Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

This evening's sunset: Three views

Why put a ball-head camera mount on a monopole?

So I can take shots like this one...

Or this one.......

From vantage points in places where a tripod wouldn't fit, but stability for the camera is still required, as in up against a railing on a balcony, or against a wall at the extreme end of a balcony, for differing perspectives of a familiar view. Or simply "just for the hell of it" because it's fun and it works, and if it works.......

And if you want a quality ball-head for your tripod, with really smooth panning
for those panorama shots you like to compose with Microsoft Research's 'I.C.E.'
then get yourself a Milano B-2, with adjustable drag control - it's as smooth as a baby's bum and it smells a lot nicer too. You should try it. You'll never leave home without it again! 

This is the Nikon Coolpix P510 on the Manfrotto Monopod, with the Manfrotto ball-head from the original Manfrotto Tripod on it, beside the box for the new Milano B-2 ball-head that is now on the Manfrotto Tripod. Confused? Me too!

 And here's what I can do with that camera-and-pole-and-ball-head setup: I can move the ball-head to a right-angle position with respect to the pole, set the camera's self-timer for a ten-second shutter delay, poke the whole thing out the
window far enough to get the building's wall out of the picture, and voila! So there was a method to this madness, and it works! You're now looking at the unobstructed view across parts of North Vancouver to Mount Seymour ( no relation to the ever-radiant Jane) on our eastern horizon.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Herberts' flower garden: from opposite directions today.

This has to be the nicest looking flower garden in town, and everyone loves it.
While I was taking the pictures this morning, a lovely young Iranian lady came over to me, to thank me for my wonderful garden, and I had to confess that it isn't mine - I'm just taking the pictures for Doug and Rae, the folks who do all the heavy lifting around here....

Forget Mazda - Here's the real 'Zoom-Zoom' ....

Here's the 'Zoom-Zoom' of Fujifilm's Finepix SL1000 at 50X Optical looking at a couple of parasailors over two miles away as the bird flies, and it got into the act too. That makes this one a "keeper".

While I was collecting my scattered wits this morning, and trying to get my various 80-year-old systems checked out and running again today, the city's noisy street-sweeping machine came by, making enough clatter to wake the dead, and I was thinking, "Why can't we have something quieter, like maybe a hundred Chinese with brooms, followed by another hundred Chinese with shovels, followed by 20 of those 'Hu Flung Dung' trucks to haul it all away?"
It would be an excellent Honorable Make Work Project and a hell of a lot quieter! And that's today's Question Everything, for those of you who wonder.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

To Bee or not to Bee.....

More Fuji SL1000 hand-held shots...

This camera opens up a whole new range of possibilities.....Wow!

My new Fujifilm Finepix SL1000 - first pix

The book says, "It takes 180 minutes to charge a new battery" and to this kid with his new toy, it was more like forever.... but it finally did charge up, and then the fun began.....

The battery didn't finish charging until after dark, and this camera is said to be good in low light conditions, so I thought "this is the perfect time to find out"...
So this is a shot of the Hollyburn Country Club on the side of the mountain in West Vancouver, a little over a mile away from here. The detail is quite good.
And then, I tried it on something closer to home....

This one, I'm quite pleased with.... there's not a lot of zoom involved, even though this camera has 50X optical, but for a night shot using a camera that I'm not yet familiar with, I think this is one hell of a fine shot!  This camera, they say, isn't really meant for the run of the mill hobbyists, nor for the true pros, but rather for those who are in between those two groups, and want to improve their skills. I think I made the right choice. I looked at a Canon with similar long zoom, but it's more expensive than this one, and doesn't have as big a sensor as this one - and judging from these first shots, I'd say this Fuji really kicks ass, and I'm quite impressed.

Last week, I gave the grandchildren a couple of my older cameras, and my son was all nervous and worried about me giving away all my toys. So Jay, if you're reading this, and I hope you do, you were worrying for nothing. Old Dad is far from out of toys..... 

