Saturday, November 28, 2015

Contrary to the Blogs Title, I've switched to a Windows10 Laptop

  After years of resisting Windows as my main Operating System on my laptop(s), I gave in, and got myself a Windows 10 laptop.  Lenovo Flex2, 14" being a hybrid, Touch screen, and Cinema mode, which I've tried and works great for watching movies.  I gave chromebook a chance but it doesn't fit my needs. My hobby (photography) didn't work out with the Chromebook.
  Automatic backup, auto uploads, and normal photo applications are a bit behind on Chrome OS. Mainly the automatic backup didn't work well on Chromebook or rather it did not fit in my workflow. And I couldn't find any auto-backup to google photos for Linux. I tried using the browser for my uploads, but my choice of Chromebook in this case, with 2GB of RAM was not the best. I used a tab for uploading images, and then went to another tab to edit my blog, when I checked back, the upload was stopped and had to reload, and restart the uploads. Not a problem usually, but even editing my blog, and switching between tabs it keeps reloading the tabs when switching. I know it's because of the lack of RAM, and buying another Chromebook in Hungary is expensive, and this Flex 2 was a really good deal.  So I went along, bought it, upgraded to Windows 10, and I've been enjoying it so far.  All my photography software work, I can download, rate, pick my pictures, and then only export/upload the best picks.
  So far Windows 10 seems to work great (I did not manage to get a blue screen of death yet).  I will be writing more about my experience with it.  I have to admit my Desktop will still and will always run Ubuntu, but for my hobby, and upgrading my Camera I will use this new laptop.  Until later...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Starting to lose my cool with my Chromebook

  It's now a little over a year since I started using my Acer C720.  It's been great, with the exception, that lately, it started crashing my tabs on a regular basis.  I upload/download photo's regularly, but it's becoming more difficult.  I start an upload on one tab, switch to another tab to continue editing my WordPress blog.  I check to see how my uploads are, the tab is re-loaded.  Ok fine, I go back to my WordPress editing tab, that get's reloaded as well.... It get's annoying after sometime, even though my blog post is saved as draft, I have to restart the upload, and now wait until it finishes.  I knew the 2 GB of RAM will be limiting, but thought it would be enough for a Chrome OS laptop, after all it's a browser OS.  Apparently it's not, even when I have swapping enabled.  It's becoming annoying, and I started thinking of selling this machine, and getting another cheap hardware and put Linux on it, heck I may as well keep the Windows10 or Windows 8.1 that comes with it.  In Hungary there are no chromebooks, if you find them (rarely) they are more expensive than lower end Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 mini laptop counterparts.  And after my prolonged use of this chromebook, I am starting to realize its limitations and annoyances.  Maybe if I had the 4GB version, I wouldn't face these problems, but the other limitation I bump into is the applications that I need.  I need some sort of normal photo workflow.  Where I can also read/see the EXIF info of pictures, while I did find apps, add-ons to read EXIF, it's still not what you can call a workflow.  I can't preview my images, star/sort them, edit if I need to then upload.
  Anyhow, this is just my rant as I am starting to really consider selling it, and getting my hands on another cheap hardware. I don't really need a big laptop, this form factor fits me perfectly.  But the OS will need to be a bit more than a browser.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

