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Reading The Sky Magazine Digital Disc

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#1 Uncle Milt

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Posted 18 January 2021 - 11:33 PM

38 Color Eclipse.jpg

 

Now that the Adobe Acrobat flash player is a thing of the past, is there any other way that I can still read the

digitized files in my The Sky Magazine archive?  I have has some limited success in accessing some

pages with Graphic Workshop (the pro version), but only with the earlier year files.

 

As it is now "impossible" to contact any actual human beings at the new Sky & Telescope editorial offices

(in order to serve me better), any help along these lines from anyone would be greatly appreciated.  Having

The Sky / The Telescope / Sky and Telescope on digital discs is a nice idea, IF they can be read.

 

Thanks --

Milt

 

 

 



#2 obrazell

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Posted 26 January 2021 - 05:22 PM

Although cumbersome if you go into the issues directory and navigate down to the issue you want and run the AglaiaReader.exe then it will display the magazine. This works for all the old DVD issues of the The Sky, The Telescope and S&T. This works indepedantly of whether Flash is installed or not..



#3 Uncle Milt

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Posted 26 January 2021 - 10:15 PM

Thank you for your help!  I was beginning to think that I was the only person on the planet that was experiencing

this problem.

 

As you suggest, the Aglaia Reader works, but -- cue the Twilight Zone music -- it works only up to the July 1940

isse.  Beyond this date, the Aglaia Reader will not load, and no files can be read.  For earlier dates it works fine.

 

I have had the same thing happen when using Graphic Workshop to access the issue files, and this also works

only up through the first half of 1940.  Then -- just like trying to load the AR file -- the DVD drive just sins and spins

and nothing is ever read from it.

 

At this point, I am wondering if I have a bad DVD.  Could this be the problem?

 

Thanks --

Uncle Milt



#4 obrazell

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Posted 27 January 2021 - 03:20 AM

Well I copied all mine to a hard drive and as far as I can see all the issues up to the last one in 1941 seem to read fine. You may have a duff DVD drive, try cleaning it and copying the files to your hard drive and see if you can read them that way.

 

Owen



#5 Sourdough

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Posted 12 February 2021 - 02:52 AM

Obrazell, thanks for the tip regarding AglaiaReader.exe. This does work. I've opened half a dozen issues, picked randomly in my hard-drive copy of the S&T archive.

 

Near as I can figure, AglaiaReader.exe is a relabeled .exe of Macromedia Flash, later known as Adobe Flash. This appears to be a 2006 revision of Flash, the last version (I think) before Adobe glommed onto Macromedia. If you run AglaiaReader, it identifies itself, both at the top of the window and in Windows Task Manager, as Macromecdia Flash.

 

Because clicking on "read issue" (or however it's labeled) invokes AglaiaReader, and AglaiaReader is Flash, all modern browsers will now pitch a fit and fall in it. I understand the reasons for stopping Flash in its tracks under normal (Internet-connected) circumstances, but this is one of those rare browser situations that doesn't involve the Internet.

 

I suppose S&T, when assembling their original archive for sale, thought using Flash and the user's browser was safe, since they were supplying their own OEM version of Flash with the archive. They probably relied on the user having a browser, since browsers are like opinions and navels--everybody's got one. I don't think they dreamed that an Internet standard like Flash would ever go away.

 

That said, it annoys me that S&T picked that method of displaying their archived back issues. They could've simply PDF-ed everything, instead (I note that around 2011 or 12, they did just that). This difficulty caused me to check my Astronomy magazine archives and my National Geographic archives. Thankfully, they're both still usable as delivered (and installed on my hard drive).

 

I am considering a few options, most of them cumbersome and time-consuming. One is to concoct my own menu system to open S&T issues without having to drill down into the correct place each time to manually run AglaiaReader.exe. Another is to locate a free utility to turn collections of .png files (how the page files in each issue are stored) into PDFs. A third, which is a tad risky in the long run, might be to locate an old browser that is (1) up to running Flash, and (2) not likely to try to update itself to shut down Flash. My only  concern here--if I can find such a browser--is that Windows 10 might automatically rip the old browser out. I already have a set of .bat files to activate the decadal archives; it currently calls upon Windows Internet Explorer to do the job. Until Flash support went poof, they worked fine.

 

If I feel I have the patience for it, I may try to contact S&T about this bug that has cropped up in their otherwise-wonderful archive. If they had a PDF-only version of it, I'd pay for a new set.