Here's a hand-held (freehand) pre-dawn shot looking at the Morning Star, just to show how this does without a tripod in very low light conditions, and even though there's a tiny bit of blur from camera shake, this is one neat camera! I am going to love this little darling..... and now I see what a larger sensor can do for a camera's imaging. It makes a huge difference!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It's B-a-a-a-ck !!

I'm referring of course to factormystic.net and his world-wide "Where On Earth"
I.D. codes for localizing the Weather portion of this Heads Up Display (HUD) Gadget which you can get with all the others in 8gadgetpack, which puts more gadgets onto your Windows 8 Desktop than Windows 7 ever had.

Factormystic.net had a temporary interruption to his website a few days ago, but I'm pleased to see that he's up and running again, and all's well that ends well. If you're a Windows 7 user, you can go directly to his website and choose from the items listed under "Browse" in the upper left of the page.


Wait for it..........

There !  Gotcha !!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Microsoft says: "Compatibility Issues...." with Windows 8

Oldest Living Blogger here says: "Not exactly. Click on 'Run the program anyway' and it will install itself, look at your hard-drive, and test it for you just as if it couldn't read Microsoft's cautions."  Above are the results of its Short Drive Self Test, which it says the drive has passed OK.

Dear Mr. Microsoft: This program from Seagate is testing the integrity of the computer's hard drive - not your Wonderful Windows 8 - so you are erring on the side of caution no doubt, but your apprehension is misplaced. It works fine.

Are the British filiopietistic ?

Both USA Today and I are probably wondering, and genealogically speaking, my Atlanta cousin could very probably answer that question for us. Very likely in the affirmative, judging by all the fuss over yonder. That's depending of course on whether my cousin has taken any breaks from tracing our own family tree right back to the days of Ug and Mug, those intrepid cavemen of old. 

One day, as Ug and Mug were struggling with their dyspepsia following yet another semi-satisfactory lunch of barbecued dinosaur, Ug turned to Mug and said, "I don't know about you, Mug, but I'm getting awfully tired of insufficiently seasoned Deinonychus or Compsognathus, and I really think it would be a great idea if we built a raft, and just went fishing for a change."

The raft got caught in a huge storm at sea, drifted for days and days, and finally came to rest on a rocky shore beyond which were lush green fields, in which they spotted some really cute girls doing something called gardening - and that's how Ireland was discovered by the rest of the known universe, away back when men were men, and gals were naturally double-breasted. Faith & begorra, would I be lyin' to you?

A little of this and a little of that....

They say "Nothing's forever" and it's true. That was a favorite saying of a former boss of mine before I got pushed into early retirement 25 years ago, and it applied to him as well - he wasn't forever either! But I digress; the stuff that's not forever this week consists of a Canon flatbed scanner that died because its power supply, a poorly made (in China) AC Adapter stopped working. There was nothing wrong with the scanner, I'm sure, but without its power supply, there's no way to get it going. So I bought a new one - another Canon flatbed scanner -
because Canon and I go back a long time, and they make very good products.
Their latest flatbed scanners have solved the problem of the dying AC Adapters by changing the power source to your computer itself, which makes perfect sense to me, an old retired electrician. Now, there's only one cord to plug into the back of your new scanner - and it carries everything, the power supply included. Unpack the scanner, plug in the cord, put the installation disk into your DVD drive, install the programming, and in minutes, you're ready to use it.

Actually, I didn't go to the nearby office supplies store to get that scanner. I had really gone there for a new keyboard, to replace one that still worked fine, but had seen too many lunches and coffee breaks and snack times over its keys.  It was while getting a new keyboard that I discovered the new Canon flatbed scanners are even cheaper and better than the older ones were. This new one is almost twenty dollars cheaper than the one it replaces, and it has more features.

