Archive for February 27th, 2011

February 27, 2011

Y’all ready for this?

I know, I know, my titles have next to nothing to tell you about the subject of my blog. Furthermore, they are “lame sauce” attempts at humour. But really, really, this is big news for everyone and a major wooaa reaction when I found that the LDS Family History Center, aka the FHC, near me has a new toy tool. Y’all ready for this? It is a Microfilm / Microfiche reader scanner attached to a computer running Windows! Not only is it awesome, it lets you grab images for free to your own personal flash drive. Which means we can skip the scanning step needed to get paper copies into the computer.

Being a geek, using the equipment was fairly intuitive. I was able to save images on my flash drive without reading the instructions, which apparently were posted above the computer. Umm, can you say small, subtle print? When I arrived home, I was peeved to find that I couldn’t read my files. I tried every image viewing / manipulating software on my computer, trust me I have a lot. Neither Microsoft’s built in, admittedly 2 year old software, nor PhotoShop CS3, nor paint, nor AlternaTif, etc., etc., etc., could read the file. I just couldn’t figure out how each file could have multiple pages of information if it were truly a corrupted file. Photoshop gave me a clue, “unsupported compression method”.

Perhaps I should have read those directions.

At this point I had two options, assume the files were hopelessly corrupted, return to the Family History Center, read the directions, and create new files. A bit too much time, energy and humble pie involved there. Or I could use my googling skills to find out if these files were truly hopelessly corrupted or could they be read by something more sophisticated than what I had on my system. I really didn’t want to a) return to the FHC on the upcoming Saturday as the daughters were arriving from college for the weekend and there is never enough time to spend with them when they are in, b) take some time out from work to return to the FHC during the weekday, as they had no evening hours remaining for the week, or c) wait a week to return on Saturday to the FHC. In short, I wanted to see if I could solve this without returning to the Family History Center! Especially as I wanted to read my images right now!

The quest began to find the nature of the problem and, if it turned out that the files were not corrupted-beyond-repair, locate software which could read the files. The software needed to be affordable, available via download, intuitive to use and able to create pdf or jpeg files from tif. Being the uber-geek that I am, I googled the error message, “unsupported compression method”. The results told me that the problem was definitely with the software, no program I had could read the files. Googling “best tif viewer” found some candidates for download and trial.

The first program I tried was Brava. This installed easily and low and behold it read the files. Yay! It could create Adobe PDF’s from the images very easily. However, I haven’t been able to create jpegs from it. For the price, somewhere between ouch and boing, something else had to be found. Their pricing isn’t really geared to the true single seat user, more the single seat corporate user. It does have a nice side bar, accessed by clicking the arrow at the right side of the page, which displayed thumbnails of each page.

Now I needed to find out if there was software which was more affordable, ahem free, could create jpegs and pdfs and was, ahem free. Did I mention that I would like it to be free?

Next up, Irfanview. Overlooking the awkward pronunciation of the name, the software downloaded and installed easily. Creating JPEG’s was a breeze, PDF’s not so much. However, free and and jpeg creation cover most of my needs, so this is the most likely winner.

For grins, I decided to try Gimp, a gnu based software program with which I have manipulated images and created some beautiful effects. Gimp had a cow. The error message was more meaningful, though: “Depreciated and troublesome old-style JPEG compression mode, please convert to new-style JPEG compression and notify vendor of writing software” and this “wrong data type 4 for “JpegProc”; tag ignored”. Yeah, with the exception that it should read deprecated, not depreciated, that makes my unix geek heart sing! Okay, so it looks like I probably chose something wrong when I selected the compression. Again, the directions,… In fact, the little GNU Fox gave up and stuck out his tongue in desperation. If you aren’t a unix geek, then the talk of tarballs, and other fun arguments, on the Gimp Google group will make your head spin around. Just leave it alone, especially since Gimp doesn’t really “do” windows installers, exactly, though there is one on the site, which installs the version which gives me that unixy error message! Apparently, 2.7 stops complaining about it and opens the image. But the 2.7 version is source code only. I am not going to do a build, so-o-o not happening. Head exploding yet? I have a masters in it, computer science, that is, but I don’t really do it for fun, not since I stopped following edges a long, long time ago.

Why did I get this error? My theory is that there were multiple files in one tif, blowing the mind of the viewers.

Bottom line is this, even though most software had a problem with the files, I found software which could handle them. Now, I have my cool images, I have a fun new tool to use at the FHC and I am happy, happy!