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 Rollip.com. 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 ///

P1000065

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, Rollip.com’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 http://www.rollip.com/upload/effect5/large, 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.

How to use a webcam as a home security camera

Over the years as I’ve acquired vari­ous bits of hard­ware, I’ve some­how ended up with a few ‘extra’ web­cams. Not really want­ing them to lan­guish in my parts bin, I figured I’d take a stab at set­ting them up as home secur­ity cam­er­as. And, I wanted to check out what my dogs were up to dur­ing the day 🙂
My kit­chen was the per­fect test area, as I already had a win­dows-based PC there. All I needed to add were some USB Exten­sion cables and I was set. So for you list-minded folk, here’s what I used:

I posi­tioned the cam­er­as where I’d have a good view of the floor-space and entrance. It takes a bit of tri­al and error to get the right angle and in one case I had to use a weight to keep the Logit­ech Cam­era in place…the twists of the cable wouldn’t let the cam­era sit flat.

On the soft­ware side, I chose to go with an online solu­tion,  HomeCamera.com. This was much sim­pler than set­ting up a home web serv­er and web­cam cap­ture solu­tion. I wanted some­thing that was pretty much plug-and-play.

Our sub­scribers use HomeCamera’s built-in motion detec­tion for secur­ity cam­er­as, to receive image and video intru­sion alerts on their email and mobile phones. Fea­tures like auto­mat­ic record­ing sched­ules enable you to see what happened in your home through­out the day, even while you’re on an out-of-town work trip. Busi­ness cus­tom­ers use Home­Cam­era to watch over their factor­ies, their shops, ware­houses, and more.

Setup was pretty simple. I tweaked the cam­era set­tings using the cam­era manufacturer’s set­ting soft­ware, then ran the HomeCamera.com cli­ent.

The Cli­ent allows you to set up and share your cam­er­as. Again, very easy.

Since HomeCamera.com is in beta, their ser­vice / per­form­ance may fluc­tu­ate — though I’ve nev­er had any issues.

As well, HomeCamera.com ser­vice is free dur­ing this beta peri­od. Accord­ing to the site, there will be a free option, but also a paid one too:

We expect to exit beta and go com­mer­cial in early 2010. At that time, we will offer two ser­vice plans: FREE (which is pretty much the ser­vice you see now, with a few lim­it­a­tions on num­ber of online cam­er­as and serv­er stor­age) and the full ser­vice (with video stream­ing) at US$ 29.95 YEARLY. Yes, that’s $29.95 per year — we want to keep the price low enough for reg­u­lar people to eas­ily afford the ser­vice. At this price, it’s cheap­er than a cup of cof­fee a month…

So, I now have a video-based home mon­it­or­ing sys­tem. Basic­ally free, as I had all the parts any­way.

There are oth­er online mon­it­or­ing solu­tions out there, but this one just seemed to be the simplest for me…got any ideas how I can improve this setup? Let me know!

A simple and easy way to back up your Google Docs

If you do a lot of your work on vari­ous com­puters in dif­fer­ent loc­a­tions (as I do), con­veni­ently access­ing your doc­u­ments is import­ant.

Though I carry a 2GB USB drive every­where, I actu­ally find it easi­er to use Google Docs and store my work ‘in the Cloud’, so to speak.

But, that amorph­ous blob of com­put­ing-stor­age could crash, or my Inter­net con­nec­tion could be down. My pro­ductiv­ity would end unless there was a way to backup and con­tin­ue my work on my USB drive too. And there is.

Fire­Fox + Grease­Mon­key script + Down­LoadThem­All == Solu­tion
If you under­stood the above head­ing, then you can see how I solved it. If not, bear with me and all will become clear(er).

First, install and run Fire­Fox. You can’t con­tin­ue (and your brows­ing exper­i­ence will be greatly improved) until you do.

Next, if you’ve not yet installed Grease­Mon­key, do so now. This little applic­a­tion runs soph­ist­ic­ated scripts with­in your browser to improve your online exper­i­ence. There’s a whole host of cool Grease­Mon­key scripts to explore.

Thirdly, install Down­loadThem­All — a nifty Fire­Fox addon that auto­ma­gic­ally down­loads all the links or images on a web page. You’ll see how that works for us after the next step.

Finally, install the Google Docs Down­load Grease­Mon­key Script. This is the crux of the solu­tion. To quote the doc­u­ment­a­tion, once inside your Google Docs account:

Just nav­ig­ate to the doc­u­ment list that you wish to down­load and select the doc­u­ments you want to down­load by click­ing their check­boxes or click the select: all link at the bot­tom of the page. Click the drop down menu on the right side of the page that reads “Down­load Your Doc­u­ments” and select a format. A new win­dow will open and you now have a list of links to down­load all of the doc­u­ments that you selec­ted.

The beauty of this script is that it you can select which format you’d like for out­put (PDF, TXT, CSV, Open Office or Microsoft Office), and it works with reg­u­lar Google Docs accounts, as well as Google Apps for Domains accounts.

To sum­mar­ize
By simply nav­ig­at­ing to my Google Docs main dir­ect­ory, select­ing ‘All Doc­u­ments’ (mak­ing sure they’re all checked), and then launch­ing the Down­loadThem­All Add on (now in your Fire­Fox Tools menu), I’ve eas­ily cre­ated an edit­able loc­al copy of all my work stored in the G-Cloud. And any work I do on a loc­al copy can be eas­ily impor­ted (as a new file) back into Google Docs.

