Saturday, December 31, 2016

Black and White Panoramas Are Too Easy , Even Underwater

I've finally gotten around to editing my PNG stills from November 2015.  I spent a month aboard the vessel Golden Dawn with fellow divers Howard and Michele Hall, and Douglas and Emily Seifert, and Raine Irving. 

I had just started experimenting with shooting panoramas before that trip, and I shot some underwater panoramas with almost no knowledge of how to do it correctly.  Since then, I've learned proper techniques.  The software these days is amazingly easy to use. 

I've also had to learn Adobe Lightroom to organize and edit my images (I've been a long-time Apple Aperture software user for my image library needs).  Lightroom is great, as most photographers already know.  You can create panoramas from within Lightroom, which makes the process very easy.  Before this, you had to convert your images to JPGs, then use a program like Autostitch to create panoramas, then fit those images into your workflow and library somehow.  It was clumsy. 

I've tried using Google's Nik Collection, and it is ridiculously easy to use to create great-looking images. Again, you can use Nik Collection's tool within Lightroom. 

Here's an underwater panorama of a lush coral reef in Papua New Guinea, converted to black-and-white using Nik Effects's Silver Efex Pro.  It's too easy -- so easy it's not that interesting to use.  Art should be hard.  With Nik Effects, creating a "look" just involves pushing a button.  It's  art.  But it still looks good.  And it's easy!

Buying a Replacement Charger for Your Device Without Being Gouged

Have you ever had a device and lost or broken your wall charger (wall wart)?  If you call the manufacturer, they may charge you $25 to $30 plus the cost of shipping to send you a replacement charger.  This is ridiculous.  They probably get the chargers for less than one dollar each.  Charging a customer 25 to 30 times more is outrageous!

My wife is a dentist, and she has a $500 light called a Lumident.  A couple of weeks ago, she showed me the charger for that light, which had been damaged by someone rushing around and banging it around.  She had called the manufacturer, and they wanted to charge her about $40 to ship out a new charger. 

I looked on the label of the damaged charger, and it had the following information on it:

Input 100-240Vac
Output 8.4dc 1.2A
And a symbol that shows the positive (+) side is INSIDE the power connector, and the ground or negative (-) is on the outside of the power connector (power plug).

This was the important stuff.  This tells me that the charger works everywhere -- US, Europe, Japan, etc (Input 100-240Vac).  More importantly, it told me that I needed to find a charger that has an output of 8.4 Volts, and puts out 1.2 amp.

Looking online for "8.4V charger", I saw dozens of AC adapters that were designed to charge Li-ion batteries, and were rated for 8.4V.  All of them were only rated for 1 amp, not 1.2 amp.  I went ahead and bought one from Amazon, and one from Ebay.  The replacement ones looked exactly like the Lumident.

The one from Ebay was supposedly from a US seller -- but instead, it turns out that the seller lied and is shipping the charger from China.  Two weeks later, I am still waiting.

The one from Amazon arrived promptly as promised.  Here's the label:

I tested the voltage on both chargers.  The original one put out 8.4Volts.  The new one put out 10.4 Volts.  I've noticed that most chargers put out a slightly higher voltage than what their label states.  This is fine; most electronic gadgets can accept slightly higher voltages to work.  The opposite is not always true.

The power connectors looked different, but they actually had the same measurements, and the inside wire was indeed positive.

I was concerned that the new power adapter put out only 1.0 amp, but then I saw my wife's Lumident gear.  It turns out that the chargers are not meant to power the light directly, but to charge the battery packs that then power the lights.  This is great.  This means that a charger rated at 8.4 Volts will charge the battery packs, no problem, even if it has a lower current (amperage) flowing out of it.  It will just take more time.

If the charger was used to power the light directly, then using a charger rated at 1.0 amp rather than 1.2 amp might mean that the light is not as bright as it should be.  This would have been a problem.

