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Back from Berlin

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Sunrise church

I’ve been back in the USA for about 36 hours and I’m finally pretty much caught up on sleep and free of jet lag. As great of a time as I had in Berlin I’m quite glad to be home. I’ve finally got the last of the photos from the trip that are worth posting uploaded to my Berlin photoset on Flickr.

The HP event was actually really fun and informative to attend. To be honest I was a little worried that it would be a pretty mundane event announcing 5% faster this, and 8% smaller that but my fears turned out to be unfounded. HP launched both a massively improved Touchsmart as well as the stunning and lustworthy Voodoo Envy.

Another one of my 101 goals is completed and I’m left with a desire to return to Europe and explore more of what it has to offer.

Berlin in brief

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Berlin is awesome – I suspect that is a condition which actually applies to much of Europe as well, but as I don’t have time to go personally verify that statement I’ll stick to Berlin for the time being. The culture here is delightfully efficient while maintaining an easy going pace and a friendly atmosphere. Every German I’ve met has smiled at me when speaking, and seems genuinely happy to see me – certainly not something you could say about the States.

Hotel Concorde at sunrise

HP has put us up in the Concorde, a beautiful 5 star hotel in the West German town center. It’s a great location which makes walking hither and yon an easy task. As busy as I’ve been I’ve taken every effort to get out and explore, taking photos along the way. I’m way behind in posting those photos, but I’ll try to catch up in the next few days and get another batch uploaded to my Flickr stream.

Ciao for now – off to get ready for the first day of interviews.

Best bank ever

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

James, this one is for you:


The Sparkasse bank, Berlin, Germany.

HP Mini-note 2133 joins the insanity

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

Things are getting out of hand

HP has graciously loaned me one of their new HP Mini-Note 2133 ultra-portable PC’s for my trip to Berlin. Now that it has joined my Macbook Pro and EeePC 900 on the desk things are starting to get a little out of hand.

A few initial thoughts twittered on setup to be included in my upcoming HP 2133 vs. EeePC 900 Battle Royale:

The scream

Sunday, June 1st, 2008

A great iPhone background that didn’t quite fit into the iPhone wallpaper tutorial I just posted, but it was my favorite of todays creations – and the one currently set as my iPhone wallpaper. This is one of my all time favorite shots of my friend Ian, a primal scream taken years ago at an outdoor festival. The full sized original treatment without the iPhone-specific tweaks is here on Flickr.


Right click and ‘Save link as’ to get the full size originals suitable for use on your iPhone.

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.

The EeePC 900 vs. the Macbook Pro

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

After mentioning my new EeePC 900 in my memorial day catchup post a few people emailed me to ask how big (or small) it really was. To hopefully answer the question about my delightful little netbook I present the following pictorial evidence of the diminutive EeePC stacked atop it’s big powerhouse of a brother, my 15″ Macbook Pro.

EeePC and Macbook Pro

The Something Store delivers

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

A week or so ago I heard about the latest web-meme: the Something Store. It’s a surprise store asking for $10 and in exchange they will send you something. The gimmick: you won’t know what that something is until it arrives at your door. I caved to my impulsive ways and today two somethings arrived at my door, ready and waiting for de-packaging and personal contents enlightenment.

A something has arrived

As you can see the box that arrived is not terribly big. Even my wee EeePC is larger, and both are dwarfed by the 15″ Macbook Pro they alight upon. I immediately rip the box open with the only sharp implement handy.

Obviously I need a better package opening solution

Obviously I need a better sharp implement for my desk, or at any rate one less dangerous. Note to self: pick up giant serrated blade that will look good on a glass desk.

Two somethings taken from the box of multi-something

To help elongate my personal mysterious something experience both something’s came individually wrapped. Within seconds I had ripped into my smaller something, eager to divulge it’s contents.

A small black box

A box! A tiny black box! Heart contain thyself. The box is constructed from pleather-clad cardboard and proclaims ‘Di Capri’ in embossed silver letters. What could be inside?


