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My 3 day saga with the “compulsory” Windows 10 Anniversary Update

Monday, September 26th, 2016

I run Windows 10 on two computers – a 128Gb laptop with only 5Gb free hard disc space (“small device”) and a desktop computer.

Microsoft has taken a leaf out of Apple’s book and made their OS updates practically compulsory on the grounds that you will not have adequate software security if you are not running the latest updates.

All very well, but although I am not sure how big the “compulsory” update downloads are, I do know that on my very slow ADSL-1 internet service, the downloads seemed to take priority over all my internet bandwidth, effectively leaving me without internet access all weekend, unless I temporarily aborted the download by rebooting the computer – but this would only delay the inevitable and would prevent me getting further smaller security updates.

And no, Microsoft didn’t seem to think it would be smart to offer users an option of only downloading one version and then re-using it on all computers – no each computer has to download its own version.

Eventually, the download completed on the desktop computer and after much time running through the install process and then more time waiting after you first log on for it all to finish – it at least seems to be working well.

Now the “small device saga”:

Finally the download finished on my laptop and after much time initialising the install gave a fail error of “not enough disk space – need more than 5Gb of hard disc space”.

I freed up a little more tried again and it again failed with not enough space so after noting the option to select an external drive, I then freed up space on my micro SD card and selected that drive.

I started the update yet again, and all went well ….. until … the computer rebooted ….

Failure to run update with an SD card!

I was then presented with a black screen with the Samsung logo and an error message “Please insert external drive then press OK” and a circular rotating waiting icon.

All very sensible except that the micro SD card is already in the laptop and has not been removed and the keyboard and mouse was now effectively disabled – no way to hit the OK button. I ejected the SD card and re-inserted but still nothing happened – so I waited an hour or so just in case it was busy doing something behind the scenes … but eventually my patience gave out and I hit reboot.

Reboot took me to exactly the same scenario as above forcing me to reboot again.

This time, thankfully it decided that it would restore the old version of Windows and after much time, it did this without issue.

In desperation, I decided to get heavy handed with my disc clean up and copied program folders for Delphi XE to a back up drive then deleted those folders temporarily so I now temporarily had > 15Gb free space.

To be sure, I disabled my antivirus software.

At last, the update ran to completion and my laptop was working – but now there was no space to restore those important program files.

I thought I would try to be smart and copy the Windows.old folders to an external drive before deleting it – this seemed to work until the last 1% of files refused to copy due to insufficient rights despite me being admin and attempts to re-try – eventually I gave up on this concept of insurance.

So, I ran system cleanup (right click on C: drive, select Properties then Disk Cleanup, then System Files and once it has analysed this, you choose Windows previous version and temporary install files – knowing that once these are deleted, there is no going back to your old version.

But I needed space, so once the above was completed, I restored my program folders by copying them back from the external backup drive and now my laptop seems to be running as before.

I am not sure I need any of the added software functionality, but at least now I can get ongoing security updates.

For some reason Delphi XE no longer opens – I get an Out of System Resources – FIX: set desktop graphics font = 100% (higher values cause the error).

Thanks Microsoft for many hours of my life being wasted.

ps… not all good ….

My v4.50 of TMS Software TadvSmoothGauge VCL control now causes an “Invalid Floating Point Operation” when an app with this control runs in Win 10 Anniversary Edition – the same app runs fine in older versions of Windows. FIX: purchase latest version of TMS controls.

Ebay checkout now is not working in the updated Microsoft Edge browser – gives error code 70245.

Samsung Series 7 slate tablet with Windows 8 – can it replace ALL your computers and iPads?

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

I have given up waiting on the Microsoft Surface Pro and my preferred device, the new Kupa X15 slate which is due in April and jumped in and bought the Samsung Series 7 slate tablet device (model XE700T1C-A02AU) with Windows 8 and docking keyboard.

These devices possibly have what it takes to replace all your computers and iPads for most people and combine them into one light, compact device which all the family can use but still give you the full power of a desktop computer – well almost.

These devices bring to portable computing what the Olympus OM-D E-M5 bought to the compact camera world – at last all the pieces being in place to reduce compromises to a tolerable level.

I have owned a Toshiba tablet PC for years but the touch interface was clunky due to the software and also because you could not use your fingers like you can on an iPad, plus it was heavy and took ages to boot up.

I own an Apple iPad but although light, fast to boot and nice interface, it is compromise city when it comes to most computing needs for many reasons which I won’t go into here, and it is unlikely these issues will be resolved in the near future – it is unlikely I will ever buy another, although the small size of the iPad Mini may have its niche use.

What do we get with the Samsung Series 7 slate?

