mjh

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

Jan 202014
 

Mailing list groups are tricky in Windows 8.1. In fact, so far, the Mail and People apps don’t allow you to create a group. Instead, you have to log into www.outlook.com, then choose People from the little drop down arrow next to the word Outlook.

access Outlook tools

outlook tools

In People (on the Web, not in the app), New has its own drop down arrow for Group.

Once you have a Group, you add existing contacts by name. (That is, you cannot create a new contact and assign it to a group in one step.) 

add members to new group 2

If you want to add a member to a group later, select the group, then select Edit. Add members one at a time.

edit group

Just as you can’t (yet) create Groups in the People app in Windows 8.1, you can’t use the group in the Mail app (perhaps this will change with an update this year), Again, the solution is to browse www.outlook.com. Start a new message and type the name of the group in the To box.

send email to group

If you spend a little time with outlook.com, you may find it preferable to the individual apps in Windows 8.1, although the latest Mail app actually has a few features lacking on the Web (pinning contacts, for example).

 Posted by at 3:51 pm
Jan 182014
 

I switched from gmail to Outlook.com about 6 months ago. I don’t miss gmail at all. (I do miss Google Calendar, which is better than Outlook’s.)

How to Import a Gmail Account in Outlook.com – Video

Microsoft has launched a new account importing wizard in December 2013 in an attempt to make it easier for users who want to migrate from Gmail to Outlook.com and rely solely on Redmond’s email platform.

In addition, the company has recently rolled out a video tutorial to assist users throughout the entire process, and thus provide more information on a process that’s supposed to significantly improve its user base.

How to Import a Gmail Account in Outlook.com – Video

 Posted by at 8:33 am
Jan 152014
 

Not available until after you receive the Windows Phone “Black” system update. Verizon customers, like me, are still waiting.

Organising your Lumia Start screen, with App Folder – Nokia Conversations

What is App Folder?

App Folder was created by Nokia to bring your Lumia even more personalisation, and enables you to group apps and settings together into a folder. That folder can then be pinned to your Lumia Start screen as a tile, or accessed via the apps list.

You can name your App Folders however you like, with the obvious choices like Photography, or Social Life. It’s a one-click gateway into all that’s important to you.

Organising your Lumia Start screen, with App Folder – Nokia Conversations

 Posted by at 8:00 am
Jan 142014
 

We’re getting closer to having a universal translator at hand. These two apps — one for any Windows 8 device, the other for Windows Phone — take input through the keyboard, through voice, and through a camera and translate input text into other languages of your choosing. Output can be onscreen or spoken by the device. Wow.

Translator | Windows Phone Apps+Games Store (United States)

Bing Translator is your companion when you need to overcome the language barrier. Use your camera, voice or keyboard to enter text you want to translate. Use Bing Translator on-the-go, even when you don’t have an Internet connection.

  • Text translation – Type and translate text into more than 40 languages.
  • Camera translation – Translate signs, menus, newspapers, or any printed text with your device’s camera in an instant.
  • Voice translation – Translate by speaking into your phone. Voice translation requires a network connection.
  • Text to speech – Hear translations spoken with a native speaker’s accent. Text to speech requires a network connection.
  • Offline translation – Translate when you are not connected to the Internet and when you want to avoid expensive data roaming charges, by using downloadable offline language packs.
  • Word of the Day – Improve your vocabulary by pinning the Translator to your Start screen.

Pin each mode to your Start screen and jump straight to translating in a single tap. Copy and paste or use your keyboard to quickly enter the text you want to translate. New in 2.8: – Redesigned offline packs UI – Faster and more accurate voice translation

Translator | Windows Phone Apps+Games Store (United States)

Bing Translator app for Windows in the Windows Store

Description

The Bing Translator App for Windows is your companion when you need to quickly translate what you are looking at. Use your camera or just type the text you want to translate. Text and camera translation work offline with downloadable language packs, so you can get the power of Bing Translator on-the-go, even when you don’t have an Internet connection.

Show more

Features

  • Text translation – Type and translate text into more than 40 languages.
  • Camera translation – Translate signs, menus, newspapers, or any printed text with your device’s camera in an instant.
  • Voice translation – Translate by just speaking the phrase. Voice translation requires a network connection.
  • Text to speech – Hear translations spoken with a native speaker’s accent.
  • • Offline translation – Translate when you are not connected to the Internet and when you want to avoid expensive data roaming charges by using downloadable offline language packs.
  • Translate from anywhere – Translate text from other Windows Store apps using the Share charm. Just select and share.
  • Multitask with Snap View – Translate quickly while doing other tasks by snapping Bing Translator to the right or left of your screen.
  • Word of the Day – Improve your vocabulary by pinning the Translator to your Start screen.
  • History – Saves your translations and lets you edit them.

Bing Translator app for Windows in the Windows Store

 Posted by at 4:26 pm
Jan 102014
 

Ed Tittel singles out 5 new small cheap Windows tablets. I have an older version of the Acer Iconia (actually intended for Windows 7) that has been mostly good; the newer W7 is likely better. Note that a device suitable “for business” could be a good device for any use.

