technology post

March 22, 2007

So, ladies and gents, things have been a little quiet on the TS front this week. And I can’t blame it on taxes (which I nearly pulled my hair out yesterday over), or art (though I have been working and spraypainting and researching), but I can blame it on technology!

See, it all happened in the casa de Meg on Tuesday. The previous week I had bested technology and fixed a dishwasher! But on Tuesday, the tech beasts flared up, and my keyboard went dead. Well, kind of dead. Numbers and the whole upper left quadrant of the keyboard wouldn’t work.  And you could say ‘OK, well Meg, you have a mouse, and a tablet that can read handwriting as letters!’ But I’d counter, “I can’t use the tablet til I log in, and I can’t log in on my Mac until I…type a password.” So, for an entire business day I was dead to the internet (had to wait until my partner in crime got off work to go get one, as I don’t drive), and you don’t realize how internet dependent you become! So I left to go seek out picture frames at the local Goodwill, and came back and heard water leaking from my power washer, only to try and rectify it and….bust the hose. And then the next day I found that my water pressure was messed up!

But anyway, this is all a long way of leading me to talk about technology, because: I got a question in my inbox from Ken asking tech questions. He writes:

a: I am looking to replace my 7 year old Compaq PC, which uses a 17″ flat screen CRT monitor.  I am considering an iMac with a 17″ or 20″ widescreen LCD.  What monitor do you use? If you use an LCD, have you had problems with the colors on the screen not matching your
final printed product? I’ve read on-line that CRT monitors provide better color matching than LCD’s for digital photographers.  While I was updating my website a few months ago I noticed colors looked different on my CRT at home compared to my 19″ Dell LCD at work.

Well, I use an iMac. I really like it, and I’m not going to shove Apple products down your throat, but this is how my setup is– I have a 20″ widescreen LCD, and then a 17″ CRT monitor set up right next to it. I’m not positive if what you write is true about color matching, but the second monitor is much darker/duller and when I receive printed artwork from clients, it usually matches the LCD better. Sometimes it’s a little darker or lighter, but I think that may be just their printer settings are different. Anyhow, I use both for comparison– but also for a few other reasons. One, it’s great to have a second workspace to pull firefox into when I’m working in Photoshop; but I also can change the resolution on each monitor. Which is especially great for the web, because the resolution on the Mac is actually vastly different– I like it, but not that many people view things at my resolution, so I keep the second monitor at 1028×764 so I can compare websites and images to make sure they’re not too big if I’m updating my site or something.

However, I will note that lots of things are different between Mac and PC: I live with a diehard PCist– who programs and creates Word and Excel templates and libraries and stuff, and he is baffled by the Mac’s setup for Word ( I guess the hotkeys may be different). And if you want computer gaming, there is really not much out there for you, unless you run Boot Camp I think. But I really love working on artwork on my Mac–I was used to things dragging quite a bit, and now my illustrations are much more involved and bigger files and it just moves so much smoother than my previous PCs.

b: I’ll probably replace my old color printer and scanner as well.  What printer do you use?  Do you print out proofs at home and are they comparable to your final printed product?

I’m not a good judge on the printer I’m afraid: I researched and what I read online said that the Canon i4000 printer would do great color prints affordably, and when I print anything out the colors are always, always off. Needless to say, I don’t use it for proofing. I’m definitely interested, readers– any good scoops? I’m reluctant to replace mine til it bites the dust–but if there’s a good one out there I may opt to.

c: What scanner do you use and what size paper will it fit?’

I got my scanner off the recommendation of a good friend of mine, but I’m pretty certain they discontinued the model. Epsons are really good though– I got an Epson Perfection 4870, which can scan up to 12800 dpi if I ever wanted! I never really go higher than 600, but still. My only complaint is the bed size– standard 8.5×11 size. I’d love to get a big scanner someday, but don’t know much about them, what’s good or whatnot. I’d go Epson though– the last two scanners I got were Epsons and they haven’t done me wrong.

And to get back on the tax thing: I really wish there was no such thing as income tax. To be honest, this is my first year filing, and my first year filing as a independent contractor/selfemployed sort. I tried to dumb it down yesterday with using Taxcut online, because I don’t get taxes– at all! But for some reason I thought the standard deduction would wipe out what I owe, but that’s completely wrong apparently. Because deduction or no, Taxcut says I owe $500. Among the many things I would like to afford: an accountant! I was hoping to write a post regarding taxes this month, but I realize this is my weakest area. I need a workshop– or else, a guest poster?? Something to keep in mind for 2008 I suppose.

OK, back to the grind for me, but hopefully there will be more posts soon kids! Forgive my lapses these days. I need to really get on top of getting a guest blogger in to give me a break 🙂


7 Responses to “technology post”

  1. Well, my old PC in the size of a suitcase (even with a handle on top!) died one day. It just didn´t start anymore. So I replaced it with a current-generation Mac Mini with souped-up RAM and am very happy with it. It just WORKS. And when something breaks the shopkeepers know what to deal with – the PC market has millions of different hardware combinations, and when one cheap part dies, it drags everything else with it.

