Showing posts with label tools. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tools. Show all posts

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Get Your Own Copy: Top 10 Online Video Conversion Services

Most online video platforms such as Youtube, MySpace and Metacafe use Flash video streaming (.flv) rather than simple links to files we can download. There are various reasons for that with the main one being the common business model most of those services relay on: advertising. In other words - we get to watch the content for free but we need to do that online and on the site. While this may be serving well the interests of the service provider it might not always be how we want things to go: some of us want to archive our own copies of the videos we love. Others may want to transfer a certain movie from one website to another. Well, this is the time to let you know that you don't have to be "on Youtube" to watch a Youtube movie. Instead, you can download the video stream to your computer, keep it there as a "normal" video file and watch it whenever you like. Nothing is illegal or fishy about it, it is simply another way of consuming the data. Just like you do when you save an html page to your computer and read it later.

So, for your convenience, CultCase has selected some of the best online video conversion services available today. They are all free of charge and do not even require registration. We tested all of them by converting and downloading the same 1:42 min Youtube video seen above of an (awesome) cover version for the Beatles' Hey Jude. There were no significant differences between the services in terms of both time-to-deliver and video quality. All of the files looked reasonable considering the quality of the source and took approximately 1-2 minutes to delivery. If you try any of them with your favorite videos please do let us know how it went.

1. Zamzar


Zamzar is a free online file conversion dedicated to transforming songs, videos, images and documents into different formats. With this service the focus is on high-quality file conversion for as many file formats as possible. The basic free service lets you converting files up to 100MB each. In case you are an online video conversion freak and "want more Zamzar" you can signup for basic, pro or business account and get to convert larger files (up to 1Giga!), a personal inbox for online file storage and faster file conversions (pricing and signup here). Nice and clean interface design. Fun to use.

2. Mux


With a somewhat over-texted design but still simple and easy to use interface Mux is a new beta service allowing you to convert media files from major player websites such as youtube, dailymotion and google and download to your computer. Here you can also share it privately with friends & family or send it to your mobile phone.

3. Vixy


This online flv converter lets you convert Flash video files and download them in avi, mov mp4, pm3 or 3gp container formats encoded with mpeg4 codecs. The site claims to be doing that faster and less lossy than a typical transcoder. The service is based on an OpenSource engine named FLV to MPEG4 Conveter. In case you are a serious geek and knows your way around you can even download the project source code via their svn subversion.

4. VideoCodeZone


Convert Flash video files from Youtube, MySpace, Google Videos, IFilm, Break, Dailymotion and Metacafe to popular formats and download them to your computer. Copy and paste the URL of the video, select the output format and click Convert/Download. To convert local Flash video files select the file and click Convert/Download.

5. MediaConverter


Multi-file type converter and splitter supporting video, sound, ringtones, images and documents: not just of popular audio / video files such as mp3, wmv, 3gp, flv, swf, mov, avi, mpg, mp4, divx, ipod, psp and ogg but also picture formats like jpg, psd, doc, pdf, rtf, txt, odg and even abandoned formats as WordPerfect (...?). Check File mode, click Browse, choose the file and hope for auto-detection to work. If auto-detection fails, select input format and output format, submit the form. To convert a file from the Internet check URL mode, enter the file URL, select input and output format and go.

6. ConvertDirect


Online flv converter for Flash video files such as those used by Youtube. Supported output formats include avi, 3gp, mp3, mp4, wmv, mpeg, mov and psp. You can watch your vids on PC, iPod, Zune, PSP and various mobile phones.

7. MovAVI


Other than requiring no software to install (that's true about everyone on this list) the guys from MovAVI are also proud of the fact there are no ads on their site to interrupt you while you are enjoying their free service. Add up to 5 files limited to 10 min each and 100 Mb total size. Enter your email address and MovAVI will notify you when your files are ready. There is also a cool feature allowing you to merge your files videos into one large movie.

8. Flvix


Youtube Google Video dedicated online flv converter. Flvix comes from the folks who do Pingoblog, a cool ping service for bloggers. Very simple yet efficient interface. Converts Youtube and Google videos and serves them for download in avi, mov, mp4, 3gp and mp3 formats for PC, Mobile phones, iPod and PSP.

9. All2Convert


Online video converter. Copy video link, paste it in the URL video box, choose video format and press Convert. Wait for your converted video link to show up and download. Supports 3gp mobile phone format as well as iPhone and Zune videos, iPod, PSP and popular PC formats as dvd, mov, mp4, vob, rm and wmv.

