Gary’s Parries 17/09/06

September 17, 2006 | Mark Goldstein | Gary's Parries | 18 Comments |

Gary's ParriesThis week’s Gary’s Parries topics are:

1. In Search Of An Ethical Printer
2. Defying The Laws Of Physics … Again
3. Don’t Go Breaking My Compact Flash
4. JPEG And A Trim Please

Introducing this week’s Gary’s Parries column. Everything you always wanted to know about digital cameras, but were afraid to ask. No question too difficult, or too easy. As a Senior Principal Software Engineer, and a former Assistant Professor of Computer Information Systems, as well as a recording studio owner/operator, inventor, and now, a digital camera enthusiast, GARY has more digital camera knowledge in his entire brain than most people have in their little finger. In the unlikely event that GARY would not know the answer to your question, he will answer it anyway, true to the spirit of the word “Parries”, a fencing term which, in this context, implies “cleverly evasive answers”. So let your imagination run wild. Email all your nagging digital camera questions to: garysparries@photographyblog.com , and then, En Garde!

You may also attach to your email an ORIGINAL PHOTO of your choosing. A preview of the photo will be displayed with your question, and a full-sized version will be just a click away. No personal information will be published with your question unless you specifically include it in the text or attached photo of your email, which may be further edited for grammar, content, or other reasons.

***
*** QUESTION 1—- IN SEARCH OF AN ETHICAL PRINTER
***

Most inkjet printers are the product of at least one of the following scams:

(1) Encryption chips in their ink cartridges to monopolize ink sales

(2) Counter chips in their ink cartridges to halt usage after so many ink drops have been sprayed, so as to prevent reuse

(3) “Cleaning routines” that run daily to siphon off ink, even if the printer is not in use

(4) Photosensors to detect when a cartridge is almost empty, so that printer operation can be disabled before the remaining ink is used.

I have had difficulty finding a good photo printer that does not use any of the above tactics to cheat consumers and the environment. I would be particularly interested if a printer exists that essentially has a built-in continuous ink system (CIS), so that it feeds directly off a refill bottle.

I know I can buy an aftermarket CIS that will do tricks to fool the printer (the Epson R1800 and the ArTainium CIS, for example), but to buy a printer that needs to be fooled contributes to the racket.


***
*** ANSWER 1
***

Despite the fact that there are numerous documented successes of ‘aftermarket’ continuous ink systems for a variety of major brand inkjet printers, there are currently NO such printers that utilize an ‘OEM’ CIS.

There can only be one reason for this. With today’s printer prices being so low, there is virtually no way manufacturers can make a profit on their printers; rather, they must ‘give away’ their printers and make their profit on its ink. And yes, to ensure that you buy THEIR ink, they employ the type of sophisticated electronics you have described above.

However, having said that, I would add that these practices are not as ‘unethical’ as you might think. For example, regarding the use of photosensors to detect cartridge ink levels, when the low ink indicator lights on my Epson Stylus Photo R800, if I am doing any type of critical printing, I will change the ink cartridge right then and there, because it really does make a difference in the print quality. (Of course, I’ll put the low cartridge back in once I’ve finished the critical printing. :))

And you absolutely know that if manufacturers did not disable printer operation at some level of ink depletion, people would continue to print until their cartridges ran bone dry, which would then require repriming the heads with even more ink than would have been discarded with the ‘empty’ cartridge.

As for the daily cleaning routines you mentioned, this is to prevent the print heads from becoming clogged when the printer is sitting idle, which they will do. Once clogged, the heads may require even more cleaning to become unclogged.

Okay, so the encryption they use to make you buy their ink cartridges, and the counters they use to prevent you from refilling emptied ink cartridges, are designed to maximize their ink sales. But hey, why do you think they’re practically giving you the printers in the first place?

