Diagnosing Computer Problems
* Software Problems Are Hard
* Card Readers
* JPEG Revisited
Software Problems Are Hard
Q) The first time I downloaded photos from my camera to computer, everything was fine. The second time, I got a “system error” message on the camera and it closed down. I’ve tried the camera on a friend’s PC and all is well. I’ve reinstalled the software, rebooted, tried all my USB ports, etc., without success. Can you help?
A) Generally, it’s difficult to troubleshoot issues remotely. I’ve included this letter to point out a possible solution to software problems, however, and to give some hints for trouble-shooting. First, let’s deal with the hardware. You did the right thing in checking out the cable and camera on another computer. On your own system, there are a couple of things to try:
• Are you using a USB hub? If so, disconnect any other device that’s plugged into it. There might be a conflict with another device. If your hub is powered, unplug the power, wait 20 seconds and plug it back in. Some hubs will turn off ports that are causing problems. Repowering the hub can switch all of the ports back on. Finally, try removing the hub and plug your camera directly into your computer.
• If you’re not using a hub, test your USB ports with another device to see if they’re working.
Let’s move on to the software side of things. You mentioned that you tried reinstalling the software and that didn’t help. Here’s a key that I believe can help when reinstallation doesn’t seem to work: Instead of reinstalling the software, uninstall it. During the install process, some applications check for existing drivers, and if they’re installed, they don’t reinstall them. If you have a corrupt file, it will stay corrupt. You might wonder why the install process doesn’t just clear everything out and start over again. Well, if software components are shared among several applications and the components have been updated recently, you wouldn’t want an application to overwrite those components with older versions (although this does happen).
Uninstalling software can be done fairly easily. On Windows systems, use Add/Remove Programs in the Control Panel. On both Mac and Windows systems, check to see if an uninstall program (specifically for removing the software) was installed with the original application or if there’s one on your software disc.
Readers Respond To Readers
Q) Why should you use a card reader to download pictures rather than work directly from the camera? I thought I read this in one of your articles, but I can’t find it anywhere.
A) There are several advantages to downloading photos with a card reader:
• Depending on the camera, the card reader will be faster. Your camera might use the older USB 1.0 standard or, if it uses the USB 2.0 standard, it might not use the Hi-Speed version. If that’s the case and your card reader supports Hi-Speed USB or FireWire (IEEE 1394) and your computer supports it as well, the reader will win out over the camera.
• You must power the camera while downloading to your computer, so you need to have a fully powered battery. If you can use an AC adapter, you still have the challenge of knowing where the adapter is and then plugging it in and out of your power strip.
• If you download from your camera, you may first have to make sure you have the proper drivers for your particular operating system. Most readers work with the most recent Mac and Windows OS without installing additional drivers.
• Often, there’s no good place to set the camera when it’s connected to your computer. Earlier this year, I received an e-mail from a reader whose camera was knocked over while downloading. Three things happened: 1) the case on the camera cracked; 2) the USB port on the computer shorted out; and 3) when the USB port shorted out, it damaged the media card in the camera.
One note on using a reader: Don’t format the card using the reader; only format the card in the camera.
Q) Thanks for your write-up on JPEG and file saving in the July/August issue. It had never dawned on me that what I was seeing on the screen after saving a file wasn’t necessarily what I had saved, even though the new file name showed in the on-screen window. I did a test: Using Paint Shop Pro 9 and a fine-quality JPEG image from my digital camera, I did a Save As using a new file name and the highest possible level of JPEG compression (lowest quality). The new file name appeared in the window after the save was completed, and the image appeared unchanged. But the very high level of compression did such atrocious things to the saved image that they were very evident in the browser thumbnail of the saved file—no question that the file as saved wasn’t the same as the one in the open window showing the new name.
A) The Export or Save As command isn’t an editing command like crop or blur. It’s strictly a file save command with extra processes, like JPEG compression. And the compression happens as the file is being saved.
This whole topic has made me think about menus in image editors. If you think about it, there isn’t much under the File menu that does anything to the currently open file (except for anything like “revert” or script or batch functions, of course). The File menu is appropriately named; it isn’t full of editing functions.
But still some questions….
Q) What if your original is stored as a high-quality (low-compression) JPEG and you never actually resave it? For example, start with the original image stored as JPEG. Open it for editing. Save the edited image as a separate file in whatever format you choose. Close the file. As I understand it, that sequence leaves the original intact with no loss of quality. Is that true?
A) You’re correct as long as you don’t resave the file over your original file; in other words, you never hit the Save button.
If you have any questions, please send them to HelpLine, PCPhoto Magazine, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025 or firstname.lastname@example.org.