  • Windows 8 Home 64bit
    • almost full Windows capabilities
    • fast boot up
    • backup to Microsoft’s SkyDrive
    • multiple users as with any Windows machine (yes Apple, unlike your iPad, I can have multiple user accounts)
    • supports most Windows software that has worked since Windows XP
    • supports new “Metro” apps designed for touch screen use, and these are quite nice although much more limited in variety when compared with iOS apps and you need to access these from the Microsoft “store”
    • new search feature is very powerful and fast
    • new “Charms” functionality is quite useful once you get used to it
    • can log on using a PIN instead of a Windows password – but unlike iOS, no mechanism to automatically delete the device after 10 failed attempts to log on – something I would like!
  • a very nice, although a little too wide, touch screen 11.6″ FHD LED Display (1920 x 1080) which is awesome to play videos, display photos, and use “Metro” apps
  • Intel® i5 3317U (1.70 GHz, 3 MB L3 Cache) processor with Ivy Bridge chipset and Intel® HD Graphics 4000 processor
  • 4Gb DDR3 RAM
  • 128Gb SDD drive with over 90Gb free with Windows 8 64bit Home version pre-installed
  • USB 3.0 port which is critical as this then allows rapid use of external drives for accessing your 1Tb of photos
  • microSD card reader – I wish they used SD card for compatibility with cameras, but I bought a USB 3.0 card reader to get around this, and it is very fast indeed
  • micro HDMI video out port
  • most importantly, a high quality dockable keyboard with mouse trackpad  (this also adds 2 extra USB 2.0 ports – perhaps handy if you need to use a wired network access for work environments – just buy a USB network adapter)
  • Bluetooth v4.0 so you can add a bluetooth mouse (this is critical for me for serious work as I hate laptop keyboard trackpads)
  • WiFi a/b/g/n and WiDi support
  • SIM card
  • 2.0 megapixel Webcam (front), 5.0 megapixel Webcam (rear)
  • headphone/mic port
  • rotation lock button
  • S pen for using like a Wacom device
  • Ambient Light Sensor
  • Accelerometer Sensor
  • Compass Sensor
  • Gyro Sensor
  • some nice Samsung apps
  • hardware BIOS support for Absolute Data’s remote device wiping and location services although this requires an annual subscription fee – but probably worth it if you have sensitive details on the device such as your account passwords, family photos, etc
  • all this an it is only 304 x 189.4 x 11.9mm (11.97″ x 7.46″ x 0.47″) and weighs only 0.888Kg (1.96lbs)

Issues:

  • does not support hardware encryption technologies and does not come with BitLocker so you may wish to rely upon Truecrypt although this excellent free open source software does not fully support Windows 8 as yet – the main issue with using Truecrypt volumes is that in Windows 8, Microsoft has decided somehow that when you use apps it doesn’t need to really close them down fully and release file access – Truecrypt will then ask you if you wish to force file access to be released when you wish to dismount the Truecrypt drive – this seems to be OK.
  • probably not powerful enough for the serious gamers out there but for everything else such as full Office use, programming suites, Lightroom, Photoshop, etc it should be fine
  • Windows 8 metro mail app does not support POP mail accounts – you will need to do a workaround such as use a gmail account to access your POP mail account – see here
  • metro apps generally only have access to the user’s libraries – documents, pictures, videos but click on the desktop app and immediately you are back into normal Windows 7-like desktop app interface albeit without the Start button, but Samsung do supply an app to simulate this.
  • desktop apps designed for Windows 7 and earlier generally are not well suited to use without a keyboard and mouse as the font and clickable spaces are too small for your finger but there are several workarounds:
    • use a keyboard and mouse +/- external screen
    • use the magnifying option – just press Windows button + volume button to activate and the whole screen is magnified which is very handy (you do need to activate this function in Settings)
    • use the S pen as a touch device
  • metro photo app is nice for viewing and sharing photos in your pictures folder but cannot access photos elsewhere on your drive – however the Windows desktop app Photo Gallery is actually very nice to use for this purpose
  • the 16:9 aspect ratio of the screen is not well suited for most desktop application tasks as there is not much height to play with
    • in desktop mode, consider moving the taskbar to the left side instead of the bottom to give more room, and set it to autohide – although autohide does not always seem to result in it being hidden which is a problem with maximised apps
  • the 11″ 16:9 screen is a bit heavy and stressful on your left arm when holding it for long periods
  • the keyboard docking is a little temperamental and my version seems to need a bit of encouragement to get contact between the device and keyboard contacts
  • Samsung advise that the device should be turned off when ever docking or undocking the keyboard
  • 128Gb drive is a touch small, but thankfully the microSD card reader and USB 3.0 port allow various mechanisms to provide much more storage which is rapidly accessible, and perhaps more secure as it is not left on the device – sure beats what is possible with the Apple iPad!
  • no network port – you will need to buy a USB network device if you need this
  • seems to be issues with app store – updating 31 apps seems to have stalled as still running after 24hrs and it just says “downloading” without obvious progress despite a reboot .. the only way I managed to fix this is to run this app from Microsoft which analyses your system and repairs it – http://download.microsoft.com/download/F/2/4/F24D0C03-4181-4E5B-A23B-5C3A6B5974E3/apps.diagcab

Conclusion thus far:

So far, I have been very impressed with both Windows 8 and the Samsung device, perhaps because I had prepared myself to really hate Windows 8 given all the bad press and how Microsoft is essentially forcing users to change the way they are used to doing things.

