At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Category: travel

How to Quickly Convert Old Slides to Digital

A little film to digital converter can easily bring new life to old slides like this 1978 photo of my parents in Greece.

People ask me how I’ve been doing since my father passed away last month. Well, truthfully, I haven’t had much time to really process it. I’m not sure exactly how I’m doing. These weeks have really been more about what I’ve been doing.

I’ve been spending most of my free time clearing out my dad’s apartment. And while one might say that’s a tactic of psychological avoidance (and I’m sure it is), I still have to do it.

Yes, it’s been somewhat overwhelming. It’s more than simply going through his belongings and deciding what to save. I quickly realized that I needed to go through the same exercise for some of my mom’s things that my father saved (or never addressed). And so you don’t think I’m being judgmental, I’m also faced with going through my own stuff I abandoned decades ago.

I’ve quickly realized that maintaining a sense of organization is critical to this overall process. Throwing things in a box and simply moving it to my own home is a half-baked strategy. There’s only so much available space.

I know I need to break through my inner grief and the urge to save as a counter against my loss, and instead really consider the future value of these items.

The Forgotten Photo Collection
Of course, I saved all of the photos I found. Many will go through a digitizing project to integrate into my larger family photo archive.

But then I uncovered a forgotten photo collection. Deep in the back of a closet lived 12 boxes of old 35mm slide carousels. Yes, for several years, my father shot photos that turned into slides. Remember those slides that could be viewed by projecting them onto a screen with a clunky projector? Yep. That’s what my dad had.

So I popped a couple of those filled-up carousel boxes into a bag, brought them back home and placed them on a shelf.

And then I thought about housing all of these boxes. I asked myself why I would want to keep the carousels. Sure, the boxes provided pure organization and safety for those slides. But I was never going to use the carousels. I needed to extract the slides from the remaining carousels and just bring the slides home. Those slides were like negatives that simply required digital conversion. I just had to find a method to do that…

Wolverine Data F2D Titan Film to Digital Converter
So I looked online and quickly found a variety of devices on the market that will convert old slides to digital files. Some are more high-end than others. I just needed a basic conversion. Nothing too fancy.

I decided to go with the Wolverine Data F2D Titan Film to Digital Converter. It’s compact, easy to use and $150 at B&H Photo.

I also picked up some compact Print File Slide Storage Boxes to put the slides in.

First Use
I powered up the F2D Titan and got to work with the first batch of slides from my parents’ 1978 cruise vacation in Greece.

It’s a straight-forward process. You slip your slides into a mini light tray, and then you press a button to take a picture of the side. The Wolverine creates jpegs with plenty of resolution for me. (5472×3648) and between 4-5 MBs in size. It has a small amount of internal storage, but the better process is to pop in an SD card, which is what I did. You can make color/brightness adjustments if you choose, but I decided to do all of that in Adobe Lightroom. It’s faster.

The Wolverine is perfect for my project. The image conversions look good. The process is quick, and the Titan’s footprint is small.

New Views
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen many of these family slides before, and it feels pretty remarkable to view these images of my parents.

It’s almost reality-bending for me, as I integrate these moments into my larger world-view of my family.

Find the Time
This is all great, but you might be wondering how I’m going to find the time to convert hundreds of slides while I’m also going through hundreds of old photos and digitizing those? And clearing out my dad’s place. And handling the rest of my life.

That’s a good question.

What I do know is every time I digitize three or four old photos or slides and add them to my family photo archive, I feel a warmth that fuels me for what may otherwise be a cold day ahead.

It takes about 15-20 minutes.

I figure if I can regularly carve out that time during my early mornings, that could actually help in my healing process. (Plus, it breaks down a massive project into achievable little pieces.)

Maintaining Ownership
So that’s what I’m doing. Yes I know I could pay a service to do all of this digital conversion, but I want to do it myself. Plus, I know I won’t need to digitize every old slide and photo. And only I can make that decision.

If I’m going to first look at every slide to decide its fate, it doesn’t take that much more time to slide it into the Wolverine converter and create the jpeg.

Don’t Wait
Family history is important. I don’t want to just save these photos and slides. I want them to be a part of my story. No, I shouldn’t have waited this long, but I’m glad I still have the opportunity to bring them forward into the future…

Pair a Bluetooth Keyboard to your Smartphone for your Next Zoom Meeting

If you need to take copious notes on your smartphone during a Zoom meeting, here’s why you may want to add a physical keyboard to the equation.

It’s easy to forget the power and flexibility of our smartphones; often the only limiting factor is the compact size. Yes, the smaller screen is sometimes difficult to work with compared to a laptop. But for me, it’s the miniature keyboard that can be infuriating. It’s simply really hard to type fast.

Recently, I flew to the West Coast on a business trip, and for an hour on one evening, I needed to step away and jump on a personal Zoom call and take notes for the community group.

My first thought was to pack my personal laptop or iPad for the task. But then I looked at my iPhone and wondered if it could actually handle the exercise.

Of course, the Zoom meeting part was easy. It was the simultaneous note taking that would be the challenge. So I tested it out…

Working with Zoom and Microsoft OneNote Simultaneously
I used the Microsoft OneNote app on my iPhone for the note-taking part, and it interfaced just fine with the Zoom app. I simply swiped out of the Zoom meeting and then worked in OneNote. (The Zoom meeting still shows up in a small window.)

