Stop Procrastinating and Organize Your Music, Videos and Photos
It’s the New Year - you’re feeling optimistic and energetic, so it’s time to ride that feeling and get done with all those technology-related tasks that you put off all last year. To make it less likely you’ll procrastinate further we’ve divided the tasks into three groups;
  1. Organizing music, videos and photos (below)
  2. Getting your home theater or HDTV in shape (click here)
  3. Backing up and protecting (click here)
Lucky for you, we’re here to help. We’ve done the research, we’re giving you the tools you need, somewhere to start and ideas on where to go next when you get stuck - we’ll even tell you approximately how long we think each task will take.

Now, just go do it!

Organize Your Music and Videos
There is little as daunting as the task of sorting through music and video collections, and for good reason; most of us have music from many different sources, and we were lazy about tagging the CDs we burned, labeling the folders we downloaded into, and deciding into which genre albums belonged. You should be scared, this is not going to be particularly easy, and you’re deluded if you think it will be quick – but it’s worth doing (it’s only going to get worse, after all), and there are a number of programs out there that will help.
  1. Find Your Music (1 Hour)
    The first thing you need to do is find all your music and videos and dump them into two folders, each labeled MUSIC and VIDEO (clever, no?). You can copy them to an external hard-drive later to them safe. Music managers will find all your music files wherever they are stored and collate them for you at the front end, so it can be argued that this is an optional first step, but we feel that if you’re going to get organized, start from the bottom and work your way up; storing all of the root files in one place will make later transfers easy, will ensure comprehensive back-ups, and generally make your life easier in the long run.
  2. Tag Your Music (1.5 – 2.5 Hours)
    Now is the task of tagging all of your music with metadata. DON’T PANIC. There are several programs that will help you do this. The most popular are MusicBrainz Picard and Mp3Tag. These will change your life. Both are free and they will check and correct song tags en masse, including case changing, auto-numbering, and track name flipping.
  3. Normalize Sound (20 minutes)
    This step is optional, but you may have noticed that there are the occasional songs that are either significantly louder or softer than the rest, and you are constantly adjusting the volume. You can normalize this with a program called Mp3Gain – it uses the ID3 metadata tag to adjust the 'loudness' of the track during playback rather than resampling each file, which typically decreases sound quality.
  4. Music Manager (10 minutes to install, hours to play)
    Last but most useful is downloading and using a music manager. If you’re a fan of iTunes then more power to you, but iTunes is not the only one out there. One of our favorite is MediaMonkey - it catalogs audio and video files and can be customized to the needs of different 'collections' (e.g. contemporary, classical music, audiobooks, home movies, tv, videos), whether they're located on a hard drive or a network. It looks up Album Art and data, it includes a CD ripper, podcast manager, and downloader to build your library, along with a CD/DVD Burner, UPnP / DLNA server, and sync manager to share it. With built-in conversion functionality, it supports hundreds of devices including iPhones, iPods, Android devices, as well as a variety of televisions and DVD players (via DLNA). Most importantly, it supports hundreds of scripts, plug-ins and visualizations to further customize it to meet your needs. Although it's definitely geared toward managing extensive collections, just about anyone will appreciate the comprehensive feature set. Other managers to look at include Foobar2000 - free, utilitarian, and appreciated by customization enthusiasts; Tomahawk – also free and geared towards the social network junkie who wants to share their music and hear what their friends are listening to; XBMC – great for people who have a ton of both music and videos and will help you to access both with an easy and intuitive interface; and CATraxx – another free manager that isn’t complicated or fancy; it organizes your music and lets you play it.
Organize Your Digital Photos
Most people have been taking digital photos for several years now and just dumping them in a generic My Pictures album. If you get it organized now, and keep to your system, you shouldn’t ever have to do this again; remember the project is only going to get harder the longer you wait.
  1. Create Folders (30 min. -1 hour)
    Steps 1 and 2 should be performed simultaneously for maximum time efficiency. Start creating subfolders (don’t cringe at the word subfolder, they are your friend) - for example, create a folder for the year 2011, then within that folder one folder for each month. Later, when you have photo management software, you can further categorize them into specific holidays, or events, or featuring specific people. From now on, as you download photos to your computer, create new folders as you go along.
  2. Purge (30 min. -1 hour)
    Get rid of the ones that are dark, blurry, embarrassing (only of you, if they are embarrassing of others they should be stored in special file labeled BLACKMAIL) or otherwise irrelevant. At this stage be ruthless and don’t over-think it, paring down the pile will make the entire project more manageable and more likely to be completed.
  3. Management Software (30 min. - 1hour)
    Pick a photo management program. XnView is a small, open-source program that lets you view, organize and create slide-shows; IrFanView is one of the most popular, it does a bit more than organize, with some basic paint and effect options; Picasa is one of our favorites , it’s free and powerful and very user friendly, it also has face recognition software that makes tagging your photos incredibly easy (if you want to share your photos using Picasa Web Albums be sure to read the fine print, using it grants Google the right to use your photos); PaintShop Photo Pro is marvelous and only costs about $30 – it can help you touch up blemishes, organize your images, and share your photos. This software is made for professionals, but it's simple enough to use that we feel comfortable recommending it to the casual user as well.

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