The same is true of keyboards. A lot of them are wireless now, but the nice young man at the store said there's two problems with the wireless ones: the need for new batteries, and if the transmitter/receiver unit is plugged into the rear of your computer's tower, as many are, then it may skip certain letters on the keyboard, because the signals are not reaching all of the required parts. So he says for the most reliable operation, you should still use a wired or USB type keyboard. And his store's own brand is only $16.86, requires no installation program, and comes right out of the box with 10 hot keys that work right now.
At a price like that, with those features, you can't afford to keep your dirty old keyboard another day, let's face it. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

A word about 8gadgetpack's gadget for Google Mail

Please note: The 8gadgetpack works like a charm and is more configurable than the original from Microsoft Windows. However, there's one problem that I found with it - the gadget for Google Mail, which I had been using earlier, and which has a nice sound to tell you when new mail arrives, does not always work as it should. Sometimes,  it will not install correctly, and will not be visible on your desktop, so you cannot install a second copy of it to get one working, because the second cannot be installed until you remove the first, and you may not be able to remove that first one, because you cannot see it on the desktop. 

So your only solution is to uninstall the whole program, and reinstall it from the beginning again. And that is not very nice. So I suggest you save yourself all of that trouble by not installing that Google Mail Gadget. There's something not quite right with it. The others all seem to work fine.

22 July 2013 Update:

This Gadget for Google Mail seems to work without problems in Windows 7.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Flowers today: Ours and the neighbor's

Some of ours...

And the neighbor's...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Improving your security a little....

As I was coming onto this website to start this entry about security on our own
PCs, I got a musical pop-up appearing over my Firefox browser (which usually stops these kinds of things from coming up) and it looked like this.....

And if you read the fine print it boldly confesses that it's got absolutely nothing to do with the real Google - it's just using that to grab your attention and lull you into a false sense of security, which you'd better not have! This is the very kind of shit we need protection from - and we need a special program that will track back to them and let them know how much we love that crap. But I digress..... back to the main topic: Making your PC a little safer, at least we hope so, and so here's a couple of screenshots as a kind of "How To"....

First of all, Go into Control Panel > System > Remote Settings, and remove any check mark in the box for "Allow Remote Assistance connections to this computer". If you've needed to make changes, click "Apply" and "OK" before closing that window.

Another thing you can do, unless you're not your own Administrator, and you're not on a corporate network requiring your computer to interconnect with others
at work, then you can go into Control Panel once again, to Administrative Tools,
select Computer Management > Services and Applications > Services, and there
scroll down to the four entries marked in the above. Select each by clicking on it, then right-click that highlighted entry to get access to the menu allowing you to click on its Properties window. In there, you can choose settings for its various ways of running, or not, and in there, select "Disable", or in other words "None of the above", so it doesn't run at all under any circumstances. These four items all relate to various remote connections that we can probably do very nicely without. So far, nothing horrible has happened to my computer as a result of disabling those four items. So it's your choice - but it's certainly worth some consideration if you're the nervous type, like I am. Because, the Wild, Wild Web
is usually anything but the way it seems to be these days, and there's far too many examples like the one on here that I opened this with, above. Speaking of which, what's it all about? It's offering you some gifts for answering some really idiotic little questions that almost anyone would answer "yes" for, just so everybody qualifies for one of those gifts. But to claim it, you'll have to give them some of your personal information, won't you? 

And that's the name of the whole ballgame, Kiddies - they're fishing or phishing or however you want to spell it, they're trying to con you out of your private information so they can use it somewhere else for something they aren't telling you about. And that really ought to make you suspicious enough that you will not take their bait, and instead, just quietly click the big red "X" in the upper right corner of that cute little window, and get the hell out of there fast!

And this is why the security problem worries me enough that I write about it.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

That Graph on the CPU Meter.....

Here's how it's supposed to look when I'm not using the computer:-

"And how did you fix it?" I hear you asking.  Simple: Re-installed Windows, for the umpteenth time.

"And why did you do that?", you ask. Because I got a couple of phone calls this morning from someone pretending to be with Microsoft, telling me that my computer was infected, and that only he could show me where to locate it and he would help me remove it. 

