February 17, 2008

Services and Apps

Posted in Commentary, OSX Technical at 9:08 am by Michael Sweeney Media

For the past few months I have been using a new (to me) DNS service called “OpenDNS” which gives me the ability to block and manage some stuff that I dont want the family to stumble over by mistake now that my small ones are surfing on their own a bit. The service is a freebie and gives nice stats and a good way to break out unwanted sites. For example, you can filter on adult sites, or just bikini sites or offensive sites because they divide the content into small parts of an overall group. If you want to see the bikinis but not offensive(horror, shocking etc) sites, you can do that. You can also customize the splash page saying it’s been blocked and they actively court businesses that would like to do this type of blocking without yet another appliance in the racks to learn.

In this same thought, I had my Time Warner cable go belly up for two days. Lost data and VoIP but kept the video so I knew it was a data problem. I have business class service here from TW which gives me a way to by pass the idiots on first tier with their scripts. Not that it did much good, something major had failed and there was not any ETA to when it would be back.

A few months ago I had bough AT/T DSL for both backing up data online and to backup my day to day usage. So I rolled over to the DSL full time without too much pain. It works well enough but I soon found out that they are blocking port 25 outbound. So no mail to speak of. But I did find out that Dot Mac listens to port 587 for SMPT per spec and sure enough, that port was NOT blocked. “You’ve got mail” !!

My DNS was tied to my static IP but I changed it to DHCP and enabled a service called “DNS-O-Matic” and installed an Applescipt called “DNS-O-Matic” updater which talks to OpenDNS and sends them the latest IP address. I decided to keep this in place even though I have a static since I may be rolling back to DSL in the near future since it’s a 6meg download stream vs the 2 meg on cable.

(For Windows users reading this, I know you are there.. go to another service I use call DynDNS for a windows client)

So I was back in business for Saturday with only a minor amount of pain and a few “to do” things to cut even that down in the near future.

I spent bit of time yesterday at a site for templates for making web galleries in Lightroom. This is not a trival undertaking and these4 guys have done a nice at Lightroomgalleries.com. I am using one of their galleries for showing some pictures on my site and because it offers a paypal integration. The downside is their documentation just plain sucks.

I spent the better part of 3 hours working out how to use the template correctly and their website did not offer much in help. In fact, there were several calls for better (some?) documentation. In a few days, I think I will post some details here but not today. I will also post a link once I get my galleries up and running with the correct pictures in place instead of test images.

I installed and tried the new Aperture 2.0 from Apple. Major improvement overall. It’s faster, easier to use and overall just a nicer feel to it. But the printing sucks compared to Lightroom and I personally find the menus easier on Lightroom. But I might just use Aperture in conjunction with Lightroom because of the books that you can make from within Aperture. They look to be more professional then iPhoto but I need to really look closer later.

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October 12, 2007

More S3

Posted in Commentary, OSX Software, OSX Technical at 10:54 pm by Michael Sweeney Media

The S3 adventure has been going great guns around here. Here are some notes from getting my Mac on two WAN connections so one is for my daily stuff and the other is for the uploads I’m always doing. This post was put up originally at pixelcorps.com where I also live for a while each day.

“”“” start of post “”“”“
I thought I should detail how I’m running dual WAN connections at my home office and why.

I have mentioned that I am using the Amazon S3 server farm to archive my critical data and not just images but key files like spreadsheets, PDFs etc. The cost is very cheap. For example, last month I archived 9 gig to the S3 servers and it cost me 98 cents.

So this type of backup is very dependent on your upload speed. My cable is 312 Kbps upstream but I was able to get DSL with an upload of 512 for twenty four bucks a month. So what I did was some research on what IP addresses Amazon was using for their S3 farm and some simple adding of routes to my Mac.

I should mention that I run OSX but Windows can do this but its a bit more effort. I added a couple of statements that look like this:

route -n add 207.171.0.0 192.168.1.254
route -n add 72.21.0.0 192.168.1.254

Now typically, I shy away from using whole ranges of IPs but in this case, AmazonS3 bounces around alot of them in a round robin which is good for load balancing but not so good for route statements. So you put in the subnet for the S3 servers and call it a day.