10. ConvertTube


Youtube dedicated online flv converter. Allows you to convert Flash video files as used by YouTube to popular PC, iPod, PSP, iPhone and mobile phone formats such as wmv, mov, mp4, mp3 and 3gp. Same as Vixy, this service also claims to be doing its job faster and less lossy than a typical video transcoder.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

OpenSocial Alliance is here. Social Internet has changed.

It was just the end of October this year when we learned about another open standard alliance led by Google a move that was described as a "FaceBook killer". OpenSocial provides a common set of Application Interface (API) tools for social applications across multiple websites. With standard JavaScript and HTML, developers can now create rich interactive web applications, accessing data from other social networks, update feeds and create new mashed-up content.

Aiming for every social driven and user generated content website out there to implement the new standards, the OpenSocial alliance seek to change the way people are interacting with each other on the internet by removing some of the boundaries set by a chaosed freedom and commercial interests. Websites already implementing the new OpenSocial tools include highly popular websites such as MySpace,, Friendster, hi5, LinkedIn, Ning, Oracle and Orkut. Members of the alliance also include Plaxo,, Six Apart, Tianji, Viadeo, XING and many others. See them all here or check on the video below for interviews with some of OpenSocuial early industry adapters.

Google’s own social network, Orkut, is of course the one that Interests them most but a-la Google's style this is used mainly to give (a limited sandbox for OpenSocial development) rather than take (users from other websites by closing their cross platform communications capabilities). Furthermore, unlike Facebook which uses a proprietary language for their widgets, once you chose developing your new widget with OpenSocial you are totally free to use the best stuff Internet has to offer nowadays including Flash, html and javascript, or in other words - Ajax.

Even though latest figures show the impact on FaceBook's application market is yet minor, the OpenSocial alliance is just one of those things we can't understand how they did not exist until they did and it seems that Google just changed the rules of the game once again. Social Internet has changed. Adding the numbers and including the vast member pool of MySpace - FaceBook's mightiest competitor and an avid OpenSocial integrator - we get a "completely different picture of the combined OpenSocial sites compared to Facebook". A swift look at the above chart posted about a month an a half ago by Bill Tancer, General Manager of Global Research at Hitwise, tells the whole story in short: FaceBook - you took the closed course and got knocked out by the open one. Just like your Microsoft partner.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Said no to Windows Vista? Watercolor: cool WinXP Theme

Watercolor: cool WinXP Theme

And while we are on the subject below, In case you are not excited by Windows Vista's CPU killing bells-and-whistle fireworks and still haven't made your way to Ubuntu, check on Watercolor by Moonwatcher, a cool 704 KB weight XP theme on for your poor "still running Windows" PCs. This theme still runs on quite a few workstations I know including my own and works seamlessly. With 478 downloads already - not bad for a theme submitted two and a half days ago - this may be a perfect solution for anyone with a sense of graphic taste that still wants to run Windows XP.

Download directly, or go to

IE7: "A little over a year". Lots of CSS bugs. Still no bug tracking.

IE7: A little over a year. Lots of CSS bugs. Still no bug tracking.

Well, yes, it has been a little over a year since "they" released IE7 on Windows XP and for Windows Vista, so IE7 Group Program Manager Mr. Tony Chor, who is also an avid blogger, thought "it would be worthwhile to talk about where we are after the year." Why? because of "the positive impact IE7 has made" for Microsoft users, because "as you know" Microsoft "focused a lot on improving security in IE7" making "IE 7 the safest Microsoft browser released to date" and because - yes - "IE7 had both fewer fixed and unfixed vulnerabilities in the first year than the other browsers" they compared with.

Also, says Mr. Chor, "according to internal Microsoft research based on data from Visual Sciences Corporation "over 300 million users are experiencing the web with IE7" making it "the second most popular browser after IE6." I'll save you the rest of the exciting new features and reasons specified by Chor. You can read them all here if you like. The point here is that many angry folks seem to have been waiting a long time for such an opportunity to express their real feelings towards IE7 as well as Microsoft's approach for how to handle their interaction with Internet developer community. I quoted up some of the best onces for you as there are just too many of them. Enjoy.

