Computer Users’ Group

February 15, 2012


Digital Cameras: Kodak has just filed for bankruptcy protection so they must see the end of film in the offing. There have been some recent developments in ways to use film today to take some exceptional pictures but that won’t save Kodak.


We covered this subject just over a year ago in January, 2011 so this will be more of a refresher and a look at any new information on the subject including making videos and editing them. You can see the handout by going here: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~flpslc/011911.htm .


Resolution is determined by the number of picture elements (PIXELS) that make up the image usually defined by the number of them across and the number of them down as 640 x 480. (Not strickly true; resolution is really the number of pixels per inch but the image size is a major factor). We’ll look at two images at the minimum and maximum resolutions of many cameras. You can use graphics programs to resize images but they are best going large to small instead of small to large.


Cameras have different modes; some cameras have a lot more than others. Some have a beginners or auto mode that can be used in most situations. It costs nothing to take pictures so you can practice all you want. You could take notes of each photograph but your camera will take notes for you in a format called EXIF. You can see that data if you have Irfanview where it’s listed under EXIF or if you use Windows Photo Viewer to open images, it’s under File/Properties. If you want to open images in Windows Photo Viewer, right click on the image, and select Opens With and select Windows Photo Viewer or whatever program you do want. If the program that you want is not listed, then go to Control Panel and click on Default Programs and then on the second item Associate a type or protocol with a program. Thus you can have all .jpg images open with whatever program that you choose. You can do that for other image types as well such as .tif or .png images.


Many digital cameras have a Video Mode that lets you capture video up to the storage limits of your memory card. Read your manual to see how to set up. Find your Video Mode setting and then see how to start and stop the video. In some you just hold the Exposure button down, others may start when the Exposure button is depressed and end when it’s pressed again. But once you have it, what do you do with it? The easiest approach would be to just play it back on your computer. Hook up to a TV to see it on a larger screen. Videos can be edited in one of several video editing programs. Microsoft includes free ones with Windows; Windows 7 has Windows Live Movie Maker. You can delete and rearrange scenes, splice from other videos and do some image correction. You can also re-format videos to be in a form that you could put on a CD or DVD and play through any TV. Once you get it into the right format, you can “Burn” it to CD or DVD.


Most cameras use Secure Digital Cards to store recorded information. There are several reasons why you might want to have several such cards. One is a form of backup for your images although a more secure method should also be employed. The second reason is that putting images of a certain category on a card makes them portable and you can use them in other devices such as an automated Picture Frame. You can take them to friends’ and relatives’ homes to share with them what you have. You may need to take a card reader if they do not have one. Storage devices exist that allow you to store 8 or 10 such cards with a label to identify each one. Many need not be larger than 2 GB unless you are including large videos so cost is not great. For more storage for large videos sizes up to 32 GB are available.


Secure Digital Cards have a rating system that not all cards seem to employ. Cards can carry a number from 1 to 10 which indicates the number of megabytes per second that the card can read and store. Not much photography needs more than 1 or 2 MB/sec although videos may benefit.


If you are presenting them in a picture frame that is 640x480 pixels and the image is 3648x2736 or similar large size, most frames can handle the resizing but at the expense of some time. You can resize the images for their intended purpose using an image editing program. Irfan Skiljan’s program Irfanview that you can get here: http://www.irfanview.com/ will perform a batch conversion so that you don’t have to convert them one at a time. Resizing not only makes the images move a little faster, it saves a lot of space on the card. Irfanview is also a great program for editing images and has so many features it takes a while to see it all.


Editing images allows you to correct or improve on image contrast, brightness, color and sharpness. You can also remove parts that you don’t want, move items around, create artistic effects and add text. You can use any of dozens of programs to accomplish such corrections. Paint comes with Windows, Picasa (from Google) and Irfanview are free for the downloading. Your digital camera probably came with an editing program that you can use. In addition, there are several online programs that are free to use and very capable. Tell the program where the image you want to work on is located on your computer, work on it and save it. I would back the images up first so you can fall back on the original if you don’t like the changes that you’ve made. The programs are these: http://pixlr.com http://pixenate.com http://splashup.com http://fotoflexer.com/ . Try any or all of them. As long as you still have the original safely stored away, you can try any changes that you want just to see the effect. Remember a basic fact of computer learning: the more you play, the more you learn.

