Software



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Sharing this corner of the world with you takes the effort of many. It starts with folks who make and do amazing things from a 15 year old artist to my mom’s hack of Gmail to IBM’s researchers who built a thinking computer in Watson. While Techlife shares some things you have seen, and some you haven’t the goal is always the same giving some focus to these talented people and their efforts. It’s great when organizations get behind sharing too. Often they do it to showcase their own wares, while providing a spotlight on the exceptional. So for all the print and mobile readers, spend some time with “GL doesn’t stand for Good Lookin’ but it could” in a full screen browser, it’s worth it.

Made to showcase Google’s Chrome browser and the advanced features it can support, Chrome Experiments is a site with a curated “best of the best in cool” all showing off user-submitted works. (Techlife ran some tests and some of the developers were kind of enough to still play nice with others, so the latest Microsoft Internet Explorer, Firefox or Opera Browser might work just as well.)  In just over18 months the site has posted 277 works, starting with the first one “BallDroppings” by Josh Nimoy which has gotten nearly 5 stars from over 1500 people. It reminds me a lot of Line Rider.

Some of the best works involve animated water you can interact with in the browser, such as “Chrysaora” by Aleksandar Rodic and “WebGL Water Simulation” by Evan Wallace.  The first is a collection of jellyfish and the second is a simple ball in pool of water. But when you consider both are using just the browser to render and animate you begin to understand the genius behind these works.

As expected there is quite a collection of games, all of which aren’t built in Flash which has been a common building block of web based games.  “Dots, the Game” by Nicolas Smith and Aviv Keshet, “Z-Type” by Dominic Szablewski, “Asteroids, Inc.” by Jarred Draney, and “Word²” by Massively Fun are all examples of the future of web gaming built right in the browser.

YouTube Preview Image

The Techlife favorite of these Chrome Experiments is an interactive digital short using Arcade Fire’s “The Wilderness Downtown” by Chris Milk and Google Creative Lab. Sure the team works for Google, but it does not diminish the effort.  For online viewers we have embedded a screen capture of the interactive experiment, but trust me it doesn’t do it justice compared to typing in your own childhood address and it building a custom show for you. (Be aware not every address works.) This has taken music videos to the next evolutionary stage of development. And I like the direction.

As a final fun, enjoy the “Shaun the Sheep” by Google Chrome Team, clearly an entry by the team that has all the tricks at their disposal. They don’t disappoint.

As the future of browsing evolves into what we see here, the enjoyment and fun of even everyday work and entertainment should keep interfaces and applications from all looking and acting the same. I like the future.

*So what does GL stand for then? Nothing fancy, just “Graphics Library.”

 

 


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We have an implied relationship. You the reader, me the writer. You the question asker, me the answerer. Techlife enjoys being your answer source, but dear reader you should know the world is one big three year old. With an endless supply of questions; Where do you turn for answers? (There’s another one.) While Techlife is great and Wikipedia is good (see what I did there?), sometimes your question can’t be answered by either fountain of knowledge. Enter stage left – Quora. (getting its name from Question or  Answer and a self created plural of the word quorum.)

Quora (rhymes with “nora”) is the resource for your inner three year old. It offers up questions by users and answers by really smart people. Quora has done a great job of allowing an expert’s answer to be voted upwards as the best answer to a question, while also allowing multiple answers in case a breadth of knowledge is what’s needed. Do we need some examples? Sure we do.

Is it fun for movie stars to kiss other movie stars on-screen?

So right away a great question. Even better the best peer-reviewd answer at the time of publication was by Ashton Kutcher who said:

It totally depends on the co-star. Seann William Scott in Dude, Where’s My Car?… not so fun. Natalie Portman… not an awful day on the job.

Right away you know this isn’t Wikipedia. What else you ask? Here are a few I have answered:

Has anyone in the public sphere ever reached the pinnacle of three entirely different disciplines like Arnold Schwarzenegger has?

The answers on this question have many luminaries in society listed with Leonardo Da Vinci leading all vote getters with Painter, Scientist, Engineer and Inventor.  My submission was Bill Gates who as a computer engineer developed the BASIC programming language, went on to create Microsoft and lead them as a business titan, has authored two best sellers and finally is the world leader today in philanthropy and getting other wealthy people to follow his example.

How do you know who is answering your question and their level of expertise? Each person has a profile page that can link to other social media profiles. On that page you can see what kind of questions they have asked and answered recently, what topics they follow and who else they follow.