So now any packet destined for the 207.171.0.0 and 72.21.0.0 subnet will exit my Mac via the wireless to the DSL while my day to day stuff will continue to use my ethernet port and my cable connection.

Works well, in fact I have 500 meg or so going up right now as I type this post. Works great, lasts a long time.. assuming I put it all in a batch file or script that loads each time I boot up

So now I have a failover for my cable connection, a 2nd link for high speed uploads and a way to keep my uploads from screwing around with my downloads. All for the princely sum of 24 dollars a month in addition to my cable bill.

”“” end of post “”“

I should say that the new beta 2 of Snitch is way cool. They really made some cool improvements to the interface. Now you can get alot more detail and be more granular on the filters. The best feature is the network monitor that can be visible or not. You see the connection history and the activity on a graph or copy it to clip board with numbers.

September 21, 2007

Cheap Backups

Posted in Commentary, OSX Software, OSX Technical at 6:50 pm by Michael Sweeney Media

I was grateful the last few weeks that I had some good backups of my data and that I had it in several places. While I was at Photoshop World, I needed access to some of my PSD files for trying out some of the CS techniques in the evenings. So I went to VPN (I use Monowall as my firewall which supports PPP VPNs) into my iMac and nothing was on the other end. Hmmm says he… this is not good says I. So I had my better half be my eyes and hands and while the Mac would give the single bong, only a black screen met her eyes. So I had no access to the files on the iMac nor on the external HD attached to the iMac. But I had been testing using Amazon’s S3 servers to backup my phototshop files. I was able to get to them using Jungledisk and download several of the files I needed via my Sprint EVDO card (the stupid hotel wanted 15 bucks a day for internet).

Now the biggest issue with any online backup is performance and cost. I have been able to upload to Amazon’s S3 servers at the capped 500Kbps and my downloads have been typical of any high performance site. The cost? Well, to upload 3 gig of data and to download about 500 meg this month, cost me a grand total of 58 CENTS. Thats right, about half a buck plus cost of Jungledisk which was around twenty bucks for a licensed version. The FTP program Transmit now supports S3 servers so if I had waited just a few days, I could be piggybacked on my copy of Transmit but I’ve spent a lot more on a lot less over the years.

The same amount of data stored at GoDaddy would have cost me around $3.50 and Bingo would have cost about $4.00 so 58 cents is a deal and a half. The data on Amazon’s servers is in their normal production datacenters and it’s encrypted before it gets to the servers. So far as I know, there is not a size limit other than the pain of your wallet being emptied 🙂 A word to remember is “WebDAV” which is what all of this is based on. Also, Amazon has some fun reading materials and examples ready to go at the S3 Developers Connection.

Here is a very good piece at webpronews.com from Jeremy Zawodny, who is someone who replaced his home backup servers with Amazon’s S3

Here is Amazon’s own pricing model for S3 Storage

Storage
$0.15 per GB-Month of storage used

Data Transfer
$0.10 per GB – all data transfer in

$0.18 per GB – first 10 TB / month data transfer out
$0.16 per GB – next 40 TB / month data transfer out
$0.13 per GB – data transfer out / month over 50 TB

Data transfer “in” and “out” refers to transfer into and out of Amazon S3.
Data transferred between Amazon S3 and Amazon EC2 is free of charge

Requests
$0.01 per 1,000 PUT or LIST requests
$0.01 per 10,000 GET and all other requests*
* No charge for delete requests

Storage and bandwidth size includes all file overhead.

(Amazon S3 is sold by Amazon Web Services LLC.)

Amazon’s design behind their S3 service is very interesting in their approach. I really like the idea of lots of cheap servers with the intent they will fail frequently but they are so cheap to replace, it doesnt matter much. I know more than a few large scale networks that would do well to take some of these lessons to heart and forgo the very expensive solutions they have in place.

“Amazon S3 was built to fulfill the following design requirements:

* Scalable: Amazon S3 can scale in terms of storage, request rate, and users to support an unlimited number of web-scale applications. It uses scale as an advantage: Adding nodes to the system increases, not decreases, its availability, speed, throughput, capacity, and robustness.

