Thoughts from the clay guru.

Archive for the month “October, 2011”

Volume presets

One feature on just about every cell phone I have used is the mute or silent setting.  Going into a movie or church…you just press a button or two, and your phone is quickly on silent or vibrate.  But that is just not enough.  I currently use my Samsung Focus to listen to Podcasts during my commute to/from work everyday.  When I connect my phone to my car, I need to crank up the volume for my Auxiliary input.  Then when I get out of my car, I need to hold the volume button down until I set it at my normal volume level of 10.

My Windows Phone 7 allows me to easily set my phone to “vibrate” or “ring+vibrate”, so why not allow me to configure a few other personal profiles and with the same click let me cycle through “normal”, “aux for car”, “vibrate”, “outside” and “ring+vibrate”?  I would really like to see the Windows Phone 7 provide user defined volume profiles that I can name, set the volume level and turn on vibrate.  Then allow me to quickly cycle through (or maybe a dropdown list) those presets whenever I need to quickly switch my audio needs.

So, what do you think?  Something you would use?


Location services snooze

I like to think that I am a typical smartphone user…but maybe just a bit more of a heavy user. I really like a number of the services provided…but I like long battery life a little more most of the time. One service, location services, definitely falls into that category.

My typical use cases for using location services are:
– I am at a kids travel game, want to check the weather forecast or map, and I need location services to pull it up
– Out and about, likely out of town, I need to find the local Jimmy John’s
– Checking in to Foursquare.

Now, none if the use cases above require location services on all the time. In fact, if I could just turn it on for only 5 minutes, and have it automatically turn off would be ideal. Kind of a “reverse snooze”. Or maybe more like the heat lamp or jacuzzi timer switch at a hotel.

I would like to see WP7 with such a feature. Why do all the location based apps prompt me to go find the location services in the settings and turn it on myself? Why not just ask me, “Would you like to turn Location Services on for 5 minutes” ( or maybe 10 minutes or configurable by the end user).

What do you think? Is this.some thing you would find useful?

Windows Phone 7 opportunity?

Recently (well, upon launch of the WP7), I switched from an iPhone to a Windows Phone 7.  My wife, who was using a basic cellphone, was excited for the opportunity to move to a smartphone, so I gave her my old iPhone.  She simply wanted a way to carry her calendar with her and do text messaging.  She did not want all the features of a smartphone…but NO.  AT&T demands that if you carry a smartphone, you MUST pay them a $15 a month privledge tax (okay, they call it a basic data plan, but it is a tax to use a smartphone).  My wife really liked having her calendar with her, and was perfectly happy using our home WiFi to update the calendar…and to this day, does not really use the dataplan.

So my thought here is that Microsoft, and possibly Nokia have an opportunity here.  Especially in light of the Zune HD being retired, to create a new category of devices.  iPhone has their iPod touch…but no phone capabilities (well, without Skype…a Microsoft company now).  So why not work out some deal with the cellular carriers to create a smartphone-lite class.  Offer a smartphone without a 3G/LTE/etc. data service.  We simply want a cellphone to make calls, text, and connect to WiFi networks.  No dataplans!!!!!!

I think Microsoft and Nokia have the clout here to pull this off.  I know my daughter, who has a basic texting phone and a Zune player with Zune pass, would be in line on day 1.  She could make calls, text her friends, and when at home, could connect to the Internet and download music (and possibly use other services like Facebook, IE, etc.).  If Nokia and Microsoft are looking to increase their marketshare, why not target all those individuals who would love a music and/or gaming device that can call and do texting?

What does everyone think?  Do you have someone you know that would get a smartphone without a dataplan?

My Image Management Tool – Selection Process (updated)

NOTE:  This was originally written in 2007, and I have not reviewed the tools since then…maybe something I will consider this winter…when things slow down.

In my previous post, I promised to give you the reasons I chose IMatch Image Management tool from, so here it is.

