• I went to my brother’s wedding last week. During the reception was a slide show of their pictures, coupled with music. It was a great presentation. But what I noticed was that I could do this as well. The music wasn’t attached to the slide show, it was a separately playing live music. F-Spot TransitionAnd the slide show, which was run on a Mac laptop, was the built-in Mac slide show utility. F-Spot, GThumb, or the image viewer, which are all built into Ubuntu, can do the same thing that that Mac was doing–fading in and out picture after consecutive picture. And with RhythmBox, XMMS, or your favorite media player playing in the background, you got yourself a whole Linux roadshow. Of course, getting great pictures to show is another matter altogether, but a matter out of the scope of this post.

    During that trip as well, I visited an old friend that now runs Photo Story Creations, a shop that puts your pictures on mugs, pillows, even tiles, as a mosaic or just a straightforward picture. Imagination’s the limit to what you can do with their products, you just need to tell them what you want to be done with your pictures. Having previously used trialware mosaic programs during my Windows days, I poked around in Synaptics Package Manager to see if I can find a mosaic application for Linux.

    Sure enough, there was a fast, little program called Metapixel. It´s actually two small programs: metapixel-prepare and the main metapixel program. Sample Metapixel OutputThe metapixel-prepare program lets you choose a source directory of pictures and a target directory to use as a picture library for metapixel. Creating a mosaic takes around 3 1/2 minutes, which is already comparatively faster to other mosaic programs. But this speed advantage really comes in handy when you´re making mosaics using the library, since only half a minute is used for the actual creation of the mosaic. The other 3 minutes is used for preparing the library, which is a one time deal in this case.

    One thing that might turn off some users is that Metapixel is a command-line program. But it’s not really that hard to use. To prepare the library, you use the following command: metapixel-prepare Desktop/sourcepictures Desktop/librarydir Afterwards, just type in
    metapixel --metapixel input.jpg output.png --library Desktop/librarydir --cheat=30 The input file is the target image that you want your mosaic will look like and the output is, of course, the final image that will be produced. Notice that I put in a –cheat=30. What that actually does is overlay a 30%-opaque final image on to the mosaic, similar to the flower mosaic above. Unless you have a really vast library of pictures with all possible colors and you’re going to create a pretty big mosaic, this option can come in pretty handy. There are also other options, like the collage option. The difference between a collage and a classic mosaic is that the classic mosaic lays out your pictures in a perfect grid, while pictures in a collage can overlap each other.

    Another cool tool that should be in the toolbox of the Linux photographer is Hugin Panorama Photo Stitcher. It features tools for correcting perspective, and of course, stitching tools for creating panoramas.

    Hugin Panorama

    To stitch photos, all you need to do is create points in your pictures to help the program automatically stitch your photos. In the example above, Hugin automatically adjusted for the perspective distortion effect of my camera, stitching three photos seamlessly. You may also want to check out the official Hugin stitching online tutorial.

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  • June 4, 2007 /  Operating Systems, Windows

    This article is kinda late in writing, by over a week. It’s kind of funny when you look advertisements, sometimes because the hype is so obvious or when the advertising machinery has gone overboard. But sometimes, it’s much more interesting when you spot a trap disguised as an advantage.

    In a recent newspaper ad, Microsoft offers the Pinoy Genuine Kit as a promotional chance to get genuine Microsoft software for only Php7,748 ( roughly $170). The ad states the following:

    1. VALIDATE. Log on to www.microsoft.com/philippines/genuine and validate your operating system. If your OS appears non-genuine, you automatically qualify for this special Pinoy Genuine Kit promo.
    2. BUY. For only Php7,748, you can now purchase your genuine Windows XP Professional license in two ways:
      • Option 1 – Buy from participating Elite, Advanced Volume License, MVPP Resellers and FG Distributors who will order it online for you.
      • Option 2 – Buy online using your credit card. Major credit cards like Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Diners are accepted.
    3. GET YOUR KIT–WE’LL SHIP IT FOR FREE. No need to worry about shipping, handling, duties, and taxes. Your genuine license is on its way to your doorstep!

    So what’s wrong you ask? I’m not condoning piracy, but the first step is like a bear trap camouflaged with flowers. If you’re using a pirated copy of Windows, once you go to the validation, there’s no turning back; once the WGA (Windows Genuine Advantage) tool is installed, your computer is host to some limitations, including being able to download only critical updates, being nagged at login, etc. You can read more about the restrictions WGA tool places in this Wikipedia article on Windows Genuine Advantage.

    The real problem is that the WGA tool is not really perfect; Windows Genuine Advantage Falsely Accuses Millions of legitimate Windows users–as many as 5 million people are being wrongly accused of software piracy! Critics have also slammed the WGA tool’s spyware-like behaviorThe WGA tool “phones home” with information about your computer to their servers. Microsoft admitted to this behavior, but denies that it’s spyware. Something bad is only bad unless it’s Microsoft doing it. That’s such a nice, friendly company you’d like to put your trust that you won’t get burned by them in the future.

    They also offer free shipping, which is funny if you know what you’re actually buying. You’re not buying a boxed Windows XP Pro OS. You’re just buying the license, which is basically a paper leaflet with a cardboard backing, and that doesn’t really cost much shipping now, does it?

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