The end of paper

If Facebook is good for anything (and this could be argued either way), it’s good for reminding a blogger of her previous brilliance. Today I was reminded of this piece in my “memories on this day,” penned three years ago, and I thought it might be appropriate here. Enjoy.

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The end of paper is coming, and even the dinosaurs have to admit it.

I was a denier for a long time. My argument was that as long as we have hands and eyes, we’ll have paper. The tactile appeal would overwhelm the power of the computer, I maintained adamantly.

Then came along the iPad. No longer do I have to sit in front of my computer. I can bring my iPad anywhere and read it in any position. Tablets are getting slimmer, and it won’t be long until they’re as light and versatile as, well, as a piece of paper.

For an interview earlier this week, my potential client requested I bring my portfolio.

“Portfolio”? Huh? I haven’t had a portfolio for 20 years. I pulled all the news stories I wrote while working at my college newspaper out of the binder I used to get my first and second jobs and then refilled the binder with printouts of blog posts and e-newsletters I’ve created. I put a paper version of my resume (how positively ancient) in the front.

I used to write in my diary. Now I write blog posts. Memos are now emails. Love notes have been replaced by text messages. Insurance forms are PDFs. Cookbooks have been replaced by Google. Even dollar bills and checks are so yesterday, unceremoniously replaced by plastic.

On NPR’s Science Friday [recently], Verge reporter Ellis Hamburger predicted monthly bank and credit card statements someday will be replaced with something else that is not so much “monthly” or “statement” as it is “instant” and “app.”

It’s weird, frankly, to be a paperphile in this strange new world.

I literally have made my living in paper. I used to work for newspapers. Now I read my newspaper on my iPad. I once worked for a scrapbooking company. Now no one prints out their photos anymore. I write books (and I love my bookshelves of paperbacks). But now I write ebooks, too.

I’m still making my living on paper: Among other feats of wonder, I organize people’s old printed photographs in boxes. But I do this so people can scan those photos to save and share them digitally.

I think writers and editors will be around for the foreseeable future. But I’m not sure. Facebook, for one example, does a pretty good job of culling all the news of interest to me and presenting it on my personalized Newsfeed.

What will I do with all my manila folders? My shelves of photo albums? My backache from lugging books everywhere I go?

What a brave, new world.


Dropbox makes organizing and accessing images easy

I’ll admit to carrying an iPhone and being a fan of Apple products. Not a stand-in-line-for-36-hours-for-a-new-case-color kind of fan, but generally happy with my iPhone and iPad.

On my desktop, however, sits a Toshiba PC with Windows 7, and I generally happy with its operation, too. I like the concept of having a desktop and folders and documents. These archaic, paper-based descriptions help me function in the virtual world.

So while I enjoy clicking pictures with my iPhone, I hate, hate, hate juggling the camera roll, photo stream, shared streams, albums in various streams and then doing that in iTunes or iCloud or who knows where. When I have to Google a how-to question every time I want to access a photo, something’s too complicated.

That’s why I am a new fan of Dropbox.

First of all, the first 2 gigs of storage space is free. This is a lot of space, to be honest. And now, with the Dropbox app, I can organize and access quite a number of favorite photos quickly and easily.

Do you ever find yourself scrolling aimlessly through your camera roll of the photos you took two weeks ago to show your lunch date? “Oh, I can’t find them right now, but they’re so cute, just a second.” Ten minutes later, you’re still staring at your phone screen, and your lunch date is looking for the check.

With Dropbox, you can move a few of those cute photos on your computer into a folder called something obvious like “Cute Photos of Baby” and then move the folder to Dropbox on your computer desktop. Poof, a minute later you can see them on the Dropbox app on your phone.

Double bonus: Now your cute photos are backed up in the cloud. If your computer crashes (God forbid), you can get the photos back through Dropbox.

Dropbox makes its operations user-friendly. If you can find stuff on your computer desktop, you can probably figure out Dropbox.

Did I mention it’s free? If you share Dropbox with friends, you can earn more free space, but once you reach your free limit, you pay a monthly fee for more space. It’s a small price for priceless images.


