Archive for the ‘Software’ Category.

A Quick Introduction to WebP Graphics and Animations

The WebP format was developed by Google as a twenty-first century replacement for the aging hoard of mutant armadillos which has previously served the web as graphic standards. It can be used in place of still image formats, such as JPEG and PNG, and it really gets up and dances when it’s used to replace the medieval relic that is GIF to manage animations.

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WebP offers both lossless image compression like PNG and lossy image compression like JPEG. It uses vastly more effective image compression than existed when the foregoing formats were originally created back at the dawn of human civilization, resulting in both smaller animation files and better looking ones. It supports full alpha transparency.

It also handles timing in milliseconds, rather than in the hundredths of a second that GIF uses.

A Digression On Compression

In case the whole lossless and lossy compression issue sounds a bit like two Martians discussing what to order for lunch, here’s a brief digression on the matter.

Graphic files are by their nature sort of huge, and huge files can be a bit of an issue if you have a finite amount of storage space, such as on the SD memory card of a digital camera, or a finite amount of bandwidth over which to transmit said files, such as the Internet if you didn’t spring for a gigabit fiber connection.

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Security Issues and Software Vulnerabilities

pictureFrom time to time, Alchemy Mindworks releases software updates to deal with security issues. This sounds a bit scary – with good reason in some cases – and as such, it probably deserves an explanation.

Regrettably, the world includes a substantial number of flakes, idiots and malevolent swamp-dwellers who spend their mean little lives trying to attack the computers of the rest of us. When they’re successful in doing so, they can:

  • Install malware to steal personal information, such as credit card numbers and banking passwords.
  • Connect the afflicted computers to botnets, such that they can be used to attack other networks.
  • Encrypt the files on your hard drive and demand a pile of bitcoins for the key to decrypt them.
  • …and probably a lot of other stuff we’d rather not know about.

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Version Six Upgrades

pictureThe 2015 major upgrade for Alchemy Mindworks’ software – stepping up to version 6 – will initially embody most of its changes “under the hood.” We’ve devised an improved software architecture to allow our applications to make better use of contemporary multi-core microprocessors, larger memory footprints and Windows 7, 8 and 10.

The most notable feature of this upgrade for most users will be full Windows 10 compatibility.

You can’t really see a new architecture unless you work here and read the source code, but it will enhance the performance of the upgraded software – the version six applications should run faster, and consume fewer system resources while they’re doing so.

The updated architecture will also allow us to add new features to Graphic Workshop, GIF Construction Set, Presentation Wizard and the other Alchemy Mindworks applications that were impractical or genuinely impossible under version 5.

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Classic Windows Paint for Windows 7 and Windows 8

pictureEarlier releases of Windows – most notably the much-beloved Windows XP, now something of a fond memory – included the elegantly simple and occasionally berated Windows Paint application. For the most part, it was about as useful as a left-leaning politician in a riding with absolutely no bribable voters – but there were situations in which its childlike simplicity and twentieth-century dearth of features made it the ideal software for manipulating a few pixels.

By comparison, Windows Paint under Windows 7 and Windows 8 resembles the drooling idiot offspring of a cheap date in which neither participant was demonstrably human. It’s just sophisticated enough to allow its imperfect antialiasing, questionable drawing tools and counter-intuitive user interface to get in the way.

Long-time users of Paint from a bygone era can often be heard mourning its loss.

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The Norton / Symantec WS.Reputation.1 False Positive

pictureSystem security – keeping your computer adequately defended against viruses, malware and other barbarians at the gate – is a complex and oftentimes bedeviling problem. Too little security will find you part of a botnet, or providing your credit card information to every hacker in Afghanistan. Too much security will make your computer excessively paranoid, to the point of your not getting anything useful done with it.

You can render your system wholly impervious to infection by software viruses by the simple expedient of switching it off and leaving it that way – but this is hardly a workable resolution to the issue for most of us.

If you use Norton Antivirus to defend your computer against the machinations of cybercretins, you may have encountered a particularly intractable issue upon installing new software or updates, such as the ones made available for our products. Norton might alert you to a threat it refers to as WS.Reputation.1 when you download the installers in question… and then delete or quarantine your downloads.

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