Man oh man! Now it’s SquareSpace 7

Regular readers will know I have been dithering this way and that about upgrading my site from SquareSpace 5 to SquareSpace 6. In the two years since SquareSpace 6 was released I have not done it.

Now SquareSpace have released SquareSpace 7.

The writing is on the wall. Sooner or later, and it looks more like sooner, I am going to have to upgrade from SquareSpace 5.

The two biggest concerns are:

  1. I will lose all my ‘tight’ formatting—the careful way I have positioned pictures and the way the text flows around them. After upgrading to SquareSpace 6 or 7 my text might say “See picture at right” but because the pictures and text were re-aligned by the upgrade the picture is no longer “at right”.
  2. I will not be able to compose my postings off-line and then, when I have them ready, upload them and post them. Many of my posts are crafted over a couple of days using Microsoft’s Live Writer and then when I have them ready I upload them. With Live Writer I can see exactly how they are going to appear when posted.

There are some upsides to SquareSpace 6/7 that I like.

  1. It manages pictures better. I would not need to post the hi-resolution versions of pictures over at SmugMug and link to them. They could reside right here in SquareSpace and would only need to be uploaded once. I might even be able to close the SmugMug account and save some money.
  2. Pictures and text are automatically re-sized and re-aligned by SquareSpace for people using smaller display devices such as tablets and smartphones to provide optimum viewing on the device being used.
  3. Better integration to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. Not that I need or use this but it might be useful.

So I might have to add a task to my list of jobs to do. After I have finished cleaning out my study, sorted out my technology (including upgrading my main PC to Windows 8.1 and re-building/re-configuring my QNAP server), gone through all my old slides and worked out which ones to scan, then I should probably move the Abalook site over to SquareSpace 6/7.

So much to do. So little time.

BarryMark

The 4K TV push is about to crank up

With the market for large 1080p HD TVs basically saturated, manufacturers and retailers have been trying for the last two to three years to find the ‘next big thing’ that will get people to go out and buy new TVs like they were eight to ten years ago.

They have tried 3D TVs. This basically had zero impact. Nobody cares much for the idea of 3D movies in the first place, and even less for 3D TVs in the home where you have to sit within a 15 degree angle in front of the TV within 2.5 to 3.5 the width of the TV back from the TV and wear glasses of some kind. Hmmmm.

Then they tried the various ‘smart’ TVs. A smart TV is basically a TV with an operating system built in; usually Andriod.

Then they tried TVs that can connect to your in-house data network, either via cable connect or WiFi.

Then they tried combinations and variations of all three.

But nothing really moved the needle. What they want are big sales akin to the move from 576i CRT TVs to 1080p LCD/Plasma TVs.

So now they are about to focus on their Ace card—the 2160p UHD (Ultra-high definition) 4K TV. A 4K TV has four times the pixel density of a 1080p HD TV.

UDHTVLet’s just take a look at this 4K thing. What does the 4K mean? It basically means that there are supposed to be about 4,000 or 4K columns of pixels. On a true 4K screen the x,y pixel counts are 4,096 x 2,160. But this is actually a true 4K 16:10 computer monitor. This is NOT what you get in a 4K TV screen. Firstly TV screens are 16:9 and not 16:10. Secondly the TV industry decided to simply double the current 1,920 pixel columns from the 1080p HD screen and get 3,840 pixel columns. So a 4K TV screen is actually more like 3.9375K.

Based on this line of thinking then the current 1080p HD TV (which has 1,920 pixel columns) is a 2K TV and the original 720p HD TV (which has 1,368 pixel columns) would be a 1.3K TV.

Now I have no doubt that a 4K TV showing 4K media input is amazing.

The problem? Apart from demonstration input there is no 4K media input. None. Zip. Zero.

Even worse, at this stage about 90 percent of all free-to-air and ‘cable’ TV is not even 1080p; it is 720p or lower and your TV has to ‘up-scale’ it to 1080p—which in many cases actually makes it look slightly fuzzier than if you watched it on an actual 720p TV.

Also, depending which Web site numbers you elect to believe, only about 15 to 30 percent of Blu-ray movies are 1080p. The other 70 to 85 percent are 720p (or lower). So even if you play Blu-ray the odds are that either the TV or the Blu-ray player is still probably having to up-scale from 720p to 1080p.

