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Backup Solutions - Is a NAS for you?

You’ve probably heard it a million times about the need to back up your files, but it’s something that is often overlooked until you have a computer crash. That’s when we get the panicked call.

It’s expensive and time consuming to try and recover lost data. A University of Texas study reported that 94 percent of companies suffering from a catastrophic data loss do not survive—43 percent never re-open and 51 percent close within two years.

To help you avoid a crisis situation, we are going to discuss in a four-part series, the various backup methods. This week’s topic is NAS—Network Attached Storage. Other topics will include cloud storage, servers and hard drives.

What’s a NAS?
In the late 2000s, several manufacturers started marketing NASs – Network Attached Storage. These devices serve the role of much more than storage with lots of features to increase productivity and simplify networking. Unlike a server, they come complete with robust software to help you manage the various functions. At this time, most clients use NASs as a server, but there are a whole host of other functions that users can take advantage of.

Tastar focuses on Synology devices, one of the industry’s leading manufacturers. See below for how you can benefit from a NAS, whether at the office or at home. Then give us a call for a recommendation for the right NAS to meet your needs.

File Storage
With a NAS, you can back up your files easily whether you are on a PC or a MAC. With flexible, easy-to-use software, you can automate the backup function effortlessly and customize it to your individual needs.

A NAS device can serve as a centralized storage device for just one or several computers in an office. Depending on the model you select, some NASs can be expanded to add additional storage bays.

Most NASs use RAID technology (Redundant Array of Independent Disks or Inexpensive Disks). RAID storage uses multiple disks to improve overall performance, add data protection via redundancy and increase storage capacity in a system.

In addition, NAS devices can back themselves up to external disks, a remotely located NAS or to cloud services.

Jim Marshall, Vice President and General Manager of Slavia Printing Company notes that the Synology system they use allowed them to eliminate its cumbersome tape backup system. “We use our NAS to store all of our prepress jobs. No longer do we have a big server and tape drives. And it is so much faster.”

File Sharing
One of the best functions of a NAS is the ability to store and share files. Ideal for business environments or even within your home, a NAS gives you a cross platform server that allows you to easily share Mac, Windows and Linux files with co-workers or access them from other computers within your office.

For photographers, Synology’s Photo Station software lets you share photos directly with clients and colleagues with or without password protection. You can send clients a link allowing them to either download or simply view photos.

To see how Photo Station can help photographers organize, store and share photos click here.

Web & FTP Server
Your NAS can be used as a Web server and includes built-in PHP and MySQL, ideal for web site staging and development. In addition, you can use it as your FTP server for remote file uploads and downloads.

Printer Sharing
While we love to sell as many as printers as possible, a NAS allows multiple computers to print to a central USB printer.

Printing configuration

Whether you have one computer linked to your NAS or dozens, you will find reliable security options, such as encrypted access, IP blocking and other protective features to ensure that your data is secure. Additionally, you can manage user and group access rights on shared folders to ensure that information is available only to those who need it.

Remote Access

With a NAS, you can create your own personal cloud allowing you to freely and safely access your NAS from a remote device. Apps for the iPhone, iPads and Android allow you to easily connect to your NAS and manage your files.

Surveillance Solutions
Compatible with thousands of IP camera models, most Synology models support real-time monitoring, video and audio recording and playback with a wide range of customizable settings. You can also install apps on your mobile devices to monitor cameras anytime, anywhere, for total surveillance.

If you think a Synology NAS could be the right backup solution for you, now is the time to buy. Synology is offering rebates on a number of models until November 30, 2013. Click here.

Potential issues with OX X Mavericks and External Drives

As with just about every Mac OS upgrade, compatibility issues seem to crop up. Many who have made the move to OS X Mavericks and use Western Digital and/or LaCie external hard drives reportedly are experiencing loss of data.

While Apple has yet to come out with an official statement on the matter, there is a lot of chatter online: Apple support forums, MacRumors.

