Rsizr lets you watch the seams being carved before your very eyes in a Web browser.
It’s not the fastest process I’ve ever seen, since this is a rather computationally intensive technique (since it’s doing it in Flash, I suspect it may be based on one of the open-source ActionScript seam carving implementations mentioned here). If you want to mess about with Rsizr, I therefore recommend you use images no bigger than 1024 by 768, even if you’ve got a firebreathing computer.
Note also that after you’ve done the seam-carving, you still have to click the image and drag its border to actually resize it. Well, I think you always have to do that; Rsizr’s pretty much documentation-free at the moment.
But it definitely does work.
It allowed me to turn this 1280 by 850 pixel original…
…into this 855 by 640 pixel version. Click the images for full-sized versions.
The reduced-size version now has rather cramped composition, and the terrain looks a lot more hilly than it really was. But all of the major image elements - the sharp trees, the two buildings, the man and the boy - are preserved almost unchanged. They’re just closer together than they were.
The rsizr.com server’s being hammered a bit at the moment, so the “Save” function takes rather a long time to work. It’s easy enough to get around that, though - once you get your image the way you want, just take a screenshot of the window and cut the image out of it.
(I presume there’ll be a decent free Photoshop-plugin image carver Real Soon Now. In other news, one of the guys who came up with the idea has been hired by Adobe.)
You know those people who gloat insufferably about how they were in a junk shop in Chickenmilk, Wisconsin, and they found a 1933 Leica or Amazing Fantasy #15 or something for $5, and aren’t they clever?
And yes, it was in a junk store, next to the usual random collection of broken cameras and mildewed binoculars.
(When the junk shop owner names a price and you immediately smile broadly and say “Sold!”, they know they’ve screwed up.)
Mine is not an incredibly collectable Curta. It’s a Type I with serial number 67087, which makes it an early 1967 unit, with plastic crank and storage case but (slightly unusually, I think) a metal “clearing ring”.
Unfortunately, the actual finger-loop part of the clearing ring - the part that adds an element of hand-grenade-ness to the otherwise pepper-grinder-ish look of all Curtas - is broken off…
…perhaps because it sticks out when you don’t swing it into the stowed position.
And there’s no manual either. But it’s still easy to twirl the top around to clear the readings, and everything else (including the carrying case) is in excellent condition. It’s in perfect working order and clean as a whistle.
So I reckon this still has to be a $US500 item, at least.
(I’m not itching to sell it, but if you’re willing to pay top dollar, especially if you’re in Australia, let me know.)
The actual practical value of a Curta calculator today, as opposed to its collectible value, closely approaches zero. It’s not actually very difficult to use a Curta - for basic calculations, at least. But, like books of logarithms, Curtas have been made about as completely obsolete as is possible by electronic calculators.
Pretty much any electronic computer at all is hilariously superior to the finest hand-cranked calculator ever made. You have to try quitehard to make electronic calculation more obscure than mechanical.
The standard sliderule and its various specialised derivatives still have a place today as an inexpensive and durable rapid estimation tool. But Curtas were never cheap, aren’t very tough, and don’t let you quickly eyeball a multiplication or logarithm. Don’t even ask what you have to do to calculate a square root.
This functional omission is at least partly by design, of course. People whose needs were already served by a $5 slipstick certainly weren’t going to spend $US850 in today’s money on a Curta.
Today, I received a press release whose title was “FixMyMovie Launches with James Bond-Style Video Enhancement”.
This did not fill me with joyous anticipation. “Video enhancement” is one of those ridiculous action movie cliches - any old security camera footage can be “enhanced” to hundred-megapixel detail whenever it’s necessary to move the plot along.
FixMyMovie does not, however, actually make such stupid claims. It would, in fact, probably be perfectly useless to James Bond.
What it aims to do is apply MotionDSP processing muscle to low quality video, to make it better looking without losing detail. At the moment you can make a free account on fixmymovie.com and upload any video clip smaller than 352 by 288 pixels in resolution and 20 megabytes in file size, and see what transpires.
So I did.
When I reviewed the Aiptek Pocket DV2 toy digital video camera back in early 2003, I strapped it to the top of a model tank and took it for a drive around a park. The Pocket DV2 produces grainy, fuzzy, nine frame per second 320 by 240 video, which is pretty much on par for cheap phone cameras these days. FixMyMovie is specifically designed to enhance phone camera video, so I figured one of the Aiptek clips would be a good sample.
Here’s a Google Video version of the clip. Video of this quality is one of the few things that GooTube compression won’t make a whole lot worse, but it’s still lost some quality; you can download a DivX-compressed version of the original footage, which looks almost exactly the same as the original Motion JPEG video but is quite a bit smaller, here.
