Main Line Computer Users Group


March 2003 Issue 250

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER, ROOM 110

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - MAR 8 th


THIS MONTH'S CONTENTS

MAIN LINE COMPUTER USERS

Last time, we took a swing at the massive topic of: "Images" or "Imaging" - all you ever wanted to know but were....

Our intent was to hit many high spots of the subject to 1) wet folks appetities and 2) bring out potential topics of interest to aid in deciding what is of interest to the members. As the minutes noted, the leading interest was about scanning, apparently since quite a few of us have the devices and would like to get much better results from them. We can't guarantee results, but we hope to show some of the basics, hopefully a step on the road to getting better scans, having to do less work on the result and making you a bit more productive.

Layton Fireng will bring in his laptop and scanner (the club does not have one) to provide the basic tools for a demo. As one of his samples last month, the hundred+ year old photo that was amazingly restored after scanning and image enhancement, showed - a lot can be done with apparently pretty sad starting material! So, come and get scanned ...

Oh yes, if you have a print, B&W or color negative that is of special interest to you, bring it along and we can perhaps give some indication of what you could hope to do with it.


OFF TOPIC - THE COLUMBIA EVENT!

With the recent shuttle disaster, the much-viewed failure of Columbia during its landing, we were bombarded with all kinds of comments, views and opinions related to the incident. Importantly, there was much (some pretty frenetic) on dis-continuing the manned space program itself, as being too dangerous.

I am taking the chaoce to reprint here one of the most thoughtful views that I saw. Since it appeared in the weekly Kennett Paper, I'm sure it did NOT get the readership that I think it deserved. So, with permission from the author, I'm bringing it to your attention. I sincerely hope that you will give it a serious read: [cont'd]

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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THE EMAILING LIST - for those members who have provided an email address, we have subscribed them to the MLCUG listserver (operated most graciously by Pete Whinnery and the UPenn system). This is a way to catch early announcements, hear about problems (and solutions?) between the meetings. You can get (and give) help. A useful tool we feel; so when renewing, consider including your email address in that spot on the form.

REGULAR REMINDERS: - 1) attendees know that we have a very fast internet connection from the VU meeting room! So, if you have a very large download, you could bring along a zip disk (or a CD- R/RW) and get it done there, either before or after the main meeting.

and 2) a half dozen or so of the regular attendees, usually partake of lunch at the Villanova Diner after the meeting. Why not join us? It is a good time to get a little more help (or give it) and just to have fun talking about our common interests. The food is quite good, too!

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Tutorial videotapes

With the assistance of Mayo Productions (you ALL know who that is!) and Charles Curran, Inc., we have some tutorial videotapes for member loans. Each tape is a lecture on one of the topics:

They are all introductory presentations and not aimed for the experts. If you have an interest in any of them, let me know. They'll be available at all of the upcoming meetings, stored in the "closet".

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Digital Photography

The MARCH issue of Smart Computing magazine has a 20-page section on various aspects of digital photography. By the time you read this, it will be getting scarce: so you'll have to pop right out to get it!

But, if you have, or are likely to have, an interest in digital photography it has a very wide- ranging introduction to the subject. For a few bucks, you'll not likely find a better starter.

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PDF Files

If you are interested in creating PDF files (and who isn't, these days!), I would call your attention to the February 2003 issue (#199) of PC PLUS, sold at Micro Center, $13.95 with CD, $14.95 with DVD. It has a PDF creator program on the disk. The program can be seen at jawspdf.com. Not a bad price for a $100.00 program!!!

This English magazine has a habit of offering full, working versions of programs. While perhaps not the current version, they do work and get the job done. [Layton Fireng]

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LAST MONTH'S MEETING

For our February meeting, we had 18 attendees of record, who generated some lively conversation!

Our announcements and questions were, purposely, briefer than usual; so as to allow time for the main topic - Images and Imaging.

