Category Archives: Technology

Opinion: Google+ Gifs (or My gifs to You)

Warning — if you are at all sensitive to quickly moving animations, turn your images off now….

Back sometime in late June or early July I noticed something strange on my Google+ photos: many of them moved. And they were not videos. I did some investigating and discovered that Google was making gifs out of my photos. Without my knowledge or permission. Not that it was that important, but I really hate animated gifs. I thought they were ugly in the 1990s and I think they are ugly in 2013. They are distracting and take away all semblance of professionalism.

What Google was / is doing is taking photos that were shot within seconds of each other and stitching them together to make mini-animations. For instance I took a bunch of photographs of various family members holding my grand-nephew at a family picnic and when I saw them on my Google+ page the photos were all part of a new photo/animation/gif. (although the photos were there as well)

Jill and Preston with grumpy Dean int he background
Jill and Preston with grumpy Dean in the background
Jill, Preston, Brandon, Ashley, Steven
Jill, Preston, Brandon, and Ashley

When I took a lot of photos of the flower girls and other children dancing at a wedding Google+ made a rather cute animation. (okay, not all the gifs are bad)

Dancing flowergirls
Dancing flower girls
Dancing flowergirls
Dancing flower girls

Then, a week or so ago I took a photo of Rupert in front of a snowy scene. What did Google+ do? Made it snow in front of Rupert. In the house.

Rupert in the snow.
Rupert in the snow.

A few days later I took a photo of a Christmas tree in Bethesda. Google made the lights twinkle. (okay, that was kinda cool).

Estrogen Alley tree
Estrogen Alley tree

I took a photograph of our Christmas tree, and again, Google made the lights twinkle.

Christmas tree
Our Twinkly Christmas Tree

So, while I don’t like most of the stitched together gifs, I don’t mind the twinkles.

Merry Christmas!

My Chromecast

I learned about the Chromecast a day after it was announced by Google. It looked way cool, but I resisted buying it even though it was cheap ($35) and I am a complete Android whore. It was not until I heard it was out of stock at Google that I decided to purchase it.

I awaited its arrival with anticipation, especially after reading all of the glowing reviews. (EASY SETUP!) I was sure it would be the answer to everything. (HOW CHROMECAST WILL CHANGE TELEVISION FOREVER!)

It arrived on my birthday (and was my only birthday present except for a bag of Skittles Dean left under my pillow before he left for Munich) and I tried to set it up on the basement television to watch Orange is the New Black with Clare. Because my computer was in the attic and because my phone was elsewhere, I tried to use Clare’s computer to set up my new Chromecast.  For some reason one thing would not connect with another, so I gave up and tried on my bedroom TV, leaving Clare to watch the program on her computer.

My TV worked much better, however, there is something the glowing reviews and ads don’t tell you — you need to plug it in. I thought that all you had to do was push the Chromecast into an available HDMI port, but you also have to plug the Chromecast into either an electrical outlet or into a USB port on your TV. I don’t think my basement TV has one of those and I am not sure my Bedroom TV has one either.

Another thing I didn’t realize was that you can only use Netflix; Google Play Movies, TV or Music; or YouTube from your phone. Your computer has more options, but the quality is much worse.

I’d envisioned using the Chromecast for work — easily displaying my PowerPoint presentation and demos of JAWS screen reading software onto huge televisions, but I am pretty sure that is not going to work. I also envisioned being able to cast my screen on a huge screen to do everyday tasks like remediate PDFs or prepare for PDF accessibility training. I am not sure how I will be able to do that either.

Don’t get me wrong, the Chromecast works amazingly well for a couple of programs, but I already own 3 Rokus and 1 BlueRay player that do the same.

I feel that I bought into the hype over the Chromecast far before it was truly unique. Maybe it will offer things that other streaming devices do not offer, but as for now I could have easily watched Orange is the New Black on my Roku or Sony device.

A tale of two images

Within the course of less than 12 hours I received two surprise images through the Internet.

The first one arrived via twitter and was an illustration to go along with a blog entry from a couple of days ago. The artist is an old Internet buddy I have followed since my Sidekick days. What a treat! I’ve added it to the Owl-Focals entry. Now I think I understand my story better.

owlfocals
Dona reading with her owl-focals. Image by Mike Popovic

The second was from a stranger via a comment on this blog:

Dad’s photo. Before and after it was Photoshopped.

Hi Dona…..I was searching Google for some old photos in need of restoration to hone my Photoshop skills. I came across the one of your father and thought it a perfect candidate. Not only was it in desperate shape, but he seemed to embody the mettle of a generation unlike we will ever see again.
Needless to say, I wanted to share the picture with you and yours. That generation is leaving us all too quickly and it was an honor for me to get this sailor ready for inspection. I hope you enjoy the picture as much as I enjoyed restoring it.

Thanks!

Gary

It most certainly looks better. However, the Photoshopping took away the twinkle in Dad’s eye and the smart-ass grin that is just about ready to appear on his face. I know that look — he’s about to tell an off-color joke. When I remember my dad it’s the twinkle and the grin I remember most.

