Digital image post-processing

31 01 2006

Over the last few years I’ve been learning more and more about digital photography and what is necessary to take a decent picture. What I’ve been ignoring up until now is the importance of post-processing. To me that’s something folks do in magical tools like Photoshop using mystical hand-waving and “File->Picture->Make Better” type operations. But the other day I decided to see what I can do in The Gimp to improve a picture in the way a Windows user would use Photoshop.
I selected as my sample picture this image of a beech tree on the north end of our property. It’s really quite striking, and I thought a nice portrait shot of it would work well. When I went to preview the images though, I was disappointed with the color level. Even though there was enough light (it was a nice sunny winter day), the image didn’t quite grab me the way I wanted it to.
I pulled the image into Gimp and started noodling around with menus. At a hint from a friend on flickr I upped the contrast level and fiddled some of the color saturation values. This is the result. I think the picture is much crisper and the colors are stronger. A definate improvement!
Last was cropping the image to focus on the tree itself. Since it’s, well, a tree, I decided to slim things down to draw out the height. I cropped inside the bracketing trees.
I like the end result. I think I can do better with other images, but I think from now on I’ll be spending time in post-processing before publishing my pictures.

KDE Tricks – Using DCOP to communicate with AmaroK

29 01 2006

Sort of following up on my conversion to Kubuntu and the following of the KDE Way, I learned a couple tricks about KDE this week.
I had been using XMMS as my music player forever and a day. Since I like chattering about what music I’m listening to when I’m on IRC, I wrote a little macro into X-Chat that let me say on channel (or in a msg) what XMMS was currently playing. To do this I used xmms-shell, a command line utility for interacting with XMMS. But since I converted to AmaroK, that obviously wouldn’t work anymore.
I started looking around for something similar to xmms-shell for AmaroK, when a fellow on #kde-users suggested looking at the ‘dcop’ command line tool. I had very little exposure to dcop – I knew it was one of the technologies underlying KDE, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it was.
DCOP, according to the wikipedia page on it, stands for ” Desktop COmmunication Protocol”, and is a light-weight interprocess and software componentry communication system. What this means for the layman is that virtually any application built for KDE has a series of methods and properties exposed for access from a dcop client. KDE provides the command line tool ‘dcop’ and a GUI desktop tool called, unsurprisingly, ‘kdcop’ for exploring and using these interfaces. I used kdcop to browse through the AmaroK DCOP remote methods, and found ‘nowPlaying()’. It was a simple matter of putting this into an x-chat macro:

/exec -o echo `dcop amarok player 'nowPlaying()'`

Binding that to the ‘x’ key in x-chat, now at any point I can just type /x and whatever track I’m listening to shows up in the channel or msg window I’m in.

My Daily Conversations with Eclipse

25 01 2006

Having now converted my development environment to Eclipse, I’m going through the normal growing pains associated with going from a total command line “edit, save, exit, compile, look at error, re-edit…” cycle to a totally integrated interactive IDE. The last immersion I did in this type of environment was using Turbo Pascal 7 somewhere back in the mid 90’s.
Mostly it’s going okay, but I’m sort of entertained at the ‘compile on the fly’ functionality that Eclipse has. Errors are shown immediately, not at compile-time, so you can see the state of your app at any moment. I just find some of my conversations with Eclipse amusing. The ‘Problems’ pane at the bottom of the screen shows the current state, and I feel like I see this sort of convo happening all the time:
dbs – typeitytypetyptyp type type. think. typetype
eclipse – Warning: variable foobar is never used.
dbs – yes yes, i know. I’m still working on it.
eclipse – Warning: you type too slow.
dbs – You’re not helping.
I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the “Dave. Your code is absolute garbage.” HAL-like plugin will be available.

KDE Chatterings: Amarok

24 01 2006

I’m really getting into my new KDE 3.5 desktop based on the latest release of Kubuntu linux. The level of integration and polish that has gone into the system is constantly amazing me. I’ll be chatting about various applications and components shortly, but I’d like to talk about one in particular right now. Amarok.
The Application
Amarok is to KDE what iTunes is to the rest of the world. A slicky smooth application with a ton of ‘community’ and ‘wide world’ stuff in it, but at it’s core, it’s a music player. Linux is certainly not without it’s share of music tools, but a decent, intuitive, and powerful system has been scarce for quite some time.
Amarok fills a niche for a tool that is not only a capable player, but also manages your music collection, organizes playlists, titles, and tags, as well as keep track of what was played when, and what order it was done in. Amarok makes no distinction between a local playlist and a streaming audio feed – the entire interface handles both sources without skipping a beat.
Add onto that a popup ‘banner’ display that shows the current track when it changes, then disappears (without affecting keyboard focus, windows, or anything – it’s a neat trick), and an extremely compact and well designed interface, and you have all the makings of an attractive and useful tool.
The Experience
I’ve been using Amarok as my default player now for almost 3 weeks, and I find myself pulling it out of its hidey-hole in the KDE toolbar to do basic things “Ahh, skip this track, it’s boring.” “Who the hell IS this?” “Switch over to that other playlist.” “I just added a couple more albums to the store, rescan please.” without spending half an hour navigating man pages, unintuitve menus or hacked interfaces that don’t behave like any other application on the planet. It’s delightful.
Other little tidbits that surprised me include things like Amarok’s link wth Album covers can be automatically displayed based on CDDB or FreeDB signatures, and they’re invariably correct. Another one is integration with your iPod. Dock them, and you can drag and drop songs into the iPod directly. Amarok also has an interace to, a community based site oriented around music. The songs you play can be reported in as favorites / regularly played, and will update the ‘popular songs’ info on the site.
Amarok may be one of the best applications out for KDE, but it has great company with all the other improvements in KDE 3.5. Stay tuned for other reviews, but if you have a chance, take a look at Amarok now. You won’t be disappointed.

Improv group arrested on NY Subway for not wearing pants!

23 01 2006

As reported on their website Improv Everywhere staged an event and… :

Today’s No Pants was halted by the cops about halfway through. One frustrated cop freaked out and called in 25 more. 8 were ticketed and summonsed to court, 6 of the 8 were handcuffed and traveled in a police van to a precinct. Everyone has been released and is fine. More info as it develops. Keep checking this page, and the comments below for updates from everyone involved.

There’s a wonderful Flickr photo set available.
I’m still wondering what they were actually arrested for.

The last few days on LJ, the geek way…

23 01 2006

Okay, this is really funny. LJ had a couple hax0rz playing around with authentication over the past week or so, and this fellow has documented it in an amusing way.
Thanks to Lisa for the pointer.

Sunset over Wachusett Reservoir

22 01 2006


Originally uploaded by eidolon.

Taken on Saturday evening. It was extremely windy (see the rest of the set for more pictures from the day), and about 55 degrees out (Very warm for January in the metro Boston area).

This reservoir, for the out of towners, is part of the metro boston water supply system. It’s located near Clinton, MA.