I did not notice the other information on the original charger, which would have made things easier if I had.  If I had noticed, then I would not have been concerned about the current (amperage) of the replacement charger at all.  Anything near 1 amp would have been fine.

Class 2 Battery Charger
Smart Charger for Li-ion BAttery Pack
Charge 2 cell Li-ion battery, rated 7.4V, max 30Ah, min 1.2Ah...

The original charger is labelled as a smart charger.  This likely means that it turns itself off after fullying charging a battery pack.  With the replacement charger, the user might need to unplug the charger after noticing the battery is fully charged, or put the charger on a timer.

Hopefully the above helps someone replace an AC charger without paying a ridiculous amount.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

How to Stop Automatic Updates to Your iPad

Update May 7, 2017:

I have a router that takes the wifi hotspot signal from my cell phone, and creates a stronger network for my summer house.  Unfortunately, my iPad mini 2 has now downloaded OS 10.3 updates twice now, and I've deleted the updates twice.  That's cost me about $30, as each update uses up 1.2Gb of data.  This is really awful of Apple.  This new router won't let me set access control so that no devices can be stopped from accessing the Apple update website. 

I researched a bit more, and here are two more ways to prevent Apple auto updates.  These are from forums -- thanks forums! 

a.  To disable iOS auto download, you will have to do one thing or the other:

- Connected to personal hotspot but not charging the iPad
- Charging the iPad but turn off WiFi

b.  There's a 3rd way, stuff your iPad with data (music, photos, videos etc) until the remaining free space is down to only a few MB. Silly solution but it'll definitely stop iOS auto download because of insufficient free space.

I did b above, and hope that it works.  Here are some more tips on item b: Download some large vids.  Delete a vid when you need more space. size around 100meg.  Garage Band is 500meg.  Microsoft free office apps are rather large too. 

Bad, Apple!  REALLY BAD, as my father-in-law would say.  REALLY, REALLY BAD!

I bought an iPad mini 2, along with a Lifeproof Fre case, and I love it.  The Lifeproof case lets me take the iPad pretty much anywhere, without worrying about it.  I can read the New York Times online edition in a hot tub, for instance.  I used the Galileo maps app on the iPad on my recent month-long driving trip through South Africa, and the app was an  incredibly useful tool.  With Galileo, I knew where I was even without any kind of data connection.  It even tells me where I am if I am indoors, away from seeing a GPS signal. 

I'm stunned, however, about how Apple forces its updates on users.  It's nearly impossible to turn off the automatic updates.  The updates, which routinely are over 1 Gb in size (a huge file), will update in the background as long as the iPad detects that it is connected to the internet.  Again, unless you are a pretty technical user -- it's impossible to turn off the automatic updates!

I just spent a month at my summer house in Washington State, and I get the internet there using my smartphone as a wifi hotspot (among other things).  When the iPad downloaded an update, it could have cost me up to $40 each time!  The iPad did this about three times this past month.  I've noticed that when using my cell modems now, my Macs and iPads suck up more and more data.  I used to be able to using only 500Mb or less of data in a month up there (doing just emails and web browsing, no Netflix viewing or file downloads and uploads).  Now if I am not super careful about making sure that automatic updates on all machines are turned off, I can go through 500Mb in one day EASILY.  That's $20 per day (using a Google Fi phone, that is only $5 -- one good reason to use Google Fi unless your location doesn't have good Sprint or T-Mobile data access). 

This is perhaps the most annoying and dictatorial feature of Apple's that I've encountered.  The update downloads secretly in the background.  There's no way to prevent this unless you alter settings in your router.  When the update is on the iPad, a message comes up every time you turn on the iPad, asking if you want to update.  It's sneaky.  If you hit the wrong button in a rush or not thinking this through, you will give permission for the update to go ahead at night.  It's a psychological trick that Apple is using to get its users to allow the updating of the machines.  It's sneaky.  It sucks. 