photo editing without a real computer

  I've written about my chromebook experiment, and moving away from using what you would call a "real computer" in a sense of having a powerful computer, with a dedicated OS and dedicated photo processing applications.  Instead I've been processing photo's on my Chromebook, and my Tablet.  My workflow has changed drastically a few times.  New services were introduced that I started using, such as the Amazon Cloud Drive storage for photo's, and Google Photo's with it's unlimited photo storage that I've written a few posts about.  The one thing that I couldn't find mentioned anywhere, is if you upload your photo's to these services, and edit them on a tablet or phone, it's size get reduced drastically.  This is all not a problem if you are using the images for sharing online, on computer screens.  But it does become a problem if you want to print them out.
  It get's kinda tricky when you upload a 12MPixel image, and you edit it on the tablet, and suddenly it becomes 2MPixel.  This can be a problem if you want to print the photo's.  There are tricks around it, but took me a few experimenting to figure out. First, you need to know that there are two apps for Amazon Photo's, and Amazon Cloud Drive.  So for auto-upload Amazon Photo's does a great job, but if you choose to edit directly from Amazon Photo's app the images are resized to smaller size. The trick is to download the image from the Amazon Cloud Drive in full size and edit it in an editor that can handle larger images.  Snapseed will reduce image size automatically, Pixlr can edit larger images and save them in larger resolution.  I also tried picmonkey subscription for about 2 months, but I decided to cancel it, because I didn't really use it that much to justify the $5/month cost, the free options perfectly cover my needs. Plus the fact that I can only use it in a browser that supports flash, which means on a Chromebook, but can't use it on a tablet.
  While snapseed, and Pixlr are great apps, it would be useful to have them properly document file size if editing on tablets or other devices. I can't complain about this, since I choose to move to "cloud computing" using a chromebook, and tablet only.  I say "cloud computing" just because almost all the files are stored in the cloud, except what you download to edit, temporarily it's saved locally, whether it's on the tablet or on my chromebook.
  I still need to see how those photo's edited on those apps look like in print format, I'll surely print some out, and I'll share my experience once I get them. I hope this post helps someone who ran into similar issues with their editing on their tablets, or phones.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Google Photo's new service

  Google decided to yet again give the world a new service called Google Photos not to confuse this with the Google+ Photos. This new service is separate from the old picasa web, and the google + photos.  The idea is great, all your images in one place, from all your devices. Now that I have a chromebook it makes sense.  But interestingly, I need to use the web version of google photos, maybe in a future update the OS will have a new app for it.
  This new service if you will does finally give a URL to share, which I will use to insert a picture here (for testing Purposes) NOTE: it doesn't work on blogger :S
  I usually like uploading my images to my SmugMug account, which does give a shareable link that works just fine on my wordpress photoblog, and here on blogger. I like the fact that so many services are offering free photo storages, but not all are created equal. Flickr, SmugMug (this is not free actually), Google+ Collections, iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive.
   Be aware though even though they say it supports resolutions up to 16MPixel, I've yet to figure out how it's stored.  As I upload via my browser on the chromebook, edit on my tablet.  The resolutions are mixed, I believe that it downloads/edits photo's to the max of the system you use to edit it.  So if I edit using my tablet, I get a 1920x1080. If I edit on my chromebook, using online apps, such as picmonkey, I get yet a different resoltion.  If I use snapseed, or pixlr on my tab, I get mixed resolutions, I can't figure out how it decides/what size to edit/save as.  I know I can manually save the file at a given size, but snapseed doesn't ask, with pickmonkey, and pixlr I save at max size, but I still get small picture sizes.  Which is ok great for web sharing, I still want to have the full resolution incase I want to print.  So experiment, try before you go full Google Photos.  I'll probably stick to using my SmugMug storage for full size images, that stores it at real full resolution.
Just my two cents... happy to hear your experience.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

In my quest for photography workflow with Chromebook

  I've been complaining in my blog about Chromebook not being fit for photography. And by all means I am not a professional, so this is from the perspective of an amature, for fun photographer.
  I started a new workflow. I upload my images to Google Drive, then I add a prefix to the file name, usually a -up, for upload. I then open these pictures up in Picmonkey.  I add a watermark, and I resize it for the web, no need for a full blown 16 Megapixel image for a blog. Then I upload to my PhotoBlog.  I have other blogs on blogger as well, that I am experimenting with to find out what works best for me. Personally I find WordPress more powerful than blogger, but that's my opinion. I also have a SmugMug account where I upload images, better for sharing than Google+ or drive, but doesn't integrate into my workflow like google drive. You just can't have it all :)
  So far I am really happy with my Chromebook, which is causing me this headache with photo workflows. I plan to upgrade to a new one in a year or two. I would definitely get one with 4GB or RAM as I feel the pain when I have too many tabs open. I knew this C720 isn't the top of the line, but it works fine with me. I enjoy using it , it fits the bill perfectly for my home use.
  Until I find a workflow that fits/works for me I'll keep searching and trying new ways, methods to work with my pictures.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Things I miss in the Amazon Cloud Drive

