Solipsism Gradient

Rainer Brockerhoff’s blog

Browsing Posts published in April, 2003

Cool 3D Artwork

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A couple of days ago I visited the studio of Marcelo Bicalho, a local artist/illustrator. We have several friends in common, but had never met before.



Here’s some of his prizewinning 3-dimensional work in paper, and here’s an index page with more stuff, including some cut-out examples.

Highly recommended!

I just bought a CanoScan N670U, sold here in Brazil under the Elgin label. This scanner is already discontinued, but is equivalent to the LiDE 20. I downloaded and installed the latest Mac OS X drivers, and brought my iBook to the store for testing – they’d never seen a Mac before.

Installation is very confusing. There are two applications to be downloaded: “CanoScan_N670U_v7010X.app.sit” and “CanoScanToolbox4110X.app.sit”. They have to be unstuffed after downloading. When you run them, they install 4 items on your desktop: two folders (“CanoScan_N670U_v7010X” and “CanoScanToolbox4110X”) and three aliases (“Deldrv.dmg”, “CanoScan Toolbox Installer” and “ScanGear CS Installer”). All aliases point deep into the folders. You’re supposed to run first the “CanoScan Toolbox Installer” and then the “ScanGear CS Installer”; naturally, I ran them in reverse order and it didn’t work correctly at first. One installs the CanoScan Toolbox application, which is run if you press any of the scanner’s buttons; the other one installs the ScanGear CS plug-in into both the CanoScan plug-in folder and, if you have them installed, Adobe PhotoShop/ImageReady plug-in folders.

The whole installation process is very Windows-like; you need to run 4 separate programs in a certain order, and a mess of aliases and folders is left on your desktop. And it’s not as if they never heard of disk images, as they include the “Deldrv.dmg” image which contains a deinstaller program. The installers also tell you to restart (but not why).

Anyway, after the initial unpleasantness, the scanner works quite well, if somewhat slowly, and with a high-pitched whine reminiscent of a wind-up toy. Running the “calibrate” option the first time (and every couple of weeks) is necessary, otherwise you’ll get unsightly streaks on the images. On the positive side, it needs no extra power supply, has a stand to hold it vertically, and is thin and light enough to be easiliy transported with a laptop. And it comes with a USB cable.

The CanoScan Toolbox application is a Carbon port of a Windows application; it has a non-standard window and non-standard buttons, close boxes and so forth. It saves scans, by default, inside the application’s folder which is a definite no-no. You can set the 3 scanner buttons to call one of several functions: two different scan settings, copy (scan and print), e-mail, OCR, save (in a dated folder), or file (just save). The names are somewhat confusing, and the two scan options ask you to select an application to assign the scanned file’s type/creator code. Unfortunately it knows nothing about application bundles, and so you need to drill deep down into the bundle to point at the actual executable, something non-technical users will have difficulties with. You also can’t set two buttons to do the same function, or set a button to do nothing, which was my first impulse. In all, this application is like the installation process itself (and like many Windows apps): overly helpful in some aspects, confusing in others. The included documentation just glosses over these issues.

The PhotoShop/ImageReady plug-in is of better quality, with both a “simple” and “advanced” mode. Some of the advanced preferences are obscurely named, and the tooltips usually just repeat the preference’s name instead of explaining what it really does. After some tests I decided to turn most automatic stuff like cropping and rotating off, and doing my own descreening and sharpening.

All in all, I found the scanner to be quite adequate for my intentions: low-volume scanning for semi-professional use. Non-technical users are advised to try it out first and compare it with other models or brands, or enlist someone knowledgeable to install and configure it.

Safari Beta v.73

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I’ve been running this for a few days now. It seems about as stable as the previous version – I get about one crash per day. However, speed and compatibility seem improved. I’ve never seen any sense in forms auto-fill and similar automations, so I’m keeping this off. In fact, I wish the autocompletion in the URL field were less aggressive; I often delete trailing characters in the URL only to have Safari put them back a fraction of a second before I hit Return. This often happens several times in a row; IMHO the correct way would be for the user to explicitly accept the completion by hitting Tab, which I believe is the standard.

The hot feature are of course the browser tabs. I’ve never used this before in other browsers and was quite skeptical. However, tabs in Safari turn out to be surprisingly useful in certain circumstances. For instance, I set up a “Comics” folder on my Bookmarks Bar with bookmarks to all comics I read daily; command-click on the folder name, and all comics are opened in the same window, one to a tab.

On the other hand, I also have several other bookmark groups on the bar which I definitely don’t want to open as a tab group under any circumstances – especially as some of them are rather large. As Safari previously required the user to press command before opening a bookmark from a popup menu in a new window (other browsers test the command key at mouse-up time instead), the first couple of days had me constantly opening dozens of unwanted tabs at the same time, requiring immediate closing of the window and sometimes even force-quitting.

I also wish that Safari were a little more consistent in checking for the command and shift key signals to indicate a new tab or new window. As it is, directly opening a bookmark from a popup menu in a new tab is now impossible; you have to generate a new tab with command-T and then open the bookmark there. Holding command down while selecting an URL from the History menu opens no new tab either. I hope this is just an oversight…

As expected, reactions to the new Safari are mostly positive. Here’s a great comment from Bill Palmer:

…if this is still beta, then I’m a giraffe.

…Somehow, after all those years of watching Microsoft use Explorer to slowly, nastily, illegally choke the life out of Netscape on both platforms, Apple manages to blow Explorer off the face of the Mac platform in a matter of months…with a product that’s not even finished yet?

…Something tells me that deep in the dark recesses of his mind, Steve Jobs had this all planned out five years ago when he made the original Internet Explorer deal with Microsoft in the first place. Now, Steve gets to kick back and watch Microsoft squirm, as he lounges around at the pool and maybe buys a record company or two…

Re: Inside

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Part II of Michael Crawford article “Living with Schizoaffective Disorder” is out. Inside the article is a link to Part I, as well as to other writings.

PhotoShop in Hell

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Rich Tennant’s Fifth Wave shows photoshopping devils at work. icon_lol.gif

Kevin Smith’s Centricle has posted version 1.2 of his Ruler favelet that allows checking coordinates and measure items in both Safari and Internet Explorer (Mac).

Extremely convenient… be sure to look around Kevin’s site for more useful stuff.

Posted by AccordionGuy:
You’re welcome, Rainer!

Joey “AccordionGuy” deVilla has reposted most of the original Top Ten Things About New Girl article, which caused all the Blogs save lives commentary. Thanks, Joey!

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