Thursday, October 30, 2014

Google Drive is Preventing My PC from Shutting Down

…and Google doesn’t seem to care!  There are posts from years ago on the Google forums, and responses from Google admin saying “we’re looking into this,” but the problem still exists (in Win 7 and Win 8).

(screenshot from – click for link to thread)

I have tried uninstalling/reinstalling Google Drive, but to no avail.  And it’s a serious pain in the butt, because every time you do this, in order to associate a folder with Google Drive, the drive has to be empty (you can’t associate a folder with any contents).  So once you’ve reinstalled Google Drive, you have to create a new folder, associate it with Google Drive, dump all the contents of your old Google Drive into the new folder, rename the folder, and then wait for Google Drive to figure out what the hell just happened (update sync database).

In a thread discussing problems with Piriform’s CCLeaner and Google Drive, I found this information:

When the Google Drive application is running, it creates a directory under C:\Users\Chukhung\AppData\Local\Temp with a name like "_MEI54082" (the last five digits of the directory name change every time the Google Drive application is started). Within this directory are a large number of subdirectories, DLLs, and what appear to be Python files. This directory disappears when the Google Drive application is shut down manually.  [. . .] I'm guessing that Google Drive gets seriously confused when CCleaner partially deletes the contents of this directory.

This seems like a pretty decent guess as to why this is happening, but I’m not sure what to do about it (other than to always manually shut down Google Drive before shutting down the computer, which isn’t exactly an ideal solution).

I will update this post if I find a solution, but in the meantime, feel free to post your thoughts/solutions in the comments!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Scanning Multiple Photos at Once

Anyone born before 1984 has albums (or stacks) of printed photos.  Consumers didn’t start using digital cameras until the mid-nineties or so.  Therefore, anyone born before 1984 has probably wanted to scan in a ton of photos at one time or another.

The problem is, there are NO good options (time efficient, decent-quality, and inexpensive).

You can use a scanning service, but sending my precious photos out to some anonymous nit-wit in a lab somewhere is NOT a gamble I am willing to take (also, have you seen Red Dragon?! –I don’t want that guy handling my photos).  Not to mention, there is the intermediary of the carrier (USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc.) on BOTH sides of the operation, and in my experience, those guys lose things WAY too often to trust them with my treasured memories.

I am ASTOUNDED that there is not a HUGE market for a consumer device that would allow you to simply place a stack of photos in a hopper and have a scanner process images automatically.  Surely there are THOUSANDS of people who would pay a couple hundred dollars for this device.  And considering what scanners cost (they basically come FREE with your printer these days), I can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be a HUGE profit on this $200 item.

I also can’t believe there doesn’t seem to be a single review or blog post online discussing the possibilities of using a multi-sheet document scanner for scanning multiple photos in a single session.  There are TONS of people wanting to do this (scan multiple photos at once), but nobody writing about the possibility of using the available tools.

So here’s my contribution to the throngs of people yearning for a way to scan their thousands and thousands of photos into their computers.

The ideal solution is obviously a scanner with autofeed that can process a stack of photos in batches.  Anything I’ve found in the past decade that is of any quality whatsoever (mostly Nikon and Kodak products) is in the over-$2,000 range.  There have been cheaper “family photo” scanners that can do a small stack, but they are generally extremely limited and tend to have horrible scan settings (like 300/600dpi max and only one option to save to JPEG).  Not only that, but they seem to have gone the way of the Dodo; I can’t find a single one online at the moment.

The closest thing available are document scanners like the NeatDesk ($340 and a pretty low rating on Amazon) and Fujitu’s ScanSnap ($447 and a four and a half star rating from more than 1,300 reviewers), but they are specifically catered to documents, and thus scan at only 300-600dpi maximum resolution and only save to JPEG or PDF (and at the $300-$400 price point, I can’t imagine why in the world you would buy either of these things instead of a $99 all-in-one that also prints photographs).

