Goodbye Paper User Manuals

Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 4100 electric toothbrush website manuals and documentation

I have to admit, I enjoy reading user manuals to find everything out about a particular gadget. There is usually a couple hidden features or some helpful maintenance tips to increase the devices longevity. The problem is those manuals are usually bulky, awkwardly shaped, and have very thin pages. Scanning them would be tedious and not worth the effort.

I’ve noticed a growing trend of companies offering user manuals online. While cleaning up my stack of papers I realized all of them had nice digital PDFs available online! In addition, they were mostly identical but I noticed some of them had made minor corrections since my edition was printed. That allowed me to toss them all after saving their online copies. So next time you’re presented with a physical paper user manual, check if the company hosts a digital version online.

Many companies provide digital user manuals.

Some products I’ve used and found online:

I realize some devices, like the Google Pixel smartphone and Amazon Kindle e-ink reader, haven’t included paper manuals for years. Instead they usually print out a URL to visit. This has the double benefit of reducing cost and not wasting paper. I suspect going forward this trend will increase as digital files becomes more preferred to the average consumer.

Don’t Use Linux to Scan Photographs

The captured image from my flatbed scanner in my previous post appeared to be more washed out compared to the original physical copy (you can see the more accurate color in the sample using my smartphone with flash enabled). Was it a limitation of the hardware or could the software be tweaked to improve quality? In this article I investigate the root cause and see if I can find a more true to life color accuracy.

Tweaking Scan Settings

First, I started adjusting the default contrast and brightness scanning levels but at any values the same washed out color issue was present. There wasn’t a significant difference if I tweaked the levels at scanning time or to the JPEG after scanning.

Changing Drivers

Next, I started thinking about the lower level driver support. Ubuntu automatically recognized and setup the scanner when I plugged it in so I hadn’t really thought about drivers. Doing some digging online lead me to find out Canon doesn’t support this particular all-in-one printer on Linux—well sort of. They don’t offer any Linux drivers on their United States website, but mosey on over to the Canon Europe website and you’ll find it! Why don’t they list them on their U.S. website? I’m hoping someone from the Europe can chime in. I’m guessing there’s some legal requirement there and not in the U.S.

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Flatbed Scanner vs. Smartphone Camera: Photographs

Collection of photos on table

This is part two of a two part series comparing a traditional flatbed scanner to a modern smartphone camera. My previous post was part one covering text documents.

In the previous section we favored convenience and readability over precise details because we were only looking for information out of the documents. Photos on the other hand can be very precious and retaining high resolution detail is important. Can I get away with only using my smartphone camera to archive printed photographs?

Unlike my previous post, the photograph I’ll be using is a real example. It’s my grandma at her 90th birthday party who has since passed away. The photo is very important to me so I’d like to preserve the original quality as much as possible.

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Flatbed Scanner vs. Smartphone Camera: Text Documents

I made some progress scanning documents with my phone, but I began to wonder if it would be worth scanning documents with a traditional flatbed scanner instead. Luckily I still had one in storage to test.

This is part one of a two part series comparing a flatbed scanner to smartphone camera. In part two, I cover scanning printed photos.

Flatbed Scanner Specs

Canon PIXMA MP250 Inkjet All-In-One Printer

My all-in-one printer came out about 9 years ago, weighs a hefty 12.7 lbs, and has clunky dimensions of 17.5 W x 13.1 D x 6.1 H inches. But the scanner works perfectly and scans at a resolution well beyond the 300 DPI we need. I found the original specs posted on the Canon website:

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Ideal Document Archive Resolution

Messy stack of papers.
My messy stack of papers.

I started scanning away physical documents at high resolution and found each page was coming out to about 290-330 KBs. A 3 page document could cost me 1.05 MBs to store, which sounded higher than it needed to be. That would start to add up quickly when you have hundreds of documents to scan. Could I save some storage space by scanning at a lower resolution? Here are my current storage size estimates:

PagesStorage Size
1310 KB
103.1 MB
10031 MB
1,000310 MB
10,0003.1 GB
100,00031 GB

The fine details of most documents I’m scanning aren’t that important, all that matters is that the text is legible. For example, I like to keep a history of my car maintenance and most shops only provide a physical copy. A smog check receipt is important to save but the quality only needs to be good enough to verify some key text like certificate number, location, and date. It’s not a document I’m going to refer back to regularly, and may never even need to look at again, so it doesn’t need to have crisp text.

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