Another one I answered is something that crosses physics with paleontology but I just applied a little common sense to get the second best answer to date.

Could a Tyrannosaurus Rex bite through a modern day tank?

My answer backed  up with some science was “NO” quite simply because the T-Rex couldn’t open his jaw wide enough  to take a bite. My counterparts in answering this question are Andy Lemke, a polymath IT Architect with knowledge of nuclear engineering and physics and Gary Stein a retired CTO.

So am I being replaced? According to, “What are telltale signs that you may be facing a mutiny and/or coup?” It looks like I am going to —

*Note that every question mark in this article has a question on Quora tied to it, comment on which one is your favorite question used. There are some unique ones.

 


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Here at Techlife we have had the pleasure of writing about many family and friends who needed technology assistance. Remember the reader who dropped his phone in the toilet? A fan favorite and a personal friend. How do I get so lucky knowing these folks?

As Techlife likes to pay homage to the greatest hackers, Moms, we have had past columns such as GeekDad happy for Mother’s Day and This Mother’s Day Tell the Truth. Well, now it’s personal. In a celebration of Moms’ ingenuity, I offer up How my Mom Hacked Gmail.

My mom plays this mental game with herself. Maybe you do too. “Technology is too hard, and I don’t get it,” she often exclaims. But in reality she does get it, just at her own pace. Which leads us to the recent multi-year process of getting a smart phone. Now you may be saying to yourself what special smart phone did she get that took a few years to arrive?

Well, once again this is my Mom. The smart phones have been here, it was her reluctance mentally that hadn’t turned the corner. She had a cell and a Palm and was eager to carry a single device.  After years her realization was,whatever she imagined as the perfect device still hadn’t been made apparently.

So she settled on a top of the line Android Powered G2 with Google. Immediately the questions begin. Her biggest was Palm Notes. She used the basic notes function and wanted something like it. A simple request. Searching the Market resulted in more than 1000 note apps. “But, son,” she said. Always there’s a catch, right? Hers was she wanted to access the notes even when in the basement of her work with no connection, she wanted changes to auto-sync, she wanted to search them, and wanted to organize them. So far there are still hundreds of apps that work, no problem Mom.

Life got in the way of the family helpdesk, a few days later the smart phone vs. the toilet and other tech foibles speaking circuit concluded, I checked in with Mom again and asked her how it was going.  Expecting to hear how she still had had 48 more apps to test drive in the notes. She said, “I just decided to use Gmail.” I cocked my head to the side like a dog does upon hearing an unfamiliar sound. Slowly I replied, “How does that work?”

My Mom’s Gmail Hack

  1. Visit Gmail on Desktop and log in (not all Androids can do this on the device)
  2. In the upper left click on Contacts
  3. Under the New Contact Button, scroll down to “New Group”  and click
  4. Enter a name, I chose “Notes”
  5. Click the “New Contact” Button
  6. In the “Add Name” field add a category such as Work, Home or School
  7. Click the button with the “…” and enter the Note’s subject as the last name
  8. Now begin entering your notes
  9. Upon completion, click on the groups pull down and select “Notes” and leave “My Contacts” selected
  10. Repeat for all your notes
  11. Notes are searchable on desktop and handheld and synced to Google’s back end servers

Yep, my Mom took the simplest, easiest method she knew and adapted. Creating Gmail Notes, proving once again simple beats fancy every time. If you know her, call her a geek. She earned it. Happy Mother’s Day to all those moms.

 


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Renaissance. The word conjures up images of painters, sculptors, scientists, builders, writers, politicians all working side-by-side with one area bleeding into the next. While the word renaissance literally means rebirth, it also connotates cultural shifts and applied learning. In today’s digital realm we have access to information at our fingertips and the ability to sort and shift that data, as Techlife covered in recent columns like What is a computer overload? Meet Watson. and 189 Paradoxesand 700,00 Archives to Listen By.”

Body and Seoul

Google Earth originally debuted in 2001, under a different name. In June it celebrates 10 years of helping people understand our Earth. The applications have been wide reaching, being used in many media and educational settings to help better explain the world around us. We have gotten use to the flyovers, layers, zoom, rotate and ability to see how the world has been affected by hurricanes, tsunamis or earthquakes. Now Google Labs has applied a digital renaissance thinking to this technology in the new Google Body.

Google Body uses the same navigational tools to make exploring the human body familiar and informational. With unique tools to rotate, zoom and uncover layers of own anatomy. Labels like in maps can be turned on and off, allowing a clear understanding of the muscles, bones, organs, and much more. A friend who was a doctor was blown away, then I dropped the final nugget. It’s available for Android too. Digital Renaissance indeed.

