Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

How To Digitize Your Old (Analog) Movies, Music, and Photos

Digitize Your Analog Life

In researching a client’s question about scanning documents using Optical Character Recognition, (that led to yesterday’s “quick reco” article) I came across a series of articles by Jon L. Jacobi, published by PCWorld, which is a comprehensive How To for converting your analog media into high-quality digital files.

Digitize Your Analog Life includes recommendations for the hardware and/or software you (might) need to get the job done. Here are the articles by category:

  • Digitize Your Music »
    In my lifetime, music has been delivered on vinyl, cassettes, eight-track tapes, CDs, and audio DVDs. How do I listen to it now? Usually with a PC or a smartphone, and occasionally with an MP3 or other media player. I downloaded much of that music or ripped it from CDs, but the rest of it came from LPs and cassettes.
  • Digitize Your Movies »
    Analog movies can be the easiest–or the hardest–medium to digitize, depending on the format you’re working with. While older camcorder and video formats such as 8mm and Hi8 or VHS and Betamax tapes are easy to transfer, digitizing film can be difficult at best.
  • Digitize Your Pictures »
    “Film degrades with time and exposure to the elements, albeit far more slowly than you might imagine. Fortunately for posterity’s sake, it’s easy to digitize and even restore some of the original luster of your film, using today’s flatbed and film scanners, plus appropriate software.”
    [related: How To Scan Slides]

  • Digitize Your Documents »
    Scan your documents into your hard drive. We have tips on scanners, OCR software, Web OCR, and converting your books to e-books.”

There are many advantages to digital over analog, and let’s face it, it is getting harder to find working betamax machines, and needles for the phonograph… If you are ready to take on the project of converting your old media into digital format, reading Jon’s tips are a great place to start.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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May 3, 2011 Posted by | advice, computers, Digital Images, digital Video, how to, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

General advice for purchasing a new digital camera*

I have been receiving e-mails here at Tech–for Everyone that have been regarding my recent article about the fella who went traveling, and for the first time left his 35mm gear at home. (He only carried a digital camera.)

These e-mails have been asking me which digital camera it was. The reason they wrote is, they want to buy the same one. I had very carefully avoided naming a specific make or model of digital camera, as (believe it or not) I am not in the business of promoting sales.

But I understand perfectly why people want some advice when it comes to buying a digital camera. There is a whole gaggle of them to choose from– an overwhelming variety.. and when you start shopping, it’s easy to become confused by the jargon.
A “mega” pixel is better than an ordinary, everyday “pixel”.. right? (You bet it is. It contains more vitamins and minerals.)

A long, long, time ago I wrote a three-part advice series on buying a new computer, and today I am going to reiterate a bit of advice from there– when buying a digital camera, you have to hold it in your hands. The “right” camera for you will just, well, “feel right”. If you keep accidentally pushing a button, or put your thumb right on the viewer screen.. that’s not good.

Tip of the day: General advice for purchasing a new digital camera.

* Optical zoom is better than digital zoom. Make sure that the “zoom” feature of your camera is handled by a moving lens. Digital zooming is okay in very small amounts, but the way it works will cause funny-looking “pixilation” when really put to work.
* You want image stabilization. Image stabilization is in my opinion simply a “must have”; fortunately, almost every manufacturer provides it. I won’t spend time, here, describing the different types. If you’re curious, click the link.
* The Megapixel. Folks, there is a lot of confusion regarding the camera jargon word “megapixel”. A higher megapixel number does not necessarily equate with “sharper image” or “clearer picture“.. in fact, they usually have nothing to do with each other.
Megapixels refers to the image (data) size and determines how big an enlargement you can make before you start to experience distortions (think of it as being a bit like film sizes). If the largest prints you ever make are 5 x 7, a three-to-four Megapixel camera is all you need. A 10 Megapixel camera is overkill for the vast majority of uses, and it will simply fill your memory card faster, with fewer shots. (But, you can make poster-size prints.)
* LCD “viewfinder”. I think it is important to have a manual viewfinder, as well as the LCD screen.. but that is personal opinion. In terms of LCD, the two factors to consider are placement and size. It should be big enough that you can see what it is showing when you hold the camera away from your body, and, it should be positioned on the camera in such a way as to not cause you to hold your hand in a funny/odd way so that you can see it.
Important: The LCD screen not only needs to be large enough to see, but it needs to be bright enough that you can see the preview when you’re outdoors in sunshine. If the image looks kind of dim in the store…
* And I’d like to repeat, your camera should just feel right in your hand.
* Don’t buy features you won’t use. If you are not a photography buff, and don’t want to memorize a 200-page owners manual, then you don’t want to buy a D-SLR; you want a “point-and-shoot”, (You won’t impress anybody with it anyway) and you don’t need 24 “settings” if you’re only going to use one. Right? Right.

