Added to JURN

Derbyshire Archaeological Journal (1879-2012)

Early Modern Low Countries


Sumatra PDF – launch in magazine mode with no gutters

I’ve waved goodbye to the Foxit Reader software on Windows. Foxit had added one to many nags, extra bits of unwanted ‘extra’ software such as its Connected module, and generally felt like it was headed toward more and more bloat. Then there was the recent security glitch which still isn’t patched.

I’m now using the freeware Sumatra PDF instead, with its Book view (Cover page + Facing pages) for magazines and books. This view mode is found under Settings | View | Book View. Super-quick launch and very smooth page-turn.

You can set Sumatra PDF to always launch in Book mode by editing the Advanced settings list. Find:

DefaultDisplayMode = automatic

and change this to…

DefaultDisplayMode = book view

The other initial drawback appears to be a slight sliver of gutter between double-page spreads, which spoils magazine spreads in art / architecture / fashion etc magazines. This can also be fixed in the Advanced settings. Find:

PageSpacing = 4 4

and change this to…

PageSpacing = 0 0

It also has an ugly icon for PDF documents, in a garish yellow. To change this on Windows 8.1.x use the freeware FileTypesMan. Scroll to the .pdf setting, and double-click it. From there you can assign a new icon for PDFs.

‘Underutilized, consider discarding’

Cambridge University asks: How to “provide training solutions for scholarly communication” in the UK? Not usually, it would seem from reading this article, by inviting along the member of the library school staff who teaches such things…

“It is fairly universally acknowledged that it is a challenge to engage with library schools [in universities] on the issue of scholarly communication, despite repositories being a staple part of research library infrastructure for well over a decade. There are a few exceptions but generally open access or other aspects of scholarly communication are completely absent from the curricula.” (my emphasis)

Amazing: one would have thought that Open Access — along with all the other ‘public and free-to-access’ online sources from Google Books to data sources — would have been covered in a compulsory double-module for an entire semester of the second year of a degree in librarianship. But apparently not, though no doubt there are a few unremarked exceptions quietly doing good work.

Note that this new article has an associated Google Docs list of the (currently very minimal) UK provision for Scholarly Communication training provision, including a useful linked list of online caches of free training materials.

The introduction to this Google Doc further suggests that such training is not always present even at the Masters degree level, or is not there of sufficient duration and quality…

“… the traditional educational route for library workers through a Masters degree does not always equip them with an adequate level of knowledge [on open access, copyright and research data]”

The implication of the Cambridge University article is that other professional groups may have to be asked to provide such training to researchers, since librarians as-a-class seem to be so unwilling to engage with these pressing topics. It seems yet another indicator that librarians as-a-class are at risk of being labelled: ‘Underutilized, consider discarding’.

How to reclaim downloaded pictures that should be public-domain

How to reclaim downloaded pictures that should be public-domain:

1. Remove watermark logos. InPaint ($s). Has a cheesy home-page, but it’s been tested and works really very well, even on fairly faint logos. Use the magic wand, in combination with the tolerance slider, to select the letters or symbols you want to remove. Can save your letter-picks as a repeatable mask, but that mask can only be applied on a repeat picture of the same size. (Also available as a separate InPaintBatch version for batch processing, of things like time-stamped video frames).

2. Remove hidden watermarks and embedded metadata. Batch Purifier ($s). Tested, works fine, quick and easy to operate.

3. Up-res your pictures. Perfect Resize (now known as On1 Resize, $s). Exactly twice the size should work well. There are presets for portrait, landscape, low-res JPG etc. May also help to remove steganographic watermarks.

4. Clean-up. Photoshop ($s) or your favourite paint software. Crop edges; remove any crude colour-cast (often added on old photos); lift overly-dark shadows with Photoshop’s Shadows/Highlights tool; do some quick spot-repair on damage and mould spots.

5. Colourise (optional). Akvis Coloriage. Tested, but expensive and not great. Rather garish results, though if you spend a day learning it and experimenting you may do better. Probably works best with quite simple crisp portraits. For old postcards, someone with an artistic touch may have quicker and more artistic results by using a new Photoshop layer. Set the layer to Colour blend mode at 80%, then manually paint areas in with a soft brush.

Fully automated recolouring — guided by only a half-dozen colour-dabs — is coming in a few years, but at 2017 is still at the ‘SIGGRAPH demo’ stage, rather than the ‘retail Photoshop plugin’ stage. Nor is there yet a way to segment a picture into smooth-edged secure zones and thus provide what comic book makers call ‘colour flats’ and 3D people call a ‘clown pass’, which would enable quick colouring with the Photoshop paintbucket.

You can also hire a coloriser for a mere $5 on Fivver, of course, but you probably want to make sure they’re doing it by hand.

You may also have the problem of banded colour moire on scans, which can be very tricky to fix (and which is wholly different than .JPG compression banding)…

There are various Photoshop descreen plugins, such as Sattva Descreen, but note that these are designed to work with big 600dpi ‘hot from the scanner’ scans rather than smaller Web copies. Sometimes on or Hathi scans much moire can be removed in Photoshop via: Copy | Auto Contrast | Auto Colour | Desaturate | Paste copy as Layer (in Colour layer blending mode) | Soft erase the worst moire, which will be on pale patches such as roads and skies. Repaint the resulting missing colour using a colour blending brush.

Also, you want to remember that if your original find has been colorised already, from an obviously b&w source, then it’s no longer public domain but a new work. In which case you might want to note the title or geographic location of the work and try to find where their original came from, as it might be in b&w somewhere deep in, Hathi, or similar archival websites. If an eBay scan of an old postcard, another vendor may have a better and larger scan. The free Irfanview + a plugin will let you view’s highest-res .JP2 scans as Windows thumbnails.