Digital Innovations
Y2K And Your Imaging Computer

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This photograph from Apple Computer's Super Bowl commercial will hopefully get people to pay more attention to the Y2K issue.
Photos © 1999, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

"What me worry"--Alfred E. Newman

For many people, planning for New Year's Eve will be a little different this year. Instead of just ordering party hats, noisemakers, and your favorite champagne, you should also be concerned about what will happen with your computer when the clock strikes midnight. The buzzword "Y2K" stands for Year 2000 and refers to the inability of some hardware and software to deal with a year that has zeros as its last two digits. At last year's COMDEX computer trade show, surprisingly few exhibitors were showing Y2K-related products. Leading me to think that many people in the industry appear to believe the problem is already solved or is not worth worrying about. Since Information Week estimates the real cost to repair all Y2K problems will be $600 billion, neither assumption seems true.

In order to be prepared for New Year's Eve, you'll need software that will check out your computer before it's too late. Software, such as Intelliquis' IntelliFix 2000, can be used to verify that your Windows computer is really ready for midnight December 31, 1999. In order for your computer to be able to handle this date changeover, it may need to have its hardware, including the BIOS (Basic Input-Output System) and CMOS (Complimentary Metal Oxide Semicon-ductor) real-time clock corrected. IntelliFix 2000 can help here, too. I ran the program on my Microsoft Window 98-based computer and uncovered a few minor problems, which it promptly fixed. For more information about Intelliquis' Y2K products, call them at (801) 990-2600 or visit their web site at www.intelliquis.com. You can also download utilities that check your computer for Y2K compliance from www.zdnet.com/ pcmag/special/y2k/index.html.

Signafy's OwnerMark software lets you place an invisible watermark on your digital images to protect them from theft. On the left is an original Photo CD image and on the right is that same image bearing the invisible watermark.

Users of Microsoft DOS and Windows 3.x should quickly begin making their plans to migrate to Windows 98 before the end of the year. Neither operating system is Y2K compliant. Macintosh users may be feeling a little smug about the whole millennium question, witness Apple Computer's clever HAL commercial during the Broncos-winning Super Bowl. The company claims that all of their "currently supported" models have been tested for Y2K compliance. That may make owners of new iMacs and G3 happy but will cause some concern for people, like me, that own Mac OS-compatible computers, such as my Power Computing model. A list of "supported" computers, which includes the venerable Mac Plus, can be found on Apple's web site at: www.apple.com/about/year2000/y2khw.html If your machine is not on that list, go to: www.apple.com/about/year 2000/y2ktest.html for a step by step procedure you can use to determine if your particular Mac OS computer is Y2K compatible.

There is more to the world of computing than Windows and the Mac OS. Linux is a UNIX-based operating system that was developed by Linus Torvalds with the help of various developers around the world. Its growth in popularity is fueled, I believe, mostly by Microsoft haters looking for an alternative operating system. The OS was initially developed for 32-bit Intel computers and is now available for a many platforms, including Power Macintosh models. Linux is essentially free--really more shareware than freeware--and versions of it priced at little more than duplication costs are available from many sources. Linux is Y2K compliant but will have difficulty in 2038 unless it's updated. Since Linux developers have another 40 years to address this issue, it's likely that solutions will be implemented well before then. For more information visit The Linux Home Page at www.linux.org.

One way to check your Windows-based digital imaging computer for possible Year 2000 problems is to run a Y2K search and repair program such as Intelliquis' IntelliFix 2000.

Users of Microsoft DOS and Windows 3.x should quickly begin making their plans to migrate to Windows 98 before the end of the year. Neither operating system is Y2K compliant. Macintosh users may be feeling a little smug about the whole millennium question, witness Apple Computer's clever HAL commercial during the Broncos-winning Super Bowl. The company claims that all of their "currently supported" models have been tested for Y2K compliance. That may make owners of new iMacs and G3 happy but will cause some concern for people, like me, that own Mac OS-compatible computers, such as my Power Computing model. A list of "supported" computers, which includes the venerable Mac Plus, can be found on Apple's web site at: www.apple.com/about/year2000/y2khw.html If your machine is not on that list, go to: www.apple.com/about/year 2000/y2ktest.html for a step by step procedure you can use to determine if your particular Mac OS computer is Y2K compatible.

There is more to the world of computing than Windows and the Mac OS. Linux is a UNIX-based operating system that was developed by Linus Torvalds with the help of various developers around the world. Its growth in popularity is fueled, I believe, mostly by Microsoft haters looking for an alternative operating system. The OS was initially developed for 32-bit Intel computers and is now available for a many platforms, including Power Macintosh models. Linux is essentially free--really more shareware than freeware--and versions of it priced at little more than duplication costs are available from many sources. Linux is Y2K compliant but will have difficulty in 2038 unless it's updated. Since Linux developers have another 40 years to address this issue, it's likely that solutions will be implemented well before then. For more information visit The Linux Home Page at www.linux.org.

