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Snapheal – remove randomness from your pics

Posted in Random on July 22nd, 2012 by ab

It has been a while, but I’m so blown away by a new product called Snapheal that I felt it deserved a post. Here is the deal: Mac OS application Snapheal allows you to remove imperfections from your photos. Which is a bit of an undersell,  as an “imperfection” can be something the size of a tree! Want to see it work?

Here’s an example – a picture of my daughter playing outside by a tree.

Before

Now here is the same picture after I played with Snapheal. Count the trees on the left.

After

You might be saying to you self “but that doesn’t seem like a very big picture… Maybe the quality isn’t good on larger images?”

Challenge accepted. Here is a larger picture of some shoes… 

NewImage

And now with fewer shoes… 

NewImage

Nice right? Yes I could probably fine tune my results (there is still a shadow from one shoe on the sand). However, it’s clear that I’ll be able to use Snapheal for some terrific photo fixes. I’m so excited that I’m scanning my photo library for photo ruiners.

Enjoy!

~ab

 

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shift8solutions.com -> Check. It. Out.

Posted in Random on February 10th, 2012 by ab

For a while now, I’ve been working on a warehouse management system (WMS) on my business website shift8solutions.com. Obviously, this journey has taken me away from writing posts on JAA. However, as I’m finally done, I thought I’d share the good news visitors here. Please take a look at shift8WMS and share with your friends!

Shift8WMS is a user friendly, web based warehousing system for small businesses. The goal is to provide inexpensive but excellent products to small business owners. I think visiting shift8 will give you a more complete understanding so check it out!

All the very best,

-ab

Spotify – an incredible music experience.

Posted in Software on August 10th, 2011 by ab
Image representing Spotify as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Writing code has been my focus over the past few months, both with personal projects and work, and I’ve given my headphones a good workout. As much as I love to toute my musical savvy, variety is all that I require – I love music, but enjoy hearing a mix of genres and artists. On this front, Pandora is great. If you just want someone to pick the music for you, Pandora will do that task very, very well.

However, sometimes I want to listen to someone specific rather than a style and for this, I’ve turned to Spotify. Spotify has an enormous library of songs and you can chose exactly what you want. My brother in law, a jazz guitarist from Toronto named Andrew Scott (look him up) is in their library. That is awesome. Did I mention that the service is free? If you sign up you get 10 hours free music listening per day – about the length of an average work day plus commute (coincidence? Ha!)

That’s not even the best part – the mobile app is fantastic. You need a premium account, which goes for 10 dollars a month, but it’s worth it. You can download your music to your iPhone/Android and listen offline. Perfect for those who want a large selection but don’t want to waste their data plan on Pandora.

A surprising bonus: you can discover new music using sharemyplaylists.com, a collaborative spotify playlist sharing service. Here you can find new music, check out oldie playlists and share your creations. I needed an option like this when I logged into spotify for the first time – there is so much choice that it’s difficult to know where to start.

Ultimately, I use both accounts. My Pandora stations are a great way to discover new music and Spotify fills the gap when I want something but don’t want to shell out for the album.

Give both services a try and let me know what you think. You won’t be disappointed either way…

~ab

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A lazy post – Google Translate Rocks

Posted in Random on April 21st, 2011 by ab

This post will be a grouping of useful translation links.  During the last few weeks, I’ve been busy with contacts in various countries and find myself Googling “translate x into y” quite a bit. I stumbled on the table below at this link (included just incase they add further languages). The title is Translation “Bots”. You may have heard of the evil bots that control computers and send spam – Google isn’t into that. These bots are for chatting. For example, if you click on the en2ar link below, a chat window will appear and will translate what you type in English into Arabic. Sweet.

So what is a bot? It’s just software that imitates a human in some capacity (over simplification but true). A chat bot imitates someone chatting. An evil email bot, imitates someone sending evil emails. Anyway, as mentioned, the table at the bottom of this post has all the bots I could find.

For additional translation entertainment, you can hit up the standard Google Translate, which is also pretty amazing. One thing that I often do is paste a web link into the translate box and then click on the link that appears to the left. This will take you to a translated version of the site you requested! Insane!

That’s it for now – as I said, busy as heck.  Enjoy translating!

