QZ qz thoughts
a blog from Eli the Bearded

A Tail of Two Scanners


Earlier this year, I had a need to scan a stack of documents about an inch thick to share them with a lawyer. I considered busting out my flatbed scanner, an Epson Perfection 4490 which is somewhere around thirteen years old. It was the first scanner I owned which didn't use SCSI. To judge from Amazon, you can still buy them new, but the "high speed USB 2.0" doesn't sound as attractive these days. I selected it for quality relective (ie typical scanning) and transparency (ie, slides and negatives) work and Linux compatibility.

It still works, but it never was fun to use. It slow to warm up, slow to scan. Every time I use it I seem to need to do the first scan at least twice while I get positioning and cropping right. And closing the lid so often causes a small gust that blows documnents slightly out of position.

So I found a circa $100 scanner, also Epson, a EM-50 "travel" scanner. The Perfection 4490 is about five inches thick and has a a sheet of glass around nine by twelve (for A4 sized scanning) with hefty "bezel" around the glass. I have to clear desk space every time I pull it off the shelf. The EM-50 is about twice the size (and half the weight) of the just the power brick that the 4490 uses. I don't know if it is USB 2 or USB 3, just I need a converter for my USB-C computer and again Linux compatible.

After scanning my legal documents, which was a breeze and so very much faster than it would have been on the flatbed, I started to look for other things to scan in the EM-50. It's a narrow feed-through design with a stated maximum size of 8.5" x 72", with the target use case there being receipt scanning for expense reports.

It can also take things that are much thicker than sheets of paper, although still limited to thin. Fun. The apparent use is scanning credit cards, photo IDs, and the like. But I fed a DVD through easily enough. Also a flattened coffee cup sleeve. And a metal ruler.

Flattened coffee cup sleeve with raised hexagon pattern

I saved this coffee cup sleeve because it has an interesting texture.

The EM-50 is far from perfect. It has already developed a defect, a line runs down scans about six inches from left. This may well have been related to my feeding "interesting" things through it. The device feels kinda flimsy. It has a roller to feed material through, but only one, and on the far left, so some things twist as they go through resulting in distortion progressively more extreme to the right edge.

But it was inspiring. So I started to think about a newer device for scanning slides and negatives. And then I got "thank you" gift from work and could spend some "money" at a special capitve portal. I looked around and found a Kodak Scanza. $150 at major e-taliers, and $210 at the portal (but not my money, and shipping, taxes, etc included in that price). Seems to be a four year old product.

Epson EM-50 next to Kodak Scanza

Here's the EM-50 with a dog photo in it next to the Scanza with some Minox negatives.

The Scanza is small, a bit larger than a large coffee mug, and easy to use. That's about all I can say in favor of it. There are few adjustments you can make (and I wanted to adjust brightness). It can only be pwered by a USB cord, but doesn't need a compter and came with a janky power adapter. You must provide an SD card to scan to. It doesn't come with even a tiny capacity one (and microSD cards are where it's at these days).

But the biggest sin is the crappy quality of the scan. I expect a "resolution 7200" scan size to give me output that has pretty good fine detail. That's about 280 dots per milimeter, so 8mm x 11mm Minox negatives should be around 2264 x 3113, 7 megapixels.

Scanza scan of my old dog Bo

This is a scan of a Minox negative of my dog Bo. The Scanza does not have a Minox setting, I used a 110 setting (13mm x 17mm) and cropped this to 1917 x 2646 (5.1 megapixels). But it looks like a 1 megapixel image that has been upscaled and blurred. There are mottled blotches of color and indistinct edges.

For comparison, here is an Epson EM-50 scan at 600 dpi of a print of the same photo.

EM-50 scan of my old dog Bo

At 600dpi, this is a 2.6 megapixel image (1342 x 1940) but it's much crisper looking. The focus is off, because I'm not great with rangefinders, but you can see the dog has whiskers (at least one of them) and clearly see the wood grain of the floor.

As a matter of fact, I opened the EM-50 scan up in Gimp, downsized it to 1 megapixel, then scaled it back up to 5 megapixels applied a blur and an unsharp mask, and the image still looked better than the Scanza output.

