center

This 20 pages brochure-type guide is designed for end-users who want to learn more about the advanced features of Windows 8.1, such as Taskbar customization, Task Manager, Internet Explorer 11, Mobility Center, Windows To Go, Miracast, OneDrive for Business, and File Explorer. Power users will enjoy learning about how they can get the most out of their Windows 8.1 devices.

Download Windows 8.1 Update Power User Guide for Business from Official Microsoft Download Center

 Posted by at 7:27 am
Apr 042014
 

Happy Birthday, Microsoft, from your birthplace. How come you don’t visit anymore?

Microsoft Today Celebrates Its 39th Anniversary

Front row (left to right): Bill Gates, Andrea Lewis, Marla Wood, and Paul Allen. Middle row: Bob O'Rear, Bob Greenberg, Marc McDonald, and Gordon Letwin. Back row: Steve Wood, Bob Wallace, and Jim Lane Enlarge pictureFront row (left to right): Bill Gates, Andrea Lewis, Marla Wood, and Paul Allen. Middle row: Bob O’Rear, Bob Greenberg, Marc McDonald, and Gordon Letwin. Back row: Steve Wood, Bob Wallace, and Jim Lane

The Redmond-based software giant Microsoft today turns 39, as Bill Gates and Paul Allen officially founded the empire that brought us the number one desktop operating system in the world on April 4, 1975.

Microsoft Today Celebrates Its 39th Anniversary

History of Microsoft – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Microsoft is a multinational computer technology corporation. The history of Microsoft began on April 4, 1975, when it was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in Albuquerque.[1]

History of Microsoft – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

At the time, I was in Charlottesville, Virginia, nine years away from moving to Albuquerque.

 Posted by at 9:30 am
Apr 042014
 

Nicely succinct overview of the major changes coming 4/8.

8 Things You Need to Know About Windows 8.1 Update | PCMag.com By Michael Muchmore, April 2, 2014

the primary motivation behind this Update is to address the feedback from mouse pushers and clickers, in particular.

8 Things You Need to Know About Windows 8.1 Update | PCMag.com

 Posted by at 9:20 am
Apr 032014
 

Just as Windows 8.1 on desktops and tablets has a new update, so to does Windows Phone 8, upgrading to 8.1 soon. There are lots of cool features here. As a Verizon user, I don’t expect to see it for a couple of months.

Windows Phone 8.1 update: everything you need to know – Nokia Conversations

Starting this summer, any Lumia device currently running Windows Phone 8 will receive an over-the-air update, receiving these great new features:

Windows Phone 8.1 update: everything you need to know – Nokia Conversations

▶ Introducing Windows Phone 8.1 – YouTube [16:45 video] This video shows perhaps too much about Cortana, a digital personal assistant, but other features get more coverage halfway through.

Cortana (yes!) and Many, Many Other Great Features coming in Windows Phone 8.1

 Posted by at 2:47 pm
Apr 032014
 

A new update will install automagically on computers that already have Windows 8.1 (itself an update from October ‘13 to Windows 8, released October ‘12). This consists of lots of tweaks intended to make Windows 8.1 easier for people who don’t use touchscreens.

The first link leads to a short slideshow, the second to a video, and the third link leads to a thorough discussion plus one person’s opinion.

  1. Deep inside Windows 8.1’s spring update: New changes in pictures | PCWorld by Brad Chacos Mar 11, 2014 [14 slides]
  2. Introducing the Windows 8.1 Update – YouTube [3:27 video] Apr 2, 2014
  3. Windows 8.1 Update 1 Review | Windows 8 content from Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows A step forward, Apr 2, 2014 by Paul Thurrott
 Posted by at 9:38 am
Mar 262014
 

The title above provides words to live by for all of us, though they are intended especially for photographers. Move around your subject, as well as crouching / kneeling and holding your camera overhead.

Journal Center green space

Above, the parking lot in the background detracts from the sculpture. Moving around the sculpture provides a background that may not be any less distracting but is more interesting. That’s my opinion regarding these two photos, but much depends on the story you have to tell. It’s often difficult to be mindful of the background during the shot, so move around and take more than one.

