Thursday, August 2, 2018

Apple's Worth on Paper Hits $1 Trillion

Today, more financial history was made.  Apple surpassed the One Trillion U.S. Dollar mark in value--the highest of any company in known history on this planet.

That's not to say that it is actually worth that, but that's quite a feat.  They previously made the history books by being worth more than Exxon-Mobil, a fuel company.

It makes me feel a bit silly that I didn't put my US$2500 into Apple stock at $13.5 per share in 1995, instead of buying a computer.  I could have had numerous computers by now, although I had, but for leftovers from a periodic sale of the stock.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Windows 10 and the daily mess

Here is my history:

In 1981, I got my first computer, an Atari 800 with 16 KB of RAM, no disk(ette) drive, and only a TV as an output device.  It was an amazing gateway to programming in assembly language and gave me the enthusiasm for a career in programming.

Along the way, I'd got an Atari ST (Motorola 68000), IBM L40SX (80386sx), a Motorola 68LC040/68040-based Mac, a Power Computing PowerCenter 225 (Motorola 604e) Mac clone, and more.  I worked with Windows 3.x and later at work, mostly as an aside to my programming duties.

A couple of years ago, I bought a Lenovo Flex 3, 14 inch touchscreen-capable machine with a dual-core i7 processor and 8 GB of RAM.  It was for someone else who kept borrowing my quad-core i7 MacBook Pro that I needed so much.  I even bought one later, feeling impressed by its usefulness.  I ended up giving it away to someone in need, and I didn't mind.

It was a learning experience.

A lot of life has happened since then and the mid-2012 MacBook Pro is dead and I'm currently using an Omen by HP gaming laptop--quad-core, 7th generation i7 with 8 GB of RAM and a 1 TB hard drive.  It's a 15.6 inch machine with Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics hardware.  Potent but not supremely powerful.  It's not so different from the MacBook Pro, except that machine had a 480 GB SSD and 16 GB of RAM.

Oh, and Mac OS X was quite different from Windows 10.

When Windows 7 arrived, it was obvious that Microsoft intended quality to be more of a priority.  It happened.  Then, Windows 8 and 8.1 seemed to be a typical mess, and then, Windows 10 would solve it all.

Between the Lenovo and the HP, I can hardly fault the hardware.  They worked as planned, most likely.  Why the software is such a pain is beyond me.  Doesn't Microsoft hire all of those H-1B visa-enabled people because they just can't find talented U.S. citizens?

While searching the operating system, I end up in displays that look as though they come from Windows NT 4.x--I spent a lot of time using that.  The startup routines seem about as smooth as WinNT, as well.  That wasn't praise.  It takes quite a while after the user interface has been loaded to where it's actually, fully operational.

Also, it's taken me months of crappy internet connections to get the machine to take all of the updates.  Why is a mobile hotspot or other metered connection so difficult to use?  Mac OS X was fine with a mobile hotspot, but it wasn't always clear about connection problems, either.  Generally, it didn't try to download the same update 3 times and continue to fail because it would put the update in a holding area once it downloaded it correctly.

It's been a pain to update because you have zero control over what's being updated.  HP has tried to give me some control through their Support Assistant software, but it can't override every system update.

I look at HP Support Assistant and Update and Security control panels first.  Then, I look at Windows Defender Security Center.  Last, I look at Microsoft Store.

Regardless of the connection, I've never had a secure feeling that updates were going to work.  I had trouble with the fall (1709) update, as well as the spring (1804) update, plus much of it in-between those two.  Even virus patterns were difficult to download at times.  I would think that it would download something, make sure it was ready to be used for the update and let it be installed.

This morning, I left the machine idle for a little while and when I returned, it wanted to install more fixes for Adobe Flash, as well as some of the typical monthly items.  That went rather smoothly, probably because I didn't need to use the computer.

Update 2018.07.30: Microsoft Store continues to break.  Whether it's on my phone's mobile hotspot, Comcast/Xfinity, or various other internet connections, it doesn't seem to be happy, especially since the Spring 2018 update.

I'm still unsure why it won't display my camera's raw files.  The Lenovo machine did.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Apple Update Day

There have been loads of updates today:

  • macOS Sierra 10.12.4
  • iOS 10.3
  • tvOS 10.2
  • watchOS 3.2

Most of these were up to an 8th beta test version.

I don't have an Apple Watch, so that isn't a problem, thankfully but there is a rather large load on the internet connection trying to update everything.

I've updated Apple TV and my iPhone but I'm not updating my MacBook Pro because I can't get a number on the size of the update, and I'd rather not pay overage charges.

Besides this, iWork has been updated on the computer and the phone.

The most significant change is the new file system: APFS.  It's live on iOS devices.  I wonder if it's working on the Apple TV or Apple Watch.  It should be interesting to see how the phone changes with a modern file system, rather than some relic of the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s with the electrodes sticking out of the neck to remind people of the creature they've been using.

