Monthly Archives: March 2014

PDF quality

A few people have written in lately, asking why the quality of the PDFs here isn’t what it used to be.  Usually, these queries mention that the scans now have a “fuzzy” or pixelated look.  It took me a little while to figure out what’s going on and the short answer is that it’s not the files.  Except where specifically noted, everything here is scanned at 600 dpi in grayscale or color –  more than enough to provide a great viewing experience in almost any viewer.

I say “almost” because the problem lies in the fact that the latest versions of all the popular web browsers (IE, Opera and especially Chrome and Firefox) include their own PDF viewers.  It turns out that all of the feedback came from people viewing the scans directly in the browser, using the default plugins – and why not?  It’s easy, convenient and users don’t have to download additional software.  The problem is, they are all enabled by default and are of universally poor rendering quality.  Not so long ago, Adobe’s Acrobat Reader plugins ruled the day and while these provided a nice, clean PDF view, the code was bloated and buggy and could usually cripple even the most robust browser in a matter of seconds.  Developers looking to relieve users of Adobe’s burdensome experience built their own viewers, with an eye to fast, stable rendering.  Unfortunately, the speed and convenience came at the price of quality.

In this “good enough” world in which we live, for a person looking to quickly submit a form to her dentist, or fill out an online job application, these new viewer plugins are great.  For those of us looking to preserve and archive documents in a high quality format that also ensures they remain accessible for other users online, not so much.

The solution for you, dear downloader, is to switch to a better viewer.  Browser plugins by third-party developers such as Sumatra, Foxit (and yes, even Adobe) are optimized for image quality over speed and will display the scans here (and elsewhere) much better than the pdf.js thing that comes in your latest version of Firefox, and allow you to remain within the comfort of your browser.

For the best experience though, I recommend you disable inline viewing plugins completely and use a local application.  Any of the aforementioned programs will do nicely.  Yes, you will have to go through the extra steps of downloading and locally opening the files, but they’ll look so much better.

Games

Scanned and posted a small collection of documentation, feelies and other miscellany from games I’ve accumulated over the years.  Many of these are dealer demos donated by a former employee of an Egghead Discount Software store I used to haunt during my high school years.

Back then, a “demo” was a game or application sent to the dealership as a training and sales tool that employees could use to let prospective customers sample the goods in-store.  They usually arrived as a set of diskettes and (often photocopied) manuals with “DEMO COPY – NOT FOR SALE” stamped all over them, and without boxes, packaging, warranty paperwork and the like.

When that particular Egghead location was closing down, my salesman friend grabbed a box and filled it up with all these games.  He didn’t feel particularly bad about it, as he had the store manager’s permission and the publishers had told them not to bother to return it.  This was in early ’92 or ’93 and no one wanted to buy Apple II software any more.