Steve Jobs: The Man Who Changed Everything

In my Wednesday October 5th memorial article I said a few words for Steve Jobs:

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak brought personal computing out of the science labs and back offices and into average American homes in the 1970′s. The Macintosh, a brilliant synergy of great hardware and a user-friendly software interface, created a sea change in home computing which still raises our expectations today.

As I predicted in that article, only days after the passing of Apple’s Steve Jobs, even hardball political commentary broadcasts like Inside Washington were rediscovering how many ways Steve Jobs will continue to influence how we conduct our daily lives. One commentator said that people who used to read real newspapers and real magazines now read the online edition on their iPad. I’d like to take that a step further and say I know people who never used to read real newspapers or real magazines, who’ve started devouring serious professional news resources on their laptops and iPads.

It really doesn’t matter if one does or doesn’t “like” Apple. Some of us have a contrarian distrust of anything that becomes too iconic, too popular, or attracts anything that smells like a cult. Some people may feel all the credit given to Jobs somehow diminishes the real innovations of the many others in other competitive industries. And of course most homes, and the entire business community, still run on the Windows platform. Continue reading

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Graphic Converter for Mac

Graphic Converter for Mac -  5 Star Rating - Summitlake Consumer pagefive stars

Back in the dawn of digital photography in the 1990′s , we used to send film to Seattle Filmworks for processing. By return US mail we’d get back negatives, prints and a floppy disk of images in a proprietary compression file format called .SFW. With the included software, one could save those as JPG images. They were pretty crude digital images – to fit on a floppy disk, they had to be! With prints and negatives long misplaced, these images are often the only surviving photographic records of a decade of our lives.

Recently I discovered many of those old JPG images had become corrupted. Photoshop couldn’t open them. Photoshop couldn’t open the .SFW source files, either. This is like losing a piece of one’s family history. I began my web search for a solution. The old Seattle Filmworks software may still be available, but it hasn’t been supported since Windows 98.

To my utter surprise, I found that an application called Graphic Converter. Graphic Converter? That’s like locating an old friend you lose track of a decade ago. I used to use it on the Mac. I purchased it and installed it on my Mac Pro and recovered all my files.

Graphic Converter is an extraordinarily powerful and intuitive imaging software app. It does anything and everything one needs to work with images: edit, crop, color balance, file conversion, slide show, and much more. If I’d realized it was available and still being improved, I’d never have bought Adobe Photoshop Elements for Mac, which costs three times as much.

The new Graphic Converter is even more powerful and intuitively engineered than before. It was the ONE app I truly missed when I left Mac for Windows in 1997 (not returning to Mac until 2009). I was so happy with the new product I wrote Lemke Software to express my delight. App creator and software designer Thorsten Lemke wrote back from Germany asking if he could use my letter of thanks on his Customer Statements page. Of course he could – it’s the least I can do. Below is an excerpt from my letter of thanks for such a fine software product.

This is just a note of thanks for a great product. I used Graphic Converter from about 1995 to 1997 and it was the best Mac app I ever used… I didn’t have to use a manual or Help file to do it. Graphic Converter is as logically designed as ever! It is also the only product other than Photoshop I have ever trusted to edit my photo images, and your product performs a lot of functions Adobe doesn’t.”

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Random Header Images

Random header images have returned to our Summitlake.com Home Page. That’s the page-wide banner image at page top. Home page visitors see a new image with each visit. We select these at random from a collection of about 40 custom images. I created these from my library of personal photos, including many not posted elsewhere. Visitors to other departments continue to get a static image (it never changes) which helps visually to determine what department we’re currently viewing. The rest of this article contains an image displaying what those iconic department images look like, and technical details mostly of interest to WordPress geeks.

I hope you enjoy the 40 or so new custom Home Page header images. I created them new from Photoshop crops of the my favorite personal library images.

The image below displays the static banner header images for our nine satellite “departments”. The Astronomy header photo is from a NASA image of the Helix Nebula. All other banners currently used on this site are crops from personal digital photographs and 35mm slide scans. (No image is shown below for HOME as it’s the department with rotating random images.) All personal images are copyright, so it would not be cricket to post these images elsewhere.

Department Banners

Department Banners

Random banner images are built into WordPress as of version 3.2, eliminating the need for custom programs and plug-ins.

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SPAM: “Adobe” Reader emails

I recently received an email from a friend: Good morning Al: How important would it be for me to download this? Do I really need it?

A non-clickable image of the “Adobe” email follows. See how many things you can find wrong with it! Below the picture, you’ll find my answer to this common question.

Bogus upgrade invitation (picture)

If this email were real, you wouldn't want to click any links it contained!

Good morning!

The short answer is, no. The email you received is SPAM, or worse :-( so hope you did not click that link! (If you did, run your anti-virus program!)

