True confessions, it's not just version 8.1 that makes me crazy.
But in my case, I've been "Mac" since 2007 for my personal life, and 100% Mac since 2009. My old Palm OS mobile phone gave way to an iPhone 3. My foray into Android with a Samsung 3 was a complete disaster. My tablets are two iPad Mini 2s.... I use so many Apple products not out of blind allegiance but because I have tested and tried many products and keep coming back to the ones which work and are a pleasure to use.
Windows 8.1 makes me crazy because it is definitely not a pleasure to use and because sometimes it just doesn't work.
Less that 30 seconds before starting this post, I brought my (beautiful) M3800 out of sleep mode and went to look for some photos from a recent conference.
Clicking on the Finder window, nothing happened... Make any open window active and the blue menu bar goes white. Dead windows... Every single one of them. This has happened more than once in the 2 1/2 months that I have been using Windows. While the "blue screen of death" seems to be relegated to the history books, system-freezes and application crashes are definitely not a thing of the past chez Microsoft.
Time permitting, I'll come back with the reasons why Windows is not a pleasure to use, but for now, here, today, this afternoon, ... it just doesn't work.
Good luck with your projects
I was testing a workstation a while back with my Premier Pro test suite. I use the video rendering and playback of multiple video streams in parallel to test workstation multi-processing performance.
Today I am working on a video from Germany. It has both HD and 4K video and as I often do, I have 2, 3, or 4 parallel video streams running in Premier Pro CC.
I dropped a piece of 4K video on top of a 4K and an HD clip, and then reversed the playback. Every time I hit the reversed clip, playback slowed to about one frame per second... Call me crazy, but that really seemed odd. I hadn't noticed this before and I use reversed video fairly often.
I grabbed the offending 4K, reversed video clip as well a normal HD clip and set them apart on the time line. I fired up GPU-Z and the Performance Monitor and then let the clips play...
What I saw was pretty clear. The normal HD clip played fine, ... I had a 15% load on the GPU and about a 10% load on the CPU cores. The CPU load was a bit higher because the HD clip had a color correction effect. But playback was smooth and the GPU and CPU loads were "normal" for Premier Pro.
As soon as Premier Pro started to process the reversed clip, however, the CPU load jumped to 100% across all cores and the GPU load dropped to essentially zero. In other words, it suffices to reverse the playback of a video clip and the PME with CUDA shuts off completely and falls back to CPU-only mode. And the playback performance is correspondingly horrible.
So far I have seen that the MPE falls back to CPU-only if you have more than 2 parallel video clips and now, I have seen that it falls back to CPU-only mode if a video clip has been reversed.
There you have it - 2 ways to slow down your workstation. Or if you are a "glass half full" type, then you now have 2 possible ways to optimize performance - ie: don't do what I do.
Good luck with your projects!
It was January 2007 and the launch of Windows Vista when I bought my first Macbook Pro and I have been Apple ever since. Until now.
Not that I am giving up on my Macbooks.
It's more that I have a new mobile powerhouse which is a Dell Precision M3800 running Windows 8.1. It's a beautiful system and were it not for Windows 8.1, it could be a Macbook Pro.
I have to make myself at home with Windows again. But my task is not a full, 100% switch back to Windows. I still have my Macbook Air, iPad Mini, and iPhone. Even the 2011 model of Macbook Pro, which my Dell is replacing, will continue a useful life in the background.
My task is to integrate this Precision M3800 into my existing multi-computer, multi-device work & lifestyle. In the past I tried to bring non-Apple devices like a Samsung/Android phone into my workflow. That disaster sent me back to the Apple store years early to replace that piece of (beautiful!) Samsung junk with a new iPhone.
I think that lady luck is on my side. I already have a multi-computer environment set up and I am leveraging it. Here are the main points I put in place to welcome the Precision M3800 into my Apple-centric family.
Point 0 : Security is Everything
While Macbooks do not suffer from viruses like Windows systems do, I use Avast on my Macbooks. It prevents my computers from incubating infected files. I could inadvertently share an infected file with a Windows user.
But my Dell Precision M3800 is a Windows system, so stop Number 1 on the internet was the Avast web site and my virus protection download.
