Storing high resolution photos

Well Facebook sharing is cool but limited in resolution. What if you want to share the high resolution images?

TL;dr

Two good (free) choices: Apple iCloud (kind of amazing but they actually lead in this area) and Yahoo’s Flickr (for as long as it lasts)

 iCloud photo sharing is free and unlimited

Apple doesn’t advertise it but you can store original high resolution photos  up there with some sort of bizarre limits.  The biggest limit being 100 users who can contribute per album and only 100 albums per login

Neither of these are too severe because you can and probably should probably create a dedicate login for sharing from say a group (e.g. group2016@me.com, group2017@me.com,…) if you have more than 100 albums (that’s a lot by the way).

For non Apple users, you can use web link sharing which allows people to see the photos if they pass a link around. That’s a bit of a security risk, but let’s presume for now that this is for public sharing and small group interchange.

Flickr gives you 1TB free

The second recommendation is Flickr. It has a 1TB Limit per user ID and stores full resolution. It is owned by yahoo however so not clear how long that lasts.

The biggest problem with Flickr is that they really want you to have a Yahoo login to use and comment on the site, although you can of course pass the links around.

Black Friday is all about 70 inch TVs and 40 inch monitors!

Well the price of UHD (aka 4K) has just collapsed. Three years ago a 4K monitor cost $5K now a basic one is more like $500. But if you want a monstrous 70″ one what’s a person to do. Rtings.com is really helpful with detailed reviews and buying guides. They even tell you the best time of year to buy TVs (basically during Black Friday and in the spring when the model is discontinued with Black Friday being great as you get 6 months more modern technology).

In terms of things to watch out for:

  • the mandatory is 4K video of course
  • motion blur if you watch sports (120 Hz panel)
  • local dimming (for movies so black is really black) and the nerd features are HDR which is technically call rec. 2020 (so the colors are really punch)
  • true 4:4:4 (for the same reason).
  • 10-bit panel. This means more colors vs the mid-range 8-bit panel
  • Rec 20-20. Finally there is something called Wide dynamic range coming which is even more colors.

9to5Toys and Rtings.com have a great listing of sales that are going on and the most interesting is the Vizio 70″ (wow!)E3 going for $1K at Bestbuy.com. It is always hard to tell the specs of the various models, but rtings.com has a great decoder ring for Vizio.

Best for the casual viewer who wants size: Samsung 70″ KU6300 at $1300

From Rtings.com, they like this one at $1300 from Amazon. It has a 7.5/10 rating with the low points being no local dimming to get truer blacks but has pretty poor motion blur so not  good for sports. It’s a good value choice if you want size and decent quality. It is 4:4:4 with a true 10 bit panel but it is not wide color.

Best for a budget conscious videophile: Samsung 65″ KS8000 at $1500

Sometimes if you move up a little bit you get more of the cool features. This one is 8.3/10 at rtings.com. It is about $200 more than the KU6300 but look you are going to own this thing for years. $1500 at Amazon. The big downside to this television is that local dimming is just Ok and there is fall off at wide viewing angles and compared with it’s KU6300 brother, motion blur is no existent because it is a true 120 hertz panel.

Great value for sports in a home theater: Vizio M series 70″ at $1700

The mid range M series is a really good quality TV. It is 7.8/10 at rtings.com. It’s local dimming (movies) and motion blur (sports) works really well but it is not a bright TV, so you want it in a basement or home theater and isn’t true HDR (so true movie loves will not like it as much.

Not such a great deal: Vizio E series 70″ at $1000

E Series. ($1K for 70″ at or $300 off) There is a 1080p/HD version you probably do not want, but the 4K version is an entry level system. The main problem is that the local dimming doesn’t work super well and the motion blur is not very good so not great for sports. Also for nerds it is not high dynamic range and doesn’t actually display all the colors, it is a 4:2:2 set where 4:4:4 is the best.

