Digital Innovations
Software Upgrades Pros And Cons

To upgrade, or not to upgrade--that is the question."--With apologies to William Shakespeare's Hamlet

There comes a time in your digital imaging life when you're faced with a decision about whether or not to upgrade your system software or one of the programs--digital imaging or otherwise--that are stored on your hard disk. If you ask for advice, you'll quickly find that there are two different schools of thought on the advisability of software upgrades.

One approach suggests that if a program is working OK, why spend money for an upgrade? The reason behind this philosophy is that sometimes upgrades can create more problems than they can solve. That certainly was the case in point when Symantec rolled out Norton Utilities for the Macintosh 4.0. Based on my experience with earlier versions of this wonderfully useful utility, I immediately upgraded and immediately started having problems. These kinds of problems can happen when the product is rushed to market without extensive testing or can simply be bug-related. In Symantec's case, I think the problem was related to Apple Computer's roll out of their new HFS+ hard disk format, and to the company's credit they quickly produced two incremental upgrades. The first was marginal, and I ignored it, but the second, Version 4.03, was a keeper and now I use it to bail me out of hard disk related problems.

A second upgrade philosophy is to always upgrade to the latest software version--no matter what. The theory behind this approach is that nowadays software is so complex that bugs are inevitable and so--even if you're not having software conflicts--you should upgrade to the newer version. Many incremental upgrades are driven by OS updates. (See "Speaking Of OS Upgrades.") Some programs and utilities were not compatible with Mac OS 8.5 or Windows 98 when these operating systems were originally introduced and software was upgraded to take advantage of the new OS features including USB (Universal Serial Bus) and, in the case of Windows 98, multiple monitor support. My favorite CD-R authoring software, Adaptec's Toast, was updated when Macintosh OS 8.5 was introduced, but if you're not using this version of the Mac OS you really don't need to upgrade. The always-upgraders will tell you to update anyway because programmers are never satisfied with their work and chances are that there will be fixes for minor, non-fatal bugs as well as making the changes necessary to make the program compatible with the new operating system.

Over the years I've changed from being an upgrade-regardless type to a cautious upgrader. I still prefer to have the latest version of every program I use every day, but usually wait a few weeks to check forum messages on Compu-Serve to listen to grumbles from early adopters. That's why I skipped upgrading from Mac 7.6 to OS 8.0, but immediately fell in love with OS 8.5. There are some upgrades that are just no-brainers. Who among us will not upgrade when Adobe Systems rolls out Photoshop 6.0? Count me in.

Speaking Of Upgrades. At its annual Worldwide Developer Conference, Apple Computer introduced Mac OS 8.6, an update to the Macintosh operating system that includes many changes, including the following new features:
· An updated version of Sherlock, the personal search "detective" that was introduced with OS 8.5. Sherlock now includes over 25 plug-ins allowing you to make fast searches of popular web sites such as CNN Interactive, CNET, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Music Boulevard, and Rolling Stone, in addition to Internet search engines such as Alta Vista, Excite, HotBot, Infoseek, and Lycos. Sherlock's "find by content" feature now lets you search the content of PDF (Portable Document Format) and HTML (HyperText Markup Language) files stored on your hard drive.
· Advanced power management technologies that increase Apple's PowerBook laptop computer battery life by more than one hour. Support for Nokia or Ericsson IrDA-capable (Infrared Data Association) mobile phones is included, allowing PowerBook users to check e-mail or access the Internet using their mobile phones.
· Improved USB and FireWire (IEEE 1394) integration provide better plug-and-play and support for the newest USB and FireWire peripherals.
· Support for rewritable DVD-RAM disks allow users to store and share information using this high capacity format.
· Enhanced game support through integration of Apple's Game Sprockets technology, which is the basis for many of the most popular Mac games.
· Mac OS Runtime for Java 2.1.1, the latest version of Apple Java, should help make browsing the web a faster, smoother experience. Also included is Virtual Machine, which runs Java software up to five times faster.
· The latest version of AppleScript (V1.3.7) supports scriptable access to the Internet so Macintosh users can upload and download content and data within automated workflows. It also adds the ability to schedule AppleScripts so they can run when the computer is unmanned.
· The latest version of ColorSync (V2.6.1) enhances publishing automation through improved AppleScript integration, easier configuration of ColorSync profiles and CMM (Color Matching Method) selections, and support for JPEG and GIF files.
· Mac OS 8.5 customers can download Mac OS 8.6 free of charge at www.apple.com/macos or order a CD-ROM for $19.95 by using the order forms available at the same web page. Mac OS 8.6 will be included with all new Macintosh computers.