I'm not noticing a huge difference at this point, and the phone seems to be working as well as it was--no glitches.

Better performance is always appreciated, so hopefully, that happens.  When the file system can be implemented on my MacBook Pro, I'll probably be much happier.  I'll be ready to update macOS Sierra in a few days.

Monday, March 13, 2017

UPS gives me a headache

I only use UPS when the seller does not give me another choice.  This happened years back when I ordered something and the shipment was artificially held at their Seacaucus location.  There were two arrival scans and two departure scans.

Prior to January 1, 2017, I had a shipment on the way, and they did what they could to delay it and then, didn't put it on the truck the morning it was supposed to be delivered.  I mentioned something on Twitter, asked if I could pick it up.  I got a call from another office in the area, but not where the shipment was sitting, that it was still on time and that I was mistaken.

A few days ago, I placed an order that was split between FedEx and UPS, both for Wednesday, March 15, 2017.  Over the weekend, UPS decided to change it to a later date--4 days for their 3 Day Select shipping.

A little while ago, I put the screenshot on Twitter with an unhappy message for them.  Someone looked at the shipment and fixed it, putting it back to Wednesday instead of Thursday.  UPS support replied to me as if I was a moron that shipping does not include Saturday or Sunday--duh.  It shows that the change was made almost exactly after my Tweet.  Hmm...

I can appreciate that they don't want to give away the business--that they want to make money.  I'm not against that.  Why artificially hold back shipments?  Fedex often gets shipments to me ahead of time.

Here is a new one.  They've made sure that I won't get it on the originally scheduled day.  They got confused when sorting.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Verizon Wireless' LTE Advanced technology

A few months ago, I saw a press release from Verizon Wireless saying that they supported LTE Advanced (true 4G) in two cities near me, giving much, much, much faster speeds.  You know how they were ridiculing Sprint for being good around Kansas City, and all that?  Then, they started using technology that was even better than what they had to trounce Sprint.

I've been using a Verizon Wireless hotspot for over two years, after the previous hot spot couldn't connect to Sprint for more than 6 hours--something Sprint couldn't explain--but my phone on Sprint was working perfectly.  Back around May, I got the latest, greatest hotspot from Verizon that would support LTE Advanced, XLTE, and allow international roaming.

I was in Modesto, CA today, waiting for someone, and I decided to download something to my phone because iTunes app updates are limited to 100MB over the air.  Beyer Park has a tower and Sprint's service is the best there, of all Modesto.  I hoped that it would work out that way with Verizon--only much bigger.  I regularly get 40-50 Mbps with Sprint there.  I'm sure I read that Verizon Wireless was suggesting hundreds of Megabits per second.

I was so disappointed.  I do better at home without LTE Advanced.  I tested it with three apps and my download of 1.2 GB took a very long time, unfortunately.

I'm guessing that it's similar to when Verizon Wireless was first implementing LTE.  A friend lived in a small town that they claimed had LTE.  She tried to show me something.  After a few minutes of churning and getting nowhere, it dropped to 3G and instantly the results were shown.

Does that make it a lie or an exaggeration?  In advertising, I believe it's known as fraud, but it looks like an overstatement to claim a city name without covering the whole city.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Zhong Yi Mitakon 25mm f/0.95 in my bag

I got this about 24 hours ago and it's been raining, so it was hardly a good environment to try.

I've considered a lens with a maximum aperture f/0.95 but the Leica Noctilux series were anywhere from US$6000 - $10,000.  Voigtländer produces 4 lenses with this maximum aperture and with a micro Four-Thirds mount, not electronically connected.  These are generally less than US$1000.  All of these lenses are manually operated.

While I have used lenses manually more recently, they've always been electronically connected to the body.  Being totally without a backup system will be like being in my teens again with my original Fujica SLR and two Pentax-screw-mount lenses.

This Mitakon 25mm f/0.95 looks a bit as it's trying to emulate Leica.  It's rather heavy, being metal and all.  For US$400, but with a $50 discount, I felt it was okay for a good experiment.  It seems perfectly sized for the Panasonic GM5 but it is somewhat heavier than the camera body.

It seems quite sturdy and seems better on the Panasonic GX8.  The box was somewhat unusual.

If you're interested in a test of the lens, you should look at this one.

It has a click-less aperture ring, something quiet for video but a bit annoying for still photography.  It definitely reminds me of a number of lenses from the 1970s with the Depth of Field scale and all.

I mounted the lens to the GX8 and took it out around 3:30 p.m.  I kept the aperture around f/8.0, to remind me of earlier days.  Besides, it was a bit bright for f/0.95.  I popped the EVF into the vertical position to remind me to keep an eye on the aperture ring.