And you absolutely know that if manufacturers did not implement these built-in protections, people would take their free printers and buy third party ink to refill the OEM cartridges. :)

***
*** QUESTION 2—- DEFYING THE LAWS OF PHYSICS … AGAIN
***

Gary,

Weren’t you a bit too optimistic with your answer to Andy Martin’s “Question 2—- Changing The Laws Of Physics” in last week’s Gary’s Parries, when you said manufacturers can use CMOS Image Sensor (CIS) technology to squeeze the performance of a DSLR-sized CCD from a 1/2.5” CIS? Since CIS pixels demand far more surface area than those of a conventional CCD (due mainly to the additional surface area of the auxiliary circuits required to achieve the desired performance), how can you honestly hope to squeeze more than one megapixel onto a 1/2.5” CIS?

Regards,
Anders Tiberg


***
*** ANSWER 2
***

Great question, Anders, and the answer is a definite “yes and no”. :)

Yes, I was being a ‘bit’ optimistic because it would be difficult to fit more than a couple megapixels on a 1/2.5” CIS with the ~10 micron CMOS circuit geometries currently used in the manufacturing of these chips.

No, I was not being ‘too’ optimistic because state of the art CMOS circuit geometries are already in the SUBmicron range, which is all that is needed to keep pace with CCD megapixel density. It will not be long before such technology makes its way into the digital camera industry.

Case in point, check out this prototype 8 MEGAPIXEL 1/2.5” CIS.

***
*** QUESTION 3—- DON’T GO BREAKING MY COMPACT FLASH
***

Will a Compact Flash card ever go bad? Are the expensive ones better than the inexpensive ones?

I like and have always purchased SanDisk Extreme III and Ultra. How good are they in terms of reliability.

Thank you!
Anthony A.


***
*** ANSWER 3
***

As memory cards go, Compact Flash are among the most reliable. They use an onboard controller to map out defective memory cells from the factory, and to then monitor and map out defective memory cells that fail in the field.

Despite their high reliability, Compact Flash cards can, and will, fail. Typical CF card failure scenarios include:

(1) Card was dead when you got it.
(2) Card failed shortly after you started using it.
(3) Card lasted a year or two and then failed.
(4) Card lasts 100+ years without failure.

On average, higher quality Compact Flash cards will have higher reliability. Typical CF card qualities that affect reliability include:

(1) Brand of controller chip used
(2) Brand of memory chip(s) used
(3) Internal circuit board layout
(4) Internal circuit board solder joints

Because most CF card manufacturers buy their cards in lots for branding, and because the quality of these cards can vary between lots, it would be difficult to know whether your SanDisk Extreme III or Ultra cards were any good unless you opened them up and looked inside at the quality of their workmanship. (BTW, DON’T DO THAT !!!).

A good rule of thumb is this:

You don’t always get what you pay for, but you rarely get what you don’t pay for. :)

[Note: Much thanks to Nick in Japan for submitting the accompanying photo of this celeb couple trying to patch things up at a secluded retreat. – Ed.]

***
*** QUESTION 4—- JPEG AND A TRIM PLEASE
***

What actually does the process of trimming involve? Is it a zooming, or a cropping? From my limited experience with it, there doesn’t seem to be much, if any, degradation of the trimmed image.

I did a real nice zoom of my Son’s face from the Canon EOS 10D, originally optically zoomed, then further trimmed (zoomed) in my Sony DSC-F828. Sure is an easy way to do zooming, before we even get to Photoshop.

Any thoughts, ideas?

Semper Fi!


***
*** ANSWER 4
***

‘Crop’ is a term that refers to the manual selection and removal of portions of your image from its outer edges. This can be accomplished using a Crop tool or an image-resizing window. ‘Trim’ is a term that is generally reserved for the automatic removal of a border or canvas from around your image.

You would think that a simple cropping or trimming would be a lossless JPEG operation, but that is generally NOT the case. However, if, and only if, all sides of the resulting image have a length that is a multiple of 8 pixels, it is ‘possible’ to perform the crop/trim in a lossless manner (i.e., without JPEG decompression and then lossy recompression).