I have managed to install all my legacy Windows software I need including MS Office, and Embarcadero’s Delphi XE programming tool.

Fortunately, you can resort to Windows 7 way of doing things for most functions.

Unless Apple radically re-architecture iOS I cannot see much future for the Apple iPad now that devices such as these will service both the desktop user’s needs as well as the traveller’s portable device needs and provide rapid access to external USB drives.

I think there will be a place for a smaller version of this device to allow longer single hand holding capability, preferably in 4:3 format instead of 16:9 to take the leverage strain off your arm.

Navigating the iPad file system jungle – could it have been more poorly designed?

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

OK, so the iPad is really just for dummies with more money than sense – well I got sucked in by Apple’s lack of documentation as to its considerable limitations – see all my previous posts on the iPad.

Each application you buy or download has its own discrete data storage area which is NOT shared with other apps.

It seems the only data storage area within the iPad which is shared amongst various apps is the Photos app folders and albums.

Let’s explore a few little process issues for iPad  users – processes which should be very simple.

The photo albums:

  • while you can create various photo albums on your main computer and select these in iTunes to be copied to your iPad, you cannot use the iPad itself to create new albums, or move photos between albums, or even delete these photos, but you can Copy to the clipboard or email them.
  • any images saved from Safari or other apps will go ONLY into the Saved Photos folder and then cannot be moved to another folder.
  • any images copied from your camera or SD card are added to Event folders and to All Imported and Last Imported albums where they CAN be deleted, emailed or copied to the clipboard.
  • thus you cannot create your own albums or slideshows using the iPad alone and the Photos app – you need iTunes on a computer, or you need to copy photos to a different application with its own folders.
  • furthermore if you re-connect to your computer, you do not get access to these images via iTunes (but a warning that iTunes may indeed delete them during sync if you are not careful) – you must try to find it as a drive in My Computer if it is being nice to you and showing up as a drive.

Download a file from the internet:

  • open up Safari web browser, navigate to the web page you want
  • let’s say there is a photo on that web page you would like to add to your album of photos on iPad
  • well this is at least easy, hold you finger on the photo and you get two options – Save (which does add the image to your Saved Photos folder accessible by Photos or many other apps – but bad luck if you want to move it to a different folder – that is not possible!) or Copy (which copies it to the clipboard, but you can’t paste it into Photos or any of the Photos albums).
  • but what if you wanted to download a pdf file?
  • using Safari to open and display a pdf is possible, and you can have it saved as a separate Safari tab for future use, but you can’t save the pdf file anywhere, nor can you copy to clipboard or email it, let alone even think of editing it.
  • you can partly get around this mess by buying an app such as Downloads HD – but you still will not be able to copy a photo to a photo album of your choice.

Paste a file:

  • well, you have selected Copy from Safari or Photos which copies that file to the clipboard memory space so you can paste it somewhere else
  • but where can you paste it?
  • not in Photos or its albums, not in apps which you would expect would support pasting of files such as Air Sharing, DropBox, Documents or Stash
  • you CAN paste these files into some apps such as USB Disk (which has a rectangular icon at the bottom which is supposed to indicate how many items are in the clipboard and available to paste BUT unfortunately does not seem to show them).

Instead of being a device to make you more productive, it has the opposite effect – frustration after frustration once you get past the novelty of the nice touch interface.

Perhaps Apple’s philosophy is “Let the buyer beware ” instead of being a bit more transparent in documenting what in can and can’t do!

Oh, and if you are wondering, the iPhone uses a similar folder management system, but at least with an iPhone, you are not really expecting it to be your main web browsing and file management tool as is the case with the iPad.

If there are ways around all this, please feel free to add comments, as I am sure there are thousands and thousands who are just wondering why they spent their hard earned cash?

Europe holiday over, back home, time to see if I can transfer photos from iPad

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Well, my holiday to Europe is over and I am back in Australia.

Readers of my previous posts will note the saga with issues with the Apple iPad which had hoped could be used to backup my photos as well as browse them.

I connected the iPad to my home computer, iTunes booted up as expected and although one can only view low resolution photos on the iPad, the iTunes reported 34Gb of space used in the Photos section, this would equate to all the original RAW and jpeg files which perhaps the iPad imported from the SD cards and cameras, if this is so, it would be a pity that you could not view the original resolution jpegs on the iPad, but one cannot tell what is stored in the photos section of the iPad using iTunes.

