Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Which Photofinisher Is Best?

It's a pretty silly question - the obvious answer is "It depends."  But that didn't keep the New York Times from taking it on in the Travel Section last September.

Stephanie Rosenbloom wrote the article and led off with this comparison photo:

Her winner was the photo on the right, described as "sharper and truer to life."  Note my arrows on the left.  They point to the detail in the shadows which the finisher on the right threw away!  You will have to go the original article to see that the photo on the right also discards considerable highlight detail - look at the divided light windows, for instance.

So, we know the article is written by someone without photographic expertise - shadow detail is the first place a photographer would look.

But let's consider where the real variation in photo printing takes place.  It's at the printer where the ink meets the paper.  Proper calibration of the printer is essential to good printing.

I have two Walgreen's close to my house.  How my photos will look varies greatly between the two and sometimes, even from day to day.

Here is an example I recently printed at both stores.

If you didn't see the shadow on the tee box, you would think the first picture was taken on a cloudy day.

Good luck getting your prints to come out "correct."  Only a professional operation with a standard color chart and personal control of the printer is going to have consistent reproducible results.  Consider each printing exercise to be an experiment.  For a large group of prints, I will send one or two to my favorite printer and go get them to see how the printer is running at the moment.  Then I send the whole batch.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My ESC Key Quit Working!

I recently acquired a new Dell Inspiron laptop and began the usual tricky process of getting all my software moved from my older laptop onto the new one.

It wasn't too long before I was working on an Excel spreadsheet and entered a few letters into an incorrect cell.  I paused and hit the ESC key.  Nothing happened.  WTF!  I had the same problem with my Adobe Photoshop Organizer the previous evening when it wouldn't exit from "full-screen" mode as I pressed the ESC key.

What is going on?  Has Dell done something sinister?  I searched the Internet.  And searched some more over the next couple of days.  Of course, I mostly turned up stories of how bad the customer support is at lots of companies.  Finally, I turned up the source of the problem here.  Yes, it's Adobe again.

When I closed Adobe Photoshop Elements 9, the ESC key began working again.  Sorry to have doubted you, Dell.  I should known to always suspect Adobe first.  And this time, they didn't just sabotage other folks software, they sabotaged their own, Organizer.

But wait!  I have this same exact software installed on my previous computer, also running Windows 7.  Why is it only causing a problem on this one?  That's why I became suspicious  of the hardware.  Thinking back, I realized that I had installed Photoshop before installing Office on this computer.  Perhaps that causes the problem.  Well, I'm not going to do all of Adobe's trouble-shooting for them.

Now this problem has been around since at least 2007, Microsoft Vista and a wide variety of Photoshop products.  So you would think that Googling "Adobe Photoshop ESC key" might produce some kind of humble apology statement and maybe even a fix for it.  You would be wrong.  All you are going to find is the usual, "it's surely not our fault" response that Adobe in known for. This led jayp2007, back in 2009, to post this comment on the Adobe support bulletin board:

Have you even read this post and the issue it's regarding? People with both 32-bit and 64-bit are having the problem where their escape key doesn't work anywhere else in the O.S. when Photoshop is running. And people with both Photoshop CS3 and CS4 are having the problem. And of course it was first reported nearly 2 years ago... Not that this apparently matters to anyone at Adobe.

Nice observation, Jay P! 

And why don't I update to a newer version of photoshop?  Well, I am waiting for their support attitude to change.  Until then, I will live with the problems I know instead of spending more money with them to buy problems that I don't know.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

McAfee and Thunderbird - Don't Bother Trying to Mix These

You'd be better off mixing ammonia and bleach in a small room than trying to get McAfee antivirus to work with Thunderbird e-mail.  But, at least, the household chemical companies put warning labels on the containers.

Setting Up a Replacement Computer

I just purchased a new Dell laptop to gain a larger disk drive and more memory.  These were starting to become issues on my previous Dell laptop.

I stuck with Windows 7, of course, even though ZDnet finally pronounced Windows 8 usable about ten months ago.

After getting the computer booted up, I installed my Internet connection and the three web browsers, IE (just because I might need it), Chrome (because it really is fast - especially with Paul Kimpel's Burroughs 205 emulator) and Firefox (because I am used to it.)  This also helps me deal with reading more than 10 NYT articles in a month.  I have one correspondent who frequently sends me links to the NYT.

The Anti-Virus Program

I like to describe both Norton and McAfee products as computer viruses.  They sneak onto your new computer in a deceptive manner (by claiming to prevent problems and being planted there by hardware vendors) and cause performance problems or program failures.  Nevertheless, when McAfee caught me browsing the Internet without "real-time protection," I decided to give it another chance.  I gave it the go-ahead to save me from the evils that lurk beyond my firewall.

Next up was my e-mail.  I use Thunderbird and have for many, many years.  I have been very happy with the product.  I would say totally satisfied except that they inserted this bug into the software last fall and still have not fixed it (but there is a workaround.)  I downloaded Thunderbird and then moved my profile with 9 gigabytes of old messages onto the new computer.  Getting my e-mail vendor passwords updated is another irritant with Thunderbird but I got through that too.

Then, I sent myself a message.  Thunderbird hung - and hung for over five minutes!  It finally came back to life.  Just a one-time issue, I thought.  Perhaps some kind of initiation ritual.

Later, I heard the "you've got mail" ding.  I checked Thunderbird.  Dead - or at least comatose.  I fired up the task manager.  McAfee has a process taking 25% of the system processor resources.  So, I must really have a four-processor system!  A CPU-intensive task now only takes 25% of the system instead of 50% or 100% - ah, sweet progress.  But that McAfee task has effectively stopped Thunderbird while letting everything else run.

The problem is McAfee - as usual

So, I Googled "Thunderbird McAfee slow".  O, yeah - big time issue.  Has been for years.   And, as usual, neither party wants to deal with it.  And people that bring it up in support forums get slapped around for not providing enough information.  That and forum-joining requirements is why I just bitch about it on my blog instead of trying to get someone to fix it.

Diagnosing the problem is not hard.  I have lots of messages in my Inbox.  Over 7000 marked as unread on my laptop, over 30,000 on the desktop.  Yes, I can find the e-mail that you sent me in 2004.  To go back beyond that I have to leave the inbox.  This is why I use Thunderbird.  It searches well and sorts all of those messages by "From" or "Subject" almost instantly. 

Diagnosing the Problem for Them

Pretty clearly, McAfee's "real time protection" is wasting a lot of time looking through either the whole Inbox or the Unread messages in the box.  When I have some spare time, I will figure out which it is and update this post. 

Short-Term and Long-Term Fix for the Problem

Meanwhile, I shall eliminate McAfee's real-time function.

No wonder people keep abandoning Microsoft and going to Apple.