"Sorry, I can't get past the all-too-frequent IE 7 crashing or hanging at seemingly random times to appreciate anything you just posted." (Internet Explorer has stopped working)

"...It would be sad for IE to fade away in its own delusions of grandeur and support its own misguided standards of how the web should be. Good luck and hope to hear about IE's future developments so I can properly hack my sites to work with its arcane developments." (Joshua)

"From the horrifically god-awful (IE6) to the merely depressingly buggy, nonstandard, and incomplete (IE7)... congratulations!" (Joseph E. Davis)

"... 1 year, still no bug tracking 1 year, still no updates on IE8 features 1 year, still no updates on IE8 bug fixes 1 year, still no ETA on IE8 release 1 year, still no ETA on IE8 Beta release(s) 1 year, still no ETA on IE8 Alpha release(s)" (Sam)

"...Every single day, web authors of all experience, from amateurs to experts/gurus, experience difficulties (from minor to major) with bugs of all kinds in IE 7. When is Microsoft going to finally fix all these proven and testcase-ed bugs?" (Gérard Talbot)

"IE Team called out for biased numbers" (Concerned User)

"I wonder when will you release IE without click to activate..." (n-blue)

"... Let's see... six years for IE7, so you guys are on track to have IE8 by what, 2012? Your problem is you think in terms of years. Your problem is that your company sees the web as a competing platform. Do us all a favor and stop making IE altogether." (Paul)

A few words about my own view. After spending four years with Conceptis development team putting up a totally dynamic yet 100% standard compatible application server there are simply no words to describe how horrible is the fact IE is a closed undocumented software ignoring the fact Internet is not owned by Microsoft:

We had a professional top-gun graphic designer added to our payroll to have the most spectacular GUI ever seen. At least a year was spent on coming up with the basic layout look and language. Aiming to support everyone's Internet experience we took a huge effort to have all of it implemented using 100% W3C standards. We came to a point where IE is supported on the site and design look almost as it should - there is not a single line of code in this project containing the bad behavior of mixing graphic design with code and all graphic instructions are done exclusively via CSS, just as they should be "by the book".

In short, we did our part. Yet, most of the time we spent on CSS development went to solving IE6 particular bugs. There were times when we were certain that eventually we'll bump into all of them, a frightening thought in light of the fact there are hundreds. Now with IE7 around it looks like things are not going to be very different. It looks like we will probably just have to add a bunch of IE7 dedicated hacks to our IE CSS override pool. As explained by a fellow named Gérard Talbot the IE development team still has to fix -

"at the very least 700 bugs, incorrect implementations (all testcase-ed, all demontrable, reproducible) happening in HTML 4, CSS 2.1, DOM 2 interfaces and then implement more or less 500 properties, attributes, methods specified in official W3C Technical Recommendations, W3C web standards (HTML 4, CSS 2.1, DOM 2 interfaces, DOM 2 Core, DOM 3 Core)."

How lovely...

There is one particular comment on this thread which I thought should be brought in full as it pretty much sums up my personal feelings towards the subject discussed. Here it is, exactly as posted on the official IE blog by owner of a web development company Adam Tichy on Thursday, December 06, 2007:

"I'm a web developer, not a literary scholar, therefore I cannot quite find proper words to describe my total disgust with IE. I honestly can't wait long enough for that horrible thing to just crawl into the depths of forgotten projects and die.

"Most of my customers provide consumer or business internet services and they rightfully insist that the web applications work properly in all major browsers. Since MS packages this crap together with the OS it is a small wonder that in whatever diminishing numbers, the IE is still out there in force. It makes my life a living hell! I have to either seriously compromise the design and functionality or essentially build several variants of the sites just to make it work for the ignorant IE6/7 crowd.

And I'm not so sure the smaller number of support calls is something to boast. Judging from the stats on my sites, more and more people access them via the "other" browser(s). If this trend continues (and hopefully it will) you will be receiving even less support calls in the future. 300 million my foot."

[Above illustrative image courtesy of Alex who bumped up a confirmed bug by Microsoft. Confirmed since medieval ages of IE 5.]

Sunday, December 9, 2007

From Neil Papworth to Allo SMS with Voice: Fifteen years of Short Message Service

SMS is part of our lives and has already become a medium, perhaps one of the most popular social mediums used by people. Advertising via SMS is a business. While many companies pay mobile phone subscribers to agree SMS advertisement will be landing in their mobile set, there are others, like James Robinson of Australian start-up HooHaa, who are confident users will sign up for no payment. SMS related Innovations follow each other every day: Wataniya Telecom, for example, a wireless voice and data networks operator, offer a new service named Allo since a few months ago allowing sending SMS with recorded voice message (see above sample from their ad campaign).

