Things I’ve learned, published for the public benefit
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Full-screen videos and games look oversharpened with shimmering edges – possible solution

About a month ago, I noticed a weird thing on my PC. Whenever I played a high-resolution video, it would appear oversharpened, as if someone went overboard with a sharpening filter. You know what that looks like – excessive contrast in details and brightened, jagged edges that shimmer in motion. Strangely, this sharpening effect would only manifest itself when the video was playing full-screen. In a window, everything looked nice and smooth.

At first, I put it down to some weirdness with my video player. I fiddled with the player settings for a bit, but that didn’t help, so I just gave up and forgot about it, since the problem wasn’t visible in typical movie/TV content.

Then, one day, I launched a new game (fittingly titled Jagged Alliance 3) and thought to myself, “Wow, they really went crazy with the sharpening here!”. I blamed it on the developers and enabled DLDSR, which made everything beautifully smooth. Problem solved! But then I tried playing some of those high-resolution drone videos on YouTube, and I noticed distractingly jagged edges on roads, fences and houses. And then I launched another game and I noticed excessive contrast and aliased edges.

Interestingly, all of those issues were specific to “exclusive fullscreen” situations. Just like before, as long as the video or game was in a window, the issue would go away. Even more weirdly, when going into YouTube fullscreen mode, the video would look fine at first, but as soon as the YouTube status bar disappeared, the sharpening problem would come back. Go figure.

As an experiment, I plugged my monitor into another video adapter (integrated Intel graphics). The issues went away. This seemed to point at my NVIDIA card as the culprit.

Solution:

The NVIDIA Control Panel has a 3D setting called “Image Scaling”. I had it turned on, with “sharpen” set to 50%. I thought a feature called “image scaling” would only apply to situations where a game outputs a lower-than-native resolution and the NVIDIA drivers upscale it. Apparently, it will process all full-screen output, even in your display’s native resolution!

Screenshot showing the Image scaling option in nVidia Control Panel

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Steelcase Leap review – crooked back update (also, video is hard!)

I have updated my review of the Steelcase Leap office chair with information about the “crooked back” issue, which has been reported by users here and on Reddit. I even recorded a video that demonstrates what the issue is and – I think – pretty conclusively shows that it is caused by a design flaw, not some kind of random manufacturing defect.

Making the video was a surprisingly fun project, even though it did confirm what I already knew about video as a medium: it takes an awful lot of work to say anything with video, especially if you’re aiming for semi-professional quality. Just filming the shots took me two days – finding a decent, uncluttered spot in my apartment, setting up the lighting, experimenting with framing, fighting technical issues with my smartphone cameras, etc. Then there was audio – recorded in small pieces, with multiple takes needed due to my lack of skill as a narrator (for example, I tend to speak in a monotone, which sounds very dull, and when I try to jazz up my speech, I often end up sounding unnatural). Editing the video and audio together – choosing the best video takes, making sure the source videos (from different devices) play well together, deciding which parts of the videos to use, strategically using slowdowns, speedups and still frames, drawing the on-screen graphics, cutting the audio and making sure it corresponds to what’s happening on the screen – all that while learning to use Hitfilm Express – took me a day or two as well. And then I had the idea to add a soundtrack to cover up the noise on the voice track, and instead of using a stock track, I decided to emulate 3Blue1Brown and make my own music for the video. That little side job took another 2-3 days, including 1 day to synchronize the music track with the voice track and the video.

In the time it took me to make a 2-minute video, I could have written several blog posts. At the same time, the work I’ve created is very hard to edit. If I want to correct a post – for example, because I made a mistake or because I’ve come up with a better way to explain something – I can simply rewrite a couple sentences. But I can’t do that with a video – I would have to re-record the audio, likely add more video scenes to show while the new audio is playing, figure out how to make the music track fit the new content (record extra music?), re-edit the whole thing – it’s just way too much work. What’s more, you may not know that YouTube explicitly disallows updating a published video – you have to delete the old video and upload a new one. But if you do that, you lose all the likes and comments, which influence your ranking in YouTube search, so you’d basically have to be an idiot to do it. Video may be easier to absorb for the viewers (at least for most topics), but yeah – it is HARD to work with.

