Category Archives: Useful

WP_20130606_003.jpg

Security bits give you access

On more than one occasion I’ve wanted to open something up, only to find it has some weird fastener put in place to keep me out. I can understand wanting to keep thieves and vandals out, but I’m perfectly capable of fixing a rusted cable connection hiding behind my provider’s special box (and certainly don’t want to pay the cable company $120/hr to do it).

WP_20130606_003

I bought this set of security bits off Amazon about a year ago and it continues to prove useful again and again. It’s  worth noting that not all the bits are security bits. A nice surprise that came in the mix: a bit for turning wing nuts.

I highly recommend this set. Even if you never need the security bits, the hex bits make assembling Ikea furniture a snap. Your wrists will thank you.

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.

IMAG0145_e

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.

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.

Should you sit through the credits? Check MovieStinger

You’ve made it to the end of the movie and the credits start to roll. Your soda is empty, your pop corn bag is mostly empty (it’s cold and you’re out of soda) and you probably really need to use the restroom.

Hang on a second… there might be still be more movie. Should you leave?

Worry no more, MovieStinger has the info you need, and it’s in a handy mobile phone friendly format (if you visit from your phone).

image image

New releases will tend to show on the first page, but if a movie isn’t shown (or if you’re watching an oldie) you can also browse their database by genre or title.

You also don’t need to worry about MovieStinger spoiling the surprise either, it just tells you if there are extras or not. Note: if you want to know exactly what to expect, you can click on an entry to get the full details, but where’s the fun in that?

Turn your handwriting into a true type font, for free!

Want a vanity font to go with your vanity plates and vanity domains? You can do it without having to learn post script or hiring a typography expert. Just hop on over to http://www.fontcapture.com.

The process is simple: print out their form, write out the alphabet, scan the form back in and upload to their server. Your font is available pretty much instantly. Best part: it’s free (we’ve already established I’m cheap).


How long does it take you to write 127 letters?

It’s dirt cheap and spike-through-the-head easy. It’s not, however, failsafe. Here’s some stuff to keep in mind:

  • If you have crappy handwriting, this isn’t going to make it look any better
  • You’ll probably be much happier with the results if you use your favorite image editor to line up letters vertically and horizontally
  • Consistent width on the letters will also pay dividends (my “y”s are skewed, making the spacing look bad)


If you take the time to line up all your letters your font will be much nicer

It honestly is easy, I made the first draft of my font in less than 10 minutes. If you want a quality font, however, you will want to tweak the letter size and alignment to make them consistent and aligned. For me that was another 30 minute investment.

And, no… this ain’t one of them crappy bit-mapped fonts. The clever folks at fontcapture.com turn your handwriting into a true type font, so you can blow it up to 120 points if you want:


Clickey for biggie

To be clear, you should not scan letters from your friends and create a font to impersonate them. That would be wrong Steve.