How to

Coconut cookies

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Coconut cookies

Bakers coconut and a hint of white chocolate make for a moist, adult cookie.

Whipped together 2oz sugar and 4oz of unsalted room temperature butter until light and fluffy.

Combine in 6oz of flour, mix until a proper dough

Add 1/3rd cup white chocolate chips and 2/3rd cup bakers coconut.

Bake flattened 1 1/2 inch spheres of dough for 15 minutes at 350 until slightly browned.

One more shot for extra food porn goodness:

Coconut cookies


Saturday, April 18th, 2009


I love pasta. I love pasta in almost all it’s forms! Having experimented with several types of factory made pastas in the last month I decided to give it a go at creating my own. After having both the King and Queen of the Weekly Geek impress upon me how much better a handle-free rolling pin was I made a detour to <fancy cooking store> in the U-Village to pick up a french style Vic Firth maple rolling pin.

Following the 3:2 flour to egg ratio recommended in Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio I set out on my quest. Things got a little messy at first until I figured out how to properly dust down everything with flour. In the spirit of experimentation I kneaded half of the dough for a few minutes longer than the other half to get different textures. Once the kneading was done each half was let to rest for 15 minutes before being halved again as below.

Kneaded and cut

I obviously could benefit from a little practice in rolling and cutting technique to make each individual noodle a more uniform length, but I am actually pretty pleased with how well they came out. The thick cut reminds me a lot of some of the egg noodles my grandparents would put in their Mennonite soups every day for lunch.

Raw noodles

Once cooked in lightly salted water for 6 minutes the results were delicious. The more-kneaded dough came out to my favorite – much thicker and more substantive, a hearty egg noodle.

Cooked noodles

Check out more photos of the process and finished noodles on Flickr.

Egg-free oatmeal cookies

Friday, April 10th, 2009

Egg-free oatmeal cookiesIngredients:

Beat melted butter, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy.
Add flour and salt, mix well.
Dissolve baking soda in water and add to the mixture.
Add rolled oats, raisins – mix well a final time.
Form into tablespoonful sized mounds onto cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.
Cool and enjoy some massive nom .

How to make great iPhone wallpaper

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

Being an ADHD design nerd (or is that Apple fanboy) I’m frequently changing up the wallpaper on my iPhone. As a some of the wallpapers I published in an earlier post have crept up to some of my most frequently viewed Flickr photos I thought I would post a quick write up on how I select and make my oft-changed iPhone wallpapers.

I primarily use Photoshop for my image editing work and this process will be easy if you have Photoshop and are comfortable using it. It’s a very simple process and could be completed with virtually any image editor, although ones that can read Photoshop (PSD) files will make it easier to import the template discussed below. If you don’t want to spend money on a photo editing application GIMP is a free option that offers a decent interface and lots of tools to experiment with.

The first step of the process lies ahead: selecting the image to use. Ideally images should fit into one of two categories. These images have either a uniform simplicity, or a design flow that works with the iPhones overlaid controls.

The first type of image that works well has a uniformity to it. Because of the user interface controls partially obscuring the locked iPhone wallpaper images that focus on color or texture will work very well for this as obscuring a part of this kind of image does not hide key aesthetic elements. This kind of image is great for capturing a favorite color or surface while not adding distraction to Apple’s clean and minimalistic design.

Contrail to God iPhone wallpaper
A simplistic background

The second type of image that works well are images with a central focal point that is well buffered by simplicity. As the top and bottom of the iPhone are obscured by the overlaid controls having an image which can appreciated from the lower than center portion of the viewport on the lock screen, and with a background or less important top and bottom that are not critical to the aesthetic appeal of the image.

When taking photos for use as an iPhone wallpaper consider using a very narrow depth of field to direct interest to the center area of a vertical shot. Alternatively for a bolder look consider incorporating strong design elements such as bright angular sections of color. Remember that although the top and bottom will be obscured the image will still bleed through the overlay and provide some visual impact.

Sunlit frond iPhone wallpaper
A more visually complicated sweet spot

Once an image is selected I use the iPhone template pictured below to help me compose it for the iPhone. I found this template on the Mac Rumors forum in this thread. Full credit goes to TheSpaz who created the awesome resource and shared it with the world.

The template is free to download and comes in the form of a PSD template with each element set up in a separate layer with the correct opacity. This template makes it easy to drop an image into the background layer and compose it to look its best on the iPhone.

As your source image is likely much larger than 320×480 pixels you will have to transform the image down to size. By using Photoshop’s free transform option on the layer you can adjust both the scaling of the image, as well as drag it around to ensure that the portion of the image you want visible is perfectly framed by the overlays.

The shot being used in this particular tutorial was taken with a Lensbaby, a lens that adds a significant amount of blur and vignetting away from the center of the screen. This effect helps draw the eye into a subject and simplify the background making it ideal for use in creating iPhone wallpapers. If you have an image you really like, but that does not work well with the overlays due to visual distractions consider vignetting the image in photoshop by gently blurring or darkening the top and bottom edges to draw the eye to the center of the composition.

