The Samsung UE46B6000 + Apple Mac Mini + Plex

So it’s been some days with the new Mediacenter Setup. And all I can say is: Oh boy that is some serious cool setup. I wouldn’t want to chance anything beside adding a new Sound System (>5.1 FTW!).

The Display itself is thinner than thought:

IMG_5394

I strongly recommend the Mac + Plex + Full HD display setup. Even if you don’t get any HD content from your cable provider you can live-stream or download HD content through the different provider plugins inside Plex. The plugin infrastructure with the built-in “App Store” is just great.

Since Plex is a XBMC based Mediacenter software you have tons of information scrapers regarding series and movies. So you’re eventually huge collection gets indexed and presented in a way you would not get from any other Mediacenter. You get pictures, movie posters, descriptions and many more just by automatic indexing your collection.

IMG_5404_2

MST3k FTW!

Needless to say that HD content is something different. I only had some HD content on normal computer displays in the last years – having it now huge and sharp is different – better.

BTW: It’s on the floor right now because my wife couldn’t decide until now which tv-stand would suffice…

Source 1: http://av.samsung.de/produkte/detail2_main.aspx?guid=b6c1306c-f57d-4ce7-a944-56cc7346ed2e
Source 2: http://www.apple.com/macmini/
Source 3: http://plexapp.com/

new tv set arrived

Finally we got a TV set. Since Samsung announced new LED based sets we ordered a 46 inch tv. It was delivered today (yesterday the Mac mini which will drive the mediacenter arrived). I only had a short test-run scanning for cable stations… so more of that in the following days – especially more of the mediacenter configuration.

IMG_5325

Source: Samsung UE46B6000

DIY Photo Frame (with a twist)

I got these two quite old Windows Mobile Professional phones (with touchscreen and everything) and beside the fact that they are my phones I am using them just to display my calendar entries on my desk. Now I thought it would be a great thing if those two QVGA devices would display personal pictures in a slideshow.

And it would be even better if they would get their pictures from the internet. And even better if there would be an application that would allow me or my wife to upload/delete pictures from the slideshow playing on all devices.

Thought said, and done. I did a little afterwork project today, taking me approx. 3 hours with everything from scratch.

So I made these parts:

  1. a webservice to upload, delete and retrieve the pictures

    This really is just a webservice very similar to the one I used in my DropBox application. It’s hosted on one of my machines and makes the pictures also available to the mobile clients.

  2. an upload tool to upload, delete the pictures comfortably

    I took the DropBox Application and customized it – it now resizes the pictures automatically before uploading and it can display a preview in the file browser.

    photoframe_upload_1

    photoframe_upload_2

  3. a small application running on my phones that displays this pictures using the webservice

    This one was made from scratch and consumes the webservice from above. It asks for the next picture URL, downloads this picture and displays it… and so on.

    photoframe_app_1 photoframe_app_2

Since it’s already up and running and looking great on my desk I wanted to share it with you. Don’t expect everything to work out-of-the-box but it’s a start for everyone who wants to have something like this. Oh – of course your windows mobile device needs to have internet access…

So as usual here’s the sourcecode of the whole package for your pleasure. Use it where ever and in what ever whay you want as long as you’re crediting.

PhotoFrame.zip (639,87 KB)

P.S: There’s a fun fact I did not know: I accidently double-clicked the windows mobile application on my Vista machine and guess what: It just runs! Yes, manage Windows Mobile Application running natively on Windows Vista:

funfact

Source 1: PhotoFrame.zip (639,87 KB)
Source 2: DropBox

HandBrake is now a full blown video converter…

Turns out that a new snapshot (unofficial) version of my favourite DVD to iPod Converter is available. With the new version came new features like the one that allows me now to convert almost anything to wonderful iPod compatible movie files.

handbrake093

“HandBrake is an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded DVD to MPEG-4 converter, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows.”

I tried anything in my library, including some matroska movie files. Just everything worked – amazing!

