"Get on the bus, Gus"--Paul
Recently I've been
testing Apple Computer's hot new 400MHz Power Macintosh G3 computer.
With its futuristic styling the G3 is clearly designed for the next
century, but part of this approach includes a lack of "old school"
ports, connections, and amenities. There are three models of the G3,
including 300MHz, 350MHz, and 400MHz, but only the 400MHz model had
SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) as standard equipment. Even the
G3's internal hard disk is not SCSI but an IDE (Integrated Drive
Electronics) drive. Instead of the formerly standard SCSI and serial
ports, all G3s have two FireWire--a.k.a. IEEE 1394--and two USB (Universal
Serial Bus) ports which allow users to connect many different kinds
of peripherals without opening the computer's case or shutting
the system down. What's more, you can chain up to 127 USB devices
together through a single port; a thought that makes some old-time computerist's
hair turn white. The USB standard has been around for two years, but
withered because of lack of support from Microsoft. In typical Apple
fashion, the iMac made it cool, but 90 percent of all PCs sold last
year include USB ports.
If you're wondering what this port strategy change is about, it's
speed. When working with digital images you want to be able to read,
write, and print those images as fast as they can. While SCSI ports
can transfer data faster than serial, parallel, and even USB ports,
FireWire does it 10 times faster than SCSI. For a comparison of data
transfer speeds for the different kinds of ports and connections, see
the list under "How Fast Are Your Peripherals?" Apple's
port strategy may seem shortsighted to some, but they are clearly preparing
digital imagers for the future.
Making A Change. A few weeks after the G3 test unit
arrived, my Power Computing machine crashed and burned. I've had
occasional problems with this particular computer before, but now the
disadvantages of owning a seriously ill orphaned Mac OS-compatible computer
were clear. My PowerTower Pro was dead and I needed to get a new Macintosh.
Because of Apple's pricing structure for the G3 series, it didn't
make sense for me to get anything but one of these striking new blue
and white G3 computers. A 300MHz model starts at $1599, which is the
same or lower than prices for used graphics-oriented Macintosh models.
The 300MHz model was in my price range, but I needed a SCSI port to
connect my APS HyperQIC tape drive and restore files from my now dormant
A call to one of the leading Mac mail-order houses yielded a snippy
response. They would sell me a 300MHz machine but didn't know
when a SCSI card would be available for it. Another firm was less supportive.
When I told them I needed to connect my existing SCSI peripherals, they
suggested I "get a typewriter." A visit to an Apple retailer
was just as frustrating and the salesperson I spoke with was as helpful
as a vegetarian at the Trail Dust Steak House. They would sell me a
400MHz model with factory-installed SCSI but had no SCSI cards to add
this capability to a 300MHz model and "we don't have any
300MHz models in stock anyway." The best solution was to order
the computer from The Apple Store (www.apple.com/store)
who custom built a G3 to my specifications. I ordered a 300MHz model
with built-in 56K modem and Iomega Zip drive along with an Adaptec SCSI
card. Like the iMac, the G3 has no floppy disk drive. One of the best
solutions is to use Imation's external SuperDisk drive that reads
conventional 1.44MB floppy disks as well as their own proprietary 120MB
super floppies. I had them include a SuperDisk USB in the package. The
total price was under $2000 and was delivered to my front door within
Mac traditionalists will find an ADB (Apple Desktop Bus) port on all
current G3s but I have heard rumors that this will be the last computer.
Since ADB supports existing peripherals such as graphics tablets, keyboards,
and mice, I reused my old ADB keyboard and mouse. This saved me from
using a USB port that the iMac keyboard and mouse packaged with the
G3 are designed to use. The optional 56K internal modem doesn't
require a PCI slot and installing it helps makes up for the lack of
serial ports. If you require serial ports for existing devices such
as a printer or digital camera, you can install a serial port card,
such as Keyspan's SX Pro. For $179, this PCI-based serial port
card adds four serial jacks, supports higher port speeds, and emulates
a built-in Macintosh printer port. You can get more information from
Keyspan's web site at: www.keyspan.com.
How Fast Are Your Peripherals? In an ongoing search
for more speed, digital imagers have access to a surprising number of
different kinds of ports to connect their cameras, scanners, and printers
to graphics oriented computers. The following list compares various
types of peripheral connections along with their data transfer rates
in Megabytes per second (MB/s) or Megabits per second (Mb/s).
