Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cat and Mouse

While I was recently visiting my mother, I decided to test out a new tool that I had acquired, a scanner mouse. If you are unfamiliar with this nifty gadget, it is exactly what its name implies, a computer mouse that also scans. When I visit my mom I bring my computer, but lack most of the accessories of my home office. Until recently she lacked Internet which required me to flip on my 3G on my iPad. Finally in frustration, I installed wireless in her home which will enable me to update websites and more efficiently blog than on an iPad. Of course once I had some baseline functionality, I began to yearn for more and I have often wished I had a scanner handy, especially as I wade through my father's old office. The beauty of the scanner mouse is its size. It is a perfect travel tool and a useful tool for a genealogist.

On this visit I was interested in getting scans of old photos. I have been working with David Adelman in creating a film using software his firm ReelGenie has developed for a soon to be launched business. His product allows family historians to access software to create a film on their personal family history using voice-over and photos. He is currently creating some examples of what can be done and enlisted me to provide a family story, voice-over and pictures (more to come on this in an upcoming blog). I had provided what pictures I had from my personal stash, but hoped to take advantage of my mother's many picture albums while visiting. In the past I have taken photos of old photos, hoping my hand was reasonably steady and sacrificing some edges to Photoshop when I cropped. If I was fortunate I ended up with a useable image.

So first I needed my material which I found in one of my mother's oldest albums, dating back to when she was just 17, almost 70 years ago. There were charming photos of her and my dad in their courting days, my dad teaching her to bicycle in Brooklyn and then recording her fall on film for posterity. She remembered going to school with skinned knees after that less than successful outing. The album showed my dad in his navy uniform among sailors in front of the Arc du Triumph, the one time he made it to Paris. It is always strange to look at these pictures and marvel at the fact that my mother was a quite a looker in her day, then a young mother delighting in her children, stages that I could now witness through adult eyes. Seventy years later I can still see in her the young girl she once was.

While originally planning to do isolated photos, that soon morphed into an intent to scan entire album pages. I took out pages from the album and left the plastic on so I would have a smooth surface. The scanner won't work through glass, but worked fine through plastic, perhaps too well as it picked up the yellowed pages.

The scanner mouse is used much like a roller. It has a button on the side that activates the scanner. It then will scan what is underneath it as you move it back and forth. However, beware of nearby cats. My mother's cat was scanning the mouse as it scanned, attracted to the movement and hoping to engage in a little game of cat and mouse. My first attempt was less than successful as I did not completely cover the image. If you fail to cover it through your movements, it will leave gaps in the unscanned portions.

When you have scanned a page, a frame forms around the page that you can adjust as desired to crop, click OK and save and place it in a file or email it if desired. The scanner works best for smaller documents, but did accommodate a page. I found myself wishing I had had this when I was working with old documents in archives as it would easily scan a document without potentially damaging the binding.

I found my scanner mouse at Brookstone, but it is also available through Amazon.



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