Source: http://handbrake.fr/?article=snapshot

create panoramic images with a free tool

There was the Digital Image Suite and several other tools like Hugin and Cool360 which I used over the last years to create panoramic images. Now there’s a new tool available in 32 and 64 bit (for really really huge images!) from Microsoft Research. It’s free at this point and if you’re on Windows it’s definitely worth the try.

msice

“Microsoft Image Composite Editor is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. You shoot a set of overlapping photographs of a scene from a single location, and Image Composite Editor creates a high-resolution panorama incorporating all your images at full resolution. Then save your stitched panorama in a wide variety of formats, from common formats like JPEG and TIFF to multi-resolution tiled formats like HD View and Silverlight Deep Zoom.”

Source: http://research.microsoft.com/ivm/ice.html

FFN Switcher – Zweites Release

Nach ein paar Wochen ist es nun Zeit für eine weitere Version des FFN Switchers. Dank der mühevollen Tests vieler fleissiger Helfer des Freien Funknetzes gibt es eine bugfreiere Version inklusive neuer GUI.

Den Sourcecode und alles zugehörige gibt es wie immer auf dem Subversion Server.

ffnswitcherr2_3

ffnswitcherr2_2

Download: FFN Switcher Release 3

Source: FFN Switcher Release 3

Building Earth

Steffi and I made our own version of earth some years ago using 3D Studio and NASA Images – we even made an animation. But this guy does a way better job – creating a photorealistic earth:

“For some time now, I’ve been studying how to build Earth in Blender. I’ve read quite a few tutorials, studied NASA’s Blue Marble images, and received critique from other Blender enthusiasts. I now have some satisfactory results, which I’d be happy to share.

I’ve put together a 21-page tutorial which explains how I achieved my Earth renders. I know there are already a lot of Earth tutorials out there – but none that I found helped me get quite the effect that I wanted. My tutorial combines what I gleaned from all the other tutorials, with what I learned on my own through hours of experimenting. I’m sure it’s not perfect – but I think it will be helpful for anyone interested in the subject.

The tutorial focuses on three different models of Earth – a photographic-style Earth, a Blue-Marble-style Earth, and a night Earth. It demonstrates how to render details such as proper specular shading and ray-traced cloud shadows.”

There’s a free pdf tutorial available that shows how to create these 3D renderings with blender.

Earth Poster

Source 1: http://chamberlinproductions.110mb.com/mappedearth.html
Source 2: “what’s the size of the earth compared to”
Source 3: http://web.olp.net/wildernesslodge/Earth%20Tutorial.pdf

Software .NET managed DSP for Audio and …

As you may or may not know I am working on a gateway tool for citizen band radio. For this tool I was asked if it would be possible to build a tone detection, maybe more, into my software. And on the way of finding out how to accomplish this I stumbles across several very interesting things.

Like this peakmeter control which uses a software digital signal processing or a software dsp library – everything written entirely in managed code (C#) and both open source. Both examples show that you can use digital signal processing for audio and image content… and for more.

The peakmeter control:

micsourcediag

“DSP processing is very interesting subject to learn and work with. This block receives digital samples from the source. It approximates the original waveform and finds its peak magnitudes.
Since I would not be able to go in details about how FFT (Fast Fourier Transform) works in this article, I recommend the interested reader to visit some of the links in the reference section to increase his/her knowledge about this process.”

