Windows XP system optimization

The purpose of the following tweaks is to get rid of unnecessary memory eaters to improve the performance of Windows XP system.

Note: perform these tweaks only if you know what you are doing, and always backup. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

  • Remove Unnecessary Startup Programs
    Run regedit, locate

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Run

    and

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER/SOFTWARE/Microsoft/Windows/CurrentVersion/Run

    and also check Windows Startup program folder, remove unnecessary startup programs installed by some programs or you don’t need them at all.

  • Disable Unnecessary Services
    Control Panel/Administrative Tools/Services or run services.msc to enter services configuration.
    Here’s a good resource for service information in Windows XP SP2 you can refer to before you decide which services to disable.
  • Defragment Pagefile
    A cool little application PageDefrag to accomplish this task.
  • Disable Last Access Update
    Run regedit, locate

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/System/CurrentControlSet/Control/FileSystem

    right click in a blank area of the window on the right and select DWORD Value, create a new DWORD Value called NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate, then right click on the new value and select Modify, change the Value Data to 1.

  • Improve Boot Times
    Run regedit, locate

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/SOFTWARE/Microsoft/Dfrg/BootOptimizeFunction

    select Enable from the list on the right, right on it and select Modify, change the value to Y to enable.

  • Improve Swapfile Performance
    Run msconfig.exe, click on the System.ini tab, expand the 386enh tab, click on new then in the blank box type ConservativeSwapfileUsage=1.
  • Make Menus Load Faster
    Run regedit, locate
    HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Control Panel/Desktop

    select MenuShowDelay, right click and select Modify, reduce the number to around 100.

  • Improve XP Shutdown Speed
    Run regedit, locate

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Control Panel/Desktop

    select WaitToKillAppTimeout, right click and select Modify, change the value to 1000, click OK. Now select HungAppTimeout, right click and select Modify, change the value to 1000, click OK.
    Locate

    HKEY_USERS/.DEFAULT/Control Panel/Desktop

    select WaitToKillAppTimeout, right click and select Modify, change the value to 1000, click OK.
    Locate

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE/System/CurrentControlSet/Control

    select WaitToKillServiceTimeout, right click and select Modify, change the value to 1000, click OK.

  • Disable Unneeded Hardware Devices
    For example, disable modem and wired network card if only wireless network is used.
  • Removing Extra Fonts for Speed
    Control Panel/Fonts, create another folder then move unused fonts to that folder.

Sequence photography

Babies in line
所谓 sequence photography,就是把一连串的动作记录在一张照片上。我是受了包包家照片的启发,但感觉在宝宝不会走的时候不好用而且也没什么乐趣,所以在女儿会走了之后,我迫不及待的做了第一次实践。这个方法是我自己琢磨的,可能还有更好的方法,但这个方法实践后证明是简单而有效的,分以下几步。

  • 构思
    这种照片的特点是除了活动物体外其他部分是固定不变的,而活动物体是连续拍摄几张照片然后叠加进去,所以需要 

    • 在构图时应该构思好把最后设想的照片范围全部取进去,而不是分别取景拍几张照片然后贴在一起;
    • 保证每张照片曝光一致,使最后效果是来自同一场景和光线;
    • 保证每张照片焦点不变,这样更加真实。所以你如果是拍摄宝宝朝相机或远离相机走去,那么可能需要考虑一下焦点对哪里,以及景深的问题。作为第一次尝试,我用了最简单的横向走动。
    • 另外,还要构思好你想让活动物体在最后的画面出现的顺序位置,最好不出现重叠。

    为了保证以上各项,需要一个稳固的三脚架,这样可以每张的背景都一样;对焦之后锁定(可以自动对焦后切换到手动对焦,这样焦点就不变了);测光后固定测光值(比如用自动曝光模式测光后,记下曝光组合,切换到手动曝光模式,这样每张照片的曝光值都一样,当然,在第一张和最后一张照片之间,环境光线最好没有显著变化)。

