Wednesday, January 17, 2018

GEEK Electric Heater – Best Little Area Warmer I Have Seen

DSC_9074_NIKON D600_85 mm_ISO 800_1-160 sec at f - 2.0

This little heater costs around 60 bucks on and is an amazing little value. I can’t find the original brand on Amazon, but there are two versions that look identical on there as of right now, so I will add links to them both below.

I have been using it all winter and it makes life in an unheated basement bearable. The swing function works perfectly and the heat is more than adequate. If you walk away from it while running, it will eventually shut off, so I think it is pretty safe as well.

My experience is positive enough to recommend this unit. I looked a long time for one that was small and unobtrusive and this fits the bill. It's also heavy for its size and feels well made.

DSC_9075_NIKON D600_85 mm_ISO 800_1-160 sec at f - 2.0

YouTube Sucks all of the Joy out of Creating Videos

One of the pleasures of YouTube is getting a few dollars for your efforts. I have been monetizing my videos for years and the trickle of money is small, but something that is surprisingly pleasant. It’s just nice to see a little bit come back for your time and effort.

But no more. Small channels like mine are being completely shut out as the threshold is now 1000 subscribers (I have about 450) and 4,000 hours of watch time in the past year (I had 3950 in the last 365 days!!!).

They gave me 30 days to more than double my subscribers and increase watch time just enough to get 4000 hours. I can do the latter, but the former is essentially impossible.

So Google and YouTube have taken all the fun out of growing a channel. The little bit of reinforcement you get every month is gone.

What were they thinking?

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

I’m throwing away a perfectly good Epson printer because of their nasty policy to disable off brand ink cartridges :-( **Updated 14 Feb 2018**

As a photographer, I have always been partial to Epson printers. They do have issues like easily clogged heads, but I have always been happy with their output. I acquired a $150 Epson XP-530 Expression Premium Small-In-One (what a mouthful) for about $50 on sale last year at Best Buy, and I have to say that it is in many ways magnificent. It uses two black cartridges – a huge black cartridge for paper and a small cartridge as a fourth color, called photo black (presumably a pigment based ink for more realistic photos). I have not printed photos with it though, and yet the photo black is almost empty, which makes it a total waste.

But the point of this article is that I did replace the inks once already. I cannot fathom paying over $120 for a set of inks for this printer, even though these are XL sized cartridges (more ink, same cartridge). The smaller set can be had for around 60 bucks plus tax. So at the time, I bought a much more reasonably priced set of inks on Amazon from a company called SaveOnMany. The set had five stars and I had no problem with the inks. Installed easily and printed perfectly. What’s not to love?

Well, for one, Epson’s aggressive policy to update firmware to stop recognizing third party cartridges once it has their signatures. And of course I foolishly accepted the latest firmware and my cartridges are suddenly not recognized. This would not be suspicious if it were just one cartridge … but it is all four of the SaveOnMany cartridges. The OEM photo black is still recognized perfectly.

DSC_9072-Edit_NIKON D600_85 mm_ISO 800_1-160 sec at f - 2.0

Now … I can keep this very nice printer and spend a fortune on inks, or for a little more than the cost of the smallest set of inks and way less than the cost of the XL sized inks I can buy the latest generation of HP printers that are on sale right now for $81, as in 57% off. The new printer would not have photo black ink, but then I have not yet printed anything on photographic paper with the Epson either. So that’s not an impediment.

I have read that HP swears that all compatible cartridges are supported, and so I am going out today to buy my very first HP printer. I’m actually a bit excited, since I have never owned one.

Updated on 18 January 2018

So I did acquire the HP printer a couple of days ago -- an OfficeJet Pro 6978 -- and it is a beast. Very impressive physical design, and terrific colours and text quality. Looks like the best laser printers.

But ... their setup is pretty confusing, especially for Canadians. Their ink subscriptions default to USA and Canadians cannot proceed properly, which seems to affect the installation itself. Typical conflation of features between installation and up-sell. When will people learn to write things down before typing in the code?

Anyway, I got it working, but some features still fail (scan to computer, occasional loss of connectivity for printing). For now I think it is probably worth it, but I have to admit that I am not in love with HP yet. I will give it time.

So my bottom line so far is that I think Brother printers are easiest to use and their main flaw is that the heads fail completely after a few years; Epsons are still my favourites for output and features overall but they have horrible corporate policies towards 3rd party inks and being evil negates all the rest; Canons are quite good but their print heads fail after a while; and HPs are rather hard to get working well. Surprisingly so, considering that HP is an 800 pound Gorilla in this business. But the HP output may prove to be worth the pain, so I plan to keep at it until I know either way.

