Digital Camera buying tip

Buying a new digital point and shoot camera can be confusing. If you are an amateur photographer, you will be bewildered by all the funky terms used for marketing. This is a concise and brief guide on how to narrow down your choices into the one digital camera that best suits your need. Make sure you get a basic idea about camera settings before you buy any camera.

Budget

You should fix your budget first. This will help you narrow down your options very much. By setting a budget do not assume you should just set an upper limit. Go for a price range and search for a good camera in that range. Being a starter it is safe to set a $50 range. For example look for cameras in the $150 to $200 category. Once you have set your budget, stick with it.

Which brand?

It is always better to put your eggs in a reputed brands basket. Go for brands like Canon, Nikon, Sony etc. All are pretty good. Once you have narrowed down by price, go to a store front and take pictures on those cameras, see for yourself how they look. In my personal experience which includes around 50 cameras from different brands, Canons have been found to have much better image quality in the point and shoot segment. But do not take my word, go and try some cameras for yourself and find out which is the best one for you.

Ergonomics

As a beginner, ease of use is going to be a primary concern. When you are checking out cameras, switch them on and check for ease of use. Note how easy it is to take pictures in automatic mode, setting flash, setting macro mode, deleting pictures, playing slide show etc. Use the camera to feel where the switches are placed.

How many Megapixel do I need?

Megapixel count is one of the most popular marketing gimmick used in point an shoot segment. People tend to fall for the bigger numbers for obvious reasons. Think about what your primary use of the pictures would be. If your main use would be to share pictures online, you definitely do not need that 12MP camera. Higher megapixel are primarily aimed for printing. There are chances that you will never print 99% of the images you take. Another thing with the higher megapixel count is that as the size of the sensor remains same and more and more megapixel are crushed in, the amount of light per pixel will reduce and can lead to higher noise.

Optical/Digital Zoom

Always look for how much Optical Zoom the camera has got. Do not give a damn about the digital zoom. Always go for a  higher optical zoom. When the optical zoom is more than 3X, its a good idea to have a camera with Image Stabilization (IS). There are two types of image stabilization, Optical and Digital. Most of the time, optical is better.

Movie Capture

If you are going to be capturing videos frequently, get a camera that captures HD movies. The good thing bout cameras that can capture HD movie is that they will also support lower resolutions such as 640x480px and 320x240px. Make sure the camera can zoom and auto focus while the movie is being recorded. If the camera doesn’t have these two features, the HD movie feature is pretty much useless.

Extra Features

Features like extended shutter delay, extended ISO, water proofing and the like can be found in many cameras. Give them necessary points if they help your purpose. Many of the Canon cameras can be feature enhanced with CHDK. You can check it on their website. They allow you to unlock features of your camera without voiding the warranty. And they do not make any permanent changes, it can be reverted any time you need.

Always remember, that great pictures are taken by great photographers, not necessarily with great cameras. The camera is only a tool, you are the one who is taking the pictures. If you have a buddy who is into photography, ask for his help.

How to disable access to Drives using Disk Management

One of the visitors of SI, Joseph, recently asked in a comment to the post “How to disable access to specific drives with registry” how he could disable  access to a drive even for programs like Ashampoo which managed to override the registry trick. This is the trick you can use to prevent such sotware from accessing your drives. In one of the previous posts we had discussed how to Manage disk drives using Disk drive management console Object of Windows. We can use the Management Console to disable access to select drives also.

  1. Open the Disk Management Console

To open the Disk Management Console type “diskmgmt.msc” into the RUN dialog box and press ENTER.

Enter diskmgmt.msc into the RUN dialog and press ENTER
  1. Select the Drive

All the Drives in the storage devices connected to your computer will be listed here. Select the drive to which you want to prevent access and right click on it. Now select the option “Change Drive Letter and Paths..”

Right click on the drive and select "Change Drive Letter and Paths.."
  1. Remove the drive letter assignment

In the Dialog that opens, click “Remove” and then “Yes” if prompted for confirmation.

Remove the drive letter assignment.
  1. Hooray, you have disabled access to the drive

The change takes effect immediately. If it doesn’t, the try restarting windows explorer as explained.

The drive is removed from any sort of navigation..

The above mentioned trick will prevent everyone from accessing the drive for read or write purposes. Checkout the related posts for more…

How to use facebook chat on your desktop

Facebook has a built in chat engine which allows users to chat through their browser window. Using chat from a browser window is not always easy. The Facebook chat box makes this particularly hard too. It is easier to chat using a dedicated IM client. In a previous post I had talked about pidgin – a free IM client with support for multiple accounts.

The best part about pidgin is that it will allow you to converge your friends accounts into a single icon on the GUI. that is you can combine a friends GTalk and Yahoo ids to a single name on pidgin. If the user is online is any one account your IM will message automatically to that id. This does not mean you can cross chat from Yahoo to GTalk or vice versa.

Although Pidgin supports Myspace there is no built in support for FaceBook chat. but that’s not going to let you down, because there is a wonderful plugin available solely for that purpose. The pidgin-facebookchat plugin developed under Google code and distributed under GNU GPLv3 can let you use FaceBook chat on Pidgin. The plugin is available for both Windows and Linux.

Add a FaceBook account to pidgin screen shot
Add a FaceBook account to pidgin screen shot

After installing the plugin goto “Accounts>>Manage Accounts>>Add” From the dropdown select Facebook as the protocol. Set you <username> and <password> of your Facebook account. You can set additional options including email notifications and Status updates from Pidgin under the Advanced tab.

pidgin-facebookchat home list of downloads

How to hack a web password from a friend

You can get anybody’s internet account password, if you have Mozilla Firefox browser with an add-on named HTTPFox installed.

