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Your dream Photo editing machine... 
I am really curious to know the specs of your dream system. 

Mac, Dell, IBM, Alien, custom? 

what processor? what memory? what kind of screen (how big, resolution, etc?)? 

What kind of extras? 

Then I would love for you to give up the identity of the system you currently have? 

why? I am in the market for a new system (possibly a notebook) and would like to hear what other photogs use or would like to use. btw, my budget is tight so be gentle...
Well, I guess I am happy with home built Athlon 64 1.8 Ghz with 2 gigs RAM and 4 SATA hard drives RAID-ed. Topped with a GT6800 with dual DVI running 2 x 19 (1280 x 1024) inchers is really a nice PC based system. Of course a 300 GB backup USB drive is nice perhaps with a DVD burner to store your precious files off-site (optional of course). 

I recall loading a 1.5 GB (!!) TIFF file into photoshop in less than a minute and the editing wasn't bad either. The RAID really seemed to help with loading large files into memory. 

How much did it cost? Um... dunno, but I tell ya, for starters this seems to work rather well. Can't be that bad since I could afford it

Produce a sharp image with photo editor
I look at a lot of images at different sites and forums on the web (as I'm sure all of you do as well). I see a a lot of images that appear obviously sharpened - if not oversharpened - in my eyes anyway. I always thought that, when sharpening, your goal is to produce a sharp image, without it being noticable. Yet, I notice it on many images, and none of the commenters ever mention it. Any thoughts? Am I being overly critical?

Depends on where it is. Some people just don't see it. It actually requires a little development of the eye. When you process your own images, several per day sometimes, experiment with settings, etc. you know what oversharpening looks like, and you see it without trying. Until you acquire that eye, it's not nearly as obvious as you might think. 

Also, regarding the broad lack of comments pertaining to oversharpening: if I commented on every oversharpened image I saw, I'd start to feel like a broken record. Sometimes you just gotta let it slide...

Elements 3 can do the crop marks as well.

Elements 3 is out since PSP kicks it's butt at the same price point.
I'm not a "power user" when it comes to graphics, so I'm pretty sure 90% of PS's features would be wasted on me. I'm really leaning toward PSP. The things that still draw me to PS are the online tutorials, which could probably help get me through PSP as well, and I might be able to get a discounted version of PS through a college where my niece is an art professor. 

Still, I hate paying huge $$$ for software that I only use part of.

Silkstone, those plug-ins you linked to (Power Retouche, in another thread) look fantastic. For the price of PS I'd hope not to need add-ons. PSP with that complete set is still less than half the price of PS.

This week I'll download the trial version of PSP and that with your input will surely be enough to allow me further time to procrastinate. 

Black Background PHOTO EDITING
Okay, let me first say this...I'm new to PS CS2 and this whole digital picture thing...with that said, here is my question. 

I want to be able to take a photo of an object, such as a flower, and place it on a black background so that only the object shows perfectly. I see lots of pictures like this and want to try some of my own. Any help or direction would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again! 

believe that many of those examples are taken with a matt black card held behind the flower. Exposed to place the black as dark as possible (or using the black eyedropper in photoshop levels) is probably the effect you're looking for. 

Otherwise you've got a lot of careful masking to do.

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