Today’s free link: If you are like the fella I mentioned in the original articles, and like to read reviews and technical specs, or if you just want more information about digital photography (maybe it’s your hobby), check out

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.jaanix post to jaanix

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November 24, 2008 Posted by | advice, Digital camera, shopping for, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Mondays: love ’em or leave ’em

One of the advantages you will gain when you elect me Exalted Supreme Dictator is that one of my first acts will be to abolish DST (daylight savings time), because I don’t like it.. and we don’t need it anymore. The primary purpose of DST is to to get the highest possible output from our factories in times of war. But we don’t have factories any more. All of our manufacturing factories are in China. All we do is sell (and buy) things.. and (rarely) service things.. which we do around the clock already.
There ain’t one good reason to keep messing with the clocks and I would end the practice (I would also abolish “erectile dysfunction” and “feminine hygiene” advertising on television) so remember folks, vote early and vote often.

Complete change of subject: High Tech changes everything. I was chewing the fat with a friend who is thinking about buying a new camera for an upcoming trip he’s taking (he’s one of those fellows who researches the heck out of any ‘major’ purchase and reads every review). This is the first time he’s thinking about buying a digital camera “good enough” that he can leave his film cameras at home.
He told me of something I had predicted, but had missed in the news– Kodak no longer processes Kodachrome. (In fact, I could only locate two places that still do, and one of them is in Switzerland.)

I have not shared this fact with you before, Dear Reader, but in one of my former lives I was a photography student. I have spent countless hours in darkrooms, and I know a thing or two about film. For instance, I can tell you that Kodachrome was Kodak’s flagship product, and the film by which other films were compared. Apparently, Kodachrome is not dead.. but it’s on life support.. and the Chaplain’s standing by.

Is it safe to say that film, in general, is on the way out? Just for giggles, I looked to see what my old camera gear is selling for on eBay. Now, my stuff isn’t shabby, mind you, and I have all the extras an aspiring photographer would want.. but it is all 35mm film gear and it is not worth squat. Cheaper to keep it than to try to unload it, practically-speaking.
I look back with semi-fond memories of my time spent in darkrooms (a nostalgia for my lost youth) but let’s be practical and realistic: processing film requires odoriferous and bio-unfriendly chemicals (which get rinsed down the drain) and it’s expensive. Even “fast” processing takes one hour, and slides (remember Family Slide-shows?) take days. Going digital does away with all that. Digital photography (with very few exceptions) is better in every way than film.. and you don’t have to pretend to be a photographer to be antisocial and hide yourself away any more.. being a shut-in is ‘normal’ now-a-days.

Complete change of subject: Speaking of nostalgia for my lost youth.. I read in the paper that Gary Gygax had passed away. You may not have heard of Gary, but you probably have heard of his invention — a little game called Dungeons & Dragons.

Over the years “D and D” had become synonymous with “geeky dork”, and people who got really involved with the game were considered to be.. well, um, er.. rejects. In our social consciousness, when we think of computer nerds (aka “geeks”) it is fairly common also think of D&D, and Star Trek. (There are, in fact, valid reasons for this.)
As it is that I am a computer nerd, I suppose it won’t shock you to learn, Dear Reader, that many life times ago I got into D&D in a big way, and spent countless hours “fantasy role-playing”. I was a durned-good Dungeon Master, if I do say so myself. It was the game of my generation.

Gary (and his friends) invented the first game that you didn’t play on a board (aka “boardgame”), but played with a pencil and paper, 20-sided dice, and your imagination. Dungeons & Dragons became a phenomenon, and changed the way we play games forever. Its legacies are still with us today in a whole genre of games and video games.. most notably in the enormously popular MMORPG World of Warcraft.. which has several million players, located all over the world.

So, if you pass your company’s IT dork in the hallways today, and he seems a little down, it may be that he’s in mourning. I know I am. (Yes. I know. Not all IT dorks are male. I’m just tired of typing “he or she”.)

Tip of the day: It has been a month since I have reminded you, Dear Reader, to defrag your machine. Eliminating your file system’s fragmentation will give you a peppier machine. For my How To on defragmentation, click here.

Today’s free link: Every now and then it can be handy to be able to draw 3D versions of your home.. and maybe move the furniture around to see what a redo of your decor will look like. There are many 3D architect programs available, but an excellent free one is Sweet Home 3D available from the good folks at SourceForge.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

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March 10, 2008 Posted by | Gaming, tech | , , , , , , | Leave a comment