IMPRESSION: TOPAZ STUDIO V1.01

IMPRESSIONS – TOPAZ STUDIO V1.01

I’ve been a devoted user of Topaz filters for a few years, but now, they have come out with a more complete graphics processing application. I downloaded it yesterday, and I’ve been playing with it since.

I thought it would be a framework to hang their existing filters — which you can do — but that’s not even close to all of what it can do for you. You certainly can use Topaz filters from in the application much you use them through Photoshop or Lightroom, However, it includes its own filters, too. From groups of basic settings through a wide range of different artistic filters, you’ll find glowing, abstract, and line drawings and most things in between. Quite a substantial collection of highly usable filters to do everything from basic set up through art.

There are areas of the application I have not quite figured out. Yet. Resetting the size and pixel count of a photograph is one of those things. You can set the pixel count from 72 on up, but there does not (yet) seem to be a function to fix the perimeter of the photograph, something I do constantly as I move photographs from desktop to website. I may have missed it and I’m going to do another run through of the tutorial.

Nor have I found a way to knock out or paint (make disappear) pieces in the original photo. I’m pretty sure this function IS there, but I’m missing it. I’m not a real whiz kid with graphics, so every new application of this type is a big learning curve for me.



As far as working in larger groups of photos, they haven’t quite gotten there yet … and they use the same klutzy save process for this application as for early stand-alone applications. Missing, too, is a simple “flat line” to straighten a crooked picture. They have a very classy rotator — classier than my version of Photoshop — but not a straight line for setting up a flat horizon. They need it. It’s a basic tool which almost everyone uses.

The filters — new and old — are great. I have heard a lot of people complaining that a lot of the presets are not different enough from the others to make them worth using. I disagree. I love the subtle differences between filters. These small changes are often what takes a picture from “okay” to “special.” Not every filter is perfect top to bottom, but this application includes an excellent selection of filters and I can’t imagine not finding many of them very useful.

This is a fine set-up for anyone who enjoys using filters and at this early point in the project’s development, you can be sure that even better things will be coming soon.

So what is my impression of Topaz Studio V1.01?

I like it. I am sure I will like it even more in subsequent versions. It’s still a bit awkward, but they will fix that. It works the way you’d expect Topaz filters “in a boxed set” to work.

They need to come up with a better naming method, precision sizing, and moving smoothly in a multi-photo array. But even at this very young point in the application’s development, you can get a lot of work done using their impressive collection of filters. Even if they didn’t change anything — most unlikely since Topaz is always developing new products — the tones, textures, and other transformations you get using this set make it worth your while.

This probably won’t be a substitute for Photoshop … but then again … with a bit more development, it’s not impossible.

MY NOTORIOUSLY NEW PRINTER

I hate printers. I also hate copiers, scanners, and fax machines.

Nowadays, you get one, you get the batch, but I still hate all of them, whether in one package or many. I got my new printer a few days ago and finally got around to installing it yesterday. Maybe I should have waited.

When you are setting up a new printer, what can you do if your WiFi simply won’t “see” it?

It turns out, the most popular technique is highly technical denial. This means you turn everything off and go shopping. Really, any outside-the-house activity will do the job. We went to Garry’s hearing place to see if they have a significantly better hearing aid for him. Not quite. Yet. Maybe it would be a little better, but not $4000 better.

When we came back from the hearing place and having briefly stopped at the grocery store, I realized I had to confront the printer again. Another one of the small aggravations of modern times: new computers — like this one — don’t have DVD players. I bought an external one, but first I tried downloading the setup instructions from the website. This is supposed to work just like the disc, but surprisingly, didn’t.

Probably, because the WiFi did not find the printer. Or maybe there was some other inexplicable reason.

When your WiFi won’t find a device, there isn’t much you can do about it. You can wave your hands in the air like a fan. Maybe that will blow the WiFi in the right direction. You can shake your devices — but this may work to your disadvantage. Then, there’s cursing. For many people, that works well, but for me, it’s a distraction from getting on with the job.

Turning everything off, then turning every back on is one of the most effective ways of convincing something that should be working to really work, but this time, it didn’t. I should have figured if going shopping didn’t fix it, I needed a new approach.

So, after we came home and I quickly realized it hadn’t magically fixed itself (damn), I hauled my laptop and DVD player into the office. There are — as it turns out — alternate instructions which only appear when you click “NO, that didn’t work either”  for the third time. At which point alternate instructions pop into your browser. These are apparently dangerous weapons of mass destruction and can only be used if your WiFi absolutely can not find the printer, even after you wave your arms and plead with the manufacturer.

