Patty Goes Geeky

A techno odyssey

Archive for the ‘Resources’ Category

Excellent resource/wonderful time sucker

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Alex Johnson has “cleaned up and updated” his Journalists’ Quick Reference Page. I think you’ll find it useful, and also find it difficult to resist entering something into one of those boxes he’s collected in this one-stop research resource, just to see. On this particular day in history, for instance, I learn that in 1915 a Mr. Chubb purchased Stonehenge for the equivalent of $11,500 as a present for his wife. Bookmarking this baby, for sure.


Written by geekypatty

September 21, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Posted in Resources

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

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

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

The book — Margaret’s book — is done

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There are probably dozens of pent-up tech posts related to this project, most of which I’ve forgotten over the months. I learned so much, much of it self-taught and the rest due to the kindness, or at least tolerance, of the cadre of tech-sperts I call on when I’m stuck. One of them, John the Metro bus driver, wishes I would quit describing my relief that if I get hit by a bus, at least this book is done. Isn’t there some other way I could phrase my demise, my offended driver-brother wonders. But as usual, I digress. I must credit my sister, Becky, with the lioness’ share of getting our mother’s memoir out of the computer and into print.

I have broken a cardinal rule of blogging, which is to keep putting up fresh posts. I have a lot of items to catch up on, and plan to. “Much Abides” was more important. If I get hit by a … Segway, I doubt my last thought would be, “Damn, I hadn’t posted on Patty Goes Geeky recently.”

So, let’s get started. Most fresh in my mind is a recommendation of Sir Speedy as the printer. I wanted perfect-bound (like paperback books) rather than the cheaper-looking coil or tape binding I could get at FedEx, formerly known as Kinko’s. Steve Michael at the Georgetown Sir Speedy was very patient with an amateur placing an order for 35 copies, when by the looks of things Sir Speedy is much more oriented to business publications. He explained that I wanted my photo scans at 600 dpi (dots per inch) for best reproduction (an item is coming about that), that I should upload the book in three segments so the photos would fall in the middle (which I couldn’t do because I could not figure out how to break Word’s automatic page-numbering function — another item) so they did it by hand, how to design the front and back covers to allow for binding, etc. The print quality was first-rate and the delivery was timely. I have a newly reinforced respect for the designers who were my colleagues at The Times. I never heard any of them swear as much as I did over layout (several more items coming on that).

The cost was about $14 per book, just a few dollars more than the cheaper binding. Worth it.

There is something about holding Margaret’s printed book in my hands that seems immensely more right than posting the text online, even though that might happen at some point. She was a remarkable woman. And now it’s been documented.

Written by geekypatty

December 31, 2010 at 11:58 am

Posted in Blog, Resources

PDQ item on PDFs

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I have a ton of stored-up items about skills I have acquired, or sort of acquired, from the deadline-driven race to finish my mom’s book. Until I get that book done, I wasn’t planning to post all the tech things I’ve learned. But this is fast.

If you need to transfer an image from a PDF, here’s the how-to from Adobe Reader Help:

“Use the Snapshot tool to copy pictures from a PDF.

1. Choose Tools > Select & Zoom > Snapshot Tool Snapshot tool.
2. Drag a rectangle around the image you want to save, and then release the mouse button.

The selection is automatically copied to the clipboard, and you can choose Edit > Paste in another application to paste the copied image into another document.”

That’s assuming you’ve installed Adobe Reader. But that’s an item for another time.

Written by geekypatty

December 1, 2010 at 12:06 pm