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Topics - CWuestefeld [ switch to compact view ]

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General Software Discussion / Announcing SpaceMan, my new Alexa skill
« on: January 22, 2017, 01:19 PM »
I've just published my first Alexa skill. If you've got an Alexa Echo device, and have any interest in space exploration, I think you'll find it interesting.

Spaceman is a free app for your Amazon Alexa device. I created it because I've always had a deep interest in space exploration, and building a way to keep informed of news in this area, and even inspire curiosity, seemed a good exercise for me to teach myself the technology behind Amazon Alexa and AWS Lambda functions.

It currently provides information to you about:

  • Phase of the moon
  • Scheduled rocket launches anywhere in the world, both past and future
  • Asteroids and other objects passing close to the Earth, for dates you request

To get a quick overview of the current news, just say

Alexa, ask Spaceman what's up?

But Spaceman also understands dates, so you can ask about other days you're interested in

  • Alexa, ask Spaceman what's up tomorrow?
  • Alexa, ask Spaceman what's up next Tuesday?
  • Alexa, ask Spaceman what happened yesterday?

Date ranges will work as well. And it can be future or past

  • Alexa, ask Spaceman what happened between January 1 2017 and January 10 2017?
  • Alexa, ask Spaceman what's happening from today to Friday?

Typical output is like (spoken, of course)
News for Saturday, January 21, 2017
This is a waning crescent moon.
Date: Saturday, January 21, 2017 12:42 AM
Status: Success
Name: Atlas V 401 | SBIRS GEO-4 (SBIRS GEO Flight 3)
Location: Cape Canaveral, FL, USA
8 objects are passing near the Earth. None of them are potentially hazardous.
The nearest will pass by us at a distance of 26.7 times the distance to the moon. It will be traveling about 9 thousand miles per hour, and have a diameter between 48 and 107 feet.
More information is available at http://ssd.jpl.nasa....bdb.cgi?sstr=3704156

You can get the skill from here:

More info about it here:

General Software Discussion / Amazon Alexa tips and skills suggestions
« on: December 05, 2016, 02:01 PM »
I just came into possession of Amazon's Alexa Echo Dot. Being a nerd, I was happy to play with it. And just a couple of demos to my wife: "Alexa play James Taylor" and "Alexa play Bach", and she was sold on it. I thought I'd share my experience with it so far:

  • Its speaker is crappy (although the one in the full-size Alexa is supposed to be pretty good). You really need to hook up a bluetooth speaker to it if you want to use it for music.
  • While not bad, it does take some getting used to before you'll be comfortable with the phrasing of some commands. But most of them are fine.
  • I've been using it a lot for music, between the built-in support for Amazon music (via Prime membership) and iHeartRadio. What you can get to for essentially free is pretty impressive. But my wife keeps telling it to turn down its volume. I tried "Alexa ignore volume commands from Cathy, but that didn't help  :P
  • It has a built-in weather skill, but if you want something more local and specific, look at the "Big Sky" skill.
  • One of the use cases I wanted to cover is maintaining a grocery list, since it's sitting on the kitchen counter. The skill "Our Groceries" seems to be a good way to accomplish this.

Anybody with more Alexa experience have anything to add to this?

General Software Discussion / Beware of download sites
« on: January 12, 2015, 10:54 AM »
How-To Geek has an interesting cautionary tale.

We installed the top 10 apps from, and you’ll never believe what happened! Well… I guess maybe you might have a good guess. Awful things. Awful things are what happens. Join us for the fun!

We’ve been railing against freeware download recommendations for years, and recently we taught you how to test any software safely using a virtual machine. So we thought, why not have some fun and see what really happens if you download software like a regular clueless user might?

For the purpose of this experiment, we’re going to just click through all regular installation screens with the default options using a fresh virtual machine. And we’re going to install ten applications from the most popular downloads list. And we’re going to assume the persona of a regular non-geek user.


Why do nice things always have to go to crap?