For a while Epson had the Epson B11B172171 Perfection 2480 limited edition for around $500 (or you could purchase the B12B813372 for around $160 which was just the photo feeder lid that you could attach to either the Epson 2480 or 2580 flatbed scanner), but all of these have been discontinued and I could only find a few in weird places around the web (places I wouldn’t necessarily trust to buy from).  Actually, there are two used ones on Amazon, but they are  $475 and  $639 –USED!).  The B11B172171 was a flat bed scanner, but it had a 4x6 photo feeder in the lid, and could scan a stack of 25 photos at 48bit, 2400dpi resolution.  I am very curious as to why it was discontinued.  I’m not sure I would have gone for it, since the max photo size it could scan from the feeder was only 4x6, but I guess that’s better than the nothing that is available now.

[UPDATE]: I have found the B12B813372 in a couple of places for around $140, and it will work the Epson Perfection 3590 Photos Scanner (as well as 2480, 2580, and 3490) which you can still find in some random places on close-out (or perhaps even used).  The only downside is being limited to a max photo size of 4x6.

HP offered the 5500C ($300) for a while, which was very similar to the Epson (25 photo stack feeder), but evidently it jammed all the time, as all the reviews I’ve read for it are awful.

So today I did a bunch of research on “what’s out there” in the under $200 range for devices that offer a multi-sheet document feed for the on board scanner.  Full disclosure, for my photo printing needs, I switched from Epson (a prosumer grade, large format printer) to Canon nearly a decade ago, and I’ve been very happy with that decision (so I guess I may be a little partial to Canon).

The brands that I came across in my research were the ones you would expect to find: Canon, Epson, HP, and Brother.  After a couple of hours of online research, I decided to go with the Canon MX922 even though it only has a Contact Image Sensor (CIS) and a resolution of 2400x4800 for the flatbed (compared to a Charged-Coupled Device (CCD) sensor with a resolution of 4800x9600 in my older Canon MP990).  The specs for the Auto Document Feeder shows only a resolution of 600dpi x 600dpi, though looking at the way the ADF functions, I’m not sure why the ADF and Flatbed have different scanning resolutions; they seem like they utilize the same sensor.  From the specs, I’m also not exactly sure what 48-bit internal/24-bit external means (why would internal/external be different?), but that’s the same spec as my MP990.

Most importantly, the MX922 has a 35 sheet capacity auto-doc feeder for the scanner.

The price at Staples is currently the same as Amazon ($99) even though that’s the “regular” price on Amazon and a “special mark down” at Staples (where I guess it’s usually $199 –I’m kind of assuming it’s being discontinued?).  So I went to Staples, picked one up, drove it home and plugged it in (total time from leaving my house to printing the first test sheet was about 23 minutes).

Unfortunately, the Canon software does not allow using any of the scanner’s “photo” settings if you have selected “ADF” (auto document feeder) for the source.  This is INCREDIBLY annoying!  Also, the ADF only allows for a limited number of document sizes: Letter, Legal, A4, A5, B4, B5.  This means I had to set the feed guides at their smallest setting and then find something to set between the feed guide and the edge of my stack of photos to accommodate the 4x6 size.

As you can see from the scans below, the photo almost always rotated a bit, but I think with some creative engineering I can remedy this situation without too much trouble.  For the record, processing a stack of 24 4x6 photos from the ADF was no problem -though each photo was rotated a bit (oddly enough, when I scanned a bunch of photos at once, they were much less rotated than in the examples below).  I think I could have processed more photos at once (there was space); that just happened to be the size of the stack I grabbed.

For the time being, I’m focusing on scanner settings (not the physical feed/rotation problem) to see if a decent image can even be obtained from the Auto Document Feeder (since the whole point of this experiment is being able to load a stack of photos for automatic scanning).

I spent a lot of time scanning a single photo using various set-ups from the “Canon IJ  Scan Utility.”  All the scans below were from the same (bad) original photo from January of 2007 via Flickr printing (the physical photo was sent to me 7 years ago by a family member).  So the original image is of poor quality but should serve well for comparative analysis.  I purposefully used a “sub-par” print to illustrate various things like moire/banding, color correction, etc.