The software DSP library:

“A C# open source library that provides fully featured (1) single and double precision complex number data types, (2) complex number math library, (3) 1D, 2D and 3D complex and real symmetric fast Fourier transforms, and (4) highly accurate statistical routines. The library is optimized for both speed and numerical accuracy. The reason that this library is called a “Digital Signal Processing” library is because complex numbers, FFTs and statistical functions form the basis of any DSP library — although it is the hope that this library will continue to evolve to a more full fledged DSP library.”

image

Source 1: http://www.codeproject.com/KB/audio-video/PeakMeterCS.aspx
Source 2: http://www.exocortex.org/dsp/

Spacetime Math tools

If you searching a tool for Windows, Linux, OSX and your windows mobile device…you may want to take a look at this:

“SpaceTime 3.0 by SpaceTime Mathematics is a revolution in mathematics software with 2D, 3D, and time graphing with MobileCAS® for algebra and calculus. With features only available in Mathematica and MATLAB, SpaceTime is the most powerful cross-platform mathematics software ever developed for computers and mobile devices.

spacetime

Source: http://www.spacetime.us/

turn new pictures into old ones…the Bakumatsu picture generator

“Bakumatsu were the final years of the Edo period in Japan. It was a turning point in Japanese history as it was the end of the period of isolation in Japan. The feudal way of governing was coming to an end, and the start of the Meiji government, which would later take Japan to the world power status.”

This is a very cool picture effect free to use which turns this:

original

into this:

stvhzvzz-20080825040823

Source: http://labs.wanokoto.jp/olds

futuristic user interfaces…

This is a very impressive overview of new user interface ideas. It’s a fact that we need new userinterfaces for all kinds of use cases – and as it turns out there are unbelievable cool things going on in the UI research.

Good user interfaces are crucial for good user experience. It doesn’t matter how good a technology is — if we, designers, don’t manage to make user interface as intuitive and attractive as possible, the technology will hardly reach a breakthrough. To gain the interest in a new product or technology, users need to understand its advantages or find themselves impressed or involved.

And here is where creative ideas and unusual interface approaches become important. Innovative doesn’t mean usable and usable hardly means innovative. As usual, it’s necessary to find an optimal trade-off. And some user interfaces manage to achieve just that.”

1

Source: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2008/08/17/10-futuristic-user-interfaces/

how to create your own photosynth

Photosynth is publicly available and it’s time to give it a try and play with the technology. Before starting you should be aware of some facts about the public photosynth technology-preview:

  1. all synths are uploaded and only available online (broadband needed)
  2. all synths are public, everyone can access them
  3. the synther tool runs only on Windows
  4. you’ll need a Live ID

When everything is checked you can go and upload up to 20 Gbytes of image data – my test synth takes up 200 Mbytes of the available space – so you have plenty of space to play with.

To start just install the photosynth application to view – and click “create” on the website. After the obligatory login you immediately can upload your pictures. Give it a name, ssome tags and a license and select your pictures.

createsynth_step2

Your pictures should show the same scene from different perspectives – photosynth is all about matching perspectives. After clicking on “Synth” the process starts.

createsynth_step3

And after a surprisingly short period of time your synth is done. Click on “View Synth” and you’re taken back to the website and you can browse your synth. That’s it – easy!

createsynth_step5

Source 1: my first photosynth
Source 2: Photosynth is open for the public
Source 3: create a synth

Photosynth is open for the public

Believe it or not – it’s been 2 years since I first wrote about Photosynth technology. Today Microsoft made it available to the public. It’s not a tool (yet) – like I wanted – right now but it’s built into this website – so you have to upload your pictures, they are processed and then you can browse on this website… well it’s a start for a really great technology.

“We’re pleased to announce the first full release of Photosynth, available now at photosynth.com. Photosynth takes a collection of regular photographs and reconstructs the scene or object in a 3-D environment. For those of you who have seen the videos or tried our tech preview, you could experience synths that we made in the lab and get a feel for what Photosynth is and how it works. But now, for the first time ever you can create synths from your own pictures and share them with your friends. Explore great synths from others or create a few of your own.”

halo3photosynth

It’s not going to work on anything different than Windows. So stick to the movies if you’re on anything else. But as far as I know it’ll run o

Source 1: http://photosynth.net/Default.aspx
Source 2: http://www.schrankmonster.de/PermaLink,guid,fdc3d1fb-4966-418b-83ea-1e0c12aae833.aspx

giving better looking presentations: pptPlex

There’s a new free tool available from officelabs:

