Pastfinders Computer Users Group

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

 

Scanning Your Slides Back in the olden days, people actually took pictures on film that had to be sent off to a laboratory to be processed into slides that could be viewed by projecting onto a screen. Even Kodak seems to understand that those days are over. But what do you do with the thousands of slides that you took over the years? Some scanners come with a “transparency attachment” for viewing negatives and slides. The resolution is seldom good enough to create a high quality image. There are slide scanners that can do a decent job but both methods of scanning are slow. But you probably have a high speed scanner and don’t know it. What’s it take? A slide projector, a digital camera and a white wall or a screen. There are some tradeoffs here so a bit of experimenting may be in order. In principle, you project the picture onto the screen, hold the camera close to the projector and photograph the screen. The further away the screen is, the larger, but dimmer the image will be. The closer the screen is, the smaller and brighter the picture and the chance that the screen surface my be noticeable in the image. Image size is another consideration; images on the order of 1 megapixel are about a right compromise between quality and disk space. If your camera can save them as JPEG (JPG) images, use a middle of the road compression so as not to lose too much detail. If you want the highest possible quality images, use a higher resolution and save in an uncompressed mode or the JPG with the least compression. It takes 5 megapixels to print a 10" wide image properly.

 

Adjust the camera’s zoom until you have just the image in view. This may require being slightly smaller than the image to square up the corners. It’s your choice on whether you want any of the frame to show. You can set the camera on manual focus so it won’t have to adjust for each image. You can also set the f stop and shutter speed on manual if you expect all of your slides will be uniform in brightness. However, the time it takes a camera to adjust all three of these setting is not long and using AUTO may insure more uniform exposure. So the process is “show a slide, click the camera, show a slide, click the camera”. Using a cable release on the camera will make clicking it easier and will mitigate against moving it so the image isn’t centered. You can rig up some form of fixture to keep the camera and projector together to prevent the camera from “walking”. You may want to bypass all of the vertical slides the first time through and then either rotate the slides or rotate the camera and make a second pass. You can rotate them back in your computer afterwards. One thing that can help getting the colors right is to set the WHITE BALANCE of your camera to either Tungsten (Incandescent) or Custom and set the custom for the whiteness of the screen with no image. See your camera’s instructions for how to adjust White Balance. If your camera has a RAW setting you can use that and correct the White Balance later and batch process all of your images.

 

Once you have a camera or memory card full of images, what do you do? If all of the images have the same theme such as Yellowstone, 1953, create a folder on your computer with that name and put all of the images there. Note that you can use a (.) period in a folder name with up to four characters after it as in Yellowstone.1982. If there is more than one theme, create a folder for each. View the camera or card in your computer and select images from the first theme and copy them into that theme’s folder. Repeat for each theme. Some cameras only allow you to move all of the images into your computer without being able to select what you want. In that case, when you create the theme folders, also create one called SLIDE.TEMP and dump all of the images there. Then you can select images for each theme and move them into the proper folder. If the theme and slide temp folders are in the same parent folder, open that folder and then click on overlapping rectangles in the upper right corner (between the - and the X to reduce the folder in size. Go through the same process to open the folder again and then go one step further and open the slide temp folder. Position the open folders until they are side by side. You move them by clicking on the TITLE BAR and holding down the left button as you move the mouse. You can change the size by dragging in the sides and the bottom. Then select the images for theme 1. You do that by selecting the first image in the group and if they are consecutive, hold the SHIFT key down and select the last image. Now you’ve selected all the images for that theme. If they are not consecutive, hold the CTRL key down and individually select the ones that you want by left clicking on them. After you have selected what you want, right click on one selected image and hold the right key down as you drag that image over the Image 1 folder. When that folder is highlighted, release the mouse button and you’ll be presented with a menu of what you want to do. Click on MOVE to move the files out of the old folder or COPY to copy them into the new. You can drag the files with the left mouse button but that way you either MOVE or COPY depending on what Microsoft thought was right. With the right mouse button you are in charge and not Bill Gates. Continue until you have all of your images saved in the appropriate folder. But there’s a much easier way. Use the SEND TO from the Pastfinders CD or go to www.trogsoft.com to download it. Right click on one of the selected images, click on SEND TO and then select ANY FOLDER. Browse to find the forlder you want to send the images to and then select MOVE or COPY. Cool!

 

Processing the Images

We’ll consider two programs for image processing, both are free and both are on the Pastfinders CD.

One is called Irfanview and you can download it from www.irfanview.com. The other is Picasa and you can get it from Google here http://picasa.google.com/download/ .

