Migration

[…tap… tap… is this thing on??]

It’s time to abandon the Adobe-sphere before it abandons me. In October 2017 Adobe decided to kill off the last vestiges of perpetual (non-subscription) licensing for Lightroom… and change the name to “Lightroom Classic.” And making things worse, somewhere in November a routine update broke functionality on my venerable InDesign CS3.

Historically, renaming software to “classic” has been the indicator of abandonment of same, and I expect that’s what Adobe has in mind, as the all-new-shiny Lightroom CC is all cloud-based and mobile and “fun” and made into lightweight eye-candy for the iPhone set.

Now of course I could go with the flow and pay the tribute, which for Lightroom/Photoshop is $10/month, but InDesign isn’t included and that would add another $20/month. Not happening, at least not with me.

I restored CS3 functionality by configuring a Windows 7 Virtual Machine and just installing the bare-bones stuff I need, but that’s a short-term patch, not a long-haul answer. So I’m now evaluating other publishing packages.

Lightroom is the big problem; I’ve been with the package since its first release and thus have a solid ten years’ work in creating a workflow, geotagging and keywording the 25,000+ photos in the master catalog. Right now, there’s nothing quite like LR out there, although there are promises.

Having played with some of the alternative RAW converter/editors, I’m waiting for the ON1 crowd to include digital asset management in their product. Hopefully that comes along soon.

Bleh.

 

Death of a tablet

It feels like an old friend is gone. The Wacom Intuous 3 pen tablet, model  PTZ-431W, vintage December 2006, has died.

I had thought it was essentially indestructible. I’ve spilled iced tea on it twice, coffee once; each time took it apart and gently cleaned the circuit board, and back to work it went. I’m on the fourth (and probably last, since I can’t find another to order) pen… the side switches wear out.

I use the pen tablet in preference to the mouse, which feels clumsy by comparison (albeit not as awkward as the touchpad on notebooks). I’m quite happy with pressure- and tilt-sensitive controls, and direct proportional mapping.

The replacement has new features, knows touch gestures, has edge lighting, even a wireless option (must remember to periodically charge the battery and not lose the fiddly bits) which generally won’t get used…

Serial number 7AZM14858, I salute you. Come to think of it, I’ll raise a pen to you.

Fixing Chrome

When it comes to web browsers, I prefer Chrome (general purpose), Firefox (when I’m exploring new areas – it’s better protected), and Internet Exploder… well, if you must.

I use Chrome for instance write now, updating the blog.

But for the past several days, Chrome has been acting up. Every time I’d launch it all the desktop icons would blink, go blank, then recreate themselves. It only happened launching Chrome, and nothing else has changed.

A bit of searching showed others were beset with the same problem… and the answers ranged from the Microsoft garbage of “re-install Windows” (emphatically NO!), to clearing the icon cache, to restarting Windows, to just accepting it and waiting for a fix, to checking an obscure item in the chrome://flags list.

Hmm… now we’re getting somewhere.

The pseudo-URL chrome://flags exists to control various experimental ‘features’ in Chrome. One especially buggy item is Chrome’s “profile manager” which showed up on the most recent release. Profile Mangler attempts to keep track of who is using the browser… useful in a shared-machine environment but not something I care about. If you have it enabled it will show up on the top bar of Chrome, just to the left of the control group, with the current user’s name in a small box.

If you’re having the issue, you have two choices. The first (safest) choice is to live with the bug and wait for Chrome v41 to appear. They’ve found the bug, repaired it and merged it into 41.

The second choice: open another instance of Chrome. Browse to the pseudo-URL chrome://flags. Find the key “Enable new profile management system” and set it to “Disabled”. Also find “Enable the new avatar menu” and set that to “Disabled.”

Restart Chrome and the problem will go away.

…and make a note that you did this so you can go and reverse it back when the new version comes in a few weeks.

On changing displays

One evening a few weeks ago I was busily working away on the computer and without any warning at all, there  was a sharp buzzing sound, a soft “pop” – and a blank display. I spent a good twenty seconds in the first portions of the “utility power is out let’s start shutting down the non-essentials” routine before it hit me: only the display had gone out.

