Main Line Computer Users Group


April 2003 Issue 251

VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY, ST. AUGUSTINE CENTER, ROOM 110

MEETING STARTS - 09:30 - MAY 10 th


THIS MONTH'S CONTENTS


MAIN LINE COMPUTER USERS

As the report on p.3 shows, we had a number of digital cameras on hand last time, and got feedback from folks on some of the pros and cons.

This month we'd like to go further - starting into some of the parameters to consider when you begin your hunt for one of these new widgits! Check your email before the meeting, as I'll send out a thought tickler sheet that will/may (hopefully) aid the discussion; and your choosing of a camera. Some more aspects of digicams are on p.2 and p.4 of this newsletter. You can mull those items over before the meeting, too.

While it may be getting a little ahead of ourselves in this journey on digital imaging and your digital darkroom, I have obtained a tutorial CD on the versatile and cheap (as in freeware) image utility - Irfanview - which can be downloaded from www.irfanview.com. It has some amazing capabilities for being both freeware and SMALL (the app fits on a floppy with lots of room to spare)! We'll take a gander at one of the tutorials on the CD to whet your appetite...

Depending on how time runs, we may have the time to discuss acquiring a new club demo computer. See the tickler on p.2.


COPYRIGHT FUN ??

There were songs copied to tapes, and movies copied to tapes, then songs and movies copied to most anything. OVER THE INTERNET!!

With the internet being everywhere - and computer storage ubiquitous, swapping of music files has grown by leaps and bounds, much to the dismay of the music and movie industry. With the fall of Napster and the quick rise of its successors, the practice has stayed in the news. The Wilmington paper had an article on a recent action on college campuses, including the University of Delaware. I thought you might like to see this; so flip the issue back to p.4, where this item is continued.

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ANNOUNCEMENTS & COMMENTS
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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.

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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NEW CLUB COMPUTER

As mentioned at the last meeting, and confirmed at the April Steering meeting, we plan to get an updated computer for meeting use. Our trusty Powerspec 4331, purchased in 1997 for the then princely sum of $1100, has stood us in excellent stead. But, with increasing interest in digital imaging, it is clear that we need both more storage (RAM and hard drive) for the larger file sizes and more horsepower (CPU) to manipulate them.

With the significant drop in prices in these last six years, we feel that an investment similar to last time, $1K, will give us an amply capable system. Our treasury has a sufficient balance to do uhis job (but if anyone wants to add to the kitty, it will not be turned down )!

If time permits, at the May meeting, we'll review our current status and take ideas from the attendees. Many of you should have received the listserv mailing of the writeup on our thoughts to date. That will be the take-off point for the meeting.

So, come prepared to raise questions and offer your input.

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Digital Cameras - I

Digital cameras are proliferating like rabbits!(maybe more so!)! We talked some about them last month, and we'd like to help folks choose them. But, the ads are already getting infected by marketing folks!

So, take a look at these tidbits from a couple of recent ads:

1. a camera was listed as a 3 megapixel unit, with a maximum resolution of 3200x2400 pixels. Anything strange about that?

2. another camera was listed as having about a 6X optical zoom and 700X digital zoom. Anything strange about that?

We'll get your answers at our upcoming May meeting...

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LAST MONTH'S MEETING

We had 16-17 folks show up for the April meeting, which turned out to be a VERY lively discussion and exchange of experiences.

During the Q & A and announcements, some tidbits worth passing on came up:

1. Popup Stoppers - I mentioned that some local ISPs (Beenet and Cavalier) had joined the ranks of stopper offerers. Rich mentioned that AOL also has one and thought it was doing a good job. Any others that folks have tried? Too bad that this form of spam is also taking up more and more system resources, user time and frustration (all in the name of marketing!)!

2. 2-3 folks mentioned that they were very pleased with the "OpenOffice" freeware office suite that Pete Whinnery had brought CDs for some meetings go. If you'd like to avoid the high cost of "Office", give this product a look.

3. Pete announced that since we started the MLCUG email list, we had passed the 500 message mark! Hopefully, the members are finding the messages useful - and not just more spam!

4. Marty Caulfield brought a sample printout of the info that AIDA had provided about his computer - 70 PAGES!!! Now, that should give you a cozy evening by the roaring fireplace... Check it out - you don't have to print it all!

We finally got things turned over to what turned out to be our "digital camera show and tell". There were some half dozen cameras brought in and their owners told us something about why they got that particular camera and what its general features were, what they liked and disliked about them. Here are quick summaries of five of them:

Canon Powershot S200 (Jack Ryan) - 2 Megapixel (MP), 2X optical zoom, with USB interface. He got it as a gift and likes the video out feature; so he can view the images on his big screen TV (many cameras offer this feature, check yours). Jack finds the camera a bit small to hold for him (but that also makes it compact!).