* Reliable: Store data durably, with 99.99% availability. There can be no single points of failure. All failures must be tolerated or repaired by the system without any downtime.

* Fast: Amazon S3 must be fast enough to support high-performance applications. Server-side latency must be insignificant relative to Internet latency. Any performance bottlenecks can be fixed by simply adding nodes to the system.

* Inexpensive: Amazon S3 is built from inexpensive commodity hardware components. As a result, frequent node failure is the norm and must not affect the overall system. It must be hardware-agnostic, so that savings can be captured as Amazon continues to drive down infrastructure costs.

* Simple: Building highly scalable, reliable, fast, and inexpensive storage is difficult. Doing so in a way that makes it easy to use for any application anywhere is more difficult. Amazon S3 must do both. ”

September 17, 2007

Lessons of Windows

Posted in Commentary, OSX Software, OSX Technical at 6:36 pm by Michael Sweeney Media

Well, my iLife8 upgrade went much like my Windows upgrades. Half worked and the other half needed to be hacked into place . Not the typical high quality Apple style of software installation. Neither iPhoto worked right or iDVD. In fact, iDVD did not work at all.. just bounced a few times and that was it. No error message, no crash, no warning, nothing at all.

The iPhoto was more tricky since it appeared to work until I wanted to test the export function. Like it was not there at all. I mean, I could select it but zippo happened when I clicked. This one I had an idea about it and my idea was a conflict with one of the iPhoto plugins I use. This leads to a problem with Apple’s upgrade. They leave an open architecture for plugins, then they change it ALOT and never check or warn the user that the plugins need to be disabled. Most Apple users are clueless to what a plugin is or even where to go to change them. I didnt know where the iPhoto plugins are but I found a great link and blog entry on this very item at www.slivermac.com. They have some great directions there for fixing this problem. In my case, I deleted one of the new files from the upgrade by mistake so I had to use Pacifist to get the new file off the install DVD and put it back since reinstalling was not a good option.

So in about 30 minutes, I had iPhoto’s flickr plugin removed and a plugin from a FTP file archive script I had tried AND I replaced the old Apple FileExporter.iPhotoExporter plugin which conflicts with the new version called FileExporter2.iPhotoExporter plugin. Way to go Apple, this is typical of Mickysoft, not Apple.

Here is copy of the directions from silvermac.com
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Just figured out another thing you can do (thanks Terence) – open Finder, go to Applications and right click on the iPhoto icon, then select Get info.

http://www.silvermac.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/disable.jpg

In the info window expand the plugins menu and disable the suspecting plug-in. Go one at a time, restart iPhoto and try export. Once you figured out which one is the troublemaker, select it and click Remove. Restart iPhoto and enjoy.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The iDVD was interesting, Google had a Apple support page on this right at the very top which tells me that there is whole lotta of borked iDVD apps out there. The end result was having to remove the old templates and reinstall them. I guess with the upgrade from 5 to 6 and now to 7 is too much for Apple to account for. My Mini which has only ever known version 6 upgraded just fine. My iMac which did the 5 to 6 shuffle borked on the 7 upgrade. A few minutes deleting the old templates and a few more putting them back off the DVD and life was good. Now, as a long time Windows sufferer, this was a pretty mild case of installationborking but to Apple users, more so the new switchers who have their heads filled with Apple perfection, this is not acceptable at all.

Here is a reprint of Apple’s directions to get iDVD working again.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Issue or symptom

iDVD ’08 may unexpectedly quit when opened for the first time, after installation.

Affected products:

iDVD ’08
Solution

Have your iLife ’08 installation disc nearby before performing the following steps.

Erase the following folders from your hard drive:
/Library/Application Support/iDVD/Themes/iDVD 1
/Library/Application Support/iDVD/Themes/iDVD 2
/Library/Application Support/iDVD/Themes/iDVD 3
/Library/Application Support/iDVD/Themes/iDVD 4

Erase the following folder from your home directory:
~/Library/Application Support/iDVD/Installed Themes
~/Library/Caches/com.apple.idvd
Note: The tilde (~) represents your home directory.

