Problems with Classic Trains 5 Year Archive (2015-2019) DVD

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Problems with Classic Trains 5 Year Archive (2015-2019) DVD
Posted by Leo_Ames on Saturday, August 22, 2020 6:08 PM

The new DVD archive disc just arrived today. The problem is that there seems to be no installation, viewer program, search engine, and so on. You're greeted with this primitive view instead.

Inside the PDF folder, you get a folder for each year with 4 pdfs in each folder (One for each year's issue).

Is there a way to integrate with the 2000-2014 DVD archive program? I don't like the PDF viewer and such in that program nearly as much as I did in the original 10 year disc, but at least it felt like a finished product even though I couldn't scroll through pages as quickly as the old program and it never boots up full-screen.

For full disclosure, I first posted this with the claim that the 13 special issues that were supposed to be included were absent. But they're actually on a 2nd disc that I didn't notice at first.

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, August 22, 2020 6:38 PM

What is in the 'How to Use' PDF you have highlighted in the directory?  I'd expect instruction on browsing, printing, restriction on access etc. to be covered there.

Looks to me as if the disc is configured to run automatically via 'autorun' but you've set your access preferences in Windows to do something else with DVDs when inserted ... probably try to play them with some sort of DVD player app, and it defaults to this directory view if you 'double-click' on the icon representing the mounted disc.  (I found it ridiculously involved to use certain forms of removable media on 10 as configured by install...)  suspect this will involve popping up the command box and typing something like D:autorun (using the assigned letter I see Windows uses for your DVD drive).

I would NOT expect you to be able to see the PDF issue content by just opening them in something like Acrobat Reader.

 

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Sunday, August 23, 2020 3:26 AM

Overmod
Looks to me as if the disc is configured to run automatically via 'autorun' but you've set your access preferences in Windows to do something else with DVDs when inserted

I manually looked for an executable file to install when browsing the contents of the disc and there wasn't one.

The auto run feature on this PC worked correctly a month ago when the 15 year Classic Trains archive DVD arrived (This 5 year update disc was backordered at the time and only available for preorder).

I think they've gone backwards with these discs. I bought the Trains and Classic Trains archive DVD's when they released (I wish I had bought Model Railroader at the time, since it's sadly now gone). But the 15 year archive disc for Classic Trains is a step back from the original 10 year edition. Sluggish browsing, won't launch in full-screen, and other problems.

And now the custom browser is gone entirely with this latest disc, leaving just bare PDF files in a folder. 

Overmod
What is in the 'How to Use' PDF you have highlighted in the directory?  I'd expect instruction on browsing, printing, restriction on access etc. to be covered there.

Here's the instructions. 

• For best results, use Adobe Acrobat Reader 9 or later.

• Insert the disc into your computer.

• Windows: If you are not prompted to view the contents of the disc, browse your computer to find the disc, then double-click the disc icon. • MAC OS: Double-click the disc icon on your desktop.

• Open Classic Trains 2015-2019.pdf using Adobe Acrobat Reader.

• Use the clickable links on the menu to open the various content on this disc.

• Once you’ve clicked on a link, the PDF file will open in a new window.

• You can close or move this PDF window at any time to return to the main menu and select other content on this disc. NAVIGATION LINKS ON PDFS

• Cover pages and Table of Contents pages have links that will take you directly to various articles for each issue.

• Bookmarks linked to each story in the issue are located on the left side of the viewer window. SEARCHING CAPABILITY

• Use the search function in Adobe Acrobat Reader to search for specific words. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

• The zoom level for each page can be adjusted at any time.

Overmod
I would NOT expect you to be able to see the PDF issue content by just opening them in something like Acrobat Reader.

Same, but it works. I've just copy/pasted all the PDF files to my desktop and have no disc in my HDD, and they're opening up just fine in Chrome. No protection at all.

I also tried to integrate them into the 15 year Classic Trains install for a fancier presentation and to have them all in one place, but it didn't work. Renamed a single issue to follow the same file naming convention as the 15 year disc uses, but it wasn't fooled.

