Friday, August 28, 2015

Make Windows 10 a bit more productive and allow it to feel more like Windows 7 in one easy step! **Updated**

I am not a shill, but I am going to mention for you a very nice little product that gives you back that Windows 7 style start menu and makes the transition from Windows 7 to Windows 10 utterly painless.

The product is called Start10 and comes from a company called Stardock.

I used the previous version of this product – Start8 – for years as I was an extremely early adopter of Windows 8. I always considered all the whinging over Windows 8’s Metro interface to be trivial and a waste of time. A quick Google search led you straight to Stardock and two key products – Start8, and ModernMix. Modernmix allowed Metro applications (now called Universal applications) to run inside a window in desktop mode, bridging the gap between the two GUIs. It was amazing, but Windows 10 does that for you now, so Modernmix will die off slowly (still useful for Windows 8 and 8.1 users though.)

Start10 takes the Windows 10 tiled start menu and adds back all the features you may have loved about the very mature Windows 7 menu. It is customizable so that you can choose to have it look more or less like Windows 10. I use the following style, which works perfectly for me:


You can customize the actual start button too. Many choices, although few appeal to me.

I like to pin certain apps to the start menu as shown above and others to the task bar. All in all, I find this extremely functional.

The app is 5 bucks. Anyone who thinks they would like to try it should just do it. Note: Start 8 was working fine for me as well after the upgrade. I decided, though, that the cheap upgrade made more sense. I spent a few minutes with the native Windows 10 start menu in between and I am not likely to go back.

YMMV of course.


I should have waxed a bit more eloquently about other features in Start10, as some might look and say “no big deal.”

First, when you right click you get the familiar shortcuts to key maintenance items:


Second, the configuration interface is very slick and powerful, though simple.


As I mentioned in the first part of the article, I like the modern interface. Looks terrific and provides a Windows 7-like experience. The Windows 10 look is too much like the native look to appeal to me, but some may like it and use the extra configurability. Remember, this is a very inexpensive application, so trying it is worth your while if you find the native start menu in 10 to be limiting (and I sure did.) Note that you can choose to have the icon or leave it off in the modern style:


Your options for the actual start button are rather diverse, to say the least Smile… the buttons are live in that they change color when you roll over them. The Triangle Two button is invisible, only appearing when you roll over it for example. Here is the full range of options:


It even allows you to choose your own image, as you can see at the bottom right …

Regarding the color of the menu etc., you can choose a solid or translucent menu and you can choose any background color. For example (and I am going to leave it like this for now):


You can also select many options on the Appearance sub menu, including a texture or image background for the start menu. You can pick your own image, too. Here is one of the stock ones:


And, as will be obvious, the Configure submenu will give you many options to customize what appears on the menu and how it is shown …


The Control panel allows you to configure the meaning of all possible gestures to launch Start10 and the Windows 10 native menu. If you like some aspects of the native menu, you can get at it easily using whatever gesture you choose:


I have the Windows key set to open the Windows 10 menu, which looks like:


And finally, the Desktop panel allows you to configure some of the more subtle aspects of the start menus.


I hope this was useful and I will reiterate one more time … I am not a shill and I have paid for every Stardock application I use. I just happen to think that they do very good work and these apps are useful to me.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Published again in the Ottawa Citizen …

Thanks again to Robbi Hay, editor of the Ottawa Citizen Ourtown section, for using one of my images as the header … this time it is the butterfly shot that was on the same plant as last week’s Hummingbird.

Here is a sample of the page, and please grab one to see the latest happenings in Ottawa for this weekend and beyond.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Published in the Ottawa Citizen this week ….

Robbi Hay, editor of the Ottawa Citizen Ourtown section, sent me a note that my hummingbird image will again head up the section this Thursday the 20th of August. I always enjoy being published in the Citizen so again my thanks to Robbi.