Admit­tedly, it’s not as easy as stor­ing it all on a USB stick. But a stick can be lost, and I’d rather have my backup go south, than all my fin­ished work should I actu­ally lose the stick.

Your thoughts? Would this work for you or am I too para­noid?  🙂

Reasons why I unfollow someone on Twitter

Recently I had a great dis­cus­sion on Twit­ter about Unfollowing…a much dis­cussed top­ic of etiquette amongst the Twit­ter­ati.

One school of thought is that when someone fol­lows you on Twit­ter, it’s prop­er for you to fol­low them back.

That’s not my belief though. If that were the case, then it would be impossible for me to derive any real value from Twit­ter (the tool) or the people I fol­low (their con­tent). The Twit­ter stream moves too fast.

As many of you who’ve read my past posts know, I tend to tweet a lot.  I tweet about things I find of interest, and that I think my fol­low­ers also find inter­est­ing. Fol­low me to see if my twit­ter stream appeals to you 🙂

If they’re not inter­ested, then I have no prob­lem with them unfollowing…I don’t want to waste their time.

I just real­ized that I cut and pas­ted out this section…doh! So, why do I unfol­low? If you’re not inter­est­ing to me, if you spam me, if you try and get me inter­ested in YOUR make money fast scheme, if you don’t tweet in 300 days, or if, after I search your tweet his­tory, I find you’re mostly talk­ing about things I’m not inter­ested in.…if you fit into any of those cat­egor­ies, odds are I’ll not be fol­low­ing you for very long. Sorry, it’s noth­ing per­son­al, I just don’t have the time or band­width to fol­low you in a mean­ing­ful way.

To assist me in man­aging who I fol­low, I’ve used the fol­low­ing tools:

And finally, your oppor­tun­ity to let me know why you’re unfol­low­ing people..in a funky new poll format via PollDaddy…back in the upper right corner of this blog post. Or let me know via the com­ments below.

Getting Things Done with Gmail?

GMail for Apps adds simple Task function

Usu­ally Google Apps for Busi­ness is the last of Googles free online applic­a­tion suites to receive new fea­tures, but ever since Google enabled Google Labs with­in Apps for Busi­ness, new fea­tures are rolled at the same time.

Today Gmail received a simple Task List man­ager:

Google Tasks in action

Like many of Google’s enhance­ments, it’s a very simple imple­ment­a­tion — but it works quite well, and means that I can remove anoth­er plu­gin from my poor over­sized Fire­fox browser.

To enable Tasks, go to Set­tings, click the Labs tab (or just click here if you’re signed in). Select “Enable” next to “Tasks” and then click “Save Changes” at the bot­tom. Then, after Gmail refreshes, on the left under the “Con­tacts” link, you’ll see a “Tasks” link. Just click it to get star­ted.

More at the Gmail Blog.

What to know when changing website hosts

A couple of weeks ago I found the fol­low­ing in an email from my web­host:

Your web host­ing account for bradgrier.com has been deac­tiv­ated (reas­on: site caus­ing per­form­ance prob­lems).
Although your web site has been dis­abled, your data may still be avail­able for
up to 15 days, after which it will be deleted.

After a quick call to the ever-help­ful cus­tom­er ser­vice line, I’d learned that I’d exceed my alloc­ated CPU or SQL cycles. With my simple little Word­Press blog.

It seems that a plu­gin (or two) had taken too many resources too many times for them. They are a very large (per­haps the largest) web­host offer­ing unlim­ited everything…except CPU and SQL cycles.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “What to know when chan­ging web­site hosts”

Google Chrome: a quick look and how to block ads with Privoxy

Google Chrome Logo
Creative Commons License photo cred­it: Randy Zhang

Google Chrome is no Fire­fox (yet).

For the last week and a bit, off and on,  I’ve been using Google Chrome (Google’s new entry into the browser wars). On the 3 XP-based sys­tems I’ve used it on, I’ve found it to be very fast, very effi­cient, and stable. Pretty good per­form­ance for a ‘beta’.

I do have con­cerns about the way Chrome appears to ‘mon­it­or’ my surf­ing activ­ity (by using Google Gears func­tion­al­ity), but then again, I use Gmail and oth­er Google Apps so I’m sure the Big G knows all about me at this point.

But, without plu­gin extens­ib­il­ity, Chrome is cur­rently a curi­os­ity. I won’t be using it for my daily work.

One major annoy­ance is the lack of Adb­lock. The web is a very mar­ket­ing-heavy place, and I prefer to select­ively view my advert­ising. The Adb­lock exten­sion for Fire­fox allows this.

To achieve an advert­ising-reduced surf­ing exper­i­ence with Chrome, I need to use Privoxy, a loc­al pri­vacy man­aging Proxy serv­er. It’s a quick install and seems to work flaw­lessly.

A solu­tion to this for now is http://www.privoxy.org/

1.) Install Privoxy
2.) Click on the Wrench icon in Chrome in the upper right corner
3.) Choose options>Under The Hood>Change proxy set­tings
4.) A win­dows box pops up, choose LAN set­tings (at least this is what it’s called in Vista)
5.) Check off “Proxy set­tings” and in the address set­ting add127.0.0.1 and in the port 8118
6.) If you have the option, you can also check off “Bypass proxy for loc­al set­tings”
7.) Click “Ok”, close chrome and restart it. 

Tada. Enjoy.

Geekzone provided the pro­cess (thanks guys!)