To start with, I have thousands of digital photos now, and closing in on 10,000 100,000.  It is nearly impossible to quickly find a photo that I want without spending a LOT of time going through photos.  To help solve this issue, we (and that mean you too) need to create some way to index and search these photos.

Now, I don’t consider myself a professional photographer, so I figured I did not need a “professional photographer version” of image management.  I don’t need (at least this year) some of the more complex workflow and image managment tools that say National Geographic or a studio would have.  I simply want to index and find my photos…today.  So my focus was more on the consumer and prosumer (professional + consumer – really just a hobbiest) software packages.

I looked that the following software packages:

  • Picasa –
  • ACDSee – ACD Systems
  • Photoshop Albums – Adobe
  • Nikon Capture – Nikon
  • IMatch – Photools

I briefly used the above software packages and settled on IMatch for the following features:

  • Hierarchical tagging of images – so I create a tag of Sports, then under that tag, I create baseball, soccer, etc.  This has the following benefits:
    • When I tag an item for example with “soccer”, it automatically inherits the parent tag “sports”.  Now, though a single tagging step, my pictures will appear in searches for either sports or soccer, depending on what I am looking for.
    • Most of the other package had a big running list of tags, and finding or collaping the list was difficult.  The Hierarchical list with expansion of the nodes was a big benefit.
  • Ability to easily back and share the IMatch database.  I can copy my IMatch database to my network drive, and my wife can assess that version from her computer.  I get a backup copy and my wife gets a recent version of the database to search for images she wants.
  • Take photos “offline”.  Eventually, I am going to have so many pictures, I am going to want to move some of them off my computer.  IMatch allows you to move the photos to DVD (or CD) and still have the items indexed through the database.  All my images are still indexed and searchable, but when I need to view the full photo (the thumbnail is stored in the IMatch database), I am prompted to insert my media.  Now if you have backed up as I oulined in my previous post, you can already have the images on DVD, and can remove photos by date….oldest ones can be deleted from my computer and a simple action in IMatch lets me tell the program everything in folder DVD001 is on a DVD labeled DVD001.
  • Programmable.  Okay, I have not used this feature yet…but it is nice to know I can script within the tool to automate processes.
  • Support.  Great community and author support in the discussion thread on the site.
  • EXIF support, including my custom tags.  So, if support was ever discontinued, I would be able to apply all my tags into each photo as EXIF, and load into another tool down the road.  It takes a lot of work to index a large (+4000) batch of photos initially, and I don’t want to have to go trough it again.  Once you have your library of photos indexed, keeping up on it is very easy.  When I upload photos, I can index them in just a few minutes – since they all tend to be tagged very similar (ie. a group of photos might all be from my daughter’s soccer game, so selecting a few tags and applying to all photos in the folder is easy).

I would suggest that you download a copy of IMatch, Picassa and others (most of them have free trial versions), and test them out.  Leave a comment on this blog and let us know what you thing.

Digital Camera “Workflow” (updated Oct. 2011)

I guess I should consider myself an amature photographer, at least in the summer.  I have been averaging about 400 photos a week so far this summer with my kids in various sports.  Of those, about 300-350 turn out well enough that I keep them.  But since I strictly take digital photos with my Nikon D70 D7000, how does one make sure they don’t lose this “history”?  Below is the process I follow to backup these images and clear them off my memory card(s).

Guiding principles:

  • Don’t have only 1 copy of your images.  Get them off the memory card as soon as possible.  I have already had a memory card fail (one with a Lifetime Warranty – that was promptly replaced).  Failures happen on digital media, CD/DVD ROMs, harddrives, etc.
  • Don’t reformat the memory card until you have 2 copies, and at least one you “verified”
  • Index images so you can easily find the one you want out of 10s of thousands (you will get there….eventually).

