FedEx adds an artificial delivery delay, seriously?

When weather, traffic or other conditions delay my packages it’s all good and well. The shipping companies can’t be penalized when a package gets delayed due to outside influences.

If my package were to arrive early, however, that’d be great. FedEx, though, has decided that it’s too early to deliver my package. Turns out that if a shipper pays for three-day shipping it doesn’t mean that a package will be delivered in three-days-or-less, it means three days. We wouldn’t want anyone to get two-day shipping for the price of three now, would we?

Taking off my cynical, the man’s out to get me hat for just a moment, I could imagine there’s a perfectly reasonable, logistical business decision for this move. If you have too many packages to handle on a given day (perhaps we’re getting into holiday shipping season) it may be a good idea to hold back packages that won’t be late.

It really comes down to this: it’s MY package and I want it! GIMME! FedEx must realize that, other than my wife, I’m the most important thing in their world. Apparently the memo hasn’t circulated yet.

Photoshop Tech

Quick image straightening with Photoshop

Microsoft Digital Image Suite, for all its limitations, does a few things really well:

  • Fix red-eye
  • Stitch together panoramas
  • Make straightening images brain-dead easy

I love Photoshop.  It’s definitely my image editor of choice but I always used to launch Digital Image to straighten pictures, then I’d go back to Photoshop for the rest of my tweaks.  It wasn’t until I bought The Photoshop Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby (also in flavors for CS2 and CS3) that I learned the Photoshop method.

Straightening images is actually a pretty simple process, but nowhere in the Photoshop UI does it say “straighten”.  I suppose I could have read the manual, but where’s the fun in that?

The basic steps are:

  1. Use the measure tool to figure out the angle to rotate
  2. Perform an “arbitrary” rotation
  3. Crop your picture

Let’s say you’re in a hurry (or drunk) and snap a quick photo at a wonky angle.

The first step (after opening the picture with Photoshop, of course) is to select the measure tool from your tools palate.  The measure tool is the ruler buried under the eyedropper tool and can be accessed by clicking and holding or by hitting shift-i repeatedly until the measure tool is selected (I’m a big fan of keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop, they save me a bunch of time and make me feel like a power user).

Once you have your measure tool selected you need to pick a line in the picture you think should be horizontal or vertical.  If you’re straightening a landscape the horizon is a good bet.  If you are shooting buildings using a wide angle lens you’ll want to pick a line near the center of the picture and probably a vertical one.

Use the measure tool to draw along the line you think should be vertical.

Rotating the picture is now a fairly automatic process.  From the Image menu select Rotate Canvas -> Arbitrary.  When the dialog pops up you’ll note Photoshop has already filled in a number.  The software has looked at the line you drew using the measure tool and input the number of degrees to rotate automatically.  All you have to do is press OK.

Your image is now straight but you have some extra gunk you need to trim off.  Grab the crop tool from your palate (or hit “c” on your keyboard) and pick out the part of the picture you want to keep.  Hitting enter on your keyboard will crop the picture and after you save you’re done.



I want facial recognition software, why can’t I have it?

I have thousands of pictures… most of them aren’t tagged. Even my new batches of pictures only get tagged about 20% of the time. I really want a set of tools that will help me get this done. Companies are out there working on it but I want it now!

I realize there is some stuff out there, but it is all server-based. You could go into all sorts of privacy discussions (and people have) about doing it this way… but really, I just want to make sure I have a tagged copy for myself. Picassa’s web album tagging is fairly painless and would do what I need… if only it would sync the tags back down to my PC (it doesn’t).

Look, I know there are companies out there that have the code to do this. What are you waiting for? A revenue stream. At this point I’m ready to hire someone in China or India to go through my pictures by hand.


Office team shares the love: 2010 beta available

Yesterday we released the public beta of Office 2010, you should go download it right now.

Office 2010

There’s a bunch of new stuff, so it’s really hard to predict what’s going to be exciting to you, but here’s the top feature for me: ignore. Yep, ignore. Outlook has built in a big, beautiful chunk of anti-social awesome. You know when you get added to that really long e-mail thread that won’t go away? The one people keep replying to, dragging it on until it sucks the air out of your office through your monitor. Now you can just right-click, select ignore and the thread goes away… even future mails to the thread.

Another of my fav Outlook features: the Quick Steps. They are, at their heart, macros. Select a message and click a quick action to create a task, mark the message read and dump into into a folder all in one button press. I’m currently working on giving my quick steps the GTD treatment.

It’s the nature of my job, I live my life in Outlook. There is, however, a ton of goodness in all the apps. Go checkout the beta site for a run down of what’s new in each of the Office applications. There are features to make your life easier (e.g. multi-user editing of docs) and features to make you look good (e.g. spark lines in Excel).

But can you really use it? Absolutely. I’ve uninstalled Office 2007 on all my machines and only run Office 2010. Sure, it’s a beta, it’s not perfect. But it never stops me from getting my job done. So, If I can live using only the beta, you should feel comfortable at least trying it out for a bit.


I hate flashback episodes


Tonight I watched three hours of television, and two hours of it were in reverse.  It seems more and more TV writers are using the flashback episode as crutch.

By flashback episode I mean those episodes where at the start of the show you come in at the end of the action.  So, after ten minutes of "look, here’s how the show ends!" you have to sit through 30 minutes of review explaining how you ended up where you started.

Here’s my request to TV writers out there: either learn how to develop tension through foreshadowing and character development or go back to film school.