At Home with Tech

Don’t let your gadgets kill your Zen. Byte back with your inner geek!

How to Handle a Lost Email

Who has the time to process an endless avalanche of incoming emails?  So a few are bound to fall through the cracks.  The question is what to do when an important one gets lost.

Who has the time to process an endless avalanche of incoming emails? So a few are bound to fall through the cracks. The question is what to do when an important one gets lost.

Once upon a time, I would send an email to someone…
And if I didn’t receive a quick response, I’d wonder what was up.
Then if a week or two went by, I’d think, “What the #@%?!”

Of course, now I understand there’s a silent, evil force at play…

Email Overload!
Actually, there are really no bad guys here. It’s simply the result of the ever-increasing volume of emails we’ve all got to deal with, both at home and at work…

  • Whether it’s the mass of marketing emails you’ve inadvertently invited to invade your home email…
    (In store: “Sir, would you mind giving us your email address for those pair of socks you bought?”)
  • Or those pseudo-spam emails…
    (“Since you purchased a widget at our parent site, we thought you’d like to receive daily-deal emails from our seven partner sites.”
  • Or the constant chatter of your work email’s Inbox…
    (“Thank you.” Copy all. “You’re welcome.” Copy all. “Looking forward to the next project.” Copy all.)

…The plain fact is your email’s Inbox has exploded.
There’s simply too much email to completely get through in a day.

And certainly not enough time to perform perfect email maintenance by organizing your important emails into folders and deleting the rest.

Who among us still starts their day with zero emails in their Inbox?
(You there… in the back… put your hand down!)

Start Digging
So more often than not, I find myself searching through old emails down the steep slope of my Inbox to find what I need.

Usually, it’s simple enough. Search by ‘From’ or by a ‘Subject’ string.
No, it’s not the most efficient use of your time, but it usually gets the job done.

Typically, the emails you need are relatively current. But if you’ve got to drill deeper into your past and further down the email mountain, you could find yourself in big trouble….

Lost but Not Forgotten
I was driving to work last week, and going through a little mental exercise emptying my head of the logistical issues for the day ahead. Occasionally,  this creates more space for my mind to do a little productive wandering. And sometimes, a good idea pops into my head.  Now and then, I remember something I’ve forgotten to do.

This time, my noggin reminded me I had to respond to an email… an email that was at least a couple weeks old.

My delay in itself didn’t reflect a huge oops on my part. It was one of those emails that didn’t require an immediate turnaround. But I needed to get to it eventually. And two weeks is pushing it, no matter what email etiquette you follow.

The email in question contained the name and phone number of someone I had committed to calling. Suddenly, I felt an adrenaline rush.

Where was that email?!
It was buried.

Deep.

And guess what?
I had forgotten the name of the sender.

The Rescue Begins
So now what?

Quickly, I tried to remember what the ‘Subject’ was.
All I had to work with was I knew it was about setting up a meeting.

“Meeting.”
Hmmm…. That’s a long shot. How many hundreds of unsorted emails contain that word in the title? But I typed it in anyway.

Pop.

Whoah. There it was!!
(Apparently “Meeting” isn’t such a popular title after all.)
Still, I’d call this an early holiday gift from the email gods.

And so I finally responded and successfully masked my little faux pas.

Flag It!!
Of course, one simple way to hold onto an old, unsorted email is to flag it with a color stamp. That way, at least it will stand out.

But you’ve got to use this technique sparingly or else your email program will start to look like one of my son’s coloring books.

Send a Reminder
So what’s the takeaway here…?

I’m losing your emails.
You’re losing my emails.
We’re all losing emails!

The solution: If you don’t hear back, send out a reminder email!

What?!
How rude is that?!

It’s not inappropriate at all. I’d say you’re being helpful!
Just pen your message politely.

And I think it’s okay to reframe your messaging:

  • Add a little more urgency
  • State specific needs more clearly
  • Add why you require a more timely response

Even if your original email didn’t get lost, some of the critical details might not have been correctly absorbed.

And here’s the best part:
Reminder emails get the job done!

Can I let you in on a little secret?
Remember that lingering ‘meeting’ email I lost and then found?

It was his reminder email!

Why iPhone Slow-Motion Videos Need the iMovie App

iMovie on your iPhone can lock in that selected area of slow motion you want to keep from that otherwise boring slo-mo clip you just shot.

iMovie on your iPhone can lock in that selected area of slow motion you want to keep from that otherwise boring slo-mo clip you just shot.

When iMovie came out as an app, I scoffed at what I believed was a preposterous idea that complicated video editing software could successfully be shrunk into an iPhone. I come from a world of multi-core, decked-out computer monsters that often ‘render’ their imagery overnight to crank out their completed videos on deadline.

I viewed the iMove app as little more than a toy.

Then, Apple gave it to me for free as part of my new iPhone 6 Plus purchase.

So I had it.
But I would not open it.

Then, I discovered the wonders of my iPhone’s slow motion video capture capabilities.

And I was especially taken with my iPhone’s ability to isolate a particular portion of a slo-mo clip and then only play that part back in slow motion.
(The rest runs normally.)

Some may consider this little more than a parlor trick, but I really like it…

Now, you can utilize slow motion only when a particular moment needs it.
(Because a long and boring slow motion clip is pretty painful to endure!)

How to Lock In Selected Slo-Mo
But there was a problem…
I couldn’t export the clip to my iMac and retain the selected slow motion.
Yes, my computer accepted the clip recorded at 240 frames per second.
Yes, QuickTime offered me the choice to play the clip either at normal speed or in slow motion on my Mac.
But the ‘selected slo-mo’ clip I had created in my iPhone had vanished.
That metadata didn’t make it through the transfer…

Sure, I could recreate the effect on my computer with editing software, but that’s doing the work all over again!

