One of the computer industry's founding fathers was once asked what he thought about Microsoft's industry domination. 'They've worked hard and they deserve to be where they are,' he explained, and then added: 'Too bad they make such mediocre software.' Now I was basically willing to leave well enough alone. It didn't concern me, didn't bother me and so I didn't bother it. But all of that changed this month when I received two products - Adobe's Photoshop 5.0 software and the Nikon LS-2000 film scanner. The offending item is something with a sufficiently geeky title that most people are happy to turn the page when it pops up. But if you are a photographer, artist, publisher, advertiser or anyone else needing high-quality images, sRGB is something you should know about. It was the brainchild of Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard which, reasoning that colour management solutions were far more sophisticated than the average person needed, decided to make up their own. The idea behind any colour management software is to create a file describing the characteristics of every device in an imaging work flow. In other words, one file describes to the monitor what colours it can display, how bright it is, and so on. There also can be files to describe your scanner, digital camera, printer, and printing press. The colour management software uses these files to translate the colour of an image as it moves from one device to another so it is consistent, accurate and, more importantly, so that no colours are lost. The problem is that to make this work, you need some way to measure each device and that is expensive. sRGB eliminates that need by using a generic file which describes an average cheapo monitor. Not a bad idea for the average computer user who does, in fact, have a cheapo colour monitor. But there are problems. Firstly, all sRGB can do is guarantee that the image contains no colours that your monitor cannot display. It cannot really guarantee accurate colour. Secondly, if you intend to do anything with your photos beyond putting them on Web pages, sRGB is going to be a serious hindrance. That was fine until just this month. The Nikon LS-2000 uses sRGB as its default colour space, as does Photoshop. Photoshop does at least allow you to change the default colour space but you need to know how to do it and you need to be aware that it has to be done. The Nikon scanner gives you a choice between sRGB and HSL, which is not practical when it comes to making colour corrections. By using sRGB, these products basically clip the colours in an image down to what the lowest-standard monitor can display. Not practical, not professional, and exceedingly mediocre.