Monday, May 28, 2007

The Color Purple

OK, I’ve stolen the title from Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film – or from the title of Alice Walker’s 1982 novel. And this blog has nothing to do with racism, but it is to do with colours – the colours you see on your computer screen.

I have recently been using a little device called a Huey (from Pantone/GretagMacbeth – http://www.pantone.com/pages/products/product.aspx?pid=79&ca=2), which is a computer monitor calibration tool. It checks what colours your monitor produces and corrects them so you see more accurate colours. Mine came from a company called Colour Confidence (www.colourconfidence.com).

The device is about the size of a slightly thick and slightly short pen, and spends most of its life in a cradle connected to your computer through a USB port, where it monitors the ambient light. But let’s start at the beginning…

When you purchase the device (which costs about $90 in the USA and around £60 in the UK) you get the Huey device, a cradle, an extension USB cable, and a CD. The CD I had contained Version 1.0 of the software, which is OK if you have XP installed (or a Mac), but I have Vista. This meant I had to go to the Pantone Web site, register, and then download the Vista-capable version – which is 1.0.5. The software installed quickly and then needed to reboot my laptop.

The next stage was to wipe and dry the screen with the supplied wipes and cloth, and then connect the Huey device. Once Vista recognized it, I started the Huey software. Next I stuck the Huey to the screen using the very small suckers attached to it. The software then quickly ran through a number of colours and shades of grey. Lastly I was given a chance to compare the original settings with the new suggested settings. They weren’t enormously different, but they were definitely different. The colours are now “warmer”. In fact, you can select what type of use your computer is put to and select the appropriate colour scheme for that. There’s options such as Web browsing and photo editing, graphic design and video editing, and warm low contrast. Each week, the Huey recalibrates, which is a good idea.

Some reports on the Web suggest that the Huey is much cheaper and less accurate than other products. But I think that’s the point. If you need 100% accurate colour management for work you would buy one of these more expensive devices. For the rest of us, the Huey can make a useful additional tool at an affordable price. If you spend all day sitting in front of a computer screen, you want it to display more-or-less the right colours. I think it’s a handy little gadget.

And finally, and for the last time (I promise)... Xephon’s (www.xephonusa.com) WebSphere Update is looking for new authors to broaden its base of contributors. If you work with WebSphere and you have discovered something you wished you'd known before you started, or you've implemented something useful that others could benefit from, please contact me on TrevorE@xephon.com.

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