Digital Innovations
Thanks For The Memories, Adding RAM Can Be A Good Solution

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The Mac OS Get Info dialog box shows the Suggested, along with Minimum and Preferred, memory allocation for a specific application. Many people change the Preferred and leave the Minimum alone, but for Adobe Photoshop, the Minimum allocation shows how much memory is set aside for plug-in use. With Photoshop, it's a good idea to make the Minimum and Preferred allocations identical.

"Memory feeds imagination."--Amy Tan

Ms. Tan may not have been talking about your computer's Random Access Memory (RAM), but she could have been. When adding new hardware and software to expand your digital darkroom's capabilities, new devices and applications invariably demand more memory. But there's more to it than sticking a few more DIMMs (Dual Inline Memory Modules) onto the motherboard. While some Power Macintosh models can handle up to 2GB of installed memory, individual applications can only use a maximum of 999MB under OS 9. Mac OS X allocates memory as an application requires it, so it may be able to break this barrier, but I haven't been able to actually test it yet.

Lately, I've been having software and hardware problems that seemed memory related. I removed all four of the DIMMs from my Apple Power Macintosh G3 and replaced them with four brand-new 128MB modules bringing the system memory up to 512MB. What was most surprising is that the increase cost $19 per 128MB, contrasting sharply with the $400 I had paid for an additional 4MB for a Power Macintosh 8100 six years ago! When allocating memory to a specific program under Mac OS 9 and earlier, click on the application's icon and use the File>Get Info>Memory command to display a dialog box allowing you to set Minimum and Preferred sizes. You'll see a Suggested size as well, but for applications such as Adobe Photoshop 6.01 the recommended 45MB may be too small for most users.

With my RAM now up to 512MB, I was unsure where to set Minimum and Preferred sizes for Photoshop, so I asked Kevin Elliott of Mac MDs (www.mdmac.com) for his advice. He suggested caution: "Check your system's memory usage with typical applications open." If you don't know how to do that, choose "About this Computer" from the Apple menu. A dialog will display how much memory the Mac OS is currently using as well as what any open application may have grabbed. For my specific usage (only), Kevin suggested I could "comfortably allocate 300-350MB to Photoshop and still have plenty left over for other applications."

My motivation for increasing my computer's RAM was twofold: One was to get a new Photoshop compatible plug-in to perform better (more on that product later) and the other was to get the software Nikon bundles with its CoolScan IV ED film scanner to work properly. It turns out that when using the Nikon Scan 3 software plug-in (a stand-alone application also comes with the scanner), the company recommends allocating 220MB for Photoshop 6 when using the SA-21 film holder to scan negatives. Nikon further states that the Photoshop plug-in has "limitations and in certain cases may not be recommended." When I read that, I asked LaserSoft Imaging to send me a copy of their new SilverFast 5.5 software with NegaFix for the Nikon scanner (this software produces impressive scans with my Epson Expression 1680 flat-bed) but I was informed it was delayed. The reason for that delay is that the Nikon scanner does all of its negative conversion through hardware, but the new LaserSoft should be available for Nikon scanners by the time you read this. Nobody ever said a pixographer's life was easy.

Bag Me, Mate
Some products are not inherently digital, yet remain useful for the digital imager. Take cases and bags, for example. I've lugged a succession of Apple PowerBook laptops around the world in a variety of hand-me-down bags that have barely served their purpose. When a friend had a laptop damaged in an overseas trip, I started looking around for something to protect my current portable or the ice-colored Apple iBook I've been coveting since its introduction. I found the answer in Crumpler's series of Laptop Bags. Like the entire Australian-made Crumpler line, these Cordura bags are functional and stylish while having model names that defy easy description.

The Laptop Bags are available in three sizes, the Very Busy Man (the large one), Wack-O-Phone (the medium one), and Roll-O-Notes (the little one). Like Goldilocks I picked the medium bag that holds either my Apple PowerBook 5300 or my wife Mary's Compaq Armada equally well. Wack-O-Phone, the Crumpler web site (www.crumplerusa.com) assures me, is the Australian name for "mooning." The case measures 13x14x4" and weighs 40 oz when empty. It features heavy-duty padding so my new iBook won't get trashed like my friend's, internal zipped pockets, and a padded shoulder strap. The internal padded pocket holds laptops up to 13x12x3". The bag is available in five different color combinations but I wimped out and ordered black with blue piping. Bolder pixographers might try the red/ blue or brown/yellow combinations. To hold my digital point-and-shoot de jour, I ordered a Jacksie camera pouch in matching black and blue. These cool pouches work with either film or digital cameras and have heavy-duty padding, a two-way belt loop, and closure by touch fasteners or a quick release buckle. There's also a clip-on shoulder/neck belt. The larger model is called PCS; the small one is Minor (for Minor White maybe?) and is available in the same interesting color choices.

