Digital Innovations
Hard Disk Survival Tactics And Beyond

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"Sometime you get the bear and sometimes it gets you--old."--
Colorado Mountain Man expression

One of the many indisputable rules of the digital imaging universe is that if you have a hard disk, sooner or later you're going to have hard disk problems. While most photographers would never tolerate the kind of problems in our camera equipment that regularly occurs with computers, hard disk problems seem almost inevitable-if you use your computer more than casually. However, unlike the photo lab film processor that eats (what you are sure are) award winning slides, there are software remedies available that can help fix hard disk problems and resurrect the digital images that you just spent five hours creating.

One of the most popular hard disk repair packages available is Norton Utilities, which is available for Microsoft Windows and the Mac OS. The latest Mac OS version, Norton Utilities 4.0, is now PowerPC native, which means significant performance improvements. Version 4.0 supports the new HFS+ file structure that Apple Computer rolled out for the OS 8 and also features enhanced SCSI/IDE drive support. Norton Utilities is really a collection of utilities and all of my favorites, Disk Doctor, Speed Disk, and FileSaver have updated interfaces.
The new version of Disk Doctor, the most valuable part of Norton Utilities, checks for more different kinds of disk errors. One of the biggest mistakes many users make is that they only run Norton Utilities when their operating system gives them an error message. I recommend that you run Disk Doctor whenever you encounter a system freeze or have to "force quit" an application and restart your computer. I've found that it's much easier to fix small problems on a regular basis than a big one every now and them. To learn more about Norton Utilities, call Symantec at (408) 253-9600 or visit their web site at www.symantec.com.

All of these thoughts were heavy on my mind, when the hard disk in my Mac OS computer, Harry, decided to "go south." Sometimes, no matter what you do, your hard disk needs to be replaced or just erased and reformatted. In those extreme cases, you need to be prepared with a back-up strategy, something that will be covered later. Fortunately I had backed up my drive an hour before the disaster occurred. While thinking about my problem, I consulted Kevin Elliott of Cies-Sexton Visual in Denver. As general manager of a large service bureau and photo lab, Elliott works with many different kinds of computers, which in turn means he deals with many different kinds of problems. One of the tricks he mentioned to me is the use of two hard disks inside a Mac OS computer to form a pseudo-RAID (Random Array of Inexpensive Drives) system. In a true RAID, the two drives "mirror" one another: What you write on one drive is also simultaneously written to the other. If one drive fails, the other drive has up-to-date data and can be used to restore the original drive.

In Elliott's system, a second drive is installed in your Mac OS computer (if there's room) and a second System Folder along with a copy of Norton Utilities is installed on that drive. His idea is that if one hard drive fails, the computer will automatically boot from the second hard disk, and you can use the hard disk utilities on drive two to fix drive one. You can install other stuff on drive two, and Elliott uses his extra disk for programs and files as well as using as a "Scratch Disk" that Adobe Photoshop requires when working with large image files. Sorry PC users, Elliott tells me this won't work with Microsoft windows.

And now, here's my monthly look at some of the latest digital imaging hardware and software.

Image Acquisition Tools. One of the fastest ways to acquire a digital image is to use a digital camera or back such as MegaVision's new S3 that's been designed for medium format cameras, including Bronica, Hasselblad, and Mamiya. The new back has a 3000x2000 pixel resolution CCD sensor and will produce 36-bit RGB images as 18MB TIFF files in RGB format. The back is slightly smaller than a standard Hasselblad back and weighs 13 oz. Images can be captured at approximately one frame per sec. The S3 back is priced at $23,000-$27,000, depending on options, and includes MegaVision's PhotoShoot and PhotoBatch software. PhotoShoot is designed to process one image at a time and captures photo sessions onto a virtual contact sheet. It also features a built-in light meter function, CMYK conversion, unsharp masking, and file preparation capabilities. PhotoBatch processes lists of image files and allows each image on the list to be cropped, sized, sharpened, and color balanced. For more information, contact MegaVision at (805) 964-1400 or visit their web site at www.mega-vision.com.