In other words, you don't know me, but if you give me control of your computer, then all will be well very soon. Yeah, sure - and another pig flew by overhead.
I should have hung up very quickly, but this guy bugged me, so I asked him why I'm the only one among millions that Microsoft cares for enough to watch my computer for me, and call me when it gets infected. And he said "That's what we're here for, and you are a valued customer, and we're only trying to help you the best we can." So I said, "In that case, I won't take up a lot of your valuable time - just give me the file name or names of the bad files and I will remove them myself and save you a lot of trouble." And he said, "It's no trouble for me, and you can't remove that malware by yourself - I have to be helping you or else it will just come back again with your next restart." So I said, "OK, but just do me a favor, and let me try it on my own first. Just tyell me the bad files, and I will write it down, and search for them, and remove them, and the
trouble will be fixed. So he gave me a couple of file names from within Windows 
system files, and I thanked him for his help, and promised to call him back if
I couldn't fix the problem. Then I hung up smartly. 

He was persistent. He called me back a second time, perhaps thinking I was ready to give in to his persuasiveness. I wasn't. I thanked him for calling, and said I would fix this problem myself, because I do not feel comfortable giving strangers access to my computer, and I would not agree to it. And after I hung up from that second call, I got thinking maybe it's a good idea to just put the old DVD in the drive and give Windows 8 another install, just to be on the safe side. And that's what happened this morning....

And if you get a call from someone saying they are with Microsoft and asking for your permission to take control of your computer, my suggestion is that you should hang up politely but quickly, and maybe if you can, you should do a search for a malicious backdoor trojan that runs in the background and allows remote access to a compromised system.... and without wasting too much time, re-install your Windows! As you can see by the considerable change in that graph on my CPU gadget, it can make a real difference. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Here's an enlargement of the CPU gadget on my desktop, and I'd really like to know why the two cores of the CPU are constantly cycling up and down from almost nothing up to nearly full scale and then down again every few seconds.
If anyone can explain this to me, I would certainly appreciate your comment.

And my next question should probably be directed to someone at Google, if I could figure out how to get behind their protective shields of gobbledegook....

If we look at the lower right area of this screenshot, where it mentions Google+
and the size of images that are free or not when posted, they say that anything
larger than 2048 by 2048 pixels uses your storage allowance, and anything less than that is free. The vast majority of my images are no larger than my monitor resolution's screenshots, which are 1680 by 1050, so my question is: Why is my allowance being used up by images that are supposedly too small to qualify as large enough to use up that storage allowance? How can something which is 1680 by 1050 pixels magically become bigger than 2048 by 2048? And why do
I have anything in Google+ if I've never personally joined that group?

I known there's no such thing as a "free lunch", but I've always disliked the old "bait & switch" routine, whereby we're led down the garden path with one nice little story, and then when we're behind the bushes, we get hit by another one that bears little or no resemblance to the first in size, shape, or consequences.
That's just plain dishonest, folks. There's no other name for it. Google started off by encouraging everyone to start a blog on Blogger - it's absolutely free! - and after we got used to babbling away on the web, they decide to create some
parameters governing the sizes of images or the amounts of storage individuals are allowed before and after certain fees for service are incurred. It's their ballgame, so they make the rules, but shouldn't those rules have been plainly posted on the fence before we entered the gate to play their game? Isn't imposing those rules after the fact rather deceitful, if not illegal? Are they not making enough money from their advertising revenues? And how did I get involved with Google+ in the first place? What the hell is it? If I've survived for 80 years already without it, then why the hell do I need it now? 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Just Learning, Folks - Just Learning....

Today, I've been shopping for a newer photo editing program, and settled on Corel's PaintShop Pro X5......

....and I'd better not tell you how long it took me to resize this 4000 by 3000 px image from the camera down to the right resolution for my monitor.... let's just say "I'm much older now! - a little wiser, and a whole lot older."

But compared to my old Arcsoft PhotoStudio (which the expert chewed up and spit out during his appraisal) this is like a whole other ballgame. And so far, the
other side's winning..... but I'm just beginning this game, so stay tuned. This baby's got features I never knew I needed until I started reading the directions.
They must be putting something different in the water down there in Ottawa these days compared to when I left there 45 years ago. The closest they came to computers back then was an IBM Selectric and a Burroughs Adding Machine.
How times have changed..... 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

ABC News: The Hovercraft Golf Cart...

You should watch the video...

I just received an email from Tom, and I think he's one-upped me today.... you should watch this video on his blog ... 

