|The MacWorld Expo 2000 report|
THURSDAY AT MACWORLD EXPO
The Latest, the Greatest, the New and Improved
By MIKE PASINI
Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter
SAN FRANCISCO -- Canon introduced the S20 as "the world's smallest and lightest 3.3 megapixel digital optical zoom camera with built-in flash" but that was only one of several things that impressed us as we navigated the crowded aisles of the Expo today.
See the S20? The backpacker is holding it.
Camera of the Day
Although the S20 won't ship until April at a price that has still not been determined, the 3.34 megapixel camera was on display at the Canon booth. We got our hands on it briefly.
It closely resembles the S10 (and A50 for that matter), sporting a similar aluminum alloy (and hefty) body. The 2x optical zoom can be digitally zoomed to 8x to take images in three resolutions: 2048x1536, 1024x768 or 640x480 in three quality modes (normal, fine, super fine) and with selectable ISO up to 400. It uses CompactFlash (Types I and II) to store images (although at these image sizes the PCMCIA IBM hard drive soon to ship might be a more prudent investment) and includes USB, serial and video out ports.
Bargain of the Day
Yesterday a $100 digicam and a $30 image editing program led the bargains, but we did a little better today: we found something free. And we're not talking about buttons, mousepads or t-shirts. We're talking about UGather, a 1.5M multimedia database manager from the University of Minnesota that can easily catalog your image files.
Cumulus 5 (which can catalog any kind of file on your system) and FotoStation 4.0 (which offers some intriguing photo editing and printing options) are two commercial programs we saw that bring order to your files. But if you don't want to drop $100 or $150 respectively to see if managing your imaging files is worth the trouble, just download UGather from http://upresent.umn.edu.
The bottom right window has the image info.
The program was developed as a multimedia database application for archiving, searching, previewing and selecting photo, movie and sound files for use in the companion product UPresent, a multimedia presentation tool which is also free.
Kyle Hammond, the programmer responsible for UGather, walked us through the program. We'll review it in an upcoming newsletter after we've had a chance to mangle it. We'll also be looking at the AppleScriptable single-user version of Cumulus 5 and the intriguing Norwegian FotoStation. But what Norwegian isn't intriguing?
Booth of the Day
We suppose it was inevitable that the factory outlet merchandising model would one day infiltrate even Macworld Expo. So we weren't really surprised to stumble across the Computer Software Factory Outlet.
Stumble and be trampled. Just like any other factory outlet, it was mobbed.
Old stuff, indeed. And if the thought tempts you, let us remind you that Ric Ford's site at www.macintouch.com recently listed a number of links to antique Mac software available at no charge. Formerly commercial products like Acta, Helix and More, real workhorses of System 6 days, are now available at no charge.
We'd list the Outlet's url, but we couldn't even find a BBS number for it. We got only close enough to wonder if any of the CDs and shrink-wrapped programs were carbonized for Mac OS X. Then we were magnetically pulled away by the lure of some really marvelous software.
Product of the Day
Every few years you see something special on the show floor. You walk away, remind yourself of last year's false positives, and see if you're drawn back. If you are (it takes three or four times in our case because we need the exercise), you may be on to something.
We were on to something.
Synthetik's Studio Artist resembles, at first glance, Painter and Dabbler and Photoshop and a few other image editing programs that provide artistic filters to turn realistic images into art.
Half of this CompactFlash card is an automatic painting.
But Synthetik modeled the program on musical synthesizers and calls Studio Artist "the world's first Graphics SynthesizerTM" (yes, actually trademarking the term). Just reaching version 1.1 now after debuting at Macworld Expo in New York this summer, the product combines user-configurable painting and drawing tools with image processing and video effects. The imaging model combines the visual variety of raster paint with the editability of paths. You can indeed reshape a painted brush stroke. And program it.
In fact, we suspect the programmability of the underlying vector imaging is where the synthesizing comes from. You aren't programming, you're synthesizing. And if you're good at it, you're actually jamming. But when we asked a user of version 1.0 who was inquiring about an update how hard it was to get comfortable with the program, he said that, while it wasn't intuitive, it didn't take long and the product's power made it worth the investment. It's unique.
So what is graphic synthesizing?
Import a photo and watch the program automatically paint it in the style of your choice or draw it yourself, modulating the painterly effect intentionally. The program "knows" how to paint and draw -- even if you don't (so the results are credible). Since you can control over 200 interactive paint parameters in real time, too, you can do some amazing things with this software. Like have it apply a transformation to every frame of a QuickTime movie.
If you've ever wished you could convert your photos to believable drawings (or dreamed you could turn them into paintings), visit www.synthetik.com and look for our review in the newsletter. (BTW, to subscribe to our biweekly newsletter, just send a blank email to email@example.com.)
Two to Go
The Expo runs another two days in the underground north and south halls of Moscone Center, so we'll have more have a few more special daily reports, posting late at night with a link from the News page.
As we walked away from the show today, we passed the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts where an odd installation sprawling out from under a staircase caught our still roving eye. We stepped inside to look more closely at Erika Olsen Hannes' Ciudad Ateugirne. It seemed like something you might find under a Christmas tree, a town of little lights, some cars, maybe a train. But it was a land of old green motherboards and furry pink hills with gray packing foam steppes inhabited by beasts made of keycaps and birds made of single feathers that danced or flew according to the whims of unseen motors. A land, in short, of old hardware where the 8-bit and 16-bit processors were all equal (apologies to Lenny Bruce) because they were all obsolete.
That put all Macworld's marvels in perspective -- until I wondered if the thing ran under Windows NT, Mac OS 9 or Linux.