What Are You Hungry For...

By Bill Graham, Graphics Writer, See staff list for e-mail address

Everyone needs to vent their spleen now and then. The point of the following vent is twofold: (1) a diatribe against bloatware, and (2) a warning for those about to jump platforms or go multiplatform.

Almost three years ago I, out of necessity, acquired a Windows machine. I still have my Amigas, and I still use them often. Over time I have purchased software for my Windows box to do the same things I do on the Amiga, perhaps to do them better or faster. And, as painful as this truth is, there are killer applications on the Windows platform.

I do graphics, mostly 3D, but also some video work and conversion to web graphics. My Pentium is the hands down winner for 3D rendering. That is due not only to the faster processor, but to the fact that I use Imagine and Organica from Impulse, a former Amiga-only developer. In the course of 3D work I've come across the need for some other applications also. Recently I bought two of these, Poser3 (an upgrade) and Painter3D from MetaCreations. These are two programs for which there are no equivalents on the Amiga. Poser3 allows you to work with all types of human and animal figures, positioning them as needed and saving them for use in Imagine or some other 3D program. Painter 3D is an advanced paint program for making image maps to be used in 3D applications. Both of these apps do perform as advertised, and I am glad I have them.

There is, however, a bit of a problem. These two programs, along with the support and tutorial files, amount to more than 250 megabytes of hard drive space! That's correct, more than a quarter gig for two programs! It is possible to do a minimum install, which would then take "only" 135 megs. To me, this is an obscene waste of resources. It's almost as if Windows programmers have given up entirely on tightening up their code. Three of the former Amiga-only developers that make Windows products that I work with, Impulse, Astound (formerly Gold Disk), and Scala still are frugal with hard drive space.

Another program I bought was Debabelizer Pro. This program, a Mac port, is a batch processing and image format conversion program. I have told many Windows and Mac digital artists that none of the applications on those two platforms can batch process or dither (reducing the number of colors while maintaining maximum image quality) anywhere near as good as the Amiga. Until recently, these guys have behaved as whipped dogs, unable to dispute what their own eyes tell them. Then, a couple of months ago, I was told of Debabelizer, and all of its wonderful capabilities. So I plopped down $400, got it, and do indeed use it. Its dithering is almost as good as ImageFX or ADPro, but not quite. It does have some very cool color selection tools. But it takes over 40 megs of HD space, and batch processes only slightly faster than my '040 Amiga 3000!

All Windows and Mac graphics folk are familiar with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere. These are the primary image editing and animation programs on those platforms. I have versions 4.2 and 4.0 repectively. I have recently gotten upgrade notices to 5.0 for both $200 each. So, $400 for what are essentially bug fixes and some minor interface reworking. I have not bit yet. By the way, these two applications take nearly 100 megs of HD space.

Even the one application that could be considered the primo program for which to purchase a Windows machine, Netscape, can take more than 80 megs of HD space once all the plug-ins are installed.

These realities need to be considered before buying a new Windows box. And if you do graphics and/or video, do not, I repeat, DO NOT part with your Amiga(s). For instance, I have been driven crazy by the fact that there are no, I mean zero, Windows paint programs that can draw a rectangle or a circle or an oval. And the AVI animation format is not nearly as flexible as the old IFF format. No way can you vary playback rate on the fly, or seamlessly loop, or ping pong animations without a glitch. Even the new Windows systems you've seen advertised with 8-gig hard drives can be filled to capacity very quickly. Worse yet, they come packed with all sorts of stupid, undocumented teaser software that eats up your drive space and are a real PITA to get rid of.

So, for approximately $1400, with the purchase of Photoshop, Premiere, and Debabelizer Pro, you get about 85% of the capability of ImageFX. True, with the Windows programs you can so some Windows specific things that you cannot do with IFX, such as sound synching and web animation building (Java). And for pro work you will need to do these things from time to time. Sound synching, by the way, is a black art all it's own, and is no piece of cake. That is why so few AVIs that you come across have a sound track, at least with synchronized speech. I have mastered this black art, but I had to do it with two Amigas, one with a VLab Motion and the other with a DSS8+ audio digitiser.

So my Amigas are still useful to me, and if you sell your Amigas to buy a Windows box, you will miss them. Not only for the applications you'll no longer have, but because you'll be forced to work, all the time, in that pathetic, bloated environment known as Windows 95/98.

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