Digital Innovations
Protecting Image Data Against Loss

You don't have to have your computer stolen to lose data. Sometimes hard disk crashes or other hardware failures will destroy data.

The heart of the problem of lost data is two fold: Many people think their computer is safe and nothing bad will ever happen to it. Part of this stems from the old-fashioned idea that computers are perfect, never make mistakes, and the possibility of data loss is small. The other misconception is that backing up your computer is a complex process. Many people think that they must back up everything on their computer, when, in truth, all you need to back up is irreplaceable data.

To protect your data you don't have to have any fancy hardware or even expensive removable media; the key to backing up is making it a routine part of your daily activities. For example, when I finish working on a story for the day, I copy that file onto a floppy disk. A typical Digital Innovations column takes less than 100K, so I can also store other projects on the same disk, including any Shutterbug feature stories. With floppy disks costing about a nickel each, this is the best and cheapest back-up method you can use. For image files, which tend to be much larger than word processor files, you can use inexpensive removable media such as Iomega's new Zip 250 drive which is available in SCSI and parallel port versions. No USB (Universal Serial Bus) version of the Zip 250 is available, although Iomega markets a translucent 100MB version. The drive is priced under $200 and you can copy image files onto moderately priced 250MB Zip disks. The new drive is also compatible with the millions of inexpensive 100MB Zip disks. Visit their web site at www.iomega.com.

To protect against data loss, you don't even need any back-up software. Mac OS computer owners can simply drag copy important files onto whatever kind of removable media they like to use. Windows 98 users can do the same thing but can also take advantage of the free Microsoft Backup software that's bundled with the operating system.

The key to effective back ups is not the tools; you need to have a regular back-up routine. I back up all my writing and images daily onto floppy or Zip disks. Once a week I back up everything on both computers. On my Mac OS computer I have been using an APS Technologies HyperQIC drive, which uses Travan tape cartridges. It packs from 4GB of uncompressed data or up to 8GB of compressed data onto tapes that cost less than $25 each. Once a week, I back up everything on my Mac OS computer and put the new tape in my safe deposit box. For information on APS Technologies' drives, visit their web site at www.apstech.com.

Plug-In Of The Month. This month's winner is the package of plug-ins that forever changed the face of Photoshop-compatible plug-ins. MetaCreations new Kai's Power Tool 5.0 includes 10 new plug-ins that the company calls "plug-in applications." When you launch any one of the plug-ins in the package, instead of a small dialog box appearing on your screen, KPT takes over your entire screen much as an application would and much in the style of the company's stand-alone applications such as Show or Photo Soap. If you're looking for updated tools from older versions, you will only find an updated Fractal Explorer, now called KPT FraxPlorer, along with a new spin on Blur tools--the rest are all new. Here's a quick tour of the new tools: KPT Blurrr is a suite of nine filters including the zoom, spin, and other blurs that have real-time previews, 64-bit color, and 128-bit match and algorithms. KPT FiberOptix can create everything from furry text to creeping vine, with every strand a true 3D object complete with masks. KPT Frax4D is designed to create four-dimensional fractal sculptures and wrap with an environment maps, such as gold, silver, or gels. KPT FraxFlame is designed to produce fractals that looks like natural phenomena, such as flames. KPT FraxPlorer features real-time flythrough, large previews, and an "infinite" zoom tool that has to be seen to be believed. KPT Noize, my new favorite, includes a collection of nose effects that can be used for texture and painting. KPT Orb-it turns an image into thousands of spheres with variations in size, density, and lighting. It will produce fields of bubbles, raindrops, and lenses along with text effects and distortions. KPT RadWarp warps the edge of an image to correct or produce barrel distortion. You can also use it to create interested type effects. KPT ShapeShifter creates shapes and objects with refractive glass edges, 3D light sources on beveled, metallic sources. The finished elements include masks which they carry with them to make composting easier. Visit Meta-Creations' web site at: www.metacreations.com.