On the upside most movies shot on 35mm film could be re-digitised to a more-or-less genuine 4K, but that does involve studios paying for this to be done and then transferred to Blu-ray. This costs 100s of thousands of dollars per movie to do and takes time to post-process. Then we will have a whole new slew of Blu-ray disks coming out tagged as 4K and we will have to buy our disks again for the movies we love.

In order for TV stations to broadcast anything ‘live’ in 4K they are going to have to buy new 4K cameras. So while most live sports broadcasts are currently in 1080p all their video cameras will need replacing with 4K units before they can start broadcasting sports or the morning news in 4K.

For those into downloading or streaming, once real 4K media starts to turn up—as opposed to 1080p media up-scaled to 4K—for the same quality compression the file size going to be about 4 times the size. So an episode of Game of Thrones with good quality compression will go from about 1.2GB to around 4GB. Also we know that Season 5 of Game of Thrones is going to be shot in 4K although sadly seasons 1 through 4 were only shot in 2,880 x 1,620, which in the “K” notation would be maybe 3K.

From what I can find on the Web there is no TV series currently being shot in 4K, although, as is the case for the movies, the older TV series that were shot on 35mm film could—in theory—be digitised to 4K standard.

So? To buy 4K or not?

I think the marketing of 4K TVs is going to be a lot more successful than for 3D and smart TVs. Manufacturers and retailers are desperate to sell big numbers of TVs again. People do like crisper more vibrant TVs.

The almost complete lack of actual 4K media is an issue, but the vast bulk of people will not understand or realise this, and this will work in favour of the manufacturers and retailers. And you can be sure the demonstration 4K media that they will have in the stores will look frigging awesome.

There are some 4K demonstration videos available from YouTube. You can have a look at one here although without an actual 4K TV you will not really see anything different. True 4K (4,096 x 2,160) has been available to computer users for a couple of years so if you have such a computer screen and card capable of this you could watch this YouTube demo in 4K.

Unlike with 1080p I don’t think the TV stations and media creators are going to get into creating 4K media until after they see how 4K sales go to see if the demand is really there. So it is going to be a lot more chicken-and-egg than the change over to 1080p was where the TV stations were marketing HD ahead of TV sales.

Another consideration these days is that a significant percentage of TV and movies are viewed on ‘portable’ devices such as tablets, mobile phones, and other computers. This media—from downloads or streaming services—is typically highly-compressed 1K video. If people are happy with this then there is totally no reason to even consider 4K.

I certainly won’t be rushing to upgrade to 4K. Maybe in five years if it takes off and 4K media does start to appear. Maybe.

BarryMark

Windows 9 … Errr, make that Windows 10

So it seems that Microsoft is going to name the next release of Windows as Windows 10, skipping right over Windows 9. Not too sure of the logic of going from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 but I am sure the marketing people at Microsoft will have a good story to tell.

Win10

Apart from all the technology improvements under the covers, Windows 10 will have a re-worked user interface that further improves on the Start/Task bar that was brought back with Windows 8.1.

I am sure we will find out a lot more about Windows 10 as we move towards the release which is planned for around mid-next year.

BarryMark

The two biggest issues with Chrome

According to the latest statistics Google’s Chrome browser is now used more than any other browser, including all versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

This is pretty amazing when you consider that, by and large, all corporates users use Internet Explorer almost exclusively. This is mainly due to the ability of IT departments to manage and control the usage of Internet Explorer in a managed corporate environment.

If you look at the numbers without the corporate users included then Chrome is far and away the most used browser with an estimated 60 percent of users using it. The next nearest is FireFox with 24 percent.

Amazingly, Apple’s Safari browser is down to just 3.7 percent even though it is pre-installed on all Apple computers.

I have two problems with Chrome.

The first is that, unlike almost every other application that you will use on Windows, Chrome does not use the inbuilt Windows font smoothing and aliasing technology. I have no idea why the developers of Chrome do this. This means when you use it on Windows the font rendering in Chrome looks kind of thinner and more grey.

Following is an example. The first clip is from Chrome. The second is from Internet Explorer.

FacebookRendering

IERendering

It might be a little subtle to people not tuned into looking at fonts, but notice how the text in the Chrome clip tends more to grey and is thinner (less solid) than the text in the second clip from Internet Explorer?

The second thing that bugs me is the you cannot set Chrome so that when you open a link in a new tab the new tab is opened in the foreground. So if you right-click a link and select “Open link in new tab” the new tab goes to the background. Ditto if you Ctrl+Click a link. It opens in the background.