The topic is a very complex one; so I started the discussion by noting that this meeting was aimed at showing MANY aspects of imaging - without digging deeply into any of them. The objectives being to: 1) determine if there was interest in the group in tackling the subject and 2) gain some idea as to what subjects had the highest interest.

The presentation was mainly done by Layton Fireng, who had brought along a variety of images and imaging tools - aimed at showing us some WOWs!!

Layton started out with a before and after display of some old family photos, dating back to the 1880's!, that he had restored to excellent viewability. He was able to recover an incredible amount of detail in the restored image - much more than one might believe the old photo technology could capture.

He discussed some "calibrated" images that can be used to test the capabilities of your printer. The images have been placed in the club's download website (see note on p.ZZ) where you can download and print them to see how your hardware does. The files are quite large; so webmaster Pete Whinnery has provided both the original tiff images, and jpeg versions of them. The latter necessarily sacrifice some of the fine detail and we're not sure how well they will serve. So, if you can be patient (or have a high speed connection), go for the big tiff images.

Next, Layton showed some forms in which you can get digital images from your existing film camera. Altho, they are not real cheap, most photo processing folks have the option to get a Kodak Picture Disk (a floppy) or a Kodak Picture CD with digital versions of the photos on your roll of exposed film. He also showed a Kodak PhotoCD which has extremely high resolution digital images - the kind the pros go for. These products have built-in image viewers, but most image massaging products, including the two mentioned above can display and manipulate the images.

He also passed on a few fundamentals concerning the two basic image types: raster (or bitmap) and vector. The latter are most familiar when you work with true type fonts in your word processor. With them, no matter how large the point size, the letters are always smooth and sharp - since there are no pixels in the font (it's all done with mathematical algorithms). The bitmap images (like the familiar .bmp .jpg .tif .gif) will all break up and become "pixellated", if they are magnified enough.

Most of what us average citizens will be using for images are the latter type and we have no plans to further deal with the vector image class.

Unfortunately, things were marred by our not having had the opportunity to test out the club PC with the new software - on the exhibits that Layton had pulled together. In most cases (and with some help from Layton's laptop), the difficuluies were overcome. BUT, if there are followup questions on any of this, we urge folks to bring them up this month.

One caveat, the only "tools" used were Irfanview and Adobe Photoshop Elements 1.0. The former is freeware (and very good freeware at that!), while the latter is a powerful, but relatively INexpensive image processing application from Adobe, the producer of Photoshop, the acknowledged #1 in the professional image folks arsenal.

After working our way thru this (and other) material, we posed the questions to the group: 1) does any of this have interest? And, if it does, 2) what is the most interesting? Aimed at defining possible future meeting topics.

There was definite interest from the group, and they suggested: scanning images, digital cameras, image correction.

This summary was also posted to the email list; so ANY members who did not make the meeting could also offer suggestions, ideas or other input.

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Calibrated images

Speaking of images, two very special such have been uploaded to the MLCUG's download site. They were provided by Layton for member use, and his comments, following their posting, were:

"You all received a notice that Peter had posted several calibrated images in our download area. These images were prepared at great expense to be printer standards. As you may or may not know Photoshop and Photoshop Elements provide a measuring device to measure the exact color in a specific pixel, or set of pixels. By placing a pointer on a specific area, the exact color value of the selected area can be read. In eight bit color each pixel can have a value of from 0 to 255; so in RGB that allows for 0 to 255 in each of Red, Green and Blue. So, if one wants to create or find a true neutral, one has but to look for an area that has the same value for R, G, and B. So, even if the monitor is way out of calibration, if you see the three equal values, you can know with certainty that it is a grey area. Similarly, if the color value of something else is known, as in matching a color from another image, an exact match can be achieved.

However the real purpose of the files was for printer checking. Since the colors in the files are exactly known, any deviation, must of needs be in the printing process. By reducing the variables, the process is simplified, since the other values are constant. So where to look is in the relationship between the printer driver, a given printer profile, the ink and the particular paper.

