May 29th, 2013 Brian Herzog
It's been awhile since I've talked about image editing tools. My favorite website for quick and easy editing (cropping, resizing, etc) is still Pixenate, but I recently read about Clipping Magic - and it is amazingly awesome.
Here's how it works: upload your image, draw a green line through the part of the photo you want to keep, draw a red line through the background you want to remove, and you're done:
The live preview on the right lets you adjust your lines to get as close as possible to what you want - and since you can change your line size and zoom in on the image, you can really fine-tune it.
I've been using Photoshop for years to do exactly this, and this is way quicker. Photoshop is still better of course, but like Pixenate and other web-based tools, I have access to this no matter where I am in the library (Photoshop is only installed on the computer on my desk in the office, which I rarely actually use).
Unfortunately, it looks like Clipping Magic is only free while it's in development. Hopefully it'll stay that way, but try it out while you can.
November 22nd, 2011 Brian Herzog
My cousin Karin forwarded me an email of the photo below, with the subject, "Now out in Paperback!!!"
I have no idea what it actually is, but I thought it was a funny picture - except, the message's subject didn't have quite the jokey punch it could have. So of course, I tried to think up funny captions for it. The only one I came up with that I liked was, "Wikipedia: now out in paperback."
Does anyone else have better captions for this photo? I'm going to be away for week for Thanksgiving, so in the meantime, if you have a caption idea, please leave it in the comments below. Thanks, and Happy Thanksgiving (Americans; everyone else, Happy End of November).
April 3rd, 2010 Brian Herzog
This isn't really a reference question, but it is a question from a patron. It's, well, you decide:
Patron: Have you see the monk hidden on the cover of the tax forms?
As Liz Lemon would say, "what the what?" The patron explained, somewhat cryptically, that the negative space between the stars on this year's 1040 instruction booklet cover design seemed to form a monk.
Can you see it? Hover your mouse over the image to see what he was talking about. It's slightly easier to see on a larger animated version on flickr.
I saw it after he pointed it out, but personally, I think it looks more like Darth Vader. The conspiracist in me knows it's not unusual that secret symbols appear in government printing, but they're usually more Masonic than Imperial (but maybe the stars were just to much to resist).
There must be a word for this - hidden pictures formed by positive space shapes. This is sort of like the distorted tessellations in MC Escher's art, but not quite. I looked around but couldn't find a name or description, so I'll keep looking.
In the meantime, if you're interested, here are a few examples of logos employing negative space.
Tags: 1040, booklet, darth vader, form, forms, hidden, image, libraries, Library, monk, negative space, picture, public, Reference Question, shape, star, stars, tax
February 18th, 2010 Brian Herzog
File this web tool under "why didn't someone think of this before?" FillAnyPDF.com lets you upload any pdf or image file (such as a blank form), type on it, and then save the completed form as a new pdf file.
It's not perfect, but it's easier than a typewriter. I'll use this both for patrons and myself, and I'm still surprised there aren't tons of these sites out there.
Tags: add, fill, form, image, libraries, Library, pdf, public, text, tool, type, web
September 5th, 2009 Brian Herzog
I hesitated to post this question, because I don't mean to be picking on this kid. But then I thought that if the kid involves reads this, it might help him.
So with that in mind, I present this week's reference question as yet another example of how personal flippancy on the internet can affect someone's professional life.
Here's the story: an elderly woman called the desk one day, asking me to look up a company for her. She lives alone and needed yard work done, so she called a company that a friend recommended to her. They arrived to give an estimate, but she wanted to know more about the company because:
- the crew consisted of just two kids (no adults)
- the kids didn't write anything down, and only provided a verbal estimate
- there was no sign on their truck, but the company's logo was on their t-shirts
- when she went in the house to answer the phone, she saw them through the window "goofing around in the street"
So, she wanted to know if it was a real business - she was partly worried about being scammed, but moreso was concerned about kids using power equipment on her property without them having insurance.
The company name she gave me was Smart Choice Landscaping. They weren't listed in the yellow pages, so I searched for "smart choice landscaping" chelmsford, and the results were promising. One was the company's website, one was a lawnmower forum posting, and a third was a 2007 article in the local paper about an ambitious high school kid starting his own landscaping business.
So far, so good, right? Everything supported what the patron said - it just seemed like a kid taking his summer job very seriously, and had been at it for two years.
But then I clicked on the final result - the kid's MySpace page. Which is a fine thing for a 20 year old to express himself with, but since he listed the company name, I could easily see that the owner of Smart Choice Landscaping, among other things, enjoys listening to "nigga beats."
I've certainly seen worse, but this might offend some people, or at least taint his professional image a bit.
I left this out when describing my findings to the patron on the phone. She said he was very nice, and was happy to hear he's been doing this for two years, even if he was young. I suggested she ask for proof of insurance, and also get the estimate and invoice in writing - she agreed and said she was going to hire them.
But if this hadn't been a mediated search, and the patron had seen his MySpace page, it very well could have cost him the job. Again, I've certainly seen more questionable MySpace pages, but this one does, probably without realizing it, cross the line between personal and professional.
Tags: image, internet, kids, libraries, Library, Personal, professional, professionalism, profile, public, Reference Question, tmi
February 21st, 2009 Brian Herzog
A patron came up to the desk with this question:
I found a picture in Wikipedia that shows a map at four different periods in history. I want to print all four versions, but I can't get the image to stop.
We looked up the map he was talking about on one of the desk computers, and I saw that it was an animated gif file. By repeatedly printing the page at various stages of loading, the patron said he was able to get the first and last frames, but never the middle two.
I've never attempted to print an animated gif, and thought this was an interesting problem. I don't know if there is an official way to do this, but my solution was to simply do screen-captures for each frame, and then paste that into PowerPoint to print.
If you've never done this before, screen-capture is a handy tool - like the name implies, it is a method to capture whatever is displaying on your computer's screen. The display gets copied to the clipboard as an image, and can be pasted into other programs, just like anything else copied to the clipboard. (This is an especially useful technique if you're making how-to instructions [pdf, 297kb] for using software or a website - you can easily include visuals of exactly what your user will see.)
Here's how to do it:
- Press the [Print Screen] key on the keyboard. That's it, you did a screen-capture. Now paste it somewhere to see what it looks like
- A variant on this is to press [Alt]+[Print Screen] - while just the Print Screen key copies the entire screen, pressing Alt simultaneously will capture only the active window. This is useful as it lets you size the window to show only want you want, and it also leaves out the Start Bar and other menus or Desktopery
It worked, and the patron was happy - he liked it so much, in fact, that he wanted me to reprint the two maps he printed, so they'd all look the same. He also asked me to send him all four screen-captures as a single file [pdf, 567kb].
Tags: animated, animated gif, capture, gif, gifs, image, images, libraries, Library, print, print screen, printing, printscreen, public, Reference Question, screen, screen-capture, screen-captures, screencapture, screencaptures