How to eliminate paper documents and go digital

I’m still very old-school when it comes to note-taking and record-keeping. For the past few years, I’ve retained all of my notes from my college courses, keeping them in the original binders and notebooks that I used to take to class. Together with my college textbooks, these items filled three entire shelves of my bookcase. Alas, our lives are in a constant state of flux, and there came a time when I felt that I would rather do away with the paper. It’s difficult for me to imagine moving without the assistance of a corporate relocation package given the number of things that I have amassed over the years. I could clear the paper out from all of my binders and collect it for a monumental bonfire, but this wouldn’t help very much if I wanted to reference these materials later.

It all began here..

I started paying more attention to taking my paper documents digital after reading a post on LifeHacker (Source). The process involved in transitioning from hard copy to digital is quite.. involved to say the least. While tremendous gains have been made in so far as to the extent that software can simplify the process, the hardware aspect of digitizing documents requires some consideration. The author of the aforementioned LifeHacker article used a Doxie portable scanner. I found a listing on eBay for a Doxie One – Standalone Paper Scanner (buy it on Amazon.com) with some generous bundled items and began watching it, but acted too late. That listing ended up going for just under the retail price of a brand new Doxie One, a steal for whoever won the auction.

The process of taking hard copies and turning them into digital documents

There are myriad ways to approach the task of converting from hard copy to digital documents. At the most basic level, you’ll need a scanner. I have an HP Deskjet F4480 all-in-one with a flatbed scanner. It’s very spartan when it comes to meeting scanner needs. I combed through my binders and came across a sizable stack of loose papers to begin testing my process on. I started by scanning the hard copies using Mac OS X’s Print & Scan utility. I set scanning resolution to 200dpi to minimize scanning time while maintaining an acceptable level of quality. I previewed my scanned documents before selecting a portion of the workspace, and outputted to JPG. From here, I intended to use ABBYY FineReader Express to further process the documents into useful formats. Using this flatbed scanner turned out to be a non-trivial process. I had to get up from my desk, lift the scanner lid, align each document with the lip of the scanner bed, and preview the scan before committing it to my external hard drive. All told, I averaged about one scan per minute across 18 scans. This was not a very encouraging rate given the enormous volume of paper that I would have to deal with.

Managing your workflow

The elements universal to any process are:

  1. A document scanner
  2. A repository for scanned documents
  3. A means of cataloguing scanned documents

Document scanners are available in a wide range of form factors. Some feed sheets through a stationary scanner element while others move a scanner element across a document. Choose the document scanner that provides you with the greatest utility given your typical usage scenario.

Document scanners may come with internal or expandable memory used for storing digital images of hard copy. Some document scanners feature WiFi or ethernet connectivity, which provides the flexibility of not having to tether the document scanner to a computer.

It’s important to manage digital files in a way that makes them easy to retrieve later. I started by keeping my raw scanned images in an organized folder structure that would make them easy to navigate. At the moment, I am scanning hard copy directly to my external hard drive, which resides next to my home server machine. Moving from image to text is another step that will be detailed in a future post.

Portable scanners for Mac OS X compared

I took this as an opportunity to survey the current solutions available for digitizing large volumes of paper before settling on the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i Mobile Document Scanner, which got a very favorable (and detailed!) review from Wired GeekDad columnist James Floyd Kelly (Source). I went into this search with the following criteria:

  • Must be portable
  • Must have official driver support for Mac OS X

Of course scanning speed was an important consideration, as was a document feeder. Some of the portable scanners on my list have duplex scanning abilities, meaning that they will scan both sides of a double-sided document in a single pass. Talk about efficient! Here’s the shortlist of scanners that made it into my consideration set.

Scanner Scanning Quality (dpi) Scanning Speed Power Internal Memory Expansion Legal Size Duplex Scan Document Feeder Purchase Link
Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i Up to 600 dpi 12 images per minute (300 dpi color) AC adapter or USB power No N/A Yes Yes 10 sheets capacity (A4 20lb) Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i Instant PDF Sheet-Fed Mobile Document Scanner
Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 Up to 600 dpi 7.5 seconds per page (300 dpi color) USB power No N/A No Yes No Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 CLR 600DPI USB Mobile Scanner (PA03610-B005)
Doxie Go Up to 600 dpi 8 seconds per page (300 dpi color) Built in rechargeable battery, rated to 100 scans per charge
Optional power adapter
Yes SD + USB flash drive port Yes No No Doxie Go – Rechargeable Mobile Paper Scanner
Doxie One Up to 300 dpi 8 seconds per page (300 dpi color) AC adapter or 4 AAA batteries No SD (comes with 2GB card) No No No Doxie One – Standalone Paper & Photo Scanner

Jawbone UP v2.0: Business School Case Study for the Future

Today, the tech community is abuzz with articles about the new Jawbone UP. Strictly speaking, it’s version 2.0 of the device, whose first iteration was made available to the market in November 2011. Jawbone’s handling of the UP from initial failure to reinvention will be studied by future generations of business school students.

I didn’t even know about the UP before it had been pulled from store shelves. It was probably released during one of my self-imposed media blackouts. Jawbone released the UP through two channels: 1) its own website and 2) select retailers. The UP was available for purchase for about a month before Jawbone announced that it was recalling them due to hardware issues that were causing a low mean time between failures.

Jawbone’s CEO, Hosain Rahman, wrote a letter to the UP community that was quickly reposted across the tech blogosphere. In it, he promised a “No Questions Asked Guarantee” for everyone who had purchased UP.

… for whatever reason, or no reason at all, you can receive a full refund for UP. This is true even if you decide to keep your UP band. We are so committed to this product that we’re offering you the option of using it for free.