It turns out, you have to press the WiFi button until the ALERT button flashes twice. Not three times. If it flashes three times, you have to start over. Next, you have to push the start button again, at which time the WiFi button should start to flash very quickly (not slowly … slowly won’t do the job). They also don’t warn you there’s a pause before it starts rapidly flashing — but if you push it again, you have to start over from the top.

If all goes well, at this point, unless your WiFi is actually out, you should have a connection.

Then you push another button while pressing a third button. Which prints a sheet which you will attempt to scan. Which inevitably produces an error message. If you try to do it again, all it will do is keep printing the same page.

I said screw it and gave up. Then, I decided to register the printer. It turns out, I can’t. Because I am a Canon user — but have no idea what my password used to be. I’m exhausted from carrying the laptop around and having to follow all those instructions.

Since the printer was been found by the WiFi, it would surely print if asked. If the WiFi had found the printer all by itself like it should have, I wouldn’t have had to do any of this. Windows would have taken over and installed everything. Immediately.

Good news? The printer says it works. I’m trusting this to be true. I’m not at all sure about the scanner, but I’ll save that for another day.

Have I mentioned how much I really hate printers? I used to hate fax machines and copy machines too, but now they’re all one thing. So I have just one big thing to hate instead of three.

Is this a good or bad thing?

I SHALL GO PEACEFULLY

I am in pursuit of nothing at all. I’m not working, so I’m not hunting down money. I’m not career-involved, so not going there. I suppose the only thing I am really pursuing is how to go from simply playing Civilization to winning the game, whatever that means. All I want to do is build handsome buildings. Collect Great People to improve my population’s learning skills.

I seem to lack a killer instinct.

I have encountered this problem before. With this same game. Years ago, when they had “Cheat Mode” as an option, whenever another nation got too aggressive, I made them disappear.

Note the Great Wall

Sadly for me, they have ditched “Cheat Mode.” I sorely regret the lapse. I don’t want to go to war with Peter the Great or anyone else. I merely want to build the Winter Palace and the Great Library. Develop medicine. Send spaceships to other planets. War is annoying. It is a distraction to the really important things in the world.

I have come to believe that no one makes games for people like me. Someone should. I can’t be the only person that would like to play without brigades and explosions.

That’s why I liked the old SIM games. Your battle was with building the right number of elevators to get annoyed people to the top of the building … and you could watch Santa Claus fly by in the Christmas sky. I always like that.

I want a game without wars. Where no one, real or simulated, will threaten to blow up my civilization up with nuclear (or other) weapons. Where I don’t need to spend most of my game building some version — old or new — of The Warrior.

It’s hard being a pacifist in a nuclear electronic era. No, really. It is.

PORN POWER – TOM CURLEY

There was an interesting article in the news concerning a porn site called xhamster.com I don’t know why it’s called that and I really don’t want to know. They’re in the news because they closed off their website to anybody living in the state of North Carolina. Why? Because of the harsh, horrible anti-LGBT law they passed. If you log onto their website from anywhere in that state, you get a blank screen.

blank screen

Blank screen for you!

The tone of all the news reports and nightly talk shows was that this was a funny but useless protest. There are thousands of other porn sites where North Carolinians can … well you know. But, as usual, the main stream media and the nightly talk shows missed the real story. I am not offering an opinion on the virtues or evils of porn. However, there is a larger truth which is widely known but rarely talked about regarding the porn industry. Porn has been a major driver, financial backer, and early adopter of technological innovation since the beginning. Since forever.

When mankind started drawing on cave walls, I guarantee you some of the first things depicted were people getting some Neanderthal Nookie.

thestar.com.my

thestar.com.my

Porn was very popular in the Middle Ages. Moreover, it utilized some of the earliest encryption technologies. I saw an exhibit in a museum once that showcased one of them. The exhibit consisted of huge tapestries painted with very strange distorted images. You couldn’t tell what they were.

What were they? Porn. The artist would draw the original naughty painting on a regular canvas. He would then look at the painting’s reflection in a cylindrical mirror. The image in the mirror would be all distorted. He would then paint that distorted image onto the tapestry. If you looked at the tapestry the painting made no sense.

anamorphic art

arthit.ru

But. If you looked at the tapestry’s reflection in the same cylindrical  mirror the artist used, the image would be reconstructed back to its original form. (“Naughty Knights 5”)

When photography was first invented in the 1800’s one of the earliest subjects was, of course, naked women. Having sex. When the telegraph was invented, telegraph operators were known to spend their off hours “telegraph sexting”.