Anyway, as I’ve said, I had a lot of fun working on the video. As an introverted programmer type, I had the most fun writing the soundtrack and editing the video. In another life, I could see myself working as a composer or a film editor. The least fun part was putting my voice out there – I’m just not very comfortable doing that (even though it’s still much easier than putting my face in front of the camera!).

By the way, I’ve uploaded the soundtrack to SoundCloud in case some mom-and-pop candy store wants to reuse it in a promotional video.

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“Account locked out” error when connecting to a Windows network share – possible solution

You try to connect to a computer on your Windows network (using what is now called “Windows File Sharing”). Instead of a login prompt, you are greeted with an error message that reads: “The referenced account is currently locked out and may not be logged on to“.

"Account locked out" error message

This error can only occur if you’ve set an account lockout policy, which locks your account after several failed login attempts (this is recommended by Microsoft). But how could there be a failed login attempt if you were never asked for your user name and password in the first place?

Here’s how. When you connect to a network share, before you get the chance to type in your user name and password, Windows will try to log on with your credentials from your current computer.

Let’s say your local user name is “Clara”. If the target computer also has a “Clara” account, but with a different password, the autologin fails. Furthermore, Windows appears to retry the operation a few times (God knows why) and this may be enough to trip up the account lockout mechanism. (As a quick confirmatory experiment, I just set my account lockout to 5 failed attempts and tried to connect to it – I was locked out after the first failed autologin.)

Of course, a lockout means you’re screwed. You cannot try again with the correct password. Worse, you cannot even log on to the other computer locally. You have to wait whatever the lockout duration is set to – typically something like 15 minutes. On the plus side, you can use the break to do anything you like. I used mine to estimate what yield of a nuclear weapon would be enough to wipe out Redmond, WA.

Bad solution:

As you know from the previous post, renaming your account on one of the computers is not a good idea. Not only will it not solve the autologin issue, but it will also add enormous confusion.

Good solution:

Go to the Credential Manager and add the user name and password for the target computer. Now Windows will use these credentials automatically whenever you connect to that machine.

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“User name or password is incorrect” error when connecting to a Windows network share – possible solution

I sometimes have to log on to other computers on a Windows network – usually to access a shared folder or printer – and I’ve experienced enough frustrating problems to give me a minor stress reaction every time I do it. Here’s a recent issue that cost me almost a day of detective work!

Let’s suppose you’re trying to connect to a remote computer, which has a user account named “Jim” with the password “jimbo”. When you type these credentials into the login dialog box, you get an error message: “the user name or password is incorrect“.

"The user name or password is incorrect" error message

The thing is, you are absolutely, positively sure that “jimbo” is the correct password, because you just used it to log in to the other computer two freaking minutes ago. So why isn’t it working?

The pivotal question here is whether “Jim” on the target computer was always Jim or it was renamed to “Jim” at some point.

When you rename your Windows user account from “James” to “Jim”, the OS changes only the display name – deep down, Windows is still using the old name. Your home folder is still C:\Users\James and, to the networking and permissions subsystems, you are still “\\COMPUTERNAME\JAMES”. So when you boot up the computer, the login screen will say “Jim”, but when logging on remotely, “Jim” won’t work – you have to use the old account name!

A good solution:

Write a post-it note saying something like: “JIM@COMPUTERNAME – LOG IN AS JAMES!!!!!!” and stick it to your computer.

An even better solution:

Never, ever rename your Windows account.

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Ordering a Steelcase chair – which options to choose?

It can be hard to get reliable information about the plethora of options you can choose when ordering a Steelcase chair. Therefore, I’ve decided to share what I’ve found out about the pros and cons of each option. Please note that the last time I researched this was in 2018 and that something might have changed since then.

Headrests

For the Leap, I recommend no headrest, because the Leap’s headrest is a poorly designed afterthought. The main shortcoming is that there is no depth adjustment, which means that you cannot move it out of the way when you’re sitting upright. This is a problem, because the headrest not only doesn’t serve any useful need in the upright position, but also restricts the movement of your head. In my case at least, it always led to pains in my neck muscles. On the other hand, in the reclined position, you need the headrest to come forward to support your neck as you fix your gaze on the computer screen. But the Leap’s headrest doesn’t, so you end up looking for a pillow of just the right thickness, which can be quite a challenge. The bottom line is, if you will be spending a lot of time watching movies in the reclined position, you should probably get a different chair. Also, if you’re from America and were planning to get the Platinum frame, the headrest only comes in black, so it won’t match that very well.

