Tag Archives: pc

Aaarrrggghhh — PC Acronyms

Fittingly, even the title has an acronym (technically an abbreviation although all acronyms are technically abbreviations). From Modi’s initiatives to texty relatives to Reddit’s narratives, acronyms are everywhere. But none of these spheres manage to come close to the PC (Personal Computer) industry. BTW, Macs (Macintoshes) are also PCs.

A prosumer (professional–consumer) is building an HEDT (High End Desktop) computer with the latest Intel Broadwell E (E for Enthusiast) Core i7-6950X (X for Extreme) CPU (Central Processing Unit) which has 10 overclockable multi-threaded cores (for a total of 20 threads), is base clocked at 3.0 GHz (Gigahertz) with 25MB (Megabytes) of L3 (Level Three) Cache, has a TDP (Thermal Design Power) of 140 W (Watts), supports up to 40 PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) lanes, and plugs into an FCLGA 2011-3 (Flip-Chip Land Grid Array).

Equip that chip with 128GB (Gigabytes) of quad-channel DDR4 SDRAM (Double Data Rate 4th Generation Synchronous Dynamic Random Access Memory) clocked at 2400MHz (Megahertz).

For graphics, a two-way SLI (Scalable Link Interface) through the HB (High Bandwidth) Bridge using the latest Nvidia Titan X (unofficially called Titan XP with P standing for Pascal, the codename of the current generation, to differentiate it from the previous generation card of the same name) each of which is clocked at 1417 MHz, has 12GB of GDDR5X SGRAM (Graphics Double Data Rate Type 5 [X is a fancy letter although GDDR5X is faster than the simple GDDR5] Synchronous Graphics Random Access Memory), has a memory speed of 10 Gbps (Gigabits per second) for a maximum bandwidth of 480 GBps (Gigabytes per second), supports 8K (K stands for Kilo or a thousand meaning, in this case, a horizontal resolution of 8000 pixels, actually 7680 pixels) Video though its three certified DisplayPort 1.2 ports, and also has an HDMI 2.0b (High Definition Mutimedia Interface Version 2.0b) and one Dual-Link DVI–D (Digital Visual Interface Digital only) port.

System storage is the 800GB Intel 750 Series PCIe NVMe SSD (Non Volatile Memory Express Solid State Drive) with an advertised random 4KB (Kilobyte) 210k (K for Kilo meaning thousand)  IOPS (Input/output operations per second) write and 420k IOPS write as well as sequential  128KB 2100 MBps (Megabytes per second) read and 800 MBps write performance. For other storage is a couple of 1TB (Terabyte) Samsung 850 Pro 6 Gbps SATA 3 (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment 3rd Generation) SSDs. They are the first consumer drives to use 3D–NAND MLC (Three Dimensional–Not AND Multi Level Cells) for storage chips. And damn you HDDs (Hard Disk Drives).

All that will have to be accommodated by a motherboard based on the Intel X99 “Wellsprung” chipset, a PCH (Platform Controller Hub) aimed at the enthusiast market. The ASUS X99 Deluxe II with its 8 DIMM (Dual In-line Memory Modules) slots  each supporting upto 16GB — that’s the only way you get 128GB of system memory — support for multi-GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) configurations, five full length PCIe x16 slots (meaning 16 lanes each) although one of them has just a Gen 2 x4 (4 lane 2nd Generation) connection, and an x1 (one lane) slot, two U.2 (U dot two) slots, one vertical M.2 (M dot two) slot, ten SATA ports four of which support RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) configurations, four are SATAe (SATA Express) ports and the other two are just normal SATA ports, USB (Universal Serial Bus) 2.0, USB 3.0, USB 3.1, S/PDIF (Sony/Philips ….

Phew, you get the idea! That’s if you are still reading, which I don’t think you are… hmmm!

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Mosaic 2.0

How to create a Photomosaic

Mosaics are awesome. ‘Normal’ (what is the proper term?) mosaics created out of bits and pieces of glass, stone, wood etc. are great but few have the time or skill to assemble one. Photomosaics, on the other hand, are, I discovered, much easier to create — you basically click some buttons.

NASA's #WaveAtSaturn Mosaic
NASA’s #WaveAtSaturn mosaic (Click for Full Size)

It was this particular mosaic — the one above — created by NASA using submissions made through the #WaveAtSaturn campaign which spiked my interest. I had then strained my puny Sony Ericsson T715 to download the image. Those days! As you might guess, I couldn’t possibly dream of creating one myself. Now, last year, the New Horizons team did a similar thing with images submitted using #PlutoTime. And by that time, I had enough processing power but quite not enough skill.

Fast forward 10 months and I have cracked the code, kind of. It is extremely easy.

You need…

  1. AndreaMosaic
  2. At least 1000 photos
  3. And Photoshop 7.0 or higher along with, of course, basic to intermediate skills if you want to tweak the finished result. But this is not a necessity.

Here we go…

Download, install and run AndreaMosaic. Get it here.

AndreaMosaic Welcome Window
AndreaMosaic

Select the aspect ratio of your photos. DSLRs and many newer phones will capture 3:2 pictures. Almost all point & shoot cameras most older phones will capture at 4:3.

