Kevin reviews hardware, software and book for newspaper designers

So many products, so little time. With the release of several major software titles over the past few months, we’re beginning to see a plethora of related products designed to take the use of these applications to new levels. This month we will take a look at one software plug-in, one hardware peripheral and a book that will fit nicely on any Mac user’s bookshelf.

Eye Candy 5

I remember reviewing Alien Skin’s Black Box suite of Photoshop plug-ins when they were first released in 1994. In 1997, the third version of these filters were released with a new name, Eye Candy. Ten years after its first release, we’re now up to version 5 of Eye Candy. This particular upgrade includes 10 texture plug-ins for Photoshop. Eye Candy 5: Textures includes the following filters: Animal Fur, Brick Wall, Diamond Plate, Marble, Reptile Skin, Stone Wall, Swirl, Texture Noise, Weave, and Wood.

Basically, the user makes a selection in Photoshop then chooses Eye Candy from the Filters menu. I began by using the Type Mask tool in Photoshop to create a selection of the words “Animal Fur.” Next, I selected Eye Candy from the Filters menu and chose “Animal Fur” from the drop-down menu. The user is offered several types of fur from which to choose, ranging from Calico to Zebra. After selecting the type of fur, the user can manipulate the length of hair strands, the size of spots (in animals that have spots), the direction of light, and more. After testing the Animal Fur filter, I moved on to test several additional Eye Candy filters with great success.

Eye Candy: Textures isn’t for everybody. It is, however, a valuable tool for the serious Photoshop user who spends a lot of time in ad creation and graphic effects. Available for $99 (US). Upgrades from previous versions of Eye Candy are $49 (US). A free demo can be found at www.alienskin.com.

FingerWorks iGesture Pad

Frank Lytle, Vice President of FingerWorks, Inc. kept telling me I’d love his product if I’d only give it a chance. Last month, I finally gave iGesture a chance. With a little more time to get used to it, I might love it. FingerWorks, based in Delaware, creates products related to MultiTouch Gesture Recognition technology. Developed at the University of Delaware, these products allow users to replace keyboards, mice and keypads with a variety of peripherals. I’ve spent the past two weeks testing the iGesture pad, a device that replaces the mouse.

The iGesture works like this. The iGesture pad plugs into a USB port and sits on either side of the computer. To open a file, the user rotates a hand counterclockwise over the iGesture pad. To close a file, the user rotates a hand clockwise. To scroll down a page, the user drags four fingers down the iGesture pad. All other mouse and menu functions can be carried out with simple hand gestures.

FingerWorks President and CEO John Elias is enthusiastic about his product. “Unlike having to remember a sequence of keys, the gestures become part of your motor movements. Once you’ve learned them, they become second nature.”

Users of iGesture includes some heavyweights, including The New York Times. I spoke with Chris Major, a music video editor in Nashville, who produces videos for Sony, Universal and other major labels. After six months, Chris says the iGesture has “Really opened up our ability in editing. I basically do everything with one hand. It’s like having a magic wand.”

He said using the iGesture was frustrating at first. “I finally unplugged the mouse for one day and I’ll tell you what, That did it for me. I don’t have a mouse hooked up on any of my PCs anymore. Unlike a mouse, I can sit the iGesture in my lap or anywhere else and go with it.”

iGesture works with Windows-based and Mac computers. Retailing for $159 (US) / $219 (CAN) / $239 (AUS), the iGesture is available from FingerWorks at www.fingerworks.com.

Reference Guide for the Mac Troubleshooter

Peachpit Press recently released the latest in the Apple Training Series, titled Desktop and Portable Systems: A Guide to Supporting, Servicing and Troubleshooting Apple Computers. Designed for repair professionals, as well as Mac enthusiasts who want to know more, this guide is a self-paced, step-by-step training course on Apple’s desktop and portable computers. With more than 800 pages of information, plus a CD containing four complete service manuals with diagnostic tools, this book covers troubleshooting common hardware components such as LCD displays, as well as detailing the steps for taking apart, upgrading and repairing four sample computer models (iMac, eMac, G4 and iBook).

At $50 (US) / $72 (CAN) / $76 (AUS), this book is a “must have” for any Mac-based newspaper. ISBN 0-321-25611-5. For more information, visit www.peachpit.com.
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