EDIT: changed title of thread to not cast aspersions on all freeware

General Software Discussion / Tool to facilitate transcribing speech
« on: December 21, 2014, 08:37 PM »
My wife is working on transcribing her father's memoirs - he recorded about 39 hours of cassette tapes, which I've digitized for her. She wants to get it all into text. I'm looking for ways to make the job easier.

The obvious solution is something like Dragon software's speech-to-text. But the catch is that the speech is in Mandarin, and so far as I've been able to find, there's no software available to turn Mandarin speech into text.

Short of that, though, can anyone suggest a tool that might help her get through the audio more systematically? Since she's constantly listening to a minute or so, replaying it maybe a couple of times, and then proceeding to the next chunk of text, I think that the beginning of any tool might simplify this looping process.

Another usecase is for when she encounters something she doesn't understand, frequently a name that she doesn't know how to write (Chinese is funny with not being able to write a word if you've never seen its character). She needs to remember these spots and go back over them with her dad, so he can tell her the right characters to use. It might also be useful to store numerous bookmarks for the file, facilitating this process.

Anybody have suggestions I could pass on to her?

Living Room / Best Roku channels?
« on: October 25, 2013, 12:40 PM »
I've had it [1], I'm cutting the cord and switching to Roku. We've had conversations here before about the best Android apps, etc. Roku has a similar thing they call "channels", which are mostly portals to VoD content or livestreams, but are also sometimes apps.

So, for any other Roku users out there, what are your favorite channels?

[1] I've been a DirecTV subscriber since they started, but we're not able to use it in the new house. We're now using TWC, but their prices are much higher than they originally lead you to believe, their customer service's badness is the stuff of legend, and their DVR boxes are poor and have intentionally crippled functionality.

Living Room / Rebuilding my home network
« on: October 07, 2013, 05:07 PM »
It's been a few months since we had a serious discussion about home networking. I've just had to rebuild much of my network, and thought I'd share my experiences with current products and configurations.

I just moved to Texas, but a week before the move, a mega-thunderstorm burned out a bunch of my electronic equipment. On the trash heap following that:
  • Cable modem - owned by the cable company, so no loss to me
  • Router - these are cheap, but I lost the whole DHCP configuration, and getting all this stuff configured again will be a pain
  • 8-port gigabit switch - oddly, about half the ports still work, but I don't trust it anymore
  • DLink NAS
  • Desktop computer's NIC
  • One DirecTV PVR's NIC
  • PhonePower VoIP adapter - after the hit, it started to generate so much heat that its plastic case is warping
  • An HDMI switch connected to my TV, of all things

The NJ house I moved out of, I'd completely wired for ethernet before WiFi was a real option. The new house in TX doesn't have that, and TX houses don't have basements, making new wiring too much of a headache.

Getting myself back onto the net was the first task. I decided that in the long run it would be cheaper to buy my own cable modem (it'll pay for itself in 1.5 years, and with buried cables in my new town, there's minimal chance of its destruction). I went for the fastest I could find, a Motorola Surfboard, but really, any DOCSIS 3.0 would do. I had to let Time Warner Cable know the MAC address (their horrible customer service could fill another lengthy post). I subscribed to 50Mbps service (up from the 15Mbps maximum I could get in NJ), partly because the wife will be working from home, and will need plenty of bandwidth for that. I'm glad to report that the actual, measured bandwidth from TWC is slightly higher than that, even in prime time.

I also had a cheapo WiFi router in a box, which I'm currently limping along with until I can get better. That got me bootstrapped to where I could at least function.

The PhonePower VoIP adapter was easy. I called them, and had a new adapter in two days, minus $15 shipping. And it's pretty cool that I can just plug in here in TX, and still have the same phone number.

Since I don't have ethernet wiring, and don't want to be tied down to WiFi speeds, I needed a way to move the signal around. I'd previously used powerline adapters to good effect, and found that they've gotten faster in recent years. With three pairs of 500Mbps TP-Link Powerline Adapters, I can get the data into almost every room. I really like these things. They're super-easy to set up, and although they don't really provide the whole advertised 500Mbps, they're still a lot better than WiFi.