Point 1: External Hard Drives Must Support Mac and Windows.
Before, I simply used that great format for Mac hard drives because it supported enormous file sizes, which I need for video work, and it was fast and secure. Compatibility with Windows was never a priority.
Sharing data between the Macbook and the Precision M3800 is critical
I updated my Western Digital traveling hard drives with a new 2TB USB 3.0 version and experimented with formats before settling on ExFAT. This seems to work well, although it's still early in the game. I've already done video work on Premier Pro CC and After Effects CC using this drive while switching between my Macbook Air and the Precision M3800. I still have 2 desktop external 3 TB drives that which I will migrate to ExFAT in the coming weeks.
Point 2 : same data everywhere.
Having the same data available to me regardless of the computer I was using is a problem I solved with Dropbox a long time ago. In the beginning I used the free version and it did what I needed. So I upgraded my subscription and have 1 TB of common cloud storage synchronized across my Macbooks.
Updating the Precision M3800 was childs-play. I just downloaded Dropbox, logged in and authorized my new workstation. I set it up to synchronize before heading to bed and the next morning my 40 GB of shared data was up-to-date.
I organize my work and life using Evernote. I view Evernote as an electronic notebook which I can have on every device in my life. It's on my computers, it's on my iPhone, and it's on my iPad. And it's on any browser in the world as long as I remember my login!
Like Dropbox, I started with the free version of Evernote and now have a subscription. If you are a knowledge worker with a multitude of devices, this is a life-saver. If you are part of a small team, Evernote also has an affordable business / group version. I don't need that level of functionality, but it's easy to see how it could be useful for small teams.
Point 3 : Which Office Tools to Use?
When I first switched to Mac, I used MS Office for Mac … for a year or two. In the end, I migrated to Open Office. This is a free, open source office productivity suite that gives me the capabilities I need from Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint with great compatibility when I need to share documents with Windows users. It works great, supports multiple operating systems, and costs absolutely zero.
So it was a no-brainer. Off to the Open Office download page and in a matter of minutes, my office tools were almost completely in place.
On the Macbooks, I use Mac Mail which is a good tool for email. It's not Outlook and that is a good thing. For my Windows system, I still needed to find an email tool. Windows 8.1 does seem to have this integrated already, but as I found out with the pre-installed Skype on my Precision M3800, the software insists that I have a Microsoft account. Since I have no desire to have a Microsoft account, I need a different solution. A quick scan of Mail applications led me to Thunderbird.
Thunderbird was simple to download and install. It makes it easy to set up your email account – either one or many accounts – and to manage them from a single mail application. I have a number of different email accounts for work and private life, so it took more than just a couple of minutes to get all of them setup. But it was an easy process.
One of the last “office tools” to mention is my browser. Being a Mac guy, I don't use Microsoft's Internet Explorer. First stop on the browser update was the Google Chrome download followed by Firefox, and Opera. I segregate my browser use to different kinds of work, but Chrome is my preferred browser on the Dell.
Point 4 : Loading the Professional Apps
I put a lot of professional apps through their paces. For my own work, I am a heavy user of Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) applications. I always resisted the urge to move to Final Cut Pro and have stayed with Premier Pro, After Effects, and Audition for my videos and sound. Now that I need to integrate a Windows system into my workflow, that has been a blessing.
Adobe CC licensing allows me to use 2 computers simultaneously. As of this writing, I can change which 2 computers I want to use relatively easily. So while my 2011 Macbook Pro will be relegated to other tasks, should it be needed, I could still use it for video or graphics work.
Practically speaking, I am in the middle of a transition phase. For one month, I am using the Adobe 30 day trial version of CC on the new Windows system and will move the “license” from the Macbook Pro to the Precision M3800 once I have verified the working environment. I'll keep the CC license on my Macbook Air since I travel with this computer and use it for lighter graphics and video work.
The Precision M3800 and the Macbook Air both have fast USB 3 (and Thunderbolt) connections, so now I use my 2 TB external Western Digital hard-drive exclusively for video projects. This lets me switch between computers without transferring the projects between systems. I have just started on the first 4K-resolution projects. Since the USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt data rates are higher than the hard drive speeds, the performance has been fine.