It Comes In Colors. Epson America Inc. announced the Epson Stylus Color 740i, the first color ink jet printer designed to color coordinate with Apple's iMac and Power Macintosh G3 computers. The 740i is housed in a sleek, new translucent case, and comes standard with a "blueberry" colored cover that compliments iMac and G3 computers. You can equip your particular printer with optional covers in grape, lime, tangerine, or strawberry to compliment the many flavors the iMac is currently available in. These covers cost $14.95 and are available from your friendly neighborhood computer store, by mail order, or directly from Epson. On the technical side, the Stylus Color 740i's print head has a six picoliter droplet size like the Stylus Photo 750, along with 1440x 720dpi output and USB connectivity for iMac and G3. The 740i has a traditional Mac serial port along with a parallel connection for PCs which allow the printer to be used by older Mac OS computers as well as Windows based machines. A software bundle includes Polaroid PhotoMAX Pro, ArcSoft PhotoPrinter, and PhotoBase, along with a one year subscription to PhotoLoft.com, a photo sharing web site. Users can also choose two programs in categories ranging from graphics and design, such as Kai's Power Soap and Print Shop Deluxe, to business utilities, such as Lotus Organizer and Print Shop PressWriter, to games, such as Warcraft II and Shanghai's Dynasty. The Epson Stylus Color 740i has an estimated street price of $279 and there's a $30 mail-in rebate program. For information on Epson products, call (800) 463-7766 or visit their web site at: www.epson.com.

New Glossy Ink Jet Paper. At Photo Pro Expo, Pictorico launched its new high-gloss white film--you can call it paper if you like. Pro Photo Gallery Hi-Gloss Film has an ultra smooth surface that's specifically designed to produce true photographic output from ink jet printers. A printed example from the company looked so good that I decided to chance the one sample page they sent me and print my personal "test image" using an Epson Stylus Photo 750. (See section "Creating A Test Print File.") I liked the paper even before printing on it. It's slightly heavier and glossier than Epson's own glossy film. Pictorico's paper is also whiter than other glossy papers I've tried. The output confirmed it. The colors in my test print were natural looking but exhibited slightly snappier contrast than other glossy films. More importantly, the extra heft of the paper just felt good in my hands. Like all Pictorico papers, Pro Photo Gallery Hi-Gloss Film is smudge free and water-resistant. For more information about Pictorico's ink jet papers, visit their web site at: www.pictorico.com.

It's Neato. Because of the low cost and universality of support, CD-R is one of the best media available for storing and distributing digital images. While you can always write information on the front of these disks with a Sanford Sharpie, you should produce something a little more impressive if you want to send the discs to clients or potential photo buyers. For a long time, I've been using Neato's CD-Labeler Kit and labels for this purpose. I especially like their Photo-Quality/High-Gloss labels because they allow me to produce truly photographic quality with ink jet printers, such as the previously mentioned Epson Stylus Color 740i. The company recently introduced its new Neato 2000 CD Labeler Kit that includes an all new CD Label applicator to replace the old two-piece model. While I rarely had problems with the old version, occasionally a label would have a small ripple or wrinkle. The new one-piece model is a marvel of simplicity and the first time I used it, I had to ask: "Is that it?" The glossy label was applied quickly and smoothly. The new kit comes with Neato's MediaFACE design software that includes a Windows application and templates for Mac OS users. The package includes disc and jewel case templates for most popular Mac OS and Windows graphics programs. There are a bunch of clip art files you can use to add graphics to the labels, but most of us will prefer to use our own photographs. The package includes an assortment of CD labels and case insets in Photo-Quality/High-Gloss and Non-Glare/Matte finishes. With a most affordable price of $29.95 anyone using CD-R media should have Neato's 2000 CD Labeler Kit.

