Free Photoshop alternative?

Say goodbye to Photoshop

If we talk about digital image-editing software, Photoshop clearly comes in
mind.

Adobe’s program is probably the best and with a price of about 1000€ one of
the most expensive tools in this area.

Nowadays, Photoshop is the epitome of image editing. Not everyone needs it,
wants or can afford it and looks for alternatives. Meanwhile, there are a lot of Graphic-Tools that provide professional results similar to Photoshop. The extensive feature set of Photoshop leaves nothing to be desired, but quite a lot of them can also be found in free, (online) applications.

When I strumbled upon John Arnold’s Blog while discovering the web, I realized that there are quite some neat tools which are directly usable in the browser:

1. GIMP  – opensource all-rounder 

The “GNU Image Manipulation Program” (GIMP) got published in 1995 and is by
now one of the most used free opensource alternatives
to Photoshop. For professional image-editing demands GIMP offers a lot of
features for the creation, design and editing of images and graphics.

The program contains all the common functions that we already know through
Photoshop and offers many effects and filters, good retouching- and montage
features as well as functions for image correction as well as tousands of
other options. Almost every action can be automatized by scripts. A lot of
downloadable plug-ins available in the internet allow to integrate useful features into GIMP and hence its opensource software it will be constantly developed.

2. Picnik – Google’s image-editing tool 

Today’s Web 2.0 provides countless free tools to edit images and graphics. The problem most of those tools have is that they lack possibilities in terms of functionality. Often there is too much advertising that impairs the usability of the program. When Google developed Picnik they created an exception. The application is based on Flash and in terms of usability and functionality almost on the same high level as Adobe’s Photoshop.

It’s possible to import photos from your own computer as well as from photocommunities like Flikr or from social networks like facebook and easily edit them. In addition to the usual image processing functions such as rotating, cropping, exposure, sharpness and colors, the basic version of Picnik provides the user some nice features like “Instant Slimming!”, adding picture frames or  the possibility to place text(bubbles) in your picture for snapshots or traditional holiday photos. The premium account offers more features, including batch uploads, full-screening and professional photo editing tools.

While researching I found heaps of free image-editing tools and websites.
Most of them are pretty similar, without major differences in terms of
functionality. These tools are great but yet unable to compete with
Photoshop. You can easily sharpen or cutting a snapshot with Picnik, but
you will have problems with coloring or collaging. A huge plus for online
tools like Picnik is that they generally have no hardware requierements to
your computer. You don’t need a highend cpu neither an expensive graphic
card.

We will see what will be developed in the future.

Advertisements

Ads can be fun

Ads suck…mostly! They interrupt television program and make us feel like we’ve been taken for fools often enough.

But, if you already feel annoyed by certain advertisements, would you have the willingness to buy the praised product? Probably not!

 

It could be different. Sometimes, there are actually exceptions between promotional movies that do not force you to grab the remote control to zap on a different channel or make you flee towards the fridge. Some spots can literally be awesome – weather because they convince in terms of movie technology and offer something pleasant for the eye of the viewer, or because the they contain funny/exciting moments. Sometimes advertising is so good that the spot even reaches cult status.

If you are searching for these spots on the internet, online platforms such as Youtube are probably the best place for it. Many companies, for example the mail order company OTTO, publish their spots on Youtube: “Cloth Swopping – OTTO”

The advertisment remains memorized – in this case, in a positive way!

 

Some more pics that I’ve found on the web:

Nike Run benches NYC

Nike Run benches NYC

reverse installed Subway Station benches. Facing the Ad.

reverse installed Subway Station benches. Facing the Ad.

Vegetarian Restaurant

Vegetarian Restaurant

Swiss Skydive - Elevator

Want more? Visit: Coloribus

Lobbyism and SOPA

The head of the MPAA film industry association, Chris Dodd, claims US-President Barack Obama to support the controversially discussed law SOPA. If not, Obama has to go without any campaign contributions of Hollywood.

 

I recommend you to read my former Blog post about SOPA. 

