Cords, video stills and internet data removal
Bob's Tech Talk
May 1, 2021 | View PDF
Q. My grandson accidentally sent my laptop crashing to the floor when his leg hooked around its power cord. Other than unplugging my new laptop when he visits, how do I tame the mess of cables that is lurking around my computer table?
A. I am sorry that this turned into such an expensive lesson. The cords and wires that populate our lives seem pretty much invisible until something goes wrong. Product photography rarely shows wires of any kind. But in real life cables, cords and wires are everywhere.
There is a wide variety of techniques for detangling cord clutter. Any web search for “cable management” will return thousands of responses. It turns out there are plenty of clever products for keeping wires under control.
I keep a bag of Velcro straps handy that I use to wrap up excess length cable into loops (never bend any cable sharply), or to tie a number of cables together in a single bundle. Besides Velcro straps, there are zippered pouches, plastic tubing and good old fashioned wire ties.
Another common fix is to mount a power strip to the desk (the underside works well) to keep power cables off the floor and out of the way.
Cables that never change can be left alone once they are placed, but cables that are frequently plugged and unplugged from a device require a different approach.
One of my favorite cable management tools is a weighted (or adhesive) clip that keeps a cable from slipping behind a desk when it is disconnected from its device.
It might not be the most exciting thing on your to-do list, but spending a little time moving your cables out of harm’s way is worth the effort.
Q. I have a lot of home videos on DVD. I want to grab still images from the video. Is it possible and where can I find such a device?
A. Yes it is possible, and you can use just about any personal computer. There are many paths to make this work. Probably the easiest method is to download a free app called VLC media player (videolan.org). As long as the computer meets VLC’s modest system requirements, and it can play a DVD, you will be good to go. (Note: because of copy protection, these instructions do not cover commercially published DVDs.)
VLC can play just about any video format in existence. And taking a still is as easy as playing the content and choosing “Snapshot” from the video menu.
I suggest starting with a quick trip to the VLC application settings. There you can set a hotkey to give you precise control over triggering each snapshot. You can customize the folder where the stills are saved, and which file format is used. (PNG files are best.)
The quality of the images that result may disappoint you. Images that look fine as part of a video are not the same as frames from a still camera. Video and still cameras are fundamentally different, and so are the images they capture. That said, in my experience the results can be good. With recent advancements in post-processing apps, it is even possible to make a decent 8x10 print from a video still.
Q. How can I remove my personal information from the internet?
A. Because information is so widely redistributed online, complete removal is probably impossible. However, there are a number of steps you can take that will reduce your online footprint.
Step one is to delete any accounts on social media. Most companies do not erase deleted data, but deleting the accounts makes them inaccessible to search engines and keeps people from finding or accessing them. This works best when you simply want to withdraw from participation and remove the bulk of what you have posted.
In situations where you want to remove a specific piece of data, but you also wish to continue participating in social media, the choices are more difficult. You can try deleting the item in your account, but if it has been reposted by someone else it will remain accessible.
A last resort, mostly because of its cost, is a service like http://www.deleteme.com.
Wander the Web
Here are my picks for worthwhile browsing this month:
My new favorite podcast series is a collection of boring topics, a blend of fact and wit mixed to perfection.
Browse Down Memory Lane
This 20-year-old site describes itself as the “internet’s most diverse, idiosyncratic pop-culture museum.” www.lileks.com
Optimal Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches
A “so complex it’s funny” how-to that will melt your brain. Scroll down to the second item in the Blog section and click to view the most high-tech sandwich instructions ever.
Bob has been writing about technology for over three decades. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.