Apple fans can help you recover speed on OS X

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 12:00am

The biggest single gripe from those who converted to Apple's new OS X is that many peripheral equipment manufacturers - makers of scanners, printers, Webcams, and so on - decided not to make OS X drivers for their previous models.


Most of these manufacturers are now making OS X drivers for their current top-selling devices but not for their older models. And some have decided to abandon their Mac customers altogether, leaving us with now worthless and often expensive high-tech paperweights.


I personally have a pile of these gadgets, the most notable being my Umax 1100 Firewire flatbed scanner and a Kensington Webcam. I could probably afford to toss the Webcam as it is only worth US$25, but that Umax scanner is an exceptional device and I hate to lose it. If you have a favourite, unsupported device, you know exactly how I feel.


Thanks to a few talented and understanding programmers, there are now some solutions to save the day.


Lets start with scanners first. VueScan from Hamrick Software (www.hamrick.com, US$40) contains drivers for more than 50 unsupported scanners and their application is often better than the one that originally came with your scanner.


In the same spirit, VueScan's OS X drivers were frequently available before those of the original scanner manufacturers. VueScan has features like infrared negative cleaning (if your scanner supports it), auto focus and every image adjustment you can think of.


Aside from its low price and simple user interface, my favourite feature is its ability to colour-match to whatever film you prefer (it comes pre-calibrated for hundreds of choices). This ensures that your colours are spot-on with the first try.


I also appreciate the batch scanning capability that allows you to select the exact negative frames you want to scan. This feature alone can save a lot of time. The program outperforms the original driver/applications on all the scanners I own.


It should be noted that it is a stand-alone application and not a plug-in for your photo-editing application.


If you use your scanner more professionally (or would like to), you will want to check out LaserSoft Imagings SilverFast AI (www.silverfast.com, price depends on scanner model). It has all of the features of VueScan plus a few inspiring extras.


First, it can change individual colours to whatever colour you choose.


This feature is unusual in that it actually works as advertised and can be done by a novice in a few minutes. It works well for colour correction but works even better for artistic bellishment.


From the colour of a person's eyes to the colour of a wedding dress, you just outline the item, select a colour and move the sliders to make the change. Any photo artist will instantly recognise its potential. Since SilverFast uses artificial intelligence, it delivers extremely complex corrections with the click of a button.


For instance, if you would like to convert an image to black and white, the relationship of colours in the image usually results in a terrible effect. Red near a green background will look the same as the green in black & white. But in LaserSoft, you can change the red to yellow and your black & white image will turn out as though it was originally taken with black & white film.


The dust-and-scratch elimination and automatic colour restoration are also world-class features, and they are all made better with the little QuickTime tutorials viewable (for free) on the LaserSoft Web site.


Of course, after you have tweaked your scanned image to perfection, you will want to print it. But what if you have a legacy printer? Try Gimp-Print (gimp- print.sourceforge.net, free). OS X now supports the Common Unix Printing System (CUPS) and there are Unix drivers for most printers.


Gimp-Print is a collection of high-quality printer drivers that work in CUPS in OS X and they are frequently superior to the factory drivers. Obviously, if your printer has no OS X printer driver, you will be interested. But if you would like to improve on your current driver, check it out as well. After all, it is free.


Remember the inexpensive Kensington Webcam that I am too cheap to throw out? Well, thanks to Matthias Krauss' Macam, I don't have to. The application is free and works on dozens of universal serial bus (USB) Webcams. Matthias' Web site is in German but you can get Macam on www.versiontracker.com. And if you have any other driverless devices hanging around that you thought would never work in OS X, VersionTracker probably has drivers for them as well.


The Mac programming community is remarkably talented and generous, and thanks to them there is no reason to live with the questionable decisions made by executives who have decided that their companies cannot afford to look after their customers.

E-mail Dave Horrigan at
horrigan@electriciti.com
with your Mac queries.