Western Digital is urging customers to take steps to protect data by uninstalling certain software applications. Read more here.

CNET has addressed the issue and has recommendations as well.

Before upgrading to OS X Mavericks, please take the appropriate steps to back up your data to another device. Or better yet, wait until compatibility issues have been ironed out.

Meet Ken Doo - The Happy Lawyer

What’s the difference between a lawyer and a photographer? Unfortunately, there are no cliché lawyer jokes that answer the question. Simply put, a photographer is much happier according to Ken Doo, a loyal Tastar customer.

Although as a child he enjoyed spending time with his father in his darkroom, Ken left a small rural community in central California to study at the University of California, Los Angeles. He later obtained the degree of Juris Doctorate at the University of California, Davis.

With a law degree in hand, his next move took him even further away from his California roots. Ken joined the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corp and was stationed in Ft. Hood, Texas. After several years, he left the military and returned to California working as a deputy district attorney prosecuting criminal cases for Monterey County.

After seven years, Ken changed careers from criminal prosecutor to single parent. Becoming disillusioned with the law, he turned his childhood fascination with photography into a career with the launch of Ken Doo Photography. Although his love of photography began with medium format film, Ken quickly found his niche using a Phase One medium format digital back.

Despite the advice of other professionals, Ken didn’t focus on one style of photography. He was having too much fun doing it all: portraits, landscapes, weddings, engagements, corporate events, and studio work. Asked to pinpoint his favorite, he finally fessed up to portraiture because of how much he enjoys working with people.

His passion for photography has translated to multiple awards for his work. Ken is the recipient of more than 25 Accolades of Excellence in Photography in categories ranging from fashion to weddings to landscapes.

Ken’s interest in producing the best prints of his own work launched a separate business, Carmel Fine Art Printing and Reproduction. “I think of myself as a photographer first, but with my expertise in printing, this business has taken on a life of its own,” notes Ken. Now he produces fine art prints, canvas prints, greeting cards, banners and small commercial print jobs for clients and other photographers.

From traveling to Alaska to photograph grizzly bears to capturing the love of a newly married couple, Ken has found that photography – even producing portraits of the very judges that he argued in front of – makes this lawyer happy. There is so much more to life than a well-paying job. Ken is quick to point out that, "Life is short. And I consider myself extremely lucky to have a career pursuing my passion while being there for my sons 100%."

Ken’s Tips

Bigger is Better
“If you are investing in a printer, buy a bigger printer than what you think you will need. I ended up selling my first printer, an Epson 7800, mere months after I bought it because it was too small. The 9800 was a much more capable printer. I've since upgraded to an Epson 9900. I can take on more jobs and generate more business with a larger printer. Keep in mind that if you want to produce gallery wraps, you’ll need to accommodate for the wrap, which means a wider format printer.

Awash in Color
“You need to entrench yourself in color management. I’ve spent a lot of time creating custom profiles. People who have the same printers don’t get the same results as I do. Over the years, I’ve had people ask me for my profiles because they are pretty darn good.”

Weathering the Storm
“Years ago when I first started out, I was told I was doing it all wrong. I needed to specialize. When the recession hit, photographers were told to diversify. Fortunately, my earlier diversification is what helped my business in a slow economy.”

Get Involved
“I keep abreast of cutting-edge photography and printing techniques by staying active on many forums. Some of my favorite web sites to visit include: Capture Integration, Luminous Landscape and GetDPI.com.

Also, I think it's important to be involved in your community. I'm active with swimming and water polo, taking on coaching responsibilities and photographing sports for the local high school. It allows me to be active with my sons and give back to the community, while keeping my name out there."

Photoshop Alternatives - Can Anyone Replace the Leader?

Let's face it. Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard when it comes to photo editing. It's hard to beat its impressive line-up of tools and features. With Adobe's new business model, the Creative Cloud, causing a small uproar, many loyal Photoshop users are considering alternatives.

