Saturday, April 30, 2011

"Why Can't I Share my iTunes Library between my Mac or iMac and My iPad, iPod, iPhone, or MacBook?"

Check the setup of your Mac or iMac's firewall in the Security preferences panel. If the firewall is on, and if you've checked "Block all incoming connections" under Advanced options, then iTunes music sharing won't work.

But if you're still running Microsoft Office 2004, don't turn off that setting before reading this post.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Why Is My Epson Expression Scanner So Glitchy?"

I recently bought an Epson Expression 10000XL scanner to replace a dying Microtek. With the Epson's great reputation, I was expecting high-quality software -- hopefully better than the capable but finicky and fragile software that Microtek provided. I'm afraid I was disappointed.

For those of you with Epson scanners, especially on newer Macs with Snow Leopard, here are some of the problems and disappointments I encountered, plus my own solutions for them.

-- Epson Scan turned out to be less powerful than the Microtek software, and it has not been kept properly up to date. It hasn't been revised for Intel Macs -- it still needs Apple's Rosetta translator to run -- and it doesn't even know enough to keep its opening windows clear of the OS X Dock! But the real deal breaker was that color management is broken under Snow Leopard, as lamely acknowledged by Epson's own Web site, with no guarantee of a fix. The result is that what you see on screen is very different from what you get in the scan, even to a less experienced eye like mine.

The solution to this is to use third-party scanning software like VueScan or SilverFast AI. Epson actually includes SilverFast with the Photo model of the 10000XL, but I bought the Graphic Arts model for several hundred dollars less -- then wound up spending almost all the money I saved to buy Silverfast separately. I don't understand why Epson sells any model of this professional scanner without it.

SilverFast is even more powerful than Microtek's scanning software, with some wonderful features like automatic screen detection for descreening. But be warned that the program is extremely unMaclike, and its arcane interface will be a challenge to master. Also, none of the program has been optimized to use multiple cores for fast processing.

-- FireWire connections don't work properly -- at least not with a FireWire 800 to 400 adapter like mine. Though Epson Scan seemed to work OK with this connection, SilverFast could never even find the scanner unless I had just restarted the Mac -- and often while the program was searching, it just froze. And when I did get it started, after working awhile, I would sometimes get errors from the scanner that forced me to restart again.

On top of that, the FireWire connection seemed to interfere with Mac OS X itself. If the scanner was on when I restarted, startup was often slow, and sometimes after restart the system wouldn't even respond to the mouse. So, I had to follow the strict order of restarting the Mac, then turning on the scanner and waiting for it to initialize, then turning on SilverFast.

The solution, it turned out, was to switch to a USB connection. I had no problems after that. And contrary to my fears, I found that USB didn't noticeably slow things down. (Just make sure that every cable, hub, and port is at least USB 2.0, also called "Hi-Speed.")

-- There may be a problem with the Epson installer. Originally, after installing the Epson scanning software, I could not restart the Mac at all with the scanner on. After the twirling circle ran an extremely long time, I got a black screen, and that's all. I figured I simply would never be able to have the scanner on during restart.

During routine maintenance of my Mac, though, TinkerTool System informed me of a problem with the permissions for kernel extensions -- permissions that it said DiskUtility does not repair -- and then fixed it for me. After that, the Mac would restart with the scanner on -- though, as I said, I had to switch the scanner connection to USB to get rid of my startup problems entirely.

It's possible that the Epson installer did not cause this problem, but that the driver was simply interacting with a previously unnoticed glitch in my system. In any case, I suggest using TinkerTool System to check your Mac. (You can use a downloaded copy in Evaluation Mode, if you're not ready to buy.) Click on "System Issues," and then on "Extensions Cache."

If you haven't installed Epson's software already, and you have Snow Leopard, then let me point out that you don't really need to install it at all -- and in fact, that's my recommendation. Epson Scan is probably not much better than the new scanning features in Preview and Image Capture. And the Mac version of ABBYY FineReader supplied by Epson -- at least with the 10000XL -- is much older than the one ABBYY sells now at a reasonable price.

As for the scanner driver, it's already in Snow Leopard. Just hook up the scanner -- by USB, remember -- and turn it on. OS X will automatically recognize the scanner and install the driver, as you can verify in the Print & Fax panel of System Preferences. Then run Software Update to automatically update it.

Epson has really fallen down on the job in the scanning software it provides for the Mac. But if you can tame your Epson scanner, I think you'll be happy with it -- as I am now.