Lens flare is an issue.  The coatings obviously weren't meant to deal with a lot of sunlight, but who would have thought that someone would use it that way?  I found the lens to be good but a bit odd.  You'll see from the photos that it takes care of direct sunlight in a most unusual way.

Next, I need a warmer evening, so I can take some photos outside at maximum aperture.  That may be a few days from now, as Northern California is getting rain and a cold front.

Update 2017.02.25: I took a little trip to the Golden Gate Bridge overnight and got some photos.  We've had a deluge of rain and flooding but it's been relatively dry the past couple of days, giving me a chance to use the lens outdoors.

I've noticed a small problem--it doesn't seem to focus to infinity and this isn't surprising.  After I got the lens, I was warned by someone else who had the problem.

Update 2017.03.07: I thought I would add a couple of night time photos from last night.  I needed better stabilization or a tripod to steady this, even at f/0.95.  The Panasonic GX8's IBIS isn't very good, probably similar to the Olympus E-5 from 2010.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

GH5 soon? GH4 with me for over two years

I was thinking that I'd only had the GH4 for a little more than 1 year, but it has been 2.  Strange how time seems to pass.  It's been almost 5 years since I started with micro Four-Thirds, with the GH3 and 35-100mm f/2.8 lens.

In about 36 hours, Panasonic will announce the GH5.  So far, the rumors have indicated very little.  It's getting a higher resolution sensor.  It's getting a higher resolution EVF and a higher resolution rear display.  It will be able to record at higher bit rates, including 4K at 60p, and possibly 120 fps or 180 fps for 1080p.  There is a new hotshoe-mounted interface device.

The 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100mm f/2.8 lenses are to be revised.  Hopefully, they'll fix the pathetic OIS unit in the 35-100mm f/2.8.  The stutter in video was just as bad after the firmware fix.

Speculation is everything now.

I have one big wish--that the AF be tremendously improved.  Whether I'm recording video clips and the AF suddenly goes away or I'm trying to take a still photograph of someone and it locks onto the fence or wall behind the person, I need improvement.  Supposedly, they've divided the AF areas to provide a more granular set but it didn't feel as the number of CDAF areas were the problem.  It was that the camera body became too busy to be bothered with AF.

It's odd that I can be sitting and I point the GH4 in a slightly different direction and I can hear it working on AF, but if I need it to take care of it while doing the half-press on the shutter release button, it's off in lala land just enough to be a problem.

I've still had problems with the EVF blacking out while I'm wearing non-polarized sunglasses but that isn't really a problem for me.  Muscle memory helps me get my shots.

Since Sony and Canon have stepped up their game, Panasonic must arrive with much better technology and I'm not enough of a brand fanatic to believe that they have.  I believe whatever Venus Engine processor they use will be better but it always comes up a bit short.  They've become better at removing chroma noise, but not enough to make anything over ISO 3200 usable for me.

To me, they should have the same sensor with 121 cross-type AF PDAF and CDAF points that the E-M1 Mk II has.  This would solve many problems, if used correctly.  Panasonic told us that they didn't need PDAF and that using pixels for PDAF degraded image quality.  I suspect that they didn't use the best technology.

Whatever comes, they will likely underestimate demand and eek out a few units, so that people will wait months for their camera body to arrive, even if they receive a boatload of pre-orders.

I hope that Panasonic overwhelms us with good news about the GH5 and the 35-100mm f/2.8 replacement.

What, no PDAF?  Are they stupid, cheap, or both?  For the price, PDAF should be included.

I'm underwhelmed.  Yes, it's better than the GH4, but it would be difficult to not improve on the GH4.  Apparently, the sensor outputs at 1.7x the speed, they say, but isn't 480 2.0x 240?  Hopefully, the replacements for the 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100mm f/2.8 are up to full speed instead of lagging.  They aren't--the same 240 fps that the originals did.  I'm wondering if they fixed the OIS in the 35-100mm f/2.8 or just re-did the exterior, as with the 20mm f/1.7 lens.  At least, they reduced the price from the maximum of the original.

I was unimpressed with the 35-100mm when I used it on the E-M1 instead of the GH3 because it was so much slower.  It's slow on the GX8 also, but of course, not on the GH4.  In the revised version, they say 240 fps, which seems the original figure, but it never seemed to work well, for me, on anything but the GH3 or GH4.  It was slow on the GX8 and E-M1, for me.

At least, the GH5 finally has 5 axis image stabilization, and hopefully, the new routines in the Venus Engine 10 image processor will help them keep up.  Its speed improvement was less than impressive, considering that the GH4 was overwhelmed at times and didn't keep up.  It almost feels as though the new one was good enough for the GH4.

It's both brilliant for the film maker, and brilliantly flawed for the rest of us.