Yet, it was just 15 years ago this very week, when Airwide Solutions engineer Neil Papworth pressed the first "send" command and sent the world's first SMS to a few of his friends at Vodafone. Even though it was carrying just the two simple 'Merry Christmas' words this massage opened the door to the multi-billion dollar industry of Short Message Service (SMS) allowing people sending short messages to and from mobile phones.

Engineer Neil Papworth: Invented SMS

No one seems to know exactly how many SMS messages are sent each year. According to the International Harald Tribune, few experts could come up with a recent, reliable figure for the number of total texts sent in the course of a year but estimations puts the number at two trillion to three trillion while at England alone the number weekly SMS barometer just passed one billion - 25 percent higher than a year earlier. By the way, cool Papworth, shown in the above photo from iht, still seems to be working for Airwide Solutions - a dominant player in the next-generation mobile messaging industry. I guess some companies know how to keep their A class personal.

Cheers to Papworth and Airwide Solutions. Happy Birthday SMS!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Access Denied: Twitter joins blocked site list in the United Arab Emirates

If you made a reactionary old fashioned stuck in the past bad guy angry you must have done some good. Thus, my congratulations go to Twitter this morning for joining the lauded halls of the sites banned for speaking too freely. As reported by, the United Arab Emirates has just decided that its residents shall corrupt their souls no more and avoid tweeting with each other as much as they probably have until now. Anyone attempting to access Twitter's website from the UAE gets the above message, translated as follows:

"We apologize, the site you are attempting to visit has been blocked due to its content being inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates. If you think this site should not be blocked, please visit the Feedback Form available on our website."

Other than newly added Twitter, mashable also mentions some other members of this respected list including MySpace, Facebook and of course devilish YouTube that got himself banned from Beijing, Thailand, Morocco, Australia, and others. Should we be surprised? Not necessarily. Apparently there are even some American folks struggling to block MySpace in schools and libraries. I wonder if that's due to their ability to spread ideas freely, having such a horrible interface or simply the number of female silicon body parts one must observe every time he opens his MySpace inbox.

For more information and a detailed list of other Internet destinations being "inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values" of additional bad guys check on Access Denied Map: Mapping Web 2.0 Censorship from, who also offer the following show your support badge.

Global Voices Advocacy: Access Denied Map

Friday, November 30, 2007

2007 International Robot Exhibition: seeing the light in the practical use of robots

We all got used to the vast difference between the kind of future Hollywood has been promising us for years and what this future looks like today. Can any of us have a fun ride on one of those cool personal flying vehicles we seen so many times? Has any of us beamed himself from work to the gym lately? I don't think so. Most of us are still driving fuel engine highly polluting wheels and the future is not really here, but still, it seems to be getting at least a bit closer. In contrast to most robots any of us ever saw and even to the extravagant showcase they put up in 2005, the 2007 International Robot Exhibition opened this Wednesday in Tokyo Japan emphasizes real usage options of robots and features quite a few of them designed to be used in everyday life.

Tatsuo Matsuzaki, an official at Kokoro Company Ltd., showing off a dental patient robot named Simroid that mumbles a Humanoidic "ouch" when the drill hits a nerve (see video below), says we can already "see the light in the practical use of robots". Shoichi Hamada, a senior official at the Japan Robot Association said that two years after the 2005 Expo which showed "the future of life with robots" we have no came to a point where it's time to see how we can actually use them. "Now practical application of robots is in sight," Hamada told AFP. "Many companies here are in a position to let people see what the robots can actually do at this stage of technology."

Approximately 200 companies and more than 50 future looking organizations from across the world are taking part in the four days event, practically the most interesting robot show anyone can offer nowadays. According to a recent report by Macquarie Bank quoted in TechnologyReview Japan is an industrial robot powerhouse, with over 370,000 in use in 2005 about 40 percent of the global total and 32 robots for every 1,000 Japanese manufacturing employees.

Soon coming robots according to
  • Steps: Honda has a humanoid that can run up stairs
  • Exercise: The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology has designed a robot that can demonstrate exercises
  • Guide: Hitachi has a robot that uses sophisticated radar to lead visitors through crowds to their destination
  • Safety: Taisei has a robot that will enter a building and remove asbestos by remote control
  • Nurse: The University of Shiga is close to perfecting a robot that lifts people from beds into wheelchairs. The Riken Research Institute is developing an endoscopic surgery robot that follows voice commands to pass instruments to the human surgeon
  • Words: The National Institute of Information and Communications Technology has a robot capable of learning sign language. Tokyo University of Science has built one capable of reproducing mouth movements and should, researchers say, soon be able to mimic human speech

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Amazon Kindle: read on the go with a wireless high-res e-paper display

Amazon made a big move today with the official release of Kindle - a new wireless portable reader that downloads books, blogs, magazines and newspapers to a high-resolution electronic paper display. Claiming to look and read like real paper even in bright sunlight, this new gadget from the largest book shop on earth is available starting today for $399.