As usual, the timing was impeccable. December 24th, the sales were over, ok, hook up the [garbage but it works] monitor from the server and start seeing what’s in stock where and for what price. Before long the choice is down to just a handful of items… and by 2:15 that afternoon the order is placed and the waiting game begins.


The display which died was a Dell 2407FPW – in service in July of 2006, so I got about 8 1/2 years out of it. In the summer of 2006 it was considered a high-end monitor; one of the few LCD displays with color accuracy comparable to the monster (27-inch Eizo) CRTs I’d been using. The Dell was a “pivot” monitor – which can operate in landscape (widescreen) or turn to portrait orientation (very useful for page layout work).

The video card on this box is a FirePro v5700 – nice mid-range workstation graphics, can output to DVI or Display Port with adapters for just about everything.

The choice boiled down to… Dell U2413 or Asus PA249Q.

Both are 24-inch 1920×1200 IPS 10-bit LED-lit displays. Prices are within a few dollars of each other. Reviews… the major sites are a draw; minor differences noted between the displays – mostly concentrated on preset “movie” modes – but the user reviews tell a different tale.


December 29 came and UPS brought the monitor right up to the door, and after getting it out of all the packing materials, and reading the calibration report, and re-routing the cables and getting the soundbar attached… it works!

And all is good, and now I’m running with a 30-bit color pipeline (with three programs only but this is for another post), calibrations are good, I can see clearly now…

I chose the Dell.

Removing IPv6 (aka Microsoft Teredo Tunnel Adapter)

I can hear the shrieks already (“Why would you do this?”) from the purists.

The reality is, for the foreseeable future (say through 2018), IPv6 is going to be an item for the professional fringe. For the home user, and small office/home office user, IPv6 has little if any utility. In fact, even if you have it, all it’s doing is slowing down your connections – as time is wasted attempting to establish IPv6 connections.

Instructions are based on Windows 7… usual disclaimers apply (your mileage may vary; no animal testing performed; not responsible for damage; etc).

Here are the steps, illustrated. (Click on any image to get a larger version)

1) ipv6-01

2) ipv6-02

3) ipv6-03

4) ipv6-04

5) ipv6-05

I removed IPv6 from this machine years ago; my ISP doesn’t support it… and it’s just more “noise” on the line.

At last! The Symphony Ends…

…and apparently, Jersey Central Power and Light managed to find the fuse and put it back in and now I can get some sleep.

At 1:20 AM EDT this morning, the power went out.

How did I know? Because the symphony began. Four UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) units began the serenade… and as we reached 20 minutes without power, the systems all shut down, right on schedule. How strange it is to try and sleep in total darkness without the peaceful white noise of the fans. Then with a lurch and groan, the power came back… and bounced a couple of times before it stabilized. Or so it appeared.

Just about the time I was nodding off again, beep-beep-beep and another cycle – two minutes 30 seconds this time.

I’m solidly awake and it’s the darkest hour of the night.

Blarg.

Ink-stained rant

One of the tasks tonight was printing out student work; it needs to be printed so I can grade it and hand it back. Nowadays most students won’t print their own work… usually, I think, from the cost involved.

The big cost is ink. My usual printer for everyday use is a worn Epson Stylus C-120. It uses four colors but five cartridges -doubling up on black – and if I were to use Epson-brand ink, the cost for one set of cartridges would be about  $60. Each cartridge holds 12 ml of ink – thus Epson ink costs $1,000 per liter, or a bit less than $4,000 to the gallon. And you thought gasoline was high-priced?

I don’t use Epson inks. I print way too much to go that route.

For the first couple of years I used a CISS – Continuous Ink Supply System. This is a set of 5 cartridges with tubing which loops outside the printer to a set of tanks holding bulk ink. The cost of the CISS was $35 – for 100 ml of ink in each tank! Re-inking costs were about $30 per 500ml – far less than name-brand.

CISS systems expect to be used, a lot. Daily works best. Otherwise the inks slowly draw back down the supply lines into the tank. If the time between use is too great, the inks may clot up a bit at the feed end of the tanks… at which point it’s easier to pull the system out and replace it rather than fix it. Been there, done that. These inks are dye-based and not particularly stable, but work just fine for daily print work (mostly text).