To get a wired connection to the damaged desktop, I needed to free a slot (the NIC had been on the motherboard). Who needs a phone modem these days? That card went in the garbage, with a spare gigabit NIC in its place.

The biggest challenge so far was the NAS. I had planned for the future by using RAID drives, but in fact both drives were intact; it was the NAS itself that was dead. And with no device to read the RAID array (and this being an older, discontinued model), I had no good way to get the data off the drives. Luckily I'd made a backup onto a portable drive just a week prior, in anticipation of my move, so data loss was trivial.

To replace the NAS Server, I got a Synology DS-212j. This is in the process of being discontinued (there's one lesson I didn't learn), so they're relatively cheap. I stuck the drives from the original NAS into this. I'm *very* impressed with this device. I don't know if there's anything special about the hardware, but they've obviously put a ton of effort into the software. Its configuration and management tools are just orders of magnitude nicer and easier to use than anything else I've ever seen. And the first thing I was able to do with it was plug that portable drive into its own USB jack, and copy off my backup (at this point I hadn't swapped out the desktop's NIC, and I really didn't want to push that much data through WiFi!)

One of the slick things about the Synology system is that it supports add-in applications (I know other vendors off this as well, but not with such an easy-to-use repository as Synology offers). And one thing I wanted to accomplish was to run a media server, to replace an old server that I'd decided not to bring to TX with me. Synology lets you install a Plex server with just a couple of clicks. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get the Plex server working for remote access from my Android.

I think the reason I can't get that remote access running is because of the network configuration in that crappy router I'm using. In particular, it doesn't give me sufficient control of DHCP to ensure that things live in the network where I want them to be. So I've got on order a new, better router, a NetGear WNDR3700 (another product near end of lifecycle, that you can get relatively cheap). It's supposed to have very good radios, to allow for access out in the backyard, or to support the wife's multifunction printer thingy in her office (which only offers WiFi connection, no wires allowed). I plan to install DD-WRT onto it (which I also had back on the old router in NJ), so I'll have pretty much complete control over the network.

I wasn't able to replace the DirecTV receiver - the technician wouldn't go up on the roof to install the dish, and couldn't guarantee that the signal strength would reach the box if he stuck the dish onto the side of the house. So now I've got a whole-house HD DVR system from TWC (again, with the nightmare customer service). Years ago, before HD, I had TiVos. Those were better than the DirecTV DVRs. And those DirecTV boxes were way better than the TWC boxes. They're awful! Clunky user interface, intentional crippling of features like 30-second skip, and again, their awful customer service, make me regret this part of my decisions.

The last bit is that pesky HDMI switch. The only reason I had it in the first place was because my old AV receiver doesn't support HDMI at all. Rather then spend a money for the particular weird setup I'd need for that, I tossed out the receiver and got a new one, a Pioneer VSX-822-K. So now I've got a complete, integrated switching system, making the wiring much, much, simpler.

In the past, I'd use a weird off-brand networked video box to get access to my music and video library. I thought I could use DLNA in the new AV receiver to get access to the library. But DLNA sucks. It doesn't need to, but I've yet to find any implementation of it that's anything close to usable with a large library. With hundreds of artists in my music collection, just paging through the list of artists is too painful. So while this *should* be a feature of the new system, in fact it's not usable at all. The old no-name video network box lives on.

If anyone's at all interested in this ramble, I'll report back when I've got the new router set up. And maybe I'll come up with another alternative rather than DLNA. I've been thinking about getting a Raspberry Pi to run either Plex or XBMC on.

(edit: I included a bunch of links to products in Amazon. These aren't affiliate links, I just wanted to give folks a way to look at specs.)

Living Room / Hating on new Google Maps
« on: September 30, 2013, 05:01 PM »
Surely I'm not the only one that hates the new design of Google Maps. Let me count the ways that I hate it, and see if anybody's found good solutions to these problems with it:

  • Slow to load - it takes quite a while, even on a fast (e.g., 20Mbps) connection, to load up the page
  • Slow to interact - the page just doesn't feel snappy, at least in Firefox
  • No multi-stop direction - I can only find a way to get directions from point A to Point B; I can't see any way to go from A to B to C
  • Hideous links - to send a map takes a huge, opaque URL, but I can always use or something to fix that
  • Did I mention that it seems really slow?