I didn’t believe it either.

blog.kaspersky.com

blog.kaspersky.com

OPERATOR ONE: Who you talking to?

OPERATOR TWO: I don’t know, but she sure can dit my dot!

The VCR became popular because porn producers started switching to videotape, abandoning film. Finally, you didn’t have to go to a movie theater for porn. You could “bring it home.” VHS beat out Betamax because the porn industry chose VHS. Really. No kidding. That’s the way it happened.

alf.image.com

alf.image.com

Porn money propelled other technologies, too. Online payments, DVDs, streaming video, and two-way internet chat rooms. Virtual Reality headsets have only been available for a few months and there’s already Virtual Reality Porn.

truvisionvr.com

truvisionvr.com

(I wouldn’t know this personally, but I read a lot).

So here’s the real story that everybody has missed.  One porn site blocked off an entire state. It has been viewed as a symbolic, but mostly useless protest.

What if they all did it?  What if all the porn sites got together and said to North Carolina: “NO PORN FOR YOU!”

no porn for you

I’ll bet you that anti-LGBT law would be overturned in about an hour and a half! Maybe less. Then, the porn industry would realize it’s true power! Imagine, Lysistrata on a national, even a global, scale!

dykiegirl.wordpress.com

dykiegirl.wordpress.com

“You won’t do what we want? NO PORN FOR YOU!” All the porn industry needs to do is come together. Organize.

Organize into a cartel.
A conglomerate
 A Ring.
lotr.wiki.com

lotr.wiki.com

“One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them.

One ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.”

Pray they use their power for good.

WHEN IT ALL GOES WRONG … OR MAYBE NOT

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned, I was in Israel for nearly 9 years, from the very beginning of 1979 through the end of 1987. I sort of missed the 1980s and from everything I’ve been hearing about it, I didn’t miss much. A few TV shows, but with all the reruns available everywhere these days, I’m catching up on them.

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More interesting is that I came from a high-tech world in Israel and returned to a high-tech world here. It wasn’t quite high-tech when I left, but it was considering it. There were many new ideas that would morph into even more new ideas.

Video discs, which, I think, eventually became DVDs. Other parts of the same thing became the life-force of “computer-generated” creations we now see everywhere. I left at the beginning of this mad rush to technology and came back in the middle of it, a hardened veteran of the high-tech wars. I went directly from what I’d been doing in Israel — documenting software — to documenting software. Here. I’m pretty sure that some of it was the same stuff I’d worked on in Israel.

Yet, for all my high-tech-ness, there are things from which I will never recover.

IT’S NOT WORKING! WHAT’LL I DO?

You’d think this would only happen if a major piece of equipment punks out.

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You’d be right, most of the time. Except — I don’t know how many times I reinstalled operating systems for machinery that had a loose plug. I just needed to … plug it in. To the machine. Sometimes, to the wall.

OH NO! MY CAMERA IS DEAD!

I panic when I turn on my camera and I can’t see anything.

“Oh NO! My camera just died.”

Total panic. Full hysteria. Something is terribly wrong and I … Oh. Never mind. My camera didn’t die. I forgot to take the lens cap off. What a ninny.

CALLING FOR HELP

Despite my frenzy of panic, I have never called tech support because I forgot to remove the lens cap … or because I needed to push the plug back in the wall. This isn’t because I’m too smart for that. I’m plenty dumb enough, thank you. It’s that I don’t like having to call customer service for any reason.

It’s my last port of call, when all else has failed. Most of the time, I’m grateful. And, in the end, most things “fix themselves.” Unplug it, count to ten, and plug it back in. Fixed.

You will never find out what was wrong anyway. If rebooting doesn’t work, sometimes making a sandwich, eating it, and coming back to the desk will take care of it. Like, 90% of the time.

customer-service-f1-for-help

I had a boss who commented there really is a reason for everything that happens. The problem is, the amount of time and effort it would take to discover exactly what went wrong can take weeks. At which point you’ll discover it didn’t matter anyway.

You have to make decisions about what matters. First, reboot.