Eye ful Tower

A few weeks ago the weather was inclement, and a case of the sniffles was running through the house. A perfect day to have a museum come to me. Go ahead, read that again. Good. So the only question was which museum? Thanks to Art Project by Google we could explore not just the real Renaissance, but any other period of art covered at currently 17 different art museums in places such as Moscow, Berlin, New York City, London, Prague, and Madrid.

Students who want to explore paintings can now do so with the highest resolution imaginable. Architects who want to get a feel for some of the most famous buildings can do a virtual walk through. And best of all, you, can curate your own favorites from all the museums, useful for art fans, teachers and artists.

I decided to visit the Palace of Versailles where I was treated to vast galleries with ornate opulence at every turn. A nice change was a tour around the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Here I spent time lost in The harvest a painting by Vincent Van Gogh; “he considered this impressive vista one of his finest works.”

Continue to learn, stretching your mind across seemingly vast spaces. It is only this effort that will result in true personal renaissance.


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The red spots indicate where each person in the shot was standing, identifying them for removal.

Can you remember the Techlife column from 3 years ago? “I can’t even remember what I had for lunch yesterday,” you are probably thinking. If you can remember, you probably have what is known as a photographic memory.

Back in the column, Image Resizing and MS Paint – Techlife TV Double FeatureI covered the amazing video by Ariel Shamir talking about image resizing or retargeting. Simply the idea of cropping and scaling are not always the best ways to keep the key parts of an image intact while allowing it to fit the space required. The video from the column gives plenty of great visual examples of using an algorithm to remove or add content to an image.  Another name for this process is seam carving.

After targeting the people, the final shot looks serene and peaceful.

Recently I came across code ninja Gabe Rudy’s work in the same space. (pun intended)  Gabe has created software to allow Mac and PC users to easily run the unique CAIR (Content Aware Image Resizing) algorithm on their own machines. I easily downloaded it and tried quite a few different images using the many settings the software provides.  Included for your review are two successful images that used only Gabe’s application Seam Carving GUI for Windows.  No Photoshop, image editors or other special tricks were used to create these unique images.

Bonsai Tree after Seam Carving with all elements vanished with the push of a button.

Bonsai with a few key points in red to target for removal. They could easily be targeted to keep as well.

So the challenge Techlife readers, download the program, and try it out.  If you get a few good shots leave a note in the comments with a link to your before and after shots. And the next time someone says they have a photographic memory ask them if they can selectively edit, retargeting the important memories and seam carving with the best of them.  Enjoy the blank stare. Whom just carved whom?

This original shot had people dotting the landscape, what if we could remove them?

The original shot prior to any seam carving and retargeting.


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Do you like fairy tales? This one has explosions, wizards and two arch enemies.  While there are no princesses or frogs there is a columnist and a few game developers and most of all a happy ending.

Once upon a time, back in 2007, a lowly columnist was penning his latest April Techlife column titled, “chick chick BOOM – Baby Chick gaming warfare at its best“. The article spoke of a mysterious, fun game for the web browser. Then all of a sudden this highly addicting game vanished. Our lowly columnist was asked about this and in February of 2009 made a bold prediction, “…maybe they will release it one day as WiiWare for the Wii.”

As if this voice was heard whispering on the wind, a return voice whispered from Frankfurt, Germany where the game developer “tons of bitscame out from the shroud of silence to tell their tale of the resurrection of chick chick BOOM in multi-player for Wii Ware.

Techlife: How did the original chick chick BOOM get started?

Tons of Bits: Before chick chick BOOM we had developed another flash game called Mission in Snowdriftland, which had a great impact and positive response by the players. Mission in Snowdriftland was created as an advent calendar with 24 jump ‘n’ run levels for christmas. The idea of making a game for Easter was an obvious next step. chick chick BOOM was born.

TL: Sounds like it was hatched. How long did it take to plan and implement?

TOB: The whole project was realized in a pretty short time for a game of this complexity. From scratch to release it took approx. 8 weeks.

TL: What was your measure of success?

TOB: The constant positive feedback from the community. In the form of comments on the web but also as direct e-mails; or for instance fans writing a detailed article in Wikipedia.

TL: Why did it disappear?

TOB: It was planned as a limited easter event. We thought it wouldn’t feel right outside of this seasonal context if we would have kept it online.

