Photomosaic of Socks

SocksPosterI created a 3-foot posted of Socks for the wall above my desk using 10,000+ photos I had on my PC as the palette.  I created it with Andrea Modaic Professional, then loaded the final image into CorelDraw and printed it as a 3-foot poster on tiled sheets of standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper.  The hardest part was using scissors to trim the proper edges, and align and tape them, but it was fun.  If you’d like to see the actual poster, up close, here’s the actual image, full size.   I gave it the option to NOT re-use any images (but some are burst shots, to they LOOK very similar) and gave it permission to horizontally flip images, but not to rotate them.  And if you’re interested in the rest of the geeky details, here they are:  Socks Mosaic Details


Software scams, Baitware, Phishing…

It seems like nearly EVERYTHING you install these days comes with a catch.  You need to be careful not to do an “Automatic” or “Full” install of anything, because they means “go ahead, install everything”, or “go ahead and install whatever you want”, and that will almost always get you in trouble.  Even totally legitimate applications and the big-name software makers will do this now, which makes it very annoying all the way around, and actually ends up getting me more side work….Cleaning up users’ PCs when they slow way down or start getting uncontrollable popups.  This is not a good thing.  Sure, I could always use the work, but I’d rather not have to clean up after these program vomit their garbage all over a customer’s hard drive.  Users have enough problems without adding all this mess, and it only causes them more frustration, sometimes ending with them hating Windows or their computer manufacturer for giving them all of these headaches. Make sure to get a file recovery software to keep all your documents safe.

If you’re careful though, with each and every install and mouse click, you can minimize your chances of having these problems.  It’s the same with the web and junk e-mail.  Be careful what you click one and don’t believe everything you read.  Scams are everywhere.  Anything that ever makes someone a little profit is exploited as much as possible.

Make sure you have an antivirus installed.  But even if you do, these days that’s not enough.  Malware is not considered a virus, so clicking something bad on the web or simply visiting a bad website will often result in malware being installed on your PC.  You need to either run a malware scanner regularly or install one that constantly monitors your PC and catches them immediately.  The latter is usually only available as a paid service, however, usually as a “pro” or “advanced” version of a standard malware scanner.  Keep in mind that all of these, as well, are also used to scam users.  Some malware and viruses appear as popup notices explaining that you’re PC is infected with many bad malware programs or viruses and offer to fix it for you, sometimes for a fee.  This usually results in an even worse infection on your PC, or nothing at all, as they are usually only there to inject themselves deeper into your system, or worse yet, to scam you out of your credit card information, giving you nothing in return as they sell your information to make their money.

Personally, I use Microsoft Security Essentials and Malwarebytes Antimalware.  As of Windows 8, Security Essentials is built in, which is a great step forward.  Many will insist this is only “basic” protection and users need a much better application, or suite, to protect them…usually for a price, of course.  This may very well be.  Just be careful and make absolutely sure you’re choosing a legitimate solution and not just another elaborate scam.  As I said, those are what I use, and I rarely have issues.  They’re both free, though Malwarebytes does have a “pro” version that monitors your PC live just like an antivirus program, and supposedly catches malware before it infects your PC.  I haven’t tried it though, so I can’t say how effective it is or isn’t.

Doing PC work again

Ok, I’m back.  Before the end of last year, I had “retired” from doing home PC work.  My full-time job, along with my family and other activities was plenty to keep me busy.  But very recently, my full-time employee forced everyone to go to a 32-hour work week.  Everyone is being forced to take a day off every week.  This hits me hard, especially after having stopped my side jobs completely!  So, I’ve started taking side work again.  If you know of anyone needing PC work (or if you do), I’m available.  Still one of the cheapest prices around ($30/hr), and I have over 25 years of experience.  Phone or Text: (262) 818-6376 – E-mail:  More details are in the right sidebar on this site.


