Monthly Archives: February 2010

Great software: Multi-Monitor Wallpaper

Two monitors are great for productivity, but aesthetics are important too. Who wants to stare at the same picture on both desktops? No one, that’s who.

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The NVidia display control panel that came with Vista allowed me to set a unique image for each monitor. But fie, Windows 7 hasn’t caught up yet and I was stuck staring at the same image, duplicated on both monitors. Well thanks to Arian Kulp’s Multi-Monitor Wallpaper code sample I’m no longer annoyed by my desktop.  No longer do I see sameness, I instead have a beautiful view of Killary Bay.

Makes me want a PS3… and a budget for track days

Gran Tourismo, Playstation’s ultimate driving simulation game (some argue it’s the best on any platform), has announced a feature that bridges the gap between video games and track days.

Back in the good old days, when Mike and I used to have “racing budget”, we practiced driving Laguna Seca on the PS2 with Gran Tourismo, then went and drove the track for real. If we did it now, however, we could take it one step farther by bringing the results of our track day back home and reviewing them on the new version of Gran Tourismo.

Here’s how it works: while at your track day you record your lap times and lines using GPS and “CAN”. When you return home you put the data on a USB stick and plug it into your PS3. You can replay the data by watching your run around the track or use the data as a ghost and race against yourself to improve your lines or see how you would fare against, say, an F1 car (spoiler alert: not very well).

What type of data logger hardware you need isn’t terribly clear in the press release, it just says you need log CAN data. As for tracks, I think it’s a safe assumption that the feature will be limited to the tracks already part of the software.

Excellent and free panorama software: MS ICE

Panoramic pictures are a great way to convey the scale and beauty of a scene, but building a panorama requires a good set of tools. Fortunately Microsoft Research is giving one away for free.

For the longest time I kept Microsoft Digital Image Suite on my computer only for the purpose of stitching panoramas. My photo editing tool of choice is Photoshop, but Photoshop CS’s panorama stitching was so cumbersome and ineffective that I didn’t even try CS4 until I was writing this. Digital Image Suite does a good job… but only if images are really well lined up. Thankfully, however, Microsoft Research released Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE).

I’ve compared the results of Microsoft Digital Image Suite, Photoshop CS, Photoshop CS4 and Microsoft ICE.

Photoshop CS did only a passable job at creating a panorama. Items weren’t lined up and there is obvious banding where the exposure differs between pictures.

DI did a beter job of lining up the pictures and blending the exposures, but still not great.

Photoshop CS4’s Photomerge feature does a nice job both of lining up the images as well as adjusting the exposure across the frame.

Microsoft ICE generated very similar results to Photoshop CS4 on my set of test images. Both CS4 and ICE had trouble lining up the railing in the center of the picture (probably a result of me shooting the sequence without a tripod). CS4 has a more even feel to the exposure and the perspective feels less warped.

Bottom line: ICE is by far the easiest tool to use of the set and generates results comparable to the $700 CS4. While I still live in Photoshop for image editing I use ICE for stitching panoramas. It’s a smaller application and has nice features like "autocrop" which automatically removes the inevitable curved seams on a stitch.