Geeks in Phoenix

Geek Blog


Stitching panoramic images for the web with Microsoft Research HD View

A while back. I wrote an article about creating panoramic images with Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE) and Photosynth. With ICE and Photosynth, you can create panoramic images and then upload them to the Photosynth website. But what if you wanted to upload them to your website? That's where HD View comes into the picture.

Microsoft HD View is a new viewer to display large images (gigapixels) across the internet. It allows you to create panoramic images for web pages that do not take a lot of bandwidth. When someone views the image, they are only downloading what is required for that view. It is only when they pan or zoom that more of the image is downloaded. HD View / Deep Zoom is now included in ICE, also as a stand-alone command-line utility, and (here's the best), a Photoshop plug-in.

HD View / Deep Zoom export in Microsoft Image Composite Editor
HD View / Deep Zoom export in Microsoft Image Composite Editor

HD View / Deep Zoom export in Photoshop plug-in
HD View / Deep Zoom export in Photoshop plug-in

So if you're a Photoshop user, you can now export those panoramic images that Photoshop can create directly to HD View / Deep Zoom format. The Photoshop plug-in is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit. Here's a quote from the HD View website:

About HD View
HD View is a new viewer developed by Microsoft Research's Interactive Visual Media group to aid in the display and interaction with very large images. The HDView development team included Johannes Kopf, Matt Uyttendaele, Howard Good, and Michael Cohen along with Jonathan Fay of the Next Media group.

Recent advances in camera and sensor technology and software for stitching images together has led to the creation of images containing billions of pixels (gigapixels). These images are often panoramic, that is, they cover very wide fields of view. Since monitors typically contain only one to two million pixels, it is only possible to actually see 1/1000th of such image data at once. Also, viewing very wide fields of view require unwrapping of an image projected onto a curved surface (think of a map of the world) which can cause distortions.

HD View leverages current graphics hardware to allow smooth panning and zooming as well as the viewing transformation described below.

HD View was developed with a number of goals in mind. It should:

  • allow smooth panning and zooming on large images,
  • only download enough data to create the current view (and possibly look ahead to the next), and
  • always display the current field of view with an appropriate projection. This means that when zoomed way in you should be presented with a standard perspective projection providing a sense of immersion, and when zoomed out you experience a curved projection so that get a full overview of the scene. In between the projection should smoothly transition.
  • Finally, it should be easy to create your own HD View content and present it to the world via the web.

The HD View plug-in currently supports all major browsers on the Windows platform. The first time that you visit a page with HD View content you will be prompted to install the HD View plug-in.

For more information on HD View / Deep Zoom, follow the links below:

Microsoft Deep Zoom

HD View Utilities (32 bit)

HD View Utilities (64 bit)

Be more productive in your office for free with OpenOffice 3

Note: This article was based on OpenOffice 3. Since this article was written, OpenOffice version 4 has been released. Click here to read the newer OpenOffice 4 article.

A client recently asked me if I knew of any alternative to Microsoft Office. As a firm believer in open-source software, I told him about OpenOffice.org 3 from Oracle. It is a complete office software suite with a word processor, spreadsheet, multimedia presentation, graphics, and database programs.

OpenOffice.org is Java-based and requires it to be installed. It is compatible with other commercial office software and can read/write various file formats. XSLT and StarOffice formats are supported, but you will need to choose the custom installation to enable these filters. You can also expand the functionality of OpenOffice.org by using third party extensions. And you can also export to PDF in all of the applications. And best of all, it's free.

OpenOffice 3's Main Screen
OpenOffice.org 3's main screen

Programs included in OpenOffice.org

Writer
Writer lets you design and produce text documents that can include graphics, tables, or charts. You can then save the documents in a variety of formats, including the standardized OpenDocument format (ODF), Microsoft Word .doc format, or HTML. And you can easily export your document to the Portable Document Format (PDF).

Calc
Calc is a spreadsheet application that you can use to calculate, analyze, and manage your data. You can also import and modify Microsoft Excel spreadsheets.

Impress
Impress lets you create professional slide shows that can include charts, drawing objects, text, multimedia, and a variety of other items. If you want, you can even import and modify Microsoft PowerPoint presentations.

Draw
Draw lets you create simple and complex drawings and export them in a number of common image formats. You can also insert tables, charts, formulas, and other items created in OpenOffice.org programs into your drawings.

Base
With Base, you can access data that is stored in a wide variety of database file formats. Base natively supports some flat file database formats, such as the dBASE format. You can also use Base to connect to external relational databases, such as databases from MySQL or Oracle.

Math
Math provides numerous operators, functions, and formatting assistants to help you create formulas.

OpenOffice.org 3 is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems. For more information on OpenOffice.org 3, please visit their website OpenOffice.org.

My five favorite tips for maintaining your Windows computer

Updated April 21, 2023

One of the questions I often get asked is, "What can I do to maintain my computer". So in this article, I am going to share my five favorite tips for maintaining your Windows-based computer.

Regularly check your drive(s) for errors

This is one of the first things I do when I get a system in the shop. An error on the disk can cause all sorts of issues, so occasionally running a quick standard disk check is recommended. It is always best to try fixing any errors before they become huge problems.

For more information on how to perform a checkdisk, select your operating system below.

How to check your drive(s) for errors in Windows 11

How to check your drive(s) for errors in Windows 10

How to check your drive(s) for errors in Windows 8.1

How to check your drive(s) for errors in Windows 7 / Windows Vista

How to check your drive(s) for errors in Windows XP

Manually defragment and optimize your drive(s)

Even though Windows runs Defrag as part of the routine maintenance (usually weekly), you can always occasionally run it, as it is probably the best single thing you can do to speed up your computer. Imagine a filing cabinet where all of the folders were out of order and files were misplaced throughout the cabinet. How could you find anything? Same thing with your computer's drive. Disk Defragmenter takes care of that for you. And you can run it as a scheduled task too.

