19 February 2007

SANE Saves The Day

One disadvantage in my computing life, up to now, has been having to resort, for scanning purpose, to Mac OS 9.22, the Classic operating system as compared to the modern Mac OS X (pronounced "ten", not X as in Malcolm X). I have an old USB flatbed scanner, a Umax Astra 1220U, something that I picked up at some show at the Javits Convention Center for $40. It is bulky but still works so, much as I drool over the slim design of some new scanner, I have no excuse to get a new one. That's one problem with trying to be environmental, not to discard perfectly usable devices just to get new ones. I still use a 10-GB iPod (no color, no photo, no video, just sounds) and a Handspring Deluxe PDA (8 MB of RAM, again no color) only because they still work. Unfortunately, OS X has no software driver for the Astra 1200U scanner. Each time I need to scan something in I would have to go into Classic mode and launch Photoshop 6. It's quite a step backward to have to use the OS 9 user interface, but it had to do. Luckily, I was able to download the OS 9 driver from Umax's web site. I have to give them credits for that, as nowadays many web sites want a little something in exchange for even something as simple as drivers. So, as long as I can tolerate OS 9, I can continue making use of my flatbed scanner.

One time I even ventured to check into VueScan software. It's a comprehensive list of drivers for many old scanners and other input devices, including even SCSI scanners! Alas, the list isn't comprehensive enough to include my Astra 1220U, only 1220S. It might work or it might not, at $40 for VueScan, I didn't feel like gambling.

One day I happened to notice that GraphicConverter's Acquire menu option has something about Twain Open Source. GraphicConverter is the granddaddy of image conversion program for the Mac and has since branched out to do other things, such as scanning and basic-to-intermedia image processing. Twain has something to do with scanning, that's all I know. Open Source is the whole movement of free software for the taking, even with source code included should you fancy making the program better. So it sounded like GraphicConverter can scan in using free software driver. A quick search in Google and I arrived at the Mattias Ellert site, http://www.ellert.se/twain-sane/ . SANE stands for Scanner Access Now Easy and is some kind of open source format for making computers see scanners. I quickly downloaded the TWAIN-SANE Interface package but... the disk image wouldn't mount. I downloaded again and yet the disk image still wouldn't mount. No disk image mounted = no installer to run from. Just by luck, I decided to upgrade StuffIt Expander to the latest version, 11. That did it! One rule of thumb with dealing with computers - always make sure you have the latest upgrade for your software. Remember when I couldn't get the WiFi card in my old iMac to work? Since my iMac was right next to the DSL router, I figured there was no need to ever worry about the WiFi software. I disabled checking for updates of WiFi-related software. Then when I gave the iMac to my niece and she needed to use her uncle's wireless access, I got her a WiFi card and try to make it work in my house first. With the outdated software, nothing worked, but a post on a MacAddict forum and I was reminded to make sure all the software is up-to-date. Sure enough, once patched with the latest software update, the iMac was surfing the web wirelessly.

With StuffIt Expander 11 installed, the last hurdle was to make sure all the necessary software packages were downloaded and installed. One annoying thing with open source software is the developers like to make available all the various options. For me, I just want to download one file and run with it, but in this case it was necessary to have three different packages installed. First and foremost, I had to install from the SANE Backends package. Next was the SANE Preference Panes, which is only required if you want to tweak your scanning settings via a graphical user interface. Yup, should you want to you can drop into a Terminal box and do all the tweaking from the command line. I use DOS a lot in the office and like to type my commands, sometimes, but at home I don't want to mess around with Unix commands. Lastly, I had to install the TWAIN-SANE Interface package and everything finally worked. GraphicConverter was able to detect the Astra 1220U right away as soon as I told it to use Twain open source. Now the only times I need Classic is for my son to play some of the older I Spy games...

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