Serial port .115 Mb/s
Standard parallel port .115MB/s
USB 12 Mb/s
Enhanced Parallel Port 3MB/s
Ultra SCSI 20MB/s
Ultra2 SCSI 80MB/s
Wide Ultra3 SCSI 160MB/s
Plug-In Of The Month. This month's winner is
Auto F/X's AutoEye which is delivered in a package that includes
a Photoshop-compatible plug-in and a stand-alone application. AutoEye
uses what Auto F/X calls Intelligent Visual Imaging Technology to reclaim
the color and detail that can be lost when film or prints are digitized.
AutoEye examines and then automatically enhances digital images by providing
full spectrum color correction, along with increased color vibrancy,
contrast, and sharpness. It then rebuilds color and detail in your images
along with providing color correction, contrast, sharpness, brightness,
moiré pattern removal, despeckle, and tonal range adjustment.
Even a basic scratch and dust remover is included. In addition to the
automatic mode, a manual mode provides you with a large preview window
and sliders that let you tweak the automatic settings a bit. If you're
in a hurry, you can just drag and drop files onto the AutoEye icon.
The plug-in version supports Adobe Photoshop's Actions feature
and can batch process images from within the program. AutoEye 1.0 is
compatible with Power Macintosh and Windows 95/98/ NT computers and
has a list price of $99. For more information, visit Auto F/X's
web site at: www.autofx.com.
To Infinity...And Beyond. For the rest of the year, I'm going
to be using Digital Innovations to introduce some Y2K products and information
that may take some of the sting out of potential problems with your
computer when New Year's Day 2000 rolls around. There will be
no hysteria, no survivalist mentality, just a few tips and tools that
can help protect your computer from Y2K complications.
Bi-Com Link, Inc.'s MilleniumPlus product line combines Y2K hardware
and software solutions at reasonable prices. Three packages are available
and each one includes software along with an ISA (Industry Standard
Architecture) circuit board providing a Y2K compliant BIOS (Basic Input-Output
Systems) extension, Y2K compliant Real Time Clock (RTC), and integrated
boot virus protection. The MilleniumPlus Three is priced at $49.99 and
features a permanent Year 2000 BIOS fix, permanent Real Time Clock fix,
and protection against 99.99 percent of boot viruses. You'll be
glad to learn that no jumper setting changes are required and you don't
have to tinker with IRQ (Interrupt ReQuest) settings. The MilleniumPlus
Two costs $39.99 and features a permanent Year 2000 BIOS fix and protection
against 99.99 percent of boot viruses. The MilleniumPlus One costs $29.99
and includes a permanent Year 2000 BIOS fix. For more information about
Bi-Com Link's products, call them at (877) BIC-OM54 or visit their
web site at: www.bicomlink.com.
At the CeBIT trade show in Germany, Intelliquis International Inc. recently
launched its latest Y2K products. The new IntelliFIX 2000 product line
is an upgrade that replaces Intelliquis' fix2000 which was mentioned
in a previous column. IntelliFIX 2000 includes increased stability for
hardware testing and repair, improved software scanning, along with
a data scanner for scanning data in spreadsheet and database files.
The product line includes IntelliFIX 2000, a self-booting software utility
for diagnosing and repairing PC hardware, including BIOS and CMOS (Complimentary
Metal Oxide Semicon-ductor) real time clock. The package includes software
for testing operating system and application conflicts. IntelliFIX 2000
Pro includes the same stuff but adds a data scanner that examines each
cell in spreadsheet and database software files to locate Year 2000
date data problems. IntelliFIX 2000 Deluxe includes all of the aforementioned
software along with a ROM-based add-on circuit board for installation
in any computer with a spare ISA slot. The ISA card is a permanent,
built-in solution that repairs CMOS, BIOS, and real time clock hardware
conflicts on DOS, Windows 3.1, Windows 95, Windows NT, OS/2, UNIX, and
other PC operating systems. For information about Intelliquis'
Y2K products, call them at: (801) 990-2600 or visit their web site at:
Reading Other Computer's Disks And Discs. Like
it or not, we live in a cross-platform world. Macintosh users often
must share data with clients who use Microsoft Windows and PC users
need to send or even create data that can be accessed by Macheads. Mac
users have a jump on this situation because Apple's PC Exchange
software, that's bundled with recent versions of the Mac OS, enables
them to read and write DOS formatted media. The way Windows users can
give themselves the same capability is to use DataViz's MacOpener.
