Fiddling with photos is now a lot more fun

This is definitely the age of the digital camera. What many people don't understand when they take digital snaps, however, is that the results can be a lot better with a bit of processing. In the old days the best way to do that was with Apple software and there are those who will maintain this view until they die. The PC started to come into its own about 20 years ago when Adobe released its first Windows version of Photoshop and about 10 years ago support started for RAW camera images. Then, in 2007, out came Lightroom, a product designed exclusively for the digital camera user.

There are a lot of other photo-processing applications out there, but I still have vivid memories of some early underwater shots I took with an older digital camera and the magic that occurred when I hit the "Auto levels" button on Photoshop and added a bit of red to the image. More recently I have been playing around with Lightroom 4 and this is a very nice product for the digital camera snapper. Costing around $100, it's a lot more affordable than Adobe's Photoshop. Every digital shot requires some balancing and sharpening to bring out the best, so I recommend you give it a try; you can get a free 30-day trial. You can even use it to easily publish your photos and videos on online sites like Facebook. If you don't like it, then try some other product, but unprocessed digital images are not what they are supposed to be.

Sick of being limited to Redmond-approved software for the Windows RT tablets? Don't despair, C.L. Rokr has found that a simple tweak to the Windows kernel, all of one byte, will disable the so-called protection system and allow any code to run. All of the details are found here: http://surfsec.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/circum venting-windows-rts-code-integrity-mechanism/

But, as always, any changes you make are at your own risk. Typically, however, after a few thousand have done it, there is little left to cause problems. There are currently only a few approved apps _ which may explain the general lack of interest in Windows RT at the moment. Locking stuff down, as Apple found out a few decades back, will only lead to your general downfall, in terms of mass adoption.

Intel tried Winbooks; that failed. Then they tried Ultrabooks; that did a little better, but the uptake has been poor. This year it will be the touch-enabled convertible ultrabook; dubbed the Tecu, perhaps? Intel is betting once again that everyone wants what Intel is selling and that the plain old notebook is now passe.

CES 2013 was just in session and the usual drool-worthy range of devices and announcements were demonstrated and made. USB 3.0, for example, has been upgraded to a 10Gbs specification. It has also been updated to provide more efficient independent data-transfer technology. These changes will effectively double the data rate for USB 3. It will probably also require a cable change or upgrade to get full speed improvements. The biggest problem will be finding a new name: with 2.0 labelled "High speed USB" and 3.0 labelled "SuperSpeed USB", what will they call it?

A couple of articles back I mentioned the threat posed to smartphone manufacturers by the Chinese. Enter the world's thinnest smartphone, with a 5-inch screen: the Grand S from ZTE. This is a quad-core phone with a 1920 x 1080 screen and a 13 megapixel camera. Huawei has a new 6.1-inch "phablet" _ a cross between a phone and a tablet _ called the Ascend Mate. The target here is, of course, the Galaxy Note 2. There are more models coming. I warned you.

When I think of tablet computers, the biggest I can conceive of is about 10 inches. With its announcement at the recent CES 2013 of an 18.4-inch model, Panasonic clearly has other ideas. It is a Windows 8 slate with 9.8 million pixels arranged in a 3840 x 2560 grid. That's almost an A3-size device. It isn't any sissy ARM-based device either, but contains a 1.8GHz Intel i5 core with up to 16Gb of RAM and a 128GB SSD. But this power also means the device will drain the battery in a mere 2 hours and the whole thing weights about 2.4kg, so the real questions for me are: why did Panasonic build such a device; and who will be using it? It's not a hand-held unit and, apart from a few specialised fields, I don't see a place for it in the marketplace. I'm not convinced that it will ever be released or, if it is, that it will sell very many units. I'll give it a few points for being different, but how about if Panasonic were to release a media player instead and be the first big-name brand to venture into that area?

Finally for this week: the main technology force behind E Ink screens says that magazine-quality, colour E Ink screens are still a long way off. The problem is the physics of getting enough light involved to make the image pop. I hope they are proved wrong.


James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at jclhein@gmail.com

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Writer: James Hein
Position: Database Writer