  • 拍摄
    让宝宝在你对好焦距的位置开始走,从你构想好的画面一端走向另一端,并在设想好的位置按下快门。
  • 后期
    在 Photoshop 中,打开刚才拍的这几张照片,比如共四张。从照片4开始,把第3张全选(Ctrl-A),拷贝(Ctrl-C),复制到第4张上,这样第4张就有了两个图层,第3张在上面,第4张在下面。然后,选中第3张,用套索工具,勾选出宝宝,然后反选(Ctrl-Shift-I),此时可以看到选中了除宝宝外的其余部分,删除之(Del)。这时可以初步看到效果了,出现了两个宝宝了。 :) 以下就是重复上面的步骤,把第2张,第1张都拷贝过来,然后套索,反选,删除。用套索时不需要很严格的把宝宝套取出来,可以很宽松的选择周围较大区域,因为有了前面的构思和准备工作,宝宝和背景之间的对应关系在每张照片上应该都是唯一的,这比精细的抠图简单多了。最后合并图层,保存。

总结:我的这个方法就是很简单的利用了Photoshop中的图层叠加功能。这个 Flickr group 专门讨论 sequence photography。

焰火拍摄心得

(2003年07月09日08:39:19 星期三)

看了一次小小的焰火,虽然不是看过的最漂亮和壮观的,但拍的却是自己比较满意,总结一下心得。

1. 一个稳固的三脚架。这是第一重要的,千万不要怕重而不带,管保回来找后悔药吃(MIT已经有人在找了)。最好是球头的,而且对球头最好有一定要求,后面谈到。

2. 选择拍摄模式。当然是手动曝光,俗称的M档。一般光圈选择你的相机所能达到的最小光圈或次最小,一般在F/8以下。快门速度的选择要根据焰火的情况,这点可能看起来比较玄,但开头拍几张你就明白了。因为我们要记录的是焰火在某段时间里在胶片或感光材料上留下的轨迹,快门的长短决定了轨迹的长短和曝光量。而焰火的展开速度和当时风的速度都影响到在一定时间内轨迹的长短。所以我当晚起先几张基本不能看,最后感觉速度在3.2秒左右比较好,基本在1.6-4秒之间,不同速度也可以得到不同的效果。

3. 选择对焦模式。当然是手动对焦,俗称MF。因为一般焰火都离得比较远,所以手动对焦在无穷远最合适,也会使相机的反应速度加快,因为省去了对焦所需时间,而且往往在夜晚自动对焦会失败。

4. 焦长的选择。我觉得这个不是最重要,各个焦段都可以。

5. 构图和拍摄时机。由于焰火位置的相对不确定性,这点尤其显得重要。我的经验是要有一定的预测,根据上一次的位置,有时甚至通过火箭上升的声音和微弱的轨迹。快门要在爆炸或之前一点开启,太早或太迟都会使轨迹非常短。所以在火箭上升过程中迅速构图,准备好按快门(快门线)是比较重要的。特别是对数码相机相对延时比较严重的情况,掌握提前量更显得重要。此时就显示出球头的重要性了,方便灵活。而且球头最好还要有一定的阻尼,这样不必频繁锁紧而错过很多时机。

6. 为后期考虑。考虑到后期的剪切等,如果是变焦镜头,可以适当在有的时候把焦距推广,留出空白。如果是数码相机的,当然应该用最大象素、最好质量拍,这样便于后期处理,或者打印。

7. 考虑到以上这么多并付诸实践后,其他就交给运气吧。 :)

6ix Day

Today is 06/06/06. Long time no update to the blog. Recently I am very busy on the project, house work, etc.

Just installed Gallery2 and PG theme, looks good for me. Now I can arrange my old photos into that gallery. But the speed is still unsatisfactory, I don’t know if it’s caused by extra server load due to database usage. I am still playing around with it.

Feed aggregation in WordPress

During last weekend, I had an idea to aggregate the feeds from my daughter’s baby friends’ blogs and flickr photos into her blog so that we don’t have to visit them one by one. Though I can read the updates in Bloglines but it’s neat to put them together. After doing some search (salut Google!), I implemented this solution:

  1. Use Gregarius to aggregate all the feeds.
  2. Use rss2html free script to generate HTML code in a WordPress page.
  3. Use the phpexec plugin for WordPress to make PHP run inside a WordPress page possible.

Besides, I use cron job to make Gregarius update the feeds at a fixed time interval, say, every 2 hours.

This solution turns out to work very well. Gregarius is essentially a very good open source feeds aggregator and it can be used as a stand alone feeds reader on your own server. The free rss2html script just does what the name tells, and its simple template supported feature is very nice to format output style.

I also tried another WordPress plugin aggregated blog feeds and found it does similar things in a much simpler manner. But it strips all images in messages and I didn’t find an option to enable it. If only titles or abstracts are what you need for feed aggregation in WordPress, you gotta give it a try.