Windows 8 and 'Classic Shell'

Did I mention? If you're using Classic Shell it boots directly into your Desktop, and if you want the Start Screen's tiles, you have to use the keyboard shortcut you programmed while setting up its Preferences during the initial first run.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Patch Tuesday.....and my 2 PCs....

Yesterday was 'Patch Tuesday' and having two computers, each having two operating systems on them,  it's like updating four computers. Nothing unusual about that, really, unless something goes wrong....

On one computer, the Windows 7 system's Windows Update got part of the way through its processes and then suddenly gave me the red flag of failure. Having had that sort of thing happen before, I resisted the urge to hit it with a hammer.
Instead, I went into Command Prompt, with Admin privileges, and did the old 'sfc /scannow' trick. It reported that it couldn't find any integrity violations in the files. So then I went searching for solutions for error codes, and into Microsoft Support, and Knowledge Base Articles, and Troubleshooters, and their magical automatic diagnoses, and secret remedies. All of that took several attempts before final success, and I got that one's updates completed in just three hours and sixteen minutes from the time I began. No wonder I look old and tired and totally frazzle-assed today. It's because I am!

The Windows 7 operating system on that computer comes from the same DVD as the Windows 7 operating system on the other computer, which didn't have any problems downloading the updates and installing them. And while I was doing all that searching for answers in Microsoft Support, I got invited to complete a short survey for them. It was only with heroic restraint that I managed to tick the little box which asked "Did you find what you were looking for?" and I was rather disappointed that there wasn't a 'Comments' section below, where I could leave one or two pithy remarks about the nature of existence, the state of my tenuous magnanimity, and the deviosity of labyrinthine reference systems. Those folks at Microsoft know what they're doing, leaving off the Comments box... And maybe that also explains the lack of a 'Feedback' icon on my Desktop. But I wish.....

All these Apps: The Good, The Bad, & The Zombies

BBC News says two-thirds of Apple's Apps in its Apple Store are hardly-ever used. This article may get you wondering if that whole idea was such a big deal after all. If relatively few Apps are really popular and actually used, then why are there so many? 

Today's Question Everything is: "Was Microsoft wrong to follow Apple into the world of cute and colorful Apps?" Would a smaller selection of them be more useful and less confusing? How many Apps do you use regularly? Do we really need thousands? Where would we put them? The BBC says we ignore most.

I'm not a 'thumb-typer' and I don't use mobile equipment because I'm retired and mostly at home, but I do enjoy some Apps, especially those for the news.
One of my favorites is NBC News. Their 'Favorites' section with 'Top Slideshows'
is a nice feature, because a picture is worth a thousand words.

What's wrong with Apps? Many aren't adequately explained, well-enough defined, or take you where you didn't want or need to go. Which probably explains why the vast majority get very lonely among the unused ones. What seemed like a good idea at the time probably wasn't. The BBC has proof.

And now you'll have to excuse me while I check the App for USA Today. Theirs is another good one, with nice big pictures and a good selection of timely articles.
As you may have noticed, I often use a screenshot of it here in the blog - and I love the way Windows 8 can grab screenshots, even from a video you're watching, using the Windows Key + PrtScrn. That's a neat feature. See.......


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Windows Experience Index in Windows 8

This isn't great, but it's not all that bad, either.  Why not? Because this PC has a 64-bit Processor and 4 Gb of RAM (Random Access Memory) and Microsoft says in that case, the memory or RAM subscore for your PC will have a maximum of 5.9. This means that the overall base score will also be limited to 5.9. This applies to Windows 8 systems. 

So this isn't all that bad, especially in view of all the tweaking and add-ons I've included, and the fact that this rig is four years old. I should maybe also say that the hard-drive has been replaced once, and the original graphics card has been replaced by an ATI Radeon HD 5450 with 1 Gb of its own memory to improve the aero effects for Windows 7. So if we're  talking 3.7 out of 5.9 then
this is running at 62.71% of its possible maximum performance, which isn't bad at all.