HP 315 (Ralph Hose) - 2 MP, 2.5X optical zoom, USB interface. Ralph also got his as a gift and noted that it was very easy to hold and work the controls.

Both Jack and Ralph mentioned the complicated menus - an arrangement that the other owners nodded their heads on. For any of the better than el cheapo cameras, they are loaded with a ton of things you can fiddle with!

Minolta 2300 (Bill Folger) - 2 MP, no zoom, USB interface. Bill takes a lot of action shots (he's a train fan) and finds a tripod necessary to get blur-free photos. He noted that the small flash on the camera is not much use beyond about 10 feet (making a sensitive camera desirable); so indoor shots are not what he'd like to get.

Kodak Easy Share DX4900 (John Murphy) - 4 MP, 2X optical zoom, USB port. John did not get the optional "dock station" but uses an external media reader to extract the images to his computer (some others do the same thing rather than download from the camera, which can eat batteries). He commented on the ease of the Kodak software (downloadable by anyone from the Kodak website) and test images they offer to check your printer/paper setup.

Olympus D460 (Emil Volcheck) - 1.3 MP, 3X optical zoom, serial interface. He got the camera over two years ago and it still serves in good stead. The slow serial interface is circumvented by a memory card reader with USB interface. One nice feature is the ability to get TIFF images, in addition to four levels of JPEG images. The TIFF offers the best way to get the most out of the lower MP count on this camera. Emil shared the feelings on complexity of the menu system and the plethora of options available.

OVERALL, you'll note everyone had a different make and model camera. There are a zillion of them out there; so picking is a very real problem. Most of the review articles do not help a lot, the cameras appear and disappear quickly (making articles almost out of date before they get published) and they typically cover no more than a dozen or two of the hundreds out there.

So, perhaps, we could discuss putting together some suggestions for folks to consider. Any votes on that for next time? What else might folks like to talk about, or see, on the digital camera subject.

Oh yes, Emil brought in three thick books on digital cameras and digital photography - there's almost too much help out there!!

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Those BIG Images!

At our last meeting, a question came up about emailing images and having the recipients ask why you are sending them GIANT pictures!!! A reminder apparently is in order regarding images. Remember there is NO ONE image or format that is universally useable. You need to modify your images to the purpose AND the recipient!

One particularly common error is to snap a pix with your digital camera and email it, or you scan something and hit the "email this image" button so conveniently provided. In these cases, you are almost certainly going to be sending an image way to big for on-screen viewing.

So, if the latter is your purpose and the image will be viewed on screen by your recipient, remember that your screen resolution is most likely 800x600 or 1024x768. If you have a 2 megapixel camera, its image is 1600x1200. A quick look at those numbers will make it clear that the camera shot is 4X or 2.5X larger than the full screen (and since you don't usually have full screen available because you have to allow for the task bar, title bar, menu bar, format bar and address bar, the situation is even worse).

So, you'll want to resize the image to something no larger than- perhaps, 500x375, or some such. If you do, your email friends will remain friends...

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Digital Cameras - II

To help with figuring out some of the digital camera ads - in the higher than 2 megapixel range, I'd like to find out the resolution of the CCD chips used in these cameras. The number I want is the unadulterated, unhyped, unglossed actual pixel count on the chip, used to make the image.

Example: a "two megapixel" camera might be reported to give 1600x1200 resolution photos, which is 1600*1200 = 1,920,000 pixels - or the 2 megapixels.

Usually the numbers are in the ratio of 4:3 (the same as your monitor screen resolution). Example: my 1.3 megapixel camera has a 1280x960 ccd chip (or 1,228,800 pixels and the 4:3 ratio).

Could you digital camera owners check your docs and bring some info to the meeting?

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SONG SWAPPING !

(continued from p.1) Students Targeted for Song Sharing

By Sean O'Sullivan, Staff reporter Wilmington News-Journal, 05/03/2003

Computer users who illegally download copyrighted music from the Internet may be in for a nasty surprise.

Some may receive a pop-up message reading "DON'T STEAL MUSIC," while others could hear a profane statement from the artist instead of a song. And some could be sued by the recording industry.

Faced with declining sales and increasing song sharing over the Internet, the recording industry has shifted to new tactics to try to curb what it sees!as piracy. Instead of just going after the Napster-like Internet file-sharing Web sites, including Kazaa and Grokster, the industry is focusing on individual users who are downloading an estimated 2.6 billion songs every month from those sites.

And industry officials have said college students are the main culprits because of their access to high-speed connections through college computer networks. But if the point of recent moves was to scare students away from filling up their hard drives and MP3 players with copyrighted material, it hasn't yet hit the mark in Delaware.

Students said they were either unaware or undeterred by the lawsuit and other industry measures.

"I don't think it will change anything," said John Cahall, 20, a sophomore at the University of Delaware, who said he will continue to download songs. "I won't worry about it."