“pptPlex is a plug-in that explores an alternate method for presenting a PowerPoint slide deck. Using pptPlex, you can present your slides as a tour through a zoomable canvas instead of a series of linear slides.”

pptplex

Source: http://www.officelabs.com/projects/pptPlex/Pages/default.aspx

Widelands – an opensource Settlers II clone

Logo

Widelands-Screen

From the wiki about section:

“In Widelands, you are the regent of a small tribe. You start out with nothing but your headquarters, a kind of castle in which all your resources are stored. In the course of the game, you will build an ever growing settlement. Every member of your tribe will do his or her part to produce more resources – wood, food, iron, gold and more – to further this growth. But you are not alone in the world, and you will meet other tribes sooner or later. Some of them may be friendly and trade with you. However, if you want to rule the world, you will have to train soldiers and fight.

Widelands offers a unique style of play. For example, a system of roads plays the central role of your economy: all the goods that are harvested and processed by the tribe must be transported from one building to the next. This is done by carriers, and those carriers always walk along the roads. It is your job to lay out the roads as efficiently as possible.

Another refreshing aspect of the game is the way you command your tribe. There is no need to tell every single one of your subjects what to do – that would be impossible, because there can be thousands of them! Instead, all you’ve got to do is order them to build a building somewhere, and the builders will come. Similarly, whenever you want to attack an enemy, just place an order to attack one of their barracks, and your soldiers will march to fight. You’re really a ruler: You delegate in times of war and in times of peace!

Widelands offers single-player mode with different campaigns; the campaigns all tell storys of tribes or Empires and their struggle in the Widelands universe! However, settling really starts when you unite with friends over the Internet or LAN to build up new empires together – or to crush each other in the dusts of war. Widelands also offers an Artifical Intelligence to challenge you.

In the end, Widelands will be extensible, so that you can create your own type of tribe with their own sets of buildings. You can create new worlds to play in, and you could even create new types of worlds (who says you can’t build a settlement on the moon?). ”

Source: http://xoops.widelands.org/

When a site redesign isn’t accepted by your users…

…they eventually start making their own layout of your site… And you cannot do anything about it but listening to them!

A few days ago a big it-news site in germany relaunched it’s site with a new fixed-with-all-left layout. And more than 3000 comments by users had one and only thing to say: We don’t like it.

They disliked it that much that a few sat down and created their own site layouts by using firefox plugins like “stylish” – where you can create your own styles for sites.

beforeafter

I always wanted to see what these style-altering plugins can do but I never had the drive to think me into it…

Source: http://userstyles.org/styles/9589

the Visual OpenType Layout Tool

If sometimes you need to just create your own font… well maybe that’s a bit too much theoretical – but it’s interesting to play with a tool like VOLT. It’s out now in a new Version and I suggest taking a look:

“The Microsoft Visual OpenType Layout Tool provides an easy-to-use graphical user interface to add OpenType layout tables to fonts with TrueType outlines. It is licensed free and can be downloaded from the online community set up for it. The community hosts an active discussion forum, version history information, a wish-list and related downloads. Links to VOLT’s release notes, as well as tips and tutorials are also posted.”

glypheditor

Source: http://www.microsoft.com/typography/VOLT.mspx

Visual Studio Color Theme Generator

Oh boy that is cool! Ever since I read that article about Changing your colors in Visual Studio.NET I wanted to create my own theme but never had the time and creativity to do so. Now since there’s this cool generator website everyone can create their own Visual Studio Color Themes:

vstudiotheme

Source 1: http://frickinsweet.com/tools/Theme.mvc.aspx#
Source 2: Changing your colors in Visual Studio.NET

