Catch a Tiger

I’m usually cautious when it comes to recommending upgrades. I have found that most users don’t appreciate the annoyances that go hand in hand with new software. I say, “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it”, so I was careful when I updated to the new version of MacOS X 10.4 (aka Tiger.) I have not been disappointed with this new version and I can easily recommend it. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights!
There is some pretty nifty “eye candy” that comes along with Tiger. The coolest is know as “Dashboard”. It appears as an overlay on your screen when you press “F12” or click the Dashboard icon in your Dock. Dashboard is a collection of applications called Widgets. These simple little apps are designed to provide you with information, such as the date in a widget that resembles a desk calendar. There is a clock widget that can show you the current time, or the time in Paris, or Athens! You can open you several clocks at once, so you will always know the time is Tokyo.
Among the other widgets that come with Dashboard, are an Address Book, which shows your personal addresses. There’s a calculator, a phone book, a flight tracker so you can track that flight from Calgary, an iTunes widget that will play any playlist, a dictionary/thesaurus, and a nifty translator, so you can translate your thoughts into Greek! There will soon be many more widgets available for download. However you should be aware that these widgets can be “auto installed” so that nefarious types could create problems. Apple is already working on an update to Tiger. Hmmm!
Spotlight is another new feature that will likely evolve into a whole new way of finding items on your Mac. Macintosh computers have always made it easy to find items. You simply switched to the Finder and hit the key combination “Cmd – F” or chose “Find” from the menu. Type in some part of the file’s name and press “Return”. The Mac would then present a list of likely results from which you can choose. From any window in the Finder you’ll see a text entry field on the upper right side (next to the magnifying glass icon.) With the last version of MacOS X (10.3 aka Panther) you also entered part of the name, etc.
But wait! What’s this?
When you start typing, Spotlight immediately starts to show you results. In fact the content of the results it displays changes as you type in more of the name. As if that wasn’t enough, Spotlight gives you graphic previews if the search result is a graphic file. It’s cool and creepy at the same time!
Safari has also been updated and can now perform more amazing feats. The folks at Apple have added support for “RSS” feeds right into the browser. RSS feeds are published by the major magazines and sites as well as many blog sites. You can create your own stream of headlines to keep up on the latest information without having to wade through ads. Another new feature in Safari is the kid proofing that Apple has added. You can place parental control settings which limit the sites that can be accessed. This is an invaluable feature for protecting impressionable surfers – if you ask, maybe your kids will show you how it works!
Voiceover assists the visually impaired by “speaking” the information on the screen. It will even read your email messages to you. You can still enlarge the display using the Zoom feature and reverse the display’s colors to make the text easier to read. Mouse Keys let you move the cursor around on the screen without using the mouse. My favorite feature is that you can enlarge the cursor to four times it size! next thing you know you have a giant arrow!
The most important piece of advice I can give you regarding MacOS X is buy as much RAM as you can. Apple recommends a minimum of 256 megabytes, but if you’re really going to take advantage of the upgrade you should at least triple that amount. If you install Adobe’s Creative Suite you will need to have at least a gigabyte of RAM. With an ample supply of RAM your Mac will easily handle tasks and improve your efficiency.
What would a major system upgrade be without a list of problems? Here’s some to be aware of: Adobe Illustrator CS2 has a few font problems that can be eliminated by trashing the preferences. There are also problems copying between CS2 applications – again Illustrator’s the problem. Macromedia users will have to “reactivate” software – a patch is in the works. Creo reports that Preps also has problems and will be fixed.

tab key exposed

A good friend once told me the trick to typing is to always know where the “Delete” key is. A couple of months ago, I wrote that the “Tab” key is just as useful. In that article, I tried to demonstrate that there are many keyboard shortcuts that make our days a little easier – yet these keyboard shortcuts aren’t that widely known.

For those of you who missed the article, I’ll recap the main shortcut – that is using the “Tab” key in combination with the “Command” key (or the “Tab” and “Alt” keys for Windows users.) When you have many different applications open and several documents open – a problem now that we have so much RAM to play with on our computers – pressing the “Tab” and “Command” together displays each open application in the center of the screen. Press “Tab” and “Command” again to toggle through the applications from left to right. Hold down “Shift”, “Tab” and “Command” and you’ll toggle to the left. Release the keys and you switch to the application that’s highlighted. (On Windows systems each open document will appear in the center of the screen.)

The problem occurred with the introduction of MacOS X and now every open document and window are interleaved. On MacOS 9 and earlier, all of the document windows were grouped together by application. Since MacOS X is based on unix and can take advantage of multi-threading, each application and document is handled separately. Sure it’s easy for me to understand, so let’s look at it another way. Imagine you’re working with two folders on your desk (real paper folders) and you dumped all the pages onto the desk. Sorting through the pages would be difficult. Similarly on the Macintosh sorting through the open windows and documents can be difficult.

