Saturday, December 24, 2011

The amazing slowness of Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 Organizer

Having upgraded the hardware, the software must follow, sooner or later.  The old Photoshop Elements wouldn't run on my shiny new SSD-equipped Core i7-2600K Win7 x64 machine.  Eventually it was time to upgrade, once PSE10 went on sale for Xmas.

I liked Elements for the tagging and organization, but always hated it for it's slowness.  On my 'old' Latitude notebook, it would take at least 10 seconds to flip between full-screen photos - something Irfanview could do in milliseconds.  Tagging, importing, and all that was OK, but not being able to view the pictures to rate them quickly was a ball-breaker.  It got so unbearable that I stopped putting new photos in, figuring I'd fix it all on the new workstation.

So I got Elements 10 installed, and it found and imported the old catalog (after performing some kind of 'conversion' that it never explained).  Unfortunately, it mangled the links to over half of my 10,000 photo collection, forcing me to the dreaded "reconnect missing files" function.

Clearly Adobe has never actually had any of their staff actually USE the reconnect.  It has always sucked.  It sucked hard before, and it sucks even harder now.  Really hard.  Super hard.  Almost unbelievably hard, in fact.

It's amazingly bad, and for so many reasons.

First off, the search it uses to locate missing files is massively slow.  Maybe not Adobe's fault - it seems to use the default Windows search.  Why not use something like the FileSearchEX engine instead?  Don't know.

Of course, if you know what you want, you skip the search and pull up the Reconnect dialog box.  But that  dialog box is laid out excruciatingly badly.  There is tons of wasted space, but the information that is actually important - file names, paths, and so forth - is cramped almost beyond recognition.

Even worse, you CAN'T RESIZE THE DAMN BOX.  I find this unbelievable every time I see it.  What kind of program does this - or, rather, DOESN"T do this?  This means that the crappily arranged information STAYS crappily arranged, and you CAN'T FIX IT by resizing the dialog box to a rational size.  You can only resize a couple of columns to get a very, very slightly LESS crappy view of the information you want to see.

Now, I may be weird, and run into some weird problems, but I know that I'm not the only person in the damn world that keeps photos on a central server.  Weirdly enough, the paths to that server do tend to get a tich long - say, longer than the approximately 15 characters that PSE shows in the reconnect box for the path name.

The photos also have weird names too.  You know, like DSC_7429.JPG.  Those are really weird, obviously - I mean, every camera in the universe uses the same file naming format weird.  And they're longer than the approximately 7 characters that PSE 10 shows for the file names of the photos you're trying to reconnect.

So you're trying to reconnect oodles of photos (potentially) with only a partial view of the file names and original paths?  WHY?  Who knows.  Surely not Adobe, who has obviously never even glanced at their UI layout.

But wait - it gets worse.  At first glance, you are led to believe that you have to reconnect each photo, individually, one at a time.  This is from the layout of the dialog box, which doesn't seem to support a "multiple reconnect" function.  There is only one obvious button - "Reconnect".

Actually, there is a way to reconnect multiple files in a batch - but you wouldn't know it by looking at the UI.  It's completely non-intuitive, which further reinforces the idea that nobody at Adobe has ever really tried the thing.  Or, maybe they have, but they never asked their dad/wife/cousin to do it, because they would never figure it out.  I can see about six easy ways of fixing that right off, but Adobe didn't see fit to use any of them.

(Yeah, yeah, RTFM.  If we believed that, you'd still be using DOS.)

In my case, somehow, the program managed to mangle all 6,000 photo paths exactly the same way.  If only Adobe had put in some way to edit the paths manually, I could do a simple search and replace for the bad string and fix things in seconds.  But they didn't.  Why?  God knows.

Even more unbelievable, there is nowhere you can type in a path.  This kind of idiocy is usually only reserved for tiny freeware programs written in Visual Basic by people who didn't want to bother with a text input field.  I don't expect to see this nonsense on a commercial program on it's 10th major revision.  What in the world makes Adobe think I want to have to painfully navigate my entire directory tree, FOR EVERY IMPORT OPERATION, with a mouse?  It would be so much faster if I could just cut & paste a path into the box, but it doesn't work that way.

Worst of all, the process is AMAZINGLY slow.  And don't anybody tell me it's my machine, or network either.  I have Gigabit Ethernet everywhere, and my machine can handle Solidworks, 3-D Altium PCB renderings and terabyte network transfers seamlessly.  It's a bloody fast 8-core SSD-equipped 16 Gb triple-monitor monster.  The problem is Photoshop Elements just does a horrible job.