Windows 8

Recently I’ve been playing with Windows 8. I received a new PC recently–completely FREE, actually–as a result of a class action suit against eMachines. I had one–and had a lot of problems with it–so I was included in the suit. It took several years, but finally everyone included in the suit was offered a $365 credit toward a replacement PC. I even thought it was some sort of scam at first–just too good to be true–but after a little research I found out that it was real. I actually STILL didn’t fully believe it, even after I received my claim #, so I made sure I ordered a replacement PC (you had to order from a specific website, using your claim code) that would result in my paying nothing out-of-pocket. So, basically, a PC costing less than $365.

It turned out to be fairly easy, actually. The site offered many refurbished PCs and a few brand new ones, but that only sounded like more trouble, so I decided against that and went with a new one. It’s not quite as powerful as some of the others that were refurbished, but the 1-year manufacturer warranty game me more comfort at this point. There wasn’t much of a brand selection–only Gateway and Acer models–so I went with a Gateway with an AMD processor. Not my top choice–I would have preferred an Intel-based i5 or i7–but those were beyond my $365 limit. I could have paid the difference myself, but still having a little doubt about this being legitimate, I decided against giving them my credit card imformation. I settled on a $329 Gateway PC with Windows 8. AMD Quad-core 2.2GHz processor, 6GB RAM, and a 500GB Hard Drive. With expedited 2-day shipping, my total came to just over $362, so it worked out perfectly. I just wish I could remember the specs and price I paid for my original eMachines PC–it’d be great to compare value versus price from then to now. I really can’t recall any details about it as all, other than the power supply and floppy drive issues I ran into with it.

So now I’m playing with Windows 8, and I think I found the key to surviving it comfortably. The first thing I did, based on several recommendations, was purchase and install “Start8”. This little lightweight app adds the Start menu back to Windows 8, making it “look and feel” just like Windows 7–at least when you start it up and need to find something the “old school” way, like I do. Right now I’m finding all of differences between Windows 8 and 7, and I must say, so far I’m impressed. I don’t think it’s as bad as everyone makes it out to be, and it’s actually quite smooth and easy to use. The whole “Metro Tiles” thing seems kinda silly right now though. But that might be mostly because I’m on a standard monitor without a touchscreen.

I’ll stick with a standard monitor for now, and just see how this plays out. One other thing I’m still trying to get a handle on is multi-tasking. Using the desktop “corners” for specific features feels odd, especially for switching between apps and searching for things without using the Start button. I can understand not wanting to waste a single pixel of screen real estate though, so maybe I’ll warm up to it. For now, again probably because I’m not using a touchscreen, the good ole ALT-TAB works just fine like it always did for switching between apps and windows.

My primary complaint at this point is only with closing apps. It’s really a pain to close apps in Windows 8! WHY!?!?!? It’s something that should be as simple at pressing a big “X” icon, even with the new Metro crap. Why waste all the memory on leaving something running that you’re not going to use?? I know, I know, apps will close eventually on their own if not used, but aren’t they still consuming a little energy and CPU? Why not be as “green” as possible and allow users to easily close them out??

Camera & Eye-Fi Review – Sony DSC-HX20V with Eye-Fi Pro X2 16GB

I got this camera for my 50th birthday this month. So far, it’s nothing short of great. And after reading about the Eye-Fi card, and how it works, I immediately ordered one to use with the new camera. The 18.2 MP photos are great, and the 20x (40x digital) really is nice too. I’ve been using the “i+ Superior Auto” mode, which is new for me. What it does is pretty nice: When you take a picture in this mode, depending on the lighting and the image contents, you might hear multiple clicks as the shutter snaps multiple times using various settings. Then it combines all of the images and blends them automatically into one photo, much like HDR. This allows you to take excellent low-light photos that are still crisp and clear with little or no graininess in them. The camera also has built-in GPS tagging (and logging, for recording your journey on a map!) It takes the camera a couple minutes to grab the GPS signal once you turn it on, but from that point on it works great.