AndreaMosaic
AndreaMosaic Parameters
  1. Choose your base image using the ‘+’ button or simply drag it into the window. This is the photo that you want the mosaic to look like. AndreaMosaic will scale it but it must be hi-res to start with for best results. (The window will then look like this.)
  2. Enter the number of tiles that should make up your mosaic. The number of photos you have should ideally exceed the number of tiles. (If you aren’t sure about the buttons, hover to get a detailed tooltip.)
    1. Select the combination of landscape and/or portrait photos you want. Patterns will appear showing how the photos will be arranged.
    2. Select what percentage of tiles to split into two. It’s a way of getting more pieces out of a given number of tiles.
    3. Select what percentage of tiles to split into four. Similar to the previous one.
    4. Specify the number of times you want a single photo to be used.
    5. Specify the minimum number of tiles between two identical photos.
    6. Assign the percentage of color alteration. The greater the percentage, the smoother the result.
  3. It’s self-explanatory. The more boxes you tick, the better the overall result.
    1. Add the photos that will be used for creating the mosaic here. You can include as many folders as you want using ‘Add Folder’. Then save it with ‘Save List’.
    2. Click this to create your mosaic. (It is grayed out in the image above as I have not selected the base image.)

Some things to remember…

  1. Your first attempt will probably not be a success and neither will your second attempt.
  2. Tweak the parameters and repeat. If you get black bars in the finished image, the pool of images is limiting the software. Increase the number of times an image can be duplicated, enable rotation and flipping or, better, add more photos.
  3. Use common sense. If, for example, the base image is colourful, the photos used should also be equally varied.
  4. Some features — like the maximum resolution — are limited in the free version.

Final Touches…

After a number of trials, you should get something like this. (It was the 4th attempt.) The base image is me with a friend in class. It’s here if you are curious.

Mosaic 1.0
Mosaic 1.0

It’s alright but as you can see, there is lot of blue on our blazers and the faces are unnaturally yellowish. These can be corrected using pretty much any of Photoshop’s almighty adjustment layers. I created a Hue/Saturation layer for the skin tones and Selective Colour layer to tone down the blues. But while you are at it, make sure to mask the regions that do not require adjustment.

Photoshop Layers
First Patch

And this is the final result. It’s quite pale, yes, but that can, again, always be corrected.

Mosaic 2.0
Mosaic 2.0

All screenshots were taken with Apowersoft Free Screen Recorder. I hope Sammie won’t mind my using his picture. (Shhh! He doesn’t know). And thank you NASA for the inspiration. If you want more from NASA, click this, this, this, this and this.

Launchy Demo

Essential PC Apps

As a person whose PC is his primary companion, I am  well versed with the pain involved in performing the most basic tasks on a Windows machine. It is third party apps that makes the relationship manageable. Windows comes with more tools than you’ll ever need but very few of them are optimized for the task at hand. Take, for example, Windows’ default file copy handler which is terrible in every way. So, there is wisdom in seeking out third-party apps — available in, literally, the thousands — which can save you a lot of time. Here is a list of four basic apps that I use frequently in no particular order. They are available for free. If you aren’t using them, get them now!

#Everything

If you are tired of the slow and unreliable Search function that comes with Explorer — who isn’t? — it’s time to get Everything. Because Everything is awesome. Forgive that tangent! Everything is a small utility that makes searching for files a snap. This is especially useful if you have a chaotic high capacity drive. It indexes the all files in a database document and spits out the results as you type with zero lag. This app is how you make the lightning fast searches you’ve always wanted to make on the awfully slow hard drive you’ve always had.

Everything at work
Everything in action

#Launchy

Launchy allows you to launch any program with just a few keystrokes. You can get rid of all those shortcuts cluttering your desktop. Generally, you’d want Launchy to store the executable files (those with the extension .exe) from the Program Files folder located in the system partition although it can store pretty much anything from any specified folder — a neat feature if you have portable programs. You can even perform basic calculations by enabling the Calcy plugin.

Use Alt+Spacebar hotkey to bring up the app and even before you’ve finished typing the name of the program, Launchy will bring it up. (If you use Alt+Spacebar for minimising/restoring/closing windows, it’s high time to switch to Win+Up arrow/Win+Down arrow)

Launchy Demo
Launchy in action
Launchy Calculator
Launchy Calcy

#TeraCopy

If there is one advice about using Explorer’s copy handler, it’s don’t. It is slow, it can’t queue files and it’s handling of multiple transfers is unreliable. Use anything else. Of course, using a third party app is not going to give you blazing fast transfer speeds. Speed is determind by your hardware. What you do get is tons of useful functionality.

TeraCopy in just one of the many many great options. Its UI is slick and minimalistic — a treat for sore eyes. It can handle as many simultaneous transfers as you need. It allows to you to pause the transfer if you notice a bottleneck and skip files if there are errors. The paid version even allows you to remove files already added to the queue.

TeraCopy at work
TeraCopy in action

#Recuva

Accidental deletions are a common occurrence. And if you’re used to Shift+Delete, even the Recycle Bin becomes useless. Often, you’ll have SD cards and Flash drives with files erroneously deleted. The great news is that the files aren’t actually lost and it is easy to recover them provided you haven’t overwritten them.

Recuva is a small data recovery program that has proven to be invaluable for my careless self. It provides a handy context menu option for targeting specific drives or even folders. If there is no overwriting, the files should appear with a green badge. Simply select the files, hit recover and specify an output folder (preferably on a separate drive or partition).

Recuva at work


The screencasts and the screenshots are courtesy Apowersoft Free Screen Recorder. The GIFs were made using the open-source  GIMP.