We could partially fix this problem by installing an application that groups the windows together, the way they did on MacOS 9. For example, ASM (Application Switcher Menu) which groups the windows and installs the application menu back in the upper right hand corner of the screen – I have installed this application on every Macintosh I use.

I suppose that Apple realized that this was a problem, because they’ve included some new keyboard commands to enhance the system. You can see the complete list of keyboard commands at Mac Keyboard Shortcuts. One of my new favorite shortcuts is to use “Command” and “`” (or Back Tick) which switches between the open windows within a single application. Most applications have a “Window” menu item which you can use to switch between documents, but why not try the “Command” – “Back Tick” shortcut. It works with almost every application. With this command you can sort through the mixed up windows. Handy if you’re like me and have too many windows going at once.

If you are running MacOS X Panther, version 10.3, you may have stumbled across Apple’s Exposé, which allows you to perform similar feats. (If you’re not sure – go to “About this Mac” under the Apple Menu.) Hold down the “F9” key and all of the windows and documents that are open will be scaled down and displayed across the screen. Then you can take you mouse and hover over each window. The name of the window will display over top of the highlighted window. Release the mouse and you will switch to that window. Exposé has a “wow” factor to it, and demonstrates the power of MacOS X’s Quartz graphic engine.

Hold down “F10” and you get the same result as the “Command – Back Tick” trick above but with Exposé wow factor graphic effect. This time you get the windows owned by the active application only. Again, you can highlight each with your mouse and switch between them.

But wait! There’s more!

Have you ever wondered what files are on your Desktop, but there are all those pesky windows blocking your view. You guessed it – there’s an Exposé keyboard command for that too! Hold down “F11” and all the windows open will head over to the edge of the screen, leaving you with an unobstructed view of the Desktop. While holding the “F11” key down you can select a file with your mouse and drag it onto a application icon on the Dock. Any action that you can do with the mouse on your Mac can be done while holding the “F11” key down.

I have been waiting for this feature, since I started working on the Macintosh when System 6 was the latest thing! Now if I could only figure out how to do this with those papers on my desk Messy desk – organized Mac!

Making Photoshop Snap

I just found this in my email archive. It was written on March 6, 2005. So I’m posting it here. I have no idea if it was ever published.

One of the more powerful uses of PhotoShop is the making adjustments to the images. As the program has advanced, many features have been added to simplify the task. The use of “Curves” may seem intimidating but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s take a look at a simple but effective adjustment you can make.

Before making adjusting to the image, you should change the color mode to LAB (“Image” Mode” “LAB Color”). The LAB color space has the largest gamut and working in this color space will introduce less artifacts and color shifts to the image. Once your finished you can switch back to CMYK for print, or RGB for the web.

Open up an image you have, and then open the Layers pallet. We’re going to make our adjustment on a special Layer called an “Adjustment Layer”. To work on a Adjustment Layer, open the Layers Pallet (“Window” – “Layers”) and click the adjustment layer icon (see Figure 1). This will allow us to keep the original image and turn the Adjustment on and off. We can also double click on the curves layer to change it later.

When you open Curves or add the adjustment layer and choose Curves, the Curves pallet will appear. If your using LAB the Channel should be set to “Lightness” (for CMYK or RGB set the Channel to “CMYK” or “RGB” respectively.) What the curve represents is all the tones from 0% to 100%. When the pallet opens the line is straight because the input and output values are equal.

To begin, place the curser in the center and click to add a point. Add a point at 75 percent and 25 percent (where the lines in the grid cross.) Make sure that you have preview checked so that you can see the effect of the adjustment on the file. Place the curser over the point you added at 75 percent and drag it upward. This will adjust the contrast in the lighter tones. Watch what happens to the image, being careful not to burn out the highlights.

Figure 3


Next you can adjust the shadows by clicking on the point a 25 percent. Drag the curve downwards, until it almost matches the image in Figure 4. Again, you should keep an eye on the shadows and adjust it until you like it. When you’re happy you can click “OK”.

By the way if you have the pallet open and you’re not happy with your change, you can Reset the curve. You can hold down the “Option” key and the “OK” button will change to “Reset”. Then you can start again.

Figure 4


You should now have an “S curve” (See Figure 4). If your image has too much contrast, you can use the curve in reverse. You can also brighten the overall image by moving all the points up or make it darker by moving the points down.

Since we’ve put the Curve adjustment on a layer by itself we can turn it off by un-checking the box next to the layer in the Layers pallet. If you would like to change the settings you can click on the curve icon on your layer and refine your curve (see figure 5).

Figure 5.


With a little practice, you can master the Curves in PhotoShop and add more punch to you images.