The question was how to lock in all that work before doing the export…

iMovie is Cooler Than You Think
So I looked again at the iMovie app on my iPhone.
(I think it winked at me…)

I opened it up…did a quick tour…and imported the clip in question.
Yep, it played back just the way I liked it…

Cool.

Then I realized I could simply export the clip out of iMovie in its native resolution to lock in the selected slow-motion moment.
You can save it right back to your Camera Roll or to iTunes. AirDrop is another option…

Using iMovie in this way is indeed an extra step…. But it’s not that arduous.
And it solved my dilemma!

Then, did I lightly touch ‘export’ and chalk up another minor victory for humans co-existing with their tech?

Not quite yet…

Taking iMovie Out for a Halloween Test Drive
I decided to continue my journey down the tech rabbit hole…

The clip in question was one of three I had recorded of my son having fun on Halloween night as a pirate. All three had been shot in slow motion…more as part of an experiment than anything else.

I performed some selected slow-motion tweaks on the other two clips, then brought them into iMovie as well. I quickly drizzled some dissolves between the clips, imported a Halloween night photo for the top of the video and blended in a Ken Burns’ zoom/pan.
Then I typed in an opening title, selected a pre-existing iMovie ditty for a background music track, and faded the ending to black.

Huh.

It was twenty minutes later.
(much of that was looking at the app for the first time)

…And I had easily created this cool little video.

The Evolution of Video Editing
So I am happy to report you can teach an old dog new tricks.

No, I’m not going to forget about using uber-powerful Mac Pros in favor of the iMovie app on your iPhone.
But indeed, I finally recognize there’s a lot you can do on the fly editing short videos on your iPhone or iPad.
(And another reason I’m happy I supersized it to the iPhone 6 Plus.)

If I’m not the last human on earth to have this epiphany… you should know you’re carrying a legitimate video editing station in your pocket right now.
(And it also makes phone calls.)

Unbelievable…

Three Tips to Better Use Your iPhone 6 as a Camcorder

On our flight south, my new iPhone is about to confront its greatest challenge yet: How to slow down the best moments from our vacation…

On our flight south, my new iPhone is about to confront its greatest challenge yet: How to slow down the best moments from our vacation…

My family and I just got back from a mini respite to Miami, and again, I forced my iPhone 6 Plus to do some of the heavy lifting… this time on the video-taking front.

It’s already passed muster snapping photos.
So how did it hold up as a pocket camcorder?

The short answer: Not too badly.

No, it doesn’t have quite as wide a focal length as your typical point and shoot lens… So you can’t see as much at close range.
(29mm Vs. 25mm on the Canon Powershot ELPH 340)

No, it doesn’t have an optical zoom…

But it does have a few tricks up its sleeve that can maximize its ability to shoot some cool HD video clips for you. And these have to do with controlling video frame rates.

Here are three tips to get the most out of your iPhone 6’s inner camcorder:

Tip #1
Shoot at 60 FPS To Capture Crisper Action
In addition to the typical 30 frames per second shooting mode, this iPhone also offers the option to shoot at 60 fps.
(which you need to enable in ‘Settings’)

Now, first off… Jamming more frames into a video doesn’t always make it better.

Some folks talk about 30 fps being too jerky when played back,
which is why 60 fps is preferable.
But for me, that’s only an issue when you’re trying to capture fast action or panning the shot around really quickly.

I wouldn’t write off 30 fps. It’s still very much today’s standard.
And for many situations, I bet you’ll be just fine sticking with 30 fps.
Always hedging by sticking with 60 fps will just suck down your iPhone’s limited memory.
(Remember, the 60 fps mode creates larger files!)

And don’t forget that filmmakers love the ‘cinematic’ look of 24 fps.
If you fashion yourself as the next indie darling…
the hyper-clear reality of 60 fps may not be for you.

Tip #2
Only Use 240 FPS Slow Motion When You Really Need It
If you like slow motion, you’re going to love that the 6 and 6 Plus can now record at an incredible 240 frames per second. This ‘slo-mo’ is twice as slow as what the iPhone 5S can generate.

240 fps?!
That’s great, right?

Yes, but the videos play back really slowly.
(That’s the point!)

But in many situations, you may feel it’s too slow. To capture a normal moment in time, I think this enhanced mode can be overkill.

On Halloween, I tried shooting a video of my little pirate ‘trick or treating’ at one house. And later, when I played back the video, it looked like the falling candy wouldn’t reach the bottom of the bag until Thanksgiving!

I would choose this super-slow motion mode only to capture a short moment of very fast action.

Otherwise, I recommend normally sticking with the ‘less advanced’ 120 fps mode to slow down your video.

Tip #3
After You Shoot, Isolate Your ‘Money Shot’ and Then Give It Slo-Mo
That said, once you’ve shot your slow motion video, you actually have the opportunity to choose which part of your clip plays back in slow motion, and which part runs at normal speed.

What?!

That’s right….
In playback mode, there are two slider controls on the top of the video that let you isolate a particular moment that looks best in slow motion. The rest of your clip plays at normal speed.

It’s a ‘professional-looking’ post-production trick that can negate the concern about 240 fps being too slow.

My New Time Machine…
The iPhone 6’s flexibility in shooting at different frame rates while recording HD video is a neat feature that many of today’s ‘more advanced’ point and shoot cameras still don’t offer.

But beware… today’s tips all focus on a central theme:
Use these new tricks sparingly.
When you do, you’ll be really psyched.

No, I don’t think my new iPhone 6 Plus is a magic bullet for all my video recording needs. But it has suddenly given me the powerful capability to slow down linear time.

And as a father of an active four-year-old boy… I’ll take it!

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