Even as I've been writing this, PSE 10 has been attempting to "update the catalog information" for a single photo of the 5,892 broken pictures.  I pointed it to the right directory and started the process, yet nearly 10 minutes later it has yet to fix the catalog information for a single picture - or so it says, anyway.  (Edit:  it seems to have opened up a tiny box behind my browser, and is showing a raw percentage, so hopefully it's faster - but that's not what it's saying.)

Add the non-standard windows (which don't work with Gridmove), frequent hang-ups/excessive pauses/general lack of responsiveness, and other niggles in there, and I'm wondering why I'm bothering.

Am I wrong?  Is Elements 10 simply not capable of this?  Should I recreate my 10,000 photo catalog, and have to re-rate/re-tag everything?  Or should I go with something else after all?

Adobe:  You can't be serious.  Wise up, for God's sake.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Am I the only person in the world having problems with Launchpad?

The TI MSP430 Launchpad is absolutely great.  For a great take on the thing, watch EEVBlog #92.  [Dave, you are great.  Sometime I hope I can do similar stuff, even if I can't be as good as you are.]

I like the Launchpad too, but it has been a bit of a love-hate relationship so far.

Every emulation tool has quirks.  However, I must be the only one having problems with the Launchpad, as nobody else seems to be mentioning it.  That makes me very unlucky, very inventive, or very dumb (or all three).

Here's what I've found so far:

"Failed to initialize" error:  can be caused by several things.  I've had a terrible time figuring this one out.

Fixes so far:

-  If you unplug the Launchpad while IAR EW is running, IAR may fail to reconnect.  Restart IAR.

-  Oddly enough, rebooting the machine does actually help sometimes.

-  In one case, the mini-USB connector was plugged in far enough to give power, but not fully engaged, leaving the serial comm lines unconnected.  (That was a fun one.)

-  Unplug the USB cable and check the power LED of the Launchpad.  Is it still on?  If so, you are getting parasitic power from an I/O line or other connection, which appears to royally screw up the emulator code loading process.  Check all your I/O to see where the offending line is, and fix it.

-  Disconnect everything.  (This is where the header/socket system provided with the Launchpad is handy.)  Unplug/replug, restart IAR, try again.

-  Go back to the 'flash the LED' program.  Sometimes, it seems that code will download when others will not, after which your code will again download.

-  Go back to one of the two stock chips provided with the Launchpad.  I have not been able to get a 'G2152 to load, no matter what I try, but the '2231 loads the same code just fine.

Timer A not running from ACLK / ACLK not running from 32.768 kHz crystal:  mine did not oscillate reliably until I unsoldered the crystal from the ground pad.  (Why TI would thoughtfully provide a mounting pad on the PCB that you're not supposed to use with the supplied crystal is beyond me.)  The crystal would oscillate, but only in short bursts, and with terrible accuracy.

I didn't figure this one out until I grabbed the crystal lines on the pin header and it suddenly started to work (albeit crappily).  It was obvious then there was some kind of issue with the load capacitance.

You can look at ACLK (and SMCLK) by setting the right bits and scoping P1.0 (ACLK) or P1.4 (SMCLK).  This drives the clock output to the I/O so you can observe it without unduly loading the crystal itself down with the scope probe.

If I can just get past the "failed to initialize" problem, I'd be a lot happier.  So far, it's been pretty random, pretty intermittent, and pretty irritating.

10-second review of Camera ZOOM FX (Android)

I downloaded Camera ZOOM FX during the Android Market 10 cent sale.  Here's what I found out in the first 30 seconds:

  • Stable shot mode is cool.
  • Macro focus.  Awesome.
  • Zoom is fast.

  • There is no exposure compensation.  Pretty piss-poor.
  • FX settings are useless.  Seems to be the main claim to fame, really.
  • Pressing the hardware camera button caused a crash.  

Restarting it, it claimed it "could not connect to the camera", and suggested either a task killer (without suggesting which task to kill) or a phone reboot.

Finally, on the Xperia X10i, Camera ZOOM FX is unable to mute the shutter sound.  The FAQ claims this is unavoidable due to operating system restrictions - yet, somehow, the native app manages to take silent photos just fine.  Obviously there is something there the CZF developers don't know (or don't have access to).

The non-muting shutter sound is a dealbreaker for me, as I generally do not want people to know when I'm snapping pictures.  It's embarrassing.

I got it for 10 cents - your mileage (and value) may vary.

Update:  Muting system sounds seems to somehow mute the shutter sound.  I'm not sure exactly how to do it - Timeriffic is in charge of that on my phone.  But I tried CZFx today, and the shutter sound is gone.