More Tricks

Over the past few years, many of us have made the switch to MacOS X, as well as some switching to Windows XP. From my perspective, they are very similar operating systems, and I remember a time when Windows and Macintosh were completely different. What I find most interesting, is that in my efforts to empower users that there are many time saving techniques that aren’t widely known. This month I’d like to impart a few pearls of wisdom to make you day a little easier.
If you’ve used ancient computers you may remember that Macs were mostly controlled by the mouse and Windows was controlled with keyboard commands. I’m speaking of the last millennium – you know, the early 1990’s… In fact, Unix and DOS systems were exclusively controlled by the keyboard. Command line purists prefer to use the keyboard, and we have explored navigating with the keyboard in past articles. With the popularity of computers in the work place and now at home, it follows that the two approaches would converge – to the benefit of we users.
The first trick you may like to use is one that lets you switch between applications quickly. On a MacOS X you can go to Dock as the bottom of the screen to click on open programs and similarly on Windows, open windows are also accessed through the “Task bar” – also at the bottom of the screen. There is a faster and, I think, easier way – you can use the keyboard.
Hold down the “Tab” and “Apple (Command) key on the Mac.
Hold down “Tab” and “Alt” on Widows.
On both systems, the open applications will appear and icons in the middle of the screen, and you will “toggle” through the open applications. As you continue to press the keys, you will keep switching from left to right. Add the Shift key to Tab and Apple and you will toggle in reverse order. I use this trick all day, to save time.
While we’re pointing out things in MacOS X, have you ever wondered if you saved that document your working on? Well have a look at the red “close” button on the current window. If you haven’t saved your document, the button will have a little black dot in the center. In case you’re wondering, the yellow button hides the current window in the Dock and the green button expands and contracts the window. (On Windows they call that “maximizing” and “minimizing”. I wonder where Apple got that idea – Hmmm?)
I’m not done with the “Tab” key however. If you work in Excel, or are entering information in a web form, you can use the Tab key to jump from on field to another. You guessed it! You can also jump backward by adding the shift key. Try it the next time you have to enter another web form. But wait, there’s more…
If you’ve been playing with the Terminal application, you may have missed a few major time savers. As you may remember, you have to type out the entire path to manipulate files and folders. What you may not know, the that you can type a few characters and then hit the “Tab” key and the Terminal will fill in the matching name. If there are two or more matching possibilities the Mac will ”beep” and show the choices. You’ll find yourself saving a lot of typing using this trick.
While we’re still in the Terminal, you can save yourself a lot of grief, if you can find a file you want to manipulate in the Finder. Simply drag the file or folder onto an open Terminal window and the entire path will appear in the Terminal. This can save a lot of typing, especially with files buried deeply on your computer.
The last timesaver I’d like to share is how to efficiently capture what’s on the screen. You may or may not know the old keyboard command for taking a screen shot – “Apple” – “Shift” – “3”. The command makes a screen shot of the entire screen. It’s very useful for remembering that error or to printing out the contents of a directory. MacOS X prints this to a PDF file on your hard drive. (Look for “Picture 1”.) The cool version of this is to use “Apple” – “Shift” – “4”. With this variation, the cursor turns into a cross-hair and you can drag it across your screen to capture only what you’ve highlighted. Windows users can use “Alt” “Control” and Print “Screen” to put the image of the current window on their clipboard. Then open “Paint” from Accessories and paste the image and save it.
A good friend of mine once told me the trick to typing is to know where the “Delete” key. I hope you’ll agree with me that the “Tab” key is just as useful.

Eight Ball Rules

After playing several miserable games over the past few years, I thought I would publish the rules of Eight Ball (aka. Boston Ball). Hope this helps…

[Standardized World Rules 1997]

Except when clearly contradicted by these additional rules, the General Rules of Pocket Billiards apply.

1. OBJECT OF THE GAME. Eight Ball is a call shot game played with a cue ball and fifteen object balls, numbered 1 through 15. One player must pocket balls of the group numbered 1 through 7 (solid colors), while the other player has 9 thru 15 (stripes). THE PLAYER POCKETING HIS GROUP FIRST AND THEN LEGALLY POCKETING THE 8-BALL WINS THE GAME.

2. CALL SHOT. In Call Shot, obvious balls and pockets do not have to be indicated. It is the opponent’s right to ask which ball and pocket if he is unsure of the shot. Bank shots and combination shots are not considered obvious, and care should be taken in calling both the object ball and the intended pocket. When calling the shot, it is NEVER necessary to indicate details such as the number of cushions, banks, kisses, caroms, etc. Any balls pocketed on a foul remain pocketed, regardless of whether they belong to the shooter or the opponent.

The opening break is not a “called shot.” Any player performing a break shot in 8-Ball may continue to shoot his next shot so long as he has legally pocketed any object ball on the break.

3. RACKING THE BALLS. The balls are racked in a triangle at the foot of the table with the 8-ball in the center of the triangle, the first ball of the rack on the footspot, a stripe ball in one corner of the rack and a solid ball in the other corner.

