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Computer Art: Problems

Crashes Zip Warning Scanner Tips Health Issues

This page covers what for beginners may be the most terrifying of computer experiences - the crash. A related topic is the issue of data corruption with certain disk drives. Also provided, are directions for using the Agfa scanner. We also include information on some of the health issues regarding computers, and how to protect yourself.

At some point, you may encounter problems while working at the computer. It may be responding slowly, or respond to a command in a strange manner, or it may suddenly stop functioning entirely. Sometimes, the computer may appear to react suddenly to something you did; at other times, it will malfunction for no apparent reason.

The reason(s) for such behavior is varied. A virus may be at work,or you may be running out of Windows resources, or there is device driver incompatibility. Get into the habit of saving your work - if a crash occurs and you haven't saved your file, all new information will be lost.

If a malfunction occurs while you are working, the best thing to do is nothing. Relax; don't panic.  DO NOT START PRESSING KEYS OR WILDLY CLICKING THE MOUSE;  you could compound the problem. Try to recall what you were doing at the moment of the crash, and call the instructor for help.

With our computers, running Windows XP Pro, the most common types of problems are:

  1. Computer freezes or "locks up". The keyboard, mouse, and/or digitizing stylus suddenly stop responding. Call your instructor immediately if this happens.
  2. Photoshop ( or other program you are working in ), suddenly crashes. The program seems to disappear from the screen, but the usual Windows interface is still there. If this happens, inform the instructor. He may decide to restart Windows. Otherwise, the offending program can simply be opened again.

Remember to save your work frequently. If either of the above problems happen to you, the work you've done since you opened the file, or last saved it, will be lost.

To minimize malfunctions :

Close all other applications, before you open Photoshop or Painter. Don't keep other applications open while working in either of these programs - they both need all the resources of your system.

Monitor the amount of open files you have in Photoshop; each file requires 3 to 5 times its own file size in RAM.

Don't magnify above an 8:1 ratio for long periods of time.

If you are frantically painting, smudging or erasing in Photoshop, and notice the hard disk is spinning madly, don't continue to apply effects. These are resource-intensive tools, esp. the smudge tool. Slow down a bit or stop, and let it catch up with you.

After copying a large file to the clipboard: if you don't need to copy it again, select a tiny area and copy that. The smaller selection will replace the larger one in the clipboard, conserving memory.

Try working in a lower-resolution copy of the file if you are still experimenting and don't yet have a clear idea where the image will go.

Be aware of image size when scanning. Full-color scanned images can be comprised of many megabytes of data; remember that, ideally, Photoshop requires three to five times of memory ( RAM ) , as the size of the file. It may be necessary to decrease the file size or resolution of the image you plan to import.

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Warning - Zip drive danger !!!!

Your data may be in peril !!!   Follow the sequence outlined below so Windows XP Pro doesn't override your data.  Also, make backups of your data.  If you have only one copy, and it gets corrupted in a crash, then you've lost everything... Here's the proper sequence:
  1. Make sure the computer isn't logged on. If the computer is already logged on, then log off ( Click Start button, choose Log Off).
  2. Wait until the Windows Desktop disappears, then put the Zip disk into its drive.
  3. THEN log in.
  4. Do your work, and keep the Zip disk there until you are done.
  5. Shut down all applications (i.e. Photoshop).
  6. Log off the computer.
  7. THEN remove the Zip disk.
  8. DO NOT, for any reason, swap disks in and out of the Zip drive while you are working. If you need to make a backup, go to Windows Explorer or My Computer, click on the Zip disk icon, then go to File: Copy Disk. When prompted insert the disk you want to copy FROM. Later, you will be prompted to insert the disk you want to copy TO.

Just to be on the safe side, I recommend working from the hard disk. ( Remember that students are to save work ONLY to the folder with your name under My Documents that you created yourself, and not to any other directories. ) Then, when done for the day, close out of Photoshop, copy the file from the hard disk to your Zip disk using Explorer, log off, and follow the closing procedure above.