Even though you couldn't get any Kindle shipped during last weekend's Black Friday or otherwise get an overnight shipment of your piece. Yet, Amazon still managed to generate a powerful buzz utilizing some journalists who got to play with the Kindle before the holiday. published this nice list of opinions regarding the new gadget.

To me the most amazing aspect of this major move is how the folks from Amazon appear to be well tuned to the growing public interest in Internet blogs. Apparently, more than 250 top blogs from the worlds of business, technology, sports, entertainment, and politics are constantly updated wirelessly on Kindle devices throughout the day. This is a very interesting feature in my opinion as it emphasizes what every print publisher knows by now - public attention is shifting as more people become familiar with digital life.

Amazon Kindle includes a 6" diagonal E-Ink® electronic paper display and offers 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 4-level gray scale.
More technical info about Kindle on this pres release

Saturday, November 24, 2007

SweetSecondLife: ranking SecondLife news

Sweet Second Life use the SocialRank technology to monitor Second Life sites by analyzing how sites and users link, connect, and discuss each other's content and determine today's hottest articles and bloggers in the field. How else could we possibly know, for example, that the crime for President John F. Kennedy's shooting, has just been reconstructed as a virtual Second Life environment?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

vConvert: online video streams to local video files

Ever wanted to save a YouTube video on your computer or upload a file you saw on one online video platform to another? vConvert is an online service allows you to convert online video streams as those broadcasted on YouTube and similar to local video files on your computer using popular formats such as mov, mp4, mp3 and 3gp used mostly by mobile phones.

The vConvert server converts FLV to the selected format faster and less lossy than a typical transcoder. Just submit a url wait and download your clip.

Image courtesy No Turn Left

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Redmond, fasten your seat belts: Firefox 3 Beta 1 now available for download

The Microsoft IE7 folks at Redmond must be fastening their seat belts at these moments, getting ready for their largest challenge ever as the world's most superior Internet communication software has just been released as a public Beta. Firefox 3 Beta 1, AKLA 3.0b1 is now available for download with 3 operating systems and more than 20 languages already in supported list.

The rumors about Firefox 3 have been with us for a long time and a lot has been written about the third version. This Internet tool is not going to be just another crappy recycled version of the previous engine with additional bells and whistles and a few "new exciting features" stolen from others and implemented badly (have you seen the exciting new tabs on IE7? how exciting). Firefox 3 is developed as a completely new software, with much of its core re-designed from scratch. The Beta 1 is the ninth developer milestone and includes many new core functionality features and changes to the platform scheduled for Firefox 3 (see 3.0b1 release notes).

New Firefox 3 Beta 1 features:

  • Improved security features such as: Better presentation of website identity and security, malware protection, stricter SSL error pages, anti-virus integration in the download manager, and version checking for insecure plugins.
  • Improved ease of use through: better password management, easier add-on installation, new download manager with resumable downloading, full page zoom, animated tab strip, and better integration with Windows Vista and Mac OS X.
  • Richer personalization through: one-click bookmarking, smart search bookmark folders, direct typing in location bar searches your history and bookmarks for URLs and page titles, ability to register web applications as protocol handlers, and better customization of download actions for file types.
  • Improved platform features such as: new graphics and font rendering architecture, major changes to the HTML rendering engine to provide better CSS, float-, and table layout support, native web page form controls, colour profile management, and offline application support.
  • Performance improvements such as: better data reliability for user profiles, architectural improvements to speed up page rendering, over 300 memory leak fixes, and a new XPCOM cycle collector to reduce entire classes of leaks.

Important notes:

The Mozilla folks say they do not recommend that anyone other than developers and testers download the Firefox 3 Beta 1 milestone release as it is intended for testing purposes only. In addition, If you blog this new further (you should!) please do not link directly to the download site but to this Firefox 3 Beta 1 milestone announcement so that everyone will know what this milestone is, what they should expect, and who should be downloading to participate in testing at this stage of development.