Bo, again, not much worse for wear

This was scaled down to about 1000 pixels wide, then scaled up to 2700 wide. After that I applied a blur and a sharpen.

The Epson EM-50 was more fun than I expected for something so mundane as a scanner. The Scanza was such a disappointment for even a freebie.


Painting Ads

There's a painting company in San Francisco that tapes up terribly designed, but mostly memorable, flyers on poles all over the city. I've been trying to find all of the variations.

Adverting flyer for room painting

One of the original designs, a multiple font mess evoking a ransom note in consistency.

Adverting flyer for room painting

"DEER CROSSING Tis The Season To Save Some Bucks On Interior House Painting"

Adverting flyer for room painting

"Do This" (ie, Evel Knievel stunts) instead of painting yourself.

Adverting flyer for room painting

"One less Bell to answer,
One less Egg to fry,
One less Mess to pick
Up after?"
With a Valentine's Day picture.

Adverting flyer for room painting

"Are There Little Green Men In Your Head?"

Adverting flyer for room painting

"On Your Path To Interior Appearance Inner Peace"

Adverting flyer for room painting

"Having A Wedding? A Party? An Affaire?" Another with a Valentine's stock photo

Adverting flyer for room painting

"THE RACE IS ON" with roadster versus steam locomotive

Adverting flyer for room painting

Wall of text ending with "Ricky Don't Lose The Number"

Adverting flyer for room painting

"IN SEARCH OF SANITY?"

The next few are much rarer versions.

Adverting flyer for room painting

"Looking?" Looking like a personal ad, the rare clean design.

Adverting flyer for room painting

Room painting as easy as ordering a burrito. Lengua con frijoles refritos, por favor.

Adverting flyer for room painting

Spock says of getting your painting done now: "Correct, it's the logical choice captain"

Adverting flyer for room painting

"Do Something nice For your Landlord!" Because it's welll known that renters like to help landlords out.


Stalker

A little over ten years ago I watched Tarkovsky's Solaris, I rated it "three mysteriously reappeared wives out of five", but after all this time my memory of it is more two of five.

Anyway, I saw HBO recommending Stalker to me. Made seven years after Solaris, this film was Tarkovsky's last Soviet film, and it probably was the death of him. A couple of the actors and Tarkovsky all died of cancer and some people suspect chemical exposure from the filming locations used in Stalker. I started this film without realizing it was the same director as Solaris, which is good because I probably wouldn't have watched it at all if I had remembered.

The slow pace, and lingering shots are more of a match for Stalker than that other film. One can see thematic similarities, but this is much more about a journey and the psychological toll the trip takes on people than mysterious thing at the end of that journey. The alien intelligence in Solaris grants wishes, of a sort, apparently as a method of attempting communcation with humans. Here there's an unseen thing, possibly alien, in a "Room" at the heart of "The Zone" filling a similar grant wishes role.

Entering the Room at the heart of The Zone gets those wishes, which is why people try to get there. Armed guards protect the borders, and unseen threats apparently lurk within. This movie focuses on a guide (the "Stalker") who knows how to find a safe path to the Room and his two customers, Professor and Writer, who have reasons to visit the Room. Getting to the threshold is 95% of this 160 minute film.

If you're a fan of urbex photography, or Chernobyl Exclusion Zone nature taking over mankind's work, then the slow shots of beautiful decay and nature's reclaimation of industrial sites in Stalker are quite pretty and help alleviate the plodding plot. I watched it in two viewing sessions. There's a on-screen title indicating that an intermission was probably part of the original plan.

You can read a lot of allegory in this story, but ultimately it's hard to say what it really means. Nevertheless I think it is a lot better than reappearing wives above a roiling planet wide ocean. Call this four improvised trap detecting projectiles out of five.

Stalker at imdb
Stalker at wikipedia

Wikipedia has a link to it on youtube, but it is "unavailable" when I check there. I don't know if that's a region block thing or something else. I am not really well versed in youtube errors and restrictions. Also wikipedia: "an average shot length of more than one minute" while typical Hollywood films average a tenth of that.