Digital Innovations
Networking: It Is For Everybody

While walking to a class on the beautiful Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts, I saw these flowers and decided to see how closely the Minolta DiMAGE Xt would focus. While I never found its macro mode, the tiny camera focused close enough to capture some dramatic images "inside" a flower.
Photos © 2003, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

"Computers = Ticket To Hell."--the back of an Alien Skin Software T-shirt

Recently I received a press release from a high-tech company hyping "an event announcing a collective effort that will create simplified interoperable home networks." Like Claude Raines in Casablanca, I was "shocked, just shocked" to discover it was so difficult to set up a home network. You see, I just connected two different kinds of computers in 15 minutes. Here's how it went:
The 2.2GHz eMachines ( T2200 and my now seemingly ancient Apple ( 733MHz Power Macintosh G4 have built-in Ethernet connectivity. To create a network to let me share documents between the Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows XP operating systems, all I needed was a cable to connect the two boxes, but I had other plans.

Unlike other sharpener plug-ins, Asiva Sharpen+Soften also provides the ability to soften an image. With a semi-user friendly interface that geeks will love, it helped sharpen a digital file of a classic car that was captured using an inexpensive but not particularly sharp lens.

Comcast promises broadband coverage in my area real soon now and since I wanted both computers to connect to the web it also required a router. The official techie definition of a router is that it's a device that "forwards packets of data between networks or systems based on network layer information and routing tables, often constructed by routing protocols." In reality, it's an inexpensive box that lets you link two or more systems together and makes setting up a network as simple as hooking up a home music system and less complex than a home theater.

I used a D-Link ( router that cost less than $50 along with two cables. One cable was connected to the Power Mac, the other to the eMachines' box. Using both operating systems' built-in networking capabilities, I set them to allow me to mount the Windows computer's hard drive on the G4's desktop. Macintosh expert Kevin Elliott ( tells me I need to do more software tweaking to get the Windows XP box to see the Mac, but I don't care--at least in the short run.

When high-speed Internet connectivity finally arrives in beautiful, downtown Brighton, the installer will connect his cables to the router giving me broadband access via both machines while still being able to share data between them. Since cable modems are always "on," the D-Link router has a built-in firewall to protect from attacks by intruders and hackers.

SimpleTech's 120GB SimpleDrive takes up 1/4 less desktop space as my old external FireWire drive, gives me four times the storage space, and costs less than $200.

Plug-In Of The Month
Shapiro Consulting Group, Inc. (SCGI) makers of the intriguing, I'd sure like to learn how to use it maybe I'll read the manual one of these days, Asiva Photo has gotten into the Photoshop compatible plug-in business with Asiva Sharpen+Soften. Unlike other sharpening software, this one also lets you soften an image, too, and features a semi-user friendly interface that geeks will love while the rest of us will have to spend a little time figuring it out. But not to worry; it's easier than it looks. This is the first in a series of plug-ins that SCGI will be releasing over the next couple of months, including Correct+Apply Color, Shift+Gain Component, and Create Mask. All of the plug-ins in this new family work with Photoshop 5.5-7 and Mac OS 9 and OS X. SCGI hints that additional sets of plug-ins may include noise reduction or artistic functions. They also plan to port the plug-ins to Adobe After Effects and Final Cut Pro; so check the website ( for news about updates.

One of the highlights for me of the annual New England Camera Club Council conference in Amherst, Massachusetts, is the model shoots. The program chairman always has charming young models available to pose for the photographers at various locations around the campus, including the Campus Center. This image of a pretty collegian was made by combining two files made with a Minolta DiMAGE Xt with fill flash.

Cat Got Your Files?
We've become blasé about the magic of digital capture. While nobody would dream of opening a camera back when it's loaded with film, some pixologists think nothing of ripping a CompactFlash card out of a digicam when it's on or maybe in the middle of writing a big file. Just like when you open a film camera's back, this kind of behavior can cause images to be lost forever. But since we're dealing with electrons, not silver halide, there's a good chance you can restore digital files you thought were toast. My favorite tool for this job is DataRescue's ( PhotoRescue which can undelete, unerase, and recover images files lost on corrupted, damaged, or even erased CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, XD, MMC, or SD memory cards.

