Archive for category general

Save Those Snaps: Digitizing Your Photos


It’s something we all think about…sorting and digitizing our old family and vacation photos.  Every year they fade, get damaged a little more, and pile up.  I recently took on this project with great success and wanted to share some tips.  Some of these tools and products make the process much easier and affordable than in years past.

  1. I bought a portable scanner (Pentax DSmobile 600 Scanner).  There are others but I liked this one because it’s small and easy to use with my laptop. Note that if you’re using Windows 7 you’ll have to go to the Pentax support website and download the updated drivers and software first (use the Vista drivers).
  2. Gather up your pictures and sort them in a logical order- maybe by date or person.  You can do this in the image management software but it’s easier to get the order correct before scanning.
  3. Set up the scanner options (resolution, filetype, and file location options).  I chose .jpeg format, color, and 400 DPI.  You may have to experiment a bit to find what you like.  Remember, disk space is cheap so file size shouldn’t be an issue anymore.
  4. Scan your pictures into your computer from the scanner.  The Pentax makes this very easy- just insert an edge into the scanner and it’ll “grab” it.  Using the Mobile Scan software click on the green “Scan” button and within a few seconds you’ll have the scan file on the hard drive.
  5. After scanning all pictures, I used the free Google Picasa software to clean up and manage the scans.  Inside Picasa you can apply some filters, tag with captions, and even use the creepy but really cool face recognition features of the software.  I found the “I’m Feeling Lucky” function very effective in adjusting faded pictures and obvious defects.
  6. These scans are precious- Back up the files onto an external drive and onto a cloud based service in case disaster strikes.
  7. There are some options available in Picasa for sharing.  You can upload into a web album and share with friends and family, create a DVD movie slideshow, make a poster, or make a collage.  Experiment and have fun with it!  If you need more advanced capabilities, Adobe Photoshop Elements 8 (under $80) has much of the functionality of Photoshop for way less.
  8. An online company called Blurb allows you to create physical books (hardcover or softcover) in an easy fashion for very reasonable prices (how about up to 120 pages for $20?).  You download their authoring software and can control many aspects of the photo layout and wording.  This would be a great gift to family or friends.

After completing this project you’ll feel f relieved that those precious memories are digitally stored and available for use in all sorts of new ways on your computer and the web.

Don’t Call Me Shirley

People in other professions have fairly concrete titles which indicate what they do.  Think surgeon, math teacher, architect, or president.  The computer field is somewhat different in that I’ve been doing basically the same thing (developing custom software on Microsoft platforms) for years and have been called software engineer, consultant, contractor, programmer, computer scientist, systems engineer, developer, and systems analyst (with various numbers involved even!).

None of those really capture the art and science of programming accurately.  Even after decades of research, discussions, methods, and patterns,  working in computers is definitely not a science with well defined rules and methods but it also isn’t an art with zero defined rules.

It’s a mixture of both and one of the reasons I think the field is so difficult and intimidating.  It involves a high degree of something like ordered creativity– being able to recombine patterns and ideas into something which is unique for each person but able to solve problems many have.  You don’t have to be a genius to do this, but not many people have the insight and patience to work like that (and of course can stand endless hours in boring cubicle farms…a topic for a future post).

Of all the terms, I like “software engineer”.  It best encompasses the ideas of structure and creation with the “software” modifier indicating that yes, no matter how hard we try, programming is fuzzy, malleable, and adaptable.

Starting Things Up

keyboard with worldWelcome to my blog…I’m a software engineer/consultant.  You’d think I’d have more internet presence by now, being a “computer professional”, but it seems only lately various technologies have become easy enough and integrated enough to spark my interest. Before now, it just seemed like this would take too much effort and time to be worthwhile.

I’m not too interested in the hobbyist aspects of web hosting, blogging, and social networking…instead of focusing on the mechanics of all those things, I want to focus on the actual goal- publishing useful content and having fun doing so. The intertwined world of facebook, twitter, one-click websites, digital content distribution, gadgets and smartphones is converging to a point where ideas can be shared easily with many, many people….and more and more people are joining every day.

I hope to use this blog to share ideas and experiences on starting a new website, working in the technology consulting field, and just generally using technology to enhance life and have fun.

Here’s my professional background: Linked In Profile

Thanks for joining, please enjoy and provide comments!