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August 28, 2004

People's Feet

Have you ever noticed that most people don't walk with their feet parallel to each other? Quite often a right foot is bent out or both are a little askew. Very few people have feet bent in at all. I wonder is it genetic or something about the way people grow up. Most of the places that I'm wandering around and happen to notice don't include families, so I can't comment on any trends.

August 24, 2004

Please sir may I have another?!

How appropriate that a discussion at work today focused on the new labor laws and overtime work/pay, as I end up putting in a 13 hour day... Blah!

August 22, 2004

Paper crane anyone?

Paper crane anyone?

An amazing origami piece.

Watermarking Redux

After a few failed attempts at actually watermarking my images, I had to abandon Gallery's built in support. This was primarily driven by problems that I encountered with Gallery using the same watermark on both to the original and the sized version of an image. This meant that the watermark, if fitted for the sized image, hardly covered any of the original image. If the watermark was instead sized for the original image, the sized version only got a small portion of the watermark, based on how big the original image was. It seems Gallery doesn't recreate the sized image after applying the watermark to the original image. The one behavior that I did like about Gallery was that it didn't look like it tried to watermark the thumbnail version of the image.

What I ended up doing was to use the general principal of what Gallery was doing, but tweak it a little. I started off creating a bunch of differently sized watermarks in Adobe Photoshop to closely match the size of my original images. I saved them using the png-24 format, used 30% opacity for my text, and made both horizontal and vertical versions. I used the pnm tools to convert the png into a pnm and an alpha only pnm.

I wrote a little script that performs each of the following actions on every image:


  • Determine size of source image

  • Pick either a horizontal or vertical watermark

  • Resize the watermark and its alpha file to match either the horizontal or vertical dimensions of the source image

  • Convert the source jpg to pnm

  • Combine the source image with the watermark using the alpha channel file

  • Convert the combines pnm back to jpg and transfer over any exif information contained in the original jpg

  • Clean up all the temporary files

In keeping with the Gallery behavior I don't watermark the thumbnail or highlight photo for a particular album.


This approach got me closer to what I wanted but is not without its problems. In particular, since all of my watermarking is based around the same basic watermark, it shows up better on some images than on others. Chris tried to find a way to mimic Adobe's invert color overlay scheme, but so far we've not found a way to do this with just the pnm tools. I'm sure if you used ImageMagick or GIMP, you could probably script it, but that seemed like it would take more time to figure out, and I'm willing to live with good enough. I figure unless I individually watermark every image, or go with a much more obtrusive watermark, what I have now is good enough for me.

One problem I've noticed since having watermarked my images is that if you change the highlight photo or album, Gallery seems to regenerate the thumbnail that gets used. Given that the source pictures are now watermarked, this regenerated thumbnail now carries along the watermark. The only way around this that I've found so far is to manually overwrite the highlight jpg with an unwatermarked version.

Below is a sample of the commands that end up getting run on an image to apply the watermark. I ended up using Perl to generate the script since it has great support for getting the size of an image and it made some of the logic of figuring out which watermark to use for resizing straight forward.

# Scale the watermark to the size of the photo.
# In this case I'm scaling up, but usually
# I take a larger watermark and scale it down.
pnmscale -xsize=1536 danielr-1232.pnm > wmscale.pnm
pnmscale -xsize=1536 danielr-1232.pnma > wmscale.pnma
# Convert the jpg to pnm.
jpegtopnm -exif=jpg.exif 2004_Hanscom.jpg > temp.pnm
# Combine the source and watermark.
pnmcomp -align=center -valign=middle -alpha=wmscale.pnma wmscale.pnm temp.pnm > comp.pnm
# Back to jpg.
pnmtojpeg --exif=jpg.exif --quality=95 comp.pnm > new.2004_Hanscom.jpg
# Uou could just overwrite the original in the
# line above, but I had them separate so that I
# could easily test out the process.
mv -f new.2004_Hanscom.jpg 2004_Hanscom.jpg

If someone else wants to use this same method, drop me a line and I can send you the script.

Mercedes-Benz Driving Event

Mercedes-Benz Driving Event

Mmmmmm, a chance to drive around in lots of expensive cars on nifty little tracks. I think you'll have a better chance of getting a spot if you happen to know someone who already owns a Benz.

August 21, 2004

Blog Off: Olympic athletes largely barred from posting online diaries

Blog Off: Olympic athletes largely barred from posting online diaries

A fine example of why I feel the Olympics has stopped being about the athletes and become another money making opportunity.

Blink of an eye

It was a typical mornings where I was on auto pilot going through my morning routine. Next thing I know I've manage to tweak my neck and it's as stiff as a 2x4. WTF! When you can't move your head freely you gain a new found appreciation for all of the subtle motions you usually go through without thinking. This was readily apparent while trying to drive around Wednesday night. Ouch.

File-Sharing Sites Found Not Liable for Infringement

File-Sharing Sites Found Not Liable for Infringement

It has been nice to see that the courts seem to be doing the right thing with P2P technology. Napster's model of storing information on a centralized server definitely put them in legal limbo, but the second generation got it right and the courts have agreed.

August 17, 2004

Nation's Charter Schools Lagging Behind, U.S. Test Scores Reveal

Nation's Charter Schools Lagging Behind, U.S. Test Scores Reveal

While statistics can be manipulated to favor a particular viewpoint, since this looks to be a reasonable finding, it will spark additional analysis of the situation. The argument that students in charter schools may excel as they continue to progress through the grades could be easily backed up by a follow-up study looking at eighth graders. I'm glad that people are starting to question the benefits of charter schools instead of assuming they are just better.
School Scores

August 13, 2004

Bananaphone

Bananaphone

I, I can't stop laughing!!!!