What photo should I use for my cell phone cover?

It’s a first-world, 21st century problem, but choosing a single photo — from among thousands — to use on a customized cell phone cover is no easy task.

Use a photo of the cell phone user?

The cell phone user’s spouse?

The cell phone user’s children?

A photo of a place or object important to the user?

A cool, colorful photo of something else?

It’s tricky. When choosing a photo for the customized cover of my new Apple 5s iPhone, I wondered if a picture of me would be narcissistic. I have no (biological) children, and a picture of my husband or stepchildren seemed as weird as using a picture of me. The phone doesn’t belong to and isn’t used by them — why would there be a picture of them on it?

And as long as I was going for a customized image, why use a picture of a pineapple, or a water tower or a flower? I could buy covers with such images without going to the trouble of customizing one.

Finally, I decided an image of me would signify ownership — clearly this iPhone belongs to me. But I found a good shot of me with my husband, taken by my stepson on a recent cruise when we stopped in Cartagena, Colombia, and we took a walk on the stone wall surrounding part of the city:

cell phone cover

By creating a cell phone cover, I can enjoy this photo and the memories of our trip every time I use my phone.

The company I used to create the cover allowed me to include words, so I added part of a quote from Audrey Hepburn that illustrated the photo for me. The full quote doesn’t impart quite the right meaning, but here it is: “The beauty of a woman must be seen from her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.”

I love the new cover, and it makes me happy to see. Isn’t that how your family photos ought to be? In use, visible and making you happy?


Need a new cell phone cover for your phone but don’t know where to begin? A photo organizer can help choose one and create a one-of-kind cover for you.


Tips for organizing digital images in desktop folders

There are two goods ways to organize digital photos on your computer: Software and folders.

Many software programs for organizing digital images exist, and I can’t address all of them here (though I invite comments about ones you love or hate). I use Memory Manager from Creative Memories ($49), and I’ve heard great things about Picasa, a free program from Google.

But if you’re not interested in learning and using digital photo organization software, you can use a folder system on your computer to organize your digital images. Here are some ideas:

1. Dump: First of all, while you’re moving photos around on your desktop, make liberal use of the Recycle Bin. Get rid of duplicate and cruddy photos while you work.

2. Name folders: Using meaningful names for labeling your folders, and I’m not talking about “Photos,” “Miscellaneous” or “Spring.” Those are too generic. Consider using a naming convention that combines date, subject and location of the photos like “2012.09.24 Garden Grandma’s House.” By listing the date first (, the folders will automatically sort into chronological order.

3. Nest folders: Put folders inside folders listed by subject or time (or both) to keep things streamlined. For example:

>My Pictures

>>Family Photos

>>Blog Photos


>>>01 January

4. Be consistent: Commit to purging and moving photos to properly named folders every month. Choose a day (like the 15th or the third Monday) and put it on your schedule.

5. Back up: Whether your digital photos are a mess or perfectly organized, back them up. If you use a nesting system, all you’ll need to do is move a copy of the main folder (My Pictures) to a memory stick or external hard-drive. Cloud storage is a valid back-up, too. The best back-up? Print your images.

Note: I store photos from my blog separate from my personal photos. My blog photos are never intended to be printed out, and they general don’t show images of people. Once I’ve used them on my blog (hosted by WordPress), they’re backed up under “Media.” So think about how you’re using the photos as you develop your system.

3 tips to better photos with your iPhone

Since almost no one leaves home without their iPhone, it’s no wonder so many photos are being snapped with it instead of cameras. It’s just so convenient!

The iPhone 4 has a 5 megapixel resolution while the iPhone 4S boasts 8 megapixels, plenty of resolution for excellent quality images on the go.

