Monthly Archives: December 2009

Why is Scanning So Crappy?

Lileks recounts the fun of getting a new scanner for Christmas. There’s really nothing new or novel about it though (except that he took time to make screen captures of all the dialog boxes, so he could mock them). The fact is, all scanners suck.

I have ready access to scanners (all-in-ones, actually) made by HP, Epson, Brother, and, at work, a monster Konica-Minolta printer-copier that also scans. Every one of them is a disaster. The printing software is good and the scanning software stinks.

The hardware may be awesome, but the software is horrible. And bad as it is on Windows, it’s worse on a Mac. (Objectively worse; subjectively it’s worse by far, because the majority of software on a Mac is beautiful.) My personal theory, which I developed while working for one of the companies I just named, is that scanner software is written by electrical engineers instead of computer scientists. EE’s may be great with resistors and capacitors, but I haven’t met one in years who was a more than passable programmer. (But these are rants for another day.)

Anyway, my advice to Lileks and anyone else is twofold:

  1. Where possible, don’t use a scanner. Just take a picture of the document with your digital camera. It’s a lot quicker. (Consider this DIY book scanner the end-result of this line of thought, but you can start with something more practical.)
  2. If you must use a scanner: use one that will write to a USB drive. Do all your scanning to the USB drive, then use sneaker-net to move the resulting files onto your computer, where you can use photo-editing software to crop, etc.

Politics Today

Last night, my children, who are studying Africa, watched a video about the Congo. During the segment dealing with decolonialization, one of the talking heads mentioned how President Mobutu was effective as a leader, but ineffective as an economist. When the price of copper collapsed, so did Congo’s (by then, Zaire’s) economy. The talking head said that Mobutu had only the knowledge of a tribal chief: he gave gifts in exchange for support. To pay for the gifts, he had to shake down everyone doing business, or trying to do business, in Congo.

Not like the people who run our sturdy, 233-year old republic. Not hardly.

Consider this story about a study being done at George Mason university:

Report: Democratic Districts Received Nearly Twice the Amount of Stimulus Funds as GOP districts.

True, to the unsophisticated, that story may have a bit of a whiff of Mobutu’s Zaire about it. But the difference couldn’t be more clear. You see, Mobutu shook down real businesses and got real money. The stimulus money is all borrowed. Apples and oranges.

And, while I’m in a sour mood about our nation’s devoted public servants, there is this piece in the Wall Street Journal about congressional junketeering. I especially liked the graph, way down in the story, showing a slow but determined rise in spending through the ’90s, followed by a meteoric rise this decade.