Archive for October, 2007

When updates go wrong

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

I have been an avid user of SPAMfighter since July (more here), but within the last two days my opinion on the product and the company has changed from “great” to “crap”.

How comes?

Well, the software was working fairly well (just one tiny feature did not work properly for me) until Monday. But I was happy with the product and its capability to kill spam. Then, on Monday, a pop up window suggests to upgrade to the new, improved version 6.0.5 of SPAMfighter. It took just a few clicks to upgrade, and then – nothing. The toolbar with its icons disappeared, and of course the product stopped working. All of a sudden I saw tons of spam mails again.

I visited their homepage to access their support area (on their German site, you have to look for Hilfe). I looked at their FAQ, and found at least two entries that might be applicable for my problem. I tried both of them. They did not work. (By the way, only then I noticed the “repair SPAMfighter” entry in the program folder. It’s not really creating trust in a software product if there already is an option to repair it.)

But heck, their support section said:

How do I get support fast?
If you pay for SPAMfighter Pro you will have Premium Support. This means we will try to answer your questions within a day.

Great! I am a registered user of SPAMfighter Pro. So I sent a mail outlining the problem. Their reaction: complete silence, up to now. Which sucks. I know that they possibly might have better things to do than to answer my support request, but then again, they probably should not make such well sounding statements. Wouldn’t it be more honest to write:

How do I get support fast?
Well, you don’t. Even if you pay, we have no idea when we will get around to solve your problem. And why should we bother in the first place? After all, it’s still your problem, isn’t it?

Of course, this does not sound as good as the promise to answer within 24 hours. Well, anyway, I guess that’s another illusion (“small, smart, honest, and friendly Danish software company does not treat you like dirt as any big company does”) destroyed.

* * *

UPDATE 02-NOV-07

Apparently, someone in Copenhagen has been reading this blog entry and pushed a new software version (6.0.8) onto the SPAMfighter servers. Which in fact worked for me. The full functionality has been restored. Thanks for that. Nonetheless I will be more reluctant to install future updates. I do not have immediate need for another spam-filled week any time soon. ;-)

Lightroom Web Galleries – Buggy!

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

So I wanted to create a DVD for a customer with all the shots from a recent photo shooting, including the high resolution files, and smaller versions for easy handling. And a web gallery. Adobe Lightroom makes us think that this is an easy task. Just select the images, hack in a headline and select a few colors, and off you go. Yep, it’s easy.

Actually, Lightroom displayed a warning message about missing image files after the export which I discounted as bug – I was perfectly able to export the same set of 890 images three times before (three sizes, hence three exports), so all the files were definitely there. But I was curious whether any problems might show up in the final web gallery. And now I am glad I did this, because the web gallery showed some black images starting at image # 169. From there, some images were gone, while others were present. I could see no pattern. I deleted the web gallery and restarted the computer. No change. The image files were reported as “missing”, and the respective images were black in the gallery. I tried to export the photos to 800 pixel constrained width from grid view. Again, Lightroom reported problems (at the end of the export). But the files were there.

Finally, after having lost four hours to useless exports, I decided to take the downsized image files I had created before and resize them in, gulp, ACDSee 6.0. What a great tool. Resizing took just a few minutes, and no silly reporting of “missing files”. Then I moved the resized photos to the web gallery created by Lightroom. Worked like a charm.

My tip: if you are looking to export from Lightroom to a web gallery, you better check the results thoroughly. And have a high-end tool like ACDSee 6 (or higher) available for some cleanup work should Lightroom refuse to do the job!

Lightroom Performance Problems

Monday, October 15th, 2007

I am not too happy with the performance of Adobe Lightroom 1.2 right now. On Saturday I imported another set of 2,400 photos to be sorted and edited. For some strange reason the performance while developing the photo is completely down the drain:

  • It now takes ages to open the 1:1 view of photo
  • It also takes ages to switch back to “Fit” view of the same photo
  • It takes ages to switch to another photo
  • It takes ages for the controls to react
  • Even when idle, Lightroom consumes 35%-45% CPU power
  • The hard disk LED is flashing like mad, even when idle
  • The swap file is between 850 and 950 GB even when idle

In short: Lightroom is slow as hell, and it is dragging down the whole computer…

Lightroom Performance while idle

And I am pretty sure it is Lightroom that is causing the problems, as the task manager is naming Lightroom as the responsible process. I did a full defrag yesterday to cure the problems, but it did not help.

However, after taking the screenshot above I opened Photoshop to crop and save the image, and guess what? Lightroom immediately stopped behaving like mad, all of a sudden consuming virtually no CPU power when idle, just as it should be. Whatever launching Photoshop did – it was good for Lightroom and stopped the strange behaviour.

On the official support forum, some say that the enabling the “auto write” feature may be responsible for a performance loss. I guess it should not be a big performance drop, because all Lightroom has to do is open the respective XMP file, skip to the end of the file, write the next action to it, and save it. And we are talking about small files, not megabytes of data as with image files. Honestly, with the Lightroom database being not as solid as it should be, I prefer to have my work saved upon developing the image using “auto write”. I think it’s far too risky to rely on the Lightroom database to keep all that crucial data.

So, let’s all hope for the next release of Lightroom to cure some of the issues. In the meantime, I am seriously considering to go “all Mac” and switch to Apple Aperture for image processing. I am getting somewhat tired waiting for Adobe to fix Lightroom.

Oktoberfest 2008 can come!

Monday, October 8th, 2007

Only Two at Sieber Tent
The band “Only Two” performs at the Sieber Tent 2007

The Oktoberfest 2007 is history by now. Yesterday, the 174th edition of the traditional beerfest ended in Munich after 16 days of beer and fun, ompah music and Lederhosen. Munich’s Lord Mayer tells us that it was a record-breaking Wies’n, at least in terms of beer consumption: 6.7 million liters of beer have been sold (and probably also been drunk), as much as never before in the beerfest’s long history. At 6.2 million visitors, the fest could not attract the crowds like last year though. Then again, the 2006 fest lasted two days longer due to a bank holiday. All-in-all, the visitors spent this year about 1 billion Euros, so the economical importance of the Oktoberfest can not be denied. No wonder that the tent owners are happy.

The 2008 Oktoberfest will be opened on September 20th, and it will last through October 5th, with 16 days again being just a “short” fest. But it will be the 850th birthday of the city of Munich, so we expect the fest to be even more attractive and spectacular than before.

If you have missed this years fest, here is my Oktoberfest coverage on this blog. If you want to come in 2008, you may find valuable tips inside the posts that help you with your trip planning:

The Ultimate Oktoberfest FAQ
What to wear to Oktoberfest?
Oktoberfest – 24 hours to go!
O’Zapft is
Wies’n Hit 2007
Rainy Oktoberfest
Oktoberfest – 2nd week

Here is my personal tip for next year: do not just visit the big tents! Go for the smaller tents as well. This year, we had a fantastic time at the Sieber Wurstbraterei tent. At about 400 seats the tent is significantly smaller than the big tents, but it has a true local feeling to it, almost like attending a big family party. The bands were really good, and the waitresses were much more relaxed than in the big tents. Which is good in many ways, but most importantly: you’ll get your beer much faster!

Look forward to seeing you next year in Munich!

P.S.: Wies’n Hit 2007 – I might have picked the wrong song. General consensus seems to be now that DJ Ötzi’s “Ein Stern (der Deinen Namen trägt)” has made it this year. I agree that this song was played more often by the bands in the big tents, but the “Lassosong” has certainly created more emotion (more cries, more dancing, more fun). So, let’s called it a very good 2nd place. :-)