 

The images that you have all have a nondescript image number assigned by your camera. In either program you can do a batch rename that will better identify them. Using Picasa, open the folder containing the images that you’d like to rename. Select those that need the same description such as Thanksgiving 1988 (don’t use a period here). Press F2 or go to PICTURE/BATCH EDIT/RENAME and you’ll be asked to enter a new name. You can choose to have the date and resolution entered but the date will be today’s and won’t have much significance to the image. Repeat that for all of the images that you want to rename. 100 years from now, someone may be glad that you did. When you batch rename them, the name for each file becomes the name that you enter followed by a number except there is no number assigned to the first image. However, if you want to keep the images sorted in the order that you have them, enter the name Yellowstone1 for the first image; otherwise it will be Yellowstone and the second image will be Yellowstone 1. That may move it out of sequence. (Note correction: The first image should be Yellowstone-1 to make the rest follow in sequence. Using Yellowstone 1 forces the next to be Yellowstone 1-1.)

 

In either program there are certain things that you can do to improve the image quality. Using Picasa, lets look at a few. The basic ones are CROP, STRAIGHTEN, REDEYE, AUTO CONTRAST, AUTOCOLOR, SHARPEN, FILL LIGHT and one called I’M FEELING LUCKY. That makes a stab and making multiple adjustments. Try it. Everything that you do can be removed and when you’re all done you have the option to REMOVE ALL EDITS before you save the edits to the actual images. Select an image to edit and go to PICTURE and then VIEW AND EDIT. Note the tabs that let you select other options. The one called TUNING lets you manually adjust the items that can be automatically adjusted here. Just move the slider and view the effect. The third tab presents some effects that are more creative than they are useful for correcting flaws. Were we not trying to create the most faithful image for archival purposes we might consider some of them for their artistic effects.

 

On the same dialog box with RENAME, you’re find other editing features you can apply to all selected images. Selecting all of your images, you can apply sharpening to them all at once. Clicking on I’M FEELING LUCKY can also improve all of them; just check out what you’ve done to insure you improved the images and not degraded them. Changes won’t be made to the images until you click SAVE CHANGES when you are done. You can even close Picasa and come back later and your images won’t be altered until you tell it to.

 

Creating a CD can be done in several ways and it will take some planning if the CDs are to be subject oriented. If all you want to do is archive as many images on a CD as possible, the program that came with your CD burner might be the best bet. With it you can keep selecting files to add and you’ll get a message that a second disk will be required and a third or more if you have enough slides. You can stop after one disk and verify that the disk has what you want before you proceed. Depending on the program that you use, you may be able to include a contents menu at the beginning so that you can identify files on the disk. But you can also do it in Windows XP. Make sure that your images are in folders stored in the My Pictures folder. Select the folders that you want to copy to the CD and then click on COPY SELECTED ITEMS in the left hand pane. Select your CD burner as the drive to which to copy the files. If the CD is not FORMATTED you may have to do that first. Right click on the CD drive and select FORMAT. When that is completed you can copy the folders that you have selected to the CD. You should insure that the total size of all of the folders does not exceed 650 MB. Just point to each folder and note the size. Add them all up and see how you relate to 650 MB.

In response to a question about backing up files before Picasa changes them, when you select Save Corrections Picasa automatically backs up the original file(s) before applying the changes.

Organization

Once you have all of your slides copied to your computer you have a challenge in organizing them. They may have been organized by some system as you stored them and you may have created folders corresponding to how they were categorized.. That, however, is not the system that you have to live with. Think about all of the categories into which you could divide your images. For creating an archive of all you’ve done to be passed on to those that follow, a chronological order might be appropriate but for your own personal use you can arrange them anyway that you want. The following is suggestive and not intended to be complete but consider these categories:
Time periods as in 1950-1955; events such as weddings, birthdays, graduations, reunions, etc.; places you’ve lived; your new house; extended family; close family; kids; local trips; vacation trips such as Yellowstone, Niagra Falls, etc.;Classmates; neighbors; organizations, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
But such categories don’t have to be exclusive as they were with the slides; pictures can be included in more than one. You can take pictures of your kids from vacations, reunions, Christmas etc and COPY them to a folder called kids. Similarly, if you have a time period that includes a reunion you can include all of the reunion pictures or just the highlights. Having the ability to include a picture in more than one category is very useful but can be carried to an extreme. Plan ahead, think about how you will use them and in what form you want to pass them on.
 