I am not sure how you are doing the additional zooming with your Sony DSC-F828, but if it appears that the dimensions of ALL the resulting images are constrained to multiples of 8 pixels, then it is likely that Sony is performing the cropping in a lossless manner, and no degradation of the image will occur. If, however, that is not the case, if you can force a zoom that results in an image with dimensions other than a multiple of 8 pixels, then most likely all such cropping will be lossy regardless of the final dimensions.

BTW, unlike Photoshop, GraphicConverter has a built-in ‘Lossless’ Crop tool. :)

***
[Column photo “The Photographer” by Brenda LaFleur of Brenda LaFleur Photography.]



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#1 Adam

I think you meant Gary has more knowledge in *his* finger than most people have in *their* entire brains :)

1:39 am - Sunday, September 17, 2006

#2 Charles

Gary, your information about "ethical printers" is probably correct for low end consumer grade printers, but there ARE professional printers that would have all the desired features.
Drum printers like the Iris inkjet use continuous feed inks, and the ink is quite cheap in comparison to cartridges. The inks come in bottles, and the printer's ink supply is designed to be refilled easily. The difference between these professional printers and consumer-grade cartridge-ink printers is substantial. Iris (and other similar printers) are designed to spray ink continuously, even when not actively printing so the nozzles don't get clogged (I used to describe it as "clearing its throat"). This can be a little wasteful of ink if you don't print very often, these printers are designed for continuous printing around the clock, in a pro service bureau. The other issue is cost, you are paying major money for the printer, but almost nothing for the inks. These printers cost tens of thousands of dollars, so to get your return on investment, you can't really own one of these just for your personal output, you need lots of work to pay its way.
Ultimately, these professional continuous ink drum printers like the Iris are the ultimate in print quality. You get what you pay for. And an "ethical printer" isn't cheap.

3:45 am - Sunday, September 17, 2006

#3 Gary's Parries

Thanks, Adam, you are too kind. I have been told it will be corrected,
but you know how that goes. I'll see it when I believe it. :)

Charles, thank you for the Iris info. I happen to know that the person
who submitted the question is VERY ethical, and once he has regained
his consciousness, I'm sure he will not be dissuaded by the printer's
"tens of thousands of dollars" initial cost. :)

4:18 am - Sunday, September 17, 2006

#4 nick in japan

Thanks Gary for the "Trim", Please tell us more about "Graphic Converter" especially your helpful hints!
That "AWESOME" Wisteria vine attached to question #4, sure is a beauty!
#3 picture, yep, after spending the day together like that, we are proud to announce that a little Nikasonic DLX-70-2 will arrive about Christmas time. Gestation for these cross cultured beauties is a bit slower than for similar races. We are expecting a CMOS type, preferred, but just as long as it is noiseless, we will be happy!

4:25 am - Sunday, September 17, 2006

#5 Gary's Parries

Nick, YCMU :) :) :) :).

I will pass your Wisteria appreciation on to my wife.

I'd love to tell you more about GraphicConverter. It's a shareware
program that you can download for free (in ELEVEN languages) at
LemkeSoft.com. If you like the program, just send the author $30.

Once I tried GraphicConverter, I never went back to Photoshop. It
has the best support of any program I've ever used.

Oh, I probably should have mentioned, it is a MAC ONLY program. :)

4:57 am - Sunday, September 17, 2006

#6 nick in japan

YCMU= ?
I know exactly what your wife does everyday now, cutting, trimming and trying to keep that monster in-check, my seedling of 13 years ago is out-of-control!
Folks from all over come to view it tho, I quit swearing at all the water-shoots at full bloom time!
I forgot to mention, picture# 1, sure does look familiar, looks exactly like Camp Pendleton, as I remember it, during pre-Vietnam training in '66, and again later.
I don't remember the pretty gal tho!
Why isn't "GC" also compatible with Windows?