In the end, none of the scans from the Auto Document Feeder were really acceptable. Some people might be satisfied by the results using “Custom Scan, Source: Document, Apply Auto Document Fix, Reduce Moire” or a similar custom set-up using the ScanGear option (which is similar to Canon’s previous “use device driver” type menu), but I wouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to archive the entire family photo album collection if this is as good as the quality gets.

For only $99 I may end up keeping the MX922 because I like that it has a LAN option (I can hard wire it to my network so everybody in the house can use it), but I’ll have to see if I think the printer is as good as my MP990 (which I think does a great job for “snapshot” photos; I’ve got a Canon Pro 9000 mkII for my large format and “pro” photo printing).

After all this research, time, and work, I am wondering if the Canon scanner software can be hacked.  It would seem that ALL the limitations I ran into were software based (limited available selections/settings for scans utilizing the ADF source).  Magic Lantern has done AMAZING things to unleash the potential of Canon’s DSLR cameras, so perhaps there is a hack that could unleash all the potential of Canon’s scanners in a similar manner.  If only I had the skillz.  If this is up your alley, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail!

For now though, scanning a stack of photos automatically from an auto feeder remains a pipe dream.

Scans from the ADF source (auto document feed) on the Canon MX922 scanner (click for 300dpi image)…

For comparison, this first photo is scanned from my older Canon MP990 platen using typical photo settings from the Device Driver menu


Also for comparison, this photo is scanned from the Canon MX922 platen (vs. the auto document feed) using a typical “photo” setting in Canon IJ Scan Utility (the same scan utility used for the remainder of the photos below)


Custom Scan, Source: Document, Auto Fix, Reduce Moire


Custom Scan, Source: Document, No Auto Fix, Reduce Moire


Custom Scan, Source: Auto, Auto Size, Auto Rez, Image Correct


Auto Scan, Image Correct


Auto Scan, No Image Correct


Scan Gear Advanced, Color Matching Profile (all filters off)


Scan Gear Advanced, Recommended Color Profile (all filters off)


Scan Gear Advanced, No Color Profile (all filters off)


Scan Gear Basic, No Color Profile


Scan Gear Basic, Recommended Color Profile with auto Correct


Scan from Windows’ Devices Menu (right-click scan from Windows 7 Devices Menu using custom created profile for “source: feeder”)



archiving family photos
multi-feed photo scanner
photo archiving
auto photo scanner
scan multiple photos at once
scan stack of photos

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Syncing Photos from Android Phone to NAS

My wife’s Moto X keeps failing to function because there is no free memory.  This is because it is so full of photos.  I have tried to show her how to back up her photos so she can safely delete them from her phone, but inevitably she forgets, the photos don’t get backed up, and she’s afraid if she deletes anything it’ll be gone forever.

Today I FINALLY had time to automate the process so she doesn’t have to remember anything and it will just happen automagically.

eTOXzriEnxjoDcOujKLVkTjhPkK00rO0iXJ4arlNPOuIEiJSQQyIAjeVtbUuSAoYu7k=w300This process involves her Moto X, a Thecus N5550 NAS (network attached storage), and the free app FolderSync Lite. The lite version of FolderSync allows only two accounts and has no sync filters or Tasker support.  None of that is really an issue for what we’re doing here (simply backing up a single folder over WiFi via FTP).

I actually can’t believe how easy this was.  On the NAS I enabled FTP (from the NAS user interface).  Then I installed FreeSync Lite on her phone from the Google Play store.  FreeSync Lite was incredibly easy to set up, and offers some really great options for syncing.