How cool are these Crumpler bags? Around here at the Pixel Palace, anything truly cool is almost instantly taken over by Mary. I wasn't even finished removing the tags from the Jacksie pouch before Mary grabbed it and stuffed a Canon Digital Elph S110 into it and a Delkin Devices' CompactFlash card in the pouch's front pocket and was off capturing digital images. I may never see it again. Crumpler makes all kinds of great looking and functional bags including camera bags, from the large Glamour Photo Case to top loading camera cases for SLRs with lenses attached, shoulder bags, such as the gotta-see-it-to-believe-it Wonder Weenie, and messenger bags. The company produces some accessory pouches for cell phones that you need to see for yourself on their web site. In fact, their site deserves an "A" for attitude; be sure to read the FAQ to see what I mean. JOBO Fototechnic Inc. (www.jobo-usa.com) imports Crumpler bags into the US.

Auto F/X's DreamSuite is both a plug-in and stand-alone application that lets you add everything from borders and frames to Focus effects, such as this zoom, that lets you pick an area of sharp focus, such as model Kim Goetz's face, and allows the rest of the frame to be soft.

Plug-In Parade
When inquiring about how I find new Photoshop compatible plug-ins, people often ask, as the Joker said to Batman, "Where do you find all these wonderful toys?" I relentlessly hunt them down on the Internet, hear about them through the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (www.photoshopuser.com), and respond to e-mail from plug-in producers and programmers. If you have a favorite plug-in, send me an e-mail at editorial@shutterbug.net and tell me all about it.

FotoEffects
Lastolite, better known as a manufacturer of studio backgrounds, reflectors, and accessories, enters the digital arena with a practical and useful set of Photoshop compatible plug-ins called FotoEffects. Currently available only for Windows, FotoEffects lets you apply gradations, vignettes, perspective changes, and color corrections. Upon installation, FotoEffects adds CC, Color, Custom, and Distortion submenus to the Filter menu. Each of these submenus offer groups of filters, although my favorite is the Custom, which offers Custom Gradation, Vignette, Pastel, and Soften/Sharpen plug-ins.

The workmanlike interface of each plug-in features sliders or numerical entry of controls that let you produce an infinite number of effects. Most of the effects will be useful for portrait photographers, but Lastolite extends the package's capabilities with a couple of filters that can alter the shape of an image from within its frame. Their Perspective filter (Filter>FotoEffects Distortion>Perspective Control) lets you straighten leaning or "falling over" buildings in architectural photographs, while the Fisheye plug-in in the same submenu can produce a distorted fisheye effect with images made with standard lenses, but more interestingly can correct distortion created when using super-wide angle lenses. With a price tag under $100, FotoEffects will pay for itself the first time you use it. Bogen Photo distributes Lastolite studio and digital products in America and you can find more on their web site at www.bogenphoto.com.

Lastolite's FotoEffects package of plug-ins offers many useful filters for portrait photographers, such as their Perspective Filter (Filter>FotoEffects Distortion>Perspective Control) that lets you straighten leaning or "falling over" buildings in architectural images. All Lastolite plug-ins feature slider and numerical controls along with a real-time preview window.

DreamSuite
DreamSuite is the latest Photoshop compatible plug-in from Auto F/X and is available for Mac OS and Windows computers. Available as a stand-alone application or family of plug-ins, DreamSuite lets you place your photos into frames or create collages of your work. Its Chisel filters add hammered, chipped, and dented depth bevel effects, while Liquid Metal lets you paint with liquid mercury, melted gold, and other metals. Wanna bend your digital photos? The Crease filter allows you to interactively bend and crease your photos for unique depth looks and Photo Border adds stylized borders around your photos and overlap collages. My favorite on the package is the Focus filter, which simulates soft focus, zoom, rotated, and motion focus effects. There's a lot more in DreamSuite to play with.

