Scanning and OCR on OS X

I’ve had a mac computer for over a year, now. However, for all this time, whenever I needed to scan and OCR something, I’ve been using a back-up Windows laptop. Mostly, this was because I didn’t have any OCR software on the mac. I did briefly test out the scanning abilities of the mac, just to make sure things were working with my scanner, but I never seriously tried to scan something…until today.

The first step, of course, was plugging in and recognizing the scanner. I figured this would be a no-brainer; it’d been done before, and it should just happen, again. I plugged in the USB connection, and hardware growler notified me that I had connected canoscan. Yay! I figured all was still well in scannerland. Just to be safe, though, I pulled up Image Capture to do a test run. “No image capture device connected.” Huh? It worked before!

After some help from Aardvark, I found an Apple support article that told me I may need to download updated drivers from the website. I guess some update broke something, somewhere. Thankfully, the Canon website it sent me to was nearly perfectly accessible. Unfortunately, it was then that I realized I wasn’t exactly sure of my scanner moddle.

The first trick I tried, of course, was to go look at system profiler, and see if it would tell me anything helpful:
CanoScan:

Product ID:        0x1900
Vendor ID:        0x04a9 (Canon Inc.)
Version:        3.07
Speed:        Up to 480 Mb/sec
Manufacturer:        Canon
Location ID:        0xfd100000
Current Available (mA):        500
Current Required (mA):        Unknown (Device has not been configured)

Well, that was useless. The next trick: scan my scanner with KNFB Reader didn’t work, either. It told me text was cut off at the edges, but it couldn’t recognize the raised text on the back of the scanner. Oh, well. I suspect I remember my scanner moddle correctly, anyway. I just wanted to try and make absolutely sure before installing drivers. The last “trick” is to just go ahead and install what I think is the correct set of drivers.

Lucky for me, the second drivers I tried were the correct ones. After a more-or-less friendly install process, and a reboot, my scanner could be used. I opened up image capture again, gave it another test, and all was well.

With the scanner finally working, the next step was to get some OCR software. According to this guy, Read Iris Pro was the best. I’ve also read that omnipage was accessible, but it had several bad reviews when it came to OCR quality. Neither product had a downloadable demo. After some research, I eventually went with Read Iris. The online shopping cart was, however, confusing and hardly accessible. Links were unlabeled or mislabeled, and the entire purchase process was long and confusing. Anyone with a Visa card will understand the true horror of the process when I say that it insisted on sending me through the Verified by Visa program, a program that most websites (including Amazon, Paypal, and Google Checkout) all avoid because it has been proven so broken and insecure.

I did, however, finally make my way through it, and was emailed an FTP download link. Figuring that was all I needed, I downloaded the software, mounted the DMG, and moved the .app into my applications folder. To my surprise, that application was, in reality, a poorly named installer. Why it wasn’t packaged as an installer package, as is the correct procedure on OS X, is utterly beyond me. It required several mouse clicks to get through, it froze voiceover at several points, and was generally an awful ordeal. I have no idea how crap like that got through anyone’s testing process, to be declared accessible. After about half an hour of fussing, I completed the install.

When I started the application, for real this time, I was asked for a serial number. The problem is: nobody from Iris Link emailed me one! Figuring that the processing system they used was, perhaps, running slowly, I waited for two hours. When I still had no serial, and thus couldn’t get any work done, I emailed Iris. While waiting for an answer from them, I started this weblog entry, in order to kill time until I could do useful work. After getting the entry up-to-date with my adventures thus far, I did my daily work-out, and hit the shower. Still, I haven’t gotten either a reply to my email, or my serial number.

So, after a day of set-up, I still haven’t managed to scan a single document on OS X. Hopefully, I’ll have gotten the information I need from Iris sometime tomorrow. Interestingly, while searching for product reviews of Iris Read, google gave me several links offering torrent downloads of the software I’m attempting to purchase. I suspect that, if I had just downloaded the torrent, I would have my software by now. I’m not sure why Iris feels the need to punish honest customers with extremely unreasonable wait-times. I mean, seriously: they write state-of-the-art OCR software! Couldn’t they have an online activation system at least as advanced as the hobby developers selling $10 utilities? If you ever feel the need to make an online purchase from Iris, this is something to keep in mind: the company doesn’t answer emails, and at this point only God himself knows when I’m going to get the software I purchased.

TO BE Continued…

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