Source: https://jawbone.com/up/guarantee

That program is still active until December 31st, 2012. You can read about it here (archived link from April 23, 2012).

By the time that I was made aware of the Jawbone UP, the official distribution channels had already been closed down. Jawbone’s UP website displayed a message to prospective buyers that the UP would be coming back soon. I had to go through unofficial channels to purchase mine, where I paid close to $150 for a device that someone else paid $99 to acquire.

My first Jawbone UP lasted for nearly eight months of daily use. One day, late into its life, an LED inexplicably went dead. Shortly thereafter, the band refused to sync with my iPhone. I fired off an email to Jawbone Customer Service. They first came back with instructions on how to reset the Jawbone UP, but quickly escalated the case after I told them that it wasn’t responding to the reset procedure. It took ten (non-working days included) days from my first contact with Jawbone Customer Service to the time that I received my replacement UP.

Jawbone UP and iPhone 5 Incompatible?

I used the replacement Jawbone UP right up until I moved to an iPhone 5. I found that my UP no longer synced with the phone, and some brief Google searches found that there were a number of other UP users who had been similarly left out in the cold. Users on the Jawbone UP community forums reported no success getting the Jawbone UP to sync with the iPhone 5. I recall a response from the forum administrator that read something like, “You’ll need to keep your old iDevice around for now if you want to keep on syncing your Jawbone UP”.

I speculated that the problem wasn’t Jawbone’s alone – it was very possible that Apple had changed something about the iPhone 5 that made its headphone jack different from the iPhone 4S and earlier. I recalled thinking about the other devices on the market that used the iPhone’s headphone jack for data transmission: Square came to mind, but I noticed that their website claimed that the Square Reader was compatible with the iPhone 5. Who broke compatibility?

In any case, my Jawbone UP sat unused for the past month. I kept it plugged in to its USB charger so that it wouldn’t vibrate across the desk every morning. I thought about selling it to some other sucker – I was convinced that the world wouldn’t be seeing another UP for a while longer yet, but competing devices struck me as fairly lame. I looked briefly into the Nike+ Fuel band, but didn’t act on it.

I didn’t follow up on the Jawbone UP any further until today, when I read about its rerelease. As a Jawbone UP user, of course I was going to click through and read more. I poo-poohed the Jawbone UP first-generation users who were lamenting the fact that they would not be receiving free Jawbone UP v2.0 bands. I saw this message in the FAQ for Previous Band Owners and I was happy.

Will 1st Generation band work with iPhone 5?

Yes, as long as you use the same account to login. Your data is stored in your account, rather than a specific version of the app. If needed, you can delete specific events in your feed.

Lo and behold, my Jawbone UP does work with iPhone 5! I won’t have to buy another Jawbone UP band just because there’s been a second generation offering that’s been unveiled.

Activity on the Jawbone UP Community Forums

Then I realized something important. Those users on the Jawbone community forums who are complaining that they’ve been left out in the cold again may be on to something. There have been a plethora of threads whose titles reflect the angst of so many upset first-generation UP owners. Threads whose titles look something like..

Jawbone’s response to these threads will affect the existing UP community’s perception of the brand. At the time of writing, it is not unreasonable to think that the only people who are actively scanning the Jawbone UP community forums are first-generation Jawbone UP users and owners. The Jawbone UP gained a lot of awareness in the media in spite of its short lifetime on the market, so I will not be surprised if the UP gains significant traction now that it has been brought back to the market. It was probably one of the coolest products that you couldn’t buy last Christmas.

Additional Reading for My A+ Students:

http://www.engadget.com/2012/11/13/jawbone-up-2012/
http://www.engadget.com/2011/12/08/jawbone-offers-no-questions-asked-refund-for-troubled-up-band/

http://www.fastcodesign.com/1665351/jawbone-releases-up-a-wristband-for-tracking-your-wellness
http://www.fastcodesign.com/1665491/the-jawbone-up-fails-but-teaches-3-golden-rules-for-experience-design#disqus_thread
http://www.fastcodesign.com/mba/1671243/how-3-million-hours-of-user-testing-fixed-the-jawbone-up#-1

Edits

20161008: Replaced broken link to Jawbone UP refund program with an archived link

macbook pro case warp, ntfs.

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Click on images for full view. I took my MacBook Pro to a local mall this weekend, and it turns out that Apple’s warranty doesn’t cover the casing. No matter, it’s not too much of an issue.

Proper bezel-screen alignment
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Warped bezel
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If any larger problems pop up in the future, I’m getting this thing swapped. And if there are hardware updates around the corner, you can be sure that I’ll end up having some sudden technical difficulties with my MBP.

On another note, I finally got around to delving further into the issue of getting NTFS write support through Mac OS X. Normally users are allowed read access only from NTFS-formatted drives. However, it is possible to use MacFUSE and NTFS-3G in order to enable write access. It works like a charm, but it’s quite slow. Meaning I probably won’t be using it much.

Listening To: anberlin – Naïve Orleans

macbook pros.

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I love mine so much, I want to marry it. These pictures were taken before I managed to deflower my MacBook Pro. And by deflower, I mean damage. But that’s a story for another day.

Mine runs beautifully. It’s the one that’s pictured on the left in both of the shots, a beast of a machine. Processing muscle that’s fit to burst, crammed into a sleek aluminum chassis. It runs circles around my desktop in all regards, and handles everything I throw at it like a champ.

But blemishes do come, and at the end of the day I must admit that this is just another piece of hardware. Albeit the most expensive and gorgeous piece that I’ve ever owned.