Wikipedia says: 

Lobbying (also lobby) is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying is done by various people or groups, from private-sector individuals orcorporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or advocacy groups (interest groups). Lobbyists may be among a legislator’s constituents, meaning a voter or bloc of voters within his or her electoral district, or not; they may engage in lobbying as a business, or not. Professional lobbyists are people whose business is trying to influence legislation on behalf of a special interest who hires them.”

 

Chris Dodd

Chris Dodd

What happens if a lobbyist holds a financial gun to a politician’s head is what Chris Dodd, head of the MPAA film industry association, showed last week. Apparently, Obamas commitment against SOPA was a thorn in his eyes so he commented briefly: 

“Candidly, those who count on quote ‘Hollywood‘ for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them when their job is at stake,” Dodd told Fox News. “Don’t ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay any attention to me when my job is at stake.”

Tech Dirt directly countered: 

“This certainly follows what many people assumed was happening, and fits with the anonymous comments from studio execs that they will stop contributing to Obama, but to be so blatant about this kind of corruption and money-for-laws politics in the face of an extremely angry public is a really, really, really tone deaf response from Dodd. “

 

The successful amalgamation of the internet community shows the enormous potential and political strength. A strength that should have been kept under control with SOPA.

…initially put on hold: too much resistance to the bill

Even if it is often told that you should regularly read newspaper and watch news, you probably got wind of this matter while surfing through the web. It concerns the controversial US draft law SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), which was submitted some time ago by the Republican Lamar S. Smith.
This law would potentially allow the American legal system to delete or disable websites that fiddles with copyright law content in any way. This sounds positive for the industry in the first case. But you wouldn’t be able to post any video that contains protected music, even if it’s in the background, for example on Youtube. Because of the strong restriction of freedom of the user in the web and because of the unduly claim to judge foreign websites, several online firms, Bloggers and so on make a stand against this bill.

What happened?

On Wednesday, the 18th of January, Wikipedia, Google, Mozilla, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Greenpeace and many more protested against SOPA and “Blacked-Out” their sites as well as they started petitions. Because they fear the American draft law could reach Europe, Germans and other Europeans were participating in the protest.
Many American Internet users were probably highly surprised when they tried to research Wikipedia for some random facts. Instead of millions of articles they could just see the catchy phrase “Imaging a World Without Free Knowledge” on a darkened site.

Freedom in danger?

It was the biggest possible protestation that Wikipedia could have done. The English speaking online encyclopedia was shut down for about 24 hours. To obtain the freedom of information, Wikipedia removed all that content from the web.

Other reactions

According to www.marketingland.com, many prominent founders of huge tech companies, for example Google co-founder Sergey Brin, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, PayPal founder Elon Musk and several others, posted an Open Letter To Washington expressing their concerns about the legislation. From the letter:

“These two pieces of legislation threaten to:

  • Require web services, like the ones we helped found, to monitor what users link to, or upload. This would have a chilling effect on innovation;

  • Deny website owners the right to due process of law;

  • Give the U.S. Government the power to censor the web using techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran; and

  • Undermine security online by changing the basic structure of    the Internet.”

What is this all about?

The US House Of Representatives is currently negotiating about a two new draft laws called SOPA and PIPA. These laws would intervene deeply into online events.
The record industry as well as movie industry claimed an implementation of tight measures against websites that allow access to licensed media. Therefore, the US Parliament responded to that request with the release of the draft law “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) submitted by Lamar S. Smith.

Potentially arbitrariness?

To stop the unlicensed and therefore unpaid distribution of digital content, the bill intends to lock websites. Providers should be forced to deny the access of their customers to visit certain pages.
If a website gets classified as as illegal, no one will be able to do business with the company concerned: payment providers, advertising services or even search engines. Whoever comes to close to websites, branded as illegal, could be hold accountable.

More information about SOPA:

Heavy advertising pages will be punished

Image taken from bloggeri.esInternet giant Google improves its search engine algorithm. For the first time the design of a website takes part in the search results. Homepages that show a lot of ads will be rated worse in the future.

