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T/ONE's Scrounger 4 promises to tame digital image management  
Wednesday, June 28, 2000 | by
Aimed at digital newspaper photo departments, Scrounger 4 from T/ONE is designed to ease the input, storage and tracking of large numbers of digital camera images. The goal of Scrounger is to enable newspapers to save all the photos shot on digital cameras, including the D1, DCS 520, DCS 620, D2000, DCS 3 and NC 2000e, tracking them in a manner similar to the film filing system in place in many departments now.

Scrounger is available in three different configurations. In its base configuration, Scrounger is a combination of Windows NT PC, dual-slot card reader, large internal hard drive storage, CD writer and a streamlined database application.

It's designed to enable a photographer to quickly copy all the images off a card on to mirrored internal hard drives (as shown in the screenshot below), organizing those images into folders that are referenced in an included database at the same time. The database includes fields for photographers to enter information relevant to the assignment's photos, and is fully searchable. Users may later select which assignments are to be transferred to CD-ROM, which will quickly be necessary to free up hard drive space; the database will update to reference folders of photos that have been moved from hard drive to CD.

Photos copying from two cards simultaneously using Scrounger 4

Once all images are extracted from a card, Scrounger can call on Windows NT to format the card for reuse, though it's still a good idea to use the camera's format function as well before shooting with the card again.

In most configurations, including the base configuration, Scrounger 4 features include:

  • A Compaq Proliant Pentium III server, running Windows NT Server 4.0.

  • Two Microtech internal SCSI PC Card readers mated to a dual-channel Adaptec SCSI host adapter card. These readers will accept up to four Type II PC Cards at the same time, as well as CompactFlash and SmartMedia cards in appropriate adapters. Up to two cards in total may be copying files onto the internal storage simultaneously. Photos can also be input from any number of popular media types, including CD and, optionally, Zip, Jaz and DVD, as long as the appropriate reader for the media type is also purchased.

  • Twin 18GB internal drives, set up in a mirrored RAID configuration and linked to a dual-channel Adaptec SCSI host adapter card, for up to 16GB of photo storage. That means that everything that's written to one drive is written simultaneously to the other, to ensure photos aren't lost if one of the two drives fail.

  • Plextor 4x internal CD writer. Though this is a slow writer by today's standards, T/ONE's argument is that a 4x writer is more reliable at writing than, for example, newer 8x and 12x writers, and that CD-R media is more readily available for 4x units. The CD writer may be substituted for a Pioneer DVR-S201 DVD-ROM writer, though this adds about 50% to the cost of the basic Scrounger.

  • 32x internal CD reader.

  • Software, including the Scrounger 4 application and the Scrounger search application, as well as Adaptec EZ CD Creator 4.0. The database features interoperability with T/One's TRAX photo assignment database. For example, TRAX assignment records can indicate the location of all photos from that assignment that have been input through Scrounger. An optional add-on to Scrounger, expected in the near future, is the automatic generation of web pages of thumbnails for each assignment folder, so that each assignment could be viewed through a web browser over the paper's network.

The base configuration, including a CD writer, is priced at US$10,600. Replacing the CD writer with a DVD-ROM writer takes the cost up to US$15,800. Installation and training is extra. It's possible to expand Scrounger to include 2 or more image input stations and a central Scrounger server, to enable, for example, the management of digital photos from bureaus as well as the main office. See T/ONE's hardware configurations document for three likely implementations of Scrounger 4.

If you're looking for a way to more easily store many or all of the digital camera photos shot at your paper, Scrounger is worthy of consideration. With the demise of AP's DiscMinder last year, it's now the only currently-available option for inputting large numbers of digital photos with some level of efficiency and automation. Chances are, if you liked DiscMinder, you'll like Scrounger even better, though DiscMinder supported copying from three cards at the same time, as compared to Scrounger's two.

Does Scrounger 4 make it possible to save everything without still dedicating a lot of photographer and/or technician hours to the task? Nope, not a chance. There is still considerable time involved in getting images off the card, as well as the time spent getting the photographer to the Scrounger station in the first place, especially if your paper is set up, as many are, so that photographers submit images primarily over a modem from the field. Scrounger 4 moves newspapers one step closer to a workflow in which everything can be saved, but until camera storage cards, networks and hard drives are considerably faster, cheaper and capable of handling much, much larger quantities of data, archiving every last frame shot on a digital camera will remain an expensive and time-intensive process.

Until then, Scrounger 4 is the best available option for those departments that are prepared to commit the resources to save it all. For more information on Scrounger, contact T/ONE.

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