 

Oh, and I do NOT intend to ever, ever inform Microsoft of this. They might get ideas, and figure out some way to sneak into my computer during a Windows update and destroy all instances of AglaiaReader.exe on my computer. This is one of those situations in which Microsoft is not my friend--or yours, either.

 

Clear skies,

Sourdough



#6 Sourdough

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Posted 12 February 2021 - 04:03 PM

Everyone,

 

I now have a procedure for converting S&T issues in the DVD archive set into PDF files. Turns out I didn't need to burden my computer with a potentially buggy and/or malware-ridden conversion (f)utility from the Internet. The key is Microsoft Word, with which one can create a document and then save it to PDF format. I've tried this on the first two issues of "The Telescope." This should work for any of them, however, as they're all stored the same way prior to 2012, when S&T got wise and changed to PDFs.

 

Procedure:

 

1. Open a blank MS Word document.

 

2. On the menu ribbon, select Insert.

 

3. In Insert, select Pictures, then select This Device.

 

4. If you loaded your S&T magazine archives onto your hard drive, go to the folder in which you stored them. On my machine, it’s C:\Skyandtelescope. This should also work if you’re running from the original DVDs; just specify your DVD drive instead of your C: drive.

 

5. In the load pictures dialog box, navigate to the location where the images of the pages of the issue are stored. On my system, a sample path to an issue’s page images is:


C:\Skyandtelescope\1933-1941\The-telescope\issues\1933\1933-10\The_Telescope_SeptemberOctober_1933\[a bunch of random characters]

 

The pages are in the folder named [a bunch of random characters].

 

6. The “1933-1941” is the set name (in this case, for “The Telescope”). Ignore all folders with names like “images” or “covers.” Those are for the reading system provided by S&T. They aren’t needed for making a PDF.

 

7. Once you have found the page files, bulk-select them in the dialog box. Bulk-selection will preserve the order the pages are in; S&T named them in a logical order. Be sure not to select the Thumbnails at the end of the list, as you don’t want to load those into your document.

 

8. Under the “File” ribbon entry (at the far left), select “Save As.” Or, if you are like me, you have already made a “Save As” shortcut on the very top line of MS Word. In the “Save As” dialog box, select PDF in the Save as Type box. Name your file something useful, such as “Telescope 193310” for the Oct. 1933 issue of The Telescope.

 

9. You should now have a PDF of an issue. It will probably get stored in whatever folder you normally use as a default storage location.

 

It will be tedious, of course, to convert all the issues in the archive. If S&T had an all-PDF version of it available for sale, I'd buy it and not try this method, but they don't seem to have one. Phooey.

 

The key to this solution is MS Word. I am only familiar with Windows; my system runs on Windows 10. I have absolutely no knowledge of how to do this on a Macintosh or Linux computer.

 

I hope this will work for others. I am still miffed at S&T for not PDF-ing their archive in the first place.

 

Clear skies,

Sourdough



#7 Uncle Milt

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Posted 12 February 2021 - 10:55 PM

Many thanks to Sourdough for helping with this!

 

In my own case, I discovered that my main problem was that I apparently had a bad disc -- purchased as a used item on eBay.

 

When I purchased a sealed NOS disc of The Sky from another eBay vendor, it worked perfectly with both the included AglaiaReader

and using Graphic Workshop Professional.  Needless to say, it is a great pleasure to be able to access these early magazines.

 

An additional concern, however, relates to the poor quality of the images in this set.  I missed out on any discussion of this back when

these archived digital sets were first released, but I am wondering if anyone else has discovered a way in which to overcome this?

As best as I am able to determine, the page images cannot be enlarged at all without pixelating, and the print is not all that large to

begin with.  Is there a work-around for this, or is this just an inherent limitation of these sets?

 

Likewise, I have had to use Graphic Workshop's various tools (normalization, brightness and saturation, and white threshold) to  

make the pages more legible, but this is a very time consuming process, and they still can't be enlarged.

 

T_Cover Cmp.jpg

 

T_Indx Cmp.jpg

 

As a better solution, has anyone given any consideration to doing some better, higher resolution scans of these early magazines

and then making them available through Sky & Telescope or some other outlet?  I am thinking of a cooperative effort in which a

number of people would do the laborious work of scanning the paper issues and then send the files to a central source.  (I have

good quality paper copies of most issues of The Sky and the earlier Sky and Telescope.  Others surely have these original issues

as well, but how much scanning would any one person want to do?)

 

What do you think?

   



#8 Uncle Milt

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Posted 12 February 2021 - 11:00 PM

PS -- Has anyone noticed what is "wrong" with the cover of the February 1938 issue that I posted? wink.gif




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