Here’s the FixMyMovie-d version. If you can’t see it, you probably need the latest beta Flash plugin. If you’ve got the right plugin already, you’ve probably noticed that the FixMyMovie player currently has a MySpace-style auto-play function, which you can’t turn off. Sorry about that.
The difference really is quite impressive. FixMyMovie has gotten rid of the prominent blocky compression artefacts in the original video, without noticeably blurring it. It’s not an amazing, incredible, action-movie-bulldust improvement, but it’s very worthwhile. Rapid camera movements - an acknowledged weakness of the enhancing technique - leave noticeable ghosts from previous frames. But they’re only noticeable if you’re trying hard to see something wrong with the video. The improvements far outweigh the problems.
The deal with FixMyMovie - once it leaves its current beta state - is that it’ll only enhance the first ten seconds of any clip for free. If you like the look of it you can “Order” a fully processed version, which will cost money - 99 US cents, to enhance this clip.
(It took quite a long time to process this clip, presumably because people are already hammering the FixMyMovie server. You get an e-mail when processing is finished, though, so you don’t have to sit there refreshing the My Videos page.)
At the moment, you get $US25 credit when you create a free account - and no, you don’t have to give them a credit card number; use a disposable e-mail address if you’re really paranoid. $25 should plenty to try the service out.
The player lets you play the whole clip even when only ten seconds have been enhanced, seamlessly connecting the enhanced beginning to the unprocessed rest of the video. Click the bar on the right-hand side of the video and you can compare processed and unprocessed still frames with a nifty mouse-drag interface.
As the FAQ explains, once you’ve fully processed a video, you can download it in various popular formats, including native h.263-encoded FLV flash video format, for upload to YouTube, which will then not recompress the video.
Here’s the video on YouTube - I only just uploaded it, so it ought to be viewable in a moment. If you can’t be bothered installing the new Flash player, or if it’s not available for the computer you’re using, this is pretty close to the fixmymovie.com version.
Google Video and YouTube still aren’t completely harmonised; you can upload FLV-format video like this to YouTube, but not to Google Video.
The enhanced WMV and MOV versions of this dinky little one-minute clip were fifteen megabytes in size. They’ve got a bit more detail than the online Flash version - they look a bit better than the 7.5Mb FLV-format version too - but they’re not nearly better enough to justify that huge file size.
The FixMyVideo enhancement hasn’t done anything to the frame rate (which is good), but it’s blown the file resolution up to 640 by 480, which along with 64 kilobit per second audio (which the crappy-camera original didn’t have) accounts for the file size inflation.
The smaller FLV-format version is 320 by 240, as it should be, because that’s the native resolution of GooTube.
The big file sizes aren’t really a problem, because this enhancement technique is based around interframe interpolation; it tries to find the same image components in different frames, and overlay them to leave the image data and eliminate various forms of distortion. So it’s kind of like speckle imaging and image stacking, but for motion video. Sticking with the original resolution would have thrown away some of the interpolated detail.
In brief, though: Yes, FixMyMovie works. I don’t know how much value it’ll have for video that looks OK to start with, but if you’ve got some crappy phone, web or toy camera video that you’d like to improve, check FixMyMovie out while it’s still free.
The “Ecowatts Thermal Energy Cell”, according to the entirelyreliable Daily Mail, produces far more output energy (in the form of hot water) than you have to put into it in electricity.
Ecowatts, according to the Mail, have the support of one Jim Lyons of the University of York, who is a real person with real engineering qualifications and says he’s tested the device and been amazed.
Ecowatts say on their site that “the technology has been verified by UK Universities and Measurement Organisations”; needless to say, they don’t go on to name any of them. There’s not even a mention of Mr Lyons.
Ecowatts gave the University of York fifteen thousand pounds to do the research. The person they were listed as giving it to was apparently not Jim Lyons, though. I doubt this is a plain CorporateWhore situation, but who knows.
There’s a lot of room for improved efficiency in most hot water systems. The standard arrangement in which a lot of water is made hot and kept in a tank waiting for use is bad enough. The fact that people then “shandy” the hot water with cold water when they use it for bathing is even worse.
But one place where efficiency really is perfectly fine is the point where, in an electric water heater, the element heats the water.
That stage, like all other electrical heating, is as close to 100% efficient as makes no difference. (A tiny amount of the input energy to a hot water heater element is lost, for instance as sound.)
So a device which, as Ecowatts say, “converts electrical power into heat at an efficiency significantly greater than that of a conventional immersion heater”, is by definition an over-unity device. Being able to get “150 to 200 per cent more energy out than we put in, without trying too hard”, as Mr Lyons says in the Daily Mail piece, takes the heater straight into the realm of practical perpetual motion.
