Creating a Quick n’ Easy Fake Tilt-Shift Photo with Gimp

One of the reasons I haven’t been posting lately is I’ve been going through our holiday photos. I’ve just created my first fake tilt-shift photo with the aid of Gimp!

Tilt-shift of Donna at Priests Jump, Cork, Ireland

There are lots of tutorials on the internet, but some seem to be outdated or missing steps leaving me to suss out the commands. It’s not the most brilliant I’ve seen but for an amateur I’m suitably happy with it. This is how I did it:

  1. Open up photo in Gimp
  2. Click on the Toggle Quick Mask icon (bottom left corner of image window) or press Shift+Q
  3. Select Blend Tool from the toolbox
  4. Select Gradient FG to BG (RGB)
  5. Select Shape: Bi-Linear
  6. Choose your focal point (the part you want miniaturised – usually the centre)
  7. Click and drag vertically from your focal point
  8. Uncheck the Quick Mask which should leave a selected rectangle around the focal point
  9. Go to Filters > Blur > Gaussian Blur
  10. I used a pixel radius of 40 on this image, mileage may vary so experiment

    In this photo I had a rock in the foreground that got caught in the focal point so I had to do a little extra editing:

  11. Before step 9, go to Select > Invert
  12. Now you have the selection box around the focal point, click on one of the selection tools (I used the ellipse)
  13. Hold down the Ctrl key and drag/click the selection tool over the part you need to exclude
  14. Once you let go, the selection rectangle around the focal point should have merged with your selection
  15. Go to Select > Invert again
  16. Continue with Step 9 above

If you want to know more about the Tilt-Shift method itself, then some of the other tutorials go into more detail. Wikipedia has an informative article.

Solve my Mystery Geocache

I’m headed to Cork, Ireland for a week and a half, so there’ll be little or no posts, check twitter @wafitz for updates.

Currently I’m sitting on a car ferry from Fishguard using wifi@sea – via satellite, pretty cool.

In the meantime, we just published a new mystery/puzzle geocache. To be solved at home then searched for at night following a trail of firetacks.

See if you can solve it here:
GC2A3MP">geocacing.com listing
Mystery journal

The Walking Dead: Zombie School

How cool is this? The latest production video from AMC for The Walking Dead adaptation. I’m really anticipating this new series in filling the hole that Lost left, for me anyway.

I also wonder how close they’ll stick to the comics, I’m kind of hoping they do stray a little otherwise there’ll be no surprises for me. At the same time I hope they’re gutsy enough to kill off the same characters – Too many shows get attached to certain actors then it really drags down the storyline. This is why I like Dexter so much – not only were they prepared to stray from the books they were really ballsy with their Season 4 cliffhanger.

Check out the black guy at the end of the video, he’s totally into it, method acting and all…!

HT: Image Addiction

Bookshelf: The Pirate’s Dilemma

The Pirates Dilemma
The logo is free to remix

I recently finished reading The Pirate’s Dilemma: How Hackers, Punk Capitalists, Graffiti Millionaires and Other Youth Movements are Remixing Our Culture and Changing Our World by Matt Mason.

I posted a link to Amazon to buy the book but it’s free to download (you choose the price) from the Official website.

I’ll start by saying that this is a great well-researched book for anyone who is (a) a pirate (b) a creator (c) a media exec or (d) wanting to look at the history and origins of piracy in context.

Mason starts off from the odd perspective of introducing us to the punk revolution. The entire first chapter is devoted to punk capitalism. Whilst I think this has it’s place in the history of piracy, I didn’t think it was necessary to devote a whole chapter. I did at one point wonder if I was about to settle into a book which was using piracy as a subterfuge for writing about the history of the music industry, but by chapter 2 we dive right into the heart of the matter, with pirate radio and patent trolling. Nice to see the Principality of Sealand get a mention too. So we can thank Mason for the brief history of punk and forgive him for confusingly making it the premise of the subject of the book.

The other niggle I have is the use of the apostrophe in the title. Surely it’s not a pirate’s dilemma at all, but a pirates dilemma – since the dilemma is with the media industry?

There is a lot of references to history and the use of copyright, which made informative and educational reading. I had heard before of how early America basically stole works from Europe but I was not informed of the whole story, or of the origins of the contemptuous nickname ‘yankee’! In summary, America was historically a nation of pirates, Hollywood in particular founded on piracy – They were the original Pirate Bay of the 19th century. Don’t take my word for it – read the book!

The book pretty much covers all the topics around copyright and piracy, and answers many questions that the less informed may have. Mason frames the act of piracy in terms of culture and history very well – making a compelling argument for not only why we should allow piracy, but support it. The subjects range from graffiti art and other counter-culture movements to the foundation of hip hop and the invention of the iPod.

