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Category Archives: Software

Microsoft Live Labs Photosynth

Microsoft Live Labs - Photosynth (Image courtesy Microsoft)

By Andrew Liszewski

Large companies having secret research labs is by no means a new thing but these days they seem more open to showing the public what they’ve been working on even if the technology is far from ready for the average consumer. No doubt we can thank Google Labs for this trend.

Microsoft’s own Live Labs has just released a look inside a new piece of software they’ve been cooking up called Photosynth. The idea of the program is pretty simple. Looking at regular 2D photos is boring so why not assemble a collection of photos of a particular place, person or object into a kind of 3D interactive version? This won’t really work for photographers who just grab a single far away photo of something but if you’re the type who loves to take plenty of detail shots this could prove interesting.

The software basically analyzes a group of images and looks for similar distinctive features across photos. When a particular feature is found in multiple images the 3D positional data can be calculated and the photos can be arranged in an interactive manner like in the above screenshots allowing you to pan around and zoom in or out on certain areas. A more practical use of this technology as suggested by Microsoft would be to grab a photo of a landmark with your cameraphone and then via image analysis similar to what Photosynth uses the name of the place as well as more info could be instantly found online.

Photosynth is not currently available for download but a public beta version is apparently in the works.

[Microsoft Live Labs Photosynth] VIA [Ars Technica]

(Video) BumpTop’s Realistic Desktop Experience

bumptop prototype

By David Ponce

We’ve written about desktop applications that redefine the user interface dynamic before. But I have to say we’re a little smitten with this one: the BumpTop prototype.

It seeks to approximate the way we handle documents in a real world setting. You know what I’m talking about; piles of sheets here, scattered magazines there… Now, I do a pretty bad job of describing this. Instead, come inside and watch a fascinating 6 minute video of an early prototype.

The company says that if they get funding, they’ll grow it into a full OS. I have a feeling money’s on the way.

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Widsets, Widgets For Your Mobile

widsets

By David Ponce

Looks like Nokia is trying to ride the widget gravy train, and it’s calling its initiative Widsets. They’re basically widgets for your mobile.

Like its PC and Mac counterparts, Widsets are tiny apps that enable to do all sorts of things, like get weather updates, get your favorite headlines, etc. And it looks like all you need is the following: Java MIDP 2.0, a 128×128 color screen or higher and internet access on your mobile, though WidSets does not currently work with Nextel, T-Mobile USA or BREW-enabled phones (e.g. Verizon, Alltel, U.S. Cellular), or Palm devices.

Now, if you’re like me, you’ll start looking for the word Nokia on the Widsets site… and have a hard time finding it. This intrigues me. It is there, though it’s buried in the TOS page. Speculation, anyone?

[Widsets] VIA [Xataka]

U3 USB Stick Technology

u3.gif
By Bruce Eaton

Not the newest tech but rather, relevant tech. U3 is a software technology that turns USB sticks into more than just portable storage but actual drives, by enabling them to run software straight from them. The guys over on Gadget Madness bought and used a Kingston Data Traveler 2gig USB Stick with U3[Affiliate link -Ed.] and had nothing but fabulous things to say about it:

One word comes to mind: IMPRESSIVE!

While the Kingston Stick itself doesn’t look all that great, the U3 software did what it promised, allowing for you to take your programs with you. No more using a crappy web-based email but how about Thunderbird with all your settings. They also allow for password protection so only you can access your programs on your stick. Programs can be downloaded from U3 where they have lots of selections such as Winamp, WinRAR, and Skype. Check it out for yourself.

[U3] VIA [Gadget Madness]

iPod Directions

iPod Directions (Image courtesy iPod-Directions.com)By Andrew Liszewski

There’s a reason people get tired of hearing iPod news and that’s because 97% of the time it’s about some new case or accessory that only slightly differs from the hundreds of cases and accessories that came before it. The other 3% of the time though it’s something that will grab your attention and usually includes a tantalizing rumor, an official announcement from Apple themselves or some innovative new way to use the device. In my opinion iPod Directions falls into that last 3%.

Developed by Zap Technologies this free online service based on Yahoo Local Maps allows you to create driving instructions from any two locations (as long as they’re in the U.S. or Canada) and export them as an iPod-friendly photo gallery. Of course a photo-capable iPod is required but other than that you simply enter your starting and destination addresses and the site will give you a downloadable zip file cOntaining the instructions and highlighted maps ready for viewing.