Other browsers such as Internet Explorer, Opera, and FireFox allow you to set them such that when you open in a new tab the tab opens in the foreground.

Before all the Chrome users jump on an tell me that if I do Shift+Ctrl+Click then the link will open in the foreground, I already know that. But I want to set Chrome such that any link I open in a new tab comes to the foreground.

BarryMark

Converted notebook drive to SSD: Upsides and downsides

Yesterday I upgraded the hard disk in my notebook PC to an SSD (solid state drive). While they are still a little expensive I was able to pick up a SanDisk Extreme II 240GB SSD for $149.

This was a good time to change over drives in my notebook as I was planning to rebuilt it to run exclusively with Windows 8.1. Before this upgrade it was dual booting between Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

The primary advantage of changing over from a traditional spindle hard disk to a solid state hard disk for your desktop or notebook PC is the speed of the disk. Depending on the actual SSD you go with and the interface you can expect a useful data access speed improvement of between 3 to 5 times. For someone like me working with Photoshop and large 22+MB picture files this speed improvement should be useful. However if all you do is surf the Web and maybe work with the occasional Word or Excel file then this data access speed improvement to your disk is not going to be a great deal of benefit—except possibly when booting up and shutting down (or copying large files).

In the case of notebook PCs there is a secondary upside to changing over from a spinning hard disk to a solid state ‘disk’. SSDs use less power. Again, depending on the SSD and what you use your PC for, and which reviews you read, you might get anything between 10 to 40 percent more battery life after converting over.

With Windows 8.1 the actual installation and loading of the operating system onto the SSD went without issues. For my Toshiba Tecra A11 all the devices drivers were found.

The worst part of the change-over was waiting for all the Windows 8 updates and then the Windows 8.1 upgrade itself to download and install—because initially you load the PC with Windows 8 (which nobody in their right mind would use on a non-touch notebook or desktop PC). These two sets of updates took the better part of five hours to complete.

So now I have Windows 8.1 Pro installed on my Tecra A11 running from the SanDisk Extreme II 240GB SSD.

One small other upside to using an SSD is that there is no disk usage noise. So now, unless the cooling fan starts up, which does not happen much on the A11, the PC runs in complete silence—except for my tapping on the keys.

Photoshop launches significantly faster now. My timings (to the nearest 0.5 of a second) for launching Photoshop with the spindle hard disk averaged 6 seconds after a boot-up (to ensure nothing was cached). With the SSD the average launch time in three tries was 2.5 seconds; less than half the time.

Another big plus is the ‘smart object’ switch time between Lightroom and Photoshop. With Photoshop pre-launched the smart object switch time into Photoshop was 5 seconds but now is 2.5. My assumption here is that ‘smart objects’ must get written to disk and then read from disk; both of which happen much faster with the SSD.  The same kind of speed improvement is evident when taking the ‘smart object’ back to Lightroom, but I didn’t have any pre-SSD timings for this to compare.

So, you might be asking, what are the downsides?

At this stage I have only found one downside, and it is probably not directly attributable to the SSD. But I am unable to install Microsoft Live Writer. I am actually keying this posting on my desktop PC via remote access from my notebook. I am not sure what is going on here because I had Live Writer installed okay on the dual boot Windows 8.1, but the difference might be that I installed Live Writer when it was Windows 8 before the 8.1 upgrade.

I am only hoping that I work out some way to get Live Writer installed without having to go back to starting again and putting it on before I upgrade the initial Windows 8 install to 8.1.

The $149 investment in the SanDisk Extreme II is looking like a good one that will give my notebook at least a couple more years life.

BarryMark

Windows 8.1 Update 1

When Windows 8 initially came out—which was back in August 2012—I gave it a try. I installed Windows 8 on my Toshiba A11 Intel i7 notebook. I even bought three license packs for Windows 8, assuming at the time that I would be upgrading all my computers to Windows 8.

But like about 90 percent of everyone you talk to, I didn’t like it. Didn’t like that it booted into the new ‘Metro’ or Modern (I think they are calling it now) tiled interface. Didn’t like that using the mouse interface sucked big time. Didn’t like that you could not launch applications from the what was now called the ‘Desktop’ view. Didn’t like where Microsoft had hidden all the controls and settings that I needed to use.

After about three months I re-installed Windows 7 on the A11. Which is pity, because behind the scenes there is a lot of great new technology in Windows 8. But because of the way Microsoft have forced people to use it nobody is really going to like it on their ‘main’ computers. It might be okay on a tablet, but when it comes to Windows users that is by far the minority of users.