Because I have a passing knowledge of the 100% historical failure rate of these sorts of things, I am completely certain that this newest device will fizzle out just like all of the others.
I’m hoping for a more dramatic denouement this time, though. Not just the usual sad bilked investors - I want revelations of corruption and academic arguments!
It probably won’t be as much fun as Firepower, but it could still be good for a giggle.
UPDATE: The end of the Daily Mail piece mentions that this gadget was previously being hawked by a company called “Gardner Watts”. I’ve found this piece from the Daily Telegraph which talks about it. It’s from 2003.
Once again, the claims were apparently verified scientifically - by one Doctor Jason Riley of Bristol University, who is another real person.
And the claims were bigger that time. According to the Telegraph, the 2003 version delivered “energy gains of between three and 26 times what had been put in”.
The 2003 Gardner Watts “cell” was going to be on the market “within two years”.
But here we are, four years later, and still… nothing. All that time, and not one published paper, let alone a working product.
And not even a nibble from those cynical bastards at the Nobel Institute.
About a year ago I bought various titanium offcuts and had a go at the anodising trick. Electricity and a phosphoric acid solution let you turn the surface of titanium different colours, and the finish is very hard-wearing. “Rainbow titanium” gizmoes (like the pen I review here) are common these days.
The easiest way to get your hands on dilute phosphoric acid in this modern world is to use cola, since all cola contains phosphoric acid for flavour. Diet cola is preferable, since it’s less sticky. I used Diet Coke.
There was plenty of cola left after I’d satisfied my curiosity about anodising, so I put the excess in a ground-glass-stoppered bottle. It’s been sitting in the kitchen next to my radiometer, looking all sciencey, ever since.
There is, by definition, very little food value in a diet drink.
But something still, eventually, managed to grow in the bottle:
I’m not sure what’s feeding the mould, but I presume it’s the “caramel colour” that’s number two on the Diet Coke ingredients list.
Ordinary caramel is just sugar that’s been browned by heat, and obviously has plenty of food value; Diet Coke may have “less than one calorie” per can, but they’re talking about the dietary “large calorie“, which is quite a bit of energy. I think the “sulphite ammonia caramel” that’s used in acidic soft drinks is much the same, energy-wise, as plain burned-sugar caramel.
If it were just the caramel, though, you’d think that the mould would have grown in the unsterilised bottle quite soon after I’d stoppered it up and left it where it could soak up the morning sunlight every day.
The sunlight may have something to do with why the cola is the colour that it is, too. It’s much paler than it was when I first bottled it, and I noticed the colour change long before I noticed any mould.
I suppose the acidity of the cola could have retarded mould growth. Perhaps the breakdown of aspartame into its constituent amino acids (due to the action of the acid, and possibly the sunlight again) had something to do with it.
I am not referring to a regular “site map” for people to visit online, but rather to a script called “Google Sitemap file” which helps Google to read and index your website overall content. I advise you to visit us online where we explain clearly what is a “Google Sitemap file” and what you need to do to get one: http://www.sitemapfile.net
A Sitemap file is a “script/code” placed in the root directory of your website which captures all the crucial information about your website, thus facilitating the crawling and indexing process for Google. We can set up your Google Sitemap file for $125 should you need help to do so.
GLOBAL VIBRATION INC.
1250 Connecticut Ave N.W. Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036 USA
TEL: 1 (202)-787-3989 - FAX: 1 (202)-318-4779 http://www.mplw.com:
Multilingual Search Engine Promotion Services since 1999.
Even if I didn’t regard being described as an “online marketer” as a deep personal insult, it would still be my considered opinion that this service is a rip-off.
As other people have observed (after getting this same offer for sites that apparently already have a sitemap…), making a sitemap is likely to be a semi-automated process that takes about 15 minutes.
That makes $US125 for making one a pretty good hourly rate. Even before you notice that they’re apparently offering four different and separate kinds of $125 sitemap - Google, MSN, Yahoo and “General”. Only $375 if you order all four!
I can see nothing in the sitemap format that actually requires those files to be different for different search services. And since April 2007, Google, Yahoo and MSN have supported automatic “discovery” of sitemap files via a simple robots.txt entry. So you don’t even have to manually submit your sitemap URL to get it noticed. Not that the submission process was ever difficult enough to justify a separate fee.
And there’s more.
Global Vibration (insert joke here…) aren’t even selling you an automatic-updating sitemap service.
As far as I can tell after reading their mildly illiterate FAQ, they’ll just make one lousy XML file and then, I guess, charge you another $125 if you want more addresses added to it and aren’t smart enough to twig to the fact that you can edit the thing yourself.
And, furthermore, dansdata.com has no need for a sitemap file, as a cursory examination of the site reveals.
