Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Buying enough RAM to make the i7 7700HQ happy

Okay, I've had this 2017 Omen (by HP) 15t for around six months.  It's decent at most everything, making it a good successor to the mid-2012 MacBook Pro quad core i7 with 16 GB of RAM and 480 GB SSD.

When things get tough, it shows how slow it is.  The 8 GB of RAM shows up as about half in use when doing simple things.  When I go to edit photos, I'm in trouble, with RAM generally full and virtual memory has to resort to the 7200 rpm hard drive.  Intolerably slow would be the key phrase but it's possible to remember with 4 MB of RAM was a full set and my Atari 1040 ST (with modification) would fly at 8 MHz.  That was a monochrome system with a 640x400 display.

The MacBook Pro supported 1440x900 and this Omen has a 1920x1080 display--the not so good display, that is standard.  Hey, if I can edit from lesser displays in the past, can I work with lesser displays in the present?  Of course, I can.

However, using Phase One Capture One Pro has been a bit tedious, especially if I'm using Luminar 2018 at the same time.  If I try to also use Magix Movie Edit Pro and/or Xara Designer Pro, things might grind to a halt.

I just ordered 32 GB, in two RAM sticks, with sales tax, etc. for just a bit less than the two pieces were by themselves just a few weeks ago.  G.Skill RAM works well and is trusted.  My needs may not be as specific or hard core as the gamers who would also buy products from the brand, but high performance, reliable products are necessary.

I considered 16 GB but half of my 8 GB is in use doing almost nothing.  Trying to make video with 16 GB might leave me with almost nothing and virtual memory will ruin the performance and I'd be back to intolerably slow performance, plus I'd spent money to arrive there.  Considering the drop in price, it didn't make sense to go with the lower capacity.

I also ordered a toolkit from iFixit, so I should be able to open the machine and put things right easily.  Previously, I had two Husky drivers (from Home Depot) and two Kobalt drivers (from Lowes), which helped quite a lot.  I made the modifications to the MacBook Pro quickly and easily, while being watched, just in case.  It helped train them, also.  I've watched the video reviews of this machine and they opened it fairly easily.  It's just a matter of remembering which screws go where, just like always.

I will have to wait for drive improvements.  The machine has an M.2 slot, so it's perfect for a Samsung 970 EVO drive.  1 TB is much more affordable than the 6 Gbps 480 GB drive I put into the MacBook Pro in 2013. I'm just wondering if I happen to have a Samsung 2.5 inch 512 GB SSD drive that I bought a few years ago.  If I can transfer everything to a 1 TB M.2 drive and switch the 1 TB hard disk drive for an SSD drive, also, things will improve.  However, saving money takes time.

Wish me luck!

Update 2019.01.08: I've got the RAM, but couldn't install it, due to a plastic plug covering one screw.  I'm still working on solutions, but I'm about to have someone else install it, and the HP EX920 M.2 1TB I bought for very little.  Hopefully, the cost of installation won't break the bank.  I've had some noise lately, and I'm not sure whether it's one of the fans or the hard drive.  In either case, a gaming laptop computer needs everything working at full throttle.

Update 2019.02.15: It's done.  Both have been installed for US$30 and another US$35 covered cloning the drive data.  That's actually less than I spent on tools to do the work myself.

The machine still doesn't feel faster than the mid-2012 MacBook Pro.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Luminar (2018) is the quickest way to huge edits

I've used a few raw development applications by now:

Phase One Capture One Pro
Ichikawa Software Labs Silkypix DS
Olympus' free Viewer
Adobe Lightroom (original beta)

I started with Capture One 3.x way back in 2006.  Good raw development application software was difficult to find.  Thankfully, Olympus bodies produced fine JPEG files.  If I had been using Canon or Nikon, I would have been in more of a hurry.

When Luminar became available on Mac OS X, I had already been using the company's Creative Kit 2016, which had a single application for a major functionality.  Luminar put those together in a simplified way.

Thankfully, Apple created CoreImage functionality and that took away some of the complexity, especially when dealing with raw files--if Apple got it right.

The company's software gave me a reason to experiment and it made it quick and interesting.  With Luminar, many transformations became so quick simply because I didn't need to switch from application to application.  I could have dramatic results within minutes.

If you look at Capture One Pro or Silkypix DS, they both support saving a group of settings to give photos a certain look quickly.  Those in Capture One Pro especially tend to be holding to a less dramatic upheaval than Luminar.  Given the target type of photographer, that might be appropriate.  I appreciate some restraint, but I'm learning that my audience may want a bit more spice.

Now that I'm using the Windows version of Luminar, things are less certain than on the Mac but just as interesting.  They have many things planned but I would just like to be able to switch quickly between a number of files within a folder.  I photograph sports, so I might end up with hundreds (or more) of photos from a meet or tournament.  I can't guess at which one is which, especially when Windows doesn't support the raw files.

At this point, I will have Capture One Pro open and switch to Luminar for special edits, which is difficult to do with the current 8 GB of RAM.  (I'm working on that, but don't know whether I will be okay with "only" 16 GB or need 32 GB, especially for video projects.)

Left-original, Right-altered

I'm looking forward to more experimentation with Luminar.  Hopefully, they can provide a healthier interface to files, so it's easier to use in a professional workflow.

Update 2018.11.02: The company released the AI Sky Enhancer filter.  It's supposed to only work on sky and clouds.  I'm not certain how wonderful it is because I have yet to make extensive use of it.

Included is a side-by-side sample of a fairly busy sky at sunset photo to show the differences.  This may be a bad example but it does show differences.