System Performance

One place to go to clean out a lot of junk is where Windows Update puts uninstall files so you can back out of an update that doesn’t work. If you don’t have problems with an update go to MY COMPUTER/C:/WINDOWS. If you get a message that asks if you’re sure you want to do that, say “yes”. If you don’t see dozens of files like $Nuninstall, then go to TOOLS/FOLDER OPTIONS/VIEW and check the box SHOW HIDDEN FILES AND FOLDERS. Point to the first one and left click. Move down to the last one, hold the SHIFT key down and left click. Press the CONTROL key down and press DELETE. Gone!

 

There are some normal maintenance items that should be conducted periodically. Click on MY COMPUTER and then RIGHT CLICK on the C: drive icon. You are presented with an image depicting how much disk space is used and how much is available. Then go to the bottom of the list and click on PROPERTIES. Click first on the box labeled DISK CLEANUP. That will calculate how much disk space you can free up by dumping certain types of files. Insure that there’s a checkmark in the box next to files that you want to remove. Then click OK. If after doing that you are still short of disk space, you should consider if you have any files that are no longer required or if there are some you can archive to a CD or DVD. Below for how tto find more files). If not, you can reopen the previous window and click on COMPRESS FILES TO DAVE DISK SPACE. That may slow your computer down a little but will free up a lot of space. Note also on that page, ALLOW INDEXING SERVICE.... That is intended to improve your ability to search your disk but may slow the computer down. If yours is slow, uncheck the box and see if it speeds up. Note that certain functions in Wordperfect require that box to be checked.

 

Also in the window, there’s a tab for TOOLS. Click on that to see a selection among CHECK FOR ERRORS. DEFRAGMENT and BACKUP. The first will scan the drive a few times looking for disk errors. You can have it automatically fix any errors that it finds or you can just search for and correct bad sectors. The second item will defragment your hard drive, placing files contiguously as nearly as possible. It’s best to do all your file deletions before using defrag. The last item is not truly a backup of files but merely creates a RESTORE point to return to if problems arise in the future.

 

But there are programs that remove unnecessary files better. One is Easy Cleaner from Toni Arts (www.toniarts.com) and the other is Ccleaner (http://www.ccleaner.com Both will find files missed by the above. Both are free. As a test, I ran DISK CLEANUP to see how much space will be saved but didn’t delete any files, then ran Easy Clean and then Ccleaner and compared the results. Disk Cleanup could save 200MB, Easy Cleaner, 226MB and Ccleaner, 212MB. With Ccleaner you can select only the types of files that you want to remove by checking or unchecking boxes on the start page. Further, you can go to options and select how you want the system to perform. One useful item is the box labeled “Cookies”. Click on that and you can go through the list of cookies on your computer that you want to retain every time you run the program. Now those sites that you frequent often and trust can recognize you when you enter after you’ve deleted your cookies.

 

For a security checkup you can go to a site that the Wetterings suggested. It’s www.belarc.com . Go there and click on the box to download the ADVISOR. It will give you an inventory of your computer including many items that you never heard of before. It will also inventory your security profile. Some things it finds may be serious like not having all of Microsoft’s updates installed; others under the AUDIT section are less serious for a home computer with only one or two users. It’s somewhat daunting to see and try to understand all that it uncovers. Another Security Advisor is Microsoft’s Baseline Security Analyzer. It is designed for IT professionals but is easy to use and it tells you what you need to know. Go here and click on Download Now. http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/tools/mbsa2/default.mspx .

 

If your computer takes a long time to start, you may have too many processes being loaded at startup. Look at the system tray in the lower right to see what icons are present. Point to each one to see what it is. Make a note of any you don’t need. Click on START/RUN and type in MSCONFIG. In the dialog box, click on the STARTUP tab. Locate the processes associated with the icons that you want to remove and uncheck the box next to the process name. Processes from Microsoft and from your Virus protection software are generally needed. If you’re not sure what a process is, type the name into Google and you’ll find someone who’ll tell you whether it’s necessary or not. After you make changes here, the next time that you start your computer it will remind you that you edited the Startup Menu. Click the DON’T SHOW THIS MESSAGE AGAIN box or you’ll be perpetually hounded. Another and better way to accomplish this task is to use the UniBlue ProcessLibrary program. Go to http://www.processlibrary.com/processscan/ and click on DOWNLOAD. This program is free and it will tell you what processes are safe and what they do. However, you have to be connected to the Internet to use it. First, it lists all of your processes and provides some information on each one. You can type a process name in the SEARCH box and in the pane below the listing it will provide further details on the process that you’ve entered. You will still have to use MSCONFIG to make changes but you will have a better understanding of what each program does.