Reopen iDVD ’08, create a new project and wait for the Updating themes progress bar to complete before quitting the application again. You only need to do this once.
To Reinstall Themes 1-4:

Insert the iLife ’08 installation disc.
Open the iLife ’08 installer package.
In the Installation Type window, select Customize.
Expand the iDVD checkbox and make sure iDVD Extra Content is selected.
Deselect all other checkboxes and proceed with the installation.
or
Open iDVD ’08 and open a project.
Click Themes.
From the Themes drop-down menu, choose Old Themes.
Select any of the faded-out theme thumbnails.
Follow the onscreen instructions to install all of the themes originally erased by using Software Update or the iLife ’08 installation disc
~~~~~~~~~~

In my case, these directions worked perfectly and I now have a happy iDVD app again.

September 8, 2007

Home at Last

Posted in Commentary, OSX Software, OSX Technical at 10:46 pm by Michael Sweeney Media

Well, after five hours, two bottles of water, a large diet coke, one burger and one Starbucks triple shot , I’m home. The drive is not too bad unless it’s 105 in the shade and then it really sucks because some part of you will be in the sun and roasting even with the AC cranked up in the car. The good news was I missed the closing of the 91 freeway last night and the closing of the 15 today which would have really made the drive miserable.

My camera in my Razor takes better pictures than I give it credit for. I wanted some pictures of the large prints I have written about but the handlers of the George and Photoshop world were very fussy about people using their DSLR to take pictures of someone’s artwork. But the camera phone didnt seem to count as a real camera so here are some shots. Each of the prints were printed on an Epson printer using pigment inks. Each was made up from several images “stitched” together and then enlarged either using CS2/CS3 or one of the many enlarging applications such as Upsize, Genuine Factals, Blowup or Photozoom. George had an interesting slide where he compared four of the methods of enlarging next to each other. One of them was using Photoshop and not going in 10% increments but all at once. There was very little difference that we could see, very little difference. George did admit that in some circumstances, one of the aftermarket packages might work better but he is a big fan of Photoshop’s own Bicubic Smoother for upscaling an image.

large-prints1-resized.jpg

The giraffe print was made from 6 hand held shots.

large-print2.jpg

The long print in the foreground was of sunflowers and was amazing to see in person. As I said, each of these pictures were taken with my Razor camera phone. If I had an iPhone, they would have looked better but, I’m looking at getting one of those new and shiny iMacs instead.

In the same class, George made a point of the need to use profiled paper along with profiling your monitor. I happen to use a Huey which was mentioned to be adequate given the cheap price (around 100 bucks). Printer profiles are not that cheap but there are some online services that will profile any paper/ink you have for around 40 bucks.

http://www.lightflare.com

http://www.cathyprofiles.com

Are two that he mentioned by name and I personally have heard good things about cathyprofiles.com myself but I have never used them, yet.

George also went into some detail on mounting and presentation of large images. He is not a big fan of the normal frame and glass since it will cost soooo much and not always work well. He showed using a hanging method much like hanging drapes and he covered using canvas wrapped around a frame. Gatorboard was another recommendation. He also showed some techniques to add a 3D effect that looks like a cut grove in the matt around the print. Very effective at punching up the image.

Once I try it myself and get the details straight since it’s one of those things NOT in the book, I will post directions here.

A book I bought, I can not say enough good things about for anyone wanting to shoot studio style images on the cheap, very cheap even. Go get a copy of “Low Budget Shooting” and find a local kite shop supplier.

September 6, 2007

Photoshop World or My Brain is FULL

Posted in Commentary, OSX Software, OSX Technical at 4:02 pm by Michael Sweeney Media

It’s only day two of my trip to Photoshop world and my brain is completely full at this point. It’s really not fair to expect the common man (or woman) to absorb everything thrown at them over the period of three days. And even with the cool book of all the notes and slides, alot is said that never makes it into the book. I did two outstanding classes this morning. But before I go into that, I should mention that after my third round trip from the Luxor to the 2nd floor in the Mandalay Bay conference center, I’m beat. It is a long walk and the casinos are designed not to make it easier to get in and out. I have included a picture of the Luxor which is where I am staying since the next option was the MGM which is even further away. And remember, it’s 95 degrees at 10:30 pm so it’s not a real pleasant walk outside which means cutting through several casinos.