~ab

The table for your translation bot pleasure:

Languages
Bots
Arabic – English ar2en en2ar
Bulgarian – English bg2en en2bg
Czech – English cs2en en2cs
Danish – English da2en en2da
German – English de2en en2de
German – French de2fr fr2de
Greek – English el2en en2el
Spanish – English es2en en2es
Finnish – English fi2en en2fi
French – English fr2en en2fr
Hindi – English hi2en en2hi
Croatian – English hr2en en2hr
Italian – English it2en en2it
Japanese – English ja2en en2ja
Korean – English ko2en en2ko
Dutch – English nl2en en2nl
Norwegian – English no2en en2no
Polish – English pl2en en2pl
Portuguese – English pt2en en2pt
Romanian – English ro2en en2ro
Russian – English ru2en en2ru
Swedish – English sv2en en2sv
Chinese – English zh2en en2zh
Traditional Chinese – English zh-hant2en en2zh-hant
Traditional Chinese – Chinese zh-hant2zh zh2zh-hant

 

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My hidden productivity data

Posted in Random on March 15th, 2011 by ab

To me, a productivity tool has to have three components:

1. It has to be invincible – rendered illegible by flying coffee or left on bus cannot be reasons to miss a task. I love paper, but hate that it burns, smudges, rips, etc. Digital was the only answer.

2. It has to be everywhere – Paper didn’t just lose because I’m a klutz – I’m also forgetful. A digital task system, accessible from every device I’ve ever owned AND anyone’s computer, was the perfect solution. I couldn’t leave it behind.

3. It has to be simple – If entering a task takes 10 minutes, I’m not going to do it. Duh.

When I decided on those 3 rules above, I never thought about the data that I would generate after using these tools for 4 years. On a lark, I went through three months of data today in Toodledo and was amazed. It’s actually interesting!

Although it’s thoroughly geek, I thought I’d share, just to show how powerful the data we’re generating can be. I’m not sharing anything personal, professional or even the numbers. The graphs of relative values speak volumes.

First thing I did was pull my tasks completed by month from Toodledo.

image

The result made sense: Late November, I started using Toodledo. December was spent working my tail off. January was when my little girl was born – huge dip there – but by February, I was completing tasks again at full force. March I started a new job, so mid-way through the month, we’re already heading for a record breaker.

Next I tried to find a trend, something to make it more than just a total. Here is how I complete tasks based on the days of the week:

image

Interesting eh? I come out of the weekend strong, completing fewer and fewer tasks until Friday, when I  push before the weekend. My theory here is one word: meetings. As the week goes on, I have more and more meetings, reducing the time I have to complete my tasks. There is something to explore here…

My personal tasks, often the lesser quantity, generally don’t get done on Saturday and therefore Sunday is higher. This probably contributes to that sinking feeling I get on Sunday when I have to pack in my tasks and try to enjoy the last of the weekend.  Again, something to explore…

Next I grabbed the planned due date of my tasks:

image

What I love about this data is that it shows how I think about tasks too… These are the tasks by the day I schedule them for. Notice that I tend to come out of the weekend with a lot scheduled for Monday, but Tuesday – Friday, I plan to complete pretty much the same number of tasks. To me, this supports the meetings idea – I’m adding tasks to the list because new things are coming up. However, as we saw before, I’m not completing them.

In a similar story, on the weekend, I tend to forget how hard is to complete tasks on Saturday and I schedule equal efforts for both days.

Finally, I decided to compare how I’m finishing tasks this month vs last month:

image

The month isn’t over yet, but it looks like I’m getting better at closing out  my tasks on Fridays and keeping a steady stream of completions going through the week. Thursday is still a low point for me. I’m sure it’s related to meetings, but it’s a point of focus for improvement!

After playing with all this data from Toodledo, I exported my data from Remember the Milk going back to 2007 and did the same sort of analysis, finding almost identical results. I’ll spare you the details, but one favorite was that I seem to start the year off strong in January every year, but slow down as the summer approaches. I guess that’s why my resolution each year is to be more organized :)

Thanks for indulging me. The bigger point is that I was collecting this data without really thinking about it. I wonder where else I’m capturing useful information that could improve my efficiency? I’ll poke around and get back to you.

~ab

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Adblock – Clean Browsing Bliss

Posted in Web on February 11th, 2011 by ab

I hate, HATE, the new trend of ads that scream at you. I have no interest in hearing about car insurance while I’m browsing, especially when I have to scramble to mute my speakers in a crowded place. Do you think, after you’ve embarrassed me publically, that I’m going to click on your stupid ad?

I declare war.

If you read this and you’re using Chrome, install Adblock. Teach the jerks at these ad agencies that you’ll not only ignore their messages but you’ll block ALL messages going forward because of their abuse. What is Adblock? Here are some examples of how it works on Chrome (but it’s available for Firefox too).

