Scanning on the go

Recently I was out at a local restaurant and wanted to share the menu with a foodie friend. I tried to take a photo of it but it came out really badly so I needed to find another way. I turned to the App store for help, and found the highly reviewed Scanner Pro app for iPhone or iPad.

Having downloaded it to my phone, it was a simple job to take a photo of the menu using the app, the built-in guides found the exact corners for me, chopping off any background bits of table, ‘flattening’ it out and creating a digital version I could keep.

scannerpro

Scanner Pro

Once the menu was scanned I could then email it from the app, or upload it to a number of Cloud storage sites including iCloud, Dropbox or Evernote to be accessed at a later date. If I wanted to, I could also print it directly from my phone to a networked printer another time.

The app is currently half price in the iTunes Store: just £1.99 – although even at full price it is well worth having. 

If you’ve got an Android phone, you won’t be able to use Scanner Pro, but Camscanner is highly rated. It works in much the same way and has all the editing and sharing options too. Even better – it’s free and can be used on iPhones as well. We did a quick comparison of it against Scanner Pro and found that Camscanner has many more editing options, but the image quality of the final scan wasn’t quite as clear.

As usual it seems you get what you pay for – much like the food at the local restaurant – here’s the menu – it was delicious.Scanner pro menu

All I want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague away kit

Half Man Half Biscuit are an obscure satirical rock band from the 1980s and my husband  wants their “Back in the D.H.S.S.” album for Christmas.

Half+Man+Half+Biscuit+-+Back+Again+In+The+D.H.S.S.+-+LP+RECORD-226238In the olden days, I’d have bought the CD so that he could unwrap something on Christmas Day (before copying it into iTunes and sticking it in a box in the attic).

The modern alternative then became a download straight from iTunes. If I chose this route, I could send my husband a romantic Christmas Day email from the iTunes store to tell him that “All I want for Christmas is a Dukla Prague away kit” and 16 other Half Man Half Biscuit tracks were now in his iTunes library. He says iTunes downloads are too compressed, but I can’t hear the difference and at £7.99 it’s £2 cheaper than buying the CD.

That’s expensive beside this year’s option. Over the last year streaming services like Screen Shot 2013-11-29 at 10.15.33Spotify have started to take over and they are free. A seismic shift is taking place: CD sales are in freefall and iTunes downloads are down for the first time this year. So whilst those of us over 35 (see last week’s blog) are just starting to get our heads around “owning” an intangible download from Apple, those born after 1978 have moved on.

spotify-logo-primary-vertical-light-background-rgbWith Spotify you don’t own the music, but you can listen to any of their 20 million songs whenever you want, so “ownership” becomes a less meaningful concept. If you pay £10 a month for Spotify’s Premium service, the quality is higher than iTunes and you can download tracks for when you’re offline.

We’ve got Spotify in the Fingertips office and the greatest benefit is not cost or convenience, but the way you listen to music. Suddenly you are free to explore, discover and rediscover without the emotional and financial commitment of buying. You can even just set Spotify to auto-pilot and let the “Radio” service select music based on a starter track that you choose.

Spotify Jake BuggToday we listened to Maria Callas (we tried to count how many Maria Callas albums Spotify have, but gave up at 250), Roxette (they’ve got a song called “Fingertips”!), the new Lissie album, Jake Bugg and, yes, Half Man Half Biscuit (they are truly awful). I’d never have bought any of those albums, so although there are lots of people in the music industry who don’t like what’s happened, I think – with the artists getting royalties for being on Spotify – that everyone’s a winner.

The best of both worlds is to combine a streaming service with your own music collection. This is exactly what Apple’s iTunes Radio service will do, if they ever decide to launch it in the UK. In the meantime I’ve taught my husband how to use our Spotify account and bought him a ticket for Half Man Half Biscuit at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. I couldn’t bring myself to buy a Dukla Prague away kit – it’s yellow.

Picture Perfect

This week’s blog is an article that we wrote for the local magazine for our neck-of-the-woods, Absolutely Chiswick….

Wags 1000With 300 million photos added to Facebook every day, are picture gifts the last thing people want for Christmas? Not a bit of it – there are few things as precious as photos: we just need to be selective and turn our best shots into something special.

There are dozens of companies on the Internet and High Street who will turn your photos into Christmas presents like mugs, t-shirts, mouse mats and phone covers. But perhaps the best medium for pictures is still paper: a simple photo book makes a great family gift and a personalised Christmas card will be cherished long after Twelfth Night.