Updated on 10 February 2018

In 3.5 weeks, the HP has completely died. I’ve researched the error and it is the end of the line. Wow …

And thus I have revised my printer rankings:

  1. Epson is the best overall, but the company is evil. Turn off all firmware updates if you don’t want to get fleeced by these guys.
  2. Brother is second overall, but early failure happens.
  3. Canon is pretty darned good, but I have found in the past that their prints heads are finicky and will just give up at some point.
  4. HP is crap. Sorry, but my horrid install experience was followed in 3 weeks by a total printer failure. That’s crap.

Sadly, I seem to have lost my receipt, and so I think I am completely screwed. Believe it or not, I am going to go and buy ink for the Epson. I will have to go OEM for now, but 6 months from now I will be able to use third party inks, and I will never allow my printer to take a firmware update again.

Updated on 14 February 2018

I finally decided to call HP to see what could be done, and they were very understanding. The process was a bit convoluted (what isn't with this company?), but they got it done. The support person said that she would normally take me through the steps I had already tried, but because the printer had a hardware fault in such a short time, I could take it back to the store. At this point, the tech support person that had been helping me through the process gave me a case number, and a short while later I got an email with the case notes. I am to print that and take it to the store I bought it at (Staples) and they will swap it for a new one. If I actually get a new one, and if it works for a good long while, and if inks are not crazy expensive, then HP will be risen much higher in my estimation. I'll update again once I get the new printer.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

And the “Most Superfluous Message” Oscar goes to …

I won’t tell you where I saw this, but I will tell you that it confirms my suspicions about the level of critical thinking that many people put into their software …


Define necessary … sheesh …

Monday, November 20, 2017

Shame on Lexar for a Horrible Product

I needed a thumb drive quickly a few nights ago to bring some movies to a friend who is ill. So I popped out to WalMart (open past 10, so they win) and scanned all the offerings. It had to be USB 3.0 at least, and it had to be reasonably priced for the size. I found a Lexar USB 3.0 64GB for $38cad, which I considered acceptable.


I cracked the package and plugged it into my USB 3.0 hub, finding it disconcerting how flimsy the plastic business end felt. In fact, the whole thing felt flimsy, with unsatisfying action when extending and retracting the plug, and with it weighing essentially nothing. This is not a good thing with electronics, and it usually indicates minimal structural integrity. It really feels like one of those knock offs you find in a dollar store rather than a fairly expensive product from a well-known brand like Lexar.


So I soldiered on and copy the files over. One of the reasons I bought this particular model was the claim of up to 150MB/s read speeds, and it did pretty well in my tests.


That’s not bad at all. For a comparison, I checked the speed on a 32GB ADATA unit that feels like a high end thumb drive with high quality plastics and some weight, and of course a metal plug.


Note the marked difference in how the tabs stick up in the quality drive. So how does the cheaper, but much nicer drive fair in the same test?


The performance falls short, but that may very well have to do with the capacity of the drive, since higher capacity drives are typically able to stripe their writes (write in parallel since they might have twice as many raw chips), which makes a huge difference in sustained speeds. But the ergonomics are so much better that I would easily make such a trade.

Getting back to the story …

The drive feels terrible in hand, and plugging it in is universally scary since it feels like it is going to break every single time. The plastic lock that holds it extended is extremely weak, allowing it to pop shut at any resistance, so this is not the drive for awkward spaces, like behind a TV.

And speaking of TVs … the ultimate test was plugging it into my friend’s TV, which failed miserably. It kept popping the lock and so I eventually had to hold it tightly with thumb and forefinger to get it into the slot. It flashed once, but never registered as a thumb drive. We tried it several times, and tried another drive that came up instantly. So it definitely was incompatible with her TV.

So we tried a Bluray player and a DVD player, each of which had a USB plug on the front. None of them could recognize the drive. We gave up at that point.

At home, I checked it on a laptop and back on the same switch that wrote the files, and it was recognized both times.

Once wonders what sort of compatibility testing Lexar did for this cheap piece of crap?

It’s going back today, obviously …

p.s. It is entirely possible that this design was commissioned by WalMart specifically.

If so, shame on Lexar for going along with it, and of course for the obvious lack of compatibility testing.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Published again in the Ottawa Citizen Newspaper

Get yours this Thursday to see all that is happening in Ottawa this weekend and for the next while. This is an image taken on rural roads near the suburb I live in.


A lovely day that was.

And once again I have to thank Robbi Hay, editor the Ourtown section of the Citizen, for using my work.