4. ALTERNATING BREAK. Winner of the lag has the option to break. During individual competition, players will alternate breaking on each subsequent game.

5. JUMP AND MASSE SHOT FOUL. While “cue ball fouls only” is the rule of play when a match is not presided over by a referee, a player should be aware that it will be considered a cue ball foul if during an attempt to jump, curve or masse the cue ball over or around an impeding numbered ball that is not a legal object ball, the impeding ball moves (regardless of whether it was moved by a hand, cue stick follow-through or bridge).

6. LEGAL BREAK SHOT. (Defined) To execute a legal break, the breaker (with the cue ball behind the headstring) must either (1) pocket a ball, or (2) drive at least four numbered balls to the rail. If he fails to make a legal break, it is a foul, and the incoming player has the option of (1) accepting the table in position and shooting, or (2) having the balls reracked and having the option of shooting the opening break himself or allowing the offending player to rebreak.

7. SCRATCH ON A LEGAL BREAK. If a player scratches on a legal break shot, (1) all balls pocketed remain pocketed (exception, the 8-ball: see rule 9), (2) it is a foul, (3) the table is open. PLEASE NOTE: Incoming player has cue ball in hand behind the head string and may not shoot an object ball that is behind the head string, unless he first shoots the cue ball past the headstring and causes the cue ball to come back behind the headstring and hit the object ball.

8. OBJECT BALLS JUMPED OFF THE TABLE ON THE BREAK. If a player jumps an object ball off the table on the break shot, it is a foul and the incoming player has the option of (1) accepting the table in position and shooting, or (2) taking cue ball in hand behind the head string and shooting.

9. 8-BALL POCKETED ON THE BREAK. If the 8-ball is pocketed on the break, the breaker may ask for a re-rack or have the 8-ball spotted and continue shooting. If the breaker scratches while pocketing the 8-ball on the break, the incoming player has the option of a re-rack or having the 8-ball spotted and begin shooting with ball in hand behind the headstring.

10. OPEN TABLE. (Defined) The table is “open” when the choice of groups (stripes or solids) has not yet been determined. When the table is open, it is legal to hit a solid first to make a stripe or vice-versa. Note: The table is always open immediately after the break shot. When the table is open it is legal to hit any solid or stripe or the 8-ball first in the process of pocketing the called stripe or solid. However, when the table is open and the 8-ball is the first ball contacted, no stripe or solid may be scored in favor of the shooter. The shooter loses his turn; any balls pocketed remain pocketed; and the incoming player addresses the balls with the table still open. On an open table, all illegally pocketed balls remain pocketed.

11. CHOICE OF GROUP. The choice of stripes or solids is not determined on the break even if balls are made from only one or both groups. THE TABLE IS ALWAYS OPEN IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE BREAK SHOT. The choice of group is determined only when a player legally pockets a called object ball after the break shot.

12. LEGAL SHOT. (Defined) On all shots (except on the break and when the table is open), the shooter must hit one of his group of balls first and (1) pocket a numbered ball, or (2) cause the cue ball or any numbered ball to contact a rail.

PLEASE NOTE: It is permissable for the shooter to bank the cue ball off a rail before contacting his object ball; however, after contact with his object ball, an object ball must be pocketed, OR the cue ball or any numbered ball must contact a rail. Failure to meet these requirements is a foul.

13. “SAFETY” SHOT. For tactical reasons a player may choose to pocket an obvious object ball and also discontinue his turn at the table by declaring “safety” in advance. A safety shot is defined as a legal shot. If the shooting player intends to play safe by pocketing an obvious object ball, then prior to the shot, he must declare a “safety” to his opponent. If this is NOT done, and one of the shooter’s object balls is pocketed, the shooter will be required to shoot again. Any ball pocketed on a safety shot remains pocketed.

14. SCORING. A player is entitled to continue shooting until he fails to legally pocket a ball of his group. After a player has legally pocketed all of his group of balls, he shoots to pocket the 8-ball.

15. FOUL PENALTY. Opposing player gets cue ball in hand. This means that the player can place the cue ball anywhere on the table (does not have to be behind the headstring except on opening break). This rule prevents a player from making intentional fouls which would put his opponent at a disadvantage. With “cue ball in hand,” the player may use his hand or any part of his cue (including the tip) to position the cue ball. When placing the cue ball in position, any forward stroke motion contacting the cue ball will be a foul, if not a legal shot. (Also see Rule 39 in the General Rules of Pocket Billiards)

16. COMBINATION SHOTS. combination shots are allowed; however, the 8-ball cannot be used as a first ball in the combination except when the table is open.