If you’re using your iPhone as your only camera, check out these three easy ways to make it even more responsive:

  • Focus: As you compose your image, tap the screen where you want the iPhone to focus. It’ll adjust the exposure and white balance automatically for that area. For example, you might want your daughter’s face in focus while the flowers are not. Or you might want to focus on the faraway horizon instead of the close-up tree.
  • Comfort click: If using the shutter button on the screen is awkward, you can take a photo by pressing the volume button (the one imprinted with “+”) on the side of the phone; when your phone is sideways, it’s the natural position for a shutter on a camera.
  • Edit: After taking an image, click on it, then click “Edit.” You’ll get the option to rotate the image, auto-enhance, fix red-eye and crop. Take a picture of the dog right now and experiment so you can smoothly improve your images on the go and before uploading to Facebook, for example.

It’s 10 o’clock, do you know where your photos are?

If you’re depending on an online retailer to be the backup for your digital images, make sure you know their policies.

I got a friendly email this week from Paper Coterie that says, “A quick reminder about our 90-day photo storage policy. … Our photo storage policy allows us to store photos you haven’t placed in a project for 90 days. Photos that have been placed in projects will be saved for one full year.”

I wasn’t depending on Paper Coterie as my backup, but I do appreciate the reminder. Unless you’re paying for photo storage, there probably are limits to it.

Recently, Kodak filed for bankruptcy. I fully expect the company to emerge from bankruptcy stronger, but I would encourage a second backup for any photos you have stored in Kodak EasyShare Gallery because you just never know.

And if the only place you have precious photos is a photo card or computer hard drive, you are gambling because hardware inevitably crashes. Photo backups come in many forms:

  • Prints of digital images are backups. If you do nothing else, print your favorite digital images.
  • Storing photos in the cloud or other off-site server is a backup. Paper Coterie is among retailers who store your images for a certain amount of time before eliminating them. I checked Shutterfly and Zazzle, with whom I made Christmas gifts last year, and my projects still exist in both places. Linea ( is among other vendors who charge for unlimited long-term storage of high-resolution images. If you don’t know the storage policy of the company you use to print images, find out.
  • Backup your digital images on a thumb drive or external drive, and store the drive in a different location than the originals.
  • Negatives are a backup to printed images that were originally captured on film (remember film?). Do you still have the negatives?
  • Scan important printed images or albums. “Important” is relative, but heritage photos, baby photos, wedding albums and images of loved ones who have died would probably qualify as important for most people. Photo shops and photo organizers provide this service if you’re not interested in doing it yourself.


Bring your videotape back to life

By the year 2014, half of the homes in the United States with a TV will have an internet-enabled TV, I heard on the CBS This Morning show earlier this week.

If that means you will no longer be able to enjoy watching videotapes of your home movies, you’re not alone.

The International Imaging Industry Association estimates one can expect computers, media, cameras and software to work well for as little as three years. If you still have a videotape player, you’re probably not using it.

Such is the case in our house where we’ve  had a computer hooked up to the big screen for years, and it’s time to update — and backup — the home movies we haven’t viewed in years. I know we have images of my brother, gone 13 years now, on one of those tapes, and the little baby girl (my stepdaughter) being baptized on another is 22 years old now.

Fortunately, many photo shops and videographers offer this service.

At Create A Video in Crystal Lake, Mike Lemieux will convert all kinds of video to DVD: Betamax, VHS, VHS-C, 8 mm camcorder tapes (also known as High 8 or digital 8) and mini DV.

Cost for converting one videotape is $25, but if you have a lot of tapes, volume works in your favor: Two to five tapes cost $15 each and more than five will run $13 each.

Like most locally owned photo shops, Lemieux converts videotape right on site so clients don’t have to worry about the vagaries of mailing. Don’t know what’s on your tapes? Lemieux won’t transfer the tape if all you’ve got is old TV shows, and he’ll let you watch a minute or two of a tape to see what’s on it before making the transfer.

All your new DVDs can be viewed on your computer or with a DVD player on your TV. Memories of family holidays, weddings, sports and coming of age ceremonies are preserved.

At least until the next wave of technology.

Create A Video, 101 N. Main St., Crystal Lake, is usually open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call Mike Lemieux at 815-356-5253. He scans and converts photos, slides and old movie film (8 mm and 16mm) to DVD as well.