Retrieve invisible Flickr photos

Flickr has a limitation for free account that only the latest 200 photos are shown in the photostream. The older photos are invisible but they are not deleted. If you know the URL of an older photo, you can access and edit it as usual, and all comments, notes, etc are still there. So the problem is how to retrieve the URL’s of the invisible photos. I searched and found LfVr is a good application to do such things. You can retrieve all your public flickr photos as well as the URL’s. Another application by the same author, Flickr Album Maker, is a tool to generate an album from your flickr photos that you can put on your web server. Right now it lacks the ability to retrieve the invisible photos. But it’s not a problem, we can combine these two tools and manually add the invisible photo URL’s to the album. If right now you have less than 200 photos in your flickr account, Flickr Album Maker is the only one you need. You can make albums periodically to “record” the URL’s of the vanishing photos. Of course, if you have a flickr pro account, this is not for you.

UPDATE: LfVr doesn’t display hidden photos any more.

Domains transferred

Finally I completed the transfer of my two domains from Yahoo! domains (reseller of MelbourneIT) to GoDaddy. I initiated the transfer on Feb 26 and the transfer was completed on Mar 11. Basically I followed this post. The reason it took so long time is that Yahoo! domains customer service is terrible. In the entire procedure I contact three customer service representatives and the first two just don’t know what’s going on or lied to me they have done that but in fact nothing was done. It’s a joke. I would seriously suggest never go with Yahoo! domains for any domain registration. It’s cheap but it’s troublesome when you want to transfer.

My simple digital workflow

我每天处理数码照片的工作流程其实很简单,主要包括以下几大部分。

1、下载。
因为我买第一部数码相机时是买的水货(即未经过本地经销商而直接由零售商进货销售的版本),所以既没有从相机直接传输照片到电脑的USB线,也没有随机软件,因此我从一开始就习惯于用读卡器传输照片。我想这个完全因人而异,自己觉得熟悉顺手最重要。传输的软件我用的是BreezesysDownloader,同时浏览图片我也是用的他们的BreezeBrowser。因为当年这类针对数码相机的软件还比较少,Chris Breeze也是较早的Canon PowerShot G1的用户,他因为觉得软件不顺手所以开始自己写软件。早期的这些软件是免费的,后来越做越好,所以开始卖钱了,这也合理。我从那时开始就用他写的这两个软件,所以一直就用下来了,因为不想付钱,所以版本有点老了,不过足够我用了。BreezeBrowser可以和Downloader集成,也可以直接调用外部图像编辑软件如Photoshop,所以用起来非常顺手。他的另外几个重要功能还包括RAW转换和相册生成,这里不多说了,有兴趣的可以去他的主页看看。Downloader可以根据指定的规则把下载的图片分类,比如我喜欢每月一个文件夹的按时间分类。同时它能判断哪些已经下载,就不会重复下载了。如果下载的文件被修改过,也可以选择是否覆盖。所以,对文件比较安全。
当然每个人都可以用不同的方法下载照片,目的就是把图像文件按自己觉得舒服的方法转移到电脑,以方便下一步处理工作和今后的查找和归档,所以找一个好用的下载软件也是很有必要的。

2、RAW转换。
我一直全部用RAW格式拍摄,所以这一步必不可少。RAW转换的软件有很多,比如这篇比较了几个常用的RAW转换软件的使用和效果。在这些软件中,我比较喜欢Phase One处的Capture One Pro (c1pro),因为它界面简单直观,调整方便而有逻辑性,稍微熟悉后便可轻松上手。关于c1pro的具体使用,这里有一篇挺不错的介绍文字可以一读。在设置中我先设置好一些默认的调整,也就是对每张照片都进行的一些调整,主要包括很小的饱和度和锐度的增加,这个按个人口味而定。在日常使用中,我对每张照片都要进行的调整主要包括白平衡和曝光补偿,我认为这也是拍RAW最大的意义所在。调整白平衡我一般对同样的光线的条件,已经知道了它的色温数值,所以直接调到想要的值就行了;但个别照片也会有例外,所以需要个别调整,方法主要是寻找画面中的中灰部分用吸管调整,或者拖动色温移标来设定。当处理一批在同样的光线条件下拍摄的照片时,可以调整好一张后,其他的都套用它的即可,非常快速方便。接着便是曝光补偿的调整,在这个调整中,我的主要依据是直方图,但也不绝对,如果直方图良好但调整后画面主题不理想,我还是会改变一下以获得自己理想的效果。基本上完成上述两步后,我就把照片加入队列准备批处理输出了。当然,c1pro还能进行对比度,饱和度和锐度等的调整,但我更喜欢输出TIFF格式的文件后在Photoshop中细调。对于一般网上使用的照片,我一般选择8bit TIFF输出,如果是一些没必要细调的照片,有时也选择直接JPEG输出。
完成这步后,就可以休息一下,等待转换,快慢取决于电脑性能,可能需要比较长的时间。我一般选择处理后直接在Photoshop中打开,这样转换完后我就可以直接在Photoshop中处理了。