Here is my current digital photo backup process:

  1. Create the following folder structure on your home computer:  C:\photos\DVD###.  Initially, you will start with DVD001, and then progressively increment the folder name as you “fill-up” the folder.  And by fill-up, I mean once the folder is approaching 4.2 Gig (the limit a DVD ROM will hold), you need to start a new folder.  I do have a Blue-Ray burner, but the blank disk prices are still relatively expensive, so I still use DVDs…at least for the short term.  Also, DVDs are more compatible at this time since most people/computers still have DVD drives in them.
  2. Within your DVD### folder, create a new folder with today’s date(this should be whatever date you are uploading your images).  I prefer to use the following format since it sorts nicely in Windows Explorer; YYYY_MM_DD (ie. 2007_06_14).
  3. Upload ALL the images from ALL your memory cards into this folder.  (Don’t move or delete them yet…remember, we need a backup first)
  4. Using whatever image viewer you prefer, I used the build in Windows image viewer, flip through all the images and throw away any “out of focus”, duplicate images that are inferior to the others, bad shots, etc. you don’t want to keep.  You should have a number of these, because you take A LOT OF DIGITAL PICTURES in the “field” because you can always delete them later – right?
  5. Now it’s time to back up since you have the photos you want to keep.  Using your favorite DVD recording software, backup the entire DVD### folder to a DVD RW disc.  (CD RWs will work too…you will just need a lot of them eventually).  I suggest using the RWs, since you will be adding more photos in the next few days/weeks.  I use Nero, and really like it.  If you are under a budget, there are free recording tools out there.  Make sure you use the Verify option to re-read the disc after writing it.  We want to make sure we have a good back.
  6. I will take this DVD-RW to an offsite location (aka “work”), and bring the DVD-RW I have at work back home to rewrite on the next pass.
  7. Since we have 2 copies of my pictures (my hard drive and the DVD-RW disc), we can safely delete the pictures on the memory card.  I typically put the cards back into the camera and use the camera’s menu to “reformat” the cards – this seems to be a suggestion by a number of camera manufacterers.
  8. When I have a DVD folder that is close to the 4.2 Gig capacity of a DVD disk, it is time to do a “final” archive this set of images. I copy the DVD folder to my Home Server and burn 2 copies of the DVD### folder on a DVD-RW disk, and another on a DVD-R disk.  (The reason I use an RW and a R type disk is based on an article I read a while back that stated that RW’s actually have a longer archival length due to differences in how the disk is actually created).  I now have 3 “permanent” copies of my photos this point in time.
    • One is at home (my home backup)
    • One is at work locked up in my desk drawer (offsite copy)
    • One is on my Home Server – for viewing on my home computers, XBox 360, or any device on my network.
    • And one “non-permanent” copy on my work desktop…but this will eventually be deleted to free up space.
  9. Optional:  Since my wife does scrapbooking, she is always looking for photos for some “page” she is working on.  How can we help her find the image, now that we have thousands (or 10s of thousands) of images on the computer?  The answer is some sort of image management software.  For a pretty good free program, check out Google’s Picasa tool ( ).  I personally spent a about $60 on IMatch ( ) which I think is superior (I will post my resoning in another entry later on).
    Since you just uploaded some new pictures, now is a good time to “index” your photos.  So using your preferred tool, tag all the images you just uploaded.  In general, the photos you just uploaded are probably around 1 or 2 events that just happened, so this will facilitate tagging since you are going to tag groups of photos under the same categories.
    That’s it.  It sounds easy, but trust me, it takes a little bit of time to get into the habit, but preventing the loss of those once-in-a-lifetime photos…it’s worth it.

And, don’t get discouraged when you first begin to import your images into an image management software tool.  It takes a long time initially, but once they are in, it is much easier to just maintain as you backup your images.  I think I had about 5000 images to index, and spend a number of hours over several weeks to get them in, but finding pictures now is very easy.  If you want a picture of my son and daughter together, I can pull up every digital picture I have taken in about 30 seconds.

(I have again gotten lazy in tagging my photos…and am looking for a long winter day ahead where I have nothing to do but catch up on my photo indexing/tagging)

I hope you have found this helpful.  Please feel free to comment if you have personal experiences that can improve on this process.

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