TL: Is the new chick chick BOOM the same game?

TOB: The new chick chick BOOM has been completely redesigned and improved. The core idea “two chick teams fight each other in a whacky way” is the same, but the presentation and the game mechanics have been completely changed. The focus was on optimizing the game for the Wii, especially on the feature of simultaneous use of the Wii remotes for the multiplayer mode.

TL: What are the coolest new features?

(more…)


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Tell me, how I can help?

As a rule, the idea of calling or emailing a support service for help with a toaster, a lawnmower or your 1982 Emerson Lilac Purple boombox is akin to having a conversation with a bear at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  You know the metaphor, right? It takes a long time to get down to the bottom of a big endless hole.  Once there the conversation is pretty scary with you pleading that they understand.  More than likely you are left with growling.

Or there’s our way.

In a March 2010 Techlife column, we celebrated with you the reader how RDRR Labs was named a Top Android Developer by Google.  A few notes on this; RDRR Labs is a two person team including myself and a friend. Google’s definition of “top” was more than 3.5 stars and at least 5,000 downloads.  Nice qualifications.  But to us that was not “top” yet. At that time our most popular app, Timeriffic had just under a 4.5 rating and near 10,000 downloads and was available in a few languages.

We made an effort to improve. We added more languages, today we have eleven. We have added features and listened to our users and today have more than 50,000 downloads. Best of all we have increased our app’s rating to 4.56 stars and rising. And lastly we have gone on a customer service campaign and this is where the real magic has happened.

Our app is free.  We don’t need to listen to anyone. We want too. To listen even  better, we have a developed an easy error reporting tool to help us answer our users questions. And that’s where things get interesting.

A user reported our app was broken and would not work on his new Droid X. I should add his tone was more like we had stormed into his home, taken his Droid X and crushed it under our foot. In other words; he was mad. We tried a few calm replies suggesting various options to him. 20 emails later, the app was still not working. Now admittedly we didn’t have a Droid X. Could it be this one phone actually didn’t like our app? It was worth finding out.

Techlife reader to the rescue!  I sent a quick message to a loyal reader who had just been bragging about her new Droid X. She was happy to see if the app worked. She installed it and reported back it was great. I thanked her and now was really stumped. How could our app be showing errors so different from what was expected? I took another crack, with a long email detailing the steps our loyal reader had taken and how the app worked great. The email I got back was the key to the whole mystery.

Our efforts are exactly what you can do when getting or giving help. Stay calm. Look carefully at the problem from the user’s side and above all don’t give up. The email we got back detailed the issue and talked about a specific feature. A feature we didn’t offer! It was then I realized he wasn’t using our app at all! A quick exchange  and he replied how happy he was we had solved his problem. Case closed.


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Remember way back to February when the Colts lost to the Saints in a great Superbowl (except for you Colts fans)? Like you, I watched the Superbowl commercials too.  You might not remember Google’s simple Superbowl campaign was a search box with a person researching various aspects of life around a central theme, meeting a French girl. It was pretty forgetful, even today it only has 5 million plus views. Interestingly Google didn’t forget. (We included the ad if you are reading the digital version, and this is a Techlife where you want too, trust me.)

YouTube Preview Image

Google had bigger plans for their campaign known as Search Stories. Using YouTube.com they gave users a way to Create Your Own Search Story.  Putting the power of the story in the hands of their users. They made it easy and painless. Here’s how in 7 easy steps.

1. Pick a topic. We chose something close to home, getting more readers for Techlife.

2. Create up to seven different searches that will be illustrated

3. For each search choose one of 7 different search types. Such as maps, books, images and more.

4. Keep in mind your last search is going to be the end of your Superbowl Ad

5. Next pick your music, Google provides 24 tracks in various categories.

6. Finally edit your masterpiece, which might require going back a few times. Mine did.

7. Add a title, genre, description and upload. You’re done!

YouTube Preview Image

Google advises things such as:

…using the different kinds of search to add visual variety to the story…

…tell a story that ends with a surprise…

So this sounds perfect what could possibly be wrong? A lot. First off let’s start with the biggest. You aren’t getting your own Superbowl ad. You aren’t even getting your own late night ad. This is pure and simple a promotion for Google.

Secondly their ads are better than yours will ever be. (Mine too!)  Why? Because they break their own rules and don’t use the Search Stories creator to make their ads. Most ads I viewed by them had two parts that will always beat the regular story teller.