Here’s what you can do with one click in Picasa. There’s more that can be done.

 

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Using a camera to copy documents is very easy and faster than using one of the portable scanners that are so much advertized. If your camera has a Black and White setting (B&W), use that. If not, you can convert to B&W after you take the pictures. Find the Macro setting for your camera so that you can get close to the page you’re copying. If you are going to do a lot of pages, you may want to think about a fixture that will hold the camera in place. Then just photograph each page that you want. If you do not have a B&W setting on your camera, use a graphics program to convert. Increasing the contrast first may improve your results.


If you want convert the result to editable text, you can go to Google Docs if the image is a jpg, png or acrobat image. Tell Google the location of the image on your computer and Google will send back a text version. There are other ways to accomplish converting an image to text; one is to use Microsoft One Note that some of you may have. While converting images scanned from a book to text may not be very useful, consider a folder full of documents that you printed in the past before your computer crashed. You can now input any that you want to edit. You could input them all and save them to a storage device.


To help learn more about Windows, a very good source is the free newsletter, Windows Secrets. In addition to what you can learn with the newsletter, they are offering a free download of Chapter 3 of Windows 7: The Missing Manual, The chapter that they are offering covers organizing your files which, because of the Library feature makes understanding where your files are a bit diffucult. I don’t know how long this offer will last.To subscribe, go to http://windowssecrets.com .


What to do when disaster strikes.

The first step when your computer won’t start is to get out the System Repair Disk that you created when you first got your computer. You didn’t make one? We’ll cover how to do that later but first, let’s see what to do if we didn’t make one. If you have the Windows disk that installed Windows on your computer, insert the disk, start the computer and immediately press F12 a number of times to bring up the Boot Menu. When that appears select CD/DVD. Then be prepared to press a key as soon as the notice Press any key to boot from the disk drive. There will be options that appear and you want to click on Repair and then click Next and a version of Windows will appear offering many repair options. Startup Repair, System Restore, System Image Recovery, Windows Memory Diagnostics and Command Prompt. Choose the one that most nearly represents what happened to your computer. Choosing Startup Repair will repair anything that prevents your computer from starting. You can try that first and if not successful, try another. System Restore will take your computer back to the Restore Point that you choose and may get your computer started again. The problem now is to find what happened between the time of that restore point and now that caused your computer to die. Review anything that you may have done. You can install any updates and see if any of them cause a problem.


To create a System Repair Disk, in Windows 7, go to Control Panel and click on Backup and Restore and then click in the left column on Create System Repair Disk and insert a blank DVD in your disk drive. It’s also a good idea to create a System Image. You can get that at the same place as the System Repair. That will make an exact copy of everything on your hard drive exactly as it exists. It’s best to do that to a removable hard drive as it may take many DVDs to do it all. If there are serious software errors that the repair disk can’t resolve, using the System Image may be the only way out. You’ll need Backups that go back to when the Image was created to stay up-to-date so it’s a good idea to create an image often, say monthly. You can keep the previous one and erase any others so you only have to store 2 at a time. If space is limited, just save the last one. To use the repair disk, do as above for the Windows disk, pressing F12 to bring up the Boot Menu and then follow what the disk suggests. You’ll need the repair disk or the Windows Disk to install the System Image.


Our next CUG will cover backups and the many ways of doing it; online, through a network or with a removable harddrive. We’ll cover the software necessary to do the job.


Here’s a site you can have a lot of fun with and perhaps learn a little about your ancestors. It has many old newspapers that you search through. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov .


Dotty found a lot of information or her mother’s side from Vermont. We’ll check on my grandfather in Brattleboro, VT and see what turns up.


There were several articles about him; some trivial in that he entertained relatives from Detroit but more to the point was his obituary and where my grandmother went to live after he died. He was only 42 and she was stuck raising 2 kids. Lovely lady to suffer so much tragedy.