Ann Arbor Business to Business
Small Business and the Internet

Blame it on Rio

October 1999

By Mike Gould

Ah, showbiz. Just when I despaired of finding anything interesting to talk about this month, I got a call from my buddy Madcat; ace harmonica player and world traveler. It seems that he was gearing up for a tour of South America, and needed to email some publicity shots of himself to a promoter in Rio de Janeiro, ASAP.

Now you, Mr./Ms. Businessperson, may not need to send pictures of harmonica players around the world, but you might need to send a picture of your new product to the person preparing your catalog or Web site, so listen up.

Back to Basics
Before we get to the nitty-gritty (what we webmasters call "Content"), let's review a few graphic details:

RESOLUTION - This is the amount of information per square inch; low resolution (low-rez) images look grainy, like what comes out of your fax machine. High resolution (hi-rez) is crisp and looks like what you see in a magazine.
FILE SIZE - This is the number of ones and zeroes that make up the digital image you are sending. Low-rez images describe the picture in a minimum of bits (think digital ink), and thus have a low file size; hi-rez images use lots of bits for the image and have correspondingly larger file sizes.
FORMAT - What "flavor" the digital images are in. When you save a Word document and end up with a file that looks like "CoolBiz IPO Scheme.doc", the ".doc" business tells you the format of the file. Similarly, when you create a graphics file using your scanner software, you end up with formats that look like .tif, .gif, .jpg, .bmp, etc. These are all different means of digitally describing pictures; the trick is to choose the right format for the job.

Who is on the other side of the wire?
The first thing I did was to ask a lot of questions:

Are the pictures for print or the Web?
If for the Web, that's easy; I scan the pictures in at medium resolution, tweak them for sharpness and color balance, and convert them to the low-rez .jpeg format, slap 'em up on my website, the Rio person grabs them using their browser (Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer, etc.), done. Ole. But I had a sneaking suspicion that posters were involved, so more mojo was called for.

What kind of computer does the promoter in Rio have?
If it's a Mac, cool; I have a Mac (most graphics work is done on Macs). I send a Mac-flavored file, done. Bravo. If the recipient has a PC, I use the Mac to save the file in PC flavor, send it, done. Caramba. (I don't know any Portuguese, so I 'm using mangled Spanish to give this all a bogus international flavor, so important to today's global modern marketplace of the future.) The recipient will also need a fast computer with lots of disk space and RAM if they need to deal with a large image file.

Is the recipient knowledgeable in dealing with graphic files?
If I send a .tif file, will the recipient be able to open it? .tif is an almost universal format; but it has a Mac vs. PC issue; .tifs need to be encoded for the right platform. If I'm going hi-rez, this is what I would probably use.

The Ways of the Wire
Is the recipient knowledgeable in dealing with Internet file transfers? As I mentioned in previous articles, you just can't send large files as attachments in email; most email postmasters won't allow it, and it can disable the flow of email to the recipient. You may have had an experience where your fun-loving uncle sent you a 1M scanned cartoon that took forever to download; you have to wait for this tidbit to pass down the wire like an antelope through an anaconda before you can get to the rest of your mail. Guano. The solution is to either use ftp or the Web.

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol, and is the preferred means for dealing with this sort of thing. You put the file on a server and the user downloads it from there. But this requires: A) an ISP who provides this service (and many don't) B) a skilled user to put the file up there, and C) a skilled recipient who knows how to deal with this. Actually, C) isn't that big a deal, as your browser can handle ftp file transfers.

What kind of connectivity do they have? Modem? How fast? How reliable are the phone lines in Rio? Here's the crux of the biscuit: I can put together a gorgeous 8 x 10 hi-rez picture of Madcat, but it will be a 12 megabit file. This means that if the person in Rio has a 28.8 modem, it will take approximately until the next millennium for the file to make it out of the other end of the wire. Flaky phone lines can cripple file transfers; dropped connections can mangle files and cause endless headaches. If the recipient has a high-speed connection to the Internet (Cojones), such as a dedicated leased line or cable modem (unlikely, but possible), the big file comes down fast and all is well.

How We Did It
Well, we...oops, out of space (print media has bandwidth limitations, too). Next month: the conclusion to this month's exciting episode. Via con tacos.

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