If you ever potter over to Adobe’s online software store, a curious anomaly awaits you: electronic download editions of their software are never cheaper than the equivalent boxed versions. In fact, there are cases where the electronic version costs more than the boxed one. One would have thought that ditching the box, the disc(s) and whatever accompanies them would save Adobe money and they would pass this onto you but it does not seem to make its way into the pricing for some reason. Another thing is that selling direct should allow Adobe to undercut retailers and make more money from their software but it is the likes of Amazon that have the better prices. Whatever way you look at it, you have to admit that this pricing model doesn’t make a lot of sense.
If you ever go into a bricks and mortar newsagent and peruse its shelves with an eye out for references to data imaging software, you might find Adobe’s Photoshop as predominant there as it is in the digital imaging world. And the same trend seems to continue in to the bricks and mortar bookshops as well. Online, especially within the vaults of Amazon, it is not as much a matter of what gets stocked as what gets published and my impression is that the bias, if that’s the right word, continues there. That said, I didn’t realise until recently that Elsevier’s Focal Press has been covering Paint Shop Pro, once branded the poor man’s Photoshop, from at least version 7. That discovery, if it had come earlier, may have made a big difference to how I have been using PSP. That said, I have seen some opinions that PSP is easy to use and that may explain the lack of attention from publishers. Future Publishing did put out a monthly guide to PSP but that seems to have disappeared from the shelves and it does lend weight to that argument. Or it could have been Corel’s purchase of JASC that changed things…
Of course, without books and magazines, it is not as easy to see the possibilities and it is here where Photoshop really scores. The digital photography revolution has ensured the software’s escape from the world of computing and the digital arts into photography magazines and beyond. These days, even conventional photography titles feature Photoshop how-to articles. In fact, such is the level of digital content in titles such as Photography Monthly, Practical Photography and Outdoor Photography that you hardly need to pursue the specialist digital photography titles at all.
Speaking of photography, this is and has been my main use of digital imaging technology, be it the scanner that I use for digitising the output of my efforts in film photography or processing RAW files from my digital SLR. I have been using scanners since 1998 and am on my second, a CanoScan 5000F. The colour rendition in the output from its predecessor, a UMAX 1212U, deteriorated to the point where a replacement needed to be sought. As it happened, the Canon proved to be light years ahead of the UMAX, even with the latter operating properly. Incidentally, my first scanning outing was in the then current version of Photoshop (I booked some time on a scanner at the graphics centre of the university I was attending at the time and sneaked in the scanning of a photo with the journal graphic that I needed to do) -- a limited affair, it has to be said -- but I then reverted to things like Corel PhotoPaint and Paint Shop Pro. And PSP was what I was using in the main even after encountering the copy of Photoshop Elements 2 bundled with my EOS 10D. Elements’ cloning capabilities did tempt me though and I did acquire a Focal Press volume on the application but I somehow never took it further.
At the end of last year, Corel and Adobe launch new versions of PSP and Elements, respectively. That got me tempted by the idea of giving the whole business another look, this time in detail. My look at PSP XI regrettably suffered from the lack of time that I could devote to it and seeing what a book on it might have to say. I had more of a chance with Photoshop Elements and came away impressed with the way that it worked. Since then, I have been making my way through Scott Kelby’s latest Elements book and the ideas are building up. At the same time, I have been making good use of a Photoshop CS2 try-out and I am on the horns of a dilemma: do I splash out on CS2, do I get Elements 5 or do I await the now imminent CS3? You’ll notice that PSP doesn’t feature here; the amount of literature pertaining to Photoshop simply is too much to ignore and I have loads more to learn.
Having exhausted the trial time on PhotoShop Elements 5, I am now having a look at its big brother PhotoShop CS2. That has got me thinking about PhotoShop books so that I become more of the possibilities and how to use them. Having a Safari subscription as I do, that naturally became my first port of call and I seemed to find two that answered my needs. Both are by Scott Kelby and they now lie on my Safari bookshelf: The Photoshop Elements 5 Book for Digital Photographers and The Photoshop CS2 Book for Digital Photographers. Even so, I am tempted to get a dead tree version of one of them and that presents a chicken and egg dilemma: the books could help choose which software to buy and the software dictates which of them will be the more useful. That said, I suspect price and features will swing it the way of Elements 5; paying over £400 for software whose capabilities I may never need does not sound financially sensible.
Update March 5th, 2007: I have now got my mits on the dead tree edition of Scott Kelby’s The Photoshop Elements 5 Book for Digital Photographers as well as Brad Hinkel’s Focal Easy Guide to Photoshop CS2. Now for some reading…
With a good amount of snow forecast for parts of the U.K., one’s mind does turn to weather matters. Interestingly, Accuweather is now powering browser plug-ins for all the major PC browsers and not just Firefox: Internet Explorer and Opera also get a look in. I have already tried out ForecastFox, the offering for Firefox, and had a quick look at the others. The IE add-on, I tested it with IE7, slots in neatly into the browser’s toolbar. Unlike ForecastFox, only the current weather and the forecast for the next day are shown for the selected location with a link to Accuweather for a 15 day forecast. The Opera widget is not docked with any toolbar, a bit of an irritation to put it mildly, but it does offer similar information.
These gizmos do highlight differences in the units used for weather information around the world. The U.S. is very much old school in its use of Fahrenheit (means next to nothing for me, I have to say) for temperature and miles per hour for wind speed. Other parts of the world measure temperature in Celsius (also called Centigrade) with wind speed measured in either metres per second or kilometers per hour. I find m/s strange for wind speed but mph or kph are fine; I think in terms of miles but my hillwalking is causing me to become more and more conversant in kilometers.
Windows Vista is only out a week and the incompatibilities are already rolling in. Yesterday, it was iTunes that hit the headlines with Apple making an announcement on its website. More importantly for the likes of me because it affects my work, SAS has announced that Vista compatibility will not be assured until it launches SAS 9.2. This is not exactly a surprise because they have been advising against using Internet Explorer 7 with their products as they have not carried out their validation. Given that this company is cautious about operating system support anyway, it may be that SAS 9.1.3 runs on Vista but they have not validated it to the standards that a large enterprise user would expect. Now, the BBC’s Robert Peston writes an open letter to Bill Gates in his blog following a lost weekend with a laptop running Vista. His problems were hardware related.
There is one surprising thing about all of this: test versions of Vista have been out since last summer and OEM since November or thereabouts. Why have other software and hardware vendors not being looking ahead for this sort of thing? SAS’s advice regarding IE7 is in the same vein and even more surprising. I realise that there is only so much that can be done with a non-final version or, for that matter, in two months but some forward thinking surely could have been employed. I know that full legacy compatibility is a big job but it does look as if someone sat on their laurels. Or else, they are not allowing the release of Vista to upset their development and launch schedules and, given that Microsoft’s offering is evolutionary rather than revolutionary, they might well have a point. I think I’ll sit on the fence for a while longer…