Adapting to Windows Takes Time
So there you have the foundation that I use for integrating a new Windows system in my previously pure-blooded Apple environment. Much of what I need is because I use more than one computer and more than one device, but everything above works in a multi-vendor operating system environment and may be an interesting solution for some of you.
The final point for now is just a comment – it takes time to re-adapt to the Windows-way of doing things... I view it like switching languages on the keyboard. The fingers need to remember which system they are working on! Without going into details in this post, I confess that there are some simple issues under Windows 8.1 which are extremely annoying. It takes time to adapt to these changes.
My hope is that Windows becomes less-annoying at time goes by.
Spam emails, what ever the purpose behind any give mail, have become masters of disguise. I have seen excellent reproductions of mail from banks (where I don't have an account) and from paypal (where I do have an account). Over the last months, I noticed a new version of camouflage : a LinkedIn invitation to connect.
What does a fake LinkedIn email spam message look like and how can you tell?
The email arrives just like a normal email from LinkedIn announcing that someone wants to connect with me on LinkedIn. A name and title which could be real or fake appear on the mail. The colors and icons are all precise duplicates. The first time I saw the mail, it was impressively authentic. Even the email address text was a good fake which is not always the case.
Some emails will claim to be sent from an address like "email@example.com" or a similar address. Don't be taken in, check the mail first.
When I received my first fake-LinkedIn spam mail, I was suspicious for the simple reason that the mail arrived in a mailbox which is not the mailbox LinkedIn has. A check of the mail before clicking confirmed that there was nothing "LinkedIn" about this message.
I have not tried to discover the purpose of fake LinkedIn spam mails. But here is the mail and a simple way to test it before you click. First of all and this is true of any faked mail - is this mail coming to the right address. Many people like me have more than one email and one of my addresses is more likely to get these fake mails than others. Fortunately, it is also not the address that I use for LinkedIn, Paypal, and other services.
Hover over the links, in a fake email, all of these links will be the same
Secondly, before clicking on a link in your mail inbox, hover over the link. Most programs will show you the link and if this link is not legitimate, then you know it is spam. In the case of fake LinkedIn messages, there are several links in the mail. Even if the link seems like it could be - possibly - legitimate, you have another test. Hover over the link to accept the invitation, then hover over the link to view the profile, then hover over the link on the LinkedIn logo. On a fake mail, all of these links will probably be exactly the same link address - even if well disguised.
So don't click and just delete the mail in the knowledge that you have not missed any invitation to connect.
Finally, and as is the case with fake mail from Linkedin, Paypal or any other service, just bypass the mail and login to your account yourself to see if the mail is real or fake.
Happy networking -
My guess is that every one of us knows that we should back up our computer... daily. No, the question is do you back up your data? Do you do it daily? Are you certain that you know how to restore it?
Some lucky engineers have an IT department which worries about it. If something happens, then it is the IT department's problem, just restore my project files, please. But even such lucky individuals have their own PC or notebook computer at home. Not to mention an iPhone or tablet with movies, music, and photos.
Some of us may actually backup our systems regularly, but we might also be a bit lax and back up every few days. Every few days could become every two weeks or once a month. If disaster strikes our data and the last week of project work is gone, then we have more than just a small problem. Clearly we need an every day solution.
The key to doing a backup every day : make it easy and make it part of your routine. For me, I am mobile – 100% mobile computers. I am also 100% Mac, so my Plan A is simple : Time Machine. It is easy, it is automatic, and it even backups my work during the day if I can leave my external hard drive for backups attached to my Macbook. Since I only need to remember to plug in my hard drive when I finish for the day, the bar is quite low for my Plan A and this works for me.
But what about Plan B?
When I hit the road, I have my Macbook and my backup drive with me. Do you see the problem already? If my data is lost, corrupted, or deleted, then Plan A kicks in – back up drive to the rescue.
But, if my computer bag is somehow lost : forgotten on the train or even stolen, then what? Buy a new computer? Sure. And buy a new, empty, hard drive for backup as well. Start new from ground zero because both my computer and my backup for my computer are gone.
For me, Plan B is straight forward. A copy of my backup data kept in the office. This means my worst-case scenario is losing data from the current business trip. If my trip is a week or more, then a back up for my back up hard drive may travel with me – in a different bag or suitcase.
