Archive for the ‘Graphic Workshop’ Category.

A Quick Introduction to WebP Graphics and Animations

The WebP format was developed by Google as a twenty-first century replacement for the aging hoard of mutant armadillos which has previously served the web as graphic standards. It can be used in place of still image formats, such as JPEG and PNG, and it really gets up and dances when it’s used to replace the medieval relic that is GIF to manage animations.

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WebP offers both lossless image compression like PNG and lossy image compression like JPEG. It uses vastly more effective image compression than existed when the foregoing formats were originally created back at the dawn of human civilization, resulting in both smaller animation files and better looking ones. It supports full alpha transparency.

It also handles timing in milliseconds, rather than in the hundredths of a second that GIF uses.

A Digression On Compression

In case the whole lossless and lossy compression issue sounds a bit like two Martians discussing what to order for lunch, here’s a brief digression on the matter.

Graphic files are by their nature sort of huge, and huge files can be a bit of an issue if you have a finite amount of storage space, such as on the SD memory card of a digital camera, or a finite amount of bandwidth over which to transmit said files, such as the Internet if you didn’t spring for a gigabit fiber connection.

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Security Issues and Software Vulnerabilities

pictureFrom time to time, Alchemy Mindworks releases software updates to deal with security issues. This sounds a bit scary – with good reason in some cases – and as such, it probably deserves an explanation.

Regrettably, the world includes a substantial number of flakes, idiots and malevolent swamp-dwellers who spend their mean little lives trying to attack the computers of the rest of us. When they’re successful in doing so, they can:

  • Install malware to steal personal information, such as credit card numbers and banking passwords.
  • Connect the afflicted computers to botnets, such that they can be used to attack other networks.
  • Encrypt the files on your hard drive and demand a pile of bitcoins for the key to decrypt them.
  • …and probably a lot of other stuff we’d rather not know about.

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Version Six Upgrades

pictureThe 2015 major upgrade for Alchemy Mindworks’ software – stepping up to version 6 – will initially embody most of its changes “under the hood.” We’ve devised an improved software architecture to allow our applications to make better use of contemporary multi-core microprocessors, larger memory footprints and Windows 7, 8 and 10.

The most notable feature of this upgrade for most users will be full Windows 10 compatibility.

You can’t really see a new architecture unless you work here and read the source code, but it will enhance the performance of the upgraded software – the version six applications should run faster, and consume fewer system resources while they’re doing so.

The updated architecture will also allow us to add new features to Graphic Workshop, GIF Construction Set, Presentation Wizard and the other Alchemy Mindworks applications that were impractical or genuinely impossible under version 5.

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Error Creating the Specified File during Version 6 Validation

pictureWhile it’s thankfully uncommon, we have encountered instances of the version 6 Alchemy Mindworks software refusing to validate, and displaying a message that says “There has been an error creating the specified file.” We’ve yet to reproduce the beast in house.

Contrary to rumors and innuendo in this matter, this problem does not lie with either frenzied weasels creeping into our offices late at night in search of leftover pizza, or with the depredations and treachery of left-wing politicians… although you can never be entirely certain of the latter.

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Classic Windows Paint for Windows 7 and Windows 8

pictureEarlier releases of Windows – most notably the much-beloved Windows XP, now something of a fond memory – included the elegantly simple and occasionally berated Windows Paint application. For the most part, it was about as useful as a left-leaning politician in a riding with absolutely no bribable voters – but there were situations in which its childlike simplicity and twentieth-century dearth of features made it the ideal software for manipulating a few pixels.

By comparison, Windows Paint under Windows 7 and Windows 8 resembles the drooling idiot offspring of a cheap date in which neither participant was demonstrably human. It’s just sophisticated enough to allow its imperfect antialiasing, questionable drawing tools and counter-intuitive user interface to get in the way.

Long-time users of Paint from a bygone era can often be heard mourning its loss.

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A Word About Updates

Most of the Alchemy Mindworks applications are updated several times a year. A few of the more active ones – Graphic Workshop, GIF Construction Set, PNG MNG Construction Set and so on – have seen upgrades once a month.

Users of these products have at times inquired whether it’s necessary to install all the updates, and how important these updates really are to the functioning of the great cosmic clockwork that drives the universe as we know it.

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Version 4 Updates in 30 Seconds

The process of installing updates to Alchemy Mindworks’ version 4 applications is somewhat more involved than was the case for their ancestors. While doing so will unquestionably entail more clicking than users of our products may be used to – for which we’re suitably contrite – you can minimize the additional work required if you understand what the little man behind the curtain is up to.

Earlier releases of our software used a custom installer that we wrote, and as such, that we were able to nuance into being a fairly effortless installation experience. It was typically done with an installation so quickly as to make describing its activities as an “experience” just this side of pretentious.

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Is There a 64-Bit Version?

The transition from 16-bit Windows software to 32-bit Windows software over a decade ago was an event that future archeologists will no doubt write papers about and bore people at parties with until they all make up excuses about having forgotten to hypnotize their ferrets and leave. Admittedly, archeologists get excited about the damnedest things.

It’s been our experience that neither archeologists nor most of the people who use Windows software actually know why 32-bit applications are preferable. This is arguably as it should be – well-written software should allow its users to do whatever they bought the beast for and never concern themselves with that’s going on under the hood.

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Quest for the Missing Paint

Many of the Alchemy Mindworks applications – including GIF Construction Set Professional, Graphic Workshop Professional, Animation Workshop, PNG/MNG Construction Set and Presentation Wizard – have internal Paint functions that call Windows Paint. At least, they do if it’s been installed.

Should you click on Paint in one of our applications and discover that nothing much happens – or if the application hangs – you’re probably looking at a total absence of the Windows Paint application.

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The Art of the Round Corner Box

Web page frames having clean rounded corners are fashionable at the moment. While you can arrive at them with considerable work using conventional tools, you can create them effortlessly using Graphic Workshop Professional 3. Most of the tricky aspects of getting all the pixels in these complex web objects to line up correctly fade to inconsequence once you have the procedure by the throat.

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