Next step in iTunes was to look at the photos sync section, so I turned this on and selected only one folder on the computer to sync with and iTunes kindly displayed a warning to this effect – new photos detected on iPad, if you select sync photos, the iPad photos will be deleted and replaced by the sync photos.

Now that is NOT what I was hoping for, so I turned off the photo sync.

Time to run iTunes sync, and as previously, it has to run backup first – readers will remember that with almost no data on my iPad but a few apps for travel, the backup process before I left took about 48 hours to run!

Well, iTunes sync has now been running almost 48 hours and step 1 of 4 (backup) only 50% complete – unbelievable!

Google search for solutions was not helpful – I had already tried all the “solutions” last time and they did not help, nor does Apple’s online manual or support docs, although they do specifically indicate that media including photos are NOT included in the backup process – the iTunes backup process only backs up settings, notes, SMS messages, contacts, application data, etc.

The simple solution is to do a factory reset of iPad to hopefully get iTunes sync/backup back to manageable times but that would not only delete all my photos and music, but all my settings I had painfully installed.

Time to look at options other than iTunes to backup the iPad.

A replacement for iTunes:

A quick Google search revealed the following options which work on Windows and are compatible with iPhone as well:

iPad backup Software:

  • the iPad File Transfer and Converter Suite appears to cost ~$US25 although when one clicks on the Buy Windows link, you get a link to buy iMac software, so I am not sure what is happening there, but you can download a free trial version and then upgrade to full version later.
  • “Can easily transfer any types of files including photos,messages, videos, contacts, and all other files”
  • “fast backup”

iCopyBot:

  • this company produces several products including iCopyBot which allows one to copy files to and from the iPad (ie to actually do a backup without using iTunes) as well as iVideoBot video converter and iYouTube for downloading and converting YouTube videos for storage on the device.
  • prices range from US19.95 to 34.95 for each product
  • the iBackupBot product does not actually do a backup but helps you read and edit the backup files created by iTunes.
  • there is also a pList Editor for viewing and editing Mac plist files in a Windows system
  • these products are for Windows only, there is no Mac version.

Emicsoft iPad Converter Suite:

  • this suite of products will cost you $US35 but includes a DVD to iPad converter, iPad video converter, and an iPad to PC or Mac file transfer for backing up your iPad files
  • alternatively, you can just get the iPad Manager Suite for $US25 which seems to include DVD, video conversion as well as file copy and iPad backup/restore functions, and ringtone creation
  • they also sell a YouTube/Vimeo video downloader for $US25

Now which one to choose?

Perhaps I will wait and see how long this backup actually takes .. stayed tuned!

Finally! …

The backup finished after 4 days!!!

So I uninstalled all the apps and backup returned to its normal 1-2 minutes, I have now installed nearly all my apps except the travel apps and the book/reference type apps, and so far, so good, backup is less than 2 minutes!

BUT…

The iPad is not showing as a drive in My Computer on this Vista computer, so I still couldn’t see what photo files were actually stored :(

I went into the Computer Device Manager and all seems to be working fine with the Apple USB drivers installed and working.

Found the original camera photo files at long last!

I then connected it to my old XP laptop and lo and behold, the iPad did show up as a drive, and all the camera RAW files were there as well as original camera jpeg files – but jpeg files from the camera were NOT there if a RAW file had been captured at the same time!

Unfortunately, scrolling through the files in detail mode (not thumbnail mode even) crashed the instance of the computer drive window, forcibly closing down the process using Task Manager, disconnecting iPad and reconnecting resulted in no iPad showing up as a drive in My Computer!

Time for a reboot of the computer!

… seems life was not meant to be easy!

Addendum:

After I rebooted the computer, the iPad did show up in the Vista My Computer as a drive, and all the photos were there in individual folders which corresponded with the iPad Event structure which in effect was date photo taken.

Furthermore the original jpegs and RAW files imported from the camera and SD card were all there, and were NOT deleted by selecting iTunes photo sync to be ON.

Perhaps the iPad does make an OK photo backup system after all, although it seems very temperamental in showing up in My Computer as a drive, and this is really the only way to access these files to transfer them onto a computer.

Europe holiday week 3 – summary of experience with the Apple iPad

Monday, October 25th, 2010

It has now been 3 weeks of travel in Europe with an Apple iPhone and iPad, so time for an update on how well this combination works for the travel photographer.

Email whilst overseas scores 5/10:

Although not an iPad issue, I was not able to configure my ISP’s email to send email except by going through their webmail system.

Webmail on the iPad is very dysfunctional and very frustrating to use.
Whilst one can scroll using the iPad, it will NOT let you scroll within a webmail text message which is a big pain, but worse, you cannot send photos with webmail because Apple has NOT allowed Safari web browser to access your photo folders!

You can of course copy a photo then paste it into your email but unfortunately this only copied the file name of the photo – not the photo!

Furthermore, my friend tried to change his Yahoo password using Safari and this was impossible to achieve.

