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     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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Max Pixel's Adventures

May 2005, Week 1 -- Here's looking at You, and Everybody Else

  This is really a lot of fun. It's expensive, but fun.

   The "it" we're talking about is a digital projector. You plug in a computer, a VCR, a DVD player or even a video camera and you can project the picture on any screen or wall. The one we tried worked well on the ceiling too. These projectors are normally sold to the business market for use in making presentations, but there's no reason we all can't have fun.

   A lot of companies make these new high power projectors and they're all pretty similar (there are more than 40 makers). They all sell for around $1,000. We decided to work with one from Toshiba and connected it to a Toshiba laptop.

   The most remarkable thing about these projectors is the brightness of the light. Remember the overhead projectors they used in school to show charts and other printed material? The room was darkened and a dim projection of something or other appeared on a pull-down movie screen.

  The Toshiba TDP-S25U we ran produced a clear, sharply defined picture even in a brightly lit room. In fact the room was clear glass on two sides and it was a sunny afternoon outside. The incredible picture quality is because of a bulb that produces 1800 lumens and a 2,000 to 1 contrast ratio. (A 100-watt bulb produces about the same amount of light but it goes in all directions; a projector concentrates it on one spot.) We projected a Windows screen on an off-white plaster wall and could easily read every word. A remote control let us move away from the computer and still control everything.

   The use for a business or school presentation is obvious, but let's move beyond that for a moment. Since the the projector will take input from a video tape, a DVD or a video camera (whether digital or not), it can be used like a wide screen TV. Forget about those big boxes that weigh 300 pounds and stand nearly six feet high; the Toshiba projector weighs six and a half pounds and is less than four inches thick.

   You can watch a movie projected on a wall anywhere from 3 to 33 feet away from the projector. But it immediately became clear that this kind of device went way beyond watching movies or making presentations. For those with poor eyesight, the computer screen is no longer a limitation. You can use the Toshiba or similar unit to project text on the screen in letters a foot high if you want. We worried about heat from the bulb causing burnout or other problems after a while so had a chat with Toshiba tech support. They said that some people leave the projector on all day and that you could certainly leave it on continuously for four or five hours at a time with no problems; just let the cooling fan stay on when you turn off the light.

   Then there are the options for artists ... The famous British artist David Hockney recently created a furor among art historians by claiming that Renaissance painters used projection devices to achieve perspective in their works. Such devices were known from early in the 16th century. If projection is available to an artist, Hockney said, he will use it. Indeed, why not? Several modern painters achieve a photographic effect by using new projectors. And a photograph of any subject can be turned into a painted portrait by starting with the shading and outlines of a bright, sharp projection.

   Many of these projectors can be purchased with so-called document cameras. These can be used to photograph either flat or three-dimensional objects and the image then goes into the projector. An ordinary still camera will not work; it has to be either a video camera or a document camera. But if the images from an ordinary digital camera are put into the computer, then they can be displayed through the projector. The Toshiba we used retails for $999, or $1,199 with a document camera. More info at

The Presenter

   As long as we're on the subject of presentations, we found a very nifty way to be there without being there.

   It's called "PresenterNet" and it allows you to put an interactive presentation on the Web. You put a presentation on their web site: and log in. You then tell your audience to log in. From there on, everything's a breeze.

   You can click on any point to expand it or move to a branch presentation. So can they. You can ask your audience a question and they can answer. Both you and they can use a pencil tool to circle something on the screen or put in arrows or scratch out. Sales people love this thing and it is also used by teachers.

   Costs are based on audience size. For an audience of 25 or fewer, the price is $30 a month, no matter how many meetings you hold. For an audience of 100 the cost is $50 a month. A free demo is available. You can also use Skype, the Internet phone service, for Internet calls.


   "Max Pixel's Adventures in Adobe Photoshop Elements 3," (includes a CD), by Steve Caplin; $25 at It looks and reads like a comic book. This is real easy to follow and fun to go through. Good tips and examples to go with this popular program.

NOTE: Readers can search several years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at and Joy Schwabach at

Copyright 2005 Universal Press Syndicate