My own mini-scanfests

When you come back home after a productive research trip to an archive or library do you often end up with a stack of photocopies?

Yes, me too.

I use my digital camera whenever I can but sometimes it just isn’t possible to take photos. Sometimes the repository doesn’t allow it, and other times the documents are folded up so well that it is just easier to get the experts to photocopy them. When I get home I tend to leave them for a while in the ‘filing’ pile, and the longer they stay there the harder it is to get around to dealing with them.

For me a major part of the post-research trip process is scanning the photocopies. A piece of paper is no good to me if it fades or gets tea spilled on it, or the laser toner sticks to something other than the paper, or it goes up in a bushfire.

To address the post-research filing issue I bought one of those multi-function printers. It prints in colour and black-and-while, it scans, it photocopies, and it faxes. It’s a marvel of modern technology. When I chose it I made sure of two things –

  1. it prints and scans both sides of the paper (duplex)
  2. it has a document feeder

The duplex requirement is fairly self-explanatory. The document feeder means I can put a stack of pages in the top, press some buttons to tell it to scan to my laptop, and away it goes. All I have to do is press the OK button on the laptop, and then I can get on with something else. If both sides of the page needs to be scanned I can select that option and the pages are scanned in the correct order.

Of course, at some stage I have to rename the files to something more meaningful than SCAN0001.jpg or whatever I’ve chosen as the default, but I can do that later, and sitting down.

My scanner is not much bigger than A4, so A3 photocopies are a problem. There are a couple of solutions – perhaps you have others?

  1. scan each half at a time, making two images that can then be joined together (or not!) in your photo software
  2. photocopy the A3 at a library or somewhere with a big photocopier, reducing it to A4, and then scan the A4 photocopy. Yes, some quality is lost, but it takes much less time and is more likely to result in a useable scan than option 1, which I rarely get around to doing.

Another important part of the process is to write the citation on the photocopy¬†before scanning it, if I hadn’t already done it at the time of the photocopying. If I’ve requested copies at State Records NSW I pay for them before I leave and so this labelling must be done at home, preferably the same day while the file is still fresh in my mind.

Then there’s the analysing, data entry, filing into my family binders, and all of the other tasks that give meaning to whatever I’ve found, but that’s another story.

What do you do with your photocopies when you get them home?

Sharing documents on the web

I’ve been playing with a couple of sites that allow you to share documents. Initially I had to find a way to share Powerpoint slides on a blog, and my solution was to use Slideshare, a free website that allows you to share Powerpoint slides.

Slideshare is simple to use and works well. You can upload presentations quickly and easily, and make them public or restricted access, by being given a URL that you then share with those you wish to have access to the presentation. Viewers can leave comments, although if your presentation is public these may be spam, a common hazard.

The winner, though, is Scribd.

My Scribd profile

With¬†Scribd I can share other kinds of documents, not just Powerpoint, so I can keep the slides and the handouts together. PDFs, Word, Excel, so far I haven’t found a format I can’t upload, although I admit I haven’t tried very hard. It does what I need so far.

Scribd upload

As you can see, you can import Google Docs and even create one from scratch by typing or cut-and-pasting into the text box. I haven’t tried either of these yet. I can see why sharing a Google Doc here would be easier for the people I know who inexplicably have trouble with Google Docs, particularly if you just want them to see it and not update it.

Others share documents, academic papers, even whole books on Scribd, and you can download the documents and follow the uploaders to see what else they come up with. You can also add documents of interest to collections so you can more easily find them again later, without having to download them.

You can also upload documents that you want to sell. I may do this in the future.

Have a look at Scribd and let me know what you think.

Whose face is that? – Picasa 3

I have recently upgraded my Picasa to version 3 and let it start running through my photos looking for faces so I could tag them. Picasa is photo organising, editing and sharing software from the Google people. It’s free.

The scan started two days ago, and it’s now 32% of the way there. Yes, I have a lot of photos. I have restricted to photos in the My Pictures folder for the present, which it says contains about 14,000 photos.

Despite the slowness of it, and the fact that it uses up to half my CPU continuously, I will let it finish. I really like it. I am amazed at how it recognises faces, and find it much more useful than I expected to.

It works like this. It goes through all my folders of photos that you see on the left, looking for faces.

Picasa faces

When it finds one it draws a box around it and asks you who it is. If it thinks it knows it makes a suggestion for you to confirm. Simple!

Picasa bunnies

Out of all the lions in this photo it picked out my niece, Madeleine [sorry Mad]. If I want to ignore the others in the photo I can click on the X.

Eventually, it has a list of people and shows you the thumbnails of the person from each photo in which he/she appears. If it has made a guess then it asks you to confirm. Here you can see some suggestions it has made about photos of me:

Picasa confirm my face

They are all me! I can click on the green tick for each one, or remove the ones that aren’t me and then click on ‘confirm all’.

Where it gets tedious is when it doesn’t recognise what it sees as a face, because it’s tilted at an angle or half in the shade. You can manually draw a box around the face and name it just the same. It also has trouble with fuzzy old black and white photos, although not as much trouble as I feared.

Where it gets interesting is not where the suggestions it makes are correct, but are nearly correct. It chooses siblings or direct ancestors such as parents or grandparents.

Actually, I don’t know whether it’s just going for the law of averages. When it identifies a photo of my grandmother as being me it is very interesting try to work out why. Sometimes it’s a face at a similar angle and lighting to another photo, but sometimes it must be facial similarities.

Try it out for yourself! I’ll let you know when it is finished. It seems to be speeding up, but it will still be some days away.