Too much screentime

Recently I complained to my husband that I felt like I did nothing but work. I went on to describe my day: Waking up at 6:30, heading to the (home) office to work at 7:30 where I would read emails from work, work on steady projects, answer emails about new projects and work more on steady projects until around 4:30 (with a lunch break somewhere around noon). Then I’d either run errands or do household chores then make dinner and/or help clean up after dinner. After dinner we’d either watch television together or do something separately until going to bed at 10:00 or so.

Now, I am sure most people would consider watching TV or reading as not working, and they would be right, but I think what I meant when I made the complaint to my husband about working all the time was that I never got a chance to write anymore. My days were spent in front of a computer and I didn’t want to spend my free time there too. But my writing takes place on a computer. I’m no good, anymore, at keeping a pen and paper journal. No spell check. No grammar check. No easy look up of things. No way to easily insert images.

The Internet has allowed me to find and do a job I love, but it has also allowed me to become lazy. It has allowed me to rely on it for its ease of everything from writing to researching to communicating with friends and colleagues.

There must be a healthy balance between on and off screen-time existence. I’ve just not found it yet.

3 screens
My Three Screens

Google Maps 8-bit quest

My house in 8-bit
No monsters or dragons here

Quick. Go to Google Maps and look up an address then click Quest in the top right-hand corner.

Try looking up Googleplex. Or The White House. (you may need to zoom in or out to see things)

An explanation is on the Google Maps Blog

http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2012/03/begin-your-quest-with-google-maps-8-bit.html

Let me know if you found any other cool things at other addresses.

Update: Danny Goodwin over at Search Engine Watch has screen shots of many of the landmarks found on the 8-bit maps.

The Scent of a Book

Library Scene Time MachineBefore last May, more than one person was surprised to hear that I didn’t own a Kindle or any other kind of e-reader. They knew about my love of gadgets and couldn’t imagine why I’d not bought an e-reader yet. My response was the same to all — as much as I loved technology, I liked the smell of a book better.

Everyone who owned an e-reader tried to get me on-board by telling me how light they were. How I’d be able to hold hundreds of books on it. How easy on the eye they were. I heard so many good things about e-readers that I finally researched them and ended up asking for, and receiving, a Nook Color for Mother’s Day last year. I chose the Nook Color because I’d heard it could be turned into a cheap Android tablet — in case I didn’t like the e-book aspect.

Now, a few months shy of a year later, I give you my opinion: I like the smell of a book.

I also like the feel of a book in my hands and I like the sound of the pages being turned. The other day I considered cataloging all of the books in my house with an app I downloaded on my phone. I was excited at the prospect to touch (and smell) each of my books again and either remember the time spent reading them or relish the anticipation I felt about reading them someday. Then I thought about the books I downloaded on my Nook (and the audio books on my mp3 player). I would never hold those books or smell them or hear their pages turning. Did I really read them? Do I really own them? Can I catalog them?

I recalled the library scene from the 1960’s version of The Time Machine. The Time Traveler pulls a book off a shelf only to have it crumble to dust in his hand. Later he is shown the Talking Rings. Are my e- and audio- books like the talking rings or are they nothing but binary dust motes?

Autograph of Roger Tory PetersonI have read a few books on my Nook Color. My favorite was Stephen King’s 11/22/63, but because I loved it so, I ended up with eye-strain headaches from reading it deep into the night. It was convenient to buy the book the day it came out — but it was a whim buy. I probably would have waited and asked for it for Christmas if I didn’t have the Nook.

Right now I am reading The Big Year on the Nook. (actually I am reading it on my Android phone because my husband is reading the Stephen King book on the Nook). Yesterday in The Big Year I read about Roger Tory Peterson’s account of his Big Year: Wild America and remembered finding a copy of that book in an antique store about 20 years ago. I was a novice birder but recognized one of the authors. Opening the book to check the price ($2.50) I also glanced at the title page and was astounded to see that Peterson had inscribed it with best wishes to a Lloyd Foster. Of course I bought the book. It smells delightful.

This creates another issue — how do authors autograph e-books?

Too many screens

As an afterthought to my last post I began counting the screens in our house then I lost track because I was distracted by one of them. I seriously think this could make an interesting short story.

We have 3 screens in the basement — a television and two monitors for a desktop.

On the main floor we usually have 8 screens — a television in the back room, Clare and Dean’s smart phones, my Nook and 4 laptops.

On the third floor we currently have 2 screens — a television and Andrew’s laptop.

Finally in the attic/office we have 4 screens, all at my work area. My work laptop is attached to an external screen so I can have more room to work. I also have a smartphone and a 7 inch tv connected to a Roku on my desk for distraction while I work on repetitive tagging of PDF files.

So, if I added correctly we have 17 screens in the house right now (not counting my old smartphone in the drawer and various digital cameras around the house). This number may be reduced by 4 in the near future, but why would a family of four need 17 screens? Better yet, why would two people (which we will be once the kids are at college) need 13 screens? I admit to using 3 at a time when I work sometimes — maybe 4 when I check my phone, but I think 6 each is a little much.

When the kids were younger we’d punish them by taking away “screen-time”*. I’m only now beginning to understand what a powerful punishment that was.

*we also established Sundays as “no screen days” — for kids only of course. Man were we mean!