The grey io the border of the files, is a pure grey, it has no color tint. There are flesh tones and solid patches of known colors. There is also a step wedge. Every step should be without coloration. It is possible to have a wedge that has a clean white or black, but the midrange have a color tint.

The purpose of providing these images, is not to make someone wrong. If everything is not perfect, this is a tool, if correction is desired, or there is a problem. If your prints are poor, but these files print well, you would look for an answer in a different place than if these files also printed poorly. They are a fixed point from which to gauge where things are. I hope you find them useful. If you have questions, of something is not clear, please ask. [Layton Fireng]"

If any members try them out, how about bringing the results for folks to review and see what limitations of various printer systems show up? [ejv]

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Hogging disk space

A recent issue of the Inquirer had John Fried's Sunday column, entitled: "GoBack may be devouring your hard-drive real estate". He suggested how to deal with that specific point and mentioned some other hoggers.

Recently, I became aware of just how much hogging can go on, unbeknownst to the average (and especially newer) computer user. Windows Me and XP have become the leader in this respect.

You can note yourself that most new, mid to low-end computers come thru with a 40 GB hard drive. And, as it turns out, some of the hogs determine their useage based on a % of the TOTAL hard drive space.

Examples:

There are probably more, but you can get the idea, namely; you can lose a major fraction of your hard drive's acreage to stuff that you are likely to be unaware of!! (and Microsoft certainly doesn't make any effort to tell folks about this technical stuff!!).

The only way to control is by discipline and some careful attention to settings that will cap some of these space hogs.

BTW - associated with this space situation is the need to clean these things out BEFORE you do a DEFRAG on your hard drive. It is sort of pointless to nicely arrange and compact crap!!!

So, before you do a defrag, you should:

(Except do NOT remove temp files created on the day that you are working, some of them may still be in use)

Then you are ready to run scandisk and, finally, defrag itself. This would, then, be a good time to check the status of your backup routine and make up-to-date backups.

If you use something like Drive Image or Ghost, then this is also an ideal time to run them

That's probably enough said about space hogs. BUT, if anyone is aware of other offenders, please let us know; so this advice can be appropriately modified.

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John Fried FAQ

Just a reminder, John Fried, the computer support columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer. This is a subset of ALL the FAQs that he has responded to over the years.

He describes these as his VERY frequently answered questions (so, I reckon he should have called them VFAQs, right?). There are now 92 of them! So, this is likely to be a good first spot to look for info on a problem you are encountering. And, if you do not get the Inquirer, it is definitely a place to bookmark...

As a reminder, the URL is:

http://go.philly.com/faq/

If any members find an FAQ of particular value, how about sharing your good fortune???

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[continued from p.1]

BRIDGES AND SADNESS

From: Starstuff, February 2003 [Published in the Kennett Paper, and reprinted with permission]

by Roger Taylor

There are those who throughout history have been discoverers, explorers and builders of bridges. Their discoveries, explorations and bridges have added immeasurably to the sum of human knowledge, pushed the borders of human thought and bridged the gap between that what was possible and what was impossible. There were also casuamties and there was grief.

Magellan did not live to see the shores of Spain on his last momentous voyage, for he died in the trying. Yet his ship and some of his crew survived and humanity knew that the Earth was round and that circumnavigation of the planet was possible. It took many years to convince the royal backers that this trip was worth financing, and it took months to assemble a crew with belief strong enough to think that the task was do-able. There were casualties and there was grief.