  I've made the switch to the Amazon Cloud Drive for my photo's backup which I wrote about the other day. I did find a few drawbacks, that I wish are implemented in the future, metadata/keyword support, and support for my Olympus and Panasonic RAW files.  There is a work around for the RAW files, if I convert them to DNG, the Cloud Drive identifies them just fine. But the metadata/keyword, and the exif info viewing should be a basic option, but it's not. Why does this matter? Well it makes it easier for me to find my photo's if they are tagged, and sometimes I like to see all my EXIF info, not just date created, both these features are implemented well in Flickr and Smugmug.  So I hope these features will be implemented soon. Oh and the other thing I found so far. There is a nice feature to see what you have shared, but the preview doesn't work, just an annoyance, nothing more. I've also uploaded all the photo's and video's from my tablet, I would have never thought I had 5GB worth of short video's of our baby, but I do. So I need a new strategy for storing my video's probably at Smugmug. Sooner or later, all my photo's will be online, and in the cloud. Fits in nicely with my use of Chromebook at home :)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Cheap photo storage/backup hint new Amazon announcement

  I am sure everyone has a backup plan. If not you should. Photography is my hobby, and I have about ~300GB of pictures, RAW and JPEG collected over the years.  I've been using crashplan since it has a linux client, but recently Amazon announced a great plan, just for photo's, at $12/year, it's dirt cheap for unlimited photo's. It also supports some RAW formats, my old CR2 (Canon RAW) format is supported, I have not tried my new Olympus RAW, or Panasonic RAW, so that test will be later. You also get 3 months free trial as well, and it has an iOS and an Android app, so I can upload my phone/table pictures, having a kid sometimes forces you to grab what's near by, and not necessarily your camera. 
  Currently Google Drive, and Photo's, which I guess is being moved into Drive, has one big drawback, that it can't give you a link to send or embed into a blog or webpage, except blogger. I use WordPress for my photoblog, and I also have a little gripe about posting from WordPress to facebook. If I upload the images to WordPress, and post using it's publicize post, the images get uploaded to Facebook. I want to keep the pictures in one spot. For that I use Smugmug, but this Amazon Cloud Drive can change all that, we'll see.
  Amazon's Cloud Drive has an unlimited plan for $59/year, which is almost what I pay for Crashplan, but 99% of what I backup are images, the rest, documents, and other random files are on my Google Drive, or OneDrive, or dropbox, as you can see I don't keep them in one place :)
  Since I'm using a Chromebook, which is basically a cloud laptop, this whole idea of not storing locally is becoming more convenient, and efficient.  If I ever upgrade/change my Chromebook to a Chrome Base, or a newer Chromebook, I don't have to worry about my content, it's all up there in the cloud, safe and sound.
  I remember in the past, you needed an external drive to backup all your content, so you can format your machine (when I used Windows) and then copy things back it was a pain and a long process. It looks like in the future you won't really need a hard drive or local storage, specially if prices keep dropping so fast. What's your storage/backup strategy?  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

home user in a browser

  Being confined in a browser for all my computing needs, does have it's frustrating moments. I can't batch edit pictures, or add watermarks.  I thought I had a work around for this.  I select the images I want to upload, upload it to my Smugmug account, then I have to open each one to add my watermark to it, this process works fine when you have less than 10 images, but when you have more it can get annoying.  A second mistake I had in my workflow, is replacing originals, after adding my watermark with picmonkey, one of my favorite online image editors. As I realized after adding my watermark, and editing the same image again, I can't undo, or bring that layer to the top :( well, it was a lesson learned.
  Now my photo processing workflow will look like this, Select the images locally, using the built in gallery-viewer in chrome OS.  Add a -up to the filename.  Then go to Smugmug's upload, select all pictures with -up in the photo's file name, and upload.  When editing, I should always save a new copy, rather than replacing, since Smugmug offers unlimited storage anyways. I also use G+ photo's mostly for sharing with family and friends, but that also has it's limitation, as I can't get a link to it, that I can use in my WordPress blog.  Otherwise in general I am happy and satisfied with my Acer C720, but starting to realize more and more what it's not a good fit for, mainly photo editing and manipulation, and that's not due to it being underpowered, rather not having good tools available. It does cover my 90% of usage, the 10% is the photo editing part that annoys me. I can figure out workarounds, and I hope in the future this will change, by the time I upgrade my chromebook.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Working with todays tools