6:22 am - Sunday, September 17, 2006

#7 Gary's Parries

Rather than tell you what YCMU stands for, I will impart to you some
words of wisdom from my Grandpa Parries, who said, "You can lead
a horse to water, but if you do, you should also teach him to fish."

http://www.acronymfinder.com/ :)

It is hard to justify to a Windows user why a company would develop
software exclusively for the Mac. It's like trying to justify to someone
who is not a 'Dead Head' why you've been to over 100 Grateful Dead
concerts. Or like justifying to a non-Marine why there are almost 200
PhotographyBLOG comments containing the phrase "Semper Fi".

It has a lot to do with a type of loyalty and dedication that just cannot
be explained.

8:47 am - Sunday, September 17, 2006

#8 nick in japan

Thanks Gary, I needed that!
I can't think of a more appropriate expression of what it should be all about!
How can you distinguish between "Laugh Out Loud" and Lots Of Love".. I send my second son my pictures, and he always returns with "LOL", should I stop sending him them?

10:12 am - Sunday, September 17, 2006

#9 Gary's Parries

Just tell him "RBAY". :)

10:24 am - Sunday, September 17, 2006

#10 nick in japan

LOL!

11:50 am - Sunday, September 17, 2006

#11 Justin Gombos

> Why isn't "GC" also compatible with Windows?

Certainly from a business point of view, Lemke Software is making a mistake by not supporting Windows. So I'm tempted to agree with Gary; there is probably some Mac loyalty involved.

Personally, if I owned the software, I would not produce a Windows version on the basis of ethics. The anti-competitive tactics Microsoft uses to keep people divided and helpless calls into question the morality of sponsoring the Windows platform by producing software for it. Lemke Software may be taking that stance as well, considering that they support OpenRAW.

3:21 pm - Monday, September 18, 2006

#12 Justin Gombos

> However, having said that, I would add that these practices are not
> as ‘unethical’ as you might think. For example, regarding the use
> of photosensors to detect cartridge ink levels, when the low ink
> indicator lights on my Epson Stylus Photo R800, if I am doing any
> type of critical printing, I will change the ink cartridge right
> then and there, because it really does make a difference in the
> print quality.

In your case, the sensor was purely used to inform the user, which I
would call a good feature. You have the option of replacing it for
quality, or using it up for economy. My folks have a multi-purpose
Brother inkjet that *refuses* to operate when one of the photosensors
detects that a cartridge is "low." If you remove the cartridge and
reinsert it, the printer asks if a new cartridge went in. When the
user responds with 'yes', the printer ignores the user and continues
to deny the use of the printer (until the user wraps opaque tape over
the reflector used by the photosensor).

>And you absolutely know that if manufacturers did not disable printer
>operation at some level of ink depletion, people would continue to
>print until their cartridges ran bone dry, which would then require
>repriming the heads with even more ink than would have been discarded
>with the ‘empty’ cartridge.

Does it matter which color is used to prime if a printer has a fixed
head? If a user runs out of magenta on a Brother FAX1800c (which
doesn't appear to have heads in the cartridges), I would expect that
the printer could prime the head with any other color. And in the
case of disposable heads, who cares if the head clogs after the ink is
depleted - the cartridge has reached the end of its life anyway (at
least, according to the manufacturer).

> As for the daily cleaning routines you mentioned, this is to prevent
> the print heads from becoming clogged when the printer is sitting
> idle, which they will do. Once clogged, the heads may require even
> more cleaning to become unclogged.

I have a feeling that the cleaning schedule is set by the marketing
departments, rather than the engineers. The Brother FAX1800c cleans
the heads four times a day. Apparently it's using every color to
clean the head, because users of this printer complain that they never
used it to print color before, and suddenly they're told they're out
of color ink (only to find that they really still have 10 or 25% of a
cartridge because the photosensor lied.)