It's A Camera. At COMDEX, Agfa gave me a confidential look at their new digital camera, the ePhoto CL30. Now that it is shipping, I can tell you about it. The CL30 breaks with the tradition of previous Agfa affordable digital offerings by actually looking like a camera. It has a Universal Serial Bus (USB) interface that will allow it to connect to Mac OS and Windows computers, although the PhotoWise software Agfa bundles with the camera only runs under Windows 98, 95, and NT. While the optical resolution or "High" resolution mode of the camera is 1152x864 pixels, the ePhoto CL30 can produce 1440x1080 pixel images in what Agfa calls "PixelGenie" interpolated mode. Agfa claims that pictures made with the ePhoto CL30 at the PixelGenie setting can be printed at 8x10" size on any photo quality ink jet printer. The other modes of the camera include "Medium" (1024x768) and Low (640x480) which would be useful for web use. The camera has a built-in flash along with an optical viewfinder and a 1.8" LCD screen for more precise framing or for playing back any images that you create. The camera ships with a 4MB CompactFlash memory card that can store anywhere from six to 36 photographs depending on the resolution. Powered by four AA alkaline batteries, it sells for under $400. Visit their web site at: www.agfaphoto.com.

Image Storage Got You Down? Digital Innovations welcomes comments from readers who have experience with different software and hardware products they find useful for their own digital imaging projects. Recently a photographer sent me e-mail about a device that he uses for storing his image files off-line. The reader was concerned about the task of keeping track of all of his images that had been stored on, what he felt was, too many removable media cartridges. If more than one person needed access to those images, the process gets more complex but it doesn't have to. Meridian Data's Snap! Server is a solution for small photo studios or offices that are already on a network and need to share images. There is no extra software needed and Snap! Servers are designed to be plug-and-play. The reader told me he was skeptical at first but had an 8GB Snap! Server up and running within five minutes. An 8GB server costs $995 and Meridian Data offers a 16GB server for $1795. The reader reports that having the Snap! Server has simplified his image storage and he is no longer concerned with "removable disk clutter." Call (888) 343-7627 or visit Meridian Data's web site at: www.snapserver.com.

New Scanning Software. Second Glance Software introduced the latest update to their easy to use ScanTastic scanning software for scanners from Apple, Epson, and HP. I tested it with Epson's Perfection 636 and it performed, well, perfectly. Version 4.5 consists of a stand-alone application and a Photoshop-compatible plug-in that's compatible with the latest generation of HP scanners as well as Apple Computer's iMac. One of the advantages of using the plug-in is that ScanTastic will use the display profiles introduced with Photoshop 5.0 to ensure that the pre-scan preview exactly matches the final scan. ScanTastic features a customizable icon bar that provides a simple method for choosing scanner settings and enhancements based on output requirements. A resizable preview window with zoom capabilities lets you see what is being scanned before committing to higher resolutions. The preview window contains a histogram and densitometer to display information about the image. An enhancement feature provides image correction controls including brightness, contrast, and sharpness, along with tone curves. Call (360) 692-3694 or visit Second Glance Software's web site at: www.secondglance.com.

New Ink Jet Photo Printer. Hewlett-Packard recently announced the HP DeskJet 882 photo quality ink jet printer at $299. Designed to replace the DeskJet 722C printer, the 882C will produce output at up to eight pages per minute (ppm) in black and five ppm in color. The quality of the output, especially on HP Premium Photo paper, belies the printer's modest price. The printer has a standard parallel connection port as well as support for the Universal Serial Bus but provides software compatibility with only Windows and PC platforms. The bundled software provided allows users to print posters by outputting small segments of the original image onto single letter-sized pages--up to 16 pages into a large-sized poster. Other bundled software includes Professor Franklin's Instant Photo Effects and Microsoft's Picture It! Express. For more information, call (800) 552-8500 or visit HP's web site at: www.hp.com.

Screen Saver Software. Stardust Software has introduced Screen Saver Toolkit that allows photographers to create professional looking screen savers from their original images. One of the best uses for the program is for professional or aspiring professionals to promote their work by giving potential clients a screen saver displaying some of their best work. The Windows-based Screen Saver Toolkit is easy to use. On-screen Wizards lead you through the creative process and no programming knowledge is required. There is no limit on the number of photographs that can be included in the screen saver and Stardust Software claims that because there is no way images can be copied or stolen, the images are secure. The program supports BMP, BMZ (Stardust's proprietary lossless compressed format), and JPEG file formats. A built-in Image Assistant can convert BMP, GIF, PNG, PSD, TIF, PCX, or CMP formats into JPEG or BMZ. When displaying images, the software lets you add 23 different transition effects. After you're finished designing the screen saver, the program will build different kinds of setup programs that will work on floppy disk, CD-ROM, or even Internet downloads. Priced at $249, Stardust's Screen Saver Toolkit is an indispensable program for the photographer who wants to promote his or her work. For more information call phone/fax: (425) 558-7948 or visit their web site at: www.stardustsoftware.com/sstoolkit/ to download a trial version of the program.

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