According to Matt Cutts, Distinguished Engineer of Google, the newly implemented change to the algorithm shouldn’t affect more than one percent of all searches. Still, this modification is probably not as important as the previous Freshness– and Panda-Update. The Panda-Change had an impact of six to nine percent while the Freshness-Update even affected up to 35 percent of all searches.

The change is primary directed at domains that are heavily advertising in the upper area. Sites using Pop-Ups or overlay ads are not affected this.

“As we’ve mentioned previously, we’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience. Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away. So sites that don’t have much content “above-the-fold” can be affected by this change.” – Cutts

With the implementation of the layout of websites to the algorithm Google has made a huge step forward.

Cutts recommends to hide the ads or to edit the design in an appropriate way. The new algorithm would detect the changes in the next run of the crawler and change the ranking immediately.

“On a typical website, it can take several weeks for Googlebot to crawl and process enough pages to reflect layout changes on the site.” –  Cutts

All that glitters is not gold

In my Opinion Google’s approach is completely right. “Ad-banner-garbage-dumps” which are ranked on top of the search results annoy me very often.

Critics will probably accuse Google to have double standards. Google sins against its own requirement quite obvious. Depending on the browser resolution there is a large part of visible advertisements on Google’s search result page.

The example above is pretty extreme since we can see the maximum of three ads that Google will ever show “above-the-fold”.

(low resolution netbook)

Apple assaulting TV

Apple works on a gesture-controlled TV.

Apple develops a new product line. The so called iTelevision, mounted with the iOS operating system, should process together with iPhone, iPad and MacBook via Apples application AirPlay. If the iTV will be released in 2012 or 2013, or whether if the device will be controlled with a touchscreen, gestures or voice recognition is still speculated in professional circles.

According to Business Insider, the voice recognition technology Siri shall provide the basis for the Bluetooth communication with the TV. A special feature that Siri offers is a surprisingly accurate way to search answers to almost every topic. The Information stored in the iCloud could be accessed via iPhone and then transferred on the iTV device the view certain thematic programs. A drawback could be the short battery life of the iPhone.

Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple who died in the late 2011, was talking about the prototype in his biography. The TV should be very easy to use:

“I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use.”

He continues:

“It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.” No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. “It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, Steve Jobs has been criticizing television as user-unfriendly as well as cumbersome. Due to different paths of transmission such as cable or satellite with different technologies the development and innovations would be more difficult. Jobs has claimed repeatedly that media companies did not have a standardized digital strategy. Even Apple TV, Apples streaming service on iTunes, was abandoned after a very short period. The Wall Street Journal still supposes Apple to work on a new technology in order to transfer movies on television.

The Wall Street Journal reports, that Eddy Cue, Senior Vice President, and others from Apple have met with media executives from several large companies to describe that vision.

Apple analyst Gene Munster speculates that all you’ll have to do is screw in your cable or satellite’s coax cable in the back and the TV will do the rest. No more boxes.

We should still keep in mind that there is a lot of speculation and no real information given out by Apple yet. But it is very possible that we will see this device in the next couple of years.

I’ll keep track of it.

Google competing with Amazon Prime

Amazon Prime is  a quite popular service for Amazon customers to order goods easily and get them delivered in just one day after the booking.

Obvious reasons

Internetworld points out that Google conceded about 40 percent of revenue by dealers. Scot Wingo, working at e-commerce provider ChannelAdvisor, assumes that Amazon Prime records a growing client base, which cannibalizes the sales of Google.

Therefore, more and more customers save the visit to Google and search as well as order directly on Amazon instead.  Amazon Prime promises for a one time annual fee of €29 in Germany or 79 dollars in the U.S. fast delivery with no minimum order value.

Googles service

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that Google may attempt to launch a similar fast-shipping service to compete with Amazon Prime.

This service should be available for several online stores such as Macy’s, Gap or OfficeMax. So, Google won’t even sent the goods, but only wants to offer a consistent service to order products and deliver them via parcel delivery companies.

How?

According to The Wall Street Journal, Google intends to build the delivery service around its existing Google Shopping service. If the customer finds the desired product, the fast-shipment will be available to order.