> And you absolutely know that if manufacturers did not implement
> these built-in protections, people would take their free printers
> and buy third party ink to refill the OEM cartridges.

People are doing this anyway. The manufacturers could easily protect
themselves from it by pricing the printer above its production cost.
But they won't do that because they're still making a fortune on
consumables even with some users drilling holes in their cartridges.

According to the inkjet wiki, the EU has banned the practice of tying
printers to inks. So the solution may be to order a printer from
Europe. Although some of the scams are still possible under that
mandate.
In that case, the sensor was just used to inform the user, which I would call a good feature.

4:29 pm - Monday, September 18, 2006

#13 Gary's Parries

Justin, I see the problem. It is the size of that Brother printer you are
using. It's just too 'Big'. :)

Seriously though, as an Epson and HP user, I can see where the low
ink warning is a definite benefit but I also do not have a problem with
disabling printer operation when a single ink cartridge is empty, even
though the next print job may not even require that particular color.

The only objection I have with Epsons is that, when one print head is
dirty, you must still clean all the heads, as opposed to HPs, which will
allow you to selectively clean just the clogged head(s).

If all this control makes you uneasy, you have, as I see it, two choices.
You can purchase a professional printer such as the Iris suggested by
Charles, or you can purchase a third party CIS. If your objection to the
third party CIS is that you are "contributing to the racket", rest assured
that you are not 'financially' contributing because the manufacturer will
not make one cent off your printer purchase.

Hope that helps.

1:51 am - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

#14 Justin Gombos

> If your objection to the third party CIS is that you are
> "contributing to the racket", rest assured that you are not
> 'financially' contributing because the manufacturer will not make
> one cent off your printer purchase.

That's a good point. It reminds me of the xbox, which supposedly was
sold at a loss, with an expectation of high profits from game sales.
I'm not sure on the accuracy of all this, but folks were supposedly
buying up several xboxes with intent to reduce Microsoft's profits.
Then they'd convert to xboxes into linux machines
(http://www.xbox-linux.org/wiki/Main_Page), so they could use them in
a linux cluster -- dramatically increasing the usefulness of the
product.

I could see printer makers selling inkjets at cost, or maybe at a loss
in the ~$0-100 price range. However, the printers I've been
considering are the Epson R1800 or Epson Photo 1280 (most likely I'll
get the latter as a gift for someone along w/ an aftermarket CIS). It
would indeed be interesting to know whether Epson profits or takes a
loss on it.

3:40 am - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

#15 Justin

Charles> You get what you pay for. And an ethical printer" isn't cheap.

Someone mentioned in another forum that the Canon i9900 is ethical (by the guidelines that I posted). So shopping ethically may not require buying an Iris at $5k. Though it won't be straight forward to verify this, because printer makers aren't too eager to disclose which sneaky trick they're using.

3:53 am - Tuesday, September 19, 2006

#16 Harry

Sense of humour failure treated with aplomb

Adam's "I think you meant Gary has more knowledge in *his* finger than most people have in *their* entire brains" would not have had such a generous reply from me!

BTW, if you need any more plombs we have had a good crop of Victorias this year.

Keep up the good work even if it does go over the head of some readers.

4:35 pm - Saturday, September 23, 2006

#17 Gary's Parries

Thanks, Harry. I'm just happy somebody is actually reading the intro. :)

5:37 pm - Saturday, September 23, 2006

#18 nick in japan

Testimonial in order.. I have learned more from Gary, and the other exceptionally smart folks that reply, in the past year, than in my previous 64! Even when most of it goes over my agnostic head!
Like other teachers that are special, the gift of humor makes it real special.
I submit a request to Mark, that we designate a "Gary Pogoda Day" for special recognition, in keeping with our appreciation for his dedication "above and beyond" the call of duty.
V/R nick in japan

11:01 pm - Saturday, September 23, 2006