Any other problems Google should be addressing?

I've recently been handed a large quantity of family photos that need to be digitized, so they can be shared with the whole family. Scanning each photo individually will take from now until my retirement.

So I'm looking for a tool that will let me take a single sheet covered with many photos (laid out arbitrarily rather than according to any strict grid, and only approximately straight), and automatically separate them into individual image files, straightening each photo's edges as it goes.

Optimally this would be done as part of the scanning process. But what's really important is the separation and straightening, so if I had to perform an initial process of scanning each page into a big image for it to run on, that would be acceptable.

Does anybody out there in DC land know of such a tool?

General Software Discussion / Accessing the world from China?
« on: November 10, 2012, 09:16 AM »
I just read that China has cut off access to Gmail,, etc. And I'm leaving in 10 days for a two-week vacation there. I'm looking for a good way to stay in touch with that damned firewall in the way. I need a way to VPN, or at least proxy, my way through that.

Of course there are loads of public services, like Hamachi or more general VPNs. But I'm assuming that as the Chinese government learns of these "leaks", they get blocked as well. So my expectation is that to ensure that I'll have a way out, I've got to implement it myself.

Aside from accessing mail and anything else I need through my notebook, another requirement adding complexity is that I be able to use the tunnel to access Google Voice using my Android phone (through the GrooveIP app, which allows it to be used as pure VoIP).

Can any of you suggest a good strategy for doing this?

My first guess was to set up a VPN using my dd-wrt router. I'm pretty sure this is possible, but the documentation is far from clear (to the degree that it exists at all), both in the creation of the VPN itself, and in its usage. Also, I'm not sure that I'd be able to use it with my Android phone.

Maybe it would be easier to set up an application of some sort (whether a VPN or just a proxy server) on my desktop computer, and set up my router to pass the traffic through to that computer.

Found Deals and Discounts / Google market promo: $0.10 apps
« on: December 06, 2011, 03:09 PM »
Celebrating 10Billion downloads, the Google Android market is offering 10 days of 10 downloads priced at $0.10 each. And these are quality apps.

Starting today [December 6] for the next 10 days, we’ll have a new set of awesome apps available each day for only 10 cents each. Today, we are starting with
  • Asphalt 6 HD
  • Color & Draw for Kids
  • Endomondo Sports Tracker Pro
  • Fieldrunners HD
  • Great Little War Game
  • Minecraft
  • Paper Camera
  • Sketchbook Mobile
  • Soundhound Infinity
  • SwiftKey X


Direct link

Found Deals and Discounts / New Humble Bundle: Introversion
« on: November 22, 2011, 01:34 PM »
There's a new Humble Bundle out, featuring the work of Introversion. Games include

  • Darwinia
  • Multiwinia
  • Uplink
  • Aquaria*
  • Crayon Physics Deluxe*

* Must pay more than the average to get these two.

I'm looking for suggestions of how to best lock down a Windows XP system to avoid malware infestations for a non-savvy user.

My grandfather has been the victim of identity theft at least twice over the past year. Without making this too long, there is some reason to think that the leak of his personal info was through his PC. In addition, there's some circumstantial evidence that his habits aren't as sanitary as one might hope: he's had to have someone remove viruses twice, and his IE toolbars take up half the display space. Since the viral infection doesn't seem to be removed successfully, I'm going to cut the losses and just build a new machine.

So, I'm looking for your suggestions for the best way to set it up to protect him from getting into trouble in the future. One limitation is that I've only got spare licenses for Windows XP. I know that Win 7 would improve his security, but it would require me pumping in some extra cash (not to mention being a training issue), so I'd like to avoid that if I can.

  • I think the first step is to keep the admin account secret, and only let him use a login that has minimal privileges.
  • Install good quality Internet Security package, or separate antivirus and firewall, and ensure that he keeps it up-to-date. I've got some spare licenses around, or there's good freeware available.
  • Don't let him use Internet Explorer, instead use Chrome. This isn't because recent IE versions are bad, but because of the way Chrome keeps itself up-to-date.