  1. In FolderSync Lite got to “Accounts.”
  2. Select “add account” and then scroll down to select “FTP.”
  3. Add a name for the account, and then enter your NAS’s FTP information.
  4. Go back to the main menu and select “Folderpairs.”
  5. Create a name for the folder pair (I used “photo back up”).
  6. Select the account (choose the NAS FTP account you created in step 1).
  7. Set “remote folder” by browsing to the folder on the NAS you want to use.
  8. Set “local folder” as your phone’s camera storage (DCIM/Camera in my case).
  9. Choose your “sync type” (I chose “to remote folder” so the process is ONLY backing up from the phone to the NAS).
  10. Choose your other options from the menu (I like the “copy file names to time stamped folder” option to keep track of when things were backed up –there are also some other really nice options in this list including “use MD5 checksums”; kudos FolderSync).
  11. Now just push the “sync” button from the “Folderpairs” list in FolderSync and your phone is syncing!  You can set up automatic times for the sync to happen.

Now I can set up our back up software to automate backing up these photos (further archiving) and she doesn’t have to mess with anything at all.

It works so well, I’m going to set my phone up the same way (but to sync to it’s own folder on the NAS).

I am actually so impressed with this app and all the available features, I plan on doing an in-depth review of FolderSync soon.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

OEC Micro Ball Head Camera Mount (review)

315cGos81dLThis is the same micro ball head that came with my field monitor. I needed another one to mount my H4N sound recorder to my camera rig, so about two weeks ago, as an experiment, I purchased a slightly more expensive micro ball head, the name brand Giotto Professional Mini Ball Head Camera Mount.

The Giotto MH1004 is $12 on Amazon. The Giotto MH1304-110C is a little more expensive at $18, but also claims a 3 pound greater load capacity (7lbs. vs. 4lbs.). Neither of the Giotto units is as good as the OEC one in my opinion, and the OEC is only $9.

The two Giottos do not come with the hot shoe bolt and lock nut. The Giottos also utilize a *plastic* lock nut for the top nut (the one on the ball head), and in addition to the material being sub-bar, the plastic nut is too thick (it doesn't leave enough threaded rod exposed).

The OEC is all metal. It comes with a hot shoe bolt and metal lock nut. The top lock nut is metal with a rubber face. It also comes with a hex head male/male 1/4" 20 bolt (a tiny threaded rod)and allen wrench that can be used with a cheeseplate or any other 1/4" hole.
The base of the OEC is only around 3mm taller than the Giotto, so the height clearance is pretty much identical.

I can't imagine choosing the more expensive option when the less expensive one is actually *better.* After receiving the Giotto, I actually went back online and purchased another one of these OEC Micro Ball Heads.

Do not confuse this item with the $7 Neewer Black Ball Head for DSLR Camera Tripod Ballhead Stand (type I).  That thing is a piece of junk.  The top lock nut is plastic, the side knob is feeble plastic, and it lacks the hot shoe bolt/lock nut and male/male 1/4” hex bolt and wrench that come with the OEC.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Verizon Messages (app)

jvfXwvB7uwJRKHrq3mipLLS2WcEy2L5Zvw1usz2w126C_iRGOB2q9_DgDKC2JDhKKw=w300I will be the first to say that I HATE bloatware and carrier/manufacturer specific apps.  I rejoiced to the heavens when Android implemented the ability to disable ANY app (even if you can’t actually remove it from your device).

That said, I am thoroughly impressed with Verizon’s Messenger app (bear in mind, my very least favorite piece of bloatware is Verizon Navigator, so I definitely have no special love for Verizon apps).

When searching for a texting app for my tablet, I wanted something that would do a good job of syncing my communication on all my devices.  From my research, nothing even comes close to Verizon Messages.  Unfortunately, if Verizon is not your carrier, you can disregard the rest of this post, because the app is only for Verizon customers.

With all the other messaging apps you have to create an account and enter your phone numbers for all your devices.  Since Verizon already has all of this information, you aren’t sharing anything with yet another party.

Some apps (quite a few actually) merely link your tablet and phone via Bluetooth and/or wifi.  What good is this?  Unless your phone and tablet are ALWAYS in the same vicinity, your messages won’t be synced!

Verizon is already in charge of storing/organizing/disseminating your texts, so it should (should) stand to reason that they have the power to best sync all this information between your devices (which they are also in charge of).

Sure enough… they do!