MegaVision digital cameras and backs are exclusively distributed by Calumet International, who recently introduced their first view camera designed specifically for digital imaging. The new Cambo Ultima has all-aluminum construction along with a depth adjustment mechanism that allows the user to position the CCD chip of any high-end digital camera back in the proper location for maximum performance. Precise alignment of the "chip plane" prevents the center of the image from moving out of focus when swings or tilts are used. The Ultima's dual-range focusing feature allows for both rapid coarse and precision fine focusing and a "virtual pivot" design provides fully yaw-free variable axis tilts. The Ultima offers rise and fall, tilt, swing, and lateral shifts and it's compatible with backs from Better Light, EyeLike, Mega-Vision, Leaf, and PhaseOne. The camera will convert to 8x10 and rollfilm formats and lenses as wide as 47mm can be used without using a recessed lensboard. The camera costs $3995 and has a 300mm monorail length for digital photography and a 480mm length for shooting film. For more information, call Calumet at (888) 280-3686 or visit their web site at www.calumetphoto.com.

When you want to load a digital photograph from a FlashPix CD or one of Seattle FilmWorks new Picture on Disk CDs, a fast CD-ROM drive can be a big help. Memorex recently launched a series of speedy drives at reasonable prices that will make even the thriftiest digital imager smile. The new Memorex CD-362E, CD-402E, and CD-482E feature maximum transfer rates of 36x, 40x, and 48x. Transfer rate measures the average number of bytes per unit of time passing between a disc and your computer's Central Processing Unit (CPU). Priced at $79, $99, and $129 respectively, the new drives feature an ATAPI (AT Attachment Packet Interface) Enhanced IDE interface for easy set up. Supported formats include CD-R, CD-RW, CD Audio, CD-ROM, CD-I, and Photo CD. All drives have analog line-out connectors on the rear of the units and headphone jacks on the front panels. For more information on Memorex products, call (800) 636-8352 or visit their web site at www.memorex.com.

Digital Artistry For Everyone. Fans of the artistic approach to creating photographs are going to love Professor Franklin's Instant Photo Artist. Using an intuitive and great looking user interface, the program's Art Studio module lets you turn your photographs into images that turn of the century pictorialists would have envied. You can start with any digital image. The program can acquire them from a file or your hard disk or from a scanner, digital camera, or any TWAIN compliant device you've got connected. This under $40 program is fully compatible with Kodak FlashPix and Photo CD discs. Art Studio starts by opening an outline version of your photographs, then lets you select the tools to apply the artistic touch to that outline. Some of the digital tools include paint brushes, crayons, pencils, air brushes, and markers, all of which work like the real thing. You can also select the style of how those tools will work, from choices including Monet, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Acrylic, Mosaic, and Watercolor. The program's Design Studio lets you take your artistic creations and, using built-in templates, produce greeting cards, newsletters, labels, calendars, postcards, and other desktop publishing projects. For more information, contact Streetwise Software at (800) 743-6765 or visit their web site at www.swsoftware.com.

It's rare that I find two wonderful digital imaging programs in the same month, but ArcSoft's PhotoMontage is one of the truly original Windows-based graphics products to come along in a long time. Starting with one of your original photographs, PhotoMontage lets you create a montage that is composed of thousands of tiny micro-images. The package includes a library of 200,000 tiny images and hundreds of your own photos can be added to personalize the micro-image database. No hard disk space is gobbled up since PhotoMontage pulls the little photos off of its CD-ROM disc and ArcSoft offers additional libraries on specific topics such as sports, nature, and animals. Images for manipulation can be acquired directly through scanners or digital cameras or loaded from a file, including Kodak's Photo CD. PhotoMontage even lets you tweak the acquired image by cropping and adjusting brightness and contrast. All of the controls in the interface are so intuitive and obvious I never had to look at a User's Guide to figure out what to do next. Once you have your original image looking the way you want, the program turns it into a montage with a few mouse clicks. You can save your finished montage in many popular graphic file formats or output the image using a desktop color printer. If you would like to print full-size posters of your montage, you can use ArcSoft's poster printing service. The company offers a direct link to their special printing services on their web site. For more information about PhotoMontage, visit ArcSoft on the web at www.arcsoft.com.

