Mar 072013
 

I’d previously blogged about my disappointment with the Microsoft Office 2013 license restrictions:

Well, the good news today is that Microsoft have revised the licensing terms so that users can now, at last, move Office 2013 to a different machine:

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2013

Feb 222013
 

Damn!

If Microsoft had said about a year ago that Office 2013 could only ever be installed on one computer then that would have been fair warning and placated a lot of people especially with the Office 365 offer. But by making the draconian Office 2013 licensing terms public only recently, Microsoft have angered a lot of people. Count me as one of those angry people as I purchased Office 2013 just a few days ago. Luckily I didn’t get around to installing it on my machine especially as I was thinking of getting a new machine in a few months time. I’m going to have to sell my copy of Office 2013; it’s pretty much useless to me.

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2013

Oct 302012
 

Well, after my post on the abysmal colour management support built into IE9, I’ve now got Windows 8 and have tested IE10. Unfortunately it seems that IE10 is just as broken as IE9. Perhaps Microsoft don’t care about the “beautiful web”? More here:

Firefox browser and now Google Chrome browser on Windows 7 and on Windows 8 can be configured to be fully colour managed. These are a much better alternative to IE9 and IE10.

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2012

Jan 222012
 

Further to what I think of as Google abusing its dominant position in constantly targeting Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browsers and asking the user to switch to Google’s Chrome browser, there appears to be a change now. My previous rants on this:

Well, today I noticed that the annoying “Install Google Chrome” popup message appeared in Firefox 9 for the first time:

Sun-22-01-12-09-59-32

This popup also appeared in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 9 (as expected) and also in Apple’s Safari 5 but, strangely, not in Opera 11. I was able to close these Google popups in each of the affected browsers without the popups returning when I revisited Google’s search homepage. I have not checked any other browsers yet.

So, let’s just hope that those annoying Google popups don’t come back again. Although I’m not sure how Mozilla and Apple feel that Google are trying to be a bit more aggressive in trying to wean users onto Google Chrome!

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2012

Dec 212011
 

speed-wheelI recently bought a Microsoft Wireless Speed Wheel for the Xbox360 and have used it with “Forza 4”. It looks great and feels great. The Speed Wheel does pretty well as a casual gaming racing wheel controller and in that role it certainly allows good steering, braking and acceleration control; it is not, though, for the hard core racer who wants force feedback and much finer control. The Speed Wheel’s main advantage is that its small size allows the device to be easily stored and be more accessible compared to, say, the old Microsoft Wireless Wheel and pedals. To stop my (weakling!) arms from getting tired I mostly use the Speed Wheel by resting it on my lap or on my knees and only occasionally raise it mid-air.

The Speed Wheel has no ports for a headset which I can live with but, most bizarrely, the wheel lacks the Right Bumper (RB) button and Left Bumper (LB) button. These omissions markedly hamper gaming experience (at least in Forza 4); there are workarounds but these are very unsatisfactory.  The Microsoft does say this at their website:

Take the wheel for easy motion-controlled racing. With the Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel, experience realistic, accurate steering, and feel every bump in the road with rumble feedback. The Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel is compatible with all your favorite racing games* on Xbox 360, and puts you in total control with intuitive buttons and triggers.

  • Intuitive steering with motion sensors
  • Trigger buttons for gas and brake
  • Buttons for game-specific functions
    A,B,X,Y for interactions
    D-pad for navigation
    Guide including ring of light, start and back
  • Rumble feedback

* — Does not contain shoulder buttons which may limit functionality in some games.

Really, what were Microsoft thinking by not including the RB and LB buttons? A flawed product.

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2011

Nov 072011
 

Google has been irritating me of late. And increasingly so. I have tried to “just get along” with one aggressive form of product-push from Google but it’s now reached the stage where I need to say something and get it off my chest.

I use Firefox as my default web browser but, now and again, I use one of the other web browsers installed on my system. These other browsers are IE9, Chrome, Safari and Opera. I have noticed, if I use IE9 (or IE7 from work) and go to www.google.com, that the Google Search homepage adds the following notification within the top right of the browser’s window:

google notification

This notification window does not appear when I use the other browsers on my system. Why is that? Is Google actively targeting the users of Microsoft’s browsers? Is Google abusing its dominate position? To me the evidence is pretty clear.

The message to Google: “Stop it. Now. Thanks.”

