Patty Goes Geeky

A techno odyssey

Archive for January 2011

One-stop digging

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My good-reporter friend, Alex Johnson of MSNBC, has created a utilitarian site for doing all kinds of basic research. It’s worth bookmarking.

Written by geekypatty

January 30, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Resources

Wonderful how-to site for labeling photos

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OMG, if you’re a newbie at managing family photos generally and labeling digital photos specifically, have I got a site for you: Digital Cameras and Genealogy.

Chimpanzeepatty has been (mostly) diligent about captioning photos as I’ve been scanning. But as Ken Watson notes, if your goal is preserving and sharing these ephemeral documents widely and for the long haul, you are wise to embed the I.D.s into the photo in a non-proprietary format that’s likely to be around decades from now. So Geekypatty gave it a try.

Fortunately, my free picture software in Windows and in Picasa both allow me to do this. Watson tells how. In Windows, for instance, the IPTC/XMP open standard data can be entered by right-clicking on the photo, opening “Properties,” opening “Details,” and entering the I.D. under “Title.” To make sure it’s there, open the photo in your viewer, “save as” a new file name and then open to confirm the name is embedded. Like this, when you mouse over the image:

Oops, I just discovered that my version of Picasa probably needs to be upgraded to make this work properly. But, scarred as I am from my technological adventures, I first did a paranoid Google search about upgrading to 3.8 and the effect on photos currently stored in version 3 and discovered, sure enough, there is a risk of compromisng what you’ve got and having to revert to a backup.

Uh, cancel. Back away from that upgrade.

I solved the problem for this purpose by specifying that the blog photo open in Windows sted Picasa. But now — sigh — my to-do list includes researching how to upgrade Picasa safely.

Written by geekypatty

January 19, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Posted in Blog, Photo, Resources, Software

A number conundrum

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Another item from Margaret’s book project. Goal: To have an unnumbered insert section of glossy photo pages in the middle of the numbered pages of text in a single document file. Problem: Word insists on numbering pages sequentially. Solution: Never found it and after an hour or two of trying, ran out of time. I had to ask the printer to insert the photo pages by hand.

I was perfectly willing to number/not number the pages manually in Word. Nope.

Judging by my Google search, it’s a common frustration. Microsoft offers page-numbering help. But I couldn’t make it work. Worse, I was jeopardizing my proofed layout on deadline by tinkering with the footers.

The answer apparently lies in defining the text in sections, which I learned to do, but I was stymied by how to get the numbering of the third section (the second half of the text) to start with the correct (continued) number on a right-hand page. Perhaps the answer lies in this explanation.

Or perhaps it doesn’t. I had conducted a cost-benefit analysis while banging my head against a wall, and determined that whatever extra I would have to pay for the printer to hand-insert unnumbered photo pages into 35 books was cheaper than the time, risk and frustration I was experiencing with something that ought to have been so simple. I’m sorry to report I gave up.

Written by geekypatty

January 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Software

PDF: the “d” stands for damn; don’t ask about the “f”

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In my continuing campaign to clean up the backlog of items on skills I learned in doing my mom’s book, here’s one on saving a Word file as a PDF. PDF stands for Portable Document File, not Piss Damn etc. Although I was using the latter words substantially more than the former as I wrestled the book into being.

My very helpful printer, Steve at Sir Speedy, wanted the book sent to him as a PDF using the Acrobat “press quality” setting. I’d certainly read PDFs before, and scanned documents in that format before, but I’d never created one. Turns out it’s easy. Word Help told me how. First it said to install Adobe Acrobat. As noted below, that’s another item.

In your Word document, click the top-left colorful Office button, and go to “Save As.” Select the PDF option, enter a file name and under “Optimize,” specify whether you need the space-hog print quality or the less demanding online version. Oh, and the thing I often forget to do: Under “Favorite Links” in the message box, be sure you spec where you want the PDF stored so you later don’t have to go hunting through your computer for it while saying things like “piss,” “damn,” etc. Open “Options” at the bottom, and fill it in. Click OK and click “Publish.”

Pretty darn fast.

Written by geekypatty

January 15, 2011 at 5:19 pm


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Two posts today, making up for lost time.

Santa (a k a) Mike got me a new camera for Christmas, replacing the ancient Kodak EasyShare that was my first foray into idiot-proof point-and-shoot photography. Familiarity, I’m afraid, bred contempt. My new one, a Canon PowerShot A3100, is not exactly going to win admiring glances from any halfway decent photographer, but according to the reviews, it is good for under a buck-fifty and about all the camera I will need for taking pictures on vacation.

The double X-chromosome dictating that I read the owner’s manual, I’ve been following along and taking practice shots. In the process, I retrieved a memory card from the small basket of mostly abandoned technology (there are boxes and boxes in our house) and decided to give it a New Year clean-out. Here are the cords I untangled:

Why are there three identical sets of earbuds? What Sanyo gadget did the adaptor belong to? Does that big-ass adaptor thing go with the soon-to-be-donated Kodak camera dock? And finally, how many other households have similar wads of cables? Does anybody, anywhere, want these, or will they end up in landfills to be puzzled over millennia from now by more advanced life forms?

Back to playing with my new camera. Which came with two new sets of cables.

Written by geekypatty

January 1, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Posted in Misc Tech, Photo

An immersion in conversion

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One offshoot of the book project was creating CDs of my mother and my Aunt Louise reminiscing about their childhoods. Their taped conversations were part of the source material for the book. Because my aunt’s eyesight doesn’t allow her to read, I wanted to take something for her to listen to as she recuperated in a rehab center. The conversations needed editing, which meant converting the original audiotape cassettes to digital.

Rather like memories of childbirth, the pain (or as our Lamaze instructor optimistically called it, “discomfort”) of the process has faded in my mind compared to my delight in the product. But let’s see if I can recall how it happened:

As always, I started with internet research and a smidgen of knowledge (in this case, that Audacity was the editing program of choice from folks in my orbit). I mashed together several sites’ instructions, but leaned pretty heavily on Audacity’s. I got a Radio Shack 3.5mm stereo cable with two male ends (insert Jenna joke here) to link my player to my computer, and encountered my first duh moment: I was trying to link the cassette recorder (which after all, does play the tape) to the computer. That doesn’t work. Why, I have no idea.

I needed a player, which necessitated a trip north to the cabin to retrieve a boombox. Back home, I was faced with a dilemma: I was supposed to plug one jack into the computer’s “input” port, but — I discovered when I couldn’t find one — not all laptops have one. And there were dire warnings about what could happen if I used the laptop’s mic port and blew out the computer’s sound capability. I chose, paranoidly, to go ahead and use it.

Somewhere in all this, I had followed instructions to download Audacity and LAME. I do not know if I ever used LAME — it does something that Audacity can’t related to exporting MP3 files. But I did use Audacity, or at least taught myself just enough of its rudimentary tools, to control the volume and delete unwanted gaps and comments. Then I burned the edited audio to disks. And by pure luck, I found a small $1 Walkman at a garage sale so my aunt could play them.

I can’t begin to capture how truncated a description this is of my trial-and-error process. When I ran out of swear words, I transported myself into a zen place and just kept redoing and researching and trying something else.

Every second was worth it as I sat by my aunt’s bed. Headphones on, eyes closed, she was transported from a nursing-home room she shared with a stranger to the childhood she shared with my mom. “That’s right,” she murmured as she listened to the conversation none of us in the room could hear. I think my mom heard it, though.

Written by geekypatty

January 1, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Audio, Misc Tech, Resources