Keeping the Internet safe, one browser at a time

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser hasn’t been my daily work browser for many years, and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. There are many reasons that I’m not going to go into, but these days it’s mostly about what I’m familiar with. From the satisfaction numbers I’ve seen, IE is still quite the powerhouse browser-of-choice for a large majority of Internet users, but it’s not my cup of tea.

But this post isn’t really about my selection of browser. Rather, it’s about an interesting online initiative focusing on Kinsa, the Kid’s Internet Safety Alliance.

The campaign, dubbed Browse with Confidence is a new online destination designed to promote safe browsing using Microsoft’s IE 8 browser and features links to product information, and downloads.

But that’s not all
The really cool part about this is the way the Browse with Confidence initiative is generating funds for Kinsa. As you can see in this image, Microsoft Canada is donating $2.00 when you ‘post your support’ on your Facebook Wall. The more people post, the more Kinsa gets. Simple.

So, yeah, Microsoft gets a little PR bump out of this, but in my mind, the big benefit is to Kinsa, who:

“…helps to find, rescue and heal child victims of abuse whos images are shared on the Internet.”

For more information, check out the video, or hit Kinsa’s website. And consider giving your support to Kinsa.

Other Resources:
Microsoft’s Browse with Confidence news release

Some of my better photos from 2009

I’ve taken a look back at some of the shots I’ve been fortunate enough to capture this year. flickr has a cool feature called ‘sets’, so I made one — then noticed that I can share the set as a slideshow — embedded below. Enjoy! And happy new year!

A great tool if you’re writing on a deadline

All righty then. Just finished up a cool conversation with a dude that I have to meet with later to figure out some stuff.

Now, I guess I’ll keep plugging away at writing, nay, testing Write or Die, a timing and wordcount interface that helps focus your writing by imposing limitations and consequences on your writing.

I’ve not bumped into the consequences yet, but I have bumped into the limitations.

– it’s hard to spellcheck.
– no other formatting commands, it’s all about getting the words out of your head and on the screen
– Oh, hey, the screen turned red when I paused for thought. Cool.. Just to let me know that I shouldn’t do that, I guess.

Now then, this test is only a 200 wordcount test, and I set a time limit of 10 minutes to write it.

At this point, including the 3 minutes of conversation that occured after I launched the app, but before I started actual writing, I’m at 159 words and about 4 minutes remaining. I should be able to make the deadline…maybe.

Wow, one thing I do notice; all this concentrated writing is causing me to notice my wrists. Usually my writing style is more thoughtful and casual, but right now I’m just spewing…oh, hey, I just made 200 words, with about 3 minutes to spare.

Well, I won’t edit this too much; I’ll just paste it in as is, and let it be an example of work created with Write or Die.

After writing using this tool, here’re some thoughts:
– Yes, I’d use it again
– My wrist is kinda sore right now
– It could use some additional editing / layout features
– Anything written using Write or Die *must* be edited…typing spew is not good reading

26 seconds left – copy to clipboard just in case 🙂 Saving now.

Cool! Online lighting diagram creator – photography

The following post is a QuickHit(tm) — an article or post I found online and thought was important enough to share directly with you. Of course, you’ll see my thoughts or opinions prepended or appended to this post, otherwise I’m just scraping content, and that’s not the intent.

I'm looking for tools to help me set up this year's Christmas dog photo session, and I came across this nifty online application:

"Photography lighting diagrams made easy with this online tool: use the drop down menus, select objects, drag them, rotate them, change their layers then export your diagram to JPEG or save its URL."



You’ve just read a QuickHit(tm). Thanks! And don’t forget to leave your thoughts in the comments.

How to easily install essential applications on a new Windows 7 computer

It doesn’t matter if you’ve upgraded from Vista or XP, or if you’ve bought a new Windows 7 based computer, you’re going to need to install some basic and essential applications on your new baby.

And this awesome website makes it so, SO easy. 4 easy steps:

  • Visit the site
  • Select which applications you want
  • Press the button to start a download
  • Run the downloaded application

Visit the site is a very cool web app with a single function: to make a custom downloader and installer that will save you time and mouseclicks to install commonly used open-source and free applications.

The page looks like this, a long list of applications and utilities, divided into sections by application type.

Ninite includes everything from office suite applications (Open Office, MS Office trial), image and  audio editors, to system maintenance utilities, virus scanners, and media burning tools.

