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Now, a paper-free home

GEETA PADMANABHAN
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LIFESTYLE House documents, bills, medical record and photographs… Digital storage can help de-clutter your living spaces, suggests GEETA PADMANABHAN

Digitised lifestyle Lead a clutter-free life.
Digitised lifestyle Lead a clutter-free life.

Iam digitising my home. Home or office, papers take up space, get damaged, lost, demand time to organise, make searching a misery. And, I may have lost the battle of working in a ‘paperless' office, but making the home paper-free looks very do-able. We have consoles of gadgets to help us digitise our home. All we need is an efficient guide.

“Fantastic idea!” says Kris Dev, ICT and e-Gov consultant. “Instead of cluttering the house with unimportant old bills such as those for newspaper, milk, vegetables, provisions etc., and mixing them with important documents for house tax, electricity / water bills, medical records etc., digitisation is the best idea.” It should definitely help those who can't bear to see any household bill, school certificate or record of 40 years of government service leaving the front door.

Access anytime

“Scan the documents and put them in a repository,” advises Kris. “Multiple copies can be maintained in zip drives for access anytime anywhere. E-administration tool can help in life-long tracking at minimum cost of storage and retrieval at the click of a mouse. You can have them on mobile devices.”

Expenses can also be tracked using e-Payment Tracking Tool, he says. “With this, you can be reminded of all future payments automatically as per the dates, to prevent time over-run, penalties and associated stress.” ‘Paper', of course, is a loose term. Stuffed in your drawers, shelves and boxes are hundreds of pre-digital photographs, negatives and slides. There are also cassettes, videotapes, floppy disks. And books! Remember what they did to your back as you arranged, packed and carted them? Tapes degrade, books invite silverfish. And those videos, do they compare well to the clarity and quality of viewing a DVD version? With the right equipment and a little know-how we can convert snapshots, videos, music tapes, books and documents to more portable, compact and durable digital versions. We can edit the DVDs and make extra copies without effort, thanks to websites such as www.iloveindia.com.

We can start with old paperwork, the easiest to tackle. “Get yourself a flatbed scanner,” techie Mahesh advises. “It's inexpensive.” But this low-priced gadget needs putting each sheet of paper face-down on the scanning eye and waiting 10 to 20 seconds while the transfer-to-computer takes place. A sheet-feeding scanner, however, allows you to insert a stack of paper. “Scanning with a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500 is a breeze,” said Mahesh. “Looks like a shoebox, holds 50 sheets in its scanning tray. Punch the key and it scans some 20 pages a minute on both sides. Comes in separate models for Windows and Macs. Both convert documents into PDFs. Work with this scanner a few weekends, and you can send your papers to the shredder.”

Digitising videos and music tapes is another story. For music, try Tape2PC (Ion Audio) and Tape2USB II (Grace Digital Audio) to convert cassette tapes into a digital format, Ion Audio's Quick Play Flash to switch vinyl records to digital files. The Quick Play Flash does the job without help from a computer. You plug in a USB thumb drive, and make your music immortal. For videos, VHS-to-DVD 5.0 Deluxe (Honestech) connects your VCR to your computer, and soon all videotapes are DVDs. These devices are easy to operate and deliver conversions that are similar in quality to the original. The degradation in sounds and pictures is minimal.

Look for professionals

Again, conversion devices operate on real time. The computer takes 60 minutes to record a 60-minute cassette-tape. Ditto for vinyl and videotapes conversion. So, get it done with professionals. Look for those that can do a neat job and keep your collection safe.

Digitising photographs is in now. Many places roll out the red carpet to those bringing in family pictures. They accept them all — slides, negatives, snapshots, videotapes, and Super 8 movie film. They scan images, Photoshop, airbrush, balance colours, remove scratches and red eyes. Scanning costs money, so pick the ones you want before handing over the bundle. Ask for the option of reviewing scanned pictures online. Once again make sure your photographs will be safe, and the job will be good.

And don't forget the back-up. My hard disk crashed leaving me to re-build my files sentence-by-sentence. I lost all the photographs. But, go for this lifestyle change. Everything old will be new again!

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