HTTPFox sits in between the network and FF browser and captures all the traffic in between. You can view the Requests and Responses going in between. When you enter an information into a form on a web page like a login page and click the submit button you are sending the information either as a GET or as a POST request to the web server. Example of a GET request is what you enter in a Google Search box. When you click search you can see that the results page will have a URL like :- http://ww.google.com/search?q=SEARCH QUERY (it may have some more creepy stuff like your browser info or your language preference but the basic structure is this) You can see that the part you entered is visible along with the URL.

POST requests are different in that you can’t see the data as part of the URL. An example would be any login information you enter on a website.

Follow these steps : (Checkout this Screenshot for detailed instructions)

1. Install HTTPFox extension for FireFox.

2. Restart Firefox, now you will see a small green and blue icon on the lower right side of the status bar.

3. Click on the icon to expand HTTPFox pane and go to any login page.

4. Click Start to start the capture. Enter the login information (username, password) and click Submit (or hit enter)

5. You will seethe data transfer in a categorised and formatted way here. Look at the 5th column named Method. Most of it will be GET. Click on it to bring the POST ones on top. Select a post transfer by clicking on it and then Click POST Data tab on the lower pane of HTTPFox. Here select Raw radio button. check for the sername somewhere in the string shown. Near to the username will be the password. Before each variable (password username etc) you can see an = symbol)

6. This is the password you need. To make this a stealth operation 😉 , after Start minimise the HTTPFox window. And whe nobody is arround open the window stop the transfer and look for the password.

As you get familiar with this it will be a lot easier to findout the password from the RAW data. For any webpage use all caps testusername and teastpassword approach shown in the screenshot to locate the password field.

If you have any questions or doubts contact me or leave a comment.

Free file recovery software from softperfect

The SoftPerfect File Recovery is a free and portable (installation free) file recovery software. Its extremely light but does a fair bit of work. You can recover permanently deleted files from your Hard Disk using this software. The only limitation being, it only recovers files from FAT and NTFS. Then again, file recovery on journaling FS are not very practical. Before using this software please read about how and why a file can actually be recovered after being deleted.


The software is one of the simplest ones I have ever used. You just have to enter the file name or part of it, select the drive and press “Search”. It will give you a list of files discovered. Just select the file and save it to another partition. As simple as that.

Screen shot of the Softperfect file recovery software.

Pros


Of course Simplicity and ease of use!
Next comes the size, at 379Kb it doesn’t even count.
Memory footprint 2.1Mb(minimized) and 21Mb + 50Mb virtual size (on recovery of a 700Mb file)

Cons


No advanced option available.
Doesn’t show the damage to files.
Only supports NTFS and FAT.

Other Notes


Supported file systems are FAT12, FAT16, FAT32, NTFS and NTFS5 with compression and encryption, floppy disks, USB flash drives, CF and SD cards and other storage media. Supports almost all file types. The recovered files can be saved only to another partition so as to prevent any further loss of data. File recovery works on Windows 7 as well as previous versions of Windows.


Recovery Software DownloadSoftPerfect.comRead about a free network Scanner

Keyboard shortcuts for Windows

Here are the main Shortcuts that can be used in Windows Operating system. This includes the OS short cuts only, not the shortcuts that are specific to programs. The program specific shortcuts will be posted here shortly. Keyboard Shortcuts for windows are addictive. Once you have stated using them you will probably never return to the older mouse thing!

Key Combination Action Performed
WIN+D Show desktop
WIN+Pause/Break System Properties
WIN+U Open Utility Manager
WIN+L Switch User/Lock Screen
WIN+F Find
WIN+E Opens My Computer in Explore Mode
WIN+R Open Run Dialog
WIN+M Minimize all Windows
CTRL+ESC Same as WIN key
ALT+TAB Cycles through Open Programs
WIN+TAB (in XP) Cycles through Task Bar Buttons
ALT+ESC Cycle through items in opened order
CTRL+C Copy
CTRL+X Cut
CTRL+V Paste
CTRL+Z Undo
CTRL+H Replace
CTRL+F Find
CTRL+Y Redo
DELETE Delete
CTRL+A Select All
SHIFT+DELETE Permanent Delete – override RecycleBin
CTRL+MouseDrag Copy Item
CTRL+SHIFT+MouseDrag Create shortcut
BACKSPACE Up one Level (in Windows Explorer)
ALT+RIGHT ARROW Forward
ALT+LEFT ARROW Backward
ALT+ENTER View properties for the selected item
ALT+F4 Close active item/ Program
ALT+SPACEBAR Shortcut menu for the active window
CTRL+F4 / CTRL+W Close active document or tab
F1 Help
F2 Rename
F3 Find
F4 Drops down the address bar
F5 Refresh or Insert Date in Notepad
F11 Full screen Mode
LeftSHIFT+LeftALT+Prt-Scr Turn High Contrast Mode ON
SHIFT+CTRL+ALT Click CANCEL in Shutdown menu Turns off Explorer Shell

Any Program specific shortcuts are not included here. Most of these shortcuts works in Linux or Unix too. Under Linux you have to use ALT+CTRL shortcut keys instead of the WIN key. ie WIN+D will become ALT+CTRL+D

If I have missed some shortcuts please leave a comment.