It was here that I thought I had memory problems. The technical wizards at Auto F/X have assured me DreamSuite will run within Photoshop's suggested 45MB allocation, but it didn't run too fast. I had previously been told to double the suggested size for Auto F/X's Photo/Graphic Edges 4.1 plug-in, but even doubling that number did nothing to increase DreamSuite's performance. By then I'd increased Photoshop's memory allocation to 220MB to make the Nikon Scan plug-in work, but the plug-in refused to play nicely with other software. Auto F/X's visionary CEO, Cliff Weems told me that this new plug-in runs "very fast in Windows using 800MHz and 1.7GHz machines," but not well with the Macintosh G3 processor. Perhaps due to my ongoing discussions with Weems, Auto F/X recently posted an update on its web site. This 13MB updater took a while to download on my dial-up Internet connection, but solved almost all my problems. It is designed to take one-half the memory of the initial version, loads twice as fast, and features rendering speeds that are 10 times faster on a Macintosh computer. DreamSuite is a terrific new product, but be sure to check the company's web site before installing either Mac OS or Windows versions to make sure you have the latest update. As I said at the beginning of this month's column, a pixographer's life is never easy.

SilverOxide's new plug-ins allow color images--no matter how they are captured--to emulate the color spectrum as if they were made on black and white film from Agfa, Ilford, or Kodak, and are now available in 16-bit versions. These new filters work in 8-bit workflows as well as 16-bit flows and feature a much larger preview window. This original color image was captured with a Canon EOS D30 and converted with the Ilford Delta 400 filter to emulate that film.

SilverOxide
Bill Dusterwald, the programming genius behind the SilverOxide plug-ins that let color images--no matter how they are captured--emulate the color spectrum as if they were made on black and white film from Agfa, Ilford, or Kodak, has released 16-bit versions of these useful Photoshop filters. These new plug-ins are designed to work in 8-bit workflows as well as 16-bit flows and feature a much larger preview window with a simple and direct user interface. Currently these new versions are only available for Windows, but Dusterwald expects a Mac OS version to be available real soon now. You can go to www.silveroxide.com and download the free Tri-X filter to see how much better a digital image looks when compared to using Adobe Photoshop's Grayscale mode command (Image> Mode> Grayscale) to convert a color image into black and white.

EtchTone
In the November 2001 Digital Innovations, I introduced you to Andromeda Software's EtchTone Photoshop compatible plug-in. The more I use this filter the more I like it. Recently I used the EtchTone filter to convert a medium format transparency scanned with an Epson Expression 1600 flat-bed into a black and white etching, then used Photoshop's Fade command (Edit>Fade) at 55 percent, to give the now gray scale image a hand-painted look. Download a demo version of the EtchTone filter from www.andromeda.com and try this trick yourself.

Little Discs, Big Images
One of the best ways to present a portfolio is to use an eye-catching package and that's true even if you have a digital portfolio. While I've been using CD-R discs for some time to present my work in a digital format, I've found Verbatim's colorful Pocket CD-Rs provide an enhancement to the presentation. In the past people sometimes looked at me funny when I handed them a 3" disc, but CD-ROM drives have had, almost from the beginning, a recessed area that holds these mini discs. Once potential photo buyers see how compact the mini discs are and how little additional desktop space they take, they're hooked and actually prefer to receive digital media in this format. Pocket CD-Rs hold 185MB of data, more than enough for 150 photographs, 21 minutes of video, or three hours of MP3 tunes, and can be recorded at 16x speed.

These discs are available in five colors--blueberry, tangerine, avocado, grape, and ruby--and offered in slimline jewel cases with matching colors to help make that ever-important first impression. Because of their compact size and capacity, Pocket CD-Rs are ideal for e-books, but don't put them in an iMac. Although the disc will go in, it won't come out unless you disassemble the computer. These coolest of discs are available in five packs for $14.99 and 10 packs for $24.99. You can find out more about Verbatim products at www.verbatim.com.

Ink Jet Printer Update
In my October 2001 article "Photo Quality Counts," a roundup of photo-realistic ink jet printers, I wrote, "To their credit Lexmark bundles both parallel and USB cables." In fact, Lexmark does not provide any cables when you purchase a Z53 Color Jetprinter. It also does not include ink jet paper with the printer. These supplies are not what a typical consumer would receive with retail purchase and were only provided by Lexmark to facilitate my evaluation. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

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