Tuesday, 6 May 2014

What a palaver!

I had a simple task tonight: connect Demelza (my Samsung Galaxy S5 phone) to my laptop (an Asus W3V widescreen laptop) by USB cable, and transfer the photos I'd taken on Demelza this afternoon to the laptop for proper processing with my Nikon software.

Sounds rather straightforward? It should have been. But it wasn't. The whole thing turned into a mission, and had to be aborted in the end.

The problem was that my Asus laptop, high-spec though it was when purchased (it cost me £1,139) is in fact an ancient machine from a prehistoric age. I bought it in January 2006, and it runs Windows XP Professional. For a long time now its sole duty has been photo-processing. It is not usually connected to the Internet - there is no need, and no connection means a fast start-up.

So, after updating it to XP Service Pack 2 some time ago, I didn't bother with a further update to Service Pack 3. I never thought I would need it. And when Microsoft warned that they were finally withdrawing all official support for Windows XP on 8 April 2014 - yes, only four weeks ago - I let it pass without a moment's qualm.

But I should have connected up the laptop, and installed SP3 while I could. Because I've now found that my 2006 laptop can't read the files it sees on my 2014 phone! Demelza tells me that I need - you've guessed it - SP3 to make the files readable, and capable of being transferred by cable to the laptop for working on. (I can transfer them using Bluetooth, but it's slow, and not suitable for anything more than a very few photo files)

Well, my first reaction was that this was just a problem to be overcome. There must be a way. SP3 must still be available as a download. Then I discovered that as a preliminary to any download, I'd have to upgrade Internet Explorer to version 8. I did this, time-consuming though it was, and then (as an encore) installed Chrome as my preferred browser - although once this present task was complete, I'd be disconnecting the laptop from the Internet as before, and wouldn't need any kind of browser.

Next, a copy of SP3. It was definitely no longer available from Microsoft. But as you might expect, SP3 could be had from a long list of independent suppliers. Apparently for nothing, but... Warning bells rang. Should I risk it? Well, this wasn't my main PC; the laptop was only for photo-processing; and I could uninstall any misbehaving installation if necessary. Some outfit called PC Something at the top of the search list was offering SP3. Might as well go with them. I duly clicked on the download button and watched what happened very carefully - I was more than a little suspicious. There had to be a snag.

There was. As the download progressed, I was being told that 'there were things wrong with my Registry files'. Really? Then as the download approached 100%, more pop-ups appeared, recommending software to 'speed up my computer' or 'remove malware'. Oh dear. Once everything had settled down, I found that I was lumbered with a different Google Home Page, with flashing ads where no ads had been before. These annoyances were the 'price' of a free download. I should have known better. Sigh.

I uninstalled what I could, and then used System Restore without further ado, putting everything back as it had been a few days ago. Two wasted hours, all told. But at least the laptop was clean again.

And clearly, for the immediate future, I'll have to resign myself to processing Demelza's photo output exclusively on the newer Dell desktop PC (which runs Windows Vista and can 'see' her files) until time and funds allow me to buy a new laptop. This isn't much of an issue at home - but it's no good at all for processing phone pictures in bulk while on holiday!

Which is a pity, because I've been using Demelza's camera and it's pretty good. Look at these shots, taken in my bedroom in a rather shady light:

They've been cropped a little, but otherwise they are just as they came from the camera. You'll see some smeared detail if you magnify the images, but viewed like this they look really good. Here's another example, the interior of a Shoreham church just before the Evening Service:

For web publishing, this is very usable indeed.

But I won't say that the 16 megapixel camera on Demelza beats what I can do with the little 10 megapixel Leica. The all-metal fast-lensed Leica is a lot better for low-light situations, and its handgrip, heft, and dedicated physical controls like dials and levers and buttons make it far easier to handle. My 'wedding camera' later this month is going to be the Leica - not my phone. Sorry, Demelza.


  1. I think it would be a lot simpler and far better to purchase Windows 8 and install it on the Asus. You would solve all your problems in one go.

    Shirley Anne x

  2. That's not a bad idea, but both laptop and desktop PC are getting long in the tooth, and a powerful new laptop, with Windows 8.1 pre-installed, might be the best solution in due course.

    Updating the OS generally means replacing one's third-party programs, and possibly some peripherals, at considerable extra expense. I'm not ready for that just now.


  3. You should be able to pick up a copy of Windows 7 for less than £40 and I'd be amazed if that didn't read Demelza's files. When I upgraded from XP to 7, all my old programs still worked. So something to think about - and not too much outlay for keeping an old, but good, computer running.

    Bonne chance.

  4. Thanks Angie...and 'tis whispered that 7 be nicer than 8!


  5. My computer runs Windows 7 but E's now runs Windows 8 where it once ran Vista. Her machine is older than mine, though nothing like the capability that mine has and it has no problem with Windows 8. I haven't chosen to upgrade to 8 as I am happy with 7, no other reason. What I am saying is you might as well go for 8 as 7 as it has features that 7 lacks and will be more suitable for you especially where photos and picture manipulation are concerned.

    Shirley Anne x

  6. Could you save the pics on the phone's microSD card then remove the card and use a card reader attached to the computer to get the files. A program like Irfanview may well be able to read and convert the files if required. I would check you can get the drivers for the laptop if it is old they may not be available for Windows 8. Windows 7 is nicer though.

  7. The microSD card on a Samsung Galaxy S5 is buried underneath the back cover, and each time you remove that the waterproofing is weakened. So no, I don't want to use the extract-card-and-pop-it-in-a-card-reader approach.

    The laptop problem is annoying but not fatal. I will just continue to take all but the occasional shot on the Leica.



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