Once you have installed Verizon Messenger on all your devices, your messages (ingoing, outgoing, SMS, and MMS) are all immediately synced.  The speed at which it happens is great (immediate).  I’m even happy with the way the interface functions/looks.  To a limited degree, you can customize the look (background color, text bubble colors, etc.).  The program also does a great job of organizing media.  For instance, I can open a text thread from any user, and if I want, Verizon Messenger will show me all the pictures sent from that person in a gallery at the bottom of the thread.  Pretty cool.

So, while I normally hate any proprietary apps (almost always bloatware), I would highly recommend Verizon Messenger to anyone on the Verizon network who needs to sync their SMS/MMS between multiple devices.

[UPDATE: 10-28-14] It’s more than a little annoying that even when you have “display message notifications in status bar” ticked in the settings, there is no notification displayed in the status bar when you have messages.  In other words, you get a text, your phone makes a sound, but there is no notification (no LED light, no icon in the header, just a number on the apps icon –so unless you’re looking at the actual app shortcut, you don’t know you’ve got a message).  So far, this is the only real gripe I have with the app.

[UPDATE: 11-04-14] Oddly enough, it seems that the problem with notification listed above happens only on my Samsung S5.  My LG Gpad 8.3 shows notifications from Verizon Messages in the notification bar at the top of the screen just like it’s supposed to, so evidently the problem is specific to my S5 (which also has major problems downloading all my e-mail from Gmail –it only downloads some of the e-mail –post on this issue coming soon).

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Enabling CUDA for Adobe Premiere Pro

imagesI’m pissed at Adobe, and I feel like a chump.

For several years I’ve been using Premiere Pro (CS4/CS6) without harnessing the CUDA capability of my graphics card (192 CUDA cores, to be precise).

How could this possibly happen?

Well, Adobe’s software will only “look” for the cards that are listed in a text file called “cuda_supported_cards.txt.”  This text file is by NO MEANS comprehensive.  In fact, it lists VERY FEW cards.

There is a program in the Premiere Pro system directory (C:/Program Files/Adobe/Adobe Premiere Pro CS6) called GPUSniffer.exe.  If you run this program from the command line, it will show you the exact name of your installed video card(s).  When you add this card (be sure to use the exact name listed by GPU Sniffer) to the “cuda_supported_cards.txt” file, only then will Premiere harness the CUDA power of your graphics card.

Once you have added the name of your device to the approved list that Premiere Pro uses to verify the card, the “GPU accelration” option will be available under the General tab of your Project Settings.

Specific instructions:

  1. Type CMD into your Start Menu search field (at the very bottom of your Start Menu).
  2. Right click the cmd.exe program in the list and select “run as administrator.”
  3. Navigate to the appropriate directory (C:/Program Files/Adobe/Adobe Premiere Pro CS6) first by typing “cd\” to get to the root (c:) and then “cd Program Files/Adobe/Adobe Premiere Pro CS6” to get to the Premiere Pro directory.
  4. Type “GPUSniffer.exe” and take note of the card listed in the information returned.
  5. Open Notepoad with admin privileges (right click on the Notepad program icon and select “run as admin”), then navigate to the same directory (C:/Program Files/Adobe/Adobe Premiere Pro CS6) and open the “cuda_supported_cards.txt” file.
  6. Add the name of your card to the list (it must be EXACTLY as it was listed in the GUP Sniffer dialog), and save the file.
  7. Next time you open Adobe Premiere Pro, GPU Acceleration will be available from the drop down in your project’s “General” tab of settings.

UPDATE: You may also need to do a regedit fix documented here:

    • Go to Regedit
    • Find this key by selecting Edit and then Find at the top:- " 0cc5b647-c1df-4637-891a-dec35c318583 "
    • Within this key, there is a value called: "ValueMax"
    • This value represents the % number of cores the system will park - the default is 100% (ie: all Cores are potentially park-able)
    • Change the value from 64 to 0 so the "ValueMin" and "ValueMax" are both zero
    • You will have to find the key a few times and repeat the process for each time it is found - the number of instances will depend on the number of power profiles in your system