dsc-0019-luxor1.jpg

This is the registration desk for the Luxor and it gives the flavor of the place. The Bay is much nicer but also twice the price. Something to remember when you book your own visit next year.

Registration went quickly this AM given that there were so many of us. The lines opened at 7:00am and I got there at 8:30 and was out of the lines by 9. Buying the upgraded “Pro” package helped since I just had to get my nifty shoulder bag filled with goodies and leave.

.dsc-0027-reg1.jpg

The line for us “Pros” was much shorter than the common folk 🙂

Anyways.. back to the classes. I did two classes as I mentioned, the first being taught by George Lepp and called “Pre Photoshop or Get it right from the start” What an amazing class chocked full of information. This was geared to the photographer who uses Photoshop as a tool just like the camera or a lens. George is a firm believer as I am, in getting as much right as possible in the camera and then using the best tool for the final tasks even if it’s not Photoshop. We went over shooting LARGE prints, like over 20 FEET long, panoramic, HDR and depth of field in large prints. We hit on using Photoshop Photomerge, Photomatix, Panaroma maker, different types of sensors and more. He gave a short but very lucid description on why megapixels are not created even since the sensor size is not the same across the board and why we should care. He covered how to clean a sensor without destroying it in the process and his pet peeve of people not using tripods. He demo’ed using a technique by a friend of mine, Jack Davis, which uses layers to make a cool HDR image which Jack calls “Blend If”. easy technique that took less than five minutes to make the HDR but I have to admit that Photomatix was very, very slick for making the HDR.

My second class was with Dave Cross, the crazy Canadian from Photoshop TV. He did a class called “Photoshop Finishing Touches” and was the poster child of stuff not making it into the notes since he is such a shy introvert, NOT!! He has a wicked sense of humor and is very entertaining to listen to and to watch. He can present a complicated subject in simple pieces and do without seeming to try. We covered enhancing your image with some “colour” punch (he claims the Canadians always put in a U in the word“ using LAB and not the typical RGB. Fast and effective is the best way to describe it. His quote on the idea of flattening your image is that ”flatting an image is the same as building legos with superglue“ so something close to that. And even then, it might not be his quote but he repeated in todays class. We went over how to darken edges of a print, how to make a gallery type of border with text and lines and more.

After that, I needed fuel and tried a burger and fries at the food court for 17 bucks.. I tossed the fries but the burger was not bad at all considering. Then it was off to the show. The shows are always fun and you can learn some cool stuff if you dig around. Now, these shows are NOT COMDEX or CES but small shows. Dont expect much more than a pen but you can get someone to talk your ear off about the newest Epson printer or a cool new RAID like device. I did get some great demos on the Epson R1400 which is the direct replacement for my trusty but tired 1280 and I’m seriously thinking about the R1800 which is a pigment based printer with glosser. Both are under 600, the R1400 is something like 350ish depending on where and when. Odd thing was Epson did not have much of their scanners there.

dsc-0031-show11.jpg

I did find a cool widget that looked like a RAID drive but could use any type of SATA drive in any combo. They had mixed 100 gig, 160, 250 gig drives at the same time and then ran a movie while they pulled drives, mixed in new drives and generally impressed the crowd. USB only which kinda of bites since I prefer firewire but it’s very interesting stuff. This thing or ”storage robot” is called “DROBO” and is from Data robotics, Inc in Mountain View CA. The price was about 450 minus drives but since you can buy SATA drives very cheap now days, it would be very easy to get a TB of data without the risk of spanning.

dsc-0034-raid1.jpg

Another very interesting show was called “Sitegrinder” which is a plugin for Photoshop that will let you build a website from within PS and have standards compliant code output. It looked to be very easy to use and I plan on grabbing the demo and trying it.

OnOneSoftware has some new way cool tools for Photoshop called “PhotoTools” and “PhotoTune 2” The tuning software was amazing to watch for anyone who has restored faded or color shifted images. Very fast and flexible. They also have a set of frames, 4,000 frames to be exact called “PhotoFrame 3.1” which was nice if you need frames and nowdays, frames are hot so you DO need them. Even if you dont think so yet 🙂