Can anyone offer additional suggestions, or comment on what I've already listed?

Living Room / Amazing algorithms to enhance or transform images
« on: August 12, 2011, 01:35 PM »
Interesting page showing examples of some very cool image manipulation algorithms.

There are any number of ways to hear a variety of music on an Android phone when you've got a data connection. Pandora, Slacker, and apps of their kind can stream music to you. And I've found another app, MixZing, that will deliver playlists selected from what I've actually got on my phone, based on the music I'm currently listening to.

But what do you do when there's no data connection for this to be done through? I've found one app, JukeFox, that runs entirely locally. It scans your library and downloads tags for each of your songs; later on, it relies on this local cache to generate suggestions. However, JukeFox has stopped working for me. There seems to be a bug that is preventing it from scanning my library.

Can anyone else recommend to me another app of this kind? Specifically, something that can generate playlist suggestions based on some input (similarity to other tracks; genre; etc.), and do so without needing any connection at all (for when I'm driving through the mountains or something)?

General Software Discussion / Made the plunge changing to DVD Profiler
« on: February 21, 2011, 11:18 AM »
I've finally switched to DVD Profiler.

As with others here, I refused to "upgrade" my Collectorz software. And the version I had continued to deteriorate, such that it could only scrape from two sources anymore.

DVD Profiler suffers from the same approach as the newer versions of Collectorz, in that it's a closed system: no scraping from various web sources, just from the company's own repository. It's not quite the same as with Collectorz, though, because the DVD Profiler community is rabid about the quality of their data. Although the same questions about availability of data persist (I've got a fair chunk of Chinese videos, for example), what's there is almost certainly good.

This is a mixed blessing, though. To ensure quality (and to avoid copyright issues), DVD Profiler is militantly anti-IMDB. For those videos that aren't in their repository I'd be happy to scrape in IMDB data (it's much better than nothing), even if it prevented me from uploading that data to their own servers. But they won't have any of it: I'm not allowed to have IMDB data at all. I could transcribe it all by hand, but they wouldn't even be happy about that. (So far I've said to myself "screw them", and copied at least some key data: cover scan, overview, running time; I'll be good and not upload that). It seems to me that I'd be better off if they let me worry about the accuracy that I want in my own database, and not worry about it; they can implement whatever they need to flag records that have been "tainted" by IMDB.

DVD Profiler has a different pricing model from Collectorz. The latter has switched to a subscription, but DVD Profiler still operates on a single one-time charge (and a very reasonable one at that).

But the main decision point was how flexible DVD Profiler is. In particular:
  • Reporting is completely customizable, with a real GUI tool to do the customizing.
  • Searching is far more robust.
  • The "movie pick" tool, which helps you find a movie to watch based on similarity to other movies, is wonderful.

The process of migrating from Collectorz to DVD Profiler took me probably 3-4 hours. Although there are user-supported plugins that should do the job, I wasn't able to make it work for some reason. But one prolific member of the community, mediadogg, was kind enough to actually take my exported Collectorz data and import it for me, putting the resultant DB onto his web server for me to download. Thanks for the help!

From there it was a matter of, first, patching up the data that was missing. There was a good-sized list of videos that didn't import fully because they weren't in the DVD Profiler database. This was due to a mixture of being oddball titles (like the Chinese stuff I mentioned earlier -- there is international coverage in their repository, but it seems not as robust as USA), and, more frequently, because I'd done a bad job of entering the data into Collectorz.

A final step was to build a report that matched my needs. Most of the canned stuff, and available from the community, tends to focus on attributes that I don't care about. In particular, many of them are concerned with where you purchased a video, and how much you paid. I track finances in Quicken, and use that tool to make sure I'm not over-budget; after that I'm not too concerned with the price I paid for my copy of Avatar specifically. I just want a list of movies next to the TV so I can decide what to watch. That involved finding a similar report, ripping out stuff I didn't care about (studio and DVD features, for example), and replacing them with more Genre information and a rating (their repository provides for user-supplied reviews).