The HMS Beagle sets sail with Charles Darwin in the 1830s to bring back news and knowledge of the new world. He was to catalogue the flora and fauna that he might find and carry various instruments to measure the oceans, the winds and the world. This was to expand knowledge, and understanding of a larger world, peopled by those different than he. In the striving and trying, men were lost to gale and to disease. There were casualties and there was grief,

In 1933, the construction of the Golden Gate bridge began and there were many who said that such a bridge over such treacherous waters could not be built. It would take too much manpower, and too many resources for the value of the endeavor. In the process of learning the nature of Pacific storms, currents and tides rising from the deep ocean floor off shore, engineers and scientists mastered techniques and derived new strategies to do what was not possible before. A dozen people died in the construction of that great link. This continually operating monument of concatenaries of twisted and woven steel and adamantium-like concrete pillars, takes us now with ease and certainty where it was difficult or impossible to go before. But there was brave death in the price and there was sorrow.

This week past brought us a reminder that great missions and great enterprise exact great sacrifice. These events remind us that we have not yet joined the ranks of gods who see all and know all. We are reminded that we are finite and sometimes there is the ultimate price to pay for our yearnings. The Space Shuttle Columbia no more will lift to the stars. While not speaking of it directly, the seven explorers and scientists, humankind at its finest, understood that there was risk and there was danger in moving further from Earth's life giving womb. I suspect, but can't possibly know, that if the chance was again given to that valiant crew, that there would be no hesitation in their resolve. I think that it is unlikely that there will be any that resign from the astronaut corps for fear of disaster.

They, like many of us, hold a deep seated understanding that to always be looking inward rather than outward, to looking downward rather than upward will forever prescribe us to narrow goals and narrow vision. We are building bridges to the stars. We choose to chart the uncharted. This is the difference between government and business. For a business, we must show profitability, but our government, can bow to our will and our dreams. If it were not so, then the moon would not now bear the footprints of humanity.

As it has always been, it is expensive in lives and resources to reach beyond that which we know. If our spirit is to survive unpaled then we must always pay the price. To some of us the price is small and to others, at the edge, the price may be the ultimate one. To yield to the argument that we must first solve all the problems in our own neighborhood before we seek other destinies, binds us forever to this little speck in a vast universe. We must continue to build bridges, we must continue to explore, we must continue to be boundless. Let us continue to say that a thing is unknowable or impossible and then continue to prove ourselves wrong, even though there may be casualties and there may be grief.

DIRECTIONS FOR ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER MEETING ROOM

Meetings are in the St. Augustine Center at Villanova University. The regular monthly sessions will be meeting in Room 110.

[Map goes here]

Enter from the ITIAN AVENUE main gate, then proceed to the 2-level parking building adjacent to St. Augustine, on the Ithan Avenue side of the building.

NOTE: maps on our webpage http://astro4.ast.vill.edu/mlcug/

PC/128/64 Meetings  2003  Steering Committee Meetings

                      March 8                           March 19 **
                      April 12                          April 15 **
                      May 10                            May 21 **

     * = first Saturday     ** = iTHIRDi Wednesday at Tom Johnson's home
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EDITOR:  Emil J. Volcheck, Jr.   1046 General Allen Lane    West Chester, PA 19382-8030
(Produced with C-128D/SCPU 128, RAMlink, HD-40/85, 1571, FD-4000, THE WRITE STUFF 128, XETEC
Super Grafix, Canon BJ-200ex, Swiftlink and Motorola 288 modem)

      MLCUG LISTSERV: Members only...
                 WWW: http://astro4.ast.vill.edu/mlcug/
           PUBLICITY: Robyn Josephs 610-565-4058
   VILLANOVA SPONSOR: Prof. Frank Maloney, Dept. of Astronomy

MLCUG STEERING COMMITTEE:
PRESIDENT: Emil Volcheck      610-388-1581   SECRETARY: Charles Curran    610-446-5239
TREAS/MEMBERS: Dewitt Stewart 610-623-5145   SYSOP/AMIGA SIG: John Deker  610-828-7897
INTERNET/Linux:Peter Whinnery 610-284-5234   DATABASE: Layton Fireng      610-688-2080
AT LARGE: Tom Johnson         610-525-3440   AT LARGE: John Murphy        610-935-4398