Organizing your photo collection; Wi-Fi everywhere; Facebook backups
Bob's Tech Talk
Q. I have collected photos on my computer for years, but they are not organized. Now I have a mess on my hands. I would like to sort them out and keep them safe. Where do I start?
A. We are spoiled by too much choice when it comes to photo management tools. But there is a way to cut through the noise: think long term. I have used image catalogs for years. Most of them have eventually been discontinued. Today, there are only two services I expect will still be around in 10 years, Apple iCloud Photo Library and Google Photos.
Most organizing projects should include uploading your photos to one of these services. Both services allow you to organize your images into albums, sort them in different ways, and share them privately or on social media. Because they store images in the “cloud,” the images will be safe even if your smartphone or computer is lost or stolen. Best of all, no matter where you choose to store the original files, the photos are available on all of your devices.
These services also automatically catalog images based on their content. They can identify faces, recognize scenes like the beach or mountains, and use GPS information to locate where the image was taken. These features are relatively new, but they will be very helpful sorting the wheat from the chaff. I expect them to continue to get more capable in the future. I recommend iCloud Photo Library because I prefer Apple’s privacy model. If you are a big Android fan, Google Photos is a fine option. Both services are free for casual use, and cost about three dollars a month to provide storage for all but the very largest collections.
Q. The wireless signal in my house doesn’t reach every room. Yet at my local library and some public spaces I visit, the signal is everywhere. Is there a way to get the same result in my house?
A. Search the store shelves for a Wi-Fi base station and you’ll see no shortage of range extenders, power antennas and other high performance claims. The reason for this is simple: reliable Wi-Fi signals can be tough to set up. Our homes are becoming full of Internet connected devices and the demand for a powerful signal in every corner continues to grow.
Until recently commercial grade networks were too expensive and complex for most households. And while not inexpensive, the new Eero (eero.com) base station brings commercial grade Wi-Fi networks down to earth. They are exceptionally easy to set up. They can be managed from a phone app. They fix many of the nuisances that have plagued Wi-Fi routers for the last 20 years.
If your old router needs to be replaced, the Eero is a solid upgrade. When a single radio is not strong enough, add more base stations to expand the network. The technology is solid, and Eero is in many ways Wi-Fi done right. They are not the most inexpensive, but they will help save your sanity in the long run. And if you need Internet in the far corners of your house, this is the best solution.
Q. Is there a way to back up the information I have posted on FaceBook?
A. Facebook has been around for a dozen years now, and chances are excellent that you have built up quite a scrapbook of memories. Or maybe you want to carefully review everything you’ve ever shared. There is a very simple way to download a copy of everything you have ever posted to Facebook.
Go to facebook.com/settings and click on the “Download a copy” link at the bottom of the menu in the center of the page. In several minutes, you’ll receive an email with a link that downloads a zip archive file. Double click on the zip file to decompress it and create a new folder titled “facebook-username.” This folder can be reviewed for old posts you would rather remove from public view, used to retrieve images that can be added to your personal photo library, or simply serve as a local backup of your Facebook data.
Bob can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wander the Web
The Best Internet Speedometer
This is the best site for testing the speed of your internet connection. It runs a series of tests and reports both upload and download speed. The next time the internet seems sluggish, use this site to help narrow down the scope of the problem. Works reliably and, unlike most test sites, does not require the Flash plugin. http://www.speedof.me
Singing in the Rain
This novelty site brings a little of the natural world to your screen. It displays a rain splattered window and plays a 30-minute soundtrack of a thunderstorm. You do not need to live in drought-stricken California to enjoy it, but it helps. http://www.rainymood.com
If you believe the world is woefully short of trivia quizzes, you’ve probably never visited this site. Sporcle is a giant collection of quizzes that will challenge your knowledge in 15 different categories. The basic stuff is well represented – presidents, states, state capitols and so on – but the real joy can be found in the esoteric. The site offers user accounts, scoreboards, league play and mobile apps. If you enjoy a challenge or enjoy professional level procrastination, you can find a warm welcome here. http://www.sporcle.com