I'm pretty happy with the way things have turned out. I think I did the right thing, and a conversion to DVD Profiler is a good way to get away from the hated Collectorz.

Living Room / XBox racing; mad at Microsoft
« on: January 19, 2011, 12:29 PM »
Microsoft's XBox 360 platform has the best racing games in the world, with Forza, F1, etc. But as far as I can tell, there's not a single racing controller still in production for it: every product from every manufacturer (Microsoft, Mad Catz, Logitech, Fanatec) has discontinued their product.

My old XBox-1 recently died, so I asked the wife for a new 360 for my birthday, and I got Forza for it as well. I assumed I'd be able to find a new steering wheel for it, like I had for my old console. But it looks to me like there's absolutely no way to buy a new one. And all that's left on eBay is either crap, or costing a fortune.

Does anybody know anything about (a) new XBox 360 wheels coming out; or (b) some dark corner of the world where I can still buy one of the older products?

Find And Run Robot / Wish: Run as Administrator
« on: January 04, 2011, 04:30 PM »
I've been running Windows 7 for some time, and I'm frequently annoyed by the need to execute certain tasks under special authority. Part of this annoyance is that I rely on FARR to start my apps, but when I need to run as Admin, I have to go to the Start menu and find the darned thing there.

So, I wish that in FARR I could either Control-Click to "Run as Admin", or maybe choose it from a context menu or something. Whatever the UI might be, I'd like to be able to use FARR to execute something such that it runs as administrator.

General Software Discussion / S.T.A.L.K.E.R. for 99 cents
« on: December 06, 2010, 12:04 PM »
Good sale until Tuesday morning from Games For Windows. Get "S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl" for $0.99. The deal is here:

It's a 3-year-old game, but at the time it got pretty good reviews, scoring around 8+ out of 10. Reviews here and here.

Living Room / Forum registration explosion
« on: September 14, 2010, 09:39 AM »
Has anybody else running an online forum noticed a recent explosion in the number of people registering?

I have a blog and forum that's targeted at a fairly local interest. For two years the membership has been stable, gaining perhaps one additional registrant per month. But over the last month or two, registrations have exploded.

I'm now getting 2-3 dozen per day. These registrations aren't bots. I'm pretty sure they're human, as the additional CAPTCHA mechanisms I've added have not even slowed down the flow. These are coming from IP addresses all over the world: America, but also Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa.

What I really don't understand is what they're trying to accomplish. They almost never posted spam messages, even before I changed registrations to require approval. Only a few of them had spammy links in their signature, or even a URL in their profile.

So why are people taking the effort to go through the registration? I could understand if it was a botnet that was just building up resources for future forum spam, but since this appears to be real humans, that doesn't make sense to me.

Anybody out there have more insight?

My home server is in its death throes, and I'm working on building up a new one. I bought a refurb Dell PowerEdge 1850 server (which now makes my office sound like I'm next to a jet engine, but that's a different story), and I'm outfitting it with the necessary software.

One of the server's primary purposes (other than being a domain controller -- so it has to be Windows) is acting as a small mail server. It retrieves email from my ISP accounts via POP3, and routes them to the corresponding internal mailboxes. My desktops then retrieve that via POP3. When I send mail it goes to this internal server, which hands it off to my ISP (which requires authenticated SMTP).

For about 10 years I've been using FTGate as the mail server. What it does, it does pretty well. However, there are two problems. First, it doesn't support authentication when it does the SMTP sends, so I have this ugly hack of handing the messages through a proxy that does the authentication for me. Second, there's a problem where, if an outgoing message has a problem, the entire outgoing queue stalls until I notice there's a problem and restart the service. I think the newer versions are greatly improved, but the newer prices are also greatly inflated, so I'm looking for an alternate solution.

So my key features are:
  • Windows service
  • Retrieve incoming mail via POP3
  • Send mail using authenticated SMTP
  • Remote administration, preferably by a web page
  • Free or very low cost

Right now, the top of my list is hMailServer. Does anyone have experience with that? Does anyone have other suggestions for me to look at?