My friends at Lulu Press were there talking up their new site and photobook tools. They admitted to me that Blurb is driving them to expand their offerings which made sense since for the past year I personally have preferred Blurb for photobooks over Lulu even though I published my first complete book on Lulu.

And if I had the extra cash, I would run up to the Lepp Institute for some fine art printing instruction or some digital black and white. yes, the same Lepp who taught my first class today runs this school. Super teachers, very personal instruction and high quality expectations leads to building up your skills very quickly.

Anyways..; gotta run back for my 6pm class on “Printing Large” by George Lepp. Should be good a time.

September 5, 2007

Photoshop World Las Vegas Style 2007

Posted in Commentary, OSX Software, OSX Technical at 10:20 pm by Michael Sweeney Media

I made it, in spite of traffic, dismal weather and assorted ills, I made to Las Vegas to attend this years Photoshop World. I signed up for the Epson Print Academy pre-conference class and it was great. It was packed and I was talking to a PW rep who told me that the entire show had sold out which is around 4000-4500 seats total. Each class will be packed so arrive early and be prepared to sit “coach style”. The Epson class was taught by three outstanding instructors, Jeff Schewe, John Paul Caponigro and Andrew Rodney. And what a cast they are, lots of interplay and comments here and there which all add to the fun. The information came fast and furious and they had not given out the handouts we all expected. They did have most of the information on a website but I took notes anyways and I’m glad I did because of the information spoken about, was not on any hand out. Still, what is there is amazing in both quantity and quality. We did get the printed slides from all the other pre-conferences which covers layers, LAB in depth, Digital Photography Workshop, Channels and more. There were a couple of live shoot classes which I had not signed up for which is a good thing since I already had too much stuff to lug around. The rooms were nice enough as conference rooms go and many convention centers could take some lessons from the Mandalay Bay conference center. They really know how to pull these things together well. There is even a half way decent but over priced food court not too far from the classes. Of course, this all made my digs at the Luxor seem very dated and a bit worn. The Noodle House by the Casino makes an excellent Spring roll with sirloin and asparagus tips in the case you want some decent food on the way out at the end of the day.

epson-title.jpg

The class covered an amazing amount of material ranging from dealing with raw files to printing fine art. Jeff did a demo on how to optimize your print for inkjet printing and I was floored by the results and how he got them. I mean, he really fleshed out some ideas I had in my own head from my experiments and results like how much to sharpen for printing. And sharping vs. large prints vs. small prints. The demo where he sharped a print way beyond what we all thought was reasonable was a killer demo since at the end, he printed out the print and it looked spectacular. And he explanation of “why” made very good sense. Rodney covered a crash course in color management and why we should all care… alot about it. John covered fine art printing and the differences of the old skool thinking and new thinking of imagery and printing and photography. He really got you to think in a different ways if you listened with an open
mind to what he had to say. He also had an amazing action for setting up his raw images for multi-use with minimal fuss. Can we say A-R but he does make a twisted sense when you study what he says. To set up the layers grouped by global, local and printing folders so you very quickly adjust or change something is a very good idea.

The idea of using 25% zoom as the default viewing while sharpening is also a very good trick from Jeff. The demo on flipping color to B/W was very interesting since this is something I personally like to experiment with of late.

Funny thing was there was very little about Epson during all this. I mean, Jeff freely admitted that he does not buy ink and paper since Epson gives it all to him but there was very little “sales” during all the demos and lectures. So in a way it was very refreshing but I kinda wish for some hand outs on the new Epson printers and inks. I guess I can get all that tomorrow at the main show.

epson-fine-art.jpg

Sites to go to for good info are:

DigitalDog

Photoshopnews.com

Schewphoto.com

JohnPaulCaponigro.com (fine art)

April 1, 2007

Blue Teeth and Docking

Posted in OSX Software, OSX Technical at 10:33 am by Michael Sweeney Media