Here is a Google search for “Super Bowl” without Adblock – notice the ads on the right.

image

The same search with Adblock turned on – notice the lovely blank space (you can turn off this type of blocking within Adblock’s settings).

image

Here is another example – the main page of the New York Times with ads and with Adblock turned off.

image

Here is the same with Adblock turned on.

image

I understand that some might find this duplicitous, taking the free content without looking at the ads that fund its existence. However, please believe that my goal isn’t to hurt anyone’s livelihood. Instead, I hope that by rejecting ads temporarily, we’ll provide a simple message to ad agencies – be creative, sway our opinion with wit and originality, not with loud ads that interrupt our browsing experience. After all, we didn’t come to the site to hear about refinancing out apartment – we just wanted the weather…

Let me know your thoughts in the comments – do you think this is cheating?

~ab

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Technology for new parents

Posted in Random on February 3rd, 2011 by ab

It was inevitable. My daughter was born last month (also inevitable in a way) and it was only a matter of time before I wrote a blog post about baby tech. But here is the funny part – the tech sucks. There isn’t that much to talk about. Maybe our litigious culture has squashed innovation or maybe the only people concerned are so blotto from not sleeping that they can’t invent anything, but either way – the technology just isn’t very interesting.

When babies are born, in case you are not aware,  they need to be swaddled, rocked and given something to slobber upon… As I see it, the result is that technology tends to focus on rocking and/or white noise. That’s about it. Sigh… I write this as I sit up waiting to do our late night / early morning feed and wish that there were magic bullets I could use from my bat belt. No dice.

Instead of telling you about our Fisher Price Cradle Swing (god send that it is), I’ll focus on the tech that I’ve found useful, rather than helpful, for life with a baby.

Camera(s) – iPhone and DSLR

She’s cute and everyone wants to see her, thus we’ve snapped away with both our iPhones and the big DSLR. Although in the beginning we went a bit overboard, expect to take tons of pictures. Having the DSLR, with its incredible resolution, reassures the compulsive in me who worries that we’ll miss the perfect shot. The iPhones have pretty decent cameras too, for all those times when you don’t want to lug around a baby, six pieces of matching baby luggage AND and camera bag…

Ways to share pictures – Picasa and Dropbox

Picasa lets us share our photos with the family, but Dropbox is where we consolidate. With two Macs, two iPhones and a SLR, there are lots of places where pictures end up. We combine our photos into a shared folder in Dropbox and then I upload them to Picasa. Easy peasy.

The white noise app on my phone

Hm… This one was almost a magic bullet… We were told that white noise would soothe her on our way out of the hospital room and by the time the elevator arrived in the lobby, I had a white noise app for the car ride home. The great part? It actually works (provided that she isn’t hungry, sleepy, wet, dry, too hot, too cold…)

If you want extra geeky points, go grab yourself a pillow speaker (very cheaply online) and use an old iPod to make your white noise machine. It’ll free up your iPhone for dropping calls.

Amusements – all hail the iPad

You will spend a lot of time doing nearly nothing (other than rocking your child) and your brain doesn’t have capacity for the russian novels you were planning to read. My iPad holds my books, my RSS feeds, Netflix, Hulu and my email. With a bit of balancing, I can use it one-handed. Late in the evening, ’round about 1-2am, this will become very important.

That’s it. Like I mentioned above, no true magic bullets, but there are plenty of ways to add techie flair to staying up late with your newborn. Best of luck – duty calls…

~ab

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Ditching Cable… Addendum (for C.)

Posted in Random on January 27th, 2011 by ab

In my last post, I described how one could ditch cable and rely on a mixture of online programming and an Apple TV for entertainment.  Fun stuff!  However, a helpful commenter mentioned using an HD Antenna to capture the live and free television channels that may be floating around your metro area. I thought it might be nice to explain how this can be done (so that you can watch the Oscars, the super bowl, or any other live event on your standard channels).

Buy an antenna and connect it.

To pick up the free TV signals in your area, you’ll need an antenna.  Often today’s TVs forget their antenna bearing forefathers and mine was no exception.  You should validate that your TV has a connector like the one below.

photo

This is the same connection that I used for my cable television (it’s called Coaxial Cable, if you’re interested).  Once you’ve located this point on the TV, you need an antenna. For those living near a RadioShack, I found this model on sale for $20.

Photo Jan 26, 11 30 16 PM

Notice that it says “HDTV” – this means I’ll be able to pickup any free HD (High Definition) channels, as well as the standard definition ones. In most big cities, NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX have free HD channels.

The setup is very easy – just plug it in to the connector in the first picture.

Scan for channels

Your television, if it was purchased in the last 10 years, has a scanning function. Try your settings menu – heck, try any menu. You are looking for “Auto-Program” or “Channel Search” or anything to do with an antenna.  For me, in my settings menu, there was a button that said “Auto-Program”.  With the antenna connected, I let this feature rip and found 52 channels available to the greater NYC area. 52!!!

Bask in your independence!

You’ve done it! You followed 2 insanely easy steps and now you have free LIVE television. Well done you! Enjoy the Olympics!