Better Windows 8.1 Tablet Options for Business Use – Windows Enterprise Desktop

Of the current crop available — and there are possibly as many as a dozen already in the marketplace — these five have captured my particular attention:

Better Windows 8.1 Tablet Options for Business Use – Windows Enterprise Desktop

 Posted by at 6:23 pm
Jan 102014
 

First the good new: Some great updates are available. Follow the next link for details, including screenshots and availability. As for the bad news: This essential update is not yet available for Verizon customers and in the past we’ve gotten updates later than others. Finally, there may be another update in April. Hopefully, Verizon won’t wait until then to give us Lumia Black, then name of the most recent updates.

Nokia Lumia Black update begins rollout – Nokia Conversations

The Lumia Black update combines a host of new features, improvements in imaging, new apps and app updates from Microsoft and Nokia to make your Lumia smartphone experience even better. So what can you look forward to, once Lumia Black is installed?

Nokia Lumia Black update begins rollout – Nokia Conversations

The updates to Glance and Bluetooth should be very helpful. Likewise, App Folders, if they are easy enough to use. I’m especially looking forward to Beamer, which will make it easy to project *any* screen from your cellphone onto *any* Internet device. There is already a Photo Beamer (in the Phone Store) that is pretty cool.

PhotoBeamer | Windows Phone Apps+Games Store (United States)

PhotoBeamer is a new, innovative and easy way to show your pictures on any screen. Just point your Nokia Lumia at any screen displaying www.photobeamer.com and you can enjoy your photos anywhere with family and friends. It’s a mobile projector that’s available anytime, anywhere. Features Show your Nokia Lumia pictures on any screen supporting a current web browser – including desktop screens, projector screens and laptops.

PhotoBeamer | Windows Phone Apps+Games Store (United States)

 Posted by at 9:01 am
Jan 092014
 

Just got a Windows 8 PC? Here’s how you can update to Windows 8.1

For those of you who managed to get a new tablet or desktop computer, complete with the latest Windows 8.1 update, then you are all set and ready to go. However, for those of you who purchased a device that came pre-installed with Windows 8 only, have no fear. Here are a few suggestions to get you updated and running.

Just got a Windows 8 PC? Here’s how you can update to Windows 8.1

 Posted by at 11:53 am
Jan 092014
 

Xbox has been a huge success for Microsoft until Xbox One. If you’re considering it, read this review.

XBOX: Fail | Hal’s (Im)Perfect Vision

As I dig into this keep in mind that we aren’t talking about gaming here, I have yet to play a game on the Xbox One.

XBOX: Fail | Hal’s (Im)Perfect Vision

These issues are reminiscent of Vista and Windows 8 — missteps, at best. However, Microsoft will probably fix many of these issues. The overall trend of merging the interface across all devices — computer, game system, phone, and devices yet-unimagined — is probably a good one, if only for “branding.”

 Posted by at 11:47 am
Dec 302013
 

The Fujifilm Finepix HS50 EXR feels like a DSLR. It is much larger and heavier than other superzooms, though that may not matter to some users.

This camera has the fastest shutter of any camera I’ve used (I don’t use any DSLR). You point, you press the shutter, and the image is almost instantly captured. I think this feature sets the Fujifilm apart from all other superzooms and is its major strength.

One unusual feature is that the zoom is entirely manual. Just as with a DSLR or traditional film camera, you turn the barrel to move the zoom. Sony has a feature similar to this except that the zoom is powered, whether you use the lever or the barrel. The Fujifilm zoom is very smooth and absolutely quiet.

The lens is threaded for 58mm filters and the lens cap fits very securely. A sensor detects your face near the viewfinder (EVF) to automatically switch between the LCD and the EVF. This feature worked very well for me (Sony has this on some superzooms, as well). The EVF has the highest resolution of any point and shoot and is a real pleasure to use.

The image processor in the Fujifilm is slightly larger than other superzooms. I didn’t see any significant benefit, though in theory is should result in better images. See sample images comparing the Fujifilm to the Canon.

Two years ago, I tried a predecessor to this camera and returned it to Amazon. Almost all of my objections to that camera have been resolved in this camera. (See Why I’m Returning the Fujifilm HS10.)

In the past six months, I have used the Canon Powershot SX50 HS, the Sony CyberShot 200v, and the Fujifilm Finepix HS50 EXR, arguably the top 3 superzoom point and shoot cameras on the market at this moment. Each has its strengths and weakness, its fans and foes. None of the three is perfect. All three produce great images in bright light outdoors, making them excellent for landscapes and wildlife. My complaint that applies to all three is that the image quality doesn’t live up to the superzoom. You’ll get close, but you may not like what you see, especially as you crop.