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, August 23, 2020 6:41 AM

That's almost incredible.  They couldn't even be bothered to check the name of their main catalog file to have it match the instructions.

I was suspicious that the CTR-DVD file was so large, but it was obviously a large PDF so logically part of the 'content location' system; I just didn't think it would be the only thing.

I wasn't deeply worried about things at Kalmbach until now.  This is serious unprofessional disk organization, which I assume was sold at a premium price.  The lack of any functional copy protection is highly welcome... but also highly un-Kalmbach like: had they done this with the Mac version of the Trains Complete Collection I'd still be able to read the content I paid for.  Does the content search, etc. work as it says?

I wonder if the 15-year browser is set up to work with some sort of encryption more 'involved' than just Adobe password document protection, and is blindly 'decrypting' an already open PDF file format.  Creating garbage in almost always results in garbage out...

I can't imagine they'd be that stupid, but proprietary solutions or walled-garden enabling tech often can be, because it only has to 'just work' with what programmers expect.  (Or it's your fault...)

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Sunday, August 23, 2020 8:08 PM

It's a bizarre product. Nice professional case insert and the art on the discs themselves and the content of the pdf files looks just great.

But the lack of a viewer program around it all makes it feel like a product I bought from a bootlegger off eBay that has been subscibing to Classic Trains digitally, stripped them of any DRM protections, and tossed the PDF files on to a DVD-r to sell to unsuspecting people.

If I had my way, the original collections from circa 2010 would've stayed in print and Kalmbach would've offered economical update discs that patch them with this newer content. And I'd also make it possible to easily import issues for those that subscribe to their publications digitally.

Those original discs, minus a few quibbles and a handful of screwed up page scans in the Trains collection, fully met my expectations. These newer archive discs sadly are falling well short of that goal.

Overmod
Does the content search, etc. work as it says?

There's no collection-wide search ability across the 33 individual pdf files. I can open an individual pdf file and search within it, but that's not terribly useful for my needs.

Overmod
I wonder if the 15-year browser is set up to work with some sort of encryption more 'involved' than just Adobe password document protection, and is blindly 'decrypting' an already open PDF file format.  Creating garbage in almost always results in garbage out...

One potential roadblock I hadn't noticed before with my attempt to import these into the 15 year collection, is the lack of thumbnails. The original archive programs from a decade ago and this 15 year collection from 5 years ago have each issue as a pdf file, but I see now that they also have a thumbnail folder with a small image of each page of every issue

This 5 year archive disc for 2015-2019 lacks thumbnails, so that's potentially the stumbling block in porting these over (although it wouldn't shock me to learn that the collection is locked down in other ways, preventing it even if I supplied thumbnails).

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, August 23, 2020 8:30 PM

Wonder if they outsourced this to the same people in Bangalore who almost singlehandedly ruined Yahoo Groups /neo/.  It has many of the hallmarks of their 'design' approaches.

Or else there is some reason -- I won't speculate on what it might be -- that they no longer have access to the code or tools used to build the older versions, and lowballed the release.  It ought to be very simple to build a thumbnail page from PDF images (using nothing much more complicated than the software that resizes graphics for avatars here) and likewise fairly simple to save versions of the issue files in the format recognized by the earlier browser.  (There ought to be enough room on a double-layer DVD to neatly fit any number of issue PDFs for a few years of content...)

Ah well, we can paraphrase Mencken (unfairly, but not exordinately so) and say 'you'll never go broke underestimating the skill of the Kalmbach developers'...

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Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Saturday, September 5, 2020 8:08 PM

When I first received this 2 disc set a week ago, I could not get any of the issues to open.  The pdfs in the menu showed up fine on my brand new iMac desktop, but when I clicked on anything to open I got a dialog box that said I didn't have permission to view the files.  I panicked for a few minutes while I tried several other work arounds.  Nothing worked.  I was pretty mad at Kalmbach.  Then it occured to me to try viewing my Model Railroader 2010-2019 dvd rom set on the new computer.  It too, gave me the same error.  I had read the instructions in the case and assumed I had Adobe already installed.  I didn't.