Augmented Reality Project “Levelhead” – Sourcecode is available

I wrote about Levelhead and it’s stunning concept not long ago. Now you can play with it’s code and try it for youself:

floorplan_lg2

“First thing’s first, this is a developer release and needs to be compiled. It has many third-party dependencies from the renderer to the video capture context. As yet there is no lovely statically linked binary of levelHead or automagical build script for a folder of dependencies. Nonetheless, I’ve installed levelHead on many (Ubuntu) systems now and what’s listed below should work fine for you.
levelHead is known to build on Ubuntu 7.10/7.04 and Debian Etch systems against the following external dependencies. It’s adviseable you adhere to these versions if you want to avoid going spontaneously mad”

The site goes on:

Code and assets are provided under two differing licenses: the code is governed by the GPLv3 and the art is covered by the GPLv3 compatible CC-BY_SA 3.0. Make sure you understand what that implied before downloading this project. For the rationale as to why I chose this configuration, please read the comments in the top of the levelHead.cpp file itself. Both art and code are available in a subversion repository, aquired with the following command:

svn co http://www.inclusiva-net.es/svn/levelhead "

Since I will try it myself (installing Ubuntu now) – I will give a detailed tutorial about it in the future…at least I hope so.

Source: http://julianoliver.com/levelhead

NASA opens it’s picture library

It’s just great to see more and more big archives are getting available online. This time the National Space Agency of America opened it’s picture library:

“NASA Images is a service of Internet Archive ( www.archive.org ), a non-profit library, to offer public access to NASA’s images, videos and audio collections. NASA Images is constantly growing with the addition of current media from NASA as well as newly digitized media from the archives of the NASA Centers.
The goal of NASA Images is to increase our understanding of the earth, our solar system and the universe beyond in order to benefit humanity. “

nasa

Source: http://www.nasaimages.org/

Graph theory: How to visualize a network

Since I am a bit familiar with graph theory and building technologies around graphs I came across this neat little library originally developed by Marc Smiths Team at Microsoft Research. It’s now up on Codeplex for your own study and research:

“.NetMap is a pair of applications for viewing network graphs, along with a set of .NET Framework 2.0 class libraries that can be used to add network graphs to custom applications.

A network graph is a series of vertices (sometimes called nodes) connected by edges. See this Wikipedia article for an overview of network graphs.”

Graph6 Graph1

Graph12

It even integrates into Excel…well if you need that… more interesting is:

“The Windows Forms control is one of several graph “visualizers” that are packaged in a Microsoft.NetMap.Visualization assembly. There is also a Microsoft.NetMap.Adapters assembly for reading and writing graph data in various formats, a Microsoft.SocialNetworkLib assembly for analyzing social networks, and a Microsoft.NetMap.Core assembly that implements the low-level vertex, edge, and graph classes. The framework for a Microsoft.NetMap.Algorithms assembly is also provided, although most of the graph algorithms are still work items as of May 2008.”

Source 1: http://research.microsoft.com/~masmith/
Source 2: http://www.codeplex.com/NetMap

What about the user interface? UI guidelines all together now!

You may have heard about things like “guidelines for user interfaces” – Sometimes I tend to think that there is no such thing as a design guideline for a better user interface because some applications are just plain unusable for a normal human being.

But there are guidelines for almost everything and I wanted to give an overview:

Microsoft:

Apple:

Linux:

  • KDE Standards User Interface Guidelines
  • GNOME Human Interface Guidelines
  • Motif Style Guide

interesting ones:

trueSpace 3D 7.6 is available for free

I used trueSpace years ago when a demo version appeared on one of those CDs that often came with computer magazines… it must be more than 10 years now. I was pleased to read about the availability of the current version of trueSpace as a completely free tool:

“trueSpace7.6 is a fully-featured 3D authoring package that will let you model, texture, light, animate and render 3D content. As well as traditional images and movies, you can also make 3D content for online shared spaces, and for Virtual Earth.”

truespace76

Source: http://www.caligari.com/Products/trueSpace/tS75/brochure/intro.asp?Cate=BIntro