Friday, November 16, 2007

BookSnap: bulk professional book capturing in the speed of light

Ever wanted your own personal digital library with all the books you ever had? if you did and ever tried scanning a whole book you must have stumbled upon this known problem: scanned book page images always come out twisted on their edges as you can never get the whole page to touch the surface of the scanner without destroying it. For a heavy scanning project this just won't do, it will take a lot of time and the result will be very disappointing. But this cute book-capturing device from Atiz Innovation Co. will do the job as it work very different from any scanner you ever seen.

BookSnap uses two digital cameras as a stereophonic image capture device instead of the old fashioned slow scanners, making the capture process much faster than any other scanner. The book is placed on a v-shaped cradle and a v-shaped transparent platen gently engages the book to make the pages flat.

A computer is used to control the gadget and send the commands to the cameras which then each capture its corresponding page. The shots are then sent back to the computer and shown on its screen. A proprietary software then enable the operator to preform various tasks as rotate, crops, resize and adjust DPI in real-time. BookSnap outputs all the images into one single PDF and is claimed to be able to process up to 500 pages per hour. Impressive.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Friends who dugg this and Freeze Frame Urban Photography

I admit to have been neglecting my digging activity lately, mainly due to my daughter's new Varicella-Zoster feature. Yet, today when I checked on my shouts and followed this digg post from my friend suxmonkey (who also runs the WebUrbanist blog), I noticed something has changed and this new cool "friends who dugg this" ajax window was added when you point your mouse on the digg button.

I think this was only brought up in the last couple of days ago. As following the diggs from your friends is one of the best ways to use the internet nowadays so I also think this minor addition is doing very good to Digg's position as still the leading social bookmarking platform on the web. Even though being criticized for its user-moderation approach as well as various of other varying reasons, Digg is still a fantastic way to explore the web then just searching for stuff at Google.

By the way, if you have come this far on reading this, I also suggest you'd pay a visit to the Incredible Art in Motion: From Freeze Frame Urban Photography to Kinetic Sculpture post from my urban culture friend at WebUrbanist. As explained in the Digg thread and before you scream 'PHOTOSHOP' know that the above picture, just as the rest in the post, is of a real living street dancer, taken with a manual camera and was not "shopped" in any way.

Have a Digg account? Mine is here. be me friend.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 social your music taste

And while we are on the mashup subject, here is another interesting mashup application named - The Social Music Revolution. With more than ten million page views a day and claiming for the world's largest social music platform crown, this venture is focused in tracking what you listen to, learning what you like and giving you better music, just as I demonstrated my friends from Criticker do with movies.

Founded by Felix Miller, Martin Stiksel and Richard Jones, are a London-based company. As all interesting and popular web 2.0ventures, has been recently acquired by CBS, and, yes, has an official company blog. Nice.

Thanks go to my StumbleUpon friend petalthinktank, who has been using her as her official homepage, shown in the screenshot above. Too bad I am not so much into music any more. Hardly have time for my late night movies anymore with all this blogging and stumbling and digging and twittering, not to mention being a new father.

BuddyMapping: map-based guestbooks supporting Google Earth

In the old days, when there was only Microsoft, software were always closed in the sense of not having an Application User Interface (API) for other developers to have their own software "talking" with them. Then came Google with their very different approach leaving everything open and inviting developers from other companies to join in the mashup game and generate new media content and additional value.

The mashup concept is one of the most important aspects of the web 2.0 phenomena as it puts the power of media giants in the hand of every garage project dreamer. As well explained in this Wikipedia article: "...a typical example is the use of cartographic data from Google Maps to add location information to real-estate data from Craigslist, thereby creating a new and distinct web service that was not originally envisaged by either source."

I bumped into BuddyMapping maps installed on quite a few blogs in the past but was never attracted to it, probably because I didn't like the way most of the maps I saw were brutally murdered into 150 pixels wide sidebars, which always look horrible. This simply doesn't work as the map needs space. Today, thanks to my StumbleUpon friend TheScrappyCat, I realized this is a very interesting new media application.

BuddyMapping make map-based guestbooks for online communities such as blogs, forums and websites. BuddyMapping enabled websites allow their visitors to sign-in to their map and by that place a red dot over their location, leave comments and attach pictures. The BuddyMapping application allows the map owner to collect contact information from visitors based on a given schema including support for custom fields.

