Digitizing old photos/Robolights/Kindle hack


Recomendo: issue no. 74

Digitizing old photos
A friend who took a mountain of photos in the last century (1950s-90s) recently asked me how to get all his oId analog photos digitized, cataloged, online and printed. Here is what I told him: I get all my old stuff (slides, negatives, prints) scanned at ScanCafe because the price is right. They have the cheapest yet reliable scanning service. I box them up quickly and sort them after they are scanned. The files are returned on DVD or a thumb drive. But you need time — several months since they send them overseas (with incredible care and safety). For faster service when needed I use Costco. They scan at 600 dpi which is more than enough for most purposes. Costco is fast, but they don’t scan negatives any more. Only slides and prints. And they save to DVD, but not everyone has DVD reader these days. If you need mild retouching on the old photos, Wirecutter makes some good recommendations of scannerswho retouch. After scanning and tweaking I upload my digital files to Costco to get prints. Costco Photos has an excellent quality/price ratio, for both smaller and larger sizes, including fancy metal prints. Cheap, fast (usually same day pickup!), and decent quality. To manage and organize all my scanned photo files I use Lightroom. It’s standard issue for any serious photographer; I couldn’t work without it. (I currently have 230,000 photos in Lightroom.) Its image processing interface is better than Photoshop for 99% of the time. You don’t need the subscription cloud version; the standalone version of Lightroom is still available and fine. — KK

If Burning Man was created by a single eccentric artist, it would be Robolights, a four-acre mind-blowing sculptural landscape in Palm Springs, California, created by Kenny Irwin. It’s the only place I’ve visited that matches the surreal feeling I get from dreams. Free. Open until January 8th, 2018 from 4:00pm-9:30pm including holidays and rainy days. — MF

Kindle hack
I often want to read a long PDF someone sends me on my Kindle. Here is the hack to get it loaded. Use your Kindle account name to create a Kindle email as In the subject line of an email message put < convert >. Enclose the PDF and hit send. Amazon will convert the PDF to their Kindle format and it will show up in your library. Then you can select it to download to your device. The PDF on a Kindle is clunky but readable. — KK

Further refinements on the Kindle hack by two readers:

I was trying to read Ellul’s Propaganda. I downloaded it from (which is now crucial to my pdf kindle hack, including old Arthur Koestler books and other hard to find titles) Sadly it was 30mb, and the emailed couldn’t upload. For days I say there frustrated. Then I realized the hack: I split the pdf into two files of ~15mb each and named them propaganda part I and propaganda part II. Wham, solves it. — Bryan Campen

There is an even easier way to transfer a PDF to Kindle. If you download the Kindle app for Mac or PC you can drag a PDF to the app icon (which I keep in my dock on the Mac). You can configure the app to convert to Kindle format or keep the file as a PDF. You can also choose which of your Kindle /Fire devices you want it sent to. — Len Edgerly ( podcast)

Merge unrelated emails
Currently there’s no official way to merge gmail threads with different subject lines, so I just copy and paste the text I want to add to an existing conversation and send it to myself. Here are instructions. — CD

Short meditations on Love
I bought How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh on Kindle, read it in one sitting and often go back to it for short, helpful reminders on how to be more loving. Two of my favorite passages are: “You are part of the universe; you are made of stars. When you look at your loved one, you see that he is also made of stars and carries eternity inside. Looking in this way, we naturally feel reverence,” and “There’s a tradition in Asia of treating your partner with the respect you would accord a guest. This is true even if you have been with your loved one for a long time.” — CD

Mini-card game
Iota ($8) is a tiny card game in an equally tiny tin, making it perfect for taking on trips with friends. The object is to assemble the colorful cards in a grid so that the colors, shapes, and numbers are all the same or all different. — MF

-- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson 12/24/17

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