Another excellent feature is “iSweep Panorama” mode. This mode allows you to simply click the shutter button and sweep the camera from left to right in one clean motion, either slow or fast. Once you’ve rotated it 180 degrees, your panorama is completed and it displays as a nice, long photo on the screen, at a resolution of 4912×1080 (5mp) in STD mode, 7152×1080 (7.7mp) in WIDE mode, or a whopping 10480×4096 (42.9mp) in HR mode! This is tons better than many other panorama methods I’ve seen cameras (and apps) use, involving stitching of multiple separate photos together, or doing virtually the same thing, but by having you click for each photo, then overlapping them in-camera as you rotate to the next spot, line it up, and click again.

The camera also shoots very nice, full 1080p video, while using image stabilization (optional) and optional zooming, so it’s great for home movie-making as well. It will also shoot 3D photos and 3D panoramas as well as 3D multi-angle images viewable in-camera and on 3D TVs.

The final kicker, which makes this pretty much my “dream” camera, is the addition of a Eye-Fi Pro X2 16GB SDHC card! This is a memory card, used just like a standard SDHC memory card–with one major difference: It has built-in Wifi! When configured (initially, on a PC, with the included SDHC card reader), it will automatically sync all of your photos and videos–as you take them–with your home PC, laptop, or your Android or iPhone! And it can optionally auto-upload to your favorite photo-sharing service like Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, and many others! I will never have to worry about losing any of my photos, because they’re automatically backed up–both on my PC and in my Flickr account in the cloud!

Once I take a photo or two, after about a minute (as long as I keep the camera’s power on) the photos start streaming into my Android phone. It will also optionally GPS-tag the photos from your cell phone. I actually set this option, even though the camera has GPS, because I like to turn the camera on and snap photos quickly, and sometimes I’m done shooting before the GPS ever gets a lock. So with this option on, the GPS from my phone (which is on all the time) is used to tag the photos instead, and it’s fairly accurate all of the time. Once the photos are uploaded to my phone, my phone then uploads them to my preferred backup destination–which is Flickr. You can choose to make them automatically public or private, or only viewable by certain people. I have mine set to private, then later on I can sort through them on Flickr and publish those that I want to share, and delete or keep the rest as I want. This will be great for vacations! I can setup the photo album ahead of time, make it public, then snap all the photos as we travel and everyone gets a live photo feed of our trip! Hopefully it’ll work out much better than EveryTrail, which has pretty much been a flop for our vacations thus far. I can understand having some “dead spots” in very rural places at times, when crossing the country, but for it to just stop working completely when we take just a few photos and never pick up again until we’re at our destination two days later, is simply unacceptable. That’s EveryTrail though, and has nothing to do with Eye-Fi or the camera.

I tried the camera today for a new Ingress Portal Submission, and it worked great. Took a minute to get to my phone, and once the photo was there, I shared it to NIA Super-Ops, gave it a title, and submitted the new portal. The Eye-Fi Pro X2 Android app also has the ability to simply auto-upload photos taken with just your cell phone camera as well, so all of the photos taken with just my cell phone are also automatically uploaded to Flickr and/or my PC just as the camera’s photos are. This is a great bonus because it fully backs up EVERY photo I take, not just those taken with the camera containing the Eye-Fi card.

The only issue I have with using the Eye-Fi card is how I have to leave the camera power on after shooting photos. I have the habit of powering it off immediately after I’m done to save battery. When I do this, it can’t establish a connection to my phone and send the photos to it. Granted it does transfer the photos just fine the next time the power is turned on again, but that makes backups a little less instant, making my photos a little more vulnerable. Once I leave the camera on and the photos finish transferring to the phone, then the camera power shuts itself off automatically. Though, how an Eye-Fi card (which can be used in ANY camera) can control THIS camera like this, I have no idea. Don’t question the magic Jim, just go with it…