The basic purpose of a sitemap is to make it easier for search engine spiders to find dynamically created pages that can’t easily be located by just “clicking on links”.
Web forums, for instance, are difficult to effectively spider. If you’ve for some reason decided to use a Flash interface for your site navigation, that’ll also stymie spiders.
Google spiders all of the pages on Dan’s Data with no trouble whatsoever, though. Google also discovers new pages on my site within hours, if not minutes. I used to manually submit new pages to Google just to make sure, but they show up in searches just as quickly if I don’t.
Dan’s Data also has zillions of incoming links from other sites. Even if I deleted my huge full index page and all of my intra-site links, most if not all of my pages would still be regularly spidered.
And I don’t have any “dynamic” pages at all. Dansdata.com is a good old fashioned flat-file site.
That makes it painful if I want to change an element on every page - I have to re-upload the entire site, which at the moment means about 36Mb of HTML - but it reduces the load on my server. And it also makes the site trivially easy to spider, since every URL is simple and static and there’s no half-baked Content Management System shuffling stuff around.
Dansdata.com has been around since 1998, and has a PageRank of 6. Oddly enough, despite the fact that Global Vibration claim to have been providing “Multilingual Search Engine Promotion Services since 1999″ (http://www.mseo.com/ and http://www.globalvibration.com/ have apparently onlyexisted since 2001…), their own site currently has a PageRank of… zero!
I would also like to propose a General Rule of Credibility: Anybody who puts “Ph.D.” after their name whe they’re trying to get you to buy something is less likely to be on the level than someone with no letters after their name.
If I were uncharitable, I might wonder where Peter Kramer got his doctorate. I might also wonder what discipline it was in.
That’s an ad from Kontera, the people with whom I had so much fun in this column.
I initially thought it was completely inexplicable that “Michael Jackson” and “financial ruin” were connected strings in Kontera’s laughable “contextual” ad database, but it turns out that those two strings have been seen in the headlines of lots of news stories. Which is no doubt why Kontera’s brainless ad server is linking them together.
The other day, someone e-mailed me to ask where an Australian shopper could find one of those wonderful clicky keyboards I keepgoingon about without having to pay fifty US bucks, or more, for shipping from the States.
There aren’t any Australian dealers of new or used buckling spring or keyswitch keyboards, if you don’t count that silly Das Keyboard thing. Well, not as far as I know, anyway; feel free to tell me if you know of one.
So the best advice I can usually come up with is “use the eBay e-mail search notification thingy and wait”.
But this time there seemed to be no need to wait, because there were…
…a bunch of these Unicomp Model Ms for sale on Australian eBay right now!
Except then a reader who’s already bought one, from this same eBay seller, wrote to inform me that these are not actually clicky keyboards at all.
The bloody seller has the hide to say “The many different variations of the keyboard have their own distinct characteristics, with the vast majority having a buckling spring key design … Model Ms have been prized by computer enthusiasts and heavy typists because of the tactile and auditory feedback resulting from a keystroke.” in the listings, thereby clearly giving readers the impression that they’re buying a buckling spring ‘board.
And these are indeed “real” Model Ms. But, as explained on the clickykeyboard.com Buyer’s Guide page, these are the “library” kind of Model M that’s actually just a high quality rubber dome ‘board. Big, heavy, solid, probably very reliable, but not the nice-keyfeel clicky ‘board you’re hoping for. They do not have “the tactile and auditory feedback” that an honest listing would not have damn well mentioned.
I apologise to anybody who’s bought a keyboard already based on what this post said before I found this out. What a bloody swindle. Shame on you, Fistok.
And now, the rest of my orignal post, with a few more annotations:
The more observant among you may have noticed that these keyboards do not have a standard layout, and are in fact openly described as “terminal” keyboards. This is usually bad news. Old terminal keyboards seldom have a standard PS/2 interface, and so there’s no way to plug them into a normal PC without doing something ridiculous like grafting in whole new electronics, or making your own interface converter with a microcontroller.
The seller assures me that these ones, however, have a standard PS/2 plug and all worked fine when he tested them on an ordinary PC.
[But I didn’t ask him if they were really buckling spring, since he used the words “buckling spring” in the listing. More fool me.]
So they’re just a PC keyboard with a funny cursor key layout and a bunch of extra function keys that may or may not be of any use to you, but will make you look very important.
And they’re $AU19.99 plus $AU10 to $AU20 delivery, depending on where in Australia you are. He’ll deliver overseas as well.
[The price still isn’t bad, if you want a novelty keyboard that’ll work with a normal PC. If you want a clicky keyboard, though, don’t buy one of these.]
Once again, gentle readers, I call upon you to buy these things up so I don’t end up buying one myself.