Thursday, October 02, 2008

Adding ripples to photos with Sqirlz

Photos with water in them look good. How about photos with water that ripples in them?

Sqirlz is a piece of free software that lets you do just that. No more boring photos on your blog! Add motion to them with Sqirlz!

For example, check this pic:














Now see what happens to it when we tweak it a bit with Sqirlz (be patient, the animation takes some time to kick in) :














Cool, isn't it?

Here's how I achieved the effect:

First, get a good photo with a lake / swimming pool in it. I used a free photo stock site to get me a photo. The photo was too big to post to this blog so I used Microsoft Office Picture Manager to open and resize the photo.

Just open the photo by right-clicking it, selecting "Open with..." and choosing "Microsoft Picture Manager" from the list. Once it opens go to, "Picture-->Resize" on the top bar. This will open a sidebar with various options on the right of your screen. Select "Web, small" after you click the little upside-down triangle next to the, "Predefined width x height".

Save the file.

Presuming you've downloaded and installed Sqirlz, open the application (go to Start--> Program Files--> All Programs--> Sqirlz Water Reflections).

Hit Ctrl+O to open the dialog box that will let you navigate to your downloaded and resized file. Select the file (just click it) and hit OK/Open. The file will open in Sqirlz.

Click the Mask icon:


















Use short clicks to draw an outline around the pool. You can use the "Smooth Outline" tool to smoothen the mask after you draw it (just hover your mouse pointer over the icons on the left of your screen and you'll see it). You need to right-click the mouse when you've finished drawing the mask.

Your pool should look like so:
Note the dotted line that denotes the mask.





We need to retain some of the blue of the pool to make the animation look authentic, so we'll tweak the ripple settings.

Click the squiggly lines near the top of the Sqirlz window:













The basic ripple dialog window will open. Set the options as in the image below:



















Click the"x" sign to close the window. Dont worry, your options are saved.

Click the yellow arrow pointing right to preview the animation.









If you're satisfied, Click the gif button to export to gif. You may need to do this a couple of times to exit the preview and save the file.

That's it! Sqirl will create a gif animation with your cool pool ripple effect. Then just upload it to a service like Photobucket and reference it on your site/blog.

Deepak

Monday, September 29, 2008

Requiem for a legend; RIP, Paul Newman

Sorry to be posting off-topic to my regular readers, if any, but I cannot stay quiet upon the death of a man who was my idol in many ways.

I saw Paul in Black and White, long ago, when his electric blue eyes weren't even a factor in his handsomeness on screen. A friend put it succinctly years later when he commented on "The Color of Money".

"Paul", he said, "dominated the screen. He reduced the rest to just pretty faces."

I cannot match the accolades Paul receives from his Hollywood companions but I can say this, "Paul, leave us a few angels!"

RIP, Paul, a legend beyond your lifetime.

Deepak

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Enhance your blog(s)!

In my online wanderings, I came across an excellent blog that extends my Deeply Simple philosophy wonderfully - a blog that teaches you how to add features to your blog, tweak it, get more traffic and a lot more. Here it is:
http://bloggertricks.com

Thanks to Kranthi, who gives us all those great tips, I've added the star rating widget you see at the bottom of every post (it doesn't help the blog directly, but it does tell me if people like my posts and that encourages me to post more).

Here's to Kranthi, who helps us non-techies in our quest to help others manage the online experience better.

Deepak

Monday, June 23, 2008

How to tackle Customer Care

I've found a good way (I think) to handle those Customer Care Representatives who put you on hold while they, "put you through to the right person".

Call the Customer Care number and hit the button for whatever they call the real, live person who will speak to you. Get his/her name and make a big issue of writing the name down. Ask if there's any way to contact him/her directly (there usually isn't but this is all preliminary to the real drama).

The real drama:

State that you have a problem. That you have called earlier and it hasn't been solved (don't worry, you can lie your arse off - what do you think Customer Care Reps do?). Then state that you will not wait for the right person to be put on line.

Of course, you know Pushkar / Mina / Tina / Connor / Jackie / Whoever is just the point of contact. Reassure him/her that you know that, then hit the action button.

Action Button: "I don't want to talk to the person concerned. You do it and solve my problem."

(S)he will protest. Will tell you that, unless (s)he puts you through to the person concerned, your problem won't be solved.

Calmly say that, unless the problem IS solved, you're switching to another provider. And that you don't want to talk to anyone else. In fact, being put on to anyone else, in your opinion, is evidence that XYZ doesn't want to solve your problem.

Then ask him/her to get a piece of paper and write down your exact problem. (It helps if you write down the problem beforehand). Dictate your problem.

Then tell him/her that, unless the problem is solved within the next 24 hours, you're switching.

Don't accept any plea that all he/she is a facilitator. Tell him/her to facilitate a solution.

Deepak

Monday, May 12, 2008

How do I spray an anti-virus?

I SWEAR this happened to me today.