I solved the photo emailing issue by creating a hotmail email account and this worked OK for emailing a photo – although cumbersome as one has to go into the photo application, find your photo, then select email and then it opens a new email message and you have to change the email account to your hotmail account, and Also make sure you are logged into live Messenger in Safari!

Of course, you do not get any options to alter image size or jpeg compressn prior to sending – you just send the already compromised “optimized” jpeg file that the iPad had created when you imported the photo from your came a or SD card.

Another frustrating aspect of writing emails is the iPad spellchecker – it can drive you crazy and make your emails illegible, particularly if you like to use abbreviations And not adhere to correct grammar!

Mine even kept reverting to the Italian keyboard AND spelling even though I had deleted Italian from the settings!

Web browsing scores 5/10:

There are a number of issues which cripples ipad’s web browsing experience:
– no support for Flash player – it is surprising how many websites become inaccessible, and it is often the ones you really need like 3 mobile.
– no access to your photos so unless you use a dedicated application, you cannot upload a photo to a website using Safari, unfortunately, only a few websites have iPad application to allow this.
– no ability to save a web file for offline use, let alone save files into organized folders! You can buy an app called Downloader HD which I highly recommend as a compromise.
– no ability to scroll within a text box on a web page – this makes editing a word press blog post very difficult indeed! In fact, this post was primarily authored in the iPad Notes app in plain text, then copy and pasted into a new post within Safari, but as I was not able to scroll through it in Safari, nor choose WYSIWYG mode, I had to resort to using a WordPress app to finish the editing, and even then had to use HTML to format it! Just not good enough Apple!

Photo browsing scores 5/10:

The user interface for browsing photos can be quite fun and enjoyable, but zooming in On a photo Is not as useful as iPad only stores a low resolution image with loss of detail.

A nice feature of the photo app us that it categories your photos by Events which essentially Are the dates the photo was taken on.

Unfortunately, you cannot create folders on the iPad so that you can organize your photos, or even create a best of folder.

I did buy an app called Photo Sort HD which allows you to create folders for your photos, but the interface is very clumsy, and you must import photos from your main photos folders, and this is done by viewing tiny thumbnails which makes this process very frustrating.

Even worse, the display of images in browsing is quite slow to load making the app poorly responsive and during a slideshow it would continually crash.

Photo editing scores 2/10:

Whilst you can download apps to do rudimentary photo editing, there Is not much point wasting your time editing the small resolution images that the iPad only allows you to play with.

Uploading photos to your own website scores 4/10:

You need to buy an FTP client application to upload photos to your own hosted website, but again, you are dealing with the low resolution images and it is a slow process.
Worse still, there is no native JAlbum application to create these albums on your own website as you can with a Windows computer – nor can you update existing albums.
There is a JAlbum.net application which will allow you to upload photos to your Jalbum.net hosted albums, which may be useful, likewise, there are similar apps to do so for uploading photos to Facebook, Picasa, etc.

Photo backup scores 1/10:

As mentioned in a previous post, backing up your original image files and jpegs is virtually impossible to do on an iPad.

It does a reasonable job of importing your photos although the SD card reader is buggy and requires rebooting several times to get it to be recognized as a valid device, but the imported Files are degraded jpegs only – only for worse case use as backup.
Whatever you do, make sure you choose the KEEP option after importing otherwise all your originals will be lost forever!

Conclusion:

Don’t waste your money on this first version of an iPad – sure it is relatively light, compact and cool to play with, but when you really want to use it, it let’s you down in so many unexpected ways.

And of course, there is no easy way to print anything, such as your flight booking card, as there is no USB connection for printers, and you cannot use USB memory sticks as your intermediary device.

Buy a Windows net book or similar instead!

I thought I was doing my wife a favor buying an iPad for her but she just hates it – and she only uses it for webmail and surfing the net!

ps.. I did find an app that will allow me to send a photo from my iPhone to the iPad via Bluetooth – it’s called picTransfer and seems to work well.

Europe holiday day 5 – iPad fixed with reboot after battery ran out – over 12 hours later!

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

Everything is working again just needed to wait until battery ran out so it rebooted cleanly.

but it meant More than 12 hours of no use when I really needed it!

Have installed a iWIND micro sim for Italy and it works well even in rural Italy where there is minimal reception on the 3 network.

Off to Rome today for conference for a few days.

Europe holiday day 4 – the iPAD saga gets worse

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Following on from my recent issues with my wife’s iPad – see previous posts – it decided to cease functioning today!

As I have been doing. I loaded my 16gb SD card into the card reader and now with 144 jpeg + raw files totalling 2.3Gb the iPad photo viewer crashed while trying to read all the thumbnails.

I closed the app and turned off the iPad but the busy icon displayed and refuses to close it down – am waiting 5 hours now and still can’t close it.

No Apple store anywhere near here so have to wait until battery runs out and hope that rebooting it then will work.

If it was a Pc I would just take battery out but no option for this on the iPad!

