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DigitalFocus 2001
Inside this invitation-only event
by Rick Smith (November 11, 2001)


 


Sponsors of DigitalFocus:

3DFamily
Adobe
AmazingMail
Applied Science Fiction
ArcSoft
Benq
Biography Software
Broderbund
Canon
Cosmi
Dream House Software
ECI
Epson
Fujifilm
Home Debut
HP
Jasc
Kingston
Lexmark
Logitech
Memorex
Memory Stick
Minolta
Nikon
Ofoto
Olympus
Photodex
PhotoParade
QSound
Reallusion
Rebel Visions
Red Queen Software
Ricoh
SanDisk
SimVentions
Sony
SoundPix
Toshiba
Totally Hip Software
Touchpoint
ViewSonic
Vivastar
Xerox


Adobe Photoshop 6
Adobe Photoshop Six. The latest version of a program that some people would fight a religious war over its virtues, while others scream that their favorite program has a better this or a better that. I admit that I am one of Photoshop’s afficionados. For two simple reasons. One - it works, and works well and two - multiple NAMED undo. Without these key features, other graphics software is just a bunch of features in a box. These two features, combined with the rest of Photoshop, helps you soar to new heights, limited only by your imagination. Now those screamers are quiet - 6.0 is here!

I’ve been using 5.5 for a little over a year and its web features really impress me, read my review. What new in 6.0 you ask? A bunch. Here’s a quick taste of some of the features that I feel are most compelling:

Tighter integration - Adobe is continuing to integrate ImageReady web features directly into Photoshop. In 5.5, only Image Ready performed “web slicing” - now this can be done directly in Photoshop, which saves time and resources. File saving is also more automated when moving between ImageReady and Photoshop.

Weighted optimization - Now you can achieve higher quality in critical areas of your web graphics because you can vary the compression settings in different areas of a single image.

Better layer management - Layers can be clustered into sets for better control. Layers can also be locked against accidental image changes or movement.

Better text capability - Now text alignment can be set at the paragraph level, with word wrap, directly on the image. And all without having to use a dialog box! You can even store written notes and even audio annotations, within a Photoshop file - much better than using abbreviations buried at the end of layer names.

Additional actions support - One of the best, and to some, “hidden” feature of Photoshop is actions. They were designed to help speed up repetitive tasks and they do a great job. Now, many people have figured out fantastic ways to use them for extremely creative tasks - I’ve seen one action create random puffy clouds on a blue sky background. Now, even tool options can be set through actions and actions can also be saved as droplets. These droplets can trigger batch operations, when folders of images are dragged on top of them.

Vector graphics - Adobe followed Jasc’s lead in vector integration and now adds its vector functionality. Vector clipping paths can be applied to each layer in a photograph and resolution-independent text can be added to photos. Crisp type quality can then be maintained in both PDF and Postscript output. Vector shapes can now be drawn, independent of output resolution.

OS Support shift - Support for Windows 2000 and ME has been added, 98 and NT 4.0 remains and Windows 95 is now dropped. (8.5, 8.6 and 9.0 for Macs).

That’s a quick summary. I’ll let you know how these key features work and elaborate about them in greater detail during our upcoming product review. Other new web features are:

Dynamic layer based slices - JavaScript rollovers can more easily be created simply by assigning an effect to a layer and letting ImageReady make the slices.

Easier image maps - Use rectangle, ellipse and polygon tools to create map areas and define rollover states.

Rollover styles - Effects of rollovers and their states can be saved as ImageReady styles. These styles can help you replicate this faster to other portions of your graphics to produced dynamic effects more quickly.

Slice sets - Like layer sets, slices can also be clustered into sets, for easier output

Faster buttons - With the vector tools and layer styles, buttons and bars are quicker to create. 

 


Benq 6406EU
from the former Acer Peripherals group
If you have a laptop or desktop PC that doesn't have an extra bay to install a CD recorder, one good solution is to use a USB drive. Benq's latest USB recorder is the 6406EU. (Benq is the new name for the peripheral division of Acer.)