Part 1 they use a real audio expert to mix audio sounds that are more than just the simple 24 songs they offer the regular director like you and me. It’s good sound too, the kind that enhances the ad and really was carefully created.

Part 2 they create many more visual tricks such than their own story editor allows. Tricks such as quick cuts, live YouTube videos, maps that animate or use street level views, and even mobile views of Google products.

It’s the equivalent of us having a stick to play with and them having all the fun toys for the cool kids.Well for those of you who are digital readers that last joke makes perfect sense when you view the video. For those in print, the last video has a pretty famous award winning team make a cameo. Peek in and take a look. And maybe my ad just worked.

YouTube Preview Image

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Do you want to know a secret? Online cartography is evolving.  Why do you have to be so fancy? Can’t you just say maps have gotten better? Big changes deserve big words. While Techlife has shared hidden map gameshow to make your own maps and why street level details are so valuable; we now want to share the value of immersive photographic cartography.

Cartography is the study and practice of making maps (also can be called mapping). Combining science, aesthetics, and technique, cartography builds on the premise that reality can be modeled in ways that communicate spatial information effectively.  -Wikipedia

Using Google Maps and Bing Maps advanced features I focused on exploring a single famous monument; The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Both offer top down satellite views of this famous location.

Google has clearer images than Bing for satellite maps, which comes from a combination of time of day, season and hardware used to take these shots.  Google also has continuous street views for many places around the world, including the Lincoln Memorial. Finally Google has a nice ability to integrate their own street view with user generated photos from all angles of the Lincoln Memorial, with the photo set locations mapped as shown.

Bing’s satellite maps are good enough to get you to move past them quickly to what I think is the best feature of these new digital maps, a bird’s eye multi-rotational view. As you can see the ability to rotate around a building at multiple angles gives a much clearer understanding of the structure than satellite only.  Bird’s eye view, like Street View isn’t available everywhere yet but try out your home or favorite museum and see how amazing it feels to be immersed.

Bing Maps adds one more feature that Techlife drooled over in 2007, PhotoSynth. A Photosynth is a group of photos of a specific object or place that get stitched together to create highly detailed and visually stunning photographic experiences in 3D space. By geotagging user’s Photosynth’s into the Bing maps,  you don’t just see some random snapshots of the outside and inside of the Lincoln Memorial but can take a journey from the outside into the inside and look up and down with amazing detail and spatial understanding.

While I have used Google Maps to get me places and build collaborative maps (something I love). I have used Bing Maps to investigate rental property, research vacations collaboratively, and see quite a few friend’s new home purchases. Knowing how each tool can be used is the key to your own immersive photographic cartography. Share your story with me.


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Tulip Montage

Life Posters.  For Techlife readers who have been around these parts since the tadpole days, you may recall articles such as, “Life Poster: A Picasa How-To”  or “How to Make an Animated LifePoster: The Sequel.”

The Life Poster series of articles were fun and reader’s loved them.  A Life Poster is a photo collage of related images arranged in a grid format.  Often times the effect is immersive giving the viewer a sense of the event, location or people.

Golden Gate Bridge Montage

We also like photography games.  Go figure. Recently a reader, Bonnie,  posted a new high score for the “Where in the World?” game.  Click over and see if you can beat Bonnie’s score.  Another great game was by Grant Robinson, called “Guess the Google.”   Grant’s Guess the Google Engine also powers Montage-a-google.

How to make a Global Life Poster

1.  Visit Montage-a-google

2.  Select a keyword Examples include: yellow, yellow flower, mullets

3.  Click the “Make” button

4.  Examine your Global Life Poster, not perfect, tweak your search terms and run it again.

5.  When happy, click the “download image” button and save to your desktop

Montage-a-google goes out and gets 20 images from a Google Image search and assembles interesting square pattern montages or Life Posters with various cropped points to each image.  The results often need to be tweaked.  I found when creating my own and trying numerous search terms sometimes residual search term images would not leave the montage even when the terms were very different and while that produced odd results, it was not intended.  Let us know if you see the same issues.

Overall Call?

I like this app.   I would like to see it run a bit faster and have a few more options including clearing the image cache or field of images before performing the next montage.  The interface is easy and simple to use.  Go ahead make something profound and upload it to the Flickr with the tag montageagoogle and it will appear in the slide show.  Dazzle us.


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YouTube Preview Image

Today marks a new carrier, Verizon coming on board with Android with two new devices under their Droid line.  The Motorola Droid and the Droid Eris by HTC are sure to be holiday hits, and when people start looking for good apps from the Anrdoid Market, Techlife wants to make sure you have our top 10.