Luckily the iPhone is still working although poor reception even with wifi networks here.

Some early experiences with the Apple iPad – perhaps not as productive as I thought!

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

I bought an Apple iPad 64Gb 3G model last week for my wife to take on our trip to Europe.

Initial problems with iTunes syncing with no MicroSim card:

Initial sync with the latest version of iTunes running on Windows Vista refused to work until I installed a MicroSim card so it could “download updates for the carrier” – luckily I had a Micro Sim card for my iPhone 4 and this resolved this issue nicely, although it did require rebooting the computer and the iPad.

The one iTunes per device issue:

As most would be aware, you can only sync a iPad/iPhone/iPod with ONE iTunes version on a computer, so although I use my laptop iTunes to sync with my iPhone, I decided it best to use the desktop computer running MS Vista to sync the iPad so my wife could maybe one day gain control over it (not much chance of that happening – iTunes is far too temperamental!).

You can connect the iPad to another computer or user account with iTunes installed and you can add files to any apps installed with File Sharing capabilities BUT you cannot attempt to sync apps, music, photos, etc as it warns you that trying to do so will ERASE and REPLACE all such files from your iPad with those on the current iTunes.

Configuring the iPad does take time:

I had spent much of the week setting it up for my wife so it would sync with Google calendars (using the SaiSuke app), her Outlook contacts, and mail, loaded some of her music playlists, purchased and installed a number of iPad apps and configured them ready for her use without having to understand all the settings.

iTunes settings were set to manually manage music and not to encrypt the backup – so backup should work fast.

All seemed to be working well …. until last night.

The saga of the extremely long backup preventing iTune syncing:

Despite having the latest version of iTunes installed, and only 4Gb space used on the iPad, iTunes inexpicably started taking a LOOOONG time to even get a little way through the initial backup stage – after a couple of hours with the progress bar seemingly stuck on about 5% done.

I decided to reboot everything, delete the last backup (iTunes:Preferences:Devices), and reset sync history, as well as removing the MyPictures:IPod Photo Cache folder which has been reported to be an issue with iTunes sync problems.

The computer is running with 4Gb RAM, 92Gb free hard disk space – should be no problems for backing up 4Gb data!

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a way of setting iTunes NOT to automatically back up the iPad during the sync process.

Installed latest version of iTunes (v10.01), rebooted everything again, tried to sync iPad and left it overnight running – after 10 hours, still in Backup phase but progress bar had made it to about 40% – NOT GOOD – so time to call Apple Support whose first priority was to try to sell me extended warranty (Apple Care for $A129 as I already had bought it for the iPhone) but I am not sure the warranty will cover me throwing the iPad against the wall!

Apple support advised to try what I had tried above, but as that hadn’t worked – time for drastic measures – a complete uninstall of everything Apple including iTunes, Quicktime, etc – see the specific order in which this needs to be carried out here.

Then reinstall the latest version of iTunes.

Somehow the uninstall process did not delete my music playlists so guess that is good and it recognised the iPad when I reattached it, and then immediately started to sync it, again of course by backing it up first.

After 20 minutes, backup progress bar had reached the ~5% mark and the feeling of deja vu had set in :(

We are leaving for Europe in 2 days – this is NOT what I was expecting from Apple!

My biggest fear is if I used the iPad camera connector and iPad SD card reader to backup up my travel photos, and when I get back I had to do a complete new install of iTunes and remove all traces of the iPad (not yet sure how to do this – guess I follow these instructions), that the initial sync might erase everything on the iPad before  had a chance to copy it onto a computer.

It certainly does not fill me with trust!

40 minutes into the sync process and surprise, the backup progress bar had actually progressed – albeit only to about 15%, but that was much faster than last night!

Fingers crossed and hoping it continues and completes its task before I leave for Europe!

60 minutes and it seems it is pretty much stalled at ~20% done – time for almost drastic measures!

Time to cancel the sync and go into iTunes preferences again – delete all backups, reset sync history, reboot everything, temporarily disable antivirus scanner, and try again.

So sorry Apple support, your advice just wasted a few more of my precious hours, perhas you could have told me the truth about the backup/sync debacle, and given me some real advice!

I don’t really want to delete all user preferences just yet – that would be another day’s work recreating them and it may erase all my good work on the iPad in setting that up.

Same thing again.

Almost time to throw it against the wall.

Google search of the web found this great blog post which may help solve the issues – perhaps its time to find the app which iTunes can’t backup well?

I am thinking perhaps this is going to have to wait until after we get back from our holiday, too bad if my wife wants to change the music playlist I have selected for her

It seems that not only is the iPad severely crippled as per my previous post on it, but iTunes itself has a poor design which means if you use the iPad with apps and store some files outside of the iTunes data store (as most of the apps do – thank goodness), iTunes will take 12-72 hours of continuous backing up before you can run the sync.