Mason sticks to his music reporter roots throughout and provides insight into his own background in pirate radio and the discovery of Grime. However, despite my issue with the way the book started, he actually does a good job of making the connections of the roots of music with the remix culture, cultural revolution and of course, what is now termed piracy.

It’s not all a one-sided argument either. Of course, given Masons background he could be considered biased toward piracy but he actually offers up both the good with the bad – drug dealing and happy slapping are just a couple of examples. With regards to happy slapping, Mason considers this a kind of ‘last resort’ for a younger generation. A generation desperate to get away from a media and marketing culture that ‘pounces’ on any grass roots youth culture movement before it has a chance to become established. Mason references parkour as a strong example of this. Though I don’t think something like happy slapping can be so easily excused, it has given me a new perspective and I’m finding myself agreeing with this view.

The Pirate’s Dilemma is not a roadmap to a better future, in fact the logic would seem to indicate we are in a constant war between creative freedom on one side and powerful corporate interests on the other. However perhaps if enough of the right people were to read it – politicians, media execs, content creators, then perhaps there is hope for a more open future society.

Already Spain is showing itself to be a much more progressive country in this respect. Could this truth spread to the rest of the Western world some day? I hope so.

3gp Video Format on Linux

I don’t know about you, but it irritates me how many mobile phones I’ve used that only save their video in one propriety format – 3gp. From what I gather 3gp is a format backed by 3GPP – a collaboration of telecoms providers – probably for it’s compact size limit (for sending MMS) but why then can’t they offer another encoding version for video you don’t intend to send?

3gp doesn’t work out of the box on Linux – but I’ve found even with restricted media packages in place that the audio won’t play. Google “3gp audio” and a myriad of results will return with links to free converters. Support for linux seems to range from either some fairly complex command line fu, to manually installing and compiling codecs for working in your media player of choice.

Which is why I was happy to discover Miksoft a little while ago. Miksoft offer a free ‘Mobile Media Converter’ which is not only cross-platform, but it offers a simple GUI interface. The GUI makes it a trivial matter to copy a 3gp (or any media file) you want into the input box, then just specify the output file and the format you wish (e.g. AVI).

I’ve found Mobile Media Converter converts sound perfectly and it also includes a YouTube downloader which I’ve found handy recently.

Get Mobile Media Converter now (and be sure to donate if you have any spare cash).

Bluetooth on Ubuntu Linux vs on Windows Vista

The introduction of new technology into our lives always seems to have a ripple effect on our existing hardware. Recently I bought a Sony Alpha 330 DSLR which as an entry level SLR I am very happy with. However, I discovered my 4 year old desktop PC’s card reader could not handle the SDHC format that this camera uses.

So I ended up ordering an EVO Labs Internal Card Reader with Bluetooth from Amazon and found it installed into Ubuntu Linux without a hitch. I was then able to utilise the bluetooth chip to connect with my mobile and send/receive files. The only complaint I’d have is since my tower sits under my desk sometimes the bluetooth signal is a little choppy – I don’t know if this is a power issue or due to the proximity of other electrical devices.

Enamoured with my new bluetooth enabled desktop, I decided to invest in some cheap but stylish BTHS600 Bluetooth stereo headset headphones which I am happy to report work splendid with Ubuntu. The desktop took a few reboots to get there, I installed Blueman from the Synaptic Package Manager to manage the connection. All I have to do is switch the headphones on to pairing mode when I want to connect. My Sammy N210 netbook connected flawlessly with no reboots or additional software.

During the teething problems of installation, I wanted to try these with Windows to see how they worked and connected. Windows is good OEM OS that they install by default and is a good benchmark to see how hardware connects and responds.

I booted into Vista and this is where I discovered the snag. Vista was happy to recognise my new internal card reader but when it came to utilising it – it was demanding drivers. I have mislaid the driver disk somewhere because I didn’t need it to run on my main OS, and I’m used to Windows being able to recognise stuff – but it was not the case here. So instead Windows redirected me to the manufacturer website which it insisted was Toshiba. I downloaded the recommended driver package but surprise, surprise this driver didn’t work.

So I can’t get bluetooth working on Vista, and I’m not sure if the card slots will work either. Which OS isn’t ready for the desktop again…?

For those keeping score: Linux 1, Windows 0

For anyone else having trouble hooking up your bluetooth headset I recommend trying out these links:

http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/teach-it/bluetooth-audio-finally-working-in-ubuntu-hh-24028
http://fosswire.com/post/2008/10/better-bluetooth-audio/
https://help.ubuntu.com/community/BluetoothHeadset
http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=4910397
http://ubuntu-ky.ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?p=9030305

The Wonders of Modern Technology

Latest viral from Stella Artois is actually quite good…