So, if you are not doing daily backups of your projects now, then please do yourself a favor. Find a solution that is easy and painless for you and make it a daily habit. And when you think about your own solution, think about Plan B. You'll never want to need to use it, but you will be saving yourself from a potential business disaster if you are properly prepared.
If you have the Galaxy S3 and Kies, then good luck. There are “issues”, also known as “problems”, with the Samsung software. The first issue was getting a firmware update to work. Then there was just getting the Samsung Kies software to recognize the Samsung phone – funny, I thought that would be easy, but nooooooooo.
Once you overcome the other obstacles, there remains a devilish problem with Samsung's solution. It is devilish because you won't see the problem until it is far too late to repair the damage Kies has done to your data.
I have accumulated around 2500 contacts in my address book over the years. And in those contacts, I keep additional, important information in the contact “note” section. The note is just a text area for information which doesn't have it's own field in the contact information.
My synchronization situation is moderately complex, but not terrible. I have 3 devices to keep synchronized : my Macbook Pro, my iPad, and my Samsung Galaxy S3. The Macbook Pro is the “golden copy” for my contacts. Once the contacts are loaded on the iPad and the Galaxy, it should just be a fairly simple task to synchronize regularly and propagate any updates from and to any device.
Except Samsung's Kies software doesn't actually work right. First of all, and this is but a minor problem compared to what is coming, the software's “conflict resolution” dialog will show you duplicate contacts and ask you which to keep. Unfortunately, it only displays the beginning of the contact information and it does not let you see the full information of the contact on your phone and your computer. Therefore you need to either know or guess which contact is the contact you want to keep. Good luck!
But there is a heinous problem beyond that. At the moment that the software seems to be working – and synchronizing the contacts – the Kies software will delete the “note” information in a contact. With 2500 contacts, it is difficult to tell you how many have been destroyed by Kies. It seems more likely to delete information from longer notes and not from shorter notes, but I have not verified this 100% as of today. I have been lucky in several cases to have found a critical, deleted contact note and been able to restore the information from a backup. Also, it seems an odd behavior, but in several cases, the contact information has remained correct on the phone, but the note has been deleted on the Macbook. And it should be mentioned that this deletion of “note” information is not restricted to contacts you may have recently changed, but rather this can happen to any contact that you have, even contacts which have not been touched since you first (correctly) synchronized your contacts between the devices.
Naturally, this is an insidious problem since you will believe that you just successfully synchronized your Galaxy with your computer. Only later, possibly long after any back of the information has been overwritten, you will find that you are missing critical data.
The only solution I have found is to move this critical data from a contact note to a separate location. As a temporary solution, I am duplicating critical contact information in Evernote. It is not an efficient solution, but Evernote does synchronize my data across all devices which allows me to access the information when and where I need to have the data.
Thank you Samsung. Your software is absolutely top-notch dog-doo.
I've managed to ignored the problems which make me dislike this Galaxy S3 so much. It's a beautiful phone, there can be no question about that. OK, the button placement wasn't very well thought out which means I regularly turn off the phone when I don't want to, but it is still a beautiful device.
On the other hand, too many things don't work. Let's not talk about deleting contact information! Here we have two odd, simple, and annoying problems.
The first is that Samsung's Kies software regularly doesn't find the S3 attached to my computer. At first, it seemed to possibly be linked to starting Kies first and then connecting my Galaxy phone, or first connecting the phone and then starting the Kies software. In the end, it is not definitively either of those. If your Galaxy is recognized some of the time, but not all of the time, then you can try a couple of tricks :
- connect your phone, then start Kies
- start Kies, then connect your phone
- reboot your phone before trying to sync.
- Reboot your computer before trying to sync.
Then I noticed recently a new issue. I was just continuing with some normal work after I synchronized my Galaxy. It was just doing a bit of research on the web and some email, and I noticed that my Macbook Pro was running very hot. It was almost as if I were rendering video which uses the CPU at 100% of it's capacity. I turned off the usual suspects – the multiple browser windows I tend to have open at the same time. But that did not help. I opened the Mac's Activity Monitor and there was Kies... right at the top of the list, and Kies was using over 20% of my CPU.
