Dear Digital Dave,
I have many hours of home movies that my dad started back in 1938 stored on DVDs. Just recently a family member wanted copies and that's when I discovered that one master DVD won't play all the way through and won't copy. I noticed a number of scratches on it and tried to fix it with a device called SkipDRx. It got rid of all the scratches but it still won't play to the end.
Do you know of a service that may be able to restore the DVD? This also makes me aware of how important it is to properly preserve the movies. So, before it's too late I want to copy what I have to longer lasting disks. Do you have a recommendation?
Thank you very much,
I'm not familiar with a specific service that recovers damaged DVDs. Most of the data recovery people specialize in hard drive recovery. They use special equipment and software which can read the files directly from the drives while skipping over the damaged portions. Data recovery specialists can be expensive, but if the data is important enough (or irreplaceable), it may be worth the price. However, data on a DVD is stored in a totally different manner and the demand for DVD recovery services from the business community is not nearly as strong. I would guess that there are services which do DVD data recovery and I would welcome any recommendations from other readers.
I found numberous different programs on the Web for DVD recoveryioften with free trials. Since many of them will use different algorithms to recover DVD data, I would try as many as possible. You could get lucky and find one that will piece together most of your files.
Preserving irreplaceable data such as your dad's home movies is a critical task with not one easy solution. The problem with any media is that errors can develop over time. The playback equipment does error correction which often makes the playing more robust. How well this error correction works is depended upon the quality of the playing device as well as the condition of the media. You may find that the problem disc will play through on other devices, although once there is damage to binary data, there is no absolute way to repair it.
Theoretically, standard DVDs will last 30 to 100 years. Blu-ray are supposed to live 100 to 150 years. However, these can't be tested and there will be some level of deterioration during that time depending upon storage conditions and handling. It wouldn't be prudent to depend upon any of these manufacturer claims.
The best way to protect important data is through redundancy. The more copies you have the better the chance that you will have good copies when you need them. How many copies you make depends upon how safe you want to be. You will never be safe with only one master regardless of how you store it or where you keep it. Store the copies at multiple locations. Sending them to family members will help.
Also, you may not want to depend only upon DVD technology. Maintaining data on hard drives and/or solid state drives can be useful. Hard drives continually get larger and cheaper. As you add or change more backup drives, you can copy the crucial data to the new devices.
You may also want to consider using remote online storage which includes automatic backup. As long as the company stays in business, you will have additional protection.
As you can see there is no one answer to this problem. It depends upon what makes you feel safe. Regardless of which way you go, making more backups every few years will be useful. Don't expect to store data on any media for 50 years and have it remain readable. In fifty years there may not be any compatible equipment still available, even if the disc is good.
Dear Digital Dave,
I recently used my printer/scanner to scan some watercolor art, but I was very disappointed in the results. It was all washed out and not nearly as bright as the original. I know that there are ways to improve images, but I don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on software. Plus, many programs are complicated and I'm not sure what to do to brighten up the images.
San Diego, CA
Many people don't realize how easy it is to improve the quality of digital images and photos with the tools that commonly come with today's computers. I'm always surprised when I see pictures uploaded to the Web with red-eye from camera flashes and other problems with lighting conditions. Almost all image editing programs have a tool for removing red-eye.
It is worthwhile to play with the various features in your editing program. In particular, exposure adjustments for brightness and contrast can go a long way toward correcting photos that are too light or dark. That is the beauty of digital photography. Many pictures which would have been a lost cause in the old days can now be fixed with a few simple adjustments.
In your particular situation, you should use an feature called saturationusually located under color adjustments. As you increase saturation, your washed out colors will brighten. Other controls such as tint may not be as useful if your scan brought in the proper hues.
When you play with these adjustments, make sure you use a copy rather than the original file. That way you won't destroy your starting point as you make changes.
If you do a lot of art scanning, it could be worthwhile to invest in a higher quality scanner
. Standalone scanners have extra features and capabilities not found in the all-in-one printer/scanners.
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I've seen Jack Dunning address what he calls Fat Finger Syndrome in relation to tablet computers. The problem is that unless the user has slim graceful fingers, using a tablet computer can become an exercise in frustration. You often see advice suggesting to expand the screen size with a reverse pinch. While this may works, it shouldn't be necessary. Plus, on some Web sites certain clickable icons will return to their original tiny sizeeven after the page is expanded. Fortunately, there is a relatively simple solution.