17. ILLEGALLY POCKETED BALLS. An object ball is considered to be illegally pocketed when (1) that object ball is pocketed on the same shot a foul is committed, or (2) the called ball did not go in the designated pocket, or (3) a safety is called prior to the shot. Illegally pocketed balls remain pocketed.

18. OBJECT BALLS JUMPED OFF THE TABLE. If any object ball is jumped off the table, it is a foul and loss of turn, unless it is the 8-ball, which is a loss of game. Any jumped object balls are spotted in numerical order according to General Rules for spotting balls.

19. PLAYING THE 8-BALL. When shooting at the 8-ball, a scratch or foul is not loss of game if the 8-ball is not pocketed or jumped from the table. Incoming player has cue ball in hand. Note: A combination shot can never be used to legally pocket the 8-ball.

20. LOSS OF GAME. A player loses the game if he commits any of the following infractions:

a. Fouls when pocketing the 8-ball (exception: see 8-Ball Pocketed On The Break).

b. Pockets the 8-ball on the same stroke as the last of his group of balls.

c. Jumps the 8-ball off the table at any time.

d. Pockets the 8-ball in a pocket other than the one designated.

e. Pockets the 8-ball when it is not the legal object ball.

Note: All infractions must be called before another shot is taken, or else it will be deemed that no infraction occurred.

21. STALEMATED GAME. If, after 3 consecutive turns at the table by each player (6 turns total), the referee judges (or if no referee, both players agree) that attempting to pocket or move an object ball will result in loss of game, the balls will be reracked with the original breaker of the stalemated game breaking again. The stalemate rule may only be used when there are only two object balls and the 8-ball remaining on the table. PLEASE NOTE: Three consecutive fouls by one player is not a loss of game.

Automating Photoshop

One of the great benefits of using a computer is that they are best suited to repetitive tasks. Built into PhotoShop, is a scripting feature that anyone can use to save time. Suppose you have several images that you need to prepare for web site or for a catalogue. Normally each of the images would have to be opened and have several commands run on them. Using Actions you can automate these tasks and become more efficient. The first thing we will need to do is to create an action to perform the task.
Begin by opening PhotoShop’s Actions pallet. From the Windows menu, choose Actions. You’ll see a group (or set) of prerecorded actions named “Default Actions.atn”. You can add a new Action under this default set or create a new set to save your own. To use any action, open a file and choose an action and press Play.
At the bottom of the Actions Pallet, resembling the buttons on a VCR, are the controls to play a selected Action. You can start to record, stop, play an action, create a new set or delete an Action. Additionally, like most of the pallets on PhotoShop, there is a triangle at the top right of the pallet, where you can access the Action pallet’s command menu.
Examine each step that is used in an Action by clicking the triangle beside the Action name. Each step can also be “expanded” in the same manner. You can see the settings that were applied when the Action was created. The checkmark to the left of the Action name indicates whether the action is active. Between the checkmark and Action name, an icon will appear if a dialog box will open while that Action plays. If the icon is red then there is a dialog box inside one of the Action’s steps.
Begin by opening an image in PhotoShop. From the Action Pallet’s menu choose “New Action”. Next give the Action a name – enter “My Action”. You can also assign a Function Key to your action. Then click the Record button. PhotoShop will now record everything you do, until you click Stop. While you’re recording, the record icon will turn red at the bottom of the Action pallet.
Open the “Ducky.tif” from the Samples folder. Click “New Action”, and give it the name “My Action”. Then choose “Image Size” from the “Image” menu. Enter 75 in the Width field and change inches to “percent”. Click “OK” to make the change. Remember we’re still recording, so click the “Stop” (the square icon and the bottom of the Action pallet.) Examine the steps in “My Action” by expanding it. You can also change the settings in your action by double-clicking the step’s name. The Image Size dialog box will open, allowing you to can change any of the settings and revise the step.
You can now choose Play to apply your action to other images. You can also use the Fkey if you applied one. When you reduce an image, you may want to sharpen the image with the Unsharp Mask from the Filter menu. With your action selected choose “Insert Menu Item” and when the dialog opens, make a menu selection with the mouse, and then click OK. The new step will appear under your action. You can reorder the steps by drag them up or down.
If you have a lot of files to process, you can use Actions in Batch mode. Make a folder on the Desktop called “In”, to hold the originals, and another called “Out”. Copy some images in the “In” folder. Now we’ll create an action that will contain several steps and then apply them with the Batch command.
Choose New Action, and give it a new name. Choose “Open” from the File menu and open one of the files from the “In” folder. While still recording, choose Image Size and set the width to 600 pixels wide. Click OK, and then choose Unsharp Mask from the Filter menu. Use the default settings – 75 percent, Radius 2.0 and Threshold 1 level, and click “OK”. Choose “Save As” from the File menu then choose JPEG format and save the file into the Out folder. Close the file and then choose Stop to finish recording.
Now apply the same action to all the files in the “In” folder. Select the action you just recorded and choose “Batch” under Automate, from the File menu. When the dialog box opens you should see you action has already been selected. Under “Source” choose Folder, click “Choose”, and point to your “In” folder. Make sure “Overide action Open” is selected. Select your “Out” folder under Destination, and select “Overide Action Save As” – otherwise all your files will have the same name. Note: make sure you test you action first because the Action will overwrite any file with the same name.
When you have the Batch dialog box is set up, click OK. Now sit back and revel in the glory of watching PhotoShop do all the work. Your Action will “Open” each image in the “In” and transform the file and save them into your “Out” folder. Now isn’t why you bought a computer?

