Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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December 2004, Week 2 -- Photoshop Goes Elementary

 

 

 Photoshop Elements 3

 

   Adobe Photoshop Elements 3 is a great upgrade to a great program. A few neat features caught our attention right away. So let's get to them.

   The first is the clustering of images into groups. One of the problems with looking at pages of thumbnail views is if you have a lot of pictures you have to leaf through a lot of pages. What you can do here is stack those pictures into subject groups. So, for instance, if you have a lot pictures of a vacation, the family, a business project, etc., you can collect those into a stack and only one of the pictures shows on top. You can tell there are others because you can see the edges of them, like the leaves of pages peeking out the side. Right-click on the stack and all of those images are then displayed as thumbnails.

 

   A second elegant feature is a calendar with picture dates. You can select "calendar view" from the top menu and it will show you a tiny image of any photo you took on a particular date. How does it know when you took that picture? Well, if you're using a digital camera, the date and time you took the picture is recorded along with when you snap a shot. That information is transferred to the computer along with the image when you upload from the camera. If you take and store pictures in December, for example, there will be a tiny sample shot showing on the calendar for the date they were snapped. As you use this,  you can move through a timeline of your photos. Move back to any month in any year and you will see examples of what pictures you took on what days.

 

   Okay, one more feature that really grabbed us: It has to do with scanning. If you put four or five or any number of small pictures on a scanner bed and then activate the scan, what you get is a single image -- just the scan itself. Photoshop Elements 3 recognizes that they are really separate pictures and divides and straightens them into separate images. They can now be edited and saved separately. You can save any pictures, slideshows or extended projects as PDF (Portable Document Format) files. You can email images "as is" or through a special feature that lets you choose frames and layouts.

 

   There are tons of features here, including a single click "smart fix" that corrects color, lighting and contrast problems. Photoshop Elements 3 has a list price of $100 for the Wndows version from Adobe www.adobe.com but we found it for $85 at www.amazon.com. The Mac version is $90 but we found it for $79 at www.techonweb.com.

 

Singing the Samsung song

  CLP 550

   A few weeks ago we briefly reviewed the new Samsung color laser printer, model CLP-550, and liked everything about it except the color quality. Well it turns out the fault was not with the printer but with the cheap paper we were using. We put in some decent laser printer paper and the color looks great.

   We have mentioned this before but it's worth saying again: paper quality has a significant effect on print quality. This is true with inkjet and laser printers. It's especially worth mentioning again here because the Samsung CLP-550 is far and away the lowest cost color laser printer we can find. The list price for the CLP-550 is $550, but we found it for only $288, a great price, at www.techonweb.com. "Techonweb," by the way, has one of the highest ratings for online shopping; these ratings come from the well known service "BizRate" www.bizrate.com.

 

   A very nifty feature of the CLP-550 is the ability to print multiple pages to a single sheet of paper, which is great for archiving. You can choose to print as many as 16 scaled-down pages on one sheet of paper. Another nice feature: if you have a company logo that you want to always go at the top of any page, that logo can be permanently saved in memory and will automatically be slugged in, as they say in the newspaper business, when you call for it.

 

 It's like deja vu all over again

 Flashback

 

   This sounds like a "must-have" gift for aging baby boomers. It's "Atari Flashback," an old-fashioned game console with some old-fashioned games and joysticks. You do not need a computer.

   Once again you can fire at enemy tanks in a low-res desert battle, smash asteroids before they smash you, bust your way through the "Breakout" blocks and piece by piece, dismember a sinuous centipede. There are 20 arcade style action games in the console, which is $60 at www.atari.com. We found it for $35 and $40 at www.target.com and www.bestbuy.com. These stores also sell 80 classic Atari games on disk for $20; you do need a computer for that but it's a better deal.

 

Books

Game Console Hacking

   What could be better for the holiday season than a book about how to hack the game console machines. There are more than 100 million out there already and there are going to be a lot more after the holidays.

   "Game Console Hacking," by Grand, Thornton and Yarusso, is $40 from Syngress www.syngress.com and covers the Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, Atari and Gamepark 2. Some examples: Turn an old Atari 2600 game console into a full-featured PC; run Linux on the Microsoft Xbox; boot the Playstation from its own memory card. Making all or any of the hacks in the book will void your warranty, of course, but who cares; this is for the adventurous, not the cautious.