~ab

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Ditching Cable: a new adventure

Posted in Random on January 22nd, 2011 by ab

Cable TV and I have had a pretty rocky relationship. I live in NYC, where “outages reported in your area” is seemly the permanent recording on the cable company phone line. What kills me about these events is that it’s always my responsibility to call out the cable company for time lost. I never see a credit on my bill for the time when service was out, unless I call and complain.  Moreover, my wife and I just don’t watch that much TV.  It’s hard to justify the $150 price for HBO twice a week and the real housewives series a few times a week. Oh and did I mention the service stinks?

My counter attack!

So what did I do to stick it to the man? I cancelled cable. This may sound brash but it’s not as crazy as you might think. Here is a breakdown of my thought process:

  • Hulu and Netflix came with my TV – I have a Samsung TV that has “apps” and an internet connection.  It wasn’t that much more expensive and I have access to my Hulu and Netflix content (which is 99% of what I watch).  Both Hulu and Netflix require a paid account, but each is less than $10 per month.
  • Apple TV streams all my media from my home computer – The Apple TV was a one time $100.  I can use it to rent movies and TV shows, like pay-per-view on steroids.
  • I don’t watch sports – I think this is worth mentioning, as my solution would be hard on a sports fanatic.  Sports are a bit harder to find via the web, but not impossible.  I’d be curious to hear solutions for this in the comments…

Thoughts so far…

It has been 2 days and everything is great! I feel like I pick what I want to watch and I only see a commercial or two on Hulu.  All in all, the conversion went without a hitch.  When I want to watch a TV show, I use Hulu on my TV or the Apple TV to rent/buy the episode.  For older movies, I use Netflix and for more recent titles, I can use Apple TV as a pay-per-view outlet. Finally, I stream pictures, music and movies from my home computer over my wireless network to the Apple TV.  A – MAZING.

Here are some pointers if you plan on doing this yourself:

  1. Use wires when possible: When you can, keep everything wired together.  Wireless is great, but the speed is much faster via cables.  If you can’t use wires, try to minimize the distance between your TV and your WIFI router.
  2. Invest a few extra bucks in faster internet: You can pay a little more (an extra $10 in my case) and get 50% faster internet.  That burst of speed could be the difference between HD quality streaming and blurry junk, so investigate your options.
  3. Learn how to use iTunes Home Sharing: Maybe this will be the topic of a future post, but you can share your iTunes libraries between computers and to your Apple TV. It’s fairly simple to set up, but can get a bit finicky. Try out this link to get you started.

I’ll try to put another post together in the future describing my whole setup, but hopefully this gives you a glimpse of what is possible.  The kicker here is that it’s all pretty easy!  I didn’t code or fiddle with complicated hardware. For the most part, it was as simple as plugging things in.

Good luck!

~ab

PS: I’m aware that the large cable company isn’t going to care much about my rebellion… but just wait comrades – the revolution is coming…

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An example of feature finding fun…

Posted in Random on January 7th, 2011 by ab

Sometimes, I forget how powerful a phone can be… The truth is this: my phone may be able to do 1 million things, but I’ll be darned if I can remember 5% of this magic when I’m under pressure. It’s like a Swiss-army knife with 100 tools – I only use the the bottle opener and the knife (incorrectly, as a screwdriver).  I don’t believe that I’m the only one in this state.  Feature overload is pretty much the norm these days.

As a result, I like to practice using features when I find them.  Some stick, becoming part of my daily routine and ritual, others fade away as simple novelty.  Knowing what your iPhone or Android phone can do is good.  Learning which features are right for you is better.

Just to give you an example, I was waiting for the wifie at the wine store and remembered Google’s photo search called “Goggles” that is part of the iPhone Google App.  Not really needing an excuse to buy wine (“google told me to”), I tried it out on a nice bottle of cabernet.

Bottle

Googles Goggles (a tongue twister ain’t it?) went to work on my cab, using the image as the search query.  The result was pretty spectacular – even by the standards of the ever impressive Google.

Search Results

In less than a minute, I was reading a great review of my selection and soon after SOLD.  It was a great shopping experience.  I was selected a bottle that looked about right (2 minutes), Googled it (30 seconds), learned about it (1 minute) and finished my purchase.  Not bad!  The process was fast enough that I would have happily continued to photograph bottles for a while, but the results rich enough to help me make an educated decision.  Sweet.

In closing for this rather short post, remember that the point isn’t Google’s Goggles.  The point is that my phone had a feature that was worth exploring and that a little practice was enough for me to see how I could use it in future.  That’s the key – use it and see if it’s useful to you.  If not, no sweat.  There are another 999,999 features to look into.

For the record, the wine was excellent.

~ab

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