You certainly can hang on to your current version of Photoshop, make the move to the Creative Cloud or take a gander at a few free or very inexpensive options. The one issue with alternatives is that if you need to work in the CMYK color space for pre-press work, Photoshop is still your best bet.

If you find that Photoshop is overkill for what you use it for, you may want to take advantage of a free trial to test out some of these alternatives.

If you are interested in what other photographers are pondering, you can check out some of the lively discussions on Luminous Landscape or at Creative Bloq about this subject.

Adobe Photoshop Cost: 699.00, Platform: Mac and Windows, Our Rating: *****

Cost: Free, Platform: Mac and Windows, Our Rating: **
GIMP, which stands for the GNU Image Manipulation Project, is probably one of the most popular alternatives. This free, widely distributed software offers a powerful suite of tools for retouching, image composition and image authoring. While it has similar functionality as Photoshop, it isn't as polished and its interface is a tad clunky. GIMP offers limited CMYK support and relies on a plug- in by Separate+ for color management functions. On the plus side, there is an active community of users, a dozen or so how-to books and a vast plug-ins library. Best of all, it's free. But if you are going to use it regularly, consider making a donation.

Corel PaintShop Pro X6 Cost: 79.99, Platform: Windows, Our Rating: ***
Available in a standard and ultimate versions, Corel PaintShop Pro X6 is a great alternative, but only if you are a Windows user. While it doesn't have all the high end editing features of Photoshop, it certainly has come a long way and has much to offer including the ability to work with layers. As with most Photoshop alternatives, PaintShop Pro does not support working directly in the CMYK color space, but does offers CMYK conversion, channel splitting and more. At less than $100, you may be willing to sacrifice a few features for some extra money in your bank account.

Aperture Cost: 79.99, Platform: Mac, Our Rating: *
An Apple product, Aperture takes iPhoto to the next level. And as you probably guessed, it doesn't work with the Windows operating system. You get the ability to work with RAW formats and a decent selection of plug-ins, including a handful from Topaz Labs. Unfortunately, Aperture is heavy on organizing tools but light on editing features making it suitable for very simple photo editing.

Picture Window Pro Cost: 89.99, Platform: Windows, Our Rating: *
Called serious software for serious photographers, Picture Window Pro, by Digital Light & Color, offers a wide variety of photo manipulation and retouching tools, transformations (its version of effects) and the ability to create ICC color profiles for many cameras and scanners. They offer a free trial version with the full-blown version priced at a modest $89.99

Adobe Photoshop Elements Platform: Mac and Windows, Our Rating: ***
Adobe touts Photoshop Elements as the top selling consumer photo editing software. Note the wording…consumer. If you are a pro, Elements may be a little basic for you. While you may appreciate the familiar interface, Elements is a much simpler version of Photoshop that allows you to quickly edit images. At $99.99 (and on sale right now for much less), Elements gives you many tools to clean up, organize and enhance photos.

Pixelmator Cost: 14.95, Platform: Mac, Our Rating: *
At a bargain price, Pixelmator gives users a variety of tools for fast and easy photo editing. You can work with layers, masks and add a variety of effects. A bonus is that you can open Photoshop files. The software has a proofing tool that allows you to preview images in CMYK.

Liz Reed - Capturing the Beauty of Nature

As owner of Gallery in the Square in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Liz Reed exhibited and sold the artwork of others while putting her own artistic ambitions on hold. “I was frustrated not being able to do my own art full time,” said Liz, who holds a BFA from Carnegie Mellon.

In 2006, after 25 years in the gallery business, when an ideal buyer cropped up, Liz took the opportunity to sell her beloved gallery. Since then, Liz’s passion for art has blossomed in several ways. She runs Elizabeth Reed Garden Design helping individuals, municipalities and corporations as a garden designer. Spending time in gardens naturally lends itself to her other business, Elizabeth Reed Photography. While there are many photographers who focus on flowers and plants, Liz takes it to a new level. Her artwork is a dynamic combination of photography and scanning.