A sample of the page … grab the paper this Thursday to see all that there is to do in this great city this weekend and beyond …


Monday, August 3, 2015

Edge of Stability

A time lapse video from Jeff Boyce showing stormy weather from 6 weeks of this summer. Very well shot and edited. A treat ...

Edge of Stability from Jeff Boyce on Vimeo.

This entire timelapse sequence was recording between May and June of 2015. During this time, I managed to arrange about 5 weeks off from my regular job as a Police Officer in California, and set out in my truck with no particular destination in mind. I had only picked up photography as a hobby within the last couple years, and this was my first year ever recording or producing timelapse videos. Having always been very interested in severe weather, nature, and traveling, I picked up storm chasing during spring of 2014. I spent a few weeks in 2014 traveling and photographing storms, but without a solid goal or understanding of the concepts of photography. My interest in timelapse photography of storms stemmed from seeing Nicolaus Wegner's "Stormscapes" videos around this time.

This year, I set out with much better equipment, more ambition, and a solid goal - to produce the timelapse compilation that became "Edge of Stability". Using the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center outlooks (SPC), I was able to see generally where and what type of severe weather would occur during the next few days. Twitter also became a huge part of my decision making process - following the posts of more experienced storm chasers and meteorologists. I drove over 600+ miles some days in order to reach areas where the environment would be favorable for severe weather. Typically the most intense weather occurs during late afternoon and into the night, so there wasn't a whole lot of sleeping - but it was worth it.

I ended up traveling through California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and into Manitoba, Canada. Most of this time was spent car-camping in my truck (I had removed the back seat and built a sleeping platform and storage compartments), but got a hotel room every few days. During breaks where there was less severe weather, I got a chance to photograph the Milky Way and other landscape scenes. I even, on a whim, decided to drive into Canada and attempt to see the Northern Lights for the first time. This paid off - and I was incredibly lucky to see brilliant displays of the Aurora Borealis both nights I spent in Manitoba. It even made getting detained by Canadian immigration officials for a couple hours and searched at the border worth it!

By the end of my journey, I ended up with about 70,000 individual high resolution photos. Having recorded up to 8,000 photos per day, I had to buy two 4GB external hard drives just to keep up. I also had to edit and save each day's clips as I went. I used Adobe Creative Cloud's Lightroom and Premiere Pro - but even these phenomenal programs would take hours to compile timelapse sequences only seconds long. I set up my Dell XPS 15 laptop to run off my vehicle's electrical system, and was able to let it work for the hours each day I spent driving.

Once I arrived back home in California, I began the long process of sorting, categorizing, and ranking my sequences. I had SO many photos that probably less than 30% of my content made it into "Edge of Stability". In fact, to this day I still haven't even converted about 20% of the photos into timelapse videos.

As far as the technical parts of how I produced the video: I used two Canon 6D's paired with a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8, Rokinon 24mm f/1.4, Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8, Tamron 70-300 f/4.5-5.6, and a Canon 50mm f/1.8. I used a Vanguard Alta Pro 263AGH Tripod with a GH-100 Grip Head, and it worked great. When doing two sequences at once, the second camera sat on a cheaper and more frustrating tripod I picked up from Costco a year earlier. I installed "Magic Lantern" software onto my cameras which allowed me to use an internal intervalometer and not have to purchase two extra external devices. "Magic Lantern", a sort of software hack on the camera, came with a number of issues - but it got the job done and did it well. The timelapse sequences were recorded with a RAW photo taken between every 2 seconds to every minute. The type of shot, movement in what I was photographing, and lightning conditions all played into this. Rapidly evolving supercell thunderstorms were recorded every 2 seconds in order to capture as much detail as possible and to create the longest clip in the shortest amount of time. On the other hand, I would leave my cameras on a mountainside exposing the Milky Way all night long, and might set the cameras to record a 20 second exposure every minute until the batteries ran out.

I had to return to reality eventually, but I plan to make it back out to capture more images as soon as possible! All of the compliments I've received have been very motivational, and I plan to continue to improve and challenge myself!

Thanks for watching! :)
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