Being a classic mashup mapping application BuddyMapping uses the open API of GoogleEarth and GoogleMaps. Thus, one of the coolest features it is able to support, which was actually the thing that dragged me into it when I subscribed to TheScrappyCat's map, is viewing the map in Google Earth. This is good because by doing that the user of BuddyMapping can enjoy all the benefits involved in using Google Earth.

To put your map members in Google Earth, BuddyMapping serves your KML file for GE users to download and run. The file links to a data feed on BuddyMapping website, which Google Earth use to gather information about the people on your map. It updates hourly as (if...) people are added to the map. It might be a good idea to publish this KML file with an appropriate explanation in some place people can see it. You can just embed the map in one of your posts and link to it and to the KML file from your side bar.

Important: BuddyMapping is only compatible with GE 4, so you may need to update it if you haven't already (Download Google Earth Version 4 here). Mac users claimed to be able to have the map running on their OSX Dashboard. I don't have an available OSX here but I know someone who does and might agree to register and give it a try. As you can see for yourself I am pretty lonely at the moment in my new digiworld but I am not worried. Maybe I am just an optimistic person but I have many friends and family and coworkers abroad. I am sure as time will fly by some of them will join me on my BuddyMapping page.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Criticker: Movie taste now shares better

The folks from Criticker, reviewed here last Friday, seem to doing lots of extra hours lately and when folks does that I tend to take my hat off as its not easy: following a recent successful launching of a Facebook movie application (screenshot above) Criticker just announced their new movie widget yesterday. Blogoholic movie buffs are now invited to publish their personal movie taste not just on their FaceBook profile but also on any blog template and website supporting html widgets. The widget is auto updated with the recently ranked list every 24 hours.

To get your widget code, login to your Criticker account (don't have one? get one here) and then go to the Resources page. The page serves all sorts of buttons and code streams including personal feeds, links & buttons, general feeds and widgets. The following is for my Recently Ranked Films.

With the Criticker Facebook app you can show your recently ranked movies directly from your FaceBook profile. You can also track rankings from your friends and get recommendations on new releases directly from Facebook. If you like movies and have a FaceBook account you can get the app at Meanwhile I found out about two more witty articles reviewing Criticker so I thought it might be a good idea to mention them here. Just to show I am not the only weirdo who like this:

Criticker - Movie Recommendations Based on Taste
Community Site – A Review

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lunacore Photoshop Training: how to beautify a face

We all know advertising agencies have professionals working for them in making all the faces we see in their ads look perfect but how exactly is it done? This Photoshop tutorial from Lunacore Photoshop Training reveals the secrets of retouching art, showing step by step how the face of an ordinary human can be turned into a glamorous movie star face.

The technique is indeed making the face look different but it also avoid unnatural results as often seen in such works. The tutorial demonstrate how to fix skin, remove blemishes and wrinkles, whiten and fix teeth, fix hair, fix eyebrows, increase definition in the eyes and crop and sharpen the image in the final steps.

Thanks go to Stefan Smiljkovic (shtefcs) on Digg for shouting this to me. Other than being an avid Digg user and studding Computer Engineering, Stefan is also a 3D artist and owner of and In other words Stefan is a cool dude. Check him out.

Beautify a Face

Friday, October 12, 2007

Criticker: Movies taste better and It's scientific (kind of)

Mike Powell and Juergen Horn are based in the small fishing village of Killala, in Ireland's picturesque County Mayo. Other than this they are also fearless entrepreneurs and the creators of Criticker, a film recommendation and community website that matches people who share similar taste in film. By using the Taste Compatibility Index (TCI), Criticker identify with whom you most agree, out of thousands. Claimed to be "much more than just movie recommendations" Criticker's algorithm pairs you with "the people whose tastes are most compatible with your own, and thus get the most accurate advice possible."

I have been a heavy user of imdb and Wikipedia for years as far as it concerns to movie references. Yet, both of them are not very suitable in the sense of immediate social interaction and networking. Movie blogs are much better in that. Thus, when I stumbled Criticker I had to give it a chance. registration went pretty easy and after a short few min I was already submitting my first "mini-reviews" aiming to obtain the first 10 required to participate in the Taste Compatibility Index (TCI). I am always interested with ranking and matching algorithms so here are just a few more words about how Criticker' TCI works:

"The lower the TCI, the greater the tendency to agree on which movies ruled and which sucked. Once you've ranked a handful of movies at Criticker, you can generate TCIs with everyone in the community -- both normal users and published critics. It's better than just finding a few people with whom you generally agree -- Criticker will show you the exact people whose tastes are the most similar to your own. It's scientific (kind of)!"