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2011

Aug 212011
 

Granger-Chart[Update 21 March 2012: I haven’t used Google Chrome much but have discovered that Google Chrome 17 can colour manage by appending the string –enable-monitor-profile to the application shortcut target e.g. C:\Users\name\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe –enable-monitor-profile.]

There are a bunch of web browsers on the market today and there seems to be a big battle happening between IE, Firefox and Chrome. However, for me and others on non-Mac platforms who care about colour management, there is really only one choice. Let me explain.

Historically, most consumer PC displays have adhered (more or less!) to a colour standard known popularly known as “sRGB” (or more formally as IEC 61966-2-1:1999 for the latest version). The sRGB standard was originally developed by recognising the limitations of common consumer monitors at the time (mid 1990s). This standard allowed for fairly good and consistent colour reproduction for consumers, and a lot of software assumed sRGB colour-flow from source to display; web browsers being a prime example.

However, professional photographers, graphics artists and others utilise images that have far more colours than can be displayed by sRGB monitors but which other output devices are well capable of reproducing (eg high-end printers). For such people, an sRGB monitor is unsuitable for creating/modifying images. So a small market in high-end and expensive monitors was created that could display colours far greater than sRGB monitors; these are the wide-gamut monitors.

With the unrelenting march of technology, many “prosumer” digital cameras and printers today can capture/reproduce colours far in excess of the sRGB colour space. And wide-gamut monitors are increasingly being found in the consumer market. This allows professionals and other keen hobbyists to work with colours outside of the sRGB colour space and have a good idea what such colour spaces look like on their monitors before committing to prints.

There is one big issue with wide-gamut monitors; software needs to be colour-aware. By “colour-aware” I mean that the software must be able to translate an image from one colour space to that used by the display device. This is achieved by ensuring that the monitor is calibrated and profiled; the profile is used by colour-aware software to do the translation. If the software is not colour-aware or makes incorrect assumptions on colour spaces then there is going to be colour mismatch. For example, an sRGB image without colour-translation would have its colour space stretched on a wide-gamut display making the image appear too saturated especially in the reds. Believe me, this looks horrible but, unfortunately, some people seem to like that artificial colour pop (but I digress).

Image files can be saved in various colour spaces such as sRGB, Adobe RBG, etc. Most colour-aware software such as Abobe Photoshop CS5 can tag the image file with a colour space so that other software can use this tag to undertake colour-management. Files without a tag are called “untagged” but it can be safely assumed that such images are in the sRGB colour space. But there is a large amount of graphics software which isn’t colour aware and which don’t tag the files they create. On the web, most images are untagged. Those that are tagged are in the sRGB colour space. Very few, percentage-wise, are in other colour spaces. The common rule of thumb is that, unless there is a special reason for doing otherwise, all images on the Internet should be in sRGB format.

As indicated earlier, web browsers have not traditionally been colour-aware but the need for this requirement is increasing especially with the rise and proliferation of wide-gamut monitors.

I’m on a Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit platform with two wide-gamut monitors each properly calibrated and profiled (ICC v2) using a colorimeter. I’ve set my monitor luminance to 80 cd/m2 which some people may consider too dark so they may recommend 90 cd/m2 or even 120 cd/m2. ISO 3664:2000 allows a monitor luminance from 74 cd/m2 to 100 cd/m2, and ISO 12646:2004 (which takes printer output into account) allows a monitor luminance from 80 cd/m2 to 120 cd/m2. It all depends. The chromaticity graphs for my two monitors are shown below:

monitor1monitor2

A three dimensional graph of one of these monitor profiles compared to Adobe RGB is shown here:

Right. Let’s go onto web browsers. I have the latest non-beta builds of the following 32-bit browsers:

  1. Internet Explorer (version 9.0.8112.16421)
  2. Firefox (version 6.0)
  3. Chrome (version 13.0.782.112 m)
  4. Opera (version 11.50 build 1074)
  5. Safari (version 5.1 build 7534.50)

What I have found is that only Firefox gives me the capability for full colour management using ICC v2 profiles (Firefox appears to have problems with the newer ICC v4 profiles). The other browsers don’t colour-manage at all or have partial (i.e. broken!) colour management (I am led to understand that Safari on the Mac is fully colour-managed but I do not know if this is limited to ICC2 or if it extends to ICC v4 profiles). Despite what Microsoft may say about IE9, their browser is broken as discussed in a separate blog. Chrome, fast as it is, does not colour-manage and the hideous results far outweigh any speed advantage that Chrome has. It has to be Firefox, especially for those using wide-gamut monitors.