I turned off Kies and my system went back to normal. For what it is worth, it doesn't happen by just launching Kies – or at least not on my system – but it happens after synchronizing my Galaxy S3.
Should you notice your system running slowly or feeling unresponsive, then think about Kies and kill the application. That should do the trick.
I'm writing this blog post with pen & paper.
The software engineers at Samsung have sent me straight back to the early 20th century. Allow me to explain...
I finally gave up on the Missing Sync program - it never did work. After an Android update, my phone started to recognize that it could not connect to my macbook. It is said that 'to recognize that you have a problem is the first step towards a solution', so it seemed that my phone was interested in a solution to my macbook connectivity problems, and that gave me hope for my Samsung.
My phone started telling me where to download the Samsung Kies software. Although the installation program has some minor issues - such as telling me it could not de-install the software without providing a reason why even though I was trying to install the software. As it turns out, I am reasonably good at guessing what software really wants, so divining that the problem was due to the phone being connected to my macbook during the installation process, I disconnected the phone and restarted the installation. Doesn't it seem reasonable that the installation program could have either worked around this or - at least - recognized it and told me to disconnect the phone?
But the installation worked and I was happy since my computer and phone were now good friends and could talk to each other.
Being a computer guy, the first step with the new Kies software was to do a back up of the phone - bingo, that worked too.
Now sync the phone : problems again. The Kies software is vague about what information and where you might be syncing, but I can accept a bit of ambiguity. I wanted (and still want) to sync my contacts, calendars, and tasks - my basic work life - as well as my music, photos, and videos - my basic life details as it were - with my macbook.
To the credit of the Kies software, I could point it to my itunes folder and Kies would do the indexing of all my music into the Kies library. Let's ignore the fact that during the entire import process, Kies was telling me that it could not find any music, because I could see in the status bar at the bottom of the window that Kies was already parsing my itunes library. Not that a normal consumer might get confused ! This Samsung Kies program runs more like beta software than a finished application.
At least it checked to see if there was enough memory on the phone to sync my photos and music. There was not, so I unchecked those items and the rest synchronized fine. Wow, work life on the phone. Good.
Kies knew that there was a firmware update for my Samsung Galaxy S3 and told me all the good reasons why I should upgrade the firmware - the most important : to have a faster phone. Since the phone had been running very slow, I launched the upgrade. Samsung showed me a nice warning dialog of all the things to do and not do while upgrading the phone. It even says that you can't use the phone while upgrading (surprise!) and that the upgrade could take 5-30 minutes, or maybe longer depending on the network connection. I should have known. My firmware has been updating for 30 minutes and is now 15% finished.
I'd be tempted to let the upgrade run, but as you recall, I am writing this on paper. The reason being that the firmware update has also locked up all of my programs on the macbook. Everything is still running in the background, but only the firmware update will run as the active application. Write emails? No. Type a blog post? No. Edit a video? No. Watch Samsung upgrade my firmware for half an hour? Yes. Actually, No - the firmware upgrade will have to wait until later. I have work to do. Honestly, what were the Samsung software engineers thinking? Hijack the user's computer for a phone upgrade?
I cancelled the firmware upgrade process. Just as a final joke, the Samsung dialog asks "Do you want to finish upgrading the firmware?" To a native English speaker, the answer is "No, I do not want to finish upgrading the firmware because you have already locked up my computer for 50 minutes and are only 20% finished with the upgrade. I would like to stop now.". I click on "no". The firmware upgrade resumes. OK, last laugh, to quit the firmware upgrade, I say "yes" please finish the firmware upgrade and the program quits.
This phone is meant for the general public. Did Samsung ever test their software ? Really ?
To be honest, I'd like to broadcast my frustration to the world. But the real issue is not frustration, but an amazing lack of customer awareness on the part of 2 very large and successful companies.
Samsung is one of the world's most successful smartphone brands. Google managed that which Microsoft could not - to build a successful smartphone OS. Both companies are abusing customers!
If you own an iPhone, no matter which device you need to synchronize data with, Apple provides the basics. Download iTunes and 90% of the customer needs are solved. It is simple & it works.