Cufflinks! Reasonably well put together and styled cufflinks at that. Luckily blue is my favorite color, and rectilinear forms are my favorite shapes. Worth the $10? For something #1 an enthusiastic yes. But what could the other (and ominously larger) something be?

A blue disturbing something

This is either something fantastic, or something horrific.

Yup - it's panties New work uniform?!

It would seem the latter: something horrific yet delightfully soft. Either this is my new lounge wear, or the best white elephant gift for the upcoming holiday season. Worth the $10? For something #2 the verdict is a not so definite perhaps. It should be worth noting that the Something FAQ even specifically calls out the scenario of a feminine something going to a (somewhat) masculine guy so I can’t say I wasn’t warned.

End verdict: the Something Store gets a thumbs up in my book. Don’t bet the farm on them with their specifically random product delivery but for a fun way to blow $10 that’s likely less damaging to your liver than an evening out on the town check them out.

For a few more pictures of the Something Store unboxing extravaganza check out my Flickr set on the topic.

Catchup post: Memorial Day edition

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

I’ve been busy the last week and haven’t been doing much long form writing and Futurist Now has suffered for it. What’s been keeping me busy?

My new EeePC
I picked up one of Asus’s delightfully tiny new netbooks, the EeePC. A netbook is a new category of sub-notebook device with low end specs designed primarily for browsing the web. The EeePC clocks in at a measly 900Mz, but at 9″ and under 3 lbs it’s easy to forgive it’s specs in lieu of it’s ultimate portability. So far I’m finding it an ideal email machine for use at meetings at work, and as a great bedroom/couch machine for keeping an eye on the tubes while relaxing or watching movies.

Being entirely solid state (the EeePC 900 series comes with 12GB of flash memory rather than a hard drive with spinning platters) it’s shock resistant, and gets surprisingly good performance for it’s diminutive specs. Due to the random access nature of flash memory the EeePC boots quickly and gets great battery life (3 hours of real use). While solid state drive (SSD) technology is still not competitive in price or storage capacity to typical hard drive (HDD) technology I can see the potential and am starting to get excited about the predictions that in 2011 or so SSD will all but completely replace HDD technology in notebooks and desktops.

While the EeePC 900 I picked up came pre-loaded with Windows XP I’ve done some experimentation with putting Ubuntu on it. As with my typical annual cycle I attempt to put some variant of Linux on my computers to see how the OS X/Windows competition is doing. This time however I was surprised – the latest Hardy Heron (8.04) release of Ubuntu is slick, polished, and works ‘out of the box’ on all the hardware I had laying around. While Ubuntu might be getting attention as a decent desktop alternative where I think it really shines is on a low end PC like the EeePC – it’s limited feature set and lean architecture work perfectly on a device with CPU and memory constraints.

Being a 3 day weekend I took the opportunity to see a couple of movies with Brien and Brian. We saw both Indiana Jones 4: The Crystal Skull, and Iron Man. Both movies were excellent (if not over the top) and fun movies to see while on holiday. I was never the hardcore fan of the Indy series that Brien was, and much to his horror I actually liked the newest one best from the series. It captured the fun essence of the earlier flicks while maintaining a fresh and modern feel even while being set in not so modern times.

Iron man also kept a modern feel, although it did so with a very modern setting. Having never read the comic book I assume I missed out on a lot of the back story, but still found the story presented in the movie touching and engaging. Having grown up idolizing gadget superhero (Hello, Inspector Gadget) it’s nice to see a modern take on a technological super-hero. Final note on the movie: I need a flying metal suit, that looks fun!

Lensbabied sneaker opus
Last but not least, a quick shot I took with my Lensbaby 2G while out on a photo walk on Saturday. I’ve been using my 18mm and 50mm primes a lot and decided to take the Lensbaby out and go for a stroll. I’m certainly glad I did as one of the resulting shots is a clear winner in my odd little abstract world.

Footwear abstract

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