August 12, 2004

Electronic Industries

It sometimes boggles my mind at the ability of people to continue to create new industries. The www has given us countless new electronic industries. Since anyone can post anything on the web, nanny and filtering services were spawned to create safe environments for children. One day the blog was created and next thing you know there are blog aggregation services, blog specific indexers, etc., etc. The pace of human innovation is staggering.

Kerry You Blew It!

Kerry You Blew It!

For five days now, as the long-distance arguments between President Bush and Senator John Kerry have focused on the wisdom of invading Iraq, Mr. Kerry has struggled to convince his audiences that his vote to authorize the president to use military force was a far, far cry from voting for a declaration of war.

August 10, 2004

Less due process

Less due process

Citing concerns about terrorists crossing the nation's land borders, the Department of Homeland Security announced today that it planned to give border patrol agents sweeping new powers to deport illegal aliens from the frontiers abutting Mexico and Canada without providing the aliens the opportunity to make their case before an immigration judge.

August 9, 2004

Thinking Clearly

Man I have no idea where my thoughts were going last night, but they weren't in any kind of coherent fashion. Looking at that documentation post I threw in bunches of random stuff unrelated to the topic and when I was on course it was jumbled anyway. It's hard to write a good rant. I find it hard to write well in general, but I think most of the time I'm a little more spot on. Not that a blog is generally a forum for finely crafted prose, it's hard to make a reasonable point if all that's coming out is gibberish. One of the reasons that back in the real world they have those things called drafts. Thankfully in this always on digital world, who cares about a few typos or unconnected ramblings...

August 8, 2004

Ease of Use and Documentation

The more I play with new stuff, I tend to find that ease of use and documentation are playing a bigger role. I'm lucky enough to enjoy a fair amount of leisure time, but wonder just how much of it should really be spent just fighting with something to get it to work, especially as often alternative choices are available. I'll take this blogging system as an example. It falls into the realm of things that have three distinct phases for me: installation, getting my feet wet, and customization.

I have to give b2evolution high marks on the first two. The critical factor in getting those first two was ease of use. Unpack a directory and run through a quick couple of pages to setup an initial configuration. Login, create a new user and write a new entry. Wow it displays, simple as that.

Only problem is with something as dynamic as a blog you gotta have knobs to turn! Going back to the admin interface gives a few high-level options, but not quite what I wanted to change. Given the version number, maybe not all the options are wizified yet. At which point I turn, or I should say "try to turn", to the documentation. Splat. Houston we have a problem.

I know this rant has been made time and time again, but it holds so true. The best projects not only have reasonable documentation, they have well organized easy to find documentation. But, no one wants to write documentation. I say if your interface has good enough ease of use you don't need very much. FAQs and forums do help and if you are judicious you can usually find an answer there if they have been around long enough, but trying to get to the wheat from the chaff is just painful.

It is free software though, so what right do I have to complain? None really. It's not like I'm going to stop using it, because at the core it is still I've found, so far. Hell, if I was so inclined I could work to improve the situation, which is something I wish more people would take to heart. Beggars can't be choosers. You didn't invest anything for the software, so unless you are willing to donate your own time to make things better, please don't complain. If the authors have a wish-list, submit a request, but don't become the squeaky wheel.

Addis Red Sea Ethiopian Restaurant

Addis Red Sea Ethiopian Restaurant

I've been down to Addis twice now and have really enjoyed the unique cuisine they have to offer. Their sampler for two is a great way to try a bunch of the dishes they offer and get a better feel for what you might want to order in the future.

August 6, 2004

Watermarking

It's a sad state of affairs when you need to start being concerned about image copyrights for simple little photos that you post online. Ever since I've had a website, I've had an online photo gallery. It has morphed over the years as the number and quality of the pictures I've put up online has grown. I'll never claim to be a great photographer, but ever now and again I manage to capture what I think is a really great shot.

Between the magic of Google and my own web logs, I've managed to find some of my pictures turn up in unique places. In most cases people have just been linking back to my site. While that does increase my bandwidth usage, it at least gives someone a way to find out where the picture came from. The really considerate people usually even ask if they can use an first. However, it now seems that not everyone wants to play nice, which of course leaves me with a few choices:


  • Remove my pictures from the web

  • Limit access

  • Watermark


Given that a big catalyst of the web was to share information I hate to remove them. Limiting access prevents the randomness of people I've met in the past stumbling on them and sending me a message. Watermarking it is then. Thankfully Gallery now has built in support for this. For anyone looking for an online photo maintenance program, Gallery rocks. The newer versions are just packed with options and it just keeps getting better.

Creating a decent watermark ended up being a lot harder than I had hoped it would be, especially since I needed a visible watermark. As always a little searching on the web produced some great samples and a couple of howtos that let me piece together something reasonable. A couple of things that took me a little while to figure out was the need to export the watermark as a png-24 and that to make it look decent you really need ones sized appropriately for the image being watermarked. Having a horizontal and a vertical image also helps.

August 5, 2004

Wow

Yeah, so a friend finally pointed me at a blogging system that didn't suck and I figured I'd give it a shot. Still trying to get a hang of all the options since it includes everything and the kitchen sink, but so far it's looking really cool. Let me know what you think :)

Inside Jack

Inside Jack

A great little exploration of the Sun and Microsoft money settlement.

Team America

Team America

Next up from the South Park folks.

Totally GridBag

Totally GridBag

The joys of the Java GridBag...

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