If you just want to use the iPad as a web browser, mail and calendar client then things should be OK, but if you really want to try to get value for your money from it and use apps, well you may be in for a shock!

If you don’t believe me, I am not alone in this experience!

Here are a few comments posted in that blog:

“The way iTunes backs up any files not directly stored by it (videos, songs, photos) is horrible. What’s the point of getting 64GB ipad and not being able to put even 1 GB of files, risking hours of backup. This has been an issue since April and there’s no reply from Apple yet. It’s not the developers’ fault in any way, it’s just the criminally stupid way that iTunes backs up application files. I had around 5GB of comics in ComicZeal and it kept syncing for 5 hours to get only around 20%… This is unacceptable. There’s no way I’ll stop using the apps I bought my iphone for just because iTunes was coded by monkeys. Even version 10 has the same damn problem. Wake up Apple.”

“You tip worked very well. I was very unhappy with this backup situation. Yesterday it took more than 4 hours, and now, less than 3 min. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge with us,”

“This is awesome. iPod Touch Backup went from apparent infinity (the longest I actually waited was just over 12 hours) to less than 30 seconds (!) after removal of one offending app–from a Kong Kong newspaper called Apple Daily. What is it with newspaper and magazine apps?”

“This is very good information. I am finding, however, that the slow backup is caused by photos stored on my ipad. In every mdinfo file, I have a string like Media/PhotoData/Thumbnails/00000/00000/00086.jpg. Before starting the backup, i had several hundred photos on the ipad, but had deleted all but 40. It seems that the thumbnails for all the rest are still there and still slowing the backup. Does anyone have ideas how to delete these thumbnails?”

I only have a dozen photos ever put on my iPad so thumbnails is not what is causing my backup to be slow.

I’m monitoring the cleaned backup folder whilst watching the hours pass on yet another attempt at sync – so far after 5 hours and backup progress bar has hit 30% done and created 8,000 backup files (mostly 1kb each) and still going!

6 hours, 33% done and 9,100 files created ….

8 hours, almost 40% done, 11,000 files created ….

9.5 hours, ~45% done, 13,000 files created …. I’m off to bed!

20 hours, 70% done, 27,000 files created …..

24 hours,  80% done, 30,000 files created …..

28 hours,  84% done, 33,000 files created ….

32 hours, 89% done, 35,500 files created ….

finally the backup finished, presumably at 40hrs, 37,500 files created then took under 1 minute to do the sync.

By the way, my iPhone 4 with 13Gb data gets incrementally backed up in a minute!

Good luck if you buy an iPad, and thanks Apple for designing a dodgy product and iTunesplease fix this ASAP!

And Steve Jobs, if your team cannot fix this backup debacle, at least put a mechanism in place in iTunes where we can easily disable backup during sync – so at least we can sync our files!

Some workarounds to bypass iTunes:

Fortunately, I had bought a ZoomIt SD card reader which bypasses Apple iTunes software, and although VERY slow to copy files from SD cards, it may offer me a workaround for copying images and other files to and from SD cards if I can’t get this issue fixed before leaving.

Also, the AirShare app allows me to copy non-iTunes files to and from my computer via WiFi without requiring iTunes, so again, another possible workaround – but I won’t have my laptop with me in Europe – that’s the whole point of buying the iPad – no need to take a laptop – or so I thought!

A netbook to take into the field with your camera.

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Having a laptop with you on your travel, photo field trips or photo shoots is very handy, allowing you to dump your full memory card onto the laptop hard disk drive, and viewing/editing images, and even uploading them to the net if you have 3G wireless broadband connection or other broadband internet connection.

The main issues with laptops until recently was weight and battery life.

Over the past 2 years, a new genre of laptops – the netbook - has flooded the market, in a similar way that Micro Four Thirds cameras have surged in popularity as high image quality, versatile, light and compact camera systems.

Small, and light is the future for most technologies, but they must be big enough to be functional – Micro Four Thirds is the perfect size for camera systems for most people, 11.6″ netbooks may be the perfect size portable laptops for most people.

So let’s have a look at what I feel are the important features of a netbook:

It must be small and light:

  • I would aim for around the 1 – 1.4kg mark as a reasonable compromise

It must run most of the software you currently use:

  • at present, I would go for Windows 7 Home Premium as the operating system, given that Microsoft seem intent on forcing us to upgrade from XP Pro.
  • sorry Apple, your iPad will make a great photo browser and web browser (except for the unfortunate lack of Macromedia Flash support), but it is not going to run Photoshop, Lightroom or most of the other programs I need.

It must have enough memory storage to enable storage of a reasonable trip’s photos:

  • I often shoot about 50Gb over a 3 week travel period, so I would prefer at least 160Gb of hard disk drive, but the more the merrier.