Select your operating system below for more information on how to use Disk Defragmenter.

How to defragment and optimize your drive in Windows 11

How to defragment and optimize your drive in Windows 10

How to defragment and optimize your drive in Windows 8.1

How to defragment and optimize your drive in Windows 7

How to defragment and optimize your drive in Windows Vista

How to defragment and optimize your drive in Windows XP

Clean up your drive(s) regularly

Now, Windows does include programs to clean up the miscellaneous files that build up over time, but by default, it is not set up to run automatically. You can set up Windows to perform these routine tasks, which include deleting temporary files and emptying the Recycle Bin.

For more information on how to use Disk Cleanup and Storage Sense, select your operating system below.

How to clean up your drive in Windows 11

How to clean up your drive in Windows 10

How to clean up your drive in Windows 8.1

How to clean up your drive in Windows 7 / Windows Vista

Install Windows updates when they become available

Once a month, Microsoft releases security patches called Cumulative Updates. They fix known security issues and should be applied as soon as possible. Microsoft has been using the same schedule for
releasing them for decades now. The second Tuesday of every month is known in the IT world as 'Patch Tuesday', so mark your calendar. And if, for some reason, Windows Update does not work correctly, click on the link below.

Troubleshooting problems with Windows Update

Backup of your computer on a regular schedule

Nothing can beat a complete backup when it comes to getting a computer back running after a drive failure. Sure, a drive failure is an extreme example, but it could be an update that did not install correctly or a corrupt driver that is preventing your system from booting correctly. And the software is already built-in; all you need is an external drive for the backup and a USB flash drive for a repair drive.

How to backup your Windows 11 computer

How to backup your Windows 10 computer

How to backup your Windows 8.1 computer

How to backup your Windows 7 / Windows Vista computer

How to backup your Windows XP computer

Simple security with Microsoft Security Essentials

In this article, I am going to spotlight Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE). This is not Microsoft's first venture into the ant-virus market, but it is probably the best. Having used some of the more well-know anti-virus software (Norton / Symantec, McAfee, etc.) for over a decade, I decided to give MSE a try.

Microsoft Security Essentials

All of the articles I had read on Microsoft Security Essentials were quite positive, so I installed it on my netbook running Windows 7 in June. Since then, I have taken the netbook on several on-site service calls and vacation. I am happy to report that the netbook remains virus-free. What I like is the small footprint the software has. It does not take five minutes to start up Windows, as can happen on systems with limited resources (such as netbooks).

MSE works quite well with Windows 7 built-in firewall. The interface is clean and easy to use, unlike some of the anti-virus software out there. It's easy enough for a novice user to navigate. It also integrates into Windows Update. Here's a quote from Microsoft's website:

Microsoft Security Essentials provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software.

Microsoft Security Essentials is a free* download from Microsoft that is simple to install, easy to use, and always kept up to date so you can be assured your PC is protected by the latest technology. It’s easy to tell if your PC is secure — when you’re green, you’re good. It’s that simple.

Microsoft Security Essentials runs quietly and efficiently in the background so that you are free to use your Windows-based PC the way you want—without interruptions or long computer wait times.

I encourage you to take a look at Microsoft Security Essentials. It's simple and free.

Tether your Android's 3G to your pc with PdaNet

When I changed over to the Android, one of the functions I wanted was to use its 3G data connection with my netbook. I found this great program from June Fabrics Technology called PdaNet. It allows you to tether your Android's 3G without having to do any hacking.

PDA.net

Once the installation is complete on both PC and Android, you will find connecting to be easy. Just connect the USB cable from the Android to the PC, start the PdaNet app on your Android and then use the tray icon in Windows to connect. Here's a quote from their website:

PDA.net has been one of the most popular software for Windows Mobile phones, Palm OS phones, and iPhones. It is now ported to the Android system! PdaNet provides you with FULL Internet access, so all your email, instant message programs will work without any setting changes. Supports both USB Tether and Bluetooth DUN.

PdaNet does NOT require root access or hacking your phone's firmware in order to work. It is just a regular Android application that works on all Android phones as-is. Tethering is fast, secure, and USB mode will also charge your phone at the same time. Your phone can either connect to 3G data, WiFi, or even through VPN, and PdaNet will share the connection with your computer.

If you are looking to connect to the internet on your computer through your smartphone, I recommend you go over to June Fabrics site and take a look at their line of PdaNet products. BTW: If you use Windows 7, you can create a WiFi hot spot with PdaNet and Virtual Router.

Free computer diagnostics

Repairing a PC can sometimes be expensive, and that is why we offer free basic in-shop diagnostics. Give one of our professional and experienced technicians a call at (602) 795-1111, and let's see what we can do for you.

Check out our reviews

Geeks In Phoenix LLC, BBB Business Review

Customer service is #1

Here at Geeks in Phoenix, we take pride in providing excellent customer service. We aim to give the highest quality of service  from computer repair, virus removal, and data recovery.

Bring your computer to us and save

Repairing a computer can be time-consuming. That is why we base our in-shop service on the time we work on your computer, not the time it takes for your computer to work! From running memory checking software to scanning for viruses, these are processes that can take some time.

Contact us

If you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call at (602) 795-1111  and talk with one of our Geeks. Or you can send us a message from our contact page , and one of our Geeks will get back to you as soon as possible. Or you can stop by and see us. Here are our hours and location.

Like Geeks in Phoenix on Facebook

Follow Geeks in Phoenix on Twitter

Watch Geeks in Phoenix on YouTube