Here is the Windows Experience Index for Windows 7 on this same PC, and the
explanatory notes with this also show the same remarks about the Processor and the RAM as above.  This PC is set up for dual booting, with Win-8 in the first or Boot partition, and Win-7 in the second partition. The Master Boot Record is therefore controlled by Windows 8.

Speaking of booting, above is the boot time for Win-7 on here this morning, and it doesn't get a whole bunch better than that. And before I go, a little reminder - Glary Utilities released a new updated version on July 4th, so check yours.

And this is the boot time for the Win-8 on here today. Not quite as fast as Win-7 but it has more add-ons and a large 'Windows.old' section from a previous O/S.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Another security program: Malware Destroyer

This one is from Emco Software, the same good people who brought us that very useful MoveOnBoot. This isn't fancy, but it is a very nice no-nonsense program which works quickly to search for the latest malware. With this and MoveOnBoot, you should be able to find and remove whatever got past your other protection. You can find it here on Emco's website.

The Lock Screen image in my re-installed Windows 8.0

I can't copy this using the excellent Windows Key + PrtScrn method, because of course that only works once you're logged in and actually into the program, so I had to use the camera, and got some glare along the left side - so it's not perfect but it's still not bad.  It's a view of downtown Tokyo from a viewing area in one of their famous towers, the Mori Tower. It looks splendid, doesn't it?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Return to Windows 8 - Accept no substitutes!

There's nothing I could do with Windows 8.1 Pro Preview that I can't do right in Windows 8, and as I've said before in previous postings here, you can tweak this with third-party programs which restore the sidebar and its gadgets - with even more gadgets than came in Windows 7 - and you can restore the Start button and its Start Menu with better-looking graphics than are now provided in
Windows 8.1 Pro Preview.  

So, for the time being, until something more earth-shaking happens with that Windows 8.1 effort, you may as well stay with Windows 8 The Elder, because the younger one isn't ready for prime time yet. And it still doesn't make it really
easy for those of us on desktops (still the vast majority!) to navigate the labyrinth. So if the main object of the exercise was to make it easy for us desktoppers to click or tap our way through it, I frankly didn't notice that much improvement. I can get as good or better results by applying the freebie tweaks available with programs like Classic Shell or perhaps Start Menu Reviver. The former of those being my choice, but the other works well also. And as you see,
there's no problem running your favorite desktop gadgets on here. 

So you don't need to wait for Microsoft to "fix" Windows 8 for you. In the first place, it ain't broke, and in the second place, you can do it yourself in less than an hour, and you can have fun doing it. Think of it as a learning experience.
These gadgets? Get the 8gadgetpack and live a little! You'll end up with more than you'd get in the factory-equipment version of either Win-8 or Win-8.1 and it all works just like it was there all along. 

Microsoft shows us this......and I say:-

Do yourself a favor - wait for the fully-baked one! Why? Because this one does not let you install your own choice of a top-ten-rated antivirus program, and it also refuses to let you install a few other programs you may want to include in it. And about that much-discussed Start Button/Menu: It's there, yes, but it looks rather amateurish, it's very plain, and there are at least two third-party programs freely available on the web which do it much better and look more professional while doing so. Classic Shell is my choice because it does it best and gives you three choices of styles of Start Menu, ranging from XP to Win-7,
and all of them look a hell of a lot nicer than the one you'll find in the Windows 8.1 Pro Preview. 

If you've been reading previous posts on here, then you already know that there are other customizations you can apply to Windows 8 or 8.1 which will restore those much-loved desktop gadgets, so I won't rant about that just now. In fact,
I'm about done ranting for the moment, because I've just re-installed Win-8 onto the partition formerly occupied by the Win-8.1 Preview, and I have to get
back to supervising its updating process to bring it up to date again from the DVD, and then once again put back all my favorite programs and tweaks and customizations. Color me disappointed, Folks - I had much higher expectations of Mighty Microsoft than this Win-8.1 Pro Preview.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Restoring the Start button to Win-8

I wrote about this previously, showing the Classic Shell changes on the Desktop, but here's the description of what it can do for you....

(Click to enlarge)

This also works very well in Windows 8.1 Pro Preview, and I'm using it there.