Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Need to remove a background on a photo? Check out Clipping Magic

I just discovered a site that offers quick and easy removal of busy backgrounds. Check it out at http://clippingmagic.com/.

You drag and drop a photo file in the box, as instructed, and then start painting - red for remove, green for stay. Zoom in and use the eraser and smaller brush sizes to fine-tune things. The fourth icon on the left, the four-way arrow, lets you move around if you're zoomed in.

It just took me a few minutes to go from the picture on the left to the result on the right.

After clipping

You can choose different colors for the background. Yes, a professional piece of software will handle the delicate tracing of Kinsey's hair somewhat better, and I could have invested a few more seconds in getting the right bottom area of her dress correct, but free and quick are both rather powerful concepts!

This service is currently in alpha testing, and is free during this time. There's no indication what the pricing might be after that, but you can sign up now and get freebies once the testing is over. In the meantime, go and play!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Free Software Bundle for Mac Users

One of the great ways to get some good deals on software is to watch for software bundles. I've often gotten something I was planning on getting anyway for a lower bundle price (along with other programs) than I would have to pay for that single piece on its own.

Well, there's a very good deal going on right now: Mac users can get 8 pieces of software with a regular retail value of $117 for the great price of $0 - completely free. You could even win an iPad mini!

Check it out at https://stacksocial.com/sales/the-mac-freebie-bundle - no drawstrings or hidden surprises that I've seen, and the price is rather good. The deal is good until Jan 30th, 2013, so don't miss it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

CES 2013

I had the privilege of walking miles and miles of show floor at CES 2013 in Las Vegas this past week, looking for solutions for Northwest University as well as ideas to share in my Tech Roadshow sessions and classes. Some impressions follow:

This was a pretty decent show: better than the previous year or two. TVs have been big for a while (in multiple senses of the word). 3D is still on display, but not as much as previous years. The stress now seems to be on quality: OLED, and UltraHD (4K etc.). Impressive, but probably not of great importance to me/us, at least until it trickles down into affordable territory.

Something else that was pretty prevalent was the whole 3D printing scene: many vendors and options here. Makerbot, one of the pioneers in terms of "affordable" printing, was well represented (http://www.makerbot.com/) and the Replicator 2x looked great. I was impressed with the 3D Systems CubeX printer (http://cubify.com/cube/) which starts at about $1300. I expect these to change many aspects of our lives, especially as prices decrease and materials improve. I think we're going to see a major revolution in years to come, as we print many items ourselves instead of running to the store to buy them.

A lot of stuff was happening in the wireless and home automation world. Besides the Belkin WeMo (http://www.belkin.com/us/wemo), which I spotted at Costco recently, the Iris system available from Lowe's (http://www.lowes.com/cd_Iris_239939199_) was impressive. Some real potential for affordable energy efficiency and remote monitoring and control of home systems.

The items of greatest potential impact I spotted were the new Fujitsu ix500 ScanSnap (http://scanners.fcpa.fujitsu.com/scansnap11/iX500.html) and the Improv Electronics Boogie Board Sync (press release info at http://www.improvelectronics.com/us/en/CES2013/media.html, otherwise not yet on their website, but google search for boogie board sync). The Fujitsu scanner has internal processing to output pdf files, and can do this wirelessly to your iOS or Android device. It is superb in being a quick (25 pages/minute, double-sided) scanner which handles a lot of different sizes and formats without complex setup. I'm excited to see how this could assist us in moving to a paperless system - maybe I can get my office cleared! (For some ideas on how to do this, using EverNote as an engine and repository, check out http://lifehacker.com/5973033/how-i-turned-three-years-of-paper-into-a-highly-organized-searchable-document-database-in-two-days. This article uses the Doxie scanners, but the Fujitsu would do even better.)

I think that the Boogie Board Sync has phenomenal potential for our classrooms, and probably for a number of other contexts. This is a very light and easy to use LCD pad, which can function in the classroom like a wireless affordable Smart Board/ whiteboard alternative, at a cost of about $100. This is one of those things that I could probably describe at length to no great avail, but when you try it for yourself you'll see its potential. Very excited about this. I love my iPad, but for handling note taking and projection of such, this is incredible.

There was all sorts of other stuff, and as I process the sensory overload I may add more info. In the meantime, though, I'm excited about getting this stuff working for us.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Best Ink/Drawing Program for iOS

I am often asked for advice on "best-of-breed" apps to do various things on the iPhone/iPad, and one of the most-requested apps is a drawing or note-taking app. I've just found what meets my needs best: Ink, available free at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ink-for-ios/id584654242?ls=1&mt=8.

Besides the fact that it's free, what makes it fabulous? Almost nothing, and I mean that with the highest of praise. Although I like other apps for more complex notes (info below), when you open Ink what you see is essentially nothing - a blank screen, ready to written on, with a little menu indicator at bottom right. That's it. No need to choose notebook, change mode/font/color/ink width, etc. Just scribble away. When you're done, pull up on the screen and that screen has been saved in your photo roll. Double tap on the menu indicator, and you can email it, clear it, and do some other sharing things. But basically, this is a note card that needs no preparation to use: just scribble and save. Absolutely fabulous! I'm putting this on my home page, perhaps even in the dock area. The only drawback: the current version does not have "palm rejection" - if you touch the screen with your palm or another part of your hand, that messes up the inking capability. I would imagine it'll be added soon, though.

Need something more full-featured? If I need to be able to make drawings as well as type, I personally like PaperDesk (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/paperdesk/id367552067?mt=8, $3.99 for the full-featured version; https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/paperdesk-lite/id367563434?mt=8, free for the lite/trial version). It lets you do pretty much whatever you want, including recording audio and incorporating that as well as photos in your notes. The power of PaperDesk, however, means that it takes a bit of time to get going, while Ink is ready right away.

Hope this helps some of you with your decision.