Thursday, August 21, 2008

Old Scanner Woes

A few days ago I pulled out my Canon CanoScan FS4000US slide/negative scanner to do some image processing. It worked fine under Windows XP with Photoshop Elements but I didn't receive a very good feeling when I went searching for Mac drivers. I finally found the fs4000usosx103en.dmg driver file on Canon's support site. The description indicated the drivers are for Mac OS X however they haven't been updated in almost two years.

Note that I am trying to install this on Mac OS X 10.5.4 (Leopard) on a 2.8GHz 24" iMac, it may work fine on ealier verions of Mac OS X.

After downloading and mounting the file I ran the FilmGet Installer. The installer tried to do its job and indicated success but it didn't put everything in the right places. Make sure that the contents of the folders in the dmg make it into the following locations:

fs4000usosx103en.dmg --> Macintosh HD
Into CMPrefs ----------> /Library/ColorSync/Profiles
Into Lib_CFMSupport ---> /Library/CFMSupport
Into Users_Shared -----> /Users/Shared
Into Plug-in: The FilmGet FS folder should
go into your Photoshop Plug-Ins directory

For example I put the FilmGet FS folder into /Applications/Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0/Plug-Ins

This worked fine for Elements but I installed Photoshop CS3 today, put the FilmGet FS folder in /Applications/Adobe Photoshop CS3/Plug-Ins and started Photoshop. This resulted in a plugin error and after looking at Photoshop's Help > System Info... dialog it indicated the FilmGet plug-in was not working.

It turns out that running Photoshop CS3 under Rosetta works. So for those times when I want to scan something in using CS3 I turn on Rosetta (Ctrl-click or right-click on the Adobe Photoshop CS3 application in Finder and select "Get Info"; make sure "Open using Rosetta" is checked) and run the program.

Kind of a mess and maybe Canon will update the drivers but I'm not holding my breath. The CanoScan FS4000US is a nice scanner, it cost several hundred dollars new, but it appears Canon has moved to flatbeds only and left the higher end slide/negative scanner market to Nikon.

I should also mention that VueScan apparently works fine with the Canon under Mac, that may be a good alternative for some.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Image Editing and New Toys

One of the reasons I went with the 24" iMac over the 20" iMac is that I wanted a larger screen to help with image editing. Back in the Windows world my process included several programs: Adobe Photoshop Elements 3.0, Sony Image Data Converter, and even GIMP and Paint. I also used several Photoshop plugins including Imagenomic NoiseWare, Kodak Digital ROC, and Adobe Raw Converter.

For some time I have been lusting after Photoshop CS3 but
didn't want to shell out the bucks to obtain it. With the new iMac, though, I figured I would suck it up and make the upgrade. Fortunately I stumbled across a pretty slick way to pick it up at a discount to full price.

Step 1: Bamboo Fun

The first step is to purchase a Bamboo Fun, one
of Wacom's inexpensive graphics tablets. I have been wanting to try out a graphics tablet for some time and this was an excellent opportunity to do so. I went with the small silver Fun which was less than $100 at the local electronics store.

The Bamboo Fun comes with Photoshop Elements (4.0 for the Mac), Corel Painter Essentials 3.0 and Nik Color Efex Pro 2.0 GE but it also includes Wacom "privileges" which give you the opportunity to purchase other products at discount, including Photoshop CS3.

Step 2: Use Your Privileges

Currently you can find the Bamboo Fun Photoshop discount page here. From there enter your information and it will take you to the Adobe store. The Adobe store indicates the offer is valid through November 30, 2008.

Step 3: The Adobe Store

At the Adobe store add Photoshop CS3 to the shopping cart - the discounted price should be displayed. Now head to Google and try something like "adobe promotion code" (without the quotes). You should be able to find codes to allow for even greater savings. I found one for 15% off of the total order.

Adobe is also currently offering discounts off Lightroom 2 if you purchase Photoshop at the same time but I couldn't get it to work with the checkout process. I'm not sure if I want to go with Aperture, Lightroom or neither so I just ordered CS3.


