Sunday, February 21, 2016

2015 Projects Part 1

Project Name
 Annual family photo pages - 15 pages for years 2000-2014, printed and digital versions
One page per year from 2000.  A carefully selected few photos from that year, with a typed in list of highlights.  In the future, it's easy to look back to remind ourselves of how we've changed over time.  
Template built & photos tweaked and "assembled" with Photoshop. Printed on A4 Photo Paper by colour inkjet
100 Days of Childhood memories, which spun out into Drawings of Childhood memories
Diane gave me the idea, and I started with making a list - with one item for each day, and was amazed at how many things I had forgotten, and how over time, one memory led to another and another.  This project left me with a sense of gratitude, some sense of loss, and a better appreciation for my relatives and family members. 
Which led me to want to capture some of these in the form of drawings, that might help my daughters  better understand the world I came from. 
Paper by 53 on iPad 3, Pencil by 53, with drawings posted up to my tumblr blog

Photo references from Google Images, Fact Checks from Wikipedia and many blogs on reminiscences, recipes, geography, history and wildlife.
Select a photo management application to use on a dedicated windows Notebook for our family photo collection
The focus for me was really on the photo management aspect.  Editing features was nice, but I needed a robust and reliable method to sort, file away and tag thousands of digital photos from 14 years of photo taking, and then to later handle scans of the printed photos from the days before my switch-over to digital cameras.  The Tags had to be written into the image files themselves.  Lightroom won out over the other apps I was considering, and after making the selection, the real work of organising the huge mass of photos - gathering them from various PCs, memory cards, USB hard drives, email (as attachments), sorting, de-duping, naming, dating, filing away, tagging - began. 
Choose between Picasa, Photoshop Essentials, the Photo app MS provides in their "Live Essentials" family & Lightroom.
"Audiophile" PC
A dedicated PC, tuned/optimized for good clean audio playing mostly lossless files stored on the local hard drive.  The basic idea is that all unnecessary system processes are disabled, leaving only what is necessary for the PC to playback audio.  After evaluating two possible solutions, I settled on Audiophile Linux running on a basic intel pentium CPU A1018 with 4G RAM and 320G HDD.  I plug my Thinksound ON1 headphones into my HotAudio BitPerfect DAC which is connected via USB to the laptop, and am very pleased with the audio quality. 
Evaluated Audiophile Optimizer (running on Windows Server 2012 R2) and Audiophile Linux (running on Arch Linux)
Home Server
Central location for file shares, potentially media streaming.  FreeNAS was a very powerful contender, but I was forced to re-install plug-ins quite frequently when sync broke, and unhappiness with dlna and  itunes supporting plug-ins. Linux Mint 17 was so much more easy to configure and update, and for my purposes, the file transfer speed was good and the lack of high end data protection features that FreeNAS is famous for were not needed.  
Evaluated FreeNAS 9 and Linux Mint 17. 
On Linux Mint, I'm using SAMBA for file sharing to Windows PCs and Android tablets/smartphones, and Syncthing for file syncing (see next section).  TeamViewer allows me to easily remote control the server from any of my windows PCs. 
Sync Photos, Music, eBooks from respective dedicated PCs to a central server
As I carefully filed away, tagged my media collection, I keep a copy in a USB HDD, but I also wanted a copy sync'ed from the source PC to a central server from which I or other family members could access that content from any laptop, tablet or smartphone.  I settled on Syncthing because of what I was reading in the user forums, and gave up on BitTorrent Sync when they introduced an upgrade that made it impossible to run an unlimited number of sync partnerships with a free account. 
Evaluated BitTorrent Sync (proprietary) and Syncthing (open source) running on FreeNAS, Linux Mint and Windows
Clutter Clearing and Tidying
Clothes, Documents, Books, Magazines, Electronic Gadgets.  I had made good progress but hit a plateau until I encountered the Marie Kondo Method.  My clothes cupboard now contains 25% of what I started out with, arranged so that every single item is easily visible.  With documents and old articles and magazines, I have reduced down to 15% as well, and freed up a great deal of storage box and cupboard space.  I have more work to do on electronic gadgets, but most of the pieces from my bedroom have now been given away or discarded. 
Marie Kondo Method
Windows 10 upgrades
Performed extensive use and testing prior to the final release in July 2015.  Worked out lots of issues in terms of drivers and how best to upgrade from W7/8/8.1 home/pro have activated status after clean installs. Also, what features to disable (danger!) and services/startup apps to disable. 
Early Adopter/Insider access to builds for testing, and working out how best to upgrade the large number of PCs at my disposal to Windows 10
Speed up scanning of paper photos
To save time, I wanted to scan 4-6 photos at a time, using the scanner of my mid-range HP all-in-one inkjet printer.  The scan settings could be set for good quality, and experimentation was needed on how to place the photos, whether white or coloured backgrounds was better for the software that separates the photos from the single scanned page and saves out each photo as its own JPG file.  The Gimp + Divide Scanned Images script combination worked best, and was also completely free.  It would accept multiple scanned pages of 4-6 photos each, against a white background, all in one folder, and then output the individual photos into a different folder. 
Tested Photoshop's built in capability, and the "Batch Divide Scanned Images" script for Gimp.  Both had issues, but I found the latter achieved much better results, so that is now my tool of choice, with manual photoshop work as my back up for difficult pages of photos. 
Checking all HDDs for bad sectors, and moving out data from suspect drives
After discovering that a 2TB drive in my FreeNAS server was suffering from an increasing number of bad sectors, I gathered all my external USB HDDs and tested them, finding two 500G and one 1TB HDD also had many bad sectors.  I purchased two new 2TB USB hard drives and consolidated the data from my old USB drives into these new drives.  I use Hard Disk Sentinel regularly to check on the SMART readings of my internal and external drives, in order to get early warning of future drive misbehaviour. 
Hard Disk Sentinel, Sea Tools for Windows, DiskPart (windows command line), Chkdsk (windows command line)