Speaking Volumes. Volumes+ is an easy to use image database program (See "Get Round Tuit," April, 1999) for organizing image, sound, and video files. Photographs can be displayed as thumbnails or viewed in a full screen mode with page navigation controls. Pages of images can be presented as a multimedia slide show--with just the click of a mouse button. While working within the program, you will find that a volume is a collection of pages, like a book or magazine, which can contain a graphic image and a sound or a video clip associated. Working with volumes is intuitive and is a good way to organize your image collection of that bunch of media files you've collected from the World Wide Web. Volumes+ includes Volume Designer, which allows you to create, design, and manage your volumes, and Volume Viewer which provides an environment for viewing these volumes. A fully functional Volume Viewer comes with Volumes+ and may be freely distributable, so you can send your volumes to others who may not even have Volumes+ software installed on their computers. The program sells for $49.95. For more information on Volumes+, visit their web site at: http://imagerystudios.com/vp.

Interactive Imaging. Eastman Kodak recently released the Professional 265 Interactive Imaging System and the Professional 260/265 Web Imaging Kit which are designed to help professional and advanced photographers and web designers create interactive panoramic images with the least amount of muss and fuss. Both kits are based on the new Kodak DC265 digital camera, and include a collection of interactive imaging software for Mac OS and Windows computers, a Kaidan custom panoramic tripod head, a 64MB CompactFlash memory card along with a collection of interactive imaging software scripts. The Web Imaging Kit contains the same components except for the camera. Both kits come complete with software such as Live Picture's Photo Vista (Windows and Mac OS), EnRoute's QuickStitch Suite (Windows) and QuickStitch (Mac OS), and Apple Computer's QuickTime VR Authoring Studio (Mac OS). PhotoVista lets you create panoramic images using Live Picture's IVR system that supports images produced in JPEG or FlashPix formats. EnRoute's software saves panoramas in the QuickTime format and can be used to simulate a wide angle lens for creating super wide shots for the web or photographic banners. The Kodak Professional 265 Interactive Imaging System has a list price of $1499 and the Web Imaging Kit costs $525. They are both available from your local or mail order retailer or directly through the Kodak Web Store at: www.kodak.com. Just click on "shop@kodak."

A Case In Point. If you're going to carry your digital camera around, you might as well put it in a case designed to hold a digital camera. Lowepro introduced its new Digital Resolution series of six camera bags specifically for digital photographers. All six bags are lined with a brushed tricot foam that won't scratch the LCD preview screens that are an important part of almost all current digital still cameras. In addition to the camera, the bags are designed to hold extra batteries--they eat'em you know--memory chips, and the kinds of accessories that digital photographers accumulate such as filters and accessory lenses. All of the bags have all-weather covers, and sewn in belt loops. They also have molded zipper pull tabs and all of them, except the belt pack, have removable and adjustable shoulder straps. The $60 D-Res Beltpack AW measures 6x9x5" and has two dividers that allow it to hold any digital still or video camera plus all of the extras. Inner mesh pockets can store extra batteries and there's a zipper pocket for Flash Memory or SmartMedia cards as well as Mini DV (Digital Video) cartridges. Even in a compact bag like this they managed to squeeze in two additional exterior mesh pockets. At the other end of the size and price scale, the D-Res 10AW holds a compact digital camera, four AA batteries, and extra memory cards for just $24. For more information you can call Lowepro USA at (707) 575-4363.

3D Me. MetaCreations announced its new Canoma software that allows web developers and graphic artists to quickly and easily create photo-realistic 3D models from 2D photos or scanned images. Canoma models can be posted on web sites, used in electronic catalogs, imported into traditional 3D modeling and animation packages, or combined with MetaCreations' Meta-Stream 3D streaming technology to create 3D models and distribute them via the web. The product used the company's MetaStream Internet file format and supports a variety of other industry standard formats, enabling files to be imported into 3D modeling and animation software for use over the Internet and in other applications. The product works seamlessly with Meta-Creations' 2D products, including Painter 5.5 Web Edition and Kai's Power Tools 5, as well as the company's 3D modeling and animation packages such as Ray Dream Studio 5, Poser 3, and Bryce 4. Canoma is available for Windows 95/98/NT and Power Macintosh on CD-ROM for a suggested retail price of $499, and via electronic download and purchase from the MetaCreations web site for $469 when requesting manual and CD. For more information or for electronic purchase and download of the software, visit their web site at: www.metacreations.com/products/canoma or call (800) 846-0111.

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