Yes, I could tap…tap…tap my notes. But it was not nearly as fast as I knew I would need.

I required a real keyboard. And then it came to me… What about a Bluetooth keyboard?

A Multiversal Solution?
Using a Bluetooth keyboard with an iPad is common, but trying the same trick with a tiny iPhone feels somewhat absurd. Who have you ever seen do that???

Though you might have spotted it while traveling through some other part of the multiverse, some crazy old-school blogger in this reality was now going to give it a try.

Logitech Keys-to-Go Bluetooth Keyboard
While there are a few choices out there, I ended up going with the Logitech Keys-to-Go Bluetooth Keyboard… mostly because it’s featured on Apple’s website. I figured it must work properly if Apple is pushing it, right? (Spoiler alert: The two devices pair just fine, though you do have to push a little harder on the Logitech’s keys.)

At the time of this post, this keyboard was on sale
at Logitech’s website for $49.99.

It’s also on Amazon for the same price.

Click.

A Few Optional Accessories
When it was time to do my Zoom meeting in the field with my new keyboard, I must admit, I had also brought along a little more gear to facilitate a smoother experience.

  • I had my small Joby tripod with smartphone grip to mount my iPhone a little higher up. ( I didn’t want the shot pointing up my nose.) The taller positioning also made it easier to read the screen as I typed away.
  • To ensure I wouldn’t run out of juice, I plugged my iPhone into a little portable power (my Anker battery), as a wall plug wasn’t nearby.
  • And of course, I wore my Apple AirPods.
  • My multitasking iPhone stunt went off without a hitch, but if you strip away the optional tech, just the iPhone and Bluetooth keyboard will certainly get the job done.

Add this Technological Distinctiveness to your Own
Not having to pack an extra computer when flying is a game changer. A slim Bluetooth keyboard is hardly a noticeable add to your carry-on luggage, and it’s not an expensive piece of tech you have to worry about being stolen.

It may not be an intuitive pairing, and the tech form factor certainly looks clunky and somewhat absurd (“Star Trek” Borg-like).

That said, adding a physical keyboard to the much smaller iPhone does facilitate much faster typing speeds. So give your thumbs a rest!

I have now happily assimilated this technological distinctiveness.

Borg Barrett transmission ends now.

The Secret to a Happier Commute

Rushing through Grand Central Terminal is a tell-tale sign that your early morning hours could have gone better. Here’s what I always do to help ensure my commute to New York City gets off to a smooth start.

The last couple of times I met up with a group of colleagues after work, someone was in desperate need of a battery to charge up one of their digital devices. I was happy to offer a quick fix by loaning them my handy-dandy Anker Power Bank, which I always carry in my work bag.

Now, you might be saying, “Wow! Barrett… you’re so organized.”

Well no, not really.

My well-placed battery back-up solution is simply an example of an organizing process I put in place many years ago for my Metro North train commute to New York City, because I knew I needed it.

Mornings can be Rough
To be fair, commuting can be stressful and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that trying to catch a specific train in the morning can be difficult when you’re also juggling family responsibilities.

All of those variables can create the perfect storm of having to rush through your early morning. And that’s where mistakes get made and forgetfulness bleeds into your experience.

And with hybrid work models, occasional commuting days can be even more challenging, because your morning patterns are not consistent.

It can get pretty crazy.

Plan Ahead
So, to neutralize the morning ‘commuting crazies,’ I realized long ago that I simply had to minimize as many decisions as possible in the early morning and time shift them back to the night before.

  • Choose what you’re going to wear and stage all of your clothes for the next day in an easily accessible place. (Rushing about in search of a matching sock the next morning always feels like amateur hour.)
  • Make sure your work badge/ID is positioned in the exact same spot in your work bag .(That way, you’ll never misplace it again.).
  • Replenish any snacks in your bag that you’ll want to munch on the following the afternoon. (My go-to snack is a mix of almonds, cashews and cranberries.)
  • And of course, pack that portable battery and charging cables for your thirsty tech. (Make sure you don’t forget to charge up your battery after a couple uses!)

What’s for Breakfast?
Breakfast planning is another variable that you should never have to think about in the morning.

If you choose to wait until you get to work, that’s fine, but if you’re fueling up before departure, know exactly what you’re going to do and how long it will take.

Boiling an egg requires eight minutes. Trying to shave off a couple minutes, because you’re rushing will actually take you longer in the end. (Have you ever tried to peel a shell off a partially-cooked egg?)

Keep it Simple
The actual traveling part of a commute can be unpredictable. I can’t help that (though noise-cancelling earbuds on a train are always a joy).

But better preparation can do wonders for your pre-flight checklist as well as the rest of your post-commute day.

Even if you are the most organized human this side of the Milky Way, I think it’s a waste to invest unnecessary brain power on commuting prep when you’re trying to get out the door.

Remember
You don’t need a Vulcan mind-meld to help juggle your morning complexities. The secret to a happier commute is obvious. Eliminate the rush by organizing yourself the night before. When you wake up in the morning, there’s nothing left to forget.

Then, you’ve just got to move your body around a bit, as your brain is now free to focus on other challenges in your day ahead. (Just don’t run yourself into any walls!)

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