Buzzword Decoder

Congratulations, your “Pre-Press Buzzword Secret Decoder Ring” has arrived! This month I am going to give you a quick tour of the buzzwords that you are going to hear and eventually start using over the next few months. As a pre-press “techie”, I speak in buzzwords and acronyms all the time. I could say, “We can’t RIP that PDF/X-1 because the JDF is missing and we can’t run OPI in our TIFF/IT workflow.” If I lost you with that last sentence, read on, because I’m going to teach what I just said. Then you’ll be prepared to visit Graph Expo, Print Ontario, and survive a sales call from your suppliers.
To begin with there are two basic image formats used in print: vector and raster (also called bitmap.) The vector format is used for graphics and text, and is composed of lines and fills. Each element that makes up a vector image is made up of text instructions written in the PostScript language. PostScript allows us to start with a point on a page and describe a line or curve to another point. When we have at least two points, we can fill the object with a color and/or stroke the line with a color. Since text is used to describe points and fills we can easily scale a vector graphic to any size.
Raster files are made up of pixels of color. These pixels (or picture elements) like dots of ink on a printed page, viewed from a distance appear to us as a continuous tone image. If we scale a raster image up in size we start to see the individual pixels and the illusion of continuous tone is spoiled. When we can see the individual pixels we refer to the stepping as “jaggies”. The resolution of the image is based on the number of pixels per inch (“ppi” also referred to as “dpi”,) so raster are larger in size than vector graphics.
In electronic pre-press all of our pages are made up of vector and raster graphics – and our file formats are combinations of these graphics. PhotoShop is the most frequently used program to edit raster graphics (although it can import vector graphics.) Vector graphics are generally created within programs like Adobe Illustrator, Macormedia FreeHand and Corel Draw. Fonts and typefaces are usually created with vector graphics; they can be scaled and colored and remain crisp.
Two of the popular raster formats that came out of the early desktop publishing days are TIFF (tagged image file format) and EPS (Encapsulated PostScript.) The TIFF format was created by Aldus (makers of PageMaker) back in 1987 and reached it’s final format in 1992 as TIFF 6. A TIFF file can be created in many color formats; Line art (black and white), grayscale, RGB, CMYK, as well as other formats. The line art and grayscale formats can be colorized which is useful in many graphic effects.
The Encapsulated PostScript format (EPS) can describe the entire page – because it is actually a PostScript program, the original page description language pioneered by Adobe. An EPS by design can contain any combination of text, graphics and images. As PostScript, the EPS format (sometimes called EPSF) is the most versatile file format. EPS files also contain a 72 dpi preview file, so that they don’t require a PostScript interpreter to preview the content. To get the best quality out of an EPS, we need to have a PostScript interpreter (also called a “raster image processor” – RIP) to transform the “program” into dots on film or paper.
In order to come up with a reliable format for exchanging digital advertisements and pages the TIFF/IT was finalized in 1996. TIFF/IT based on the TIFF format contains only raster data. TIFF/IT P1 was developed specifically for use on CMYK jobs. TIFF/IT P1 is what people are actually talking about when they mention TIFF/IT. The fact that a TIFF/IT P1 file doesn’t contain vector data implies that it is fixed. Like the “final film,” we used until recently, it is always going to be consistent as it is distributed. The TIFF/IT P2 format will support additional color formats, but at the rate that PDF is being adopted it may already be too late.
Out of PostScript, Adobe came up with a file format that could be independent of computer platform, or even output devices. This desire evolved into their “portable document format”. Adobe’s PDF format can describe all of the information on a printed page – but with some limitations. A PDF file can be created for use in a number of applications. This can introduce a problem for use in pre-press because the images may not have enough resolution. PDFs created for email are extremely compressed and down-sampled so that they are unusable on press. PDFs that are created for the press can be quite large. Images in a PDF are not compressed for press application.
PDFs can also support spot colors and can contain other elements that will create problems in press application (such as movies, annotations). Normally PDFs are created by sending PostScript to Adobe’s Distiller (using “Press Optimized” settings). Quark Xpress can export to PDF using the Jaws PDFcreator. On MacOS X Apple has added there own technology called Quartz, which allows Mac users to create PDFs from any file. There is also a version of PDF used by high end workflows called Extreme. Adobe Extreme is used by Apogee and Prinergy, to PDFs for Press. Other than using Extreme, using Distiller for press-ready PDFs or exporting from Adobe’s InDesign is your best bet.
In order to simplify the PDF format for press a subset was created – PDF/X format. Since there are two many variables in a PDF format, CGATS (Committee for Graphic Arts Technology Standards) began working on PDF/X-1 in 1999 so that PDF would more consistent and predictable in press applications.
PDF/X-1 is designed for CMYK workflows and can be created directly in Adobe’s Distiller 6 as well. PDF/X-1 files will have all its resources embedded, so there won’t be missing images or fonts. PDF/X-1a (released in 2001) is an ISO certified and adds better support for named spot colors. The file format can will ignore music, movies and non-printable annotations. PDF/X-1 will only support certain raster formats; TIFF/IT, DCS 1 and 2 and EPS. PDF/X1 also indicates whether the PDF has been trapped or not.
Another item that came out of Adobe’s PDF workflow is the latest term JDF. While developing a strategy for PDF workflows in their OEM products, Adobe came up with the portable job ticket format or PJTF to compliment the PDF format. The PJTF file contained information of how to handle a job that contained multiple PDFs.
The PJTF was relatively limited so it has evolved into the JDF or job description format. JDF is starting to appear in a lot of articles and brochures because it reaches into pre-press, press and post-press systems. In layman’s terms, it is an electronic docket bag. The docket bag contained instructions for several departments and could contain all of the elements that make up a job. It used to contain art boards, transparencies and galley type. Now dockets contain a CD-ROM or DVD. The JDF is a electronic file that contains information and instructions for pre-press, press, bindery, MIS and even accounting.
JDF is the final piece attempting to tie all the elements together.