Journal Center green space

See all 19 photos of the The State Bar Albuquerque Journal Center green space is gorgeous.  It’s a lovely area for everyone, especially birders and photographers.

 Posted by at 12:00 pm
Mar 242014
 

When you start Windows 8.1 or exit an app, the Start screen appears automatically. Of course, you can select the Desktop tile to switch to the desktop (or press Win+D). However, if you want the desktop automatically, instead of the Start screen follow these steps:

  1. On the desktop, move the mouse pointer over an empty part of the taskbar and click the right mouse button. (On a touchscreen, touch and hold until you see a small box.)
  2. On the small context menu that pops up, select Properties.
  3. In the resulting Taskbar Properties dialog box, select the tab at the top labeled Navigation.
  4. In the section labeled Start Screen, select “When I sign in or close all apps, go to the desktop instead of the Start”. (If checked, you get the desktop by default. If unchecked, you get the Start screen by default.)
  5. Select OK.

taskbar navigation tab

In April, an update to Windows 8.1 will install automatically. It has been reported that for systems without a touch screen, this option will be on automatically, in which case you may want to turn it off if you don’t like this option.

You can display the Start screen anytime by pressing the Win key alone or by selecting the Windows icon from the Charms (swipe from right or Win+C) or on the taskbar.

 Posted by at 8:02 am
Mar 222014
 

A digital camera has an image processing chip that converts light (analog) into digital information. A single point of processing or conversion is a pixel (from picture element). Most people obsess over resolution as measured in megapixels, concluding that 20 megapixels must be better than 12, for example. However, the size of the sensor is very important in such comparisons.

Imagine taking a box and arranging 20 cups inside (say, 4 x 5). If you get a bigger box, you have options for bigger cups (which hold more than the smaller ones) or more cups of the original size. Either will hold more liquid than the original cups.

In so many tech areas, we think smaller is better. You’d rather carry a little camera than a giant one. However, when it comes to pixel size, larger pixels gather more light (just like those larger cups hold more liquid). Moreover, in electronics, components tend to interfere with each other (referred to as Signal to Noise — more signal, less noise is the goal). Cram too many, too small pixels into a space and you not only capture less information but you increase the noise from adjacent pixels. Therefore, larger pixels are better. Ironically, a specific camera’s pixel size may not be easy to find. (See www.snapsort.com and look closely at Specifications.)

Comparing two cameras that have the same image sensor, more pixels means smaller pixels, which probably means lower image quality. Ironically, that 12MP camera might be better than 20MP (at that point, compare other features).

Comparing two cameras that have the same resolution, say 12MP just for example, the one with the larger sensor will also have larger pixels and better image quality.

Point and shoot cameras include compacts, cellphones, and superzooms. (Point and shoot cameras have a fixed lens that can’t be replace.) The vast majority of point and shoot cameras use the smallest processor there is. They vary in how densely they pack small pixels.

It used to be you could call anything that wasn’t point-and-shoot a DSLR (digital single lens reflex). (DSLRs use interchangeable lenses.) Every camera that is not point and shoot uses a larger image processor than all point and shoots.

The only point and shoot exception I know of is the Fujifilm X-S1. It uses a sensor that is slightly larger than other point and shoots, but far smaller than any non-point-and-shoot.

Engadget Primed: Why your camera’s sensor size matters

What to look for and why

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Now you know what

Engadget Primed: Why your camera’s sensor size matters

Above, the smallest green box is the size of most point and shoot sensors (1/2.3). The slightly larger dark blue box (2/3) is the size of the Fujifilm sensor. It can convert more light into information with less noise. When you get out to the much larger Four Thirds and larger, you’re comparing DSLRs (and equivalents). 35mm is the gold standard of film and slides.

Large vs. Small Sensors — Pro’s and Con’s

More Effective Light Gathering
Imagine cramming millions of photo sensitive dots on a postage stamp size chip and you can appreciate that each of these must be microscopically small. Increase the surface area of the sensor by about 2.5x (to 24x36mm), and each pixel can be much larger; hence, it can capture more photons (light particles) in less time. That enables the sensor to provide greater signal purity: a stronger signal-to-noise ratio so less gain or amplification is required at high ISO levels. The resulting images are “cleaner”. They exhibit less digital noise, without obvious “graininess” or colorful speckles that can and less need for Noise Reduction processing that can obscure intricate detail.