    I always wondered why creative people choose Macs more often, I guess this is because a)Photoshop and the like were Mac-exclusive some time ago and b) they can´t spend their time messing around with their systems for fun. And there is just ONE manufacturer, you won´t have to spend hours and hours finding out what friggin video card driver you need.

  2. Oh, and a blog friend of mine had a dead keyboard recently too. I guess if I start illustration professionally, I´ll keep a replacement keyboard in my house, just in case 😉

  3. johnmoonli said

    If this helps you out, go to the main H&R Block website and they are offering free TaxCut Basic PLUS a free efile for a limited time

  4. Bjorn said

    I would never buy a 17 inch iMac if you work with images. Minimum 20 inch or the new 24 inch. Size does matter here…
    About colour. Yes, CRT monitors are *slightly* better in displaying correct color information as LCD monitors. This difference was huge years ago but now you only see a difference with a Barco monitor that costs 5000 bucks. Those puppies are CRT. And this difference can only be seen in just a few colour areas. So I would never use a CRT over a LCD if I would not work with monsters like Barco in a lithograpgic enviroment.
    So just use an LCD. Apple makes very nice ones (keep away from the 23 inch Cinema Display for now as it has a lot of problems with colors). Apple is expecting to launch new monitors in a matter of weeks, so keep an eye out. LaCie makes great monitors too and for a good price. Same goes for Eizo.
    These brands are most used in graphic enviroments where colour is all-important.

    Second, you ABSOLUTELY need a hardware calibrator if you want to work with ICC profiles. It can’t be done with just the Colorsync software on your Mac. What you need is a device like a calibrator that actually makes a sort of ‘bleuprint’ of your monitor. This bleuprint will be attached to all your images. Now if you send this image to somebody else and this person opens this on his/her computer the ICC profile will make sure that this person sees your image just the way you do…. that is if this person also has a calibrated monitor.
    I work with two monitors. A big LaCie CRT and a smaller Sony CRT. Both simular brands an simular types of monitors. The both (obviously) display colour different. But I used a calibrator to measure them out. The application of the calibrator tells me how to adjust the monitor. This way I was able to adjust them so that they diplayed all colours exactly the same!
    A Colorvision Spider or Greta McBeth Bleu Eye calibrator can do this for you. Remember that no monitor is the same and that all monitors loose their brilliance. So you have to calibrate your monitor at least once a month in order to keep an accurate colour display.

    Scanners: Epson is the way to go. They make stunning scanners who actually handle transparencies very well.

  5. Annemarie/NL said

    I totally ruined my taxes the first year I started ‘for real’, two years ago. I had to pay a lot of money….and it took me ages to fill everything in.
    I didn’t think I could afford an accountant, but when a friend of mine told me how happy she was with hers, I thought, ‘Let’s try this, at least it will be done right’. And I ended up with getting taxmoney BACK. And still have some after paying him 😉 So it really is something you should try, who knows!

  6. Gerren said

    I worked at a fine art reproduction studio for two years, and Bjorn is completely right. Without a monitor color calibrator you might as well be color blind. Nothing will look right when you print it. Plus, if you are creating pure digital artwork, you can’t even get a LOT of colors with your standard CMYK printer. You may need to upgrade to a six color large format (cyan, light magenta, magenta, light yellow, yellow, black).

  7. Meg,

    I started using TaxCut last year and found it to be extremely helpful. I was using a copy bought from Target, so maybe it’s a little different on-line. I fill out a Schedule C for freelancing. I used to fill out the forms myself, but TaxCut walked me through everything, making me realize I had missed a few things in the past.

    My full-time illustrator friend uses an accountant. He says its worth it. The accountant helps him with right-offs and what records he needs to keep. He supports his wife and 3 kids, so he’s doing something right!

    Thanks to you and everyone’s input on my technical questions. I bailed on the Mac and decided to go with a Dell system, which will be ordered soon.

    My reason for sticking with a PC was software. I’m not ready to fork out the $$$ for upgrading all my software to Mac versions on top of the extra cost of paying for the Mac itself. I thought using Boot Camp in the Mac to run Windows would buy me time until I converted. However all the Mac sales people poo-poo’ed the idea saying I’d be open to viruses, not taking advantage of the Mac OS and maybe void my warranty. So what’s the point of Boot Camp?

    The 19″ Dell Ultrasharp monitor was rated #4 in PC World’s ratings. It’s still probably not as good as a Mac, but c’est la vie.

    Thanks again.


    PS I’m going to try out some of the free open source software with my new PC: Gimp (Photo editing), Inkscape (vector art), ArtRage (similar to Painter) and OpenOffice. I’ve been happy with NVU for creating webpages. It’s similar to Dreamweaver. Maybe a future post on software?

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