When?

Referring to The Wall Street Journal, a pilot experiment will be launched in the region around San Francisco in 2012. The company did not comment on that information. Google and Amazon already compete in the business with music and videos on the internet.

We will see what’s gonna happen in the future(…)

Hovering on Cloud nine

Cutting videos on ancient computers, storing xxx-gigabyte of data on your mobile phone, access software and data from wherever you are – Cloud Computing – hype or the future?

Bye, bye, hardware – My software runs in every browser

The basic idea of Cloud Computing is to run all applications in the web – starting with simple software, progressing to complex operating systems (eg. Chrome OS).

According to the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) five common features

of Cloud Computing are:

  • On-demand self-service: users can set themselves up without the help of anyone else.
  • Ubiquitous network access: available through standard Internet-enabled devices.
  • Location independent resource pooling: processing and storage demands are balanced across a common infrastructure with no particular resource assigned to any individual user.
  • Rapid elasticity: consumers can increase or decrease capacity at will.
  • Pay per use: consumers are charged fees based on their usage of a combination of computing power, bandwidth use and/or storage.

The User doesn’t need to worry about system/software updates, expensive graphic cards or multi-core CPU’s. That’s all still up the air but incipient stages are already been done.

Google leads the way

Office tools, E-Mail accounts, RSS-Reader, a Calendar and many more applications can run platform independent in the webbrowser. Ready to start whenever you want.

A clever business model – for both sides

Huge server farms of companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon or IBM make Cloud Computing possible.

The customers don’t need to pay for program licenses or severs, but pay for the service they actually consume. The users are able combine different services of various providers like a building kit. Companies only pay for the services they use and combine them according to their personal needs. A Cloud accrues.

But,…

All that glitters is not gold

On the one hand, the strategy of outsourcing to the cloud allows companies to focus their core competencies and develop new business opportunities. On the other hand, the dependence on external IT systems rises. A malfunction caused by technical failures, malware or hacker attacks could paralyze communication but also cripple whole business or production processes.

What could happen?

Deletation of data

Data must be erased in many cases (eg. by law). There is always a risk of inadequate or incomplete deletion on all platforms and databases of the cloud, hence locating the data is difficult.

Inadequate separation of clients

There is always a risk that an unauthorized third party can view or manipulate data.

Breach of data protection laws

It is not clear in what countries, data centers, on which servers and with which software, the data will be saved and processed.

Insolvency of the provider

The insolvency of a provider usually doesn’t implicate an insolvency of all data center used by the service provider.  Data centers will get sold to other providers with high probability.

Recently at Sony, …

Sony’s PlayStation Network was hacked in one of the largest internet security break-ins ever.

Nick Caplin, head of communications hat Sony Computer Entertainment Europe issued this statement in a post on the company’s blog:

“There’s a difference in timing between when we identified there was an intrusion and when we learned of consumers’ data being compromised. We learned there was an intrusion 19th April and subsequently shut the services down. We then brought in outside experts to help us learn how the intrusion occurred and to conduct an investigation to determine the nature and scope of the incident.

It was necessary to conduct several days of forensic analysis, and it took our experts until yesterday to understand the scope of the breach. We then shared that information with our consumers and announced it publicly yesterday evening.”

The attackers were able to gain access to approximately 93,000 customer accounts.

Even elephant companies like Sony aren’t completely secured to hack attacks.

But, …

is it safer to put data on hard drives?

Tony Seno Hatoro, National Technology Officer of Microsoft Indonesia, explains:

“Worse knowledge of people about security on the Internet haunts the adoption of Cloud Computing. In addition, people feel more secure storing data on your own computer rather than in the cloud. In reality, the data in the cloud can be much more secure than data stored on the computer itself, “

Despite such risks, small or medium companies would probably increase their security level through the use of Cloud services. Large companies should consider the security features of a cloud service provider individually and decide whether the proposed security mechanisms are sufficient for the specific needs of the company. Because of the low standardized techniques of Cloud Computing Systems security is not guaranteed.

 

Franz