Get a stylus for your touch tablet. The stylus for a touch tablet looks like a pen with an eraser on the end. (Some styluses or styli actually double as pens.) However, the little rubber nub is not an eraser. It is made from a soft, pliable plastic which simulates a finger on the tablet screen interacting with the electro-magnetic field. Being small, it is much more accurate than your finger, making navigation and tapping much easier.
The best thing is that a tablet stylus
is relatively inexpensive and easy to find. The biggest problem with stylus pens is losing them. That's why you buy lots of them and leave them all over the house and office.
Another possibility is to get a sausage stylus
. Apparently, during cold weather in South Korea people couldn't work their iPhones with gloves on. Then someone figured out that you could use a snack sausage to break the electric field on the touchscreen. Not only did it solve a cold weather smartphone/tablet touchscreen problem, but it was a handy snack when the user was finished interacting with the device.
If you have big fingers (and even if you don't), using a stylus pen on a tablet computer can make a huge difference in how much you enjoy your tablet or smartphone experience.
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Comments and Letters about Digital Dave
“Digital Dave answers your tech questions.”
by Digital Dave
Poz Cannot Open All His Home Movie
[Regarding the July 27 Digital Dave column
Re: Poz cannot open all his home movie DVDs.
I have successfully restored had a very scratched car music CD which was dropped on the floor mats and rubbed around. I took it to a video game rental store and had it repolished on their commercial grade machine...price was two or three dollars. It might be worth a try on Poz's disc to try this method. It may be a good idea to back up what he has first though.
Richard Manteufel, Lemon Grove, CA
Fat Finger Syndrome Cures
I recently bought at eBay auction 12 styluses for about $10. They work well enough and for the whole lot paid about the price of one low-end one (about $10) from a local office supply company.
And they come in vivid colors to match any mood. I think I just finished my Christmas shopping as a result.
They work wonders to cure the Fat Finger Syndrome.
Chris, San Diego, CA
Simple Digital Photo Editor, Irfanview Free!
I've been using Irfanview
for doing quick modifications of digital images (camera or scanner, etc). It's free, has all the commonly wanted features, easy cropping, resizing, saving as smaller size for e-mails/Web pages, removing red-eye, as well as color, tint, saturation, gamma, brightness, contrast adjustments.
Best of all, it's free
and relatively simple to use, versus some of the high-end programs to do everything and cost an arm and a leg.
Rich Ernst, San Diego, CA
Poz Cannot Open All His Home Movie
Re: "Attempting to recover video from a damaged DVD", I recommend trying the free "RipIt4Me
I dont use it often, but it is indispensable for recovering a damaged physical video DVD, parts of which are unreadable by a DVD player or computer's CD/DVD drive.
What this program does is pad in unreadable portions of the disk media when it creates the workable set of video (VOB) files. The created standard playable file set can then be either kept on the hard drive or written back out to a DVD disk (that will play), using something like Nero. The video you will see simply excludes non-readable portions.
In the case of damaged video DVDs (say for example from the public library), missing (i.e. skipped) video might be only a few seconds (usually unnoticeable) to sometimes even a few minutes, depending upon the extent of damage.
Recovery does depend that the smaller associative files (usually at the beginning of the DVD media) are intact (i.e. not damaged), but even if they aren't you can still view individual VOBs which are able to be recovered. In theory, you should be able to piece together what was recoverable using something like DVD Shrink.
Anyway, give it try.
Chris Romel, San Diego
Poz Cannot Open All His Home Movie
Archiving on Hard Drives:
A friend who used to work at a RAID array manufacturer tells me that hard drives should not
be used for long-term data storage because the bearings eventually dry out and freeze up. Granted this takes a long time, but long term storage is the whole idea, yes? LTO Tape is good (see Wikipedia) but expensive. Cheapest is to make copies of the backup discs and put them in your bank Secure Deposit vault. Always keep at least one copy off site in case of "fire, flood (storm and tsunami), building collapse (earthquake), and theft." And don't compress the datathe decompression method might not be available on the platform you are using 20 years from now (this is a real problemarchived data backup cassettes that used hardware compression can't be read today because the hardware decompression algorithm isn't available).
Peter, Los Angeles