Our friends at Phandroid, started this idea with 5 people listing their top 10 apps so we thought we’d weigh in with our own list.  This is done in that format, with a bonus app!

marketbagtimerifficweatherwidgetultimatefavesvisualvoicemailmobiledefense

Long time Phandriod/Android Forum guy, using a G1 since the start…here’s my top 10.

1. Timeriffic – FREE – control wifi, brightness, audio and more with a simple timer, saves your battery. (full disclosure I collaborated on this)

2. Weather Widget – FREE – Beautiful weather app, with great options. This sits on my main home and I use it all the time.

3. UltimateFaves – FREE – Creates a quick 3D Ring of anything you want a shortcut too, calling people, applications, your choice. Unique interface.

4. Visual Voicemail – FREE – Does what it says, constantly working on it and updating, very responsive devs.

5. Mobile Defense – FREE – Find (gps), disable and more for your phone (USA only). I hope I never need it. Also is stealthily hidden.

chompsmssmspopupcestosimeembatterywidgetwallr

6. ChompSMS – FREE – SMS replacement with an iPhone style chat interface

7. SMS Popup – FREE – Wakes phone display and plays audio and shows a small overlay of the most current SMS message. Flawless.

8. Cestos Full – FREE_- Multiplayer online game, arcade style, if you have a few minutes, it’s great. Good community too, with built in chat.

9. iMeem – FREE – Great web streaming radio customizable. Like Pandora, but without choppiness and massive battery drain. Albeit a slightly smaller catalog and some battery drain.

10. Battery Widget – FREE – easily see your exact % of juice left. Pressing the widget offers up toggle settings for a few options too.

Bonus App – Wallr – FREE – For those wanting a low resource option for changing their look, this app looks in a designated wallpaper folder and will randomly select a new wallpaper, on a schedule you set up. Mine is 1 per hour.

Thanks to our friends at Androlib.com for links, and images.


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Motivational Poster - Travel - Leaving your worry behind, and your email to pile up.

Black border. Large eye-catching photo. Large white text. Smaller white sub-text.

If you are like most readers, you will have already read all four posters before you looped back to the top of this article. That’s ok, because I designed it to happen just like that. As I designed the layout, I realized this column’s regular text would have far less impact than usual. As a writer that’s a tad depressing. As a designer I loved it!

Motivational Poster - Mashup - The platypus of web development.

This column is not the history of motivational posters. Nor is it the effect of motivational posters on lazy folks. Apparently the motivational poster’s impact on taking the stairs versus an escalator was so compelling it was funded numerous times over multiple continents. We get it. Enough already!

I created these unique Techlife posters in just a few minutes, using Big Huge Labs: Motivator, to create my own motivational poster. It was easy. Here’s how to build your own motivational poster or de-motivational poster in 3 easy steps.

Motivational Poster - Read Techlife - Where the crossroads of Technology and Life intersect.

1. Select a masterpiece – The photo should be eye catching and keep your attention long enough to draw you in.  After you have your photo you click Browse and attach the photo.  You also should review the photo’s focus area, as most likely it will get cropped.  Motivator allows you to designate one of three areas which might be best to keep visible.  You also get to choose a landscape or portait orientation for your photo.

2. Channel your inner Shakespeare – Penning the perfect word and sub-text is no easy task.  Are you trying to be funny or serious?  Will your words live forever or be forgotten quickly?  You may even find yourself selecting a new photo for the ultimate fit with your perfect prose. Perfection is personal.

3. Click and Share – Hit the big blue “Create” button.  A few seconds later your motivation masterpiece is rendered.  After reviewing how you will change the world you can edit, save, upload, email, share and even get a high-resolution version of your image by clicking the associated button.

Motivational Poster - Creative - Where genius goes to relax.

Techlife Challenge – Motivation is powerful.  Parody is funny.  De-motivation is a form of expression too.  For this challenge share with us your favorite self-created poster.  We’ll see about getting some prizes, but until then we’ll award the famous Techlife Points!  213 for each entry with the best in each category getting 4002.  Judging purely subjective and nonsense.

Note:  The posters shown here are meant to motivate you to read past Techlife articles.  MASHUP for the “Flash Earth – Ultimate Maps Mashup.”  TRAVEL for “Travelistic.com, YouTube with a Purpose.”  CREATIVE for the “Alan Becker’s Animator vs. Animation.”