 Posted by at 2:51 pm
Dec 232013
 

Sometimes, an app misbehaves. In many cases, ignoring the app for a while may help. Restarting may help. Windows 8.1 has a ‘trick’ for restarting an individual app: with finger or mouse, drag the top edge of the app toward the bottom. When the app screen shrinks, don’t let go. Wait for the shrunken app to flip to show the app icon (or splash screen), then drag back up to let the app expand again. If an app stumbles despite this, you may want to run the App Troubleshooter (below), which will check all of your apps.

Troubleshoot problems with an app – Microsoft Windows Help

In many cases, the Windows Store will automatically notify you if there’s a problem with an app and try to fix the problem. If you continue experiencing problems with an app, or if you’re unable to open the Store, try running the Apps troubleshooter. This tool can automatically identify and fix some problems with apps and the Store. It’s only available in English, but will work on PCs running any language.

If running the troubleshooter doesn’t help, here are some things you can try to fix the app yourself.

Troubleshoot problems with an app – Microsoft Windows Help

[hat tip to  Winaero]

 Posted by at 11:27 am
Dec 222013
 

Themes – Microsoft Windows

Themes

A theme is a combination of desktop background pictures, window colors, and sounds. You can preview each theme’s image collection by clicking Details. To get a theme, click Download, and then click Open. This saves the theme to your PC and puts it on your desktop. See Personalize your PC to learn more.

Themes – Microsoft Windows

Follow the link to some very lovely images that are freely available. Use themes to change the look of your desktop in Windows 7 and up. Windows 8.1 can use the desktop background on the Start screen as well, creating a consistency between the two screens that many people find appealing.

 Posted by at 1:00 pm
Dec 192013
 

I’m comparing two superzoom (aka ‘bridge’) cameras, high-end point and shoot cameras (each with a single fixed lens that zooms). The Canon has a 50x zoom (compares to 1200mm on 35mm cameras) and the Fuji has a 42x zoom (compares to 1000mm). I took a series of photos as similar as I could. Each is hand-held and using automatic settings. When I zoomed, I only used optical zoom, not digital. The first photo in each column is from the Cannon and the second from the Fujifilm. My intent was to compare the image quality of each, which you will notice includes some color and exposure differences that might be adjusted through camera settings or in post-processing. (If you want to see the original full-sized version of a photo, select it.)

IMG_4118 DSCF0461 wide

IMG_4119 DSCF0462 500mm

IMG_4120 DSCF0463 1200mm / 1000mm

xIMG_4118 cropped DSCF0461 cropped 

The two photos above are cropped from those first two photos. I often crop photos to emphasis a portion of the photo. The next two are cropped from the maximum zoom.

IMG_4120 cropped DSCF0463 cropped

The two images above may show my ultimate frustration with superzooms — they promise too much or their reach exceeds their grasp. I can zoom into a subject I can’t stand to look at later. (Ignoring color/exposure differences and just noting sharpness.)

But perhaps I am too ambitious. Perhaps it is unreasonable to expect a shot that spans 10 miles (and one mile vertically) to be crystal clear. Below are a comparable series in my sideyard.

IMG_4121 DSCF0465 wide

IMG_4122 DSCF0466 500mm

IMG_4123 DSCF0467 1200mm / 1000mm

Crops from above:

IMG_4123 cropped DSCF0467 cropped

Lastly, a series 10 feet across the patio.

IMG_4124 DSCF0468

IMG_4125 DSCF0469

IMG_4126 DSCF0470

Cropped from above:

IMG_4126 cropped  DSCF0470 cropped

I’m primarily a landscape and wildlife photographer. Where these cameras let me down most often is in photographing birds, a fast-moving, challenging subject. But if I can’t make out details (let alone accurate color), I can’t begin to identify a bird (which is hard enough under the best circumstances).

In this regard, the Fuji has one strong advantage over every superzoom I’ve ever used: it is fast. There virtually no lag between pressing the shutter release and taking the photo. (The Fuji uses phase detection instead of the more common contrast detection, technically speaking. It also has a slightly larger image processor than most superzooms, though far smaller than most DSLRs, the high-end cameras. On the other hand, if they made a 1200mm lens for a DSLR, I could neither afford it nor lift it.)

 Posted by at 6:47 pm
Dec 122013
 

More often than not, I access www.outlook.com through my browser, but I use Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone apps as necessary. Outlook mail is great. SkyDrive file storage is very good, especially for automatically replicating files across the 3 computers and one phone I use regularly. The People function isn’t quite as good as gmail Contacts, especially for groups, but it is OK. And Google Calendar is hands-down better than Outlook’s. I’m mostly google-free these days. Why? Primarily because I got tired of Google killing services like Reader and Picasa, but also the changes in gmail and the complicated failure of Google+.

Outlook Blog – Outlook.com makes it even easier to switch from Gmail

Today, we are announcing a new service that makes it easier than ever to import your Gmail account to Outlook.com. This will be rolling out to everyone over the coming weeks, so if you don’t have access to it yet, check back soon.

Outlook Blog – Outlook.com makes it even easier to switch from Gmail

 Posted by at 8:47 pm