Sendmail vrs DSL MTU setting

I was getting an error with recieveing some users email. Most messages would come through – but occasionally messages would get bounced.

I checked the log (/var/log/mail.log) and found this error:
sendmail stat=timeout waiting for input during message collect

After spending the better part of a day on Goole and – I discovered that it was a common problem encountered by other people with my DSL/Cable router. The MTU setting was too high.

By default MTU is set to 1500 on MacOSX – but my provider sets the limit at 1460 or so. Once I set the MTU to 1400 all the mail started coming through.

To set the MTU on the command line enter:
sudo ifconfig mtu 1400

You can make a start up script to automatically set this limit, because the setting will revert to 1500 when you reboot.

Becoming root with sudo

This month were going to take a closer look at taking control of MacOS X by becoming a super user. The underpinnings of MacOS X are after all UNIX, so you should be aware of the power a super user wields.
The root account is a “super user” account built into every UNIX system, which you may remember is a multi-user environment. Other systems such as AppleShare IP or Windows Servers had highly privileged administrator accounts, however on a UNIX system the level of access that root has have seems to have no limits.
There are many processes and files are “owned” by root. We’ve looked at “permissions“ in past articles, and you may remember that permissions control what you can do and see. Keep in mind that the all-powerful root account must be treated with respect and root access should be limited to a small group of users. There is no way to stop the root account from altering any file on the system.
You have already experienced becoming a super user while using the Aqua GUI. Whenever you try to install an application or an update, you will have been asked to enter you username and password. Although you’ve already logged in, the “Authentication Manager” is challenging you to prove that you’re an administrator. This is one of the ways that Apple allows users to administrate their own machine.
The “sudo” application is included so you can become a super user on the command line. If you try to run an application or see the contents of a file or folder that belongs to root, you will get an error like “permission denied”.
I’ll tell you a secret – Built into MacOS X is the Apache Web Server. Unlike “Personal Web Sharing”, your Mac can become a fully functional web server. In order to enable it you’ll have to edit a file while becoming a super user.
Let’s start by opening the Terminal application. (Applications => Utilities => Terminal) At that command prompt (%), we’ll change directories to “etc”.
% cd /etc
“etc” is a system directory that contains, among other things, configuration files. The mystery here is that one of the files in “etc” enables the Apache Web Server. Last month I showed you the “fgrep” program, which allows us to find text strings inside files. We’ll look for “WEB” in “etc”. Type this:
% sudo fgrep “WEB” *
Unlike last month, this time we’re going to precede the “fgrep” with “sudo” so that we’re running the application as a super user. “sudo” , or “super-user do” allows us to assume a high level of authority to search through the files. The first time you use “sudo”, you’ll get a short lecture about respecting others and most importantly “Think before you type.”
If UNIX were like a car, it would be a tank . You can start the tank, put it gear and it will drive forward. Even if parts fell off, it would continue. If you, the driver, fell off – It would continue to drive forward! So, think before you type.
After you enter your password (and hit “Return”) your program will run, and you will see something like this:
fgrep: cups: Is a directory
fgrep: httpd: Is a directory
Ah ha! The file we’re looking for is “hostconfig”. In order to activate the Apache Web Server we’ll change the “NO” to “YES”. Let’s use the “ed” program (you can use “pico” or “vi” if you prefer) but we’ll have to precede the command with “sudo” again. If we don’t start with “sudo”, we won’t have permission to save the file.
First let’s backup the file. Type “sudo cp hostconfig hostconfig.backup” to copy (cp) the original. Just in case! You can also use “ls” to confirm that you made a copy… Then we’ll edit the file with “sudo ed hostconfig”
Begin by printing the file to screen with “1,$p” which will print (p) the file from line “1” to the end ($).
Type “/WEB”, to jump to the line that contains the string “WEB”. Next type, “s/NO/YES/p” to substitute (s) “NO” with “YES”, and then print (p) the line.
At any time, you can type “f” to confirm the name of the file you’re editing. You should also use “1,$p” to confirm your changes before you save the file by writing and quit. Type “w” to write the file and “q” to quit.
You have now enabled the Apache Web Server. Open your browser, and enter “localhost” or “” in the URL and you will get the default Apache page. This was possible because you became a super user with “sudo”. Now you can put on your “HTML” hat and start writing your web site.