My main workhorse computer on my desk is running 32-bit Windows 7. I have never got around to making the move to 64-bit Windows 7 on that machine. I assumed at the time I would be moving it over to 64-bit Windows 8, but after I experienced Windows 8 on the Toshiba that never happened.

Well since Windows 8 first came out there has been a ‘dot’ release update taking it to 8.1. And now, in the next few weeks Microsoft will be releasing what the press is calling Windows 8.1 Update 1; but we are not sure what Microsoft will call it when they make it available.

By most reports Update 1 makes a number of badly required changes so that Windows 8 does not rely so much on a touch interface. If you boot Windows 8.1 Update 1 on a computer that does not have a touch screen then it boots to the ‘Desktop’ and not the Modern interface.

Maybe with Update 1, which should be released sometime in mid- to late- April, I will give Windows 8 a second chance on the A11.

BarryMark

Windows 9 due in April next year (2015)

Microsoft have let their close sources in on a somewhat big-ish secret. That Windows 9 will be released a full year ahead of the normal schedule and instead of coming out in late 2016 will now be released in the first half of next year—most likely around April.

Windows9April2015Now Microsoft did not say this (as far as I know), but I think I know why Windows 9 has been brought forward by over a year. At least one of the reasons anyway. By and large the big corporates are not liking Windows 8 as a corporate operating system. And the changes put in by the recent 8.1 upgrade did not improve things very much. Corporates account for over half of the income from Windows license sales.

So, if you are Microsoft, what do you do?

You could address all the issues that corporates have with Windows 8 and produce a Windows 9, and then release it as soon as you can get it ready; let’s say in the first half of next year. The, maybe, if they like it, corporates will start to plan to adopt Windows 9 after Windows 7.

Even if this is not the primary reason Microsoft are bringing Windows 9 forward I am sure it is a contributing factor. They do not want Windows 7 to become another Windows XP. Windows XP was released late in 2001 and it is still installed on a third of computers in use; and over half of these are in corporate environments. Microsoft have tried to force corporates to upgrade to Windows 7 by dropping all support and maintenance for Windows XP in April this year. Even so, many corporates are going to take the gamble and continue to use Windows XP.

So what do we know about Windows 9?

Well we don’t know anything really, for sure; but one assumption is that Microsoft will bring back a fully functional Start Menu. Not to be confused with the completely useless Start button plugged into the Windows 8.1 upgrade. If someone tries to tell you that the Windows 8.1 upgrade has the Start Menu … don’t believe them. It has a Start button but all it does is swap you back to the Metro touch interface. It does what tapping the Windows key does. Not really what was expected.

BarryMark

Titbit: Beware of the CryptoLocker Virus

There is a nasty Windows virus doing the rounds. It is generally referred to as the CryptoLocker virus and it is a category of virus or malware known as Ransomware.

It comes in as part of an e-mail that appears to be from a valid source and it is generally disguised as a ZIP file or a PDF, but it is actually a cloaked executable. Once you click on it the executable begins to run and starts encrypting all your files, including files on mapped drives and any connected USB devices.

Then you are told that you can get your now useless files decrypted only if you send money.

CryptoLocker

If you don’t send money within the specified time, typically about 72 hours, then the decryption key is destroyed and your files can never be decrypted. So unless you have off-line backups of your files then you either pay the money or do without them.

There is more information on Wikipedia here.

You could also do a Google search for CryptoLocker to find out more.

Be careful what you click on in e-mails that your receive.

BarryMark

Eight reasons you might want to consider Windows 8

It is over a year now since Windows 8 was formally released on the 1st of August, 2012 (although general availability was more like mid-October). If you have not already upgraded to Windows 8 then following are eight reasons to factor in the next time you are considering it.

But remember, Windows 8 has a very different interface to Windows 7, so you also need to consider the learning curve for using the new touch-first interface. Windows 8 doesn’t require a touch screen to use it but using it without a touch-screen interface will mean you will need to learn a few hot-keys in order to get around.

‘New’ Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer in Windows 8 has undergone a number of significant upgrades and performance enhancements.

It has the new ribbon user interface that should make a lot of things easier to find, especially for non-technical users of Windows.

Win8Explorer

The new Windows Explorer will mount ISO and VHD optical media images without the need to download and install other software. You can then access them just like normal file structures.

Faster File Copying

File Copy and File Move have been basically re-written in Windows 8.