What ever you want to call it, the Internet of Things, or Cloud computing.  Todays tools/apps are amazing.  I just found a new useful app/tool/extension, or what ever. It interconnects your digital world. It's called  Pushbullet, which is an extension, and a phone app, as well as a local app on your Operating System. Why is this app useful? Well, it pushes your phone notifications, and SMS to an extension on your browser or computer. I wrote earlier that I started using Chromebook full time at home, "The Chromebook Experiment", and "5 Months using a Chromebook" . This fits in nicely. When I receive an SMS or a WhatsApp message it get's pushed to my Chrome Extension notification on the chromebook.  It also notifies me on my work computers local OSX Application (there is a windows version as well, and a community made Ubuntu version) I use whatsapp to communicate with my family, since we have a wifi Internet connection at home, and at work, and I usually have my phone set on vibrate or silent (I do miss some messages). I like the fact that I can receive notifications on my browser, or OS, let that be work, or home. It also has a nice way of sending url's, notes, files, or images to your devices, so all your interconnected web of phone, tablet, laptop, desktop can receive a broadcast of what ever you want. File-sharing is another story, this app isn't really for that. Anyhow, check it out, let me know what you think.

Saturday, February 7, 2015


Skullcandy Hesh2
  This post is not about Linux, or Chromebook, it's actually about an accessory.  I've been on the hunt for a headphone which is a good fit for my head, it's not an easy task. I have a hard time finding sunglasses that fit too. I've tried some of my co-workers headphones at work, some were great, some just plain old annoying. Today I listened to some online radio, using a really old and basic headphones, but the music sounded so different, which is when I realized my headphones at home was out of date.
  So I went and looked for a new headphone.  At the store there was a setup to test headphones, naturally this one wasn't between them.  But I've read good reviews about the skullcandy brand. I tried the usual suspects, Sony, Philips were the one's out on display and trial, they sounded pretty good, but they weren't comfortable. I saw this one on the shelf, and decided to buy it, worst case I'll just return it.  I gotta say, it's a perfect fit on my head, and perfectly covers my ears. Music sounds great, it's comfortable, and since it fully covers my ears, I can't hear other noise around me. So far I would recommend it, though I think you should try them on before buying, I didn't have that option, yet I feel happy about my purchase. I may write a follow up after using it for a longer time.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Re-living the windows OS pain

Today, I had to re-live the pain of re-installing a windows laptop for family. At 1.6 GHz single core with 2GB of RAM. It's been updating the system for 7 hours, and it's not done yet.  This is truly when you appreciate a chromebook. Wish they were cheaper in Hungary, I would recommend replacing this painfully slow laptop, with a chromebook in a heart beat.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

5 Months using a chromebook

Acer C720
  I've been using the Chromebook for 5 months now and I can say it's a successful experiment.  It is not for everyone, photo management isn't perfect on it.  And another issue I found over time, is that it doesn't fit into my backup plan, as CrashPlan doesn't support Chromebooks, or ChromeOS.  Google drive is there, but my photo archives are not there.  New photo's are on GDrive now but that is one place, which I can't say it counts as a backup plan.
  I save my photo's on my RAID1 Drives on my desktop, NAS (1 Drive NAS) and remotely to CrashPlan.  I also upload it to SmugMug, am I over securing them, yes but those pictures are precious memories that can't be brought back if lost.  The problem with Photo management on the Chromebook that I can't achieve efficiently is Tagging.
  So lately I've been contemplating re-structuring my backup plan.  I may upgrade my NAS, so that I can use it with my other devices such as Tablet, and Phone, but it needs to have 2 drives.  Once I upgrade my NAS I'll probably cancel my CrashPlan because I'm thinking of getting rid of my Desktop which currently is used by the CrashPlan client, which uploads what's mirrored from my local NAS.
  The Chromebook, and ChromeOS is a great Cloud based computer. I would recommend it for light home users, even elders, as it's low maintenance, can't accidentally install viruses, and you can't really mess up settings on it.  Worst case you do a Powerwash, and start using it with in minutes of restarting it.
  Maybe over time NAS server makers will make applications for the ChromeOS as well. We'll see.