Get your applications
This couldn’t be simpler. Click on the apps or utilities you want. Unfortunately there’s no link to a product overview so if you’re not familiar with the application you will need to Google it.

Press the button
This initiates a bit of back-end magic at the site. A custom download/installer application is built and sent to your computer. It contains all the information necessary to, when run, download and install (in background) the applications you selected in the previous step.

Make it so
When  you run the installer, a window opens showing you the progress of the process. If you’re curious, you can ‘show the details’ and each phase of the install can be viewed.

The big benefit for me is the time saving and the click saving. What would normally take over an hour for a new install, basically takes 2-5 minutes of my time, the rest happens in background while I do something else. To quote from the developers:

Ninite runs on Windows XP/Vista/7 and works
in the background 100% hands-free.

We install apps with default settings and
say “no” to browser toolbars and other junk.

All we do is install the latest versions of the apps
you choose. Not even Ninite is installed.

How can that not be cool?

How to make a Polaroid from any digital image

Even though Polaroid instant camera and film packs are no longer being made by the Polaroid Corporation, you can get that same look on your digital photos with Once upon a time you had to manually create these things in Adobe Photoshop or GIMP. Not any more.

Basically, Rollip takes your image and does some behind-the-scenes magic, and creates a new image that’s been Polaroid-ed.

Apple IIe Monitor ///


Now, the site is pretty basic, yet offers some very sophisticated image manipulation under the hood. Very cool.

To find out more about the application, I went to the source.  Maurice Sikkink,’s Lead Developer, was kind enough to take a few questions from me about the service and the company:

Q) Can you tell me a bit about the development team?
The whole Rollip team consts of me and one freelancer (who helps with promoting the site) and some contractors to do the decoration designs. So i’ve done most of the things available on the site myself, including the development and design of the website.

Q) Why Polaroid? Can we expect Kodak 110, Holga or Disc next 😉 ?
I came up with the idea after browsing through some old family polaroids, and thought it would be really cool if people could have the same effect but for new digital photographs, to enliven them up a little.

Then after launching the initial concept, I saw a girl on the subway carrying a bag which had a big polaroid on it and some text annotated at the bottom; that’s how i got to offering people the extra to put some text and decorations on their Polaroids.

So more effect will be added, and yes Kodak 110 is something i’d love to offer (I did a first try with, but it’s not there yet).

Q) Can you talk a bit about the technology (hardware / software) behind Rollip?
Rollip is completely built on Ruby (on rails). The website front itself is built using Rails, while the backend image processing is done with RMagick (ImageMagick for Ruby). Basically a lot of different steps are taken to get to the end result, from changing channel curves to adding a soft-focus.

Q) Hosting photos can be an expensive proposition, can you talk a bit about your business model?
At the moment it’s just ad-supported, but there is one cool way to monetize the site i’d like to try; i’d love to offer the possibility for people to order a pack of 10 printed Polaroids from the digital ones they’ve created on the site, and they will resemble the real things as closely as possible. Sort of a way to bring ‘Polaroid’ back to life if you like.

This will take some time to set-up (it’s not an easy thing to do for sure, in terms of setting up the machinery), but it’s definitely something i’d love to offer. So for this to happen the site has to become much bigger in terms of visitors, and then i can look for an investor who might like to try this out.

Q) Can you talk a bit about your product offering? How many photos can I ‘Polaroid-ize’?
Currently there is no limit on the amount of photos you can Polaroidize, and i can’t see the need for putting a limit on it. One thing i’d like to do is offer the possibility to edit text/crop the photo more easily after and before the Polaroid has been generated,but it’s still a webapp, so we can’t be as flexible as a desktop app in that area though.

Also i’d like to offer a two weekly newsletter with cool stuff about Polaroids or vintage photos, something like Photojojo but more on the vintage side of things. The first newsletter is expected to appear in a few weeks time.

Q) If I use Rollip, will I retain all rights, well all the rights that I have in my home country, to the image or is the new image owned by Rollip?
The user will retain all rights, I don’t seen any real advantage of Rollip owning the copyright on the image.
Ok, so it’s a pretty cool little web app, and I can see using it to quickly generate a Polaroid, rather than futzing around in Photoshop.

Ok, so it’s a pretty cool little web app, and I can see using it to quickly generate a Polaroid, and not futzing around in Photoshop.