If you do a lot of file copying, such as copying bulk files from SD cards to disk, or disk to network, then Windows 8 might be for you. File copying with Windows 8 is not only faster it is more reliable.

File History

This feature is not enabled by default. To use it you need to enable it, but this feature will automatically keep previous versions of documents that can then be accessed using the new feature called File History.

Seriously Fast Boot-up

Forget the average one minute (plus) boot up that you expect with Windows 7. On the slowest of supported PC configurations Windows 8 boots up in about 8 seconds. On my Surface Pro and the Sony Touch-screen Vaio we have it boots up in about 3 to 5 seconds.

You no sooner turn the PC on and Windows 8 is asking for your login credentials.

All the New ‘Free’ Apps

Windows 8 has the new ‘Metro’ or RT component that is sort of like, but really nothing like, an Android or iOS overlay on Windows. From this ‘Metro’ overlay you can access the new Microsoft Store which currently contains 100,000+ apps—many of which are free.

More apps are being added to the Microsoft Store weekly.

It is obviously impossible to show 100,000 apps here, but to give you some idea following is a random screen of apps on the Top 100 All Stars list.

Win8Apps

Windows 8 is more secure ‘out of the box’

As you would probably expect of a new operating system, Windows 8 has numerous new security and protection mechanisms built in that Windows 7 does not have.

Windows Defender now includes integrated anti-virus protection on top of the previous anti-malware filters, and the SmartScreen malicious download protection code is now in the operating system (whereas on Windows 7 it is only in the Internet Explorer browser).

Storage Spaces

Storage Spaces are new in Windows 8. In order to create a Storage Space you first set up a ‘pool’ of storage from various locations accessible to the PC. So a pool could be set up from internal hard disks and USB-connected external hard disks. Then, using this combined storage you can allocate virtual storage spaces and each of these storage spaces can be configured slightly differently depending on how you want to use them.

Storage Spaces support “thin provisioning” which mean you can allocate storage spaces larger than the currently available disk space. The extra space will only be required to be provided as the available physical disk space runs low.

A single Storage Space can be 63TB in size.

So why would you bother with Storage Spaces? Well Storage Spaces provide a trick that I have not mentioned. Storage Spaces can be configured with resiliency.

A Storage Space could be configured as a ‘two-way mirror’ which would ensure your valuable data is written twice and on separate disks. Hence if you have a disk failure you would not lose any of your data.

The other Storage Space configuration is known as ‘parity-based storage’. This requires a minimum of three hard disks to be in the pool. Any one disk in the pool can fail and you still won’t lose any data.

SkyDrive is integrated

With Windows 8 connectivity to Microsoft’s SkyDrive in-the-cloud is integrated. This makes using SkyDrive more seamless and intuitive.

For those who have no idea what SkyDrive is I plan to do a post on it sometime in the near future.

BarryMark

Are you a left or right handed mouse user?

I am just going through many of the little notes I made myself in OneNote for postings and this is one that I have skipped over a number of times. But now I have decided to key it up and post it.

Way back when Microsoft brought out Windows for the Intel 286-based computers, or 80286 computers to be more precise, they actually included an A5 sized User Manual of about—from memory—half an inch thickness. Because the Windows graphical user interface was so new and ground breaking the people at Microsoft actually needed to tell us how to use it. Seriously. Back then all this click’n’drag and double-clicking was new.

Before crafting up this post I actually tried to find the Microsoft Windows 2.0 or Windows/286 User Manual on the Web—but I could not. Not within the first 10 pages of either Google or Bing search results anyway.

I even searched Archive.org where so much of the ‘old’ Web is being stored away.

However I could not find an electronic copy of the the Microsoft User Manual for Windows 286 anywhere. I did find some screen shots of Windows 2.0/286. One of which follows, just for those that remember it.

Win286

Anyway, anyone who took the trouble to read the User Guide when they first set up an 80286 PC to run Windows/286 would have come across the following, as I did.

If you were a right handed person then the recommendation was to set the mouse up for left handed use, and, as you might have guessed, if you were a left handed person then you should set the mouse up for right handed use.

The thinking here was that this then freed up your writing hand to make notes or turn pages or whatever as you worked in Windows using your mouse hand.

So, as I am right handed I set the mouse up for left handed use and I have used the mouse with my left hand every day since. Now, even though I am right handed, if I try using the mouse with my right hand I am far less precise than I am with my left hand.

BarryMark