While a 6x write speed is not as fast as internal CD recorders, the 6406EU is one of the fastest USB 1.1 drives available. Other features of this drive are:

  • Two megabyte recording buffer

  • Measures approximately 6 x 2 x 9 inches

  • Weighs under 3 pounds (1.3 Kg)

  • Internal Flash memory upgradeable

  • 4x CD-R/W speed

  • 6x read speed

  • reads and writes standard (120 mm) and small (80 mm) CD media

    In addition to the 3.5 mm analog headphone output, the front panel features a:

  • Load/eject button

  • Audio play/skip button

  • Thumbwheel volume control

  • Reading in Progress LED

  • Writing in Progress LED

    The power supply connector, USB connector and power switch are in the rear of the unit. The power LED is on the left side. An external power adapter is included. This drive retails for under $200.

    This drive is compatible with Windows 98, Windows 2000 and Windows Me. (Separate CD burning software is required for Mac OS 8 or 9.) In addition to a USB port, system requirements are a Pentium 166 MHz or higher with 32 MB system RAM and 50 MB free HD space for installing software. 750 MB of free hard drive space is needed for duplicating a CD using the hard drive for intermediate storage. CD audio files require 10 megabytes for each minute of recorded music. 

     


    Namo WebEditor 5
    distributed by Jasc Software
    Much like ImageReady with Adobe Photoshop and Dreamweaver with Macromedia Fireworks, Namo WebEditor provides the web site "utilities" for Jasc Paint Shop Pro. For the very attractive price of only $149 boxed or $139 electronically, it provides surprisingly complete functionality.

    Some of its key features of this package, distributed by Jasc Software, are:

  • over 80 JavaScript effect scripts

  • Script editor/manager

  • database wizard for ASP, JSP and PHP

  • Image Manager

  • Browser compatibility tester

  • Smart button editor

  • image slicer

  • GIF animator

  • Screen capture

  • Clip art library

    This package contains virtually all the tools to create a web site. You will be able to:

  • Create and design page layouts

  • Create and manipulate images

  • Add Javascript actions

  • Add movies (QuickTime and Windows Media)

  • Add animation (Flash, Shockwave or GIF)

  • Add sound (MIDI or RealAudio)

  • Add database capability

  • Effectively manage web site resources

    Experienced HTML developers will appreciate the dual mode editor that can toggle between visual and source code modes. Namo WebEditor also includes formatting and tag simplification, along with an HTML validator.

    Namo WebEditor 5 is a powerful set of integrated tools for web authoring. It runs on ALL 32 bit Windows operating systems (95/98/NT/ME/2000/XP). It is compatible with Paint Shop Pro and any other image editor. Upgrades for registered users of previous versions of Namo WebEditor will be available for $49 boxed or $39 ESD from Jasc Software. 

     


    Lexmark X73 and X83
    family of printer/scanners
    While color printing has become much less expensive for both the home and the home office, color copying has remained pricey. While multiple copies of computer-generated color material can be easily printed, color copying generally involves a trip to the library or local copy center. The Lexmark X83 and X73, the latest models in their All-in-One Print Center line make color copying very affordable. In addition, each of these models function as printers and scanners.

    Both the Lexmark X83 and X73 combine a high resolution color printer with a high resolution flatbed scanner into a single integrated unit, for less than 200 dollars. This price and feature combination certainly eclipses the Xerox XK35C (read our review) in price and the Umax 1220P/Lexmark Z11 (read our review) combination in ease of use. Last year, Lexmark released the Z82, (read our product brief) another printer/scanner combination, but both the Lexmark X83 and X73 surpass the Z82 by providing faster printing and better specifications at a lower price. (The Z82 provides both a parallel port in addition to a USB port, while the X83/X73 are USB only devices.)

    These two models look very similar and the Lexmark X83 shares many features with its lower priced sibling, the Lexmark X73.



                 Lexmark X83




    Lexmark X73                         

    These two multifunction printer/scanners:

  • Print at 2400 x 1200 dpi resolution in both black and color with the Accu-Feed paper handling system

  • Scan 600 x 1200 dpi optical resolution and 48-bit color scan depth

  • Connect via USB for Windows printing

  • Feature a flatbed scanner with a removable top

  • Can print up to 99 copies from a single original

  • Feature a zoom range from 25 percent reduction to 400 percent enlargement

  • Ship with Black Ice Fax software that can edit, store, send, and receive faxes using a connected computer in both black and COLOR

  • Include a high resolution black inkjet cartridge and a high resolution color inkjet cartridge in the box

  • Provide OCR and imaging capability through the included ABBYY Fine Reader 4.0 Sprint OCR text editing and MGI Photo Suite

  • Use a seven picoliter color droplet size for smoother color blending and more vivid output

    The most critical feature difference between these models is that the Lexmark X83 is capable of standalone copying. This means that all the copying functions (black/color copies, 1-99 copies, reduction and enlargement) can all be accomplished without requiring a PC. The X83 also retails for $199, while the X73 retails for only $149.