So to summarize, here is what I ended up getting:
  • Bamboo Fun tablet
  • Photoshop Elements 4.0
  • Corel Painter Essentials 3.0
  • Nik Color Efex 2.0 GE
  • Photoshop CS3
All for less that $400. Photoshop CS3 full by itself lists for $649. Happy shopping.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ten Days in

It's now 10 days with the new iMac and things are going well. A few notes about a few things follow.

VMware Fusion

Taking a general census of various opinion about Parallels and VMware Fusion had me leaning toward Fusion. I have used VMware products on the PC and so I downloaded the trial, installed and away it went. I was impressed with the process, it was very simple and found my Boot Camp Windows XP install without any problem.

I'm still using Windows for Money (I'm scared of Mac Quicken), CD printing to my Epson R200 (I can't get that part working on Mac yet), Office products with VBA scripting (I have a number of Excel spreadsheets that won't work on Mac Office) and ActiveSynching my Windows Mobile Phone (no I don't have an iPhone, leave me alone).

The VMware Unity feature that hides the Windows desktop and displays the active Windows windows on the Mac desktop is way cool. Blended Mac and Windows. It's as though I'm having OS/2 flashbacks, only better. The only problem so far is that it's a little flakey with Spaces, trying to move a Unity window to another space behaves strangely.

Amazon has VMware Fusion for $59.99 US plus a $20 mail in rebate. Well worth the money, I ordered my copy. It arrived and I just updated the license of the trial I installed with the boxed copy I purchased and didn't even have to reinstall.

Microsoft Office Mac

I installed it. Only to promptly have it download a bunch of updates several times. So far I haven't used it much, especially since as noted above many of my Excel spreadsheets use VBA scripting. I guess Word will probably see some use eventually but I'm doing pretty well without it right now. Fortunately it didn't cost me much otherwise I would probably just do without and use Office under VMware/Boot Camp when necessary.

Max for Mac

Looking for a Mac CD ripper I ran across one that does everything I need and was doing under windows: Max

This little gem allows me to rip to FLAC (for archival), ogg (for my portable audio I don't have an iPod, leave me alone) and mp3 (for everything else) simultaneously. It hooks into MusicBrainz for tag info and after specifying how and where to encode and name the files my ripping workflow is as simple as insert CD, start Max, go.

The Rest

I'm still getting used to things but it is getting better. My dock is evolving to include the stuff I use and I am starting to take advantage of Spotlight. I'm still not a Finder fan, it seems clumsy but I'm living with it for now. I'll look at alternatives later.

I was having some trouble with the built-in shared desktop client connecting to my windows machine. I was using TightVNC on the windows machine and the Mac client kept crashing so I am now using JollysFastVNC and results are much better.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Reporting for Duty

After a few days with the new iMac things are starting to shape up. Among other things:

  • Mail is working properly - I needed to designate a Junk mail folder for one of my accounts and now it is routing incoming mail as it should.
  • Firefox needs a dictionary Add-on installed to enable spell checking. I didn't see a Klingon dictionary so I chose English.
  • Boot Camp install was no problem, Windows XP is now running.
  • I installed GIMP by downloading the distribution from Wilbur loves Apple. I didn't need to install any supporting packages, it just worked (Mac OS X 10.5.4). It even recognized .ARW raw files from my Sony camera.
  • Microsoft Office 2008 is installed. I still need Excel and Word but I haven't played with the new Office interface much yet.
  • For my Java development I installed Eclipse. Java and ant were pre-installed as was subversion - very nice. I know Apple is a little behind the curve on Java support but what there is works well so far for me.
About the only headache so far has been iTunes. After importing my mp3 collection I discovered that most of the files didn't have proper tag information. On Windows I relied on the directory structure and filename to identify the files but iTunes really needs the tags. Having a bunch of songs by Unknown Artist on Unknown Album is no fun. I looked at things like MusicBrainz and FixTunes but ended up rolling my own partial solution. I'm still wrestling with it but it is getting closer.

I will probably try hooking up some external speakers. The built-in iMac speakers are adequate for basic computing tasks but not very satisfying for music. The beat rolls on.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

New Digs

The setup is continuing to come together. I disassembled the old computers and moved the ancient computer desk. Assembly and installation of the new desk took a couple of hours but it was straightforward. Here is the new layout:

And just a reminder of what things looked like before the extreme makeover:

In addition to the new desk I also installed the 4GB RAM package that arrived from Crucial. It took a little pulling to get the old RAM out (you yank on the tab exposed when you open the memory slots) but everything worked. Progress is amazing.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Big Day

The iMac has landed!