For now, I’m using generic dye-filled cartridges bought on Amazon – the vendor name changes with each purchase, but on average I’m paying $1.25 per cartridge… everything is working fine, except the ‘status’ messages from the Epson printer driver software.

Epson’s printer drivers give a visual depiction of remaining ink; and a warning pop-up when the capacity is ‘low.’ What I’m finding out is that ‘low’ is… a marketing ploy as opposed to any sort of reality. Two days ago I got the pop-up, urging me to buy ink as I was ‘low’ on black. Earlier tonight when I started to print, the indicator was at the bottom, indicating imminent emptiness – or so it seemed. Two hundred and four pages later, the indicator is still at the bottom… and the black ink is still printing nice and strong.

Tsk tsk tsk.

Bringing Linux to Windows – part 3

Part 3 of 3.

(back-link to part 1, or part 2)

…and the final bit of configuration is to install phpMyAdmin.

phpMyAdmin is a clever package which allows for remote administration of the MySQL database server via a web-browser interface. In this instance, getting it to work also proves that all necessary components of the VM-based server have been installed and are working properly.

From the command-line:

sudo apt-get install phpmyadmin

will start the ball rolling, but there are several questions to answer.

First up, tell the installer which web server to change:

phpMyAdmin installation
Select apache webserver

Next, select the database for operating phpMyAdmin – it needs its own database for running things! It’s best to choose the dbconfig-common option.

dbconfig-common select
Go with the default

Next, you’ll need to provide the password for the ‘root’ user (administrator) for MySQL: (yep, the one you picked earlier)

phpMyAdmin config
Enter the MySQL root user password

…and after a bit more work, it should all be done.

The acid test – use your web browser to connect to phpMyAdmin:

phpMyAdmin in browser
It works!!

…and now you’re the proud owner of a Linux server running in a virtual machine!

One final note: to shut down your VM, go to a command prompt and issue this:

sudo shutdown -h now

which will politely end all tasks and power down your VM.

Addendum – of interest to my students.

In order for your VM to work identically to the classroom lab system, you’ll need to modify the operation of the Apache server. You’ll need to sign in, and from the command line issue this:

sudo a2enmod userdir

which, decoded is “super user do” “apache 2 enable module” “userdir module” – and userdir is the mod which instructs apache to serve content from a user’s “public_html” directory.

–>Important additional step to make this work (added 03/28/2014):

Due to a change in how Ubuntu server is being distributed, you’ll have to change one more file in order for PHP to work properly in conjunction with the ‘userdir’ module.

cd /etc/apache2/mods-available
sudo vi php5.conf

(or whichever editor you’re comfortable with); and comment out (add a # to the start) of the lines indicated in the php5.conf file, and save it back.

Next, you need to restart apache:

sudo service apache restart

Bringing Linux to Windows – part 2

Part 2 of 3

(For part 1, click here)

…at this stage, you should have VMWare all up and running and the install in operation. Near the beginning of the process you should get a popup reminder to download VMWare Tools for Linux – go ahead and select to download and install.

VMWare Tools reminder
Download and Install the Tools

Now it’s time to let things happen; you may need to click “OK” once or twice (or “Close”; message depends on version and OS) to dismiss popups. There will be a number of bar-graph status windows appearing and disappearing during the installation.

Eventually Ubuntu will finish the first part of the installation, and reboot the VM, and then you’ll get a white-on-black screen filled with messages:

Ubuntu boot sequence
VMware Ubuntu boot.

This stage may take a minute or so, but eventually you’ll come up to a login prompt.

Now how do you navigate between your VM and your usual desktop? For the VM to get keystrokes and mouse moves, click inside the VM (or press Ctrl-G on the keyboard). To ‘release’ the keyboard and mouse, use Ctrl-Alt on the keyboard – and you’re back in Windows!

