Saturday, December 15, 2007

Computer Gurus?

As usually happens when I visit my parents, their computer is ready for maintenance and has either developed or is in the process of developing some sort of weird problem.
Of course, this time is no exception. We were blithely planning to get a slide scanner and an external hard drive so that my mother could embark on digitizing and properly labeling our trove of slides (most of them are in pretty good shape but the Ektachromes have faded and are prime candidates for adventures in Photoshop).
It was right about when I was in the process of trying to decide just which slide scanner to order that my mother exclaimed that an alarming message had flashed onto her screen.
And lo, the machine wanted to install Internet Explorer 7 but had discovered that the hard drive was almost full!
I was not happy. I told it to cancel installation, but apparently the update had already downloaded itself, as I suppose we had set Windows to do automatic updates to spare My Sibling and I from having to spend hours updating Windows every time we visit. Apparently there remained only 383MB free on the 10GB drive (which I had tried to exchange for a 30GB drive awhile back only to be stymied by HP's having made a nearly impenetrable body for the thing).
My parents do not keep very much on this computer. They are your classic low-tech users who basically write some documents, send and receive a few emails, look at a limited number of web sites, and do taxes. They offered to delete documents and emails, and I said no. I got rid of a few unnecessary programs we had somehow missed in the past, but hesitated to uninstall the dictionary. I ran the antivirus software and looked for spyware. I halved the size of System Restore. And so on. I got the free space up to 6%, which strikes me as dreadfully low on a hard drive this size.
We are rather reluctant to replace a machine that does function, considering that their needs are so modest. On the other hand, it would be really nice if we could go ahead and get the slide scanner (its software would have to go somewhere), and it would be nice to stop messing with irritating things like whether the hard drive is large enough for Windows XP or the maxed-out memory is enough to make it run at a reasonable speed. Perhaps, now that flat-screen monitors are affordable, a low-end desktop computer would be a reasonable solution. (The laptop and printer live on an old typing table and my parents are loath to allot any more space to them.)
I invite comments from the technically aware, and of course if anyone has a recommendation on a dedicated slide/film scanner (Nikon or Plustek???) I would be deeply interested.

Labels: ,


Blogger Kristen said...

I'd say go for a new machine--you can get one for their needs relatively inexpensively these days. The only thing I would warn you about is that all new PCs come with Vista only.

December 15, 2007 8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Kristen that it is time to upgrade. Vista is getting better now that there are a few patches and compaies are releasing drivers for it. (I have Vista on the desktop I bought last spring.) But I would have rather stuck with dependable XP.

Regarding scanners, I suggest you consider whether you can scan multiple slides at a time on the model you buy. The Nikons have a nice attachment that works very well for doing a stack of slides at once, despite rumors in our department that they constantly jam. The trick is to tape a credit card-sided bit to the apparatus it so that only one slide can fit through at a time. It will be intuitive how to do this if you get one. Other companies make combo flatbed slide scanners, which sometimes can scan 6 or more slides at once.


December 15, 2007 9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and Dell often runs good specials on desktops.


December 15, 2007 9:46 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

Regarding scanners, if your parents want to do more than just slide scanning, I suggest getting one of the flatbeds that can do both. I have an Epson that I'm very pleased with. It can do 6 slides at once.

December 17, 2007 9:02 AM  
Blogger Julia said...

10 GB is not large. If you want to keep XP and still have all the disks, how about hiring a local techie to install a new, large, hard drive which they install XP and Office onto, move the 10 GB drive to another slot for use as a file backup and be done with it.

Or buy a new computer. Definitely less work. Good luck!

December 18, 2007 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Dirk said...

Storing scans of slides itself takes room rapidly. It depends on how fine you set the scan and how many slides, but I would say at least 5 megabytes per slide and 10 is going to work better if you have slides rich in detail and color levels and ever want to print them.

December 18, 2007 9:19 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

Now that My Sibling has arrived, we've concluded that a new computer is due. We're going to try to get one picked out and ordered in the morning.

December 19, 2007 4:35 AM  
Anonymous Dirk said...

Another note on digital photo files. .jpg files are marvels of efficiency, but they do throw away information. In particular they take advantage of the fact that the eye sees black and white in finer resolution than color to throw away more color information than black and white. If you are making prints the difference is subtle but easily visible to a trained eye. If you want to keep something nice for posterity (or until the next new medium) I suggest .tiff.

December 19, 2007 6:25 PM  
Blogger Julia said...

Tiffs are definitely preferable to jpgs. That's the file type you'll find in magazine production, for example.

December 19, 2007 10:26 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

Computer and scanner have been duly ordered. And yes, definitely TIFF.

December 20, 2007 12:10 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home