The Norman Transcript

February 16, 2014

Sharing large files via computer is easy with the right tools


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — A customer recently complained that his email program was crashing every time he tried to send photos taken with his digital camera to friends and relatives. After a bit of investigation, I discovered the problem.

He was, on the surface, doing everything right. Transferring the pictures from the camera to his computer and saving them to his hard drive was a task he had mastered. He also knew how to properly attach the picture files to an email.

After watching the process fail a few times, I decided to look at the pictures, and that’s when I discovered the source of his problem.

The file size of each individual picture was huge, much too large to be sent as an email attachment. He was taking pictures at the highest resolution his camera would provide. This made the file size of each picture around 70 megabytes (MB). He was then attaching three or four of these large files to an email and attempting to send it to multiple recipients.

However, email was never designed as a means of sending and receiving large computer files. As you may have experienced, large email attachments can seriously slow down the entire email process. If too many people decide to email too many large files at the same time, an email server (a computer dedicated to “serving” up email) can simply choke and shut down.

Because of this, Internet Service Providers put size limits on email attachments. For my customer’s ISP (Cox), the size limit is 20 MB per email. Attempting to email anything in excess of this size will result in failure. Other ISPs may have different email size limits.

After I identified the problem, and after discussing various solutions, my customer decided to deal with Cox’s email attachment size limits by changing the file size of his pictures.

He already had Photoshop Elements (a good program) installed, which allowed him to resize his pictures down to a few MB each. This is a perfectly acceptable solution for pictures that are going to be viewed on a computer screen; they will look just fine. The only time most folks really need super-high resolution photos is if they are to be printed. You know, like, on paper; people still do that.

Another good (and free) program that allows you to resize photos is called GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program). For PCs, it can be found at gimp.org. A version for Apple Macs is at gimp.lisanet.de/Website/Download.html. GIMP is also a great, all-around drawing and graphics-manipulation program and has many other uses besides resizing photos.

Resizing files to be sent via email is all well and good, but what if you need to keep the original file size and still have someone get it remotely? The hands-down winner has to be the file-sharing service Dropbox.

Dropbox (dropbox.com) is designed for people who frequently need to access the same files from many different devices and locations. It is also used by people who regularly share large files with the same recipients. Everyone in this scenario needs to setup a Dropbox account and install the Dropbox software on their computer, complete with usernames and passwords.

Once each computer has been configured, file folders are made and then “synchronized.” This means the same files show up on all of the different devices. Synchronization occurs frequently, so that when a new file is added to one computer’s Dropbox folder, it automatically shows up on all the other computers.

Dropbox is an easy-to-use service. There are paid versions available, too, for “power users,” but you may find the free version does everything you need.

Dave Moore has been performing computer consulting, repairs, security and networking in Oklahoma since 1984. He also teaches computer safety workshops for public and private organizations. He can be reached at 919-9901 or davemoorecomputers.com.

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