browser screen-shots of untagged image

browser screen-shots of untagged image

Firefox has colour management turned-off by default and I think that this is very sensible. Unless your display is calibrated and profiled, colour-management will mistranslate from one colour space to another. To turn on colour management, see the article at http://gearoracle.com/guides/firefox-color-management/ . Note that you do not need to enter a path to the monitor’s colour space as Firefox will use the default monitor profile. I actually have two monitors so I’m not entirely sure which display Firefox is using but my two monitors are pretty much identical (see the chromaticity graphs above) therefore that isn’t a real problem for me…other people with displays exhibiting different colour characteristics may opt to use Firefox on a designated monitor and use the appropriate monitor profile in the Firefox settings.

So there you go. That’s why I use Firefox on a non-OSX platform. If you care about accurate and consistent colour reproduction, and especially if you use a wide-gamut monitor, get your monitor calibrated, profiled and then install Firefox.

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2011

Jul 112011
 

I recently posted about a particular Service Pack 1 improvement for Outlook 2010 at:

I can confirm that the other issue of “Your IMAP server closed the connection” messages is still there. Therefore I have reactivated the following AutoHotkey scrip:

#NoEnv ; standard AutoHotkey header

SendMode Input ; standard AutoHotkey header

SetWorkingDir %A_ScriptDir% ; standard AutoHotkey header

Loop

{

sleep 50

IfWinExist Microsoft Outlook, Your IMAP server closed the connection

{

WinClose

}

}

I wish Microsoft could handle this error message in a more graceful manner than just putting up the error message and sitting there not doing anything except waiting for user input. Outlook should retry the connection and perhaps also put a message in the status area at the bottom of the Outlook window.

System config: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit, Outlook 2010 (32-bit)

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2011

Jun 302011
 

I recently installed Service Pack 1 for Microsoft Office 2010. I immediately noticed something different In Outlook 2010 when IMAP e-mails arrive….

The previous version of Outlook 2010 did not provide proper notification of new e-mails arriving via IMAP. I wrote an AutoHotkey script to get around this problem:

Outlook 2010 with Service Pack 1 now seems to provide proper notification in the Notification Area in Windows 7 and also changes the display of the Outlook icon on the Taskbar; the way it is supposed to work as per arrival of e-mails via POP3.

So I’ve now retired that particular AutoHotKey script; it was brilliant.

As descried in the link above, the other issue I had with the previous version of Outlook 2010 was that it would occasionally throw-up “Your IMAP server closed the connection” error messages. I haven’t seen this error with Outlook 2010 Service Pack 1 but it’s still early days. I’m monitoring the situation.

System config: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit, Microsoft Office 2010 (32-bit) Service Pack 1.

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2011

Mar 152011
 

Today I downloaded and installed the non-beta version of IE9 (version 9.0.8112.16421) and checked out Microsoft’s “Color Management” site at http://ie.microsoft.com/testdrive/Graphics/ColorProfiles/Default.html. At first everything looked well with indications that this version of IE9 on my system had full ICC v2 and ICC v4 colour profile support. But then I compared the colours with Firefox 3.6.15 (which has had full colour management switched on). IE9’s colours were way too saturated compared to Firefox. I then checked the images on my website and immediately noticed that IE9 was, in fact, displaying colours with too much saturation.

And I think I know what is happening. IE9 was taking tagged images and converting to sRGB which are then displayed in the monitor’s colour profile space i.e. IE9 assumes that you have an sRGB monitor; I use a wide gamut monitor so the colours are “stretched” into saturation areas where they don’t belong. In other words, IE9’s colour management is not real colour management.

But what really gets my goat is this Microsoft statement at the “Color Management” site referenced above:

Does your browser display the colors in these images correctly? Internet Explorer 9 supports embedded ICC version 2 and version 4 color profiles in images, converting the colors in images to display correctly on your monitor.

The key thing from that statement is “converting the colors in images to display correctly on your monitor”. This is a complete lie! The images are not displayed correctly on my monitor but the kludge may work fine with non wide-gamut sRGB monitors. So those who have invested in colour systems are the ones who get screwed and lied to by Microsoft. Why Microsoft, why?

Further resources on monitor calibration and colour profiling can be found at http://www.metalvortex.com/chart/

Article by Kulvinder Singh Matharu – 2011