And if money is no object: Vizio P Series 75″ at $3600 or the 75″ Samsung KS9000 at $4000

OK this is a really nice television and if you are at this level I’m not sure why you wouldn’t get get the very best Samsung for $400 more, the main issue is that local dimming doesn’t work super well (particularly compared with the Vizio P Series) but has wider color (more punchy for movies), so a little bit of a toss up.

The Vizio P series  scores 8.1/10 but that is only because the sound isn’t great (who cares on a TV this big, you will have a home theater system) and the smart tv features (again not super important). On the all important picture quality it’s motion blur, local dimming and 10-bit panel all work. And it is nearly 4:4:4 on output. $3600 at Best Buy.

Kickass Computer Monitor:  43″ Sony X800D for $600 or 49″ for $640 or the 40″ Samsung KU6300 for $400

We had been buying the Philips 40″ monitors but they stopped shipping them. Now it is clear why, with regular monitors providing 4:4:4, 60 Hertz, there is no need for a special monitor. So either get the really amazing LG 27″ 4K at $600 (which doesn’t really show off 4K by the way) as well as 32″ or even 40″. At 40″ a monitor works really differently. It works much better to have static panes when you have a development system.

But some good ones according to rtings.com are:

Sony X800D 43″. $600 at Amazon. This is a nice 43″ monitor but isn’t good for bright lights which could be a problem in an office. But most of the time you want to be light controlled anyway. This is a VA panel so not much wider viewing area than the cheap TN panels used on low end 4K displays. The monitor also calibrates very well for photo and video editing. It also wide gamut although not HDR REC 20-20. It is a native 60 Hz display and supports true 4:4:4 chroma sampling so works well as a computer monitor. You need to make sure you have a modern HDMI output for drive the thing at 4Kp60

And for $50 more at Amazon, you can upgrade to a 49″ desktop monitor, now that would be an amazing computer monitor.

Finally as we previous looked at the KU6300 is a nice choice for a monitor and hard to beat at $400 for a 40″ on Amazon.com

MacOS Sierra and Adobe Creative Cloud

OK this is a little annoying, but the standalone (perpetual license) versions of Adobe Create Cloud like Photoshop etc. do not install properly on MacOS Sierra, you have to manually navigate to the Installer/Contents/MacOS/install and run the command line application manually.

This seems true for Creative Cloud 2015 and 2014.

Decoder ring… one connector to rule them all USB/C

Well with Apple making a huge statement by moving to a single connector for everything, it’s time to look back and figure out how we got here. So here in chronological order is a short incomplete history of computer cabling and some explanation for how we got here.

TL;dr

The future is that all peripherals, monitors, external disks, network connectors will fit into a single physical connector called USB/C. It is the highway on which everything will eventually travel. In the mean time you dongle your way to the future with existing hardware. One confusion is that USB is actually a family of connector standards USB/A, USB/B, mini-USB, micro-USB and USB/C and a family of protocols that can run on top USB 1, 1.1, 2, 3, 3.1. So you can have a USB/A connector that supports USB 3.1 and a USB/C connector that support USB 3.1, Thunderbolt 3 and DisplayPort 1.3. Confused yet.

On that one hardware highway, there will be different protocols. Not unlike the way the Internet works, there is one connection, but web pages, video, email, etc. all use different exchange protocols. Sort of the way one road can have many different kinds of cars and trucks tuned for different uses. Those protocols are going to vary quite a lot based on low cost (USB 2, 3 and 3.1) and performance for specific purposes (Thunderbolt 3 for external disks and graphics cards vs. Displayport 1.2 and soon 1.3 for monitors).

The big shoe to drop will be DisplayPort 1.3 which will allow 5K and 8K video output and wide dynamic range on the same USB/C connector.