Utility Of The Month. ACD Systems, a Canadian company that makes interesting photographic-oriented software, announced Image-Fox, a $30 utility that enhances the functionality of any Windows program's standard File-Open or File-Save dialog box. While Adobe Photoshop's Open dialog box includes a preview window that's supposed to display a thumbnail of the highlighted file, it doesn't always do this with every file type. ImageFox displays previews of every file type I tried and adds this functionality to every Windows program you have--not just Photoshop. The utility supports 17 image formats, including Kodak Photo CD, animated GIF, and multi-page TIFF files. You can also automatically play WAV sound files as they are selected. In addition, ImageFox lets you enlarge the dialog box to any size you like and (ala Action Files on the Mac OS) adds a tool bar that gives quick access to any "favorite" folders you define. Your Open dialogs will now display the size and date of a selected file and you can also view and edit file descriptions. ImageFox lets you save your preferred dialog size and list view mode independently for each application. For more information about Image-Fox or to download a 30 day trial copy, visit their web site at www.acdsystems.com.

Output--It Doesn't Get Much Better. Those of us who have been impressed with the output from Alps Electric's MD-1300 will be interested to learn that the company has raised the bar with its new MD-5000 Desk Top Print Shop 2400 dpi printer. The MD-5000 uses the same kind of Micro-Dry inks as the MD-1300 and output is spectacular--especially for black and white images that contain no hint of color pollution. The paper used for 2400dpi output is Alps new Vphoto paper that lacks the heft of their other photo paper and has a glossy--but not too glossy--surface. The MD-50000 is designed to print letter-sized photo quality output on virtually any printable surface, including textured and coated papers, transparencies, card stock, and embossed foil. You can install up to seven ink cartridges at one time, so you don't have to swap cartridges if you want to use Alps metallic inks in addition to their photo inks. The MD-5000 is compatible with Mac OS and Windows computers and a USB (Universal Serial Bus) kit is optional. The MD-5000 costs $599 and is bundled with four standard ink cartridges, Vphoto paper, and reversible cartridges that allow you to print black and white documents more economically than Alps other models. A dye sublimation upgrade kit is available for printing continuous tone lab quality photographic images. For more information about Alps printers, contact them at (800) 825-2577 or visit their web site at www.alpsusa.com.

Agfa Paper For Your Ink Jet Printer.
Agfa Desktop Products Group has announced a series of photo quality papers for color ink jet printers. The four varieties of new AgfaJet papers include Glossy Photo Inkjet Paper, PhotoPrint Paper, Premium Quality Inkjet Paper, and Transparency Inkjet Film. The papers are designed to work with many different brands of ink jet printers and come with instructions for the optimum settings needed to produce the best quality output. For users who want to check the appropriate settings for their specific printer, Agfa provides online support. Papers are available in sizes other than 81/2x11. PhotoPrint Paper, for example, is offered in 4x6" and 5.85x14" panoramic format sizes, and the Premium Quality Inkjet Paper is available in 11x17". My tests of the Premium Quality Inkjet Paper with both the Epson Stylus Color 850 and Stylus Photo 700 produced impressive photo-realistic output with rich, deep colors. For more information, about Agfa's ink jet papers, visit their website at www.agfahome.com.

Clik! Lastly this month is Iomega's serious roll-out of their Clik! removable media system for digital cameras and other handheld devices. A 40MB Clik! cartridge is so small--how small is it?--that it will fit into a slot in a plastic slide page. The disks are expected to sell for under $10 and can store 40 megapixel digital photographs (or 400 10-page Microsoft Word documents). Until manufacturers start offering cameras with built-in Clik! drives, Iomega has created a bundle for digital camera owners that consists of the Clik! mobile drive, a Flash Memory reader that connects to the drive and allows downloading images from Compact-Flash and SmartMedia memory cards, and a Clik! cartridge. The bundle has an estimated street price of $200 and is expected in the second half of 1999. For more information on Clik! visit Iomega's web site at www.iomega.com.

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