Rants: Software Support

A small light box and sheets of slides.

One of the initial creative concepts I had when building this blog was to feature an image scanned from my archives of Velvia slides. Years ago I purchased a Nikon 5000 ED slide/film scanner. Since I had shot for years on film, the move to digital processing ushered in a lot of change. I switched to the Mac platform on the computer end, and added the scanner to convert the archives. Turns out a scanner can be like a piece of home gym equipment; a good idea in principle, but ends up collecting dust (or laundry) somewhere.

So now I have the impetus to actually start and keep up an effort of getting my favourite images from the filing cabinet into the computer. Here is where the Rant begins. To my surprise, my Nikon Scanner software does not support OS X Snow Leopard. Officially it doesn’t support Leopard either, although I know I have used it successfully before. Nikon’s official stance is that they don’t support either version of the operating system, and Windows 7 for that matter. I could understand this if there were a NEW version of the scanner or the software out there, but there isn’t. The official support page says to buy VueScan or Silverfast, two independent multi-platform scanning software solutions. What? I need to go buy someone else’s software to run the scanner now??

Don’t get me wrong, I am as close to a Nikon loyalist as you can get, but being loyal to a brand doesn’t mean you surrender your objectivity. It is clear that Nikon just doesn’t get software and software upgrade cycles. Perhaps they made their decisions off the freakishly long life span (if you can call it real life) of Windows XP. In the real world upgrades happen on a regular basis. In the real world photographers and creative type people tend to be on or near the leading edge of software and hardware. Even for software products they continue to “support”, their response time to a new OS upgrade can actually be measured in years, not weeks or months. Booooo!

Undaunted (mostly), I downloaded the demo versions of both “suggested” software alternatives and tried them out a little bit. Neither really inspired that much confidence. Perhaps it was the $100-$400 price tag that went with them that tainted my opinion. I know it had worked when I was running on OS X Leopard (10.5), so I decided to create a partition on the boot drive and install Leopard there, so I will just need to restart the machine and boot from that partition to run the scanner. Annoying? Yes. But not that big of a deal. So after installing a copy of Leopard on an external disk and then cloning it over, I am ready to try this new setup. Then I get an idea to check to make sure the app (old non updated) wasn’t trying to start-up in 64-bit mode. Of course I had uninstalled it again out of frustration, and wouldn’t you know it actually ran properly this time. Yay, I don’t need restart the machine every time I want to scan. Or so I thought. Nikon Scan 4.02 ran perfectly, except when it came time to save the image; a fairly important step in the process one would say. So that is the piece of the software that isn’t compatible, save. So it looks like it is back to booting into Leopard for scanning.

Should I be angry because a piece of software that supposedly isn’t supported on my version of the operating system mostly works? Maybe, maybe not. What I am angry about is that it SHOULD be supported. If everything works, except “save” then how hard would it be to bring it up to spec and support the new OS versions? Should I have to give up the 64-bit awesomeness of Snow Leopard because the software division at Nikon doesn’t want to work on some code? Remember this scanning software is still being sold with BRAND NEW scanners. Is it wrong for a company to continue to sell a product (the scanners themselves are great!) that is woefully outdated? A glimpse at the tech specs shows that is supports Win98/2000/and the “brand new” XP on the windows side, and Mac OS 9/10.1.5. So the scanner is so good that it has a 10-year lifespan (they are down to selling just the Coolscan 9000 now, which does medium format and 35mm), but after a few years they just pack it in and stop updating their software. Not only that they tell you to go buy someone else’s software if you want to support today’s new-fangled technology.



  1. Ah yes, I do enjoy a good rant now and then. Thank you Darryl for yet another insight to the disposable culture we live in.

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