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Welcome

Featured

Welcome to our Computers page, with articles on computer hardware and software, networking, programming, digital music technology, and more.

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BIOS & Conclusion: Multiple Causes

Welcome to Comcast browser greeting

unwelcome Welcome to Comcast (click image)

This concludes the saga of “BIOS Won’t Boot“, a most unfortunate sequence of events occurring on April 1 (yes). The story was posted here April 8.

On April 11, Sunday afternoon, the second day of my return from Phoenix, you couldn’t tell there had ever been any issue(s) on my Castro Valley machines, and I didn’t have to spend a nickel to replace any hardware, either. It’s always nice to have the spare 3V CR2032 BIOS battery I bought for this occasion in Phoenix, wouldn’t you think? But I didn’t need to use it.
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BIOS Won’t Boot!

I’m in Phoenix at the moment, returning to the Bay Area tomorrow. I’m staring at my newly rebuilt Windows 7-64 PC, which is working great. It’s dawning on me that when I shut it down tonight I won’t need to say good-bye. Taxes are due in a week and my PC up north died.

I’ll be packing the car tonight for the drive north. In addition to the usual travel stuff,  I’m packing (1) a CR2032 3V Lithium CMOS battery, and (2) this PC. I just lugged this PC down here to Phoenix last month. Since I’m moving here soon anyway, lugging the PC back north with me just seems counter-intuitive.

Yes, I also have a fast Mac Pro up north, but all my tax stuff is on the PC.

Usually, when I post one of these “this happened to me” articles, there’s a moral to the story. In this case, I don’t know what it is yet. The PC failed just when I had to get a night’s rest for an early morning drive south. If I had to guess what the moral of the story will turn out to be, NOT forcing Windows shutdown with the Power Button would be high on my list!

Here’s the story (or what I know of it so far), excerpted from a letter to a friend. There’ll be a follow-up post once I do the diagnostics and fix the problem with whatever it takes.

I have a new Windows7-64 up north too, and I love it, but I may have to do all that over again too, if not very lucky, as soon as I get back next Friday.

Less than 12 hours before I had to leave for Phoenix, I was on the phone with Comcast cable/internet to get them to reset my new modem again. Some browser intercept feature of theirs was hijacking my browser on all 3 CA machines – a Mac and two PC’s.

Their tech guy reset the modem, got customer service to update something or other that should make the “hijack” screen go away, and he had me shut down and reboot the machines. This fixed the problem in the Mac and the old XP machine. The Win-7 machine refused to shut down. After several minutes, I forced it off with the 5-second Power Button trick. I don’t like to do that, and normally don’t.
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Why Doesn’t Stuff Just Work As It Should?

Steve Fox of PCWorld raised some timely questions in his March 2010 column Tech Products: Revolting not Not Rebelling :

… our state-of-the-art technology too often fails to work as it should. That’s why I have to reboot my Wi-Fi router at least once a week; why my fingerprint-recognition pad periodically forgets what my thumb looks like; and why my smartphone keeps dropping calls without provocation.

Mostly, I think the answer likes in our neglected software development process. In darker moments, many of us probably suspect that our software vendors hire besotted programmers to code their operating systems and mission-critical software in bars and back alleys. In truth, a coding project like a modern Mac-OS-X or Windows 7 may rival the Manhattan Project in resources and organizational complexity. When things go south, where did we go wrong?
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Smiley Madness

It sounded so simple. Wouldn’t it be fun to add smiley recognition to my own little web programs? WordPress does it automatically. They just can’t decide whether it’s spelled “smilie” or “smiley” – depends who did their coding.

Well, after all, every time you see the symbols “:-)” , you’d just replace the symbols with the image path to the appropriate smiley, wouldn’t you :-)?

So you can see the manual smiley markups, I even had to enclose the symbols in quotes for this post, to prevent WordPress from converting them to their image equivalents.

Outside of WordPress, it turned out not to be so simple. You see, every symbol in the smiley “grin” markup is also a “special character” in Perl and most other programming languages. The coding to test for their presence will therefore match to symbols which, themselves, are program control characters. So the program thinks it sees a syntax error and blows up.
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Mac & Windows Notes

I continue to enjoy my Mac Pro (under Snow Leopard) and my PC (with newly installed Windows 7-64). Following are some collected notes & observations.

  • Music: for years I’ve been careful to select PC motherboards with the best onboard sound processors (DAC’s). I knew I would be interested in finding the results of A/B sound comparisons between Mac and PC playing the same iTunes tracks in synch.
  • iTunes: “PC music” is a hot topic in the high-end audio magazines these days. The thinking is that you have to get an external DAC to wring true “hi-fi” stereo sound out of your PC – and the pros are often as not using iTunes to create their own state of the art music servers – something I’ve been doing for years, using just the onboard digital-to-analog logic.
  • And the audio quality winner is: Continue reading

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