When compared to the "typical" 1.8x23.6mm sensor used in many DSLRs, a full-frame 24x36mm chip is huge. While the difference may not be impressive at a glance, it's worth noting that the surface area of the full-frame sensor is roughly 2.5 times larger. Assuming the same number of pixels on each chip, you can assume that the size of each photodiode will also differ significantly.

When compared to the “typical” 1.8×23.6mm sensor used in many DSLRs, a full-frame 24x36mm chip is huge. While the difference may not be impressive at a glance, it’s worth noting that the surface area of the full-frame sensor is roughly 2.5 times larger. Assuming the same number of pixels on each chip, you can assume that the size of each photodiode will also differ significantly.

As a bonus, larger pixels also provide a wider dynamic (tonal) range: more detail in both the bright and the dark areas of a photo. That’s useful because it minimizes excessively bright highlights (blowout or clipping) and very dark shadows that can be entirely devoid of texture or detail. This can be important particularly in high contrast illumination when a scene includes both very light tones and very dark tones. For instance, imagine the interior of a cathedral, with light streaming in through a few stained glass windows but illuminating only a third of the interior. A sensor with a wider dynamic range will provide images with more visible detail in the entire scene.

Large vs. Small Sensors — Pro’s and Con’s

Note the following comparisons: Snapsort rates the HS50 higher than the X-S1, despite this difference.

Specifications – Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR vs Fujifilm X-S1

Pixel size Help 1.9 µm² vs 4.8 µm²

Specifications – Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR vs Fujifilm X-S1

Even the very popular SX50 has pixels less than half the size of the X-S1. (This is just one variable, albeit an important and obscure one.)

Specifications – Canon PowerShot SX50 HS vs Fujifilm X-S1

Pixel size Help 2.3 µm² vs 4.8 µm²

Specifications – Canon PowerShot SX50 HS vs Fujifilm X-S1

One more oddity: Consider two point and shoots that are as close to identical as possible except that one has the smaller sensor. If the lenses are identical, the smaller sensor & lens yield a much greater zoom than the larger sensor with the same lens. (A variable called crop factor is at play here. See the Y-axis of the first graphic.) That’s why the Fujifilm HS50 EXR has a 42x (1000mm) zoom while the nearly identical X-S1 is “only” 26x (624mm). The HS50 will get you closer but the image quality will likely be lower, especially in less-than-bright conditions, where more light gathering with less noise is of increasing value.

 Posted by at 6:33 pm
Mar 182014
 

The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS is the best camera I’ve had for shooting the full moon — assuming you want to do so with automatic settings.

This first shot is with the Canon near 20X. The color is pretty good.

IMG_4846

At maximum zoom (50X), the color is off but overall the exposure is acceptable and can be tweaked.

Canon moonshot

Using automatic settings, this is what the FujiFilm X-S1 shot. Many cameras set exposure based on the large amount of very black sky, overexposing the moon. I had similar experience with several Sonys. Why is the Canon automatic mode  so much smarter than others.

DSCF1165

I got better exposures from the Fuji using manual settings, but the focus was screwed up. These are difficult things to work out in the dark and cold in the brief time it takes the moon to clear the horizon. Practice beforehand.

This one was taken with the Sony HX1 using f/5.2 at 1/500 sec.

 full moon over Weminuche Wilderness

And this was the Sony HX100v using f/5.6 at 1/250 sec.

la bella luna

 Posted by at 3:47 pm
Mar 082014
 

In my experience, cameras often have trouble with brightly lit white and yellow subjects. In the photos below, I think the Fujifilm X-S1 handled the first instance better than most point & shoot cameras I’ve used. One can see details within the brightest areas, even in the cropped area (second photo in pair). The second pair is more typical of other cameras. If I hadn’t included the ragged edge, one might not know what part of the photo appears in the cropped version.

DSCF1058DSCF1058 (2)

DSCF1062DSCF1062 (2)

 Posted by at 1:00 pm