Viruses, Spyware and SPAM

This month we should turn our attentions to the PC platform and address some sinister issues. I am referring to viruses and Spy-ware. You may be unaware of the presence and the growing impact of these “mal-wares”. For the past months several new types of viruses wreaking havoc on the Windows platform, adding to list of underlying problems associated with Spy-ware.
You may be in the position to support PC users or you may be a part-time PC user. Perhaps you can pass on the following advice. If you have simply visited the Internet, you may have inadvertently installed software on your PC. There are several versions of Spy-ware and Mal-ware that are secretly installed on your PC. These applications are gathering information about your surfing habits. They can record the sites you visit and even record your keystrokes, passwords etc. When a connection to the Internet becomes available, they transmit their finding back to their source.
By products of these applications are pop-up windows, and other annoyances that come with visiting the World Wide Web. They are created by marketers and hackers who want to data mine information about you without your knowledge. So you owe it to yourself to visit and download their free program Ad-aware. This program will scan your PC, much like a virus scanner and allow you to quarantine these applications.
We have been installing it on every PC that comes within our reach. One PC user that had the benefit of an Ad-aware scan found over 400 of these programs on her PC. You may find that your Internet browsing experience will improve after running Ad-aware. The makers of Ad-aware are providing this software in the hopes that you will be impressed enough to by the automatic version of the program.
There are also some nasty new viruses haunting us lately. While we Mac users can be tempted to feel smug about the lack of viruses, we should be aware that PC viruses affect everyone. The latest Widows viruses such as NetSky, Bagle and MyDoom are getting more sophisticated using spy-ware like technology.
These new viruses when they are activated install their own SMTP programs. An SMTP program is normally responsible for sending email on a server. The virus scans the hard drive for any valid email, not just the ones in the address book, and send out copies of the virus to infect other users. The virus program also authors the email as if it was sent by one of the addresses it found.
System administrators often run virus-scanning software on our mail servers. We do this not only to stop viruses but also to send an email back to the sender to inform them that they may be infected. These “sender” addresses on these new viruses may be hiding the actual sending machine. This is a common practice for spammers, who want you to visit their site while they hide behind a phony email address.
Once again, you owe it to your self to install virus software. If you don’t you may be infected right now. You can visit and download their free AVG virus software. They provide this as a service (and also with the hope that you will buy their full version,) as well as free updated virus definitions. You can also try to use MacAfee or Norton Anti Virus software for around $60.00 Canadian.
One of the strains of the Bagle virus will disguise itself as an email from your own domain. It may be addressed from “support” or “management”. The payload is a zip archive called “” and provide a password to unlock it. If your fooled into opening this zip archive and enter the password… you will be infected. Pretty sneaky, Eh!
Generally, if you notice an unusual amount of activity on your PC – it may seem sluggish, or have a lot of hard drive activity, or activity on the network. You may have a virus. Once one PC becomes affected, the other PCs and servers on your network can be affected. Certain viruses can “worm” their way onto other machines that “never” go on the Internet.
A finally, a note my favorite annoyance – spammers! Spam, or unwanted email, is quickly outnumbering legitimate messages. I found another free spam scanner, called PostArmor which I use on my Mac at home. This great program is written in java, so that it can run on several platforms, Windows, Macintosh OS 8.6 – 9 and MacOS X. The program sits on your machine and gets your email from the mail server. It then, lists the suspicious messages, and passes “good” email through. You have 24 hours to look at the list after which the spam is automatically deleted. You can run PostArmor on one address and pay to use it on multiple addresses.

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