“I am constantly picking up flowers and plant materials and nearly always have my camera in the car,” notes Liz. “While image capture on a scanner is not new, I like to experiment with layering.”

While Liz prints much of her artwork at home, she likes to visit Tastar Data’s ColorCentral to experiment with new papers and to output larger prints. “I used to get my large images printed commercially, but it’s great to be able to come to Tastar to use a printer that is properly calibrated, try out new papers and have complete control over the output.”

When Liz is not in the garden or her studio, she’s busy exhibiting at art shows in Pennsylvania and Florida, where she resides for several months in the winter. She also sells her beautiful creations on her Etsy web site.

Tastar Data’s ColorCentral is a demonstration room allowing customers to test new papers, RIP software and equipment such as the Epson T-5000 and Stylus Pro 9900 . The room is available Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and can be reserved by calling us at 412-884-8077.

Digital Color Printing - and Print Envelopes, too!


In conjunction with the Harry Guckert Co., a Pittsburgh based graphic arts dealer, we've packaged a high-quality tabloid size Ricoh laser printer with a custom designed envelope feeder. The system will feed a wide range of media - from post cards, heavy weight stock and envelopes, including standard No. 10's up to 9 x 12 catalog envelopes.

The Ricoh laser printer delivers exceptional full-color digital printing at up to 1200 dpi. The printer is driven by a true Adobe® PostScript® 3™ RIP and supports Pantone color tables as well as standard and custom ICC profiles. The Ricoh brings something else to the table - it's less expensive to run than other printers in it's class - up to 50 percent less expensive than the equivalent Okidata printer, and up to 20 percent less expensive than the Xante ILLUMINA digital color press.

If you're a printing company, and have moved to digital printing, you can supplement your "big iron" digital printers with our printer - feeder combo - and run envelopes, small stock and other hard to feed items that are difficult and time consuming to run on large copy systems.

For more information, please Click this link.

Product review: Epson Natural Canvas

Many customers have asked what the difference is between the Epson Natural Canvas and the Epson Exhibition Canvas. Yes, we can tell you that the Natural Canvas is lighter than the Exhibition Canvas, but we thought it would be best to have an end-user put it to the test.

We had Gary Gardner of Krishna Ministry do a comparison of the Natural Canvas versus the Exhibition Canvas that he normally prints on. As background, Gary uses traditional stretcher bars versus gallery wraps.

Natural canvas: 19 mil
Exhibition canvas: 23 mil
Advantage: Exhibition Canvas (At least for Gary. See reviews on The Luminous Landscape by others who like the thinness of the Natural Canvas.)

Natural canvas: Any coating for this canvas can be rolled on, which saves money.
Exhibition canvas: Semigloss has to be sprayed and gloss has a difficult time taking any coating. When canvas is sprayed, there is a lot of overspray which equals lost money.
Advantage: Natural Canvas

Natural canvas: When coated, the thinner canvas has a tendency to crack when stretched at the edges.
Exhibition canvas: Does not crack at the edges.
Advantage: Exhibition Canvas

Dynamic range
Natural canvas: Appears to be the same as the Epson Premium canvas. (Standard canvas from a few years ago.)
Exhibition canvas: Colors appear more rich when coated.
Advantage: Exhibition Canvas

Natural canvas: This canvas doesn't curl very much and is thinner. If you haven't used your printer in a while, you can just stick the canvas in without worrying about the printhead striking the edge of canvas.
Exhibition canvas: This canvas has a tendency to curl without use. The platen gap has to be increased to "Wider" before printing. The printhead sometimes can strike the edge of the canvas causing a malfunction in the printer.
Advantage: Natural Canvas

Natural canvas: With a roll of 44" wide by 40' canvas, this canvas will shrink after printing on the 40' long side. On a 36" x 48" printing, the 48" side will shrink as much a .5" to .75" during printing.
Exhibition canvas: Does not shrink
Advantage: Exhibition Canvas

Natural canvas: More expensive
Exhibition canvas: Less expensive
Advantage: Exhibition Canvas

If you've made the switch to the Natural Canvas, let us know what you think of its performance.