So for example even with USB/C you need a collection of cables:

  • USB/C to USB/A supports USB 3 by Nona ($11) or AUKEY ($3.50 each). Maybe the simplest example, this converts a USB/C to USB/A connector for use with USB/A cables. It is limited to 5Gbps of USB 3.0 though but costs just $11.
  • USB/C to USB/C supports Thunderbolt 2 (20GBps) Cable Matters. This cable supports 20GBps using Thunderbolt. It costs $22 so much more than USB 3 support.
  • USB/C to USB/C support Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps) Startech and Cable Matters. The same cost as the Thunderbolt 2 cable so be careful!
  • USB/C to Displayport supports Displayport 1.2 Cable Matters. For $20 get a cable that is DisplayPort for video connection up to 4K at 60 hertz. In contrast the Apple version of this only works to 30 Hertz because it is DisplayPort 1.1 and it costs $49!

The IBM PC (c. 1980)

In a brief history of time, the original IBM PC had a different hardware connector and a specific protocol for every peripheral. Computers were slow enough back then and as today, cost vs performance was a big driving factor. The slower peripherals used cheaper connectors. Also back then size wasn’t as much of an issue and electronics dominated costs, so having a bunch of connectors wasn’t a big deal. So in the back of the original IBM PC you would see:

  • Keyboard and Mice. These were the slowest peripherals and used a serial connection running as slow as on a physical connector called DB-9 (9 pins right?). IBM migrated the same nine pins to with the IBM PS/2 to a cleverly named PS/2 connector which was the cool round thing.
  • Joystick. This was an analog input for joysticks
  • Video. Back then video was analog, you basically fed the monitor with the actual RGB values on a CGA, EGA then VGA connector which was 15 pins and easy to break by the way 🙂 Even today many monitors still have this as the fall back connector.
  • Printers. In the day, when you connected a printer or even a terminal to a computer you typically had either a parallel connector called a Centronix interface or a serial connection with a big DB-25 connector using RS-232 serial connection.
  • Modems. These were also serial devices using RS-232 and usually a DB-9 connector connecting to the phone systems with RJ-11 jacks.
  • Floppy disk. These also had a dedicated connector
  • Networking. The ethernet was a huge coax cable so that’s what you got on the few machines with any kind of networking.
  • Internal disks. OK not really part of the cable story, but part of the larger unification is that disks also had their own protocol and connectors called ATA and then IDE. The big disks used something more expensive called SCSI.
  • Internal cards. These used the IBM bus standard and were completely different from the outside world. They were high speed parallel connectors either 8-bit or 16-bit.
  • Power. All of these peripherals were separately powered with their own connectors.

The main point of this was that we started with a very diverse collection of hardware and protocols tuned for very different uses. Everything up until that point was a different wire for each kind of peripheral

USB Convergence (1990s)

The first big change for cabling came with the universal serial bus. Technology moved forward and now instead of a dedicated controller board for each peripheral, a single chip could handle it and as costs plummeted, peripherals started to merge at the low end. At the high end, the drive was still on performance so the cables changed as physical connectors did.

However as USB moved forward the connectors changed significantly from USB A to B to mini USB to micro USB. So you ended up with a huge number of different cables all supporting some version of the USB protocol although the faster peripherals continued to used dedicated physical connectors and protocols. The big change was the move to serial protocols because at higher data rates, the skew on parallel connectors was a problem and electronics got cheap enough that they could handle the additional processing needed for serial connections

  • Keyboard, Mice, Joystick, Printers, Modems, Floppy Disks. USB 1.1 was the version that really took off providing 1.5Mbps and 12Mbps high speed in 1996. This led to so called legacy-free PCs with much simplified systems. This was a huge simplification of the back of a PC although the connectors were a mess. There was USB/A on the back of most PCs, the the peripherals themselves had a wide range of connectors from USB-B, mini-USB, 4-pin USB and finally micro-USB. This was the first connector that began supplying power as well at 500mA up to 1Amp
  • Firewire/400 and 800 External drive or eSATA. Apple of course had their own course of things and they used Firewire instead for things like external disks. eSATA (external SATA) was the equivalent PC standard, but these too were niche products
  • DVI and HDMI Video. At this point, video also moved into the digital world as controllers in CRTs and then flat panels could process digital. Still the computer world (DVI) and the home electronics world (HDMI) were still not quite converged and both used big thick cables cables that were quite different.
  • SATA internal drives. The disk drives also moved to a serial model with eSATA as variant for connecting external drives.
  • PCI bus. The internal bus of PCs because PCI, more on the this later, but the emergence of PCI was the start of convergence between the internal and external worlds.
  • Ethernet. The world moved to twisted pair ethernet and RJ-45 connectors for 100Mbps fast ethernet.
  • Power. Nearly all the “real devices” used a wall wart of a high power source.