PhotoRescue works with all brands of media and though optimized for JPEG, TIFF, GIF, and BMP, recovers many file types. It offers a constantly updated support for CRW, NEF, ORF, MRW (see sidebar below), and some types of video files. It will work in cases where the media is not visible as a drive letter or on the desktop. It's available in two versions, including a Classic version for the power user and the Wizard for the rest of us, but the 12 recovery algorithms are identical between versions Mac OS, including OS X, and Windows versions and costs only $29. You can download a demo that will recover the files and show them to you, but you can't save them. Try PhotoRescue on your next problem memory card.

Lotsa Files = Bigger Hard Drives
I never have enough storage space for digital camera files. Even with two internal 40GB drives in my Power Macintosh G4 (my e-Machines T2200 has a 100GB built-in drive) I run out of space for, at least temporarily, the shoot I just finished. SimpleTech Inc. ( solved my storage problems with their external 120GB SimpleDrive. It's a high-speed USB 2.0/FireWire hard drive that costs slightly less than the 20GB model it replaced, takes up 1/4 less desktop space but delivers four times the storage.

The SimpleDrive also delivers fast transfer speeds of 480MB/sec for USB 2.0, and 400MB/sec for FireWire, and operates at 7200rpm for fast throughput. Compatible with both Macintosh and Windows operating systems, it's plug-and-play, hot swappable, and the compact drive can be placed vertically (the way I have it) or horizontally. SimpleTech's StorageSync back-up software for Windows is included with the new drive, but since connected to my Mac OS computer I'll stick with Dantz's Retrospect ( For Windows users, StorageSync provides quick and easy back-up, restoration, and synchronization. The MSRP for the 120GB SimpleDrive external desktop storage hard drive is $199.99, and at this price there is no reason not to have one of these useful drives.

Protect Your Mac From Attacks Within And Without
Symantec's ( SystemWorks 3.0 for Macintosh should be the first software you install after buying the computer. It's a digital bulletproof vest that bundles Norton Utilities 8.0, including the indispensable Disk Doctor that has saved my butt more times than I can count, along with useful data recovery and optimization tools. The package also includes Norton AntiVirus 9.0 to protect against viral attacks and Symantec offers regular downloadable updates to protect against the virus de jour.

There are some other goodies that will have more or less usefulness depending on your work habits, but Retrospect Express, especially when used in conjunction with some practical back-up media, such as the SimpleTech SimpleDrive, is a lifeline in troubled digital waters. All this and, as they say on TV, a whole lot more is included for a MSRP of $129.95.

Best Photo Conference In America
If you've never attended the New England Camera Club Council's ( annual conference, start planning for 2004. I just returned from speaking at this year's event and would like to thank Jim Dionne for inviting me to participate. To make some snapshots during the weekend, I took along a Minolta ( DiMAGE Xt and was astonished by this little camera's performance. It belies its tiny size and I used it during a model shoot as well as making some macro flower shots on the UMass campus at Amherst. At this year's event, I got a chance to meet lots of Shutterbug readers and hope to see you there for the 59th annual convention in 2004.

Acronyms Got You Going?
Even though I wrote The Digital Imaging Dictionary (, I still stumble across acronyms that puzzle me. If the buzzwords CRW, NEF, ORF, and MRW seem new to you, here's a quick rundown:
CRW: Canon Raw. The raw image file format used by Canon digital cameras.
NEF: Nikon Electronic File. The raw image file format used by Nikon digital cameras.
ORF: Are you beginning to see a pattern here? Olympus Raw File, which is the raw image file format used by Olympus digital cameras.
MRW: Minolta Raw. The raw image file format used by Minolta digital cameras.