It's not just the hardware that can be a problem; it's software, too. Some software producers are capitalizing on this problem by forcing users to upgrade to newer versions. Others may have old software, like the accounting program I use that was produced by a now-defunct company, and cannot be upgraded. Keep in mind that Y2K conflicts can also occur at the data level. If date information was entered using a two-digit format, no automated solution is capable of deciding what the original user had in mind when that date was entered. In this case--when the Y2K problem is created by the data itself--the only solution is to evaluate the data and manually change the format to a Year 2000-compliant format.

The Y2K problem is too big and widespread for me to totally address in a single column. My point in bringing it up at all is to make you aware of what you can do with your computers. This is not a bug, it's a flaw in the way human beings designed software and hardware with the naiveté that by the time the year 2000 arrived, someone would fix that flaw. The only problem is that while everyone was waiting, no one was doing anything. A good web site to visit for more information on Y2K issues is the National Institute of Standards and Technology at: www.nist.gov./y2k/index.htm.

Darkroom Wizard is the best reason the author has found to put a computer in your darkroom. This Windows-based software takes the tedium out of darkroom math and serves as a useful film and paper database.

Plug-In Of The Month. There are three classes of graphic files: bitmap, metafile, and vector. A bitmap file (also known as "raster") is any image composed of a collection of tiny dots--or pixels. The simplest bitmapped files are monochrome images composed of a single color against a background. Images displaying more shades of color or gray tones need more than one bit to define those colors. By comparison, graphics saved in vector formats are stored as points, lines, and mathematical formulae that are used to describe the shapes that make up the image. When vector files are viewed on your computer screen or printed, the formulae are converted into a dot pattern and displayed as bitmapped graphics. Since the pixels created as part of that process are not actually part of the file itself, the image can be resized without losing quality. Photographic images are not typically saved in this format. A metafile is a multifunction graphic file type that accommodates both vector and bitmapped data within the same file. While seemingly more popular in the Windows environment, Apple Com-puter's PICT format is a metafile.

Adobe Photoshop and image-editing programs work with bitmapped images, while Adobe Illustrator and drawing programs work with vector images. This causes many digital imagers to purchase Illustrator when they occasionally need to work with vector based images, but they don't have to. Instead, they should take a look at this Plug-in of the Month. Extensis' PhotoGraphics 1.0 offers a vector-based drawing environment within Photoshop. PhotoGraphics does that by placing a set of vector based illustration and text tools right inside Photoshop, allowing you to create vector shapes that can be edited. For example, you can place text, with independent character formatting control, on any vector path--something that previously required Illustrator or a similar draw program. The plug-in also includes text formatting controls not found in Photoshop, such as super and subscript, all caps, and small caps. Best of all you can store text and drawings within your documents and re-edit them at any time. PhotoGraphics is compatible with Photoshop 4 and 5 and is available in both Mac OS and Windows versions. For more information call Extensis at (800) 796-9798. To download a free demo, visit Extensis' web site at: www.extensis.com/photographics.

A Computer In The Darkroom. PhotoSoft System's Darkroom Wizard software is the best reason I've found to place a computer in a conventional "wet" darkroom. Since Darkroom Wizard runs on Windows 3.1, as well as Windows 95 and NT, you can install it on any of the inexpensive Intel 486-based computers that are being offered at literally giveaway prices at used computer stores and the growing number of discount operations specializing in older technology, brand-name computers. You can use Darkroom Wizard's film and paper tests feature to keep track of your Zone System testing. Using this section of the program to store information on film developer used, N value, as well as developer temperature and time. Darkroom Wizard's Process Control section handles up to 25 steps (in case you're working with esoteric processes, such as Cyanotype) being able to specify user-selectable drain times for each phase of processing, and an optional pause at the end of each step. There's even a user-definable sound that can be played at the end of each phase. There are six time clocks and each one can count up or down from a preset time. A built-in digital metronome can be used to help you time any burning and dodging you need to do for a specific image. One of the program's coolest features is "New Print Size" that calculates the time needed to make a new print based on the size and time of your original. There's all kinds of mix conversion functions that can calculate the mixture percentage of a concentrated solution diluted with another solution or water, along with the ability to calculate the amount of concentrate and water needed to create a specific solution at a given dilution percentage. For less than $50, Darkroom Wizard does so many cool things there's just not enough space here to tell you about it. Go to their web site at www.wenet.net/~photosft or give them a call at 415-931-1560 for more details.