THE SPIDER ON THE CEILING IS IN THE BED

Yesterday morning, there was a spider in my bed. This is a bad thing. Not merely do I not like spiders (okay, I’m terrified of spiders), but a spider in my bed can cause me to stay up all night and refuse to leave the sofa in the living room. Yesterday, it was there. In my bed. And Garry was in the shower. By the time I could extract him from the shower, who knows what that spider might be doing.

But it wasn't quite this large

But it wasn’t quite this large

I solved the problem. I got paper towels and screamed hysterically while I removed the spider from the bed. Garry can’t hear me when I scream (no hearing aids in the shower), so I just screamed. A lot.

Having removed the spider. I (later) asked Garry how there could be a spider in the bed? Practical man, he said probably one of the packages I’d brought in from outside had a spider on it.

“Oh,” I said. “That makes sense.” Because until that moment, I was ready to tear the entire room to pieces to find that lair of spiders.

Just saying.

AND FINALLY, THE COMPUTER IS FIXED. ENTIRELY. FIXED.

I installed the new operating system, taking everything down to zero. Rebuilt both drives. Added software for documents and photography. Added the plug-ins that I use more than the software. Added back all my photographs, then deleted half of them because what’s the point in having things on back-up drives if you put everything on your hard drives anyhow?

Then, I added the printer, sent a test page, and it printed. It’s 9:40 pm. I’ve been at this since ten this morning. I am one weary cookie.

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This doesn’t sound like much until you realize that merely downloading and installing the operating system is a two-hour job — on this computer. On a different computer, it would have been a much longer job. This computer is fast.

What really took a long time was downloading the photographs and the OpenOffice desktop application. The photographs, originally just over 68,000 of them, took about an hour and a half. Then it took me another hour to delete about a third of them. They all exist either in my site, or on both of the hard drives. They are not gone, merely … in hiding.

OpenOffice is a huge application and it’s free. I usually send them a little money anyway because they do such a great  job at creating a full-service application, but their servers are slow. It was nearly two hours downloading the files. Setting them up took a few minutes.

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My favorite was in Devices/Printers. I wanted to install my printer. When I added the printer, I got a mini-app which requested some kind of installation or other (?) number.

What?

I had no idea what they wanted, but I went dutifully to my printer. I found a serial code, wrote it on a piece of paper. Came back. Typed it into the file. Hit ENTER.


“Sorry, that didn’t work out. Please check further for the correct number.”

I sighed. It had been a long day. This was the absolutely last thing I had to do. The very last thing. I wanted to be finished, done, ended. So, on a whim, I clicked ‘Install New Printer’ again. Clicked the printer … and without asking for anything, it installed all the files and was up and running in a cat’s meow.

What? What about that serial or whatever number? No? Don’t need it after all? Okay, then.

300-alien-200217_002

I know doing a full computer installation can take a really long time, but I needed this to be finished. I was beginning to lose it. I have shockingly little patience with watching things load, download, upload, and in a pinch, side load.

As of this writing, I feel totally loaded.

But you know what’s really super hilariously funny?

I didn’t need to do this. They had given me incorrect information about the recovery function. All it needed was one click. I didn’t need this whole big deal. I didn’t need to spend almost 10 hours installing and loading. I suppose the good news is that everything is working brilliantly, but … I just needed someone to give me the right directions on how to use the recovery function.

I believe I have a headache. Then again, who wouldn’t?

ALIENWARE 15 R3 — THE GOOD AND THE HUH?

I always have very mixed feelings when I realize I’m going to have to buy a new primary computer. I love technology and I love computers. I love gadgets and widgets and cameras and lenses and software. From the first day I put my fingers on a computer keyboard, I knew I’d found my place in the new order. Computers felt like “home” from the first day.

New computer

However, getting a new primary computer that will be your everything computer is a big deal.

I’m not talking about a tablet. Or a Kindle. Or an old computer you want to keep because it contains software you can’t buy anymore and which you like better than “new improved” versions.

No, in this case, I’m talking about the one item of equipment that you use all the time for years on end. It’s the constant use computer. The machine on which you blog. Take care of your daily business. Banking, shopping, email, photography. It’s where you process pictures. Where you have software and filters. It’s where you write. Design books. It is important.

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Getting a new computer up to speed, configured the way you want it has always been a process that takes anywhere from a few hours to several months of tweaking. In this case, it also involved getting used to a new operating system — Windows 10 Pro up from Windows 7 Pro.