When the login prompt appears, sign in (using that username and password you filled in earlier)… and from the command prompt:

sudo apt-get install openssh-server

(see below) – to install the openssh-server. OpenSSH allows for an encrypted channel between your desktop and the VM, and once this is established, you can use PuTTY to handle the VM – in the same way you would with a remote-hosted account.

install openssh-server
install openssh-server

When this is finished (under a minute), the next command to issue is

ifconfig

which will reveal the local network address for your VM – it’s usually on the ‘eth0’ line up top. This will be an IP address in the form 192.168.xx.128, where ‘xx’ is a number assigned randomly. It won’t interfere with any other local addresses. This is the address you’ll use with PuTTY and your web browser(s).

IP address for VM
Find the IP address

at this point, you can switch away from your VM (Ctrl-Alt releases the keyboard/mouse) and use PuTTY to handle additional administrative chores.

Why use PuTTY when the VM allows you to log in to a command line? Convenience. PuTTY has features not available at the command line.. most useful is the scrollback buffer, where you can see the last several hundred (!) lines of output; followed by copy-and-paste operations. I also prefer using PuTTY in a black-text-on-light-background, and being able to set the font size.

(The next several steps may be completed from the command line within the VM or via PuTTY secure-shell connection.)

From the command line, do this:

sudo apt-get install mysql-server

Enter your password (if requested, after a time or two Ubuntu remembers that you’re the Super User), and let the install proceed. You should be asked for a password; give it the MySQL root password you picked earlier:

MySQL root password
Enter the password here

Next in line, let’s install PHP:

sudo apt-get install php5

and let that go through.

When all that’s complete, it’s time to install phpMyAdmin – which is located in the next part!

Bringing Linux to Windows – part 1

Part 1 of 3

Linux on a Windows desktop – why?

The idea is to provide a learning and development environment; to have my Internet & Web Architecture students be able to use the same environment at school and at home.

At school, we have a standard Ubuntu-Linux server running with the usual Apache2 webserver, PHP/MySQL, ssh terminal access, PHPMyAdmin and a few other utilities. Alas due to firewall configuration this environment is only available from on-campus locations – which imposes a serious time handicap on students.

Thus, let’s use the power of virtualization to bring the same environment to student machines. Basically, any Windows-based computer should be able to handle this, as long as the computer has at least 2 GB memory and 10-15 GB of disk space available.

Parts list:

Hardware:

Windows-based computer; the more powerful the better, but most systems made since 2006 are likely to work. Minimums are 2 GB RAM, 10GB disk, Windows XP and a dual-core CPU.

Software:

Ubuntu Server 12.04 LTS; download ISO as appropriate to your host system (64 bit or 32 bit).

VMWare Player – I recommend using version 3 for Windows XP, or the current version 6 for Windows 7 or 8.

PuTTY – ssh client for Windows; freeware.

Before beginning this, it’s time to make a few notes. You’ll need to assign a username for the Linux user, a password for that user, and a password for the MySQL root account. It’s a good idea to write this down somewhere (or in a text file you can access).

Ready? Grab a beverage, get out your software downloads, and let’s start.

First up – install VMWare. Accept the default choices. When it’s done installing, open it up and you should get this screen (although you may get a message trying to sell an upgrade to workstation – if so just close that and proceed):

VMWare home screen
First step in creating a new Virtual Machine.

When you get to the home screen, it’s time to create your Virtual Machine. Click on “Create Virtual Machine.”

My preference is to load from an ISO file (what you downloaded); it’s much faster to read from a hard disk than from a CD (plus you save all the time needed to ‘burn’ the ISO onto the CD).

VMWare iso selection
Make sure you pick the correct ISO

Next up, find your notes and enter in your username and password. Yes, you need a password. You can change it later from the command line, but you will still need a password.

VMWare id password entry
Add your name as well.

Next up, name your virtual machine and put it somewhere. Usually the defaults are fine.

Now it’s time to set the Disk Capacity for the VM. My opinion – for a 32-bit system set the value to 8 GB; on 64-bit use 12 GB. As noted below, 12 GB allows for a quite elaborate server.

VM Disk size selector
Disk capacity selection

Whether you use a single file or multiple files is largely a matter of personal choice. If you intend to move this around to another system then multi-file may be better (due to FAT32 size limits; and most USB thumb drives are FAT32-formatted).

The next screen should be similar to this:

VMWare ready to run
Ready to install Ubuntu!

And once you click “Finish” it will be on to the next part of this post!