Blue teeth? oh yeah, it’s Blue TOOTH 🙂 I got a Motorola H700 Bluetooth adapter for my cell phone but it works very well with my Powerbook and my iMac. As a test, I configured the headset in bluetooth and then I power up my EVDO card and logged into the internet in the Santa Monica mountains. Great view by the way 🙂 Then I logged into Skype and configured Skype to use the headset for audio in and out. Voila!! I was able to make a very usable call from my Powerbook over EVDO using the headset and walk away for about 20 feet without any issues. The only thing was to remember that the paring code was 0000 for the headset.

I did the same on my iMac and made a call to a friend in England using Skype and the headset. The voice quality with the H700 is very good, the audio speaker in my ear is a bit weak and the headset does pick up surrounding noise very easily. But, it works well and the price is right for the cordless freedom.

I also found a cool piece of software from Stunt Software called “overflow” which is a dock extender. I tend to accumulate icons in my dock since I “need” everything at the ready and I dislike having to dig down in the application directory for the application. But then sometimes I find an app I had forgotten about.

overflow-resized.png

I really like this app over some other extenders because it is very, very easy to use. It also is very non-intrusive unless I need to use it unlike some of the paged docks I’ve seen. The price is right, not free but at 14 bucks, it’s very reasonable for something I use daily and it does not cause me any problems.

Another app I have been using and getting accustomed to using is called “Goodpage” which is a webpage editor. Now, I know there are LOTS of editors out there abd I normally use TextMate to do my editing but I had a need to edit a site with way too many tables and not enough time to redo it all in CSS. Goodpage is an interesting editor that gives two panes, one large pane and one flyout pane and either can show the rendered page, code, layout, nested tables in a graphical layout etc. This flyout with a way to highlight an element and then have Goodpage find and highlight the code was a lifesaver in this table madness. While I like it, it is pricy at 90 dollars so I am not sure if it’s worth it or not. But, it does not cost you anything to run the 30 day demo.

March 11, 2007

Scanners

Posted in OSX Software, OSX Technical at 8:04 am by Michael Sweeney Media

No, no the B movie from 1981 with no names as the actors and actresses. No offense but none have broke out of the B class based on this film. I am talking about scanners as in my new Epson 4990 USB/Firewire scanner. I have a Canon all in one with a flatbed scanner but I have been working with alot of old pictures and I needed (I wanted? the line blurs at times between “need” and “want”) a better scanner which could also handle film and slides. So after quite a bit of searching around, I decided on the Epson 4990 photoscanner. It is a compromise but a good one. A dedicated slide scanner like the Nikon 9000ED but at 400 US dollars vs. 2,000 for the Nikon, I decided I could live with the differences.

The scanner comes with Epson’s own software with digital ICE and a dedicated version of SilverFast which only works with this Epson. I bought VueScan to fill in the blanks between these two packages but I have to say that for out of the box, the Epson software is pretty nice given their lousy track record with Apple products. I guess that stands to reason since they saw fit to include a firewire port on this scanner along with the typical USB port. This can be very important as a single USB1 device on a USB2 hub will drag all USB links down to USB1 speed 😦 I h ad not known this until very recently. So my new scanner is running firewire and works perfectly on it.

I did some test scans with a picture that is about 2×3 inches and was taken in 1946 of a motor boat (yatch) that my dad worked on as a kid. I started with the default 300 dpi scan but went with 48 bit color depth to get as much detail as possible from such a small image. I then scanned at 400 dpi, 600 dpi, 800 dpi and 1200 dpi. The differences between the 300 and the 1200 scan were astounding. I could have gone higher but you hit a line where the file gets bigger but very little new detail shows up. For this test, the file started at 4meg in TIFF format and stopped at 70meg. The 1200 dpi scan printed very nicely at 8×10 given it started as a 2×3 print.

Here are two scans side by side to show the differences. The left side is 300dpi which is the typical home scanner. On the left side is the 1200 dpi scan which I have zoomed in a couple of steps to really see the lift preserver details. I matched the zoom with the 300 dpi scan and you can see how much the 300 dpi scan degrades compared to the 1200 dpi. For getting and preserving details, getting as much detail is the name of the game and this picture shows why very clearly. This test scan is a raw scan from the Epson without any correction or sharpening.

300 DPI vs 1200DPI