3、Photoshop处理。
Photoshop中我主要是对RAW转换后输出的图进行细调,然后保存为JPEG格式。一般我会把图片先resize到想要的尺寸,然后进行下面的处理,有些人认为先处理大图最后缩小比较好,我没认真比较过,所以我还是按照我的习惯做。这一步我一般用一个简单的action实现,这样不用每次都输入长宽和分辨率,一点搞定。接下来我一般会根据照片的情况选择用一下curve功能,稍微拉动一下,到自己感觉满意为止,我的判断标准一般是照片中人的肤色,或者中等亮度区的亮度,这个也同时可以参照一下Photoshop中的直方图。curve功能其实同时也包括了对对比度的调整,比如把高亮端往上拉同时把低亮端往下拉成为”S”形就相当于增大了对比度。如果此时对对比度还是不大满意,可以再调整一下contrast(对比度),我一般先试试auto contrast,看看自动对比度的调整结果,一般如果原图已经有合适的对比度的话会变化不大或根本感觉不到变化;如果自动对比度不能给你满意的结果,就需要手动细调一下,直到满意。由于有RAW转换中的初调,一般经过这两步之后照片已经有不错的效果了。但有些照片原片比较差时,我会再使用一下另外一个我喜欢的功能,就是selective colors,而最常用的是把照片中的黑色加黑一些,这么做的目的是可以减少一些照片发蒙的情况,使照片显得通透一些。对其他颜色的调整我一般很少用,因为弄的不好反而把整幅照片的色彩搞的很不好。接下来是对照片进行一下轻微的锐化,我一般用unsharpen mask,也就是俗称的USM,参数选择80%/3/0或更小。对于DSLR拍摄的RAW转换的照片,适当的锐化是必要的,这个和CCD(CMOS)前面的低通滤波器(anti-alias filter)有关,这里不多说。经过以上几步,我对一张照片的处理基本就完成了,接下来如果用于web贴图的可以加上一个边框,这个也是用自己录制的action来完成,一点即可。对于Photoshop我不是很精通,所以基本只用这些简单的功能。如果实在有必要,最多使用一下stamp橡皮图章功能对照片瑕疵进行一些修饰等,这些都不是必需的,所以也不多讲了。

4、贴图
最后一步就是把处理好的照片整理进自己的相册,关于这个,我在以前一文中比较过几种相册软件和在线照片存储方案,可以作为参考,这里不多说了。我一般会把瑶瑶每天的照片收入她的用Gallery做的相册,挑选其中一张放入Photo-A-Day Photoblog,然后挑选一张或几张放入她的flickr相册

Windows Live beta

Windows Live beta.

I test drived it and feel it’s like Google personalized page, a portal like homepage, you can integrate your content such as email, flickr RSS feed and a lot of third-party gadgets into one convenient place. AJAX technique is used so very little page reload is needed and drag-and-drop is also usable. As a matter of fact, I am more interested in Windows Live Mail and Messenger. But up to date they are still in development and sign up is not available yet.

UPDATE: Today (3/7/06) I was invited to try the new Windows Live Mail beta, which is supposed to give to those “Hotmail VIPs” as in the invitation email (I feel a little bit flattered though I never use Hotmail to deal with any of my emails… :) ). I feel it’s more like a “web-based traditional email client”. The speed is good, but there are ad’s flashing on the page. It’s not firefox friendly definitely, because you will not be able to access some of the options if you are with firefox browser. Anyway, if you are interested in finding out how Hotmail is going to respond to Gmail‘s big popularity, you’d better try it out by yourself.

Gmail for your domain

Gmail for your domain.

UPDATE: submitted application on 2/24/06 but still have not heard from Google yet.

UPDATE: Received beta tester invitation on 3/27/06. So I can provide email addresses such as username [at] gqshen [dot] com powered by Gmail: mail.gqshen.com.