The trick is to improve your shots before you hand them over. The easiest way is with a good computer programme such as Apple’s iPhoto or Picasa. This lets you crop, straighten, remove red-eye, adjust the exposure and add effects – you’ll be amazed at how great your pictures look.

Of course it’s not just this year’s holiday snaps that can be turned into gifts. If you have boxes of old photos under the bed, now’s the time to have them scanned (before they fade). Imagine the delight of reliving the 20th Century with your family this Christmas.

A word of advice: once you’ve done all the hard work, don’t pick the cheapest company to print your mug shots. It’s a competitive market and you’ll get what you pay for.

Lastly, don’t wait until the December rush to start. Give yourself time to sort out your photos and check you are happy with the printed gifts.

Our article finished with a bit of a sales pitch. We now have two state-of-the-art photo scanners at the Fingertips office: a print scanner and a negative/ slide scanner and we were giving them a plug. There are lots of details on our website and for our blog readers we’re offering ⅓ off all scanning up until Christmas.

Grand canyon 1000

Scanned from a print at 1200dpi

Close up

Zoom in at x100 and there’s still not a pixel to be seen.

Don’t download that update yet – Top Tips 4

mavericksThe operating system (or OS) on your computer is the main programme that controls the way your computer works, looks and interacts with the world. So you’d think it makes sense to keep your OS right up to date. But that’s not always the case.

This week Apple launched a new OS called Mavericks. Like every Apple update, it is evolutionary and everything looks familiar – so it feels just like the old system and nobody gets stressed. Mavericks promises to make your computer more secure, easier to use, faster and more energy efficient. Best of all it’s free, so it’s a no-brainer to download and install it. It works with every Apple made after early 2009 and some older computers too.

Apple store queuesBut a word of advice – wait a while. Pretty much every piece of new technology is launched with bugs. These are uncovered by the early adopters (the people who queue outside Apple shops) and ironed out in the first few weeks. We loaded Mavericks yesterday (OK, sometimes we’re in that queue) and we’ve already had a few issues with a scanner and the music in the office. Nothing serious, but unless you need to discuss the new OS on day 2 in the playground, it’s worth waiting a month.

With Microsoft, it’s sometimes worth waiting much longer.

Windows 8.1Windows 8 launched a year ago and most people who moved to it (us included) wish they hadn’t. It’s a lemon. Many have reversed the move and gone back to Windows 7.

Windows 7 is still used by half the world’s computers (as opposed to the 8% that run on Windows 8) because it is more straightforward and reliable. If you’ve got Windows 7, cherish it. Say “Yes” to all the updates that will keep your computer safe and running smoothly, and wait to see what Microsoft launch next year.

Similarly, if you’re running an older Windows OS (Vista, XP or 2000) then don’t stress yourself or your computer with a change – wait until you buy your next computer.

If you’re stuck with Windows 8, then this month’s 8.1 update comes with a health warning. We ignored our own advice and tried to install it in week 1. The result is a dead laptop (properly dead; fully bereft of life; an ex-laptop). We’re working on a resurrection, but with no help from Microsoft, who have hung up on us twice. If you hold stock, sell.

www.atyourfingertips-uk.com | 020 8994 7773

Top Tips 2: myTunes and myMovies

itunesHere’s a shock for you – according to English copyright law it is illegal to copy your CDs and DVDs onto your computer. That means that any of us who have loaded our own CDs into our own iTunes library have committed a crime.

This is a peculiarly British situation. The law in other EU countries assumes that we will behave ethically – which means not selling or giving away copies of our CDs, DVDs and Blu-Rays – and so it allows us to make copies of these discs for personal use.

In the UK, things are less clear. No-one has ever been prosecuted for copying their own CDs and DVDs into iTunes, but as the law stands, both acts are illegal. That’s a bit rubbish – none of us want to be guilty of misdemeanours and so, as Vince Cable said last year, “We need to bring copyright [law] into line with people’s expectations and update it for the modern digital world”.

At Fingertips we can’t advise you to do anything that breaks English law, but we can tell you what we do when we’re on holiday in Spain… 🙂

We recently transferred every DVD that we own onto a pocket sized hard drive which is smaller than a single DVD box. We now have all 176 of our movies plus boxed sets of our favourite TV shows instantly available to watch on any of our TVs, computers or iPads. The quality is exactly the same as the original disc (with surround sound) and, best of all, the films start immediately – no rummaging around for the disc, waiting for it to load or having to watch the “You wouldn’t steal a car” video.

We got our calculator out and worked out that it would have cost us £1,500 to repurchase all our DVDs on iTunes. If that sounds like daylight robbery – and if you are going to be in an EU country in the near future – then give us a call.