The scanner has a visible line down the top of the lid to see where the scanner is at during the scan which is a nice feature for me with the scanner sitting lower than the desk. It is also very quiet during the scan. The lid has it’s own scanner for scanning film which makes it a bit heavy and you need to remember not to slam it or let it drop. The scanner will handle slides and color film with plastic adapters. It has adapter for medium format film and up to 8×10 film. I have not yet tested any of my slides but based on what I see so far, I dont think it will be much of a disappointment. Most of the new Epson scanners have been rated very well by photographers.

So far the software and the scanner has been perfect, no errors, no crashed apps etc. I would highly recommend this scanner to anyone who has the need (or want) for a high quality scanner for high quality scans of images.

February 28, 2007

VoIP, EVDO and Project Management

Posted in OSX Software, OSX Technical at 9:02 pm by Michael Sweeney Media

While I have not written much in the past weeks, things have been very busy over here. Aside from the 17 month old puking her guts out for five days, I have managed to find some new toys to play with and spent more time with my Photoshop tutorials.

The biggest toy is the addition of a new Epson 4990 flatbed scanner to aid me in my quest to scan all my dad’s old pictures and restore them to a iPhoto book (or other book). Unlike Windows, the scanner just worked when plugged into the iMac via firewire. It does have USB but in this case, I wanted firewire since a USB hub will slow to the slowest USB device. The scanner comes with ICE software and some decent Epson software but I bought Vuescan for it for the ability to save the scans as RAW output. A interesting sidebar on this topic is that Adobe LIghtroom reads the RAW files but Apple’s Aperture does not. I have Aperture but it’s things like this that keep me from using with any consistency. How can Apple developers not support one of the biggest and most popular scanner packages for the Mac? Where the hell is the logic in that? Idiots..

I have run some test scans through the scanner and it is very impressive to what it can capture. The biggest scans I did came in at 900meg but that was me fiddling with the controls and pressing the envelope on scanning a 3×3 picture 🙂 The scanner is pretty quiet for what it does, a but bulky since it has a separate film scanner in the cover. DId I mention it will scan film up to an 8×10 neg? Slides, no problem, medium format? no problem, color film like C41? no problem, this baby does it all and then some. It has a nice Cylon looking strip across the top that glows blue and tracks the scanner head as it moves so it’s very easy to see where you are in the scanning process. It has a nice well built heft to the unit which is a welcomed change from my HP scanners which felt a bit flimsy.

I also bought the new book called “Scanning Negatives and Slides: Digitizing Your Photographic Archives” and I really like it aside from some publishing faux-pas. I got mine at Amazon at something like 30 percent off so shop around. The ISBN number is 1-933952-01-6. The authors cover scanning in great detail and cover some of the more arcane items and techniques. I have not seen this much solid info in one place and as well presented. It’s very readable and concise with excellent pictures throughout the book. The book itself is very high quality stock with a good coating to give a nice finish to the pages.

I just got the newest ExpressFlash EVDO cards from Sprint and I plan to test them on the MBP once I get the things activated on a #@*@( WIndows machine. Sprint STILL does not officially support OSX unlike Verizon and things like this drive me nuts.

I also just set up my toy-like VoIP phone from Vonage. It’s not Mac specific but it works well with the Airport and my Monowall firewall. The phone is based on 802.11 but only hold five SSIDs. Dumb idea and dumber is the orange screen. Ugh.. nasty ugly looking but then the phone does in fact work and with a good connection, has a quality like a average cell call. Not clear but not too garbled either. Vonage also sends a WAV file when you get a voice mail message and since they stuck with WAV, it plays fine on the Mac. None of the Windows Media Player crap, probably due to the licensing costs, not any feelings toward the Mac. Call anywhere in the US and parts of Europe for twenty bucks a month. Not a bad deal for being able to carry a working phone in the bunkers we call offices here.

I finally broke down and bought my copy of ProjectX after my last beta died. I had hoped from some kind of thank you discount for the beta testers but nothing doing. Full price will do yah just fine. But work paid for it this time so it was a minor detail. I tried almost all of the available PM tools for OSX and this was really the best. I had one company call me to beg me to buy theirs and when I mentioned I was testing ProjectX, they just kind of sighed and hung up on me 🙂 The drag and drop magic is really something to behold for knocking out a quick project map.

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