It’s display must be adequate for photos:

  • 1366 x 768 pixels would be an ideal resolution for this format rather than the more restrictive 1024 x 600 resolution found on most 10″ netbooks to date.
  • most of my images I post on the web have a maximum height of 700 pixels and thus the 1366×768 display will be fine, furthermore if you watch 720p videos, you will be better off with this display size.

It’s performance (speed) and battery life must be adequate:

  • unfortunately, there is a trade off between how fast it will run vs battery life
  • I would aim for a netbook with at least 5 hours of stated battery life – in reality it will be less than stated usually.
  • do NOT get one with Microsoft Vista – get Win 7 Home Premium or Win XP Home
  • to get the best performance AND get 5+ hours of battery life with a 6-cell battery, you need:
    • an optimised low power-usage CPU chip:
      • currently the standard is the 64bit single core 1.66Ghz Intel Atom N450, but by 3rd quarter 2010, Intel should be marketing their improved CPU chip, the N455 which provides faster RAM memory support through allowing use of DDR3 RAM
      • other options include:
        • slower 32bit Atom chips such as the Z series and 1.66Ghz N270
        • higher performing Intel chips such as:
          • Atom D410/510
          • the ultra-low-voltage (ULV) chips such as:
            • the dual core SU4100, and SU7100
            • the Core2Duo SU9300/9400/9600 with Intel Virtualisation for virtual OS performance needs, but no hyper-threading and no Turbo Boost.
            • the soon to be released 32nm dual hyper-threaded double-threaded core ULV Intel i5-520UM or i7-620/640 UM/LM chips with Turbo Boost and HD graphics built-in.
    • an optimised graphics chip system:
      • most early netbooks ran a low power usage graphics chip which unfortunately meant that video or games ran very slowly
      • Nvidia Ion graphic cards allow 1080HD video playback and gaming in netbooks but means battery life will always be short
      • new Nvidia Ion2 Optimus graphic cards provide BOTH graphic cards and automatically switch to the low power consuming card when fast graphics is not needed, giving you the best of both worlds, but unfortunately few models are currently available – but expect this to change rapidly by mid-2010!
    • sufficient RAM memory to minimise access of power consuming hard disk drive:
      • generally you need at least 2Gb for Windows 7 (3 or 4Gb would be even better), and at least 1Gb for WinXP (2Gb is better).

Adequate connectivity:

  • USB ports, and a built-in SD card reader is highly preferred (why didn’t they do this for the Apple iPad rather than require flimsy adapters?)
  • ethernet port (usually standard on all)
  • WiFi wireless networking (usually standard on all)
  • perhaps HDMI output – usually available on the Nvidia Ion netbooks
  • perhaps 3G broadband – usually available as USB modems which may be more flexible as each 3G provider has different systems, and to confuse the issue, Intel is embarking on its WiMax technology for 4G broadband connectivity – which in Australia is only available in local regions through providers such as Unwired which currently only covers parts of Sydney, and thus for most of us, will be irrelevant for a few years yet!
  • some may want built-in webcam and mic for travel

Adequate keyboard and mouse:

  • the smaller 10″ netbooks tend to compromise on the keyboard and mouse, hence another reason the 11.6″ format may be the best compromise.
  • newer models may have a mouse with gesturing support to allow easy zoom in/out, etc.

If video playback or gaming is important along with a good battery life then an ION 2-based netbook should be considered:

  • Acer Aspire One 532G is the 1st ION2 netbook to be announced but unfortunately is a 10″ model, but it is only 1kg.
  • Zotac ION2 coming March 2010
  • Dell/Alienware M11x – regarded by some as the best performing laptop available in 11.6″ format giving 2hr gaming, 4hr HD video viewing on battery and 5-6hrs general use battery life otherwise but it does weigh 2kg! Not ION2 but similar graphic switching technology.

Can’t wait for ION 2, but need video playback rather than battery life? Get an ION-based netbook or an ultra-portable notebook:

  • ASUS Eee PC 1201N – 12″ dual core Atom 330 with 1366×768, 250-320Gb HDD, 2-3Gb DDR2 RAM, 3.5hr 6-cell battery, card reader
  • Acer Timeline 1810T – 11.6″  Core2 SU4100 Centrino, 1366×768,2-4Gb DDR2 RAM, 250-320Gb HDD, gesture, card reader,  HDMI, 5600mAh 8hr battery, 1.35kg – for $300 and 370g more, you could get the revolutionary multi-touch gesturing touch screen tablet version – the 1820PT.

Can’t wait for ION2, but need good battery life but happy with slow video playback?

  • Asus Eee PC 1101HA – 11.6″, 1.2Hz Atom Z520, 1-2Gb RAM, 160Gb HDD?, gesture support mouse pad, SD card reader,  need to overclock it to run 720p video (via BIOS), runs WinXP Home fast, large, heavy 6-cell 63Wh 2800mAh battery lasts 10+ hours (7.5hrs using WiFi), 1.38kg. User can upgrade RAM to 2Gb but not able to access HDD!