Any Port In A Storm Of Controversy. While many people are aware that Apple's iMac uses USB (Universal Serial Bus) connections exclusively, others may not realize that this trend has spread to the company's new G3 Power Macs as well. All of the new G3 computers have two FireWire and two USB ports allowing users to hook up many different peripherals without opening the computer's case or shutting down the system. Although the 400MHz model (only) includes a SCSI card, the trade-off for getting these new technologies is the lack of a built-in SCSI port, something that's been a part of Apple's computers since the Mac Plus. At a time when makers of Windows NT workstations, like Intergraph, are making a SCSI port standard equipment Apple is dropping it. This means that if you already own several SCSI peripherals, you'll have to install a SCSI card inside the G3, thereby reducing the availability of PCI slots to just two which is exactly what happens with the factory installed card in the 400MHz G3. Like the iMac there's also no built-in floppy drive in these hot new G3s.

CompuCable Corporation has just introduced iDock, a new six-port hub that enables USB-equipped Apple computers to interface with both USB and non-USB peripherals. The iDock sports two serial ports, one parallel port, and three extra USB ports. It is designed to function as an adjustable monitor stand keeping it from gobbling up any more of your precious desktop space. The serial ports can be a big deal for G3 owners who will also be surprised to find that in addition to not having a floppy drive--"Look Ma, no serial ports!" To learn more about CompuCable's iMac accessories that include an iSpeaker, two-button iMouse, uMater USB to parallel port adapter and other port adapters call 800-344-6921 or visit their web site at: www.compucable.com.

Multiple Monitors. While Apple's color Macintosh computers have always supported multiple monitors, it's been slower being accepted in the Windows environment. Some of the reasons for needing this feature has to do with understanding why you might want to have more than one screen in the first place. Two monitors cost less than one big one and give you more access to your virtual workspace. Typically, two smaller monitors take only 4 percent more space than a larger monitor for the same amount of screen workspace. One of the biggest advantages of using multiple monitors for digital imaging is that you can have all of your tools and palettes on one screen and the uncluttered image on the other one. One of the big players in the Windows multiple monitor game is Appian Graphics who recently introduced its Jeronimo Pro board that will allow you to connect up to four monitors to your PC. The board uses only one PCI (Personal Computer Interconnect) slot to support four monitors with incoming video, leaving the other slots available for additional cards such as SCSI connection. Jeronimo Pro can display video clips at a full 30 frames per second--either on one monitor or across several. The board runs under Microsoft Windows 95, 98, or NT. For more information about Appian Graphics multiple monitor cards, visit their web site at www.appiangraphics.com.

PhotoMontage For The Mac OS. In a recent edition I mentioned ArcSoft's PhotoMontage software that lets users create a single image montage constructed from thousands of micro-images. Formerly only available for Windows-based computers, ArcSoft recently announced a Macintosh version that, like the original, automatically selects and arranges thousands of tiny micro-images to recreate the detail found in a single image. The CD-ROM contains the program software along with over 20,000 micro-images that can be used to build your finished montage. You can also customize your montage by adding personal digital photographs. You can also apply grids and borders, captions, signatures and logos or even place a "hidden treasure" image inside the finished montage. PhotoMontage for the Mac OS costs $79.95 and works with any TWAIN-compliant image capture devices to add hundreds of personal still images for rendering a montage. For more information about ArcSoft's "Building Blocks of Digital Imaging" product line, call 510-440-9901 or visit the company's web site at: www.arcsoft.com.

Digital Copyright.
In last month's issue, I wrote about several ways that you can protect your digital images on the Internet or on stock photography CD-ROMS. Shortly after I submitted the story, Shutterbug introduced me to a company called Signafy that offers a new digital watermarking technology. Their technique is based on a method Signafy calls "Invisible Ink" which places a permanent, non-destructible digital watermark inside your images. Their software, called OwnerMark, is a proof of ownership application that was designed for Windows computers. The program imbeds an invisible digital watermark that is constructed from characteristics of the original photograph. Even image editing operation such as scaling, cropping, or manipulating brightness, contrast, or color won't affect the marked photographs created with OwnerMark.
Even if the image is compressed, the watermark will remain. The program supports 50 image file formats including TIFF, JPEG, JFIF, PCX, TGA, Photo CD, BMP, PICT, and SGI. If you discover one of your photographs being used in print or on the World Wide Web, your watermark will prove ownership and copyright of the original image. Placing a tag on every image on your web site, along with a statement that images are protected by Signafy's OwnerMark software, should help cut down on digital theft. You can even add a "Do Not Copy" watermark on images that you sell or license. More information and a free trial version of the program can be found at www.signafy.com.

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