Power problems. Are you prepared?

While bad weather can be a minor inconvenience--our parking lot and the roads surrounding our building flooded this summer—at times it can strike a fatal blow to your business. A University of Texas study reported that 94 percent of companies suffering from a catastrophic data loss do not survive—43 percent never re-open and 51 percent close within two years. That’s scary.

Whether it is weather-related or caused by an electrical problem, a sudden power surge and/or prolonged power outage can wreak havoc not only on your equipment, but on your bottom line when you take into consideration downtime, recovery time and data loss.

If you are like many people we know, you have your computer plugged directly into a wall outlet or an inexpensive multiple outlet strip. This offers absolutely no protection against electrical problems.

Fortunately, companies can take a number of steps to protect their data—we’ll cover data backup in another article—but one of the easiest ways is to protect all your computers and valuable electronics with an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) or with a quality surge protector.

We offer UPSs from CyberPower because we feel they are very affordable, reliable and have a longer warranty than other UPSs on the market. In addition, CyberPower offers its Connected Equipment Guarantee on many of its products. This is a limited insurance policy that covers any damaged or destroyed equipment that was properly configured and connected to the UPS.

Surge protector vs. UPS

Understandably many folks are confused between what a surge protector does versus a UPS. We’ll explain, but first let’s talk about power strips. These are inexpensive devices that let you plug in multiple devices. They do not provide any protection against electrical spikes or power outages.

Surge protectors allow you to plug in multiple items and also offer protection from electrical surges and spikes. They regulate electrical currents and eliminate line interference—as they increase in price, they provide faster response times and more robust protection. Though a power surge can happen faster than the blink of an eye, the results can be devastating if you are not using a surge protector. It is important to note that surge protectors do NOT safeguard your equipment against a loss of power.

A UPS functions as a surge protector as well as a battery backup and allows you to continue on even if the power is out. More importantly, the added run time lets you save work, safely close applications and shut down computers and servers—protecting you from data loss. Most units can even power down your system safely and automatically in the case of a prolonged power outage. As the unit cost rises, you get longer run times, more robust protection and even power conditioning so that your equipment will not be subjected to normal power fluctuations.

In our opinion, your business is worth the added investment in a UPS and/or surge protector.

HP Desktops with Intel Haswell CPUs Now Available


We've added HP desktops that use the new Intel 4th generation Core processors (Haswell) to our PC lineup - they don't get better battery life (they're desktops!), but they do provide excellent value and take advantage of the strengths of the new processors.

The new Intel HD Graphics 4600 provides performance improvements of up to 100 percent over the previous generation HD Graphics 4000. The HD 4600 isn't the best choice for heavy duty gaming, but it will provide a performance boost for applications that take advantage of graphic processors - the way that Adobe Photoshop CS6 uses its Mercury Graphics Engine.

And, the Haswell processors provide a modest performance improvement over the previous generation. For example, a Haswell i7-4770, 3.4GHz processor scores 9996 on the PassMark® CPU benchmark, while the previous generation i7-3770, 3.4GHz processor scores 9431.

The HP PCs that we've added to our website are loaded with Window 7 Pro 64-bit (through downgrade rights from Windows 8).

In summary, the HP PCs offer definite improvements at similar price points to previous models, while also providing the advantages of Windows 7 Pro.

Click this link to see our new HP Haswell desktops (As with everything that we add to tastarsupply.com, we've only listed the models that we consider to be the best value.).