PERFECTLY FROM THE DAY I TOOK IT OUT OF THE BOX

This computer worked absolutely perfectly from the day I got it. There was no start-up time, except the time it took me to figure out where the new stuff was on this computer that was somewhere else on my earlier computers. If I didn’t feel I need to know what’s going on inside, I need not have bothered to find out anything. I’m still finding out things, though more now than before since that BIOS download the other day, but that’s a different issue.

THINGS THEY COULD DO BETTER — AND PROBABLY WILL

The C-port “Thunderbolt” replacements for the USB drives are not very sturdy. They work, but they are fragile. I’m sure they will be improved with time, but as of today’s writing, they should have included more USB ports. I have added hubs, but the lack of a CD drive for a camera card is a real pain in my butt. They should put it back.

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It won’t help me much. However, for future computers … put the CD drive back. Add at least two or three more USB ports. There are a lot of items that only work properly in a USB port. Eventually, maybe everything will love these new ports, but they don’t love them today. My external hard drives and my DVD/CD drive won’t work in the C port … and of course, I also need something for the CD flash card too. In theory, you can use a hub, then put stuff them through the C port, but that’s really stupid. Too many hubs, too much stuff. I’m sure I am not the only one complaining about this.

A FEW QUESTIONS ANSWERED BEFORE YOU ASK THEM

Why did I stay with Windows rather than getting a Mac? Because I actually prefer Windows. It’s a structured, work-oriented system. Its design and the way I think work well together. I have owned Macs and used them, but in the end, I’m much more comfortable on Windows. I’m task oriented. The Mac with its “do your own thing” unstructured style doesn’t mesh well with my style. Of course, there’s also the software I own that runs on Windows, but won’t run on a Mac.

I am not a hardware kind of gal. You won’t find me rewiring anything or prying open the case to get at the innards. Software? No problem.

Hardware? Call the guy with the toolkit. The second-hand market it good for people who aren’t afraid of getting down and dirty with the guts of the hardware, but I’m not one of them … so new was the way to go for me. Windows PC. High end. New.

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My previous Alienware laptop was very satisfactory, but technology has been whipping along at light speed for the past few years. The computer was more than two operating systems behind. I was not interested in overlaying a new operating system on the old one. I tried that and failed. Badly. It was also getting difficult to run new software on the older system. It ran, but not run well. Frustrating and annoying, but the development world is not interested in my opinion.

OTHER QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Why Windows 10 Pro you ask? Over the decades, I’ve found the “professional” versions of Microsoft operating systems are more stable and much less buggy than the “home” version of the same OS.

Every version of Windows has essentially the same stuff in it, but the menus change. The most alarming difference for more was the complete removal of the “Restore” and “system configuration” menus which has been part of Windows since the beginning. The pieces are now parceled out to other menus (Systems and Task Manager).

HOW DOES IT DO?

It boots up in fewer than 10 seconds. I don’t know how many different windows I could open, but whatever it is, I haven’t found it yet.

THE GOOD AND THE WHAT-THE-HELL?

I would have gone all the way and said this is the best computer I’ve ever had. Basically, it still is, but that download the other day from Microsoft was evil. I’m still recovering from it. To be fair, things seem to be working more or less normally — again.

It’s a great computer.

The problem is, you never know what kind of rat poison you’re going to get in downloads from home base. Apple has done it, Windows has done it more. They really need to step back and ponder users and what we need.


THE PARTS AND PIECES:

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  • 16GB DDR4 at 2133MHz (2x8GB)
  • English Backlit Keyboard, powered by AlienFX
  • NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) GTX 1060 with 6GB GDDR5
  • N1435 & N1535 Wireless Driver
  • 256GB PCIe SSD (Boot) + 1TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s (Storage)
  • Windows 10 Pro (64bit) English
  • Killer 1435 802.11ac 2×2 WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1
  • Intel(R)Core(TM) i5-6300HQ (Quad-Core, 6MB Cache, up to 3.2GHz w/Turbo Boost, Base frequency 2.3GHz)
  • 15.6 inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS Anti-Glare 300-nits Display
  • Lithium Ion (68 Wh) Battery

IF YOU DO A LOT OF STUFF ON THE COMPUTER, A GOOD ONE IS WORTH THE MONEY

The computer I had before this one is now Garry’s computer. Aside from not handling newer applications well, it’s a fine computer and will last a very long time, especially with Garry using it. Even if it needs a hard drive or something else, it’s more than worth repairing. You can’t say that about a lot of the cheap, cheesy computers.

They are cheap, but they aren’t good. And they won’t stand up to repair.