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Where in the world? Location determined screen - Nice guess of Rome!

From where in the world is Matt Lauer to Carmen Sandiego to Waldo this is an age old theme (at least to the mid 1980s.)  And now Google has their own twist on the classic called, “Where in the World?“.

Techlife readers come to learn, engage and discuss at our little corner of the world.  Be it a reader who stops me on the street, emails in a suggestion, or comments on an article in the online site we welcome the interaction.  We have heard from thousands of readers, and while not everyone gets featured in a column, sometimes they get a mention.

Today’s column harkens back to our early days, as our newest find we stumbled upon all on our own.  This little secret game is almost hidden, I would call it an easter egg, yet it is sitting there in the open.  We have always covered neat visual tools here at Techlife. From our review of Picasa in “Picture Perfect” to “Life Poster: A Picasa How-To” to our most recent “How to Create Online Tilt Shift Miniature Photos” we have covered various fun things to do with your photos.  Now we will explore other people’s photos.

Picasa Web's Explore Tab

Our adventure started one day when a reader sent us trip photos.  Are you a little surprised?  Don’t be.  We get lots of fun things from the great readers of Techlife. After viewing the photos, I noticed the tab, “Explore”  near the Picasa logo, next to “My Photos” and “Favorites.”

Hey I love to explore!

So I clicked, you are taken to a pseudo homepage with a few interesting sections, each of which could take hours of time to Explore.  There are 12 “Featured Photos” which sort of change if you hit refresh, though same stay.  Then there is “Recent Photos” which you can watch in a slideshow format.  There are also 40 of the most “Popular Tags”, which is a method for indicating what a picture contains is about.  Popular tags include, wedding, vacation, lake, house, birthday, beach, flowers, you get the idea.  Then in a small corner is our hidden gem.

Picasa Web's Explore Screen

Titled, “Where in the world?” and a button stating “Start Game” with this simple explanation, “Check out photos from around the world and guess where they were taken!”  As Sherlock Holmes said, “The game is afoot.”

In a great mashup of their own tools, Google has used Google Maps and Picasa along with Geotagging to create their game.  (Geotagging is a method for tagging a photo with location data, indicating where on the blue marble we inhabit a photo was shot.)  Play is simple, you guess where the photo they show you was taken by clicking on the map of the world.  Sometimes the photos contain clues, subtle or obvious.  Your score for that photo is determined by how close your guess was to the actual location of the photo.  The closer the better.  You get five different photos per round.

Where in the world? - game screen

The game is strangely addicting.  Five clicks and you get a score.  Then you want to beat that score, then you convince yourself you will beat it the next round.  Then you do!  To celebrate let’s see if we can beat it one more time.  Okay an hour later, this is definitely my last game.  Hey look at that I got a high score!

My high score is 2,597 can you beat it?  Let me know.


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Techlife covers Hulu

Techlife was called into the principal’s office.  One of the Publisher’s of a paper that carries my syndicated column Techlife, called me to complain.  Now before you get all high-falutin’ as the superfans of  Techlife are often apt to do, and organize a FlashMob at the offices of the Publisher.  Let’s talk about the facts.

FACT: I have written Techlife since 2005.

FACT: I have written more than 230 columns to date.

FACT: I have had more than 5000 readers interact with the column.

FACT: I am stopped at least once a month for my good looks as the writer of a famous syndicated technology and life column.

FACT: We welcome opinions of all types, especially those that support the above fact.

“Not to shabby,” I can hear you thinking.  And of course you the readers have made this possible.  The phone call in question was a bit of a principle issue. (Notice how we used both versions of the word, who says we can’t turn a phrase.)  It seems that allegedly a reader or too contacted the Publisher thinking my column was more advertorial than witty, high brow, useful, well written, drivel that I intend it to be.  Let’s examine the recent evidence shall we, here are some recent columns in reverse order…

Now I submit to you a jury of my loyal readers, biased in all ways they should be, who have lined their birdcages read the columns does it sound advertorial to you?  Sure I throw in a bit about my life, my company, my family like all good writers do.  It makes me seem authentic and smart, a thinly veiled ploy to connect with the reader.  And if one of you were to contact me for cup of a coffee to discuss your own business ideas, would I not pretend to listen?  So if a few of these advertorial accusers would like to step forward, we can comment back and forth as so many others do here at Techlife. We welcome all feedback.  Special thanks to our Publisher and our Editors on this one.  Did I do Dave Barry proud?