Recently, the company released version MacOpener 4.1, which is a minor
upgrade that adds Year 2000 compatibility. MacOpener lets you read,
write, and even format Mac OS disks on your Windows PC. It will also
let you read Mac formatted CD-ROMs on your Windows PC and supports Mac
formatted Zip, Jaz, SyQuest, and other SCSI, IDE, and Parallel Port
removable and fixed drives. If you like the features of MacOpener but
also receive Macintosh files via e-mail, the Internet, clients, or friends,
check out Conversions Plus. This package gives you all of MacOpener's
features plus the ability to convert word processing, spreadsheet, database,
and image formats back and forth between Windows, Macintosh, and DOS
platforms. Conversions Plus lets you view and print virtually any file
type and you can convert files while retaining your original document
formatting. It's also useful if you need to decode/decompress
e-mail attachments that show up on your screen as "garbage"
text. MacOpener runs under Windows 95, 98, and NT 4.0 and is Year 2000
compliant. For more information about DataViz's file conversion
products, visit their web site at: www.dataviz.com.
Digital Cameras: Things To Come. Canon's new
PowerShot A50 digital camera bears more than a passing resemblance to
the company's ELPH series of Advanced Photo System film cameras.
The A50 has a svelte all-metal body that is equipped with a 28-70mm
(35mm equivalent) lens and has a built-in flash. Like the ELPH, the
camera is small, measuring just 4.1x2.7x1.5", making it the smallest
and lightest zoom lens megapixel camera out there. The 1.31 pixel CCD
sensor delivers images at a resolution up to 1280x960. The A50 has an
optional 640x480 pixel resolution setting for web-based images, while
allowing more images to be captured on the 8MB CompactFlash memory card
the camera uses for image storage. Both resolutions have two JPEG compression
settings: Fine Mode (7.5:1) for higher quality images and Normal Mode
(14:1). There's a "CCD Raw" setting which permits
uncompressed images to be stored, a setting most serious digital imagers
will want to use for non-web images. The PowerShot A50 includes serial
interface cables for Macintosh and Windows computer interfaces. G3 users
will need an external adapter such as offered by Keyspan which plugs
into one of the G3 or iMac's USB ports and provides two serial
ports for connecting serial devices, such as the A50. The Canon PowerShot
A50 is due at your dealers in the second half of '99.
Also at CeBIT, Olympus unveiled a prototype of their newest digital
camera, the C-2500L. This new SLR produces images with a 2.5Mp resolution
and features a progressive scan 2/3" CCD. The camera's all-glass
3x zoom lens has the equivalent of 35-110mm on a 35mm film format. In
addition to the built-in, four mode flash, the C-2500L can connect to
and control an external flash, much like the company's D-620L.
You should expect to see the camera this summer with an expected street
price of $2000. For more information, call Olympus at (800) 347-4027
or visit their web site at: www.olympus.com/digital.
Digital Film: Long Rolls. I remember back in the '70s
when Ilford introduced 72 exposure black and white film. I can't
remember how many rolls of this thin-base film that I ruined trying
to load and process it onto the special thin-walled reels it required.
That's why I think that digital camera owners--especially those
with megapixel capability--will be glad to learn that Simple Technology
has introduced a high capacity 128MB CompactFlash card for image storage.
For many users this means they can store over 125 digital photographs
as a full 1800x1200 pixel resolution. Simple Technology's 128MB
card is constructed with 256Mbit flash memory components which lets
them operate at fast write and erase speeds of 3MB/sec. What this means
for the impatient digital imager shooting high-resolution images is
less elapsed time between shots, while they wait for the blinking LED
to stop so they can make another shot. This new "long roll"
CompactFlash card has a street price of $399. For more information,
contact Simple Technology at (800) 367-7330 or visit their web site
New Color Printer. Hewlett-Packard announced their
new DeskJet 882C color ink jet printer. Priced at $299, the new printer
replaces the DeskJet 722C printer in HP's line-up. The 882C can
print up to eight pages per minute (ppm) in black and 5ppm in color,
which is 25 percent faster than the 722C. In addition to being able
to print photographs and text, the 822C has a handout mode that lets
you condense up to four pages of text and images onto a single page.
Wanna go bigger? You can also print poster-sized images by printing
small segments of your original image onto letter-sized pages, then
assembling up to 16 pages into a large sized poster. In addition to
a parallel port connection, the printer has a USB port allowing it to
be connected to Windows and Mac OS computers. For the first time in
a long time, Hewlett-Packard will provide drivers for Mac OS and Windows
computers with USB ports for the 822C color printer as well as the 880C
and 895Cse/Cxi printers. Drivers can be downloaded from www.hp.com/go/mac-connect.
You can purchase the printer online at HP's Shopping Village at:
www.shopping.hp.com For more information about HP products, call them
at (800) 752-0900 or visit their web site at: www.hp.com.