With much anticipation I pulled it out of the box, plugged in the keyboard, mouse and power cord and away I went. The screen looks great, no noticeable problems. Setup was a breeze. I am currently connected via WiFi as it sits on the dining room table. I haven't disassembled the PC/Linux setup with desk in the office yet so the iMac is working in temporary quarters.
The first thing I did after setup was to update the software. That is taking a while but my connection is not the greatest. The next thing I did was find the terminal. Ahhh...I feel good.
General first impressions:
  • The packaging was attractive and functional.
  • The 24" monitor is very nice!
  • The machine is practically silent.
  • There is a lot of Unix-y stuff under the attractive GUI.
  • It will take a while to get used to the menu bar at top of screen paradigm.
  • I didn't know the keyboard had firmware (it was updated).
  • I need a mouse with more buttons.
I set up my main mail account, that was simple enough. I am going to give Mail a try and see how it goes. Adding my other accounts also proved easy. I downloaded Firefox and am going back and forth between Safari and Firefox. Is there adblocking for Safari?

The surface has just been scratched. I am in the process of transferring files from my other machines to this once that is done I can really get down to making the transition.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Note to self: next time actually read the shipping notice.

What I assumed was an iMac to be delivered today is actually the printer. I received another shipping notice about the iMac and it should be here Friday. The waiting continues.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Prepping For the Switch

My iMac is in the state according to the shipment tracker. I have been cleaning up the office a bit and will be putting together a new desk for the new computer. I don't think it should have taken me 4 hours to put the filing cabinet together. Only one screwup, though, and you can't even see it so that's better than normal. I still haven't tackled the actual desk yet...

I have also been doing some reading including David Alison's blog about switching from Windows to Mac. There is a lot of good stuff there, including the avoiding potholes post. It looks like I'm going to be downloading a lot of software. Trial periods here I come.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Choices, Choices

My previous entry talked about the computing tasks I currently consider important and how I use multiple machines with different operating systems. The goal is to consolidate to a single Mac. I went about trying to match up what I wanted to do with the current Mac lineup. Of course I would love to get a maxed out Mac Pro with a giant Apple Cinema monitor but that is out of my price range at the moment.

I also very strongly considered getting a Mac Mini and just plugging it in to my current setup but one of the things I wanted was a larger monitor. My old Sony 17se II CRT monitor has served well for a dozen years but it is time to relegate it to backup duty. Pricing a Mac Mini plus a monitor meant I was quickly approaching iMac territory. In previous years I would have never considered an all-in-one machine but these days I really just want something that works and am not as interested in constantly upgrading the machine.

A nice benefit to the Intel-based iMacs is the ability to run Windows, Linux or any number of other operating systems. Where I used to build multiple machines I can now use a combination of multi-boot and virtual machines to stuff everything onto one system. I am looking forward to it.

So with the iMac as the logical choice the question was 20" or 24"? Looking at the two side-by-side in the Mac store it was a no-brainer, go for the bigger one! I think I'm going to be a bit surprised at the size when it actually gets here. I probably would have been happy with the 20" but I'm sure I will get used to the larger size quickly.

There aren't a whole lot of options on the iMac so it wasn't hard to pick what I wanted:
  • 2.8GHz processor
  • 2GB RAM (I have ordered the Crucial 4GB kit)
  • 750GB hard drive
  • NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GS video card
Really the only difficult part was trying to decide whether or not to go with the ATI Radeon HD 2600 PRO or the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GS for the video card. I couldn't find much info on the web about the relative benefits of the more expensive NVIDIA but in the end I went ahead and got it. Since you can't easily upgrade the card I decided to get the better one even though it added a bit to the cost.

Thanks to a company discount the system is going to come in at around $2000. More than I would like to spend but considering I'm essentially getting a new computer and monitor at once it seems reasonable. I also nabbed one of the "free after rebate" printers. I don't know if I am going to use it or sell it.

Now the wait. Tuesday is supposed to be the day...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Back to the Future

Well my first post ran a little long, I'll try to keep this one shorter.