I tested this service on my Nano and have to say it’s pretty easy to use, and the directions themselves aren’t that bad either. I will mention that the images and text for the directions were a bit soft but I suspect it was due to iTunes’ image optimization (shrinking) since the original files look like they were created for the larger iPod’s screen.

[iPod Directions] VIA [Ubergizmo]

Microsoft Times Reader

Microsoft Times Reader (Image courtesy Microsoft)By Andrew Liszewski

I’m still impressed at the number of printed newspapers still in existence given the ability of every other medium from radio to TV to the internet to deliver the news as it happens.

In an obvious attempt to remain as competitive as possible the New York Times along with Microsoft have developed the Times Reader, a PC based application for reading as well as distributing the daily news. Relying heavily on the new display technology in the upcoming Vista OS the text in the Times Reader will dynamically ‘re-flow’ as the font and window sizes are adjusted. As anyone who has worked in publishing knows the way text is laid out (rivers of white) is very important to its readability.

Other innovations include the ability to annotate and clip documents, a slide show of today’s newsworthy images that link to the individual stories and a locally stored seven-day archive.

The Times Reader should be available for download in the coming months.

[Microsoft Times Reader] VIA [Ars Technica]

PXN8 – Online Photo Editing

PXN8 - Photos Made Easy (Image courtesy PXN8.com)
By Andrew Liszewski

There have been a few times when away from home that I’ve wanted to post a story or email a photo that needed a bit of touch-up but didn’t have access to Photoshop on the system I was using. Unfortunately MS Paint just doesn’t cut it and I’ve yet to find a good solution to the problem… until now.

PXN8 (pronounced Pix-en-ate) is an online, stripped-down photo editor based on HTML, CSS and Javascript that runs right in your web browser. While the toolset is not expansive it still includes an extremely useful array of functions like resize, crop, red-eye removal, horizon levelling and even color corrections like brightness, saturation, hue and contrast. There are even some ‘fun’ effects like the Lomo tool which will add a dark ‘artsy’ halo to your photo.

Images can be loaded into PXN8 from your local drive or directly from any web URL. When you’re happy with the results the image can then be saved back to your drive or easily uploaded to an existing Flickr account. Personally I would love to see the addition of a basic levels or curves tool and an option for jpeq quality when exporting but that being said I think the developers have already done a really good job with this tool.

While using PXN8.com does appear to be free you can also purchase and completely customize PXN8 to run on your own server for a flat fee of $749. This would be useful to a site that involves users uploading images where the PXN8 service could be offered to them as part of the upload process.

[PXN8 – Photos Made Easy] VIA [Uneasy Silence]

Orb, The Free Slingbox

orb.JPG
By Bruce Eaton

All of you have probably heard of the Slingbox, which allows you to feed TV to your computer, say, if you are away on travel. The problem is that it is expensive to poor wannabe gadget folk such as I. In comes the Orb, a video casting software offering that has a great price: FREE FOREVER. Orb allows you to transmit your TV, audio, photo galleries and video from a base PC to any device which has a web browser (and an Internet connection). So long as the device you are trying to Orb from supports either Real Media formats, Windows Media formats, or 3GP format, you are good to go. In case you noticed the 3GP, yes you can use this to stream to your phone or PDA.

This really seems like cool software that has a good backing to it. They even have a plugin so you can DVR TiVo on the go and such. Requirements are not out of this world (2.4Ghz, 512ram, XP, 1gig free) so almost anyone these days can run it. And did I mention it is free?

[Orb] VIA [GadgetSpy]

Holding Pattern Screensaver

Holding Pattern Screensaver (Image courtesy Idle-Time.org)By Andrew Liszewski

These days the technology used in CRTs and LCDs has made the once popular screensaver obsolete. In fact I haven’t used one in years, opting to simply set my monitor to turn off when I’m away from the computer.

Being a huge fan of flying though I’ve been using the Holding Pattern screensaver for the past few weeks, and I have to say it looks amazing. The creators have taken stills from the interiors of various commercial airliners, and using some clever animation and parallax tricks have recreated the appearance of moving scenery outside the plane. The effect of looking out the window of a plane flying at 30,000 feet is very convincing. Best of all the Holding Pattern screensaver is a free download.

[Holding Pattern Screensaver] VIA [Lifehacker]