So I went to Adobe and loaded up the latest reader, did the reboot thing and tried again.  No dice.  I was pretty steamed at this point.

And then (I think because I had just loaded Reader and rebooted) my Mac asked if I wanted to make Adobe the default software to open the discs.  I said yes.  That solved the problem.

Moral of the story: make sure you have the required software, AND make sure (at least on a Mac) that said software is set as your default pdf viewer.

And do this before calling Kalmbach and (*ahem*) throwing out to the customer service person that their new product has "authoring errors"!  Oops.  Whistling

Now as for issues with Windows, I don't know.  Sounds like some odd things going on there...

Andy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Milwaukee native modeling the Milwaukee Road in 1950's Milwaukee.

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Posted by Leo_Ames on Sunday, September 6, 2020 3:42 AM

Opening the PDF files in Windows was never my complaint. It's the product, or more precisely the lack of a product, surrounding the PDF files that I was complaining about.

To illustrate, here's a screenshot of 'Classic Trains - The First 10 Years' from 2011.

Here we visually see an attractive image of each cover when looking for a particular issue to open and read, can search throughout the entire collection, etc. Absolutely zero issues with this product over the past 9 years. A+ job by Kalmbach.

Now here's a screenshot of what I initially see when opening up the newer 'Classic Trains: 15 Year Archive' from 2015 or so.

Now we're starting to have some problems right off the bat, starting with the fact it doesn't open full screen. The top and bottom of the program are both off-screen and we obviously have substantial pillarboxing. We have to click the side and drag in order for the top of the program's frame to suddenly pop into view with the maximize and minimize buttons.

Going into options and clicking "always open document in full screen" has no effect. I have to manually hit the maximize button every single time I open this program to have it display correctly full frame.

And using the program itself is somewhat inferior. They're quibbles, but navigating from page to page is noticeably slower on the same PC as the original program.

In addition, the original Kalmbach archive DVD's sort issues in order of release from oldest to newest, while this one defaults to the opposite way. It's a minor annoyance, but coming from being familiar with the original programs, it's still an annoyance that it's the complete opposite here. To illustrate, the initial issue known as "Trains Classic" which went on to spawn Classic Trains, goes from issue #1 in the original 10 year archive to being the final issue in the 15 year achive's menu. It can be manually changed, but the program doesn't remember it the next time you load it up (Even if you go into options and select to save).

And while I haven't figured out how to trigger this intentionally, when you're browsing a page zoomed in a bit, you're able somehow to make the viewer program think that you're keeping the mouse button clicked in when in actuality you're not. Not sure how it's triggered but I do it inadvertently from time to time. It's annoying when it kicks in and suddenly you're moving your view on the page around differently than normal. Almost like a failing mouse button that's sticking, except it's not.

And lastly, here's the fancy viewer program for Classic Trains: 5 Year Archive 2015-2019 from August 2020. Here's the central "view" of the disc containing the regular issues (The special issues disc is much the same). I'll let the images do the talking from here on out.

Here's the high quality viewing program (i.e., the Windows 10 disc browser, lol) that we access the issues through by clicking that folder labeled "PDFs" above, giving us this view below.

Clicking on 2015 then shows us the PDF content available for that year.

And so you're not completely in the dark on what's in each of those PDF files, they provide a convenient image in each yearly folder. Here's 2015's image.

My complaints don't revolve around the PDF content itself. The files of this latest product open without issue on Windows 10 and the image quality of them is superb. Kalmbach did well there.

The issues are that it's an incomplete product. There's no viewer program to access the PDF files through, no collection-wide search ability, etc. All you're doing is buying a disc with bare PDF files. Not at all like the polished commercial DVD archive programs that Kalmbach was originally releasing.

While I give them props for giving us DRM free PDF files to use how we please (As long as we're not distributing them to others), the product still needed a viewing program for desktop users (As well as an install option for owners of the 15 Year Archive to integrate these files into it).

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