How Photographer Robert Strovers Creates Gorgeous Prints

Maybe you've admired his work in the Fairmont Hotel Pittsburgh or in many PNC buildings or in its Corporate Art Collection or perhaps UPMC buildings and facilities all over the city of Pittsburgh. While he's made his mark in Pittsburgh, today you'll find photographer Robert Strovers deep in the heart of Texas taking photos of everything from old cars to architectural details on old Spanish style buildings.

Even though he's not close to home, Rob has remained a loyal Tastar customer. He prints on an Epson 9890 and uses a variety of acid-free papers to showcase his work including Museo Silver Rag, Ilford Gold Fibre Silk, Hahnemuhle Museum Etching and Epson's Exhibition Fiber.

His favorite paper is the Hahnemuhle Museum Etching, Rob notes, "It has a beautiful slightly textured matte surface with substantial weight making it a hands down favorite paper for medium and large prints. Framers love this paper too because of the weight - it lays and mounts nicely and doesn't buckle or dimple."

Another recent favorite that he's using for select images is Hahnemuhle's Photo Rag Satin. "When I use it for black and white prints, I get a very low luster satin finish where there is ink while the white space areas remain matte. This really gives beautiful depth and dimension to the print."

His best printing tip? "Learn to calibrate your system so the monitor matches your printer. Use the manufacturer's profile for a given paper or learn to create your own custom profile. When doing custom printing for other artists and photographers nothing pleases me more than for them to say "WOW" when they watch the print come off the printer."

Rob notes, "Finding Tastar when I did saved me many dollars in shipping, lost time from waiting and the support was invaluable. Much of my studio setup includes items from Tastar: X-Rite ColorMunki, software, my RAID configured data storage hardware, the de-roller I use for taking the curl out of the roll papers and the nice heavy duty straight edge rulers and the cutting mats for work table tops."

Check out Rob's diverse styles at artisticpursuits.net.

Kimoto Inkjet and Laser Film up to 45 Percent Off!


The Cadillac of films is now on sale. Or maybe we should say Mercedes, Lexus or Porsche. Regardless of what cliche you use, you only get the best when you buy Kimoto. Kimoto delivers a higher DMAX than competing films and provides you with consistent, high quality results.

As a Tastar customer, you can save 10 percent on all Kimoto inkjet and laser films (for a total savings of up to 45 percent off list price!) with our current private sale. Simply enter coupon code: kimoto10 in the Gift Redemption Code box as you checkout. Click this link for eligible Kimoto film products.

Adobe Creative Cloud™ - What's to Like?

Adobe Creative Cloud™. A Change in the Future of Software?

"The only thing constant in life is change." François de La Rochefoucauld

Unless you live under a rock, you know that Adobe has made some big changes to its business model with the introduction of the Adobe Creative Cloud™. A move that has been inspired by what is good for Adobe, not by what is good for Adobe's customers.

While we applaud change and innovation, we’re not clapping for Adobe's latest brainchild and neither are many of its users.

For photographers who just use Photoshop, and maybe Lightroom, and not the full array of Adobe products, the Cloud is an expensive proposition. No longer will users be able to decide when they want to upgrade to a new software version. With the Cloud you will be forced to pay for upgrades you may or may not need.

For printing companies, this new variable update cycle subscription service is causing a lot of head scratching in the area of compatibility with customer files and the compatibility of plug-ins. For people who rely, and have paid handsomely, for plug-ins for their Adobe programs, the question is whether or not the plug-ins will work without having a fixed update cycle.

And, for companies with the need for two or three Adobe products - like Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator, they will be forced to rent access to the entire suite of products rather than paying for a much smaller selection, and will be forced to increase their annual payments to Adobe by up to 50 percent.

We’ve been monitoring this situation, and hope that Adobe will see that this is not the best scenario for many of its users. You can follow some interesting conversations on this topic by following a CreativeCow thread this link or a PrintPlanet thread this link. And, you can sign a petition asking Adobe to eliminate the mandatory Creative Cloud subscription model at this link. Hopefully, Adobe will get its head out the cloud and listen to the feedback from its loyal customers.

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