Note that the above warning applies ONLY to Windows XP Pro ( and also Windows 2000 Pro, and also Windows NT - if there is still anyone out there even using Windows NT ). These are all versions of Windows high-end, networked operation system. The problem occurs only with Zip disks, and NOT with CD's, USB flash drives, or floppy disks.

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Using the Agfa Scanner

DO NOT put anything on the scanner bed before launching the software. Follow this sequence to use the scanner.
  1. Launch Photoshop 5.0.
  2. Under the File Menu, select Import, then Twain32.
  3. Set the Original to Reflective, Transparent, or Negative, depending on the media you intend to scan.
  4. Set color to RGB, 8 Bit.
  5. Place the item to be scanned on the scanner bed. Reflective images should butt up to the front edge, films should be centered on the bed and placed against the left or right edge to square up.
  6. Press Preview.
  7. Select the desired area to be scanned, using the marquee tool in the scanner software.
  8. Set Output and Scale as desired (watch your file sizes! Anything up to 50 Mb will generally run in this lab; likely you will only need about a 5 Mb file for display purposes).
  9. Set Tone Curve as needed.
  10. Press the Scan button.
  11. When completed, the scanned image will appear behind the scanner software.
  12. Close the Agfa 'FotoLook' software.
  13. Save your file.

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Computers and Health

We will be working mainly with the creation of imagery, rather than typing an abundant amount of text. Even so, computer users subject their bodies to many unnatural stresses, which, over time, can lead to postural difficulties, eyestrain, headaches, and repetitive-motion injuries.

Those of you who do a massive amount of typing at work, are most at risk. The standard computer keyboard is very poorly-designed, as it forces the hands into unnatural positions which strain the hand / arm / shoulder musculature.

In fact, if one wanted to deliberately devise an instrument which eventually creates the potential for debilitating injuries to the human hand, one could not find a better tool for this, than the current computer keyboard design.

So if we take a poorly-designed tool and add to this a demanding workload, the stage is set for possible injury .

Even if you don't do a lot of typing, you may still be at risk. Clicking a mouse hundreds of times per day, especially if you hold the mouse with a vise-like grip, can also lay a foundation for future dilemmas .

Another concern for computer users, is their vision. Staring at a computer monitor for hours on end, can strain the eyes. Remember to take breaks at regular intervals.

Some things you can do to avoid problems is to:

Adjust your chair so that your wrists are not bent as they sit on the keyboard .

Do NOT use the small plastic prop-ups found on some keyboards to elevate the back part of the keyboard. Propping up the rear of the keyboard, forces your hands into dorsiflexion, which sets them up for carpal tunnel-related injuries. The line created by the forearm, wrist, and hand as it types, should be a straight one .

If you have a wrist rest, do NOT place your hands on it as you type. Your hands should only rest there while pausing from typing; otherwise they should be " floating " over the keyboard. Use a light touch; don't pound the keys .

Don't grip the mouse ( or stylus ) too tightly, and try to move it with your whole arm, not just your hand, moving from the shoulder .

Take frequent breaks, stretch the muscles used, and rest your eyes .

Pay attention to warning signs .

For more information, refer to these books:

Repetitive Strain Injuries: A Computer Users Guide by Emil Pascarella MD and Deborah Quilter, Pub. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN Number: 0-471-59533-0 ( paperback). Includes information an hand and vision care and setting up your workstation.

The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Book by Mark A. Pinsky, Pub. by Warner Books ISBN Number: 0-446-36527-0

On the Internet, a very informative piece on the subject can be found at:

If you haven't worked much with a computer before, please don't be alarmed. I am not attempting to frighten you; merely giving you some information so that you can start making conscious choices about work settings and habits .

As mentioned before, the physical stress of computer use in this class is very light, compared to use of a computer in the full-time or part-time job setting for typists or others who use the keyboard heavily every day.

It is mostly for those people, the marathon typists among you, as well as others who use their hands heavily - musicians, weightlifters, carpenters - that I present this information. Prevention really is the best policy. If you use your hands and arms continually day after day, don't wait until you sustain damage before taking action.

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Liberal Arts · I.C. 2070 ·
Updated 15 Dec 00