Annika Mengisen, 20, a UD sophomore, agreed. "I think it is ridiculous. The music industry makes enough money as it is. Music is an art form that shoule be shared and appreciated," she said. "They are turning this into a battle over money." But money is exactly the point, according to the recording industry and analysts.

"Much as college kids don't want to think it is a business, it is," said Greg Lee, a research associate with industry analyst Raymond James & Associates. And online file sharing, or piracy as the industry calls it, is hurting record company profits.

This week the industry launched what it calls an "educational" effort and what Lee called a "scare tactic." Computer users who download songs from certain Web sites will receive a warning against the theft of copyrighted music that reads in part, "When you break the law, you risk legal penalties."

A Recording Industry Association of America official said the message was first sent out Tuesday to people who downloaded files from sites like Grokster. The association hoped to send out 1 million more copies of the messages by the end of this week.

Industry officials were able to do uhis by logging into the file-sharing sites and using a messaging function in the software that allows users to communicate with each other. In this case, however, the communication was a warning sent from the industry.

Madonna, and her record label Warner Brothers, added their own twist on this effort by distributing files on the Internet that appeared to be unauthorized copies of songs from her latest recording "American Life." However, when the file is downloaded and played, the user hears Madonna saying, "What the [expletive] do you think you're doing?"

Music sales decline Matt Oppenheim, senior vice president with the recording association, said industry sales have dropped about 10 percent a year for the past three years. That has forced record companies to lay off thousands of employees, he said.

Industry analysts, however, said other factors may have contributed to reduced sales, including the economy and changes in the marketplace.

Lee Black, senior analyst with Jupiter Research, said less variety is being offered for sale, partly because "big box" stores like Best Buy and Wal-Mart carry a narrow selection of titles. He also said there is less diversity in radio station play, the recording industry's primary promotion tool.

The downturn in sales led to another new tactic by the industry - lawsuits on the grass-roots level.

In early April, the recording association sued four college students, who operated file-sharing networks at their colleges. Each of the students offered a centsal index of song titles that were available on other computers on campus.

The lawsuit against students in New York, Michigan and New Jersey sought $150,000 in damages for each song that was swapped through their systems, though none of the students appeared to be operating their sites for a profit. The four settled out of court with the industry Thursday. Each promised not to violate copyrights in the future and pay damages from $12,000 to $17,500.

Oppenheim said the recording industry also is working to establish legitimate online pay-for-play download sites like pressplay and Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store.

While industry officials tout the quality, security and legality of these sites, users have to pay a fee, such as $9.95 a month on pressplay or 99 cents a song from iTunes, to download songs. And the legal sites have a narrower selection than the illegal but free download sites.

Area colleges all have Internet policies that prohibit the downloading of copyrighted material and impose sanctions, including loss of computer privileges and suspension for those who violate the rules. However, school officials concede it is nearly impossible to police all the traffic on their systems.

School officials said when they receive specific complaints from record companies, or movie studios, about copyrighted material being made available from school computers, they reprimand the student involved.

Karl Hassler, associate director of network and systems services at UD, said the school has responded to 189 complaints since September.

Charles Fletcher Jr., associate provost for technology at Delaware State University, said DSU has had two complaints in two years. Figures at other colleges in the state were not available.

Is problem overstated? Some students said they think the industry is overstating its losses and the extent of the problem. James Klawitter, 21, a sophomore at UD, said file sharing is no different than college students a generation ago making "mix tapes" from CDs, LPs and uhe radio.

Klawitter said he primarily searches online for older songs that he can't find in stores.

Oppenheim said copying and distributing copyrighted material has always been illegal, the difference between mix tapes and file sharing is the scale. "Do you think there was ever a month at the height of mix tapes where 2.6 billion recordings were copied?" he asked.

Today with a computer, one person can instantly distribute a song to millions of people, he said.

Becky Novorro, 18, a UD freshman, said the idea of a multimillion dollar lawsuit for downloading songs is scary, "But it probably won't stop me."

However, not all students support downloading music.

Nicole Mark, 20, a junior at Wesley College in Dover, said she stopped a few years ago. "I realized it was hurting the artists," she said.

But even students who are sympathetic to the music industry's arguments said they did not think the recent actions would stop students from downloading songs.

"People will find a way to do it. They shut down Napster, but they are still sharing files," said Van Thongvong, 21, a UD student majoring in criminal justice.

Downloading songs is cheap and easy, and college students are poor," said Chris Gale, 20, a UD sophomore.

Gale then returned to listening to songs on his MP3 player, which he said contained songs downloaded from the Internet!!!

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 ITHAN 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

                      May 10                            May 21 **
                      June 14                           June 18 **
                      July 12                           July 16 **

     * = first Saturday     ** = THIRD 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-201ex, 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