Monday, September 20, 2010

Hanging by a thread...

Well, the computer seems to experience the most problems, and makes the most noise, when it is trying to access parts of the drive, or other programs. Going online doesn't seem to present big problems, but opening Fireworks (the program I use to take the scanned images of art, crop them, color correct them, and convert them to JPGs for posting online) really seems to push it to its limit.

Fortunately, today we found a remarkably inexpensive and quite powerful laptop, so things should be okay eventually. The only real complication now is finding another good program to edit my scanned art. I've grown very comfortable with, and fond of, Fireworks but to buy that program now would cost me over $300. That's more than half the sticker price of the laptop, and money I just don't have. I'm investigating some alternatives, but I definitely need something that's more robust than the free photo editing software that comes with most computers. For example, I need some fairly subtle ways to adjust the brightness and contrast, and I need the use of a clone stamp too. We'll see what I come up with.

In the meantime, for now, the old PC and the old scanner seem to be clinging to life, so I was able to get the most recent two pieces scanned and posted. You'll see them both today.


  1. Good luck with the computer situation. What a pain.

    You might try the Gimp - open source, free editing software. Like everything worth doing, it takes time to learn how to use it the way you want. You may discover the frustration of using another editing program is worse than eating ramen noodles for a month to pay for the software you like.

  2. Can you uninstall from the first machine and then install on the new one? I don't see why you can't use the same copy on a different PC, as long as you're not still using it on the other one as well.

  3. Buck, I had actually thought about Gimp but was concerned about two things. The first was what you mentioned - my total unfamiliarity with the program and the frustration of having to learn something on the go, when every day counts. The second was not knowing whether Gimp could do what I needed. I need a program that does the following and really ONLY the following...

    -Can open TIFFs

    -Allows me to crop and rotate TIFFs

    -Allows me to free-rotate TIFFs just a few degrees (if an image is skewed off axis)

    -Allows me to adjust the brightness and contrast of a TIFF

    -Allows for some slight color correction by adjusting the curves and levels

    -Has a clone stamp tool for some selective editing (mostly to remove chapter titles, headers, footers and page number for when the art is published in a book)

    -Will convert a TIFF to a JPG and allow me to reduce the size and export it

    I would guess that Gimp does all of that since I have heard it is very similar to PhotoShop, but I don't know anyone who has experience with Gimp.

  4. Charlie, believe me, I am kicking myself for this but I no longer have the original disc to re-install the program. I was really dumb and not very forward thinking, so my only alternative is to buy a new version or pirate one, and I just am not comfortable stealing like that. I'm kind of a square, I guess, but I try to follow the rules.

  5. Matt, will catch up properly later as just started the Masters and exhausted (but have you seen Steve's blog, Splotch Monsters - he's bigging up our book!) - but I had what sounds like the identical problem and a computer genius blogger, Alesca, suggested taking the casing off and seeing how much dust was inside. When we did, it looked liked the innards of the computer had been attacked by a grey candy-floss monster. Craig spent most of the night gently hoovering and dusting it with paintbrushes, and it was as right as rain after. Basically, it had just not been able to keep itself cool, so whirred manically and switched itself off a lot. Now, dust-free, just great.
    Might be worth a look.

  6. Matt, The Gimp will definitely do all of the things you list. Give it a shot.

  7. Matt,

    Photoscape is a free program that will (I believe) meet all your requirements. I used it when using Microsoft based products but switched Mac which forced me to use Photoshop.

  8. Oh my goodness, please don't spend much money! I just picked up a Pentium 4 desktop at the dump, popped in a new hard drive, installed a free ISO of Ubuntu Linux and can photo edit and scan to my heart's content with Gimp. Total cost under $100. Not a penny for software, and no stealing. Granted, I like tinkering with hardware. But no doubt Craigslist has some perfectly serviceable computers that could take a quick linux install for about the same price.

    The Gimp interface is different than photoshop, sure, but the editing functions you list are all I use it for myself, and it took me about an hour to puzzle out.

    Actually, that laptop might just need a new hard drive. It's not a difficult fix. A few screws in and out, then an hour with the windows recovery disk.

    Love the artwork! I'd like to see you save your money for ink and vintage paper!

  9. Titus, that was indeed a very good piece of advice but in a sense perhaps the timing of this disaster was good. The old PC was a massive, towering monster with far too many cords and a monitor entirely too massive for me. It really was time to update, simplify, and streamline and I was able to do so for not much more than the cost of purchasing a new hard drive.

    That being said, I do still have the old monster so I will be cracking it open to see what I can see. I do hope the dust removal can save it because if so I will be scrubbing and reformatting the hard drive and donating the entire PC system to a charitable organization.

  10. Daryj, Charlie and November, all of your advice and pointers are very very appreciated. I am no Luddite, but as evidenced by my decidedly hands-on, analog approach to art, the digital realm is often a strange one to me.

    That being said, there is good news. I did indeed find the Fireworks disc I thought I had discarded and was able to get it installed on the new laptop. So, no money spent, same program I am very comfortable using, and the work proceeds again. Huzzah!

  11. Winston, thank you very much for the kind words and the concern. Ultimately, even though I did spend some money, it wasn't nearly as much as it could have been and the changes (hardware and space) were much needed and for the best. Plus I had actually been saving a bit for this eventuality to I was able to handle it all pretty well. Also, as you may have read in the comments above, I was able to find my old Fireworks disc and re-install with no stealing or purchasing new copies. So the work proceeds, full steam ahead!