In speaking with a client, I was told I often remind them of Michael Bluth, Jason Bateman‘s character on the show Arrested Development.  I had never seen an episode, but this client mentioned it was on Hulu.  So I proceeded to watch all of Arrested Development on Hulu, you might detect that a bit in this month’s column or else, I’ve made a huge mistake.

Hulu, a partnership between some of the major networks, has old and new movies and television shows that play in full screen on your computer.  Everything is on-demand, loading in a few seconds in HD.  It is well thought out and easy to use.  I don’t love the control factor, for example they recently cut out Season 2 and 3 of Arrested Development with no reason given, though message boards guess to sell DVDs.  I can already see the complaints by employers to my Publisher for introducing this time sucker.  And for that I know Dave Barry would be proud.


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Freecycle - helps give stuff away for free

A good idea before a bad economy has turned into an even better idea during a horrendous economy. Freecycling. While many people use Ebay to sell items for money to anyone and other people use Craig’s List to sell (and sometimes trade or give) items somewhat locally, there is another option, Freecycle.org. Started in 2003, the non-profit organization is basically a simple way to offer items you no longer want to people who might want them, the only catch: everything is free.

Initially Freecycle was conceived as a way for people to offer items to non-profits, and non-profits to respond if they wanted them. It quickly expanded to include anyone, anywhere and now there are 85 countries and near 5000 local group made up of 7,000,000 people all following the same set of principles. Let’s fill up fewer landfills with items that other people might care to rescue.

It is recycling with a few well thought out rules. One of the biggest is letting people join any group, but keeping in mind each group is based on a small geographic area such as a town, or county.  As such groups vary in size.  The other important rule is what you can’t offer including no listing illegal items, tobacco items, alcohol, firearms, people, pornography, or medicine of any kind. Each local freecycle group is run by volunteer moderators who enforce the rules and the very specific way to offer, inquire and list items.

Most groups use a simple email list tool called Yahoo Groups to share their items and indicate items they are looking for or items that have been taken.  Techlife has been a user of YahooGroups since 1998, as a long time user who was introduced to this great service by Alan Braverman, employee #1 at YahooGroups (formerly eGroups) we asked him what he thought of Freecycle.

“Freecycle has a great mission.  It is gratifying to know something we all worked so hard on more than 10 years ago at eGroups is not just being used but growing, growing a great organization and supporting such a beneficial cause as saving the environment and helping people recycle.  Grassroots movements have always been great at adapting new technology, but with close to 5000 groups and 7,000,000 members it is clear that Freecycle.org is successfully spreading a positive message worldwide.”

How to Freecycle?

Easy! First make sure you have a Yahoo ID with an email associated to it, this lets you access any of the nearly 4800 local freecycle groups which use the Yahoo Groups email list system.  Once you have a Yahoo ID, visit freecycle.org, and sign up for an account with the other 7,000,000+ members all over the globe, of course sticking to your little area of it.  (Krakow, Poland has 231 members for example!)

To join a local group, search for your hometown and you will likely get at least one town nearby if not a few hundred.  Sign up on freecycle.org and make sure you use the same email as associated with your Yahoo ID (little known fact, you don’t need to use your Yahoo email as your main email).  Then select one or more groups, each which might have a slightly different set of rules but all following the same overarching principal.

Click “Join this Group” and away you go.  I joined quite a few groups in my area, each with a different feel.  One let me join right away, another had a lot of “we are looking for quality and people who give not just take” and yet a third let me browse the current listings before even joining.

Start listing your items and you will soon have a few people who want them.  Arrange a pickup and you are done.

Palm Tungsten T for free from Freecycle - and saved it from a landfill

Is this for real?

While your experience may vary, I was looking over items here at Techlife HQ and considering what we should recycle with the locals when emails started coming in for various items; some candles, a dsl modem and a working Palm Tungsten T.  I have a friend who still (tries) using their Palm but was complaining how it was getting pretty old and not always working.

I replied to the original poster indicating when I could get the device, drove over, picked it up and in just a few hours I had completed my first freecycle.  I plan on giving my friend this one for a backup device.  Plus it was saved from a landfill. (Thanks Marija!)  Your mileage may vary, but if all you want is a clean basement, here’s a great easy way to make that happen and keep the Earth a bit cleaner.

Freecycle.org is a Techlife must try.  It is easy.

Thanks to loyal reader Brad for sharing his experience and introducing us to Freecycle.  Please email or comment ideas for sites you find amazing.  It’s our own little way to recycle.

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