Enlarging cell-phone photos can be done

April 16, 2006|By JAMES COATES - Chicago Tribune

Q. Do you have any idea how to enlarge a picture transferred from a cell phone to the desktop?

- Stuart Moskovitz,

via e-mail

A. Who knows how many millions of perfectly enjoyable family photos get lost because they're taken by the dinky cameras in ever more cell phones and never seem to make it beyond these tiny screens?

And you've put your finger on the main reason for the loss, Mr. M. Cell-phone photos are made in such modest resolutions that they tend to break out in globs of square, colored pixels when we try to enlarge them even to the 4-by-6-inch sizes of drugstore photo prints.

The reality is that no matter how many fictionalized miracles of digital picture enlargements we see on "CSI" and other TV shows, nobody can force low-resolution pictures into huge blowups where the license plates on a fleeing perp's car can be read by working magic on the black-and-white ATM camera across the street from the crime scene.


But we can still coax decent images out of cell-phone pictures, particularly if you want to view them on a computer screen. In fact, Microsoft gives away on its Web site an outstanding program called the Windows XP Image Resize Powertoy that magnifies small images many times over without creating those blocky pixels that otherwise appear.

This software is so good that even pros with industrial-strength software such as Adobe Photoshop often cannot enlarge small images as well as Powertoy for Windows.

Once loaded, the software becomes part of the Windows menus, so that whenever you right-click inside an image or on its icon, the resize tool is among the choices on the pop-up menu that appears.

When selected, the resize feature leaves the original alone and delivers copies in much larger resolutions.

Cell-phone images can be rendered by default in a choice of sizes, including 800-by-600 and 1024-by-768 resolutions that are easily seen on a computer screen and that even can be printed out with surprisingly satisfactory results.

Those who really want to push the envelope can use a custom setting to make even larger blowups, but I've found that 1024-by-768 is pretty much the limit before quality slips.

These images display great on a computer monitor, but when printed out, the colors are a bit less vibrant than are proper prints.

But even with this trade-off, you'll find this bit of free software finally makes it worthwhile to invest in cell-phone cameras.

Go to and use the word "powertoy" as a search term.

Q. My computer had Windows Media Player 9, which was working fine, but I decided to upgrade to Player 10.

After downloading the update, I received the following message when I clicked any category under Auto Playlist: "Windows Media Player cannot find the specified file. Be sure the path is typed correctly. ..."

I don't know what happened or where to look.

- Shirley Granum,

via e-mail

A. As you already know, Ms. G., when they work, these automatic playlists become almost addicting.

One uses a wizard built in to Media Player to scan every piece of music on the hard drive (or network) and then create a list of just those songs that meet a specific set of circumstances such as all tracks by Elvis or all tracks listed "spirituals" or all tracks not played in a month and so on.

For unknown reasons, these automatically generated playlists are not stored in the same folder as are lists that a user creates on the fly by selecting desired songs from the master list of all music stored on the computer.

The automatic playlists are kept in the Shared Music folder that all users of the computer can see, while the My Playlists are saved in a folder called My Playlists in the My Music folder under each user's designated Documents folder.

So, you need to find where your auto playlists are hiding by clicking on Start and Search and then Files and Folders. Now use as a search term *.wpl.

The Windows Play Lists (.wpl) files for the automatic lists will appear in the search results box, and they will all be in the same folder.

When that display comes up, give any one of the playlists a right-click and select Open Containing Folder. When that folder comes up, give it a right-click and select Copy.

Now click on the My Computer icon, then open the Shared Music Folder that appears.

Finally, right-click inside the Shared Music folder and select Paste to restore the folder of playlists where needed.

Got a question on personal technology? Send a note to Jim Coates at Questions can be answered only through this column.

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