Update 2018.12.06: Skylum have announced that the update to Luminar that adds Libraries will be available on December 18th.

Update 2019.01.08: For anyone interested, I've been trying to use Luminar 3, with the updates, and it is miserable.  I am certain that everything will be much better in time, but I don't even feel it's worth using at this time.

The first time I started it, it took forever, as if it was an early (alpha/beta?) release of a product.  It asked what I wanted to have in libraries.  What I selected was completely duplicated, but with a current date, so that it made a mess of searching and use of the Photos application.  After the fix update, I tried a few photos and with each style I tried, it created an image.

They have a great many things to handle.  Until they get them under control, I will use Luminar 2018.

Update 2019.02.19: Luminar 3.0.2 is out.  I updated but will continue to use Luminar 2018 because I don't have to guess at how it will work.

Update 2020.01.22: Luminar 3.2.0 is out, even though the company has moved to version 4 of the software, featuring Artificial Intelligence sky replacement and portrait enhancement.

I appreciate that they went further to fix version 3 a bit, but I'm still not ready to move to version 4.  Luminar is a great tool for huge edits BUT is in no way essential to my workflow.  Until Luminar 2018 becomes incompatible with a future Windows 10 update, I will continue to use it when I feel the need for more stylish editing.  I would say that they're fighting Adobe Photoshop Elements, which is using AI in their latest version, but it seems multiple applications are trying AI at some level.

By the way, Affinity Photo, Publisher, and Designer all work together quite well, if you're looking for a light suite of applications that tackles quite a lot, but is rather inexpensive.  They all work with Windows, Mac, and iPad.  I haven't been tied to Adobe since 2006 and don't like that they pile on enhancements without fixing bugs first.  The people at Skylum seem to be doing that with Luminar, but they're not entrenched as Adobe are.

Update 2020.02.17: I receive e-mails from Skylum practically every week.  They apparently need me to purchase Luminar 4.  I'm not interested.  They'll be sad.  I'm sad that I paid for Luminar 3.

The best way for them to make money now is to make all those Mac-only apps into style packs and sell them.  They did a set for the black and white application that I used to use and those styles helped me recover part of what I had felt I lost.

I appreciate that they want to move into AI, as did Adobe, but I'm not that interested.  I haven't even bought the latest Phase One Capture One Pro update.  It has a lot to offer, especially since the year ago version, but I'm not really in the mood and I don't photograph nearly as often.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Windows Fall Update 2018/1809

It is with a bit of regret that I updated so quickly from 1803 to 1809.  A few hours later, there were articles about data loss.

I'm not really seeing a lot of visual changes.  I tried the new screen shot functionality and it didn't work as I expected.  I tried Windows + Shift + S to activate it and used the mouse to frame a window.  The screen shot included the background and that window, rather than just the window.

For some reason, I expected just the window.  Why it excluded the other windows but not the background, I can't imagine.  It seems a convoluted way to capture it and still make you edit the screen shot to exclude the rest of the display.

This morning, the Disk Defragmenter was running on its own.  I suspect this could account for data loss.  I'm not sure that anything is missing, but I'd rather not experience this.  In any case, Microsoft has pulled the update until they figure out what happened.

Quite a few extra instances of tasks seem to be running now, in contrast to a couple of days ago when 1803 was active.  I'm hoping for the best, but I expect it will be a couple of weeks until things are updated again.  I may pass out from holding my breath.

Update 2018.10.10: The fixes arrived fairly quickly and I'm wondering if they just moved the problem (as they did in the old days) or they actually fixed it.  Since data loss is not minor, they probably found the actual problem and fixed it.

Update 2018.11.04: Still having various small issues.  Can't decide whether they're from the update or something else.  I'm guessing that there is a combination of problems that has been exaggerated by the update.  Putting the machine to sleep seems particularly difficult now.

Update 2018.11.23: I can sign into my account more quickly but it still takes a very long time until I can do anything, with everything checking something at startup time.

You'd think that Windows 10 would be a great operating system by now.  Windows 7 showed that Microsoft could almost erase its history of half-ass work.  Windows 10 needs one person to guide it and tell people what's wrong and to have enough power to have others fix it.  Every company that develops products needs a mad genius of sorts.

Update 2018.11.28: Apparently, my interface to iCloud hasn't been working, so Apple worked that out.   Every other day, it seems that there is a new problem with the Windows update.  I haven't had this much "fun" since Windows 95.

Update 2018.12.06: The other day, I looked to see if any other updates were available to make things more reliable.  What showed up was a surprise--a cumulative update for 1803.  Considering that I've had 1809 for a bit, I'm not sure how I can be put back to 1803.  I'm now wondering if I have some sort of dreadful mix between the two.

Update 2019.01.08: The 1809 update arrived again.  This time it took a whole day, possibly because my main drive is failing, but it didn't seem to be making quick progress with the internet connection either.

The good thing is that the computer seems settled now.  Things seem to work more smoothly and consistently.  Hopefully, they take a long time to test the 1903 update before they let anyone have it.

Oh, and there have been mini updates off and on since the 1809 arrived.  Apparently, security updates are still a priority.  It's good to see Adobe Flash security updates but why do I want Flash installed at all?

Update 2019.02.15: I continue to read that there are problems.  It seemed that I was getting daily Windows updates.  Does any of this make sense?  I hope to never be a guinea pig again.

Update 2020.02.17: I've been on 1909 for a while.  Microsoft still doesn't test things well and their latest security update seems so broken that they removed it to be fixed.