    There are several differences between the Lexmark X83 and X73 models. They are:

  • The X83 prints at up to 12 pages per minute (ppm) in black and up to 6 ppm in color, while the X73 print at up to 9 ppm in black and up to 5 ppm in color.

  • The X73 currently supports the Mac OS, while X83 will be Mac compatible later in 2001.

  • The X83 has a 19,200 dpi enhanced scanner resolution, while the X73 has up to a 9600 dpi enhanced scanner resolution.

  • The X83 copies at up to 10 copies per minute (cpm) in black and up to 3 cpm in color, while the X73 copies at up to 9 cpm in black and up to 3 cpm in color.

    Deciding between these two models depends on your budget ($50 difference) and if you need to be able to make copies without having your PC running.

    Reviews OnLine has highly recommended the Lexmark X83 in our review

     


    Ricoh eCabinet
    While most unique products are destined for the consumer or small office environments, Ricoh has created a new class of products called Network Office Appliances. Designed for the needs of small-to-medium sized companies and corporate workgroups, these products offer unique solutions for today's information management needs.

    The flagship product in Ricoh's Network Office Appliance fleet is the eCabinet. It makes document capture, storage and retrieval easier. The eCabinet is designed work with all types of electronic and paper business documents such as email, faxes, PC documents, copies, scans and printouts. More than 200 PC file types are supported. Some of the key features are

  • Full Text Document Retrieval

  • Web Browser Interface

  • Intelligent Document Archiving

  • Unlimited Storage Capacity

  • Connects to any standard network

  • Centralized document storage

  • Flexible system configuration

    Because information can be captured from a variety of sources without any user intervention, passwords are employed to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing sensitive documents stored on the eCabinet. You can even control which specific documents are captured and which are not.

    The eCabinet can store approximately 25 million pages of documents online, with an unlimited number off-line, using DVD-RAM, DVD Jukebox or NFS Servers. The eCabinet connects to a 10/100 Ethernet network and uses TCP/IP protocol. Some of the input document sources are:

  • Network-attached copiers

  • Network-attached scanners

  • PC-connected scanners

  • Internet Fax devices

  • Networked Postscript or PCL printers

  • SMTP Email systems

    Ricoh's eCabinet has a one year warranty and is priced at $13,995. Its dimensions are 15.5" x 7.0" x 12.2" and it weighs 30 pounds. 

     


    SanDisk 1G CompactFlash
    In the quest to pack more digital data into a small container, SanDisk has recently introduced the one 1-gigabyte type 1 CompactFlash (CF) memory card. CompactFlash media is used in digital cameras, MP3 players, handhelds and other digital devices. Now you will be able to store:

  • more than 1000 digital images

  • more than 20 hours of digital music

  • nearly two hours of CD quality audio

  • several hours of digital video

  • large databases in the palm of your hand

    Creating the one gigabyte CF memory card is a technological breakthrough for SanDisk, but you could expect them to be in front, because they first introduced the CompactFlash memory card back in November 1994.

    With a whopping gigabyte of fast storage capacity, you can store even more pictures or video clips with your digital camera, before changing or transferring media. I prefer working with CompactFlash devices because the maximum memory size has been so far ahead of other competing memory card formats and is staying that way. Now, I can easily go an entire day without having to worry about downloading and this makes me happy.

    The 1 GB SanDisk CompactFlash card should be available in early 2002 and should sell for under $800.

     

     


    Sony Aibo 3
    Terminator comes home
    The Sony Aibo3 features a more aggressive look and improved technology over its former siblings.

    Ever since I saw the first "Sony dog" at a Sony event in New York, in 1999, I was impressed. At the time, I felt I was seeing the first new product of the 21st century and still feel that way. We are all getting a chance to see the future unfold in front of us and we get to participate in the birth of a new industry - real robots.