I've turned off all updating on all my machines, especially my Windows machines.  I am just too tired of updating to a new operating system, and then having to spend two days getting my old programs and apps to work again.   I keep as little personal information on these computers as possible, back them up religiously, don't use them for banking, etc.  I have one and only one machine that I do keep updated fairly regularly.  All my machines have the theft software Prey and Undercover for Mac installed on them.  If someone steals my iPad, for instance, I have little personal information on there, can track it using Prey, and can wipe it remotely.  I use my iPad for Galileo (incredibly awesome mapping software that shows you where you are, on a detailed map, all the time as far as I can tell, without having to use wifi); newspaper reading, book reading, etc -- NOT banking and financial stuff. 

I went online, and here are the web pages that solved this problem for me:

From the above: 
  1. Open the Settings app and go to “General”
  2. Choose “Storage & iCloud Usage”
  3. Go to “Manage Storage”
  4. Locate the iOS software update that is nagging you and tap on it
  5. Tap on “Delete Update” and confirm that you want to delete the update*
  6. Disconnect from wi-fi to avoid the software update downloading itself again

This did not work for me: 
Automatic Updates are enabled by default, so you'll need to turn them off. This won't help with the current update, but it will stop you from getting these messages in future. So the first thing you should do is dive into settings and turn Automatic Updates off:

  1. Tap Settings.
  2. Tap iTunes & App Stores.
  3. Set Updates underneath "Automatic Downloads" to Off.
This will prevent iOS from downloading updates in future, although you'll still need to deal with the update you've downloaded.
I've decided to try the nuclear option -- but I was unable to do this at our home, while using my cell phones as wifi hotspots.  Here's the "nuclear option" from 

Option 4: Blocking the Apple Software Update Domains on a Router / Gateway

The last option is to block the update domains on whatever router or gateway the iOS devices are using to connect to the internet. This is a rather dramatic approach and can lead to many unintended issues, plus it will stop the ability to download any software update from Apple at all entirely for all devices through the network until it’s reversed. Because there is no way of preventing software updates through settings however, this is the approach that many managed enterprise and educational facilities take with iOS devices.
For those who want to go this route, preventing access to the following domains does the trick:
Each router and gateway is different, so you’ll have to set this up on your own.
Again, if you do this, no device on the network will be able to install any update from Apple at all, nor check for available updates. Don’t do this unless you know exactly what you’re doing and why, it’s truly only an option for advanced users, network administrators, and sysadmins who need to manage devices on their own without the constant update reminders.

Read the comments at the above website.  People are incredibly frustrated and angry about Apple pushing these automatic updates on them.  I sure am.  
Here are some comments: 
I’d say that Apple has become Microsoft, but even Microsoft is less aggressive with the software updates than Apple now. That it downloads and uses bandwidth repeatedly without permission is shocking, especially given bandwidth limitations in the world and even in the USA which has 3rd world internet infrastructure in much of the country.
Apple needs to default to NOT automatically downloading anything, and NOT automatically installing anything. I can’t tell you how many people I know have just pressed buttons on their iPhone they see as they pop up and then have a problem and regret updating!

Yes unfortunately if there is space available on the iPhone, the iOS update will redownload itself continuously if on wi-fi overnight or unattended. You delete it, wake up and it’s back. Delete again. It’s back. Rinse, repeat. Great user experience.

They have to stop doing this. It’s insane and I am so mad right now. I was using my phone for doing a time lapse today. I have been recording the whole day. Before I started I got this stupid reminder and I clicked no because I don’t want to update and after that i put my phone in airplane mode. Then I started my recording and now for just 20 min ago I checked the screen and that stupid pop up was there again and it had stopped my time lapse. I lost 3 hours….. I was doing a 12 hours recording. Apple can no be trusted anymore. It always something new with them. They call this a good experience? Even if you delete the update it comes back. Like someone said here. The whole point with to delete something is because you don’t want it.