My current office setup includes two Intel-ish PCs, one running Windows XP and one running Fedora 9. I typically use the Linux (ok GNU/Linux, get off my case) machine for email, browsing, programming and occasional image editing. I use the Windows machine mostly for finances, browsing, games, serving files, image editing and ripping my CDs. Both computers are hooked to an old Sony Trinitron 17" CRT monitor via a KVM switch. To get an idea of how out-of-date my setup appears I will include a picture:

Ok, that is kind of embarrassing, it looks like I swiped everything from a dorm room and stuck it in the corner of my home office. My goal is to replace everything with the new iMac currently on the FedEx truck making its way here.

I don't expect this to be an entirely smooth process. I've been out of the Mac OS game far too long to be comfortable with it and I plan to try and transition in stages. Ultimately I am going to need the following that I can think of at the moment:
  • Email (currently Thunderbird in Linux)
  • Web browsing (ubiquitous)
  • Personal finance tracking (currently MS Money)
  • Image editing (currently Windows XP Adobe Elements and Linux GIMP)
  • File serving to my PS3 (currently Windows XP using TVersity)
  • File serving to my HTPC (currently Windows XP SMB)
  • CD ripping to mp3, ogg and FLAC (currently EAC under Windows XP)
  • Programming (currently shell scripts, Java 1.6 and Eclipse in Linux)
  • Games (I'll tackle this topic later)
  • I'm sure I'm missing stuff, I'll fill it in as I go
Can the iMac handle it all and consolidate what is now a multi-machine effort into a single box and do it to my satisfaction? Hope springs eternal but I'm also realistic. We shall see.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Journey Begins

First post!!!

That was a stupid way to open a blog, why do people do that anyway?

This is about my journey (back) into the land of Apple Macintosh (I think it is just Mac now). Last night I found myself sitting in front a computer clicking on the Checkout button below the specs for a brand new 24" iMac. What a strange feeling indeed. How did I get here? To try and figure that out I suppose I should provide some backstory.

Growing up as part of the first home video game generation I found myself fascinated by the technology. If the names Atari VCS and Intellivision are familiar then you know the time period. We had the latter hooked up to an old console television in the house where I grew up. I played many hours of Blackjack against the shifty-eyed dealer. My first computer was an Atari 800XL which served me well for many years. I also had a couple of other Atari 8-bit computers before finally moving up to a small-shop 386 PC with Windows 3.0.

As I fine-tuned my computer programming skills in college I was bitten by the upgrade bug and before long was swapping out motherboards and CPUs, ordering RAM from Computer Shopper vendors (remember those huge ad magazines?), and trying to find good deals on hard drives. I had a CD-ROM years before they were standard on computers. I put OS/2 2.0 on my machine and attended an OS/2 Warp launch party (and still have the t-shirt to prove it). I was early into the Linux game and was compiling fixes into my kernel to get my external SCSI hard drive working with a Slackware distribution. I haven't purchased a ready-built desktop computer in over a decade and have installed various flavors of Linux, BSD and Solaris at one time or another. In short I tend to enjoy tinkering with computers and have been building my own systems for a long time. You could call me a power user (or luser) if you like.

So why did it take me so long to jump on the Mac bandwagon considering I like nice machines and shiny toys? Much of the answer has to do with my experiences about 15 years ago. I was toiling away as a lowly student at a university lab that featured Mac computers. Everything from the old black and white Mac 512s to Quadras. My experiences, frankly, weren't very positive. An OS that would constantly crash, the inability to run more than one program without something bad eventually happening, the lack of software (games especially) and device support and the fact that I had to service other people's problems with the machines soured me on the whole platform. I couldn't wait to get home to my PC. For the rest of the decade I couldn't figure out why on earth anyone would ever want to purchase a Mac. That remained the case until Steve Jobs came back to Apple and things started to improve.

I finally started to take notice when OS X arrived on the scene and have had my eye on Macs ever since. The final piece of the puzzle was the move to Intel and the ability to run Windows and just about any other OS out there natively or close to it. I'm probably not alone in my thinking and perhaps my chronicles will answer a few questions others have had.

So now that you know where I've been the next post will chronicle where I am and where I would like to go.