USB/A and USB 3 Rules them all (2000s)

As the beat went on, USB went from being a slow bus for peripherals to big Intel support and very high speed. The new USB 2.0 was 480Mbps and then USB  3 at 5Gbps and effectively killed all but the fastest devices including external disks for the first time with speeds of 20MBps possible, so this PC would have:

  • Peripherals and external hard drives. USB/A connector to any of a large number of USB physical connectors. Most of these could be self powered at 10 Watts to 20 Watts. (1-2Amps at 5V).
  • USB Keys and hard drives.. These were a new form of peripheral as SSDs got cheap enough and USB 3 was fast enough to support them
  • Dual DVI and HDMI with most displays working fine at 1080p 120 hertz with DVI, but not with HDMI.
  • PCI Express. This was Intels big move to a fast serial bus internally
  • SATA internal drives ruled although SAS following SCSI was for enterprise systems.’
  • Ethernet. RJ-45 continues to rule as speed move to 1GBps

Internal and external merge (2010s)

In our current decade as processing got faster, the core PCI Express protocol would now work outside. This was a huge change in technology as having a single protocol across internal and external was a great simplification. At the same time, as bus speeds went for USB 3.1 4oGbps even the highest demand peripherals like video and disk could use a single connector. As a result the latest MacBook Pro could get away with a single external connector and a single internal protocol (PCI Express).

The biggest confusion is that cables can look alike (they both have USB/C connectors), but they are spec’ed to carry different protocols. So you will have cheap USB/C cables that only support USB 3.1,

  • All external peripherals. USB/C connector to USB 3.1 at 10Gbps. This protocol is tuned for loosely coupled devices so there are some specialized protocols for specific purposes (disk and video).
  • Self powered even for laptops. USB/C power. Another big change is that power can also be supplied up to 100 watts so that most laptops could be powered from a USB/C
  • External disk and graphics to Thunderbolt 3 on USB/C. For the first time high speed internal components like disk and even the graphics card can move outboard. The Thunderbolt 1, 2 and 3 provides 10, 20 and 40Gbps that are really PCI Express 1x, 2x and 4x exposed externally. A conventional hard disk has a speed of 600MBps (basically Thunderbolt 1) while the fastest SSD barely saturates a Thunderbolt 3 connection. Thunderbolt  unlike USB 3.1 is designed for these fast peripherals, so be careful that you are buying a USB/c Thunderbolt 3 cable when you connect them.
  • Monitors use DisplayPort Alt Mode with DisplayPort 1.2 on USB/C. While there remain some transitional monitors using a mini-Displayport or Displayport connector, these were only used for a short time. The new USB/C connector can carry digital video to monitors efficiently. Monitors in this timeframe had a huge number of transitional connectors. Intel started the DisplayPort family with DisplayPort and mini-DisplayPort connectors and with protocols called DisplayPort 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 (each with higher power) before they decided to abandon the connectors and move everything to USB/C connectors. Make sure you get a USB/C cable with DisplayPort 1.2 support which is part of the Thunderbolt 3 spec. Confused yet? The monitor world has had a huge transition because 4K UHD really blows out the bandwidth requirements. To get to 4K at over 60 hertz plus wide dynamic range requires moving to DisplayPort 1.3 which isn’t yet int he spec.
  • Disks use PCI Express and m.2. While SATA lives on as a legacy connection, the world moved to SSDs and they use a PCI Express protocol with a new connector called m.2. The m.2 is just a smaller version of the PCI Express slot and comes in 1x, 2x and 4x versions.
  • Graphics cards use PCI Express. Like the the previous world, graphics cards need 16x lanes and PCI Express is the only way to provide them. External graphics cards only have 4x lanes on Thunderbolt 3 so it will be interesting to see how they do.
  • Ethernet using USB/C to RJ-45 convertor cable.