    Other journalists say "it's only a dog" and I heard one comment that "it won't wash my car". This is true, but technology needs to start somewhere. When the Wright Brothers first flew, there may have been pundits that said that he didn't have the distance or have in-flight movies (which hadn't been invented yet either).

    But progress occurred. In less than a century, we can "fly" into outer space and return with the Space Shuttle. The Sony Aibo3 is just like the first airplanes during the dawn of aviation, but you can now buy one.

     

     


    Toshiba PDR-M71
    The PDR-71 is Toshiba's latest digicam and features quality and value. Key features include:

  • 3.2 Megapixel digital sensor
  • MSRP of $499
  • Canon all-glass aspherical macro zoom lens
  • SmartMedia storage
  • 2.8 optical zoom
  • 2048 x 1536 maximum resolution
  • Multiple exposure control modes
  • Histogram display
  • 100/200/400 ISO
  • Built-in flash
  • USB cabled
  • Runs on 4 AA batteries
  • Lightweight (8.5 ounces)

    This latest Toshiba camera packs quite a few sophisticated features, not generally found on sub-$500 digicams. Some of these advanced features are a 5 mode flash system with red-eye reduction and its ability to accept third-part accessory lenses, such as wide angle, telephoto or fish-eye.

    The 2.8 times optical zoom of the PDR-71 has a 35-98 mm 35mm equivalent, which is useful for both still images and AVI movie recording.

    You can film up to three minutes of video at 160 x 120 at 15 frames per second or 60 seconds of AVI at 320 x 240, also at 15 fps. Sound is recorded using the camera's built-in microphone. White balance can also be adjusted. Videos are played back using a computer monitor, a television (NTSC/PAL) or the PDR-71's 1.5-inch color LCD.

    To make the camera easier to use, especially during fast, continuous shooting, Toshiba has used improved digital signal processing (DSP) technology along with adding a logical user interface. Toshiba's goal was to create a "product that you could hand to someone who has never used a digital camera and they likely would not need an instruction guide to operate it". Some of these key ease-of-use features are:

  • Automatic focus and setting adjustment in fully automatic mode

  • An easy to use control dial

  • Zoom that can be changed using either thumb or index finger

  • Each function of the camera is clearly marked on the control dial with an icon

  • Shooting modes and options are changed through the LCD menu

    For the advanced shooter, the PDR-71 has both shutter and aperture priority automatic exposure, along with a REAL manual mode where you can set both shutter and aperture independently. The histogram feature is usually found only in very high Kodak digital cameras that start at over $5,000. Viewing a histogram display immediately after a picture is taken really helps you to determine if your image is really good or going to surprise you when you view it with Photoshop.

    The Toshiba PDR-71 captures images in three different sizes (2048x1536, 1024x768, 640x480) with three different compression percentages (fine, normal, basic).

    Looks like this camera will definitely heat up the competition in this $500 price range. 

     


    Vivastar RS-121
    Futuristic-styled DVD recorder
    While CD recordable drives are becoming quite common, DVD recordable drives are only just starting to become more mainstream. Earlier this year, we reported that DVD recordable drives broke the $1000 price barrier at NAB 2001. Vivastar has created a wild, futuristic "spaceship-looking" design that retails for $699.

    This new drive, the Vivastar RS-121, goes on sale in early 2002. It records onto 4.7 GB DVD-R media, as well as conventional CD-R and CD-RW media, much like the Pioneer DVR-A03 drive also shown at NAB 2001. If your needs run to a tamer, internal DVD recorder, the Vivastar model RS-111 is available.

    Key features of both the Vivastar RS-121 and RS-111 is that they both:

  • Conform to DVD Forum standards

  • Burn DVD-R discs at either 1X and 2X speeds

  • Have a maximum read rate of 4X

  • Feature both disc-at-once and incremental write

    Since each DVD is capable of recording 120 minutes of high-quality video, DVD media makes a good choice for recording movies, as well as 4.7 gigabytes of audio, video, graphics, text or other digital data.

    Switzerland-based Vivastar is Europe's only DVD-media producer and the world's only company to develop, produce and integrate the hardware, software and media completely in-house. Both the RS-121 and RS-111 contain patented chips and lasers designed and manufactured by Vivastar. 

     

    Want to see all this page in a more compact form? View the linked version of this article. It's a smaller download than this page, and each product's information is only a link away.

    Copyright © 2006 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

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