General Software Discussion / DuckDuckGo - new search engine
« on: April 14, 2010, 12:30 PM »
I recently happened upon a new search engine, DuckDuckGo.

It's not Google, but it does have some unique characteristics to recommend it. From their About page:
  • Zero-click info
  • Privacy kept
  • Search sites with !bang
  • Disambiguation pages
  • Info topic summaries
  • Less clutter
  • Less spam & ads
  • Shortcuts & other goodies
  • Category pages
  • Customization settings
I'm finding the zero-click information very useful for "what the heck is this" kinds of searches. And the disambiguation and category pages are nice as well. And their privacy policy is that they don't keep any of your personal history, period, which may appeal to those of you that sounded off in the "The More You Use Google, the More Google Knows about you" topic.

Here's a sample of their zero-click info thing. It looks like they try to find a hit in Wikipedia (and other sources?) and include a short clip from there directly into the results

Here's a sample disambiguation. If there are many clearly distinct meanings of a term (in my example, "python", it asks which sense you're interested in)

This is a start-up company, and the developer is very responsive to input.

Disclaimer: I have no association with DuckDuckGo, other than having corresponded with the developer over some suggestions.

I'm looking for a better means of processing RAW images from my camera. There are a bunch of apps to do this, some free and some commercial, some standalone and some integrated into image editors. I'd really like feedback about what you folks have experienced, most significantly in terms of image quality, but also in terms of ease-of-use.

Here's where I've looked
  • Paint Shop Pro - My camera outputs DNG, which PSP can read directly. But it seems a lame way to do this, it doesn't seem to give the opportunity to really use the additional information that's in the RAW data.
  • Photoshop (Adobe Camera RAW) - The expense of Photoshop pretty much eliminates this
  • ACDSee - I've been meaning for some time to start using ACDSee more for cataloging my photos, but haven't really given it a try in this respect yet. Has anyone out there?
  • RawTherapee - Does a very good job, but involves some effort, and I hate the user interaction. Free
  • RAWHide - Apparently decent quality, although I haven't really put it through its paces. Also seems to involve some effort (I'd prefer to be able to get good results from default settings, and go back to tweak just the photos that deserve it). Free
  • Silkypix - Apparently equivalent in quality to Adobe, but much more expensive than free.

Any suggestions that produce good quality, especially for default settings, is easy to use, and hopefully free or cheap?

Living Room / Anybody else playing with Wave?
« on: October 14, 2009, 04:31 PM »
I got my Google Wave invite, and played with it a bit during lunch. It's kinda cool, but for the rough edges (which is why it's still in preview).

But the majority of the Waves in the server now are "Testing Wave" and "Is this thing on?" kind of thing. Are there any DC people in the heap, especially if you're experimenting with anything interesting?

General Software Discussion / Add tabbed documents to MS Office
« on: August 26, 2009, 11:52 AM »
I think this is a must-have for Microsoft Office users. I hate the way that having multiple documents open pollutes the Windows taskbar, and makes it difficult to toggle between docs (you can only use the View/Switch Windows menu, which doesn't work very well).
This Office Addin, OfficeTab, makes Word, Excel, and PowerPoint function like your favorite tabbed browser.
Link to tool's page:
(Link to page translated to English)

(by way of ghacks -- thanks, guys!)

General Software Discussion / Top OneNote tips
« on: March 20, 2009, 01:31 PM »
There's a nice list of OneNote tips & tricks from Chris Pratley's Office Labs and OneNote Blog, and I know there are plenty of folks around these parts loving organizer tools including OneNote.

Here are a couple of cool ones I hadn't known before:
13. Type a word, right click on it, click "Create Linked page", then click the link and presto you're on a new page with that title that is linked to from the first page. Great for things like "here is the recipe for Grandma's cookies". highlight "Grandma's cookies", right click, create linked page. [CWuestefeld: this sounds like a Wiki?]

8. Right-click on image (e.g. screen clipping), copy text from picture (also works great when searching for a screen clipping - Find (Ctrl-F) will find text inside your images!)

Anybody want to contribute other tips?

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