go to contents of current issue contents.jpg - 1911 Bytes Digit-ali, a column of computer life by Ali Kayn

March, 1999

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Buffy the Birman; buffy40.jpg - 8609 Bytes
Not Beau, but Buffy, in her negotiated place on my desktop
So far, so far.

What an exciting life we lead, sitting there at our computers, sipping our beverage of choice. My life in the past month has been enlivened by a new (Birman) cat, Beau. Cats are playful enough, and kittens exponentially so, but this fellow is in a league of his own.

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When not taking a dip in the goldfish pond or stealing the cleaning rag from Tricia's hands, he is playing chase and testing his theory that there are only two categories of objects in the universe: the things you eat and the things you play with.

Which of course brings me back to my desk, the quickly-moving human fingers (a rare combination of toy and teething rusk), cables, and things that go whirr and flash. Cat heaven. While I am training him, I've reinstalled a piece of software I reviewed way back at the beginning of Festivale (October 1996), the Deep Space Nine security software.

Screen shot, Deep Space Nine voice recognition security program; ds9vprta.jpg - 27229 Bytes
This is a voice recognition system that samples your voice so your request for access can be as polite or imaginative as you wish. The advantage is that I can hit the Pause key when I leave my desk, and the cat climbing over my keyboard does nothing except, occasionally, incite Majel Barrett to request his voice print.

The down side is that my system for some reason does the voice recognition easily coming in from a freshly booted system, but when I try to get back in for my late-night e-mail run, it often reports no sound input at all. And we all know how well Windows deals with gratuitous reboots. Sensibly, after such a reboot the voice recognition is still required, and works.

Meanwhile, I've been working away at my new CanoScan FB 620P. A nice piece of scanning hardware, it has the added advantage that it operates standing on its side. So far I haven't found a single store where the sales staff knew this AND the Canon brochures do not have any photos of it being used that way. For books and such-like, you need to lie the scanner on its back, but for sheets of papers and photographs, the lip around the glass is enough to hold the paper in place.

By comparison with the HP scanners that I have tested, it is much of a muchness. As someone else wisely pointed out, the difference in a lot of these machines is not the scanning/picture taking, but the scanning software that makes the difference. The Canon has a cute interface, but a stubborn lack of user-definable defaults so I have to set the scanner up for colour every single time. It does remember the percentage I scanned in at last time, and the position on the platen. I scan from within Ulead's PhotoImpact, and admit that the biggest problem is running out of memory. This is especially a problem because where the Canon falls behind the HP is the resampling/ photo reduction capabilities of the software. The Canon software I don't trust at less than 65%, and indeed, generally scan in at 70%. The HP software I scanned in at precisely the dimensions I wanted for the finished image, routinely right down to 11%. The best result with the Canon has been to scan in at 70% and then use PhotoImpact to do the reductions and sharpening. For those who don't know, the sharper the image, the bigger it is as a jpg, so you have to balance sharpness as well as colours and size when creating your web images. (That's your tip of the month).

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This year we've received copies of Corel Office 2000 and Microsoft Office 2000, and our reviewers are going to be updating the relevant pages as they conduct their tests. So far the biggest issues have been the number of Microsoft CDs and Microsoft's multiple levels of security, and Corel's insistence on a user code when one wasn't provided to us. Sigh.

There's a new version of HotDog (5.5) which Chris will be reviewing for Festivale in the coming weeks. Pauline Benzies Laing has reviewed the edutainment childrens' software, Casper.

go to contents of current issue contents.jpg - 1911 Bytes Bookmark and Share Meanwhile, I have half a dozen film reviews to finish, so, as Bertie Wooster would say, Tinkerty-Tonk till next month.

by Ali Kayn,


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ISSN 1328-8008
Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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: Published in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia : copyright © Festivale 1999 All rights reserved
Filed: Mar-1999 : Last updated: Apr-1999 : Last tested: 16-Jul-2014: Last compiled: 08-Aug-2014
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