On the Please, the headrest is mediocre, but more tolerable than on the Leap. It has no depth adjustability, but is positioned very far back, so at least it doesn’t restrict your head movement in the upright position. In the reclined position, you will still need a pillow. Oh, and the Please’s headrest only comes in black, which would make it esthetically incompatible with the white version of the Please.

The Gesture can be ordered with a more advanced headrest that has depth adjustability. It looks promising, but I don’t have first-hand experience with it – the demo unit I was given did not have the headrest.

Frame

Various models have different frame color options, which you can probably locate just fine in the Steelcase official store, or in the PDF brochures on the Steelcase website. The important thing to remember is that not all frame colors that you see online are available in all regions. For example, the Platinum (light grey plastic) Leap frame, which is shown everywhere in Steelcase’s marketing photos, is not available in Europe. (Imagine my disappointment when I learned this.)

If you’re getting the headrest, make sure that the headrest will match the frame color you’ve chosen. On some chair models, the headrest is only available in black (see above).

Base

The cheapest base (only available in Europe, I think) is black and made of plastic. I have no experience with it, but it may not be a bad choice, because it should hide scratches pretty well. According to one Steelcase salesperson I talked to, their durability is about the same as the more expensive versions (i.e. they won’t break).

Then there are powder-coated aluminum bases. The problem with those is that if the paint chips off (and it probably will sooner or later), they can look unsightly.

The most expensive option is polished aluminum. The extra cost over the cheapest base is between €40 and €100 ex VAT (depending on the chair model). It’s what you would expect polished aluminum to be – looks nice, but you can basically scratch it just by looking at it. If you’re in the habit of resting your feet on the base, you will definitely scratch it – even if you’re just wearing socks. I’ve heard it’s possible to polish it with the sort of tools an auto body shop would use, and then it looks like new again. For me, the biggest advantage of polished aluminum is that you can see it better in the dark. I really don’t like to stub my toe while walking by my chair at night.

Casters (wheels)

If your chair will be used on a carpet, choose the standard hard casters; if it will be used on a bare floor, choose the soft rubbery ones. If you plan on using the chair on different surfaces, note that the hard casters still work on hard floors, they’re just a bit more prone to skidding when you move around.

Make sure the correct casters are entered on your order form. It’s very easy for you or the salesperson to pick the wrong option, because the hard casters are suited for soft surfaces and the soft casters are for hard surfaces.

Fabric

Steelcase uses different fabric suppliers in different regions. There is only a little overlap between the European and the American fabric catalog.

In the Americas, the most popular choice is probably “Cogent: Connect” (polyester), and other than that, I don’t have a lot of information to share.

In Europe, most people seem to go for “Atlantic” (polyester), which is very similar to “Cogent: Connect” – however do note that the color palette is different. Other popular choices are Fame and Steelcut Trio. Fame (New Zealand wool) costs about €30 extra. At ~€80 extra, Steelcut Trio (thick wool) is a more premium choice and has very nice texture patterns, but feels rough to the touch. Generally, wool fabrics have more friction, so if you have any reason to suspect that you are prone to slipping forward in your chair (personally, I’ve never experienced it), they may be a better choice.

I should emphasize that all Steelcase fabrics are of very high quality and even the cheapest ones (Buzz, Atlantic) work fine and are durable – by that I mean “will easily last several years of heavy use”. Personally, I picked Fame because it was the only fabric that came in the light grey color I wanted.

There’s no need to worry about how “cool” the various woven fabrics feel. Some people (including some Steelcase reps) will claim that thin fabrics offer better cooling, but in my testing, I haven’t found that to be the case. Even putting extra layers of fabric on the chair has no meaningful effect on how warm the seat feels after 15 minutes of sitting. The reason is that you are sitting on several inches of foam – an excellent thermal insulator. Whether you add 1 milimeter or 2 milimeters of fabric on top of it makes no difference. This rule may not apply to less breathable materials like leather.

In case you’re curious about the Steelcase chairs pictured in my reviews, the Amia uses Buzz (polyester). The Leap uses Fame (the greenish demo unit is “absinthe” and my own unit is “grey”). The Please uses Fame (a daring combination of “grey” and “scarlet”). The Think uses Steelcut Trio (“orange”).

Here’s a European Steelcase fabric sampler that I found useful.

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