 

Restarting Amazon Affiliate links

OK for the last year I’ve been terrible at Amazon affiliate links. First I missed the deadline to update my website information (there is some regulation about sites) so my old affiliate ids (tongfamily-20) were invalidated and I have to start again with new ids.

But how to change 20 years of links? Well, at first I thought I would just search for all links amazon and change, but it turns out there are WordPress add-ons that help. So off to find:

  • Amazon Link. This basically gives you a new markup so you can add `sometext` but it does require that you change everything but is useful for new links because it will generate at runtime which is probably want you want
  • Amazon Affiliate Tag (aka Amazonify). This is smarter and works across your whole site to do a one time change of affiliate links. You just tell it the link and then you can set nofollow so search engines do not continue on to your links. You can also set it to target=_blank so that Amazon links open up in separate tabs and your website stays around.

Microwaves

(another break from the political news) Well we’ve had two of them break in the last six months, so time to actually spend some time shopping for the. Three big sources are Amazon reviews (I know they are biased for small things, but people do not often give away microwaves for reviews ;-), Wirecutter’s home site called Sweethome as a meta site and Consumer Reports (although they do not often correlate well with Amazon). So here’s an analysis for on the counter microwaves. Note that there are actually very few real microwave makers left, most are rebadges of GE or Panasonic or LG, etc.:

Sweethome. GE JES1656SRSS (or Amazon) at $150 or the newer $200 JVM6175SKSS. This is ironically the exact model that we already have in our house. After years of hard use, it started to vibrate and rattle and stop heating. But wow was it dependable. Looking at the Amazon reviews, there are not many on this model, although Home Depot has lots of good ones, so a decent choice. The $150 model seems pretty good and I’m not sure there is really any real difference.

Amazon. Panasonic NN-SN936B. The GE gets only 3/5 starts on Amazon, the winner there seems to be the Panasonic with 4.5/5. But beware this thing is big: 37 pounds and 22 inches x 14″ for the 2.2 cubic foot one. Even the 1.6 cu foot version is still 21 ?” so it will not be a good fit for a standard 22″ wide cabinet in the US.

Consumer Reports. They like the LG, but on Amazon, folks complain about how noisy it is.

Commercial Microwaves

Finally in looking more at Amazon, I looked at a few “commercial-grade” microwaves. Given how much we use it to see if they are worth it. The main thing is that they are theoretically longer life and they are easy to clean since there are no rotating parts inside. (There is also a restaurant supply store called webrestaurantsupply.com with a long list but they are poorly rated by reselleratings.com):

Panasonic NE-1025F. They don’t have fancy controls but a six minute timer and instead of a rotating dish, the microwave tube itself rotates, so much simpler to operate.

Panasonic NE-1054F. This does have electronic controls and is a higher grade but more expensive at $250. It is 20 ?” x 11″ so somewhat smaller than the 1025F.

Battery Buying Guide

It’s a sad day when the best battery reviews are found buried in an Amazon rating, but there is someone who actually went ahead and tested batteries but:

  1. AAA Alkaline. AC Delco. the no-name AC Delco came up on top and for less than the cost of Amazon Basics even?
  2. AA Alkaline. Duracell Quantum. Then there are AA batteries where BatteryNinja and Consumer Reports says the Duracell Quantum AA are the longest lasting, although the Costco ones are half the price and a good value.
  3. AA NiMh rechargeable. Everready. Finally if you want rechargeable, it looks like the Eveready has the best ones according to Wirecutter.