Because the iPhone displays bright colors so well I usually find that bumping up the saturation of an image 4-8% adds a bit of pop to the wallpaper. A slight bit of sharpening with the unsharp mask filter often helps more detailed images retain clarity on the iPhone’s densely packed pixels. Both of these steps also help make the image look it’s best once it is saved out of the Photoshop format and into either a JPEG or PNG image.

Once you are happy with how your image looks within the preview offered by the template you are ready to save the image and put it on your iPhone. For this process you don’t want the templates overlays added so hide all of the overlay layers leaving your resized and cropped photo and any adjustment layers as your final image. From the file menu select ‘Save for Web & Devices’ to compress your final wallpaper down. I usually save my wallpapers as 32bit PNG images, however JPEG format backgrounds will work just as well.

Save the wallpaper with a recognizable name into the location where you have iTunes set to sync photos from. The next time you sync your iPhone the image will be synced into the iPhone’s library. From there you can view the image with the Photos application and then click the export scarab at the bottom of the screen to select that image for use as your wallpaper.

If you are interested in the image above the version saved without the overlays suitable for immediate iPhone use is here. You can also get the original PSD file here including all the layers, adjustments, and overlays used to create this.

A triptych of iPhone wallpapers

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

Chain link iPhone wallpaper Contrail to God iPhone wallpaper Contrail to God iPhone wallpaper

I did a little work on some old photos tonight to work them up as Apple iPhone wallpapers. I ended up selecting two of them as my favorites, and am posting them here as a triptych with sunlit frond which I posted about two weeks ago. They were all selected for their central composition, and color pallets to go with the frosted grey and blue popups that appear on the homescreen. All three of them have been resized to 320×480 pixels from the original version and I adjusted the colors to look their best on the iPhone screen.

To set one of these as your iPhone’s wallpaper click the thumbnail above, then save the origional version from the pop-up to your hard drive. Save it to the location your iPhone syncs photos from (the folder of your choice on Windows or a Mac, or into iPhoto on Macs) and sync it to your iPhone. Once it’s there you can select it by clicking on Settings then Wallpaper to get to your photo library then selecting the photo of your choice.

Chain link iPhone wallpaper” by sparktography
Sunlit frond iPhone wallpaper” by sparktography
Contrail to God iPhone wallpaper” by sparktography

Vibe Duo: defective but easily fixed

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

I’ve barely had my V-Moda Vibe Duos four days and I’m already starting to develop a bit of a love/hate relationship with them. As stated in my mini-review of the Vibe Duos I love how great sounding and comfortable they are when paired with my iPhone, but what I don’t like is a manufacturing flaw that I’ve encountered on a pair of otherwise fabulously constructed headphones: faulty glue on part of the cable.

Vibe Duo headphone jack repair

After buying my Vibe Duos on Friday I enjoyed them through the weekend until they broke Monday morning while at work. The faulty glue (or perhaps a faulty glue job in the factory) caused the the sheath protecting the connection between the headphone jack and the cable leading to the earbuds to come undone and travel freely up the cable.

I immediately took them back to the Apple store who apologized for the problem and promptly replaced them without even asking to see my receipt. I was willing to chalk it up to a single faulty pair of earbuds until the replacement pair suffered the same fate the very next day. Either the Apple store in the University Village had a bad batch, or the Vibe Duos suffer a design or manufacturing flaw leading to this unfortunate condition. If the Vibe Duos were a bit cheaper I wouldn’t mind having to DIY repair them myself, but at $100 a pop and considering how high the build quality is otherwise I’m a little disappointed with V-Moda.

Luckily there is an easy fix for this problem. This evening at home after quickly whittling away some of the old adhesive with an exacto knife I re-glued it myself with seemly better results. A few drops of super-glue spread evenly over the plug with a synthetic Q-tip (the cotton ones would have left fibers) and quickly dropping the sheath back into place have locked it into place quite tightly.

Any other Vibe Duo owners out there suffering from this problem?

iPhone ringtones now available through the iTunes store

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Just as I was heading to bed I connected my iPhone to sync and charge for the night when iTunes informed me that the ringtones feature of the iTunes store has gone live. Not many of my tracks supported ringtone creation, but one of my old favorites (Bytecry by Weevil’s Drunk on Light album – the OS X 10.4 intro music) was eligible so I decided to take the plunge and convert it.

Create Ringtone menu screenshot

After clicking through an obnoxiously long EULA I was able to click “Create Ringtone” to begin the process.Once clicked the main ringtone authoring pops up. The ringtone authoring interface allows you to select how long you want your ringtone to be (up to a maximum of 30 seconds), and position where you want the start and stop of the ringtone to be within the track. There are also fade-in and fade-out options to help the ringtone sound smoother as it comes to life on your precious, shiny iPhone.

Ringtone authoring screenshot

After previewing my ringtone to my hearts content I clicked the “Buy” button and was charged the ass-raping $0.99 for a track I “already owned”. It’s a pity that Apple decided to cash in on the multi-billion dollar a year ringtone market – offering them for free on any track you own would have been a great differentiating feature for the iPhone.

It’s as easy as Steve made it sound in his keynote address – making my ringtone took less than 4 minutes including a fair amount of fussing around with the preview to get it just the way I wanted it. A quick sync later and now my phone erupts into a glorious chorus that’s far more unique and “me” than any of the included by default iPhone ringtone. Hazaa!