I bought a new Android phone for my wife - she liked the Samsung brand & I liked the Tegra chip from NVIDIA. Android as an OS & Samsung as a manufacturer were both new to us. But I'd always heard good things about Android and the interface looks great in the shop. Apple had already set the expectations for customers so I assumed that Google was a smart enough company to handle the basics.msdos
In my previous post it was clear that neither Google nor Samsung handled the basics - a customer care lesson for all of us. My wife doesn't make great demands on IT toys - so I just wanted to backup the starting configuration for her. It seemed like connecting a new phone to a Mac and expecting it to be easy to backup the existing information on the phone was asking too much of Google & Samsung.
With a bit of work & several hours of experimentation, a solution very unlike iTunes and rather reminiscent of MSDOS - the Android File Transfer app was working. Other options slightly more elegant that copying files by hand all failed. But that was going to be good enough for my wife & I did have other more fruitful tasks needing my attention.
A couple of weeks later & for unrelated reasons, we decided to switch phones. For me that meant to find a basic solution to synchronize my data. As an iPhone user, I would appear to be Samsung's primary target customer. Maybe there would be a better solution. I thought that my dreams had come true as well when a google search pointed me to Easy Phone Sync - they even had an agreement specifically with Samsung - great!Except that you can't download the software for your phone. It is allegedly available on the UK Google store - OK, how does that work? Via IP address? Doesn't Google recognize that people travel in the world today? Not possible to get the right version at all, therefore I cannot tell you if the software actually works.
But I can tell you that Samsung and Google, who are targeting iPhone customers, have absolutely no migration tool of their own - much less a free tool. iTunes for Google, gTunes, as it were, that doesn't exist.
The next step was too look for the missing tool I needed. At first, I thought that I had a bevy of free choices - but that is a cruel illusion. Free sync tools for Android will provide many many links... only the phone app is free in the Google store. The client app for your PC will cost you. After searching the selections, I opted for MarkSpace & their "Missing Sync" product - the name tells you a lot already. But I used their software years ago with my Treo phone, and it worked well, so far fro; the cheapest solution for something which should be free, I paid for the download.
The basics of the product had not changed too much in last few years and the setup was pretty painless - there was an annoying need to download multiple "Fliq" apps from Google Play, but everything started to sync... notes, tasks, calendar, ...
Of course one of the more interesting items to sync for a telephone are contacts. Naturally, this did not sync. Rather than bore you with the details, suffice it to say that many searches on Google, the visit to the MarkSpace Knowledgebase, and ample experimentation did not resolve the issue. As I write, the technical support help request ticket has been submitted & I await a response.
And I paid for this software...
So in summary, I represent the target conversion customer #1 for 2 mammoth IT giants and these companies do not even have the most basic of basic tools & services in place to make certain that I, the primary target customer, have a delightful - meaning simple and easy - first experience with their product.
I'm certain that each of you can see the simple solution and we should be looking at our own businesses with the same perspective. Not only am I offering a fundamental value to my customers, but am I meeting the basic requirements my customers have - especially at the beginning when they form their first impressions?
If 2 really smart companies like Google & Samsung can be so careless, it should cause us all to stop and re-evaluate own customer awareness.
It looks to me as though Google has a long row to hoe before Android catches Apple.
Jeez – this should not be hard.
The Samsung is a beautiful phone. A nice feeling, light device and a quick check in the shop makes me say “looks great”.
Then comes the problems with setup. I work in IT. I've been using iPhones for years. I just want to setup the phone for backup to my Mac and put some music, photos, and contacts on the phone.
Impossible. Even going to the Samsung website gives me tips like these :
1. Attach your Samsung device to your computer (PC or Mac) using the USB cable. If this is the first time you’ve connected your device to your computer, it will install the necessary drivers on your computer. 2. On your Samsung device, touch Applications > Settings > Wireless and network > USB utilities.
Which falls flat already on step 2 since there is no selection for “USB utilities”. Which is just one of the fun problems encountered with this great looking phone.
Like I said :
This shouldn't be hard... but it is annoyingly hard.
How often do we create similar situations for our customers? To make certain that our customers have a good experience with our products – especially the first steps – should be one of our highest priorities.
Well, back to work...