A neighbour, in his 80s, asked me to check his laptop, presented to him by his daughter about five months ago. It had gone slow and weak and was doing weird things like cutting and pasting text in unexpected places when the poor guy was composing email messages.

VIRUS!

I checked his anti-virus software.

The anti-virus software that had come pre-loaded on the laptop had expired. He had no idea what I was gabbing about when I showed him the expiry message.

"This virus," he asked, "It can come even if it doesn't know my password?"

How do I tackle that?

I guess I need to get right down to the basics. Daughters are buying daddies laptops and those daddies need to know what's what, from the ground up.

So here's: New to the net; my computer is slow; it shows "loading"; and other garbled messages old folks with kids giving them laptops throw at me:

  1. Whatever your shiny new laptop does, it isn't safe: That's right. Just sending your offspring an email that you're fine might download a malicious program called a virus, which can easily turn your laptop inside out and make it unusable, without you knowing.
  2. Getting a laptop usually means you have to spend to make it safe: Children, in all innocence and with the best motivation in the world, usually give parents a laptop. Almost always, a rudimentary anti-virus program is part of the thingamajiggy. Trouble is, that anti-virus software expires in a month or so. Unless you know how to check the anti-virus status (and most newby net uses haven't a clue what anti-virus software is, anyway) all you can report is that your PC is running slow
My recommendations:
  1. Obtain a paid anti-virus progam: Free anti-virus software is all over the net but when you pay, you hold the vendor responsible, not the opposite.
  2. Back up your hard disk. Whether you just copy your data to an external drive or make it capable of restoring your system, learn the intricacies of it. The benefits in tips alone are worth it.
Now for the anti-virus spray

I could barely keep from laughing as the wife of the pensioner in question walked out from her bath, asked what was the problem and, when told that there may be a virus on the machine, asked, "Well, do they have anti-virus sprays?"

Deepak

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Chat room on your blog

bambam777 asks how to put a chat room on ones blog.

I presume this is different from attaching a chat room to ones blog/website, since I've already covered that in my post on chat rooms.

From what bambam777 says, I understand that what's being requested is a chat room that resides directly on the blog, kinda like the shoutbox you see on the right.

Well, why have a kinda shoutbox? Just install a shoutbox and you have a chat room right there on your blog (provided you know how to modify your blog template). Here's what you do:

  1. Go over to oggix
  2. Follow instructions to register
  3. Get the html thingamajiggy that installs the shoutbox in your blog sidebar (er... highlight and copy the code)
  4. Paste it where oggix tells you
  5. Save changes
You're done. You can chat to your heart's content when you're on.

Drawback: Everyone can see your conversation. If you want private conversation, install a separate Sigmachat (now addonchat) chatroom and put a link to it in your blog.

Deepak

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Microsoft, Yahoo vs Google: What's in it for me?

Okay, so the various industry pundits are arguing about whether Microsoft will buy Yahoo!, whether Yahoo! will sell, whether the sellout will succeed, whether clashing corporate cultures will gel, whether the Department of Justice will neuter Microsoft and a whole lot besides.

My concern is simple; how does all of this affect me?

Here's how I see it:

  • Yahoo! is in trouble. If not, Microsoft or anyone else wouldn't bother making an offer that is substantially more than 44.odd billion
  • If yahoo is in trouble, any presence I have on yahoo is pretty iffy. By that, I mean that my yahoo email account and the yahoo groups I have may disappear overnight. Such things do happen
  • If yahoo ISN'T in trouble but still sells to Microsoft, we're on Hotmail territory. Microsoft isn't known to support anything, including things it makes. Far less things it acquires.
  • The DoJ and EU aren't really keen on Microsoft becoming a global giant. Chances are, if MS gobbles yahoo, we're going to be seeing a whole lot of court affairs. Guess who suffers? Right, the user.
Given the above, my recommendations:

  • Move everything from yahoo to anything else. If MSN works for you, ok, move it there.
  • Remove all traces of your yahoo email addy from your website / blog. You can always add it later when the dust settles and you find that you DO actually still have a yahoo email addy and the interface actually works
  • Look for an alternative to your yahoo e-group. The best would be a paid option but there are free options too. (I have to get cracking on this)
  • Export your yahoo address book(s) to CSV format and save the file to your hard disk. If you don't know how to do this, ask and I'll explain
Why am I advocating such drastic steps?

It's easy. Either Yahoo is in trouble or it's not. If it isn't in trouble, no harm done, all you do is back up your stuff and surf as usual. If it IS in trouble (and therefore folds up) you have your emails, contacts, e-groups, etc., backed up and (hopefully) migrated.

Either Microsoft takes over Yahoo! (regardless of its financial position) or it does not. If it does, there's no saying what it will retain and what it will chuck out. Safer to back up what's on Yahoo? I think so. If it doesn't, we're back to question 1, either Yahoo survives or it doesn't. What do you think will be the right path to follow?

Right, back up everything you have on yahoo to your hard disk for the moment. When the dust settles, you can decide where to put the stuff.

Deepak