I won't get into all the details about this matching system, lets just say I think it might work so I am going to give it a try. More detailed explanation and cute demonstration here. Meanwhile I have already put up eight mini-reviews and have two more to go. Following are my seven with the overall grade I have given them: Breathless (100), The Terminator (90) Raiders of the Lost Ark (90), Memento (90), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (90), The Terminal (80) Once Upon a Time in Mexico (80) and The Lion King (70).

I also felt like sharing one of them entirely as it refers to one of my favorite movies of all times and I was looking for a suitable opportunity to put something of it up on this blog. So here it is, my review of the most beautiful love movie ever made, namely Jean-Luc Godard's À bout de souffle AKA Breathless in English speaking countries:

"Under no circumstances don't mix this 1960 French New Wave masterpiece - À bout de souffle by Jean-Luc Godard - with the 1983 Richard Gere remake. À bout de souffle changed the face of the cinema in so many aspects it's hard to think of many others alike. The Jump-Cut, to point one example, was considered as a mistake when this movie was released to the screens. Thus, along with making À bout de souffle Godard had also invented the video clip. Seberg and Belmondo make you want to fall in love."

My Criticker profile
Criticker blog

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Nanc-e: the nannybot

Some great laughs we had around the idea of a baby care robot when our daughter was a few months old and some pretty hard nights were passing by. We even had a few prototypes discussed and my younger brother was excited to jump in with a few of his own ideas. I am telling you all this just so you'd understand better how excited I was to click further when I stumbled this review about "a new name in technology" that is supposed to "offer the solution to all our domestic troubles". To my shocking surprise a (slightly processed) version of the above image was clearly showing a robotic machine ready and willing to take care of a human baby. "OK..." I thought. "I am listening. show me more." so I read on:

"...And those of us condemned to a life of gardening, baby-care and household chores cannot be blamed for igniting a tiny flame of hope when we peruse the buynlarge web site."

"Mmm. I already know one or two things about parenting a young human baby and there were a few things about this pictures that didn't make sense and this is one crazy idea. I wouldn't buy one. My wife won't have one if it was offered to her for free. Many babies will probably be afraid of those arms. Yet, if someone was crazy enough to put his (or shall I say her?) good money on this half Kubrick half Cameron sci-fi idea this is one link I had to click before reading on.

I was about to click the website link but then I saw this YouTube clip a few lines below. Fearing I might forget about it after going to the site I thought I'll just have a look before I move on. so I did:

Cool right? well, I'll leave the rest for a precise quote from Steve at as he said it very nicely: "It’s all fake. The company is fake. The robots are fake. That little ray of hope that came to life in your sole as you were reading this? It was fake!". Practically this is a great marketing gag, actually one of the coolest ones I have ever seen. I'll leave it to you to figure out marketing of what. You can go to the site and try figure out yourself or you can simply go to Steve's post and read on.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

gPhone goes for advertising and Linux

Continuing months of speculations, rumors and global buzz, more details of Google's secret plan to dominate the mobile phone industry have been revealed by The New York Times yesterday. While Microsoft charges mobile phone companies a licensing fee for their Windows Mobile system, Google goes for advertising. If this is true, and the NY Times is not usually easy to manipulate, this might indeed be the large scale Google plan to rival Microsoft's Windows Mobile and redefine the mobile media world.

The most significant aspect of gPhone is that, as opposed to Apple's iPhone and countless of other products using the currently in lead mobile operating systems, it not likely to be another "what a bummer" proprietary, closed environment, mobile device. Even though nothing has been official confirmed by Google it is pretty clear that Google has developed their mobile OS based on Linux kernel for the operating system. As of last talks with folks at Google, the gPhone's user interface is still being finalized and the phone reference design will be open source, using the Apache license. This reference design will be an unlocked, neutral environment.

Dozens of references

Earlier this summer reports from India stated Google is "currently in talks with India's first and third largest telecommunications companies, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Essar about the Google phone." It is also believed to be in talks with some Indian companies to offer "data, content and platforms including Instant Messaging (IM) and Search functions".

The buzz around gPhone gains interest for its own making some of us wonder how much of it is planned by Google and how much is out of control. Dozens of references to the gPhone project in both online and traditional media channels collected by Search expert Danny Sullivan of SearchEnglineLand are just a very partial list. Google offer 2,820,000 results for gPhone at their major search and 193 entries in the past month within their news search section. By now Google has refused to confirm any plans for the GPhone.