A bad image

The strangest thing happened to me the other day. Fresh off my euphoria over finally being able to print again, I started having trouble printing a particular image. The image printed fine the first two times but the trouble started when I changed the color density parameter in the new printer driver. Naturally, I assumed that the parameter was the problem. I changed it back to zero and tried printing again. That changed the manifestation, but not the nature, of the problem. I took it as tentative confirmation that I was on the right track and would be justified in blaming the problem on the new driver. I delved into the bowels of the operating system to remove the new driver and installed a driver that was yet newer from the Epson web site. That was a step backwards. I had fewer options, no monitor utility, and still the problem. The metaphorical light bulb over my head turned on and I decided to restore the driver from my previous day's Time Machine backup. That returned me to the familiar driver with the monitor utility and all the options I was used to seeing, but did not fix the problem.

I started analyzing what else could be wrong. I had been printing from Lightroom so I tried to print the same image from Photoshop. No bueno. Then I started thinking... this was a grayscale TIFF. I have an RGB version of the same file left over from some testing I was doing a year or so ago. I tried printing that and it came out perfectly! I printed several other images without any trouble. When I tried to print the suspect image again, I had the same trouble as before. Only part of the image would print but the print queue showed that it was still sending data to the printer. This is a bizarre bug, but apparently the driver or the printer doesn't like something about that particular image file. I will have to do more testing to determine whether this happens with all grayscale TIFFs or just that one file.

So the problem was apparently not the driver after all, but I'm not letting the driver off the hook just yet. The driver Epson has posted on their web site seems to be incomplete. The best I can determine at this point (without further testing) is that the new driver on their web site is missing some libraries and the monitor program. I happened to have the libraries requisite to enabling all the features, probably from the previous (Leopard) version of the driver. This is a reminder that newer is not always better. It also points out the value of keeping backups and the extraordinary utility of Time Machine. If you are on a Macintosh and are not using Time Machine, you are a fool. If you are on a Windows PC, you too are a fool. Okay, maybe not a fool, but missing out on a great feature at the least. I wouldn't be surprised if there is third-party software available for Windows that provides a function similar to Time Machine, but Time Machine is built into Mac OS 10.5 and higher and it works splendidly. If Apple ever reinstates ZFS in OS X and makes it the default filesystem, Time Machine will be even faster and better. Here's hoping!

It was only a matter of time

I knew it would happen eventually. I kept hearing people pining for an iPhone version of Photoshop. Why? I have no idea. Maybe it's the same motivation that drives people to port Linux to run on their microwave ovens just because they can. Let's see...

[radarange:~ sparky]$ cook --soggy --beep-when-done leftovers 2>/dev/speech↵
leftovers cooked
[radarange:~ sparky]$ _

Whatever. So Adobe has released a companion app for their photoshop.com service called, strangely enough, Photoshop.com Mobile. It is rudimentary as an image editor and seems to be targeted more to the snapshot crowd. Although the app has some image editing/manipulation functions, its main reason for existence seems to be to get your photos on photoshop.com for sharing. This aspect is no different than the umpteen other apps which upload to MobileMe, Flickr, Facebook, or any of the other webapp services that let you share pictures. As far as editing goes, Photogene is far more powerful. On the other hand, Photogene's only "sharing" mechanism to speak of is email.

So, it was only a matter of time before we saw Photoshop on the iPhone. Fortunately, Photoshop.com Mobile resembles the desktop Photoshop application in name and publisher only.

More on good color

I had time today to do some research on the color issue I mentioned on 7/7. The executive summary is that Photoshop sucks at doing color space conversions.

Here is the more detailed answer. A lot of people report the same problem when saving JPEGs from Photoshop for their web sites. The consensus is that it has to do with color spaces, but I didn't stumble on any good answers that explained why people are having so much trouble with Photoshop in this respect. Many people reported that JPEG saving "used to" work correctly then at some point stopped. My research was not exhaustive, nor do I have the time or inclination to do exhaustive research on the topic.

The workaround I found was to save the finished photos as flattened TIFFs and use GraphicConverter to generate JPEGs for web use or for storing photos on iPhone without taking up as much space as TIFFs. If you have a good explanation of why Photoshop does such a lousy job of getting colors right when saving JPEGs or a good way to get good color when saving JPEGs directly from Photoshop, please use the Contact form above to send me a note. I have comments disabled here because I don't feel like dealing with comment spam. Unless you object, I will publish the essence of your note so all may benefit from it.

Getting good color in Photos

I've never really liked iPhoto. Blasphemous, I know. I'm sure it works quite well for family vacation photos and other "happy snaps" but it seems a little clunky and somewhat limited for serious photographers. That's undoubtedly why Apple produced Aperture. I don't use Aperture because my humble laptop doesn't meet the minimum hardware requirements. It sings with iView, however.

Getting back to iPhoto... since I don't use it (or at least didn't until I started preparing for iPhone) I had forgotten that I turned off the "Copy files to iPhoto Library folder when adding to library" preference. In my iPhone preparations I was a dragging-and-dropping fiend, pulling in photos from some of my external drives as well as my local drive. Last night was the first time I synced without those drives mounted. When I saw iTunes' status bar say "Deleting photos..." I started to worry. Why was it deleting photos from iPhone?

During my troubleshooting, I discovered that the files iTunes had deleted were all TIFFs. I naturally assumed that was the problem and used Photoshop to create JPEG versions -- I also took that opportunity to size the photos to fit iPhone's screen dimensions and apply size-appropriate sharpening. I synced iPhone and what do you know? The photos were back. Only they looked washed-out compared to how they looked on the iPhone before. The colors were less saturated and contrast was lower, as if they didn't get converted from Adobe RGB to sRGB. Of course I realize that sRGB has a smaller gamut than Adobe RGB, but the images looked the same on my laptop screen after the color space conversion. After saving as JPEG and then opening the JPEGs in Photoshop again, they still looked almost identical to their Adobe RGB brethren with only very slightly less saturation. In iPhoto and on iPhone, however, they showed a marked difference. I tried saving the JPEGs with and without embedded profiles, but it didn't matter.

So the moral of the story is that if you have richly saturated photos that you want to display on your iPhone in all their glory, save them as single-layer TIFFs.