Archive for May 2010

DIY Green Screen Photography (Save 20% from Skylarking)

We’re all aware of the use of computers and blue-screens to add backgrounds in the movies and television shows we watch, and — thanks to low-cost digital computers and cameras — now anyone can add fantastic backgrounds to their own photos, and the key is Green Screen Wizard. This software is great for the hobbyist or the professional.

Green Screen Wizard is a software and photo package that makes it easy for you to do professional Green Screen Special Effects (also known as “ChromaKey Effects”) with your camera and computer. And, as they say, it’s as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Take a picture of someone against the provided 5’x7′ portable green screen backdrop
  2. Transfer the picture to you computer
  3. Match the picture to a provided background, and Green Screen Wizard does the rest.

Green Screen Test Drive. The basic trial package of Green Screen Wizard costs $79 for the next 4 days. But Skylarking readers can take 20% off ANY PURCHASE at GreenScreenWizard, where it’s easy to get started producing green screen effects for photography and video! Enter GSPP20JUNE during checkout.

The 20% off code expires on 6/30/10.

Green Screen Lite includes:

  1. 5×7 Popup Screen
  2. 20 Magazine Covers
  3. 120 Backgrounds in six collections

Magazine BackgroundsUpgrade. Maybe you’re a professional or semi-professional events photographer. If you decide you like the trial package and you want to do more, you can apply $50 from your trial package purchase towards an upgrade. The full package is available as a digital download for $99, or you can have the physical package shipped to you for about $170.

Their standalone photography software runs on Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7. They also sell Photoshop Plugins that run on Windows and Macintosh computers.

Pacman is 30 years old

Saturday, May 22, is the 30th anniversary of Pacman, and you can play it for the next 48 hours at www.google.com. Just click the “Insert Coin” button once to start a single player game, or click it twice to start a two player game.

Pac-Man (パックマン, Pakkuman?) is an arcade game developed by Namco and licensed for distribution in the U.S. by Midway, first released in Japan on May 22, 1980. Immensely popular in the United States from its original release to the present day, Pac-Man is universally considered as one of the classics of the medium, virtually synonymous with video games, and an icon of the 1980s popular culture. Upon its release, the game—and, subsequently, its derivatives—became a social phenomenon that sold a bevy of merchandise and also inspired, among other things, an animated television series and a top-ten hit single. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pac-Man)

Of course you can play Pacman online any day of the week at www.freepacman.org.

2011 – Death of the Floppy Disk

Yes, you can still buy them here and there, but the end is near for the ol’ 3.5 inch floppy disk.

Several bloggers, such as Long Island’s own Dave Daniels at DaveDaniels.com are heralding the death of the floppy disk when, in March 2011, after 30 years, Sony will officially stop making them.

The 3.5 inch floppy isn’t happy, but it’s going to make the best of it. You can find out what the floppy disk has to say about retirement in an interview published at esarcasm.com.

The ever-popular CruchGear.com reports, briefly, on how the floppy disk has fared since its sales peaked back in 1995. Should have seen it coming when they stopped making floppy disk drives back in September 2009, but then again, who has seen a new computer with a floppy drive lately?

Beginning of the end. Back in 2005 the floppy disk drive became optional on many new computers. Rewriteable CDs (ca. 1997) and DVDs (ca. 1999) where fairly common by then, and the USB thumb or Flash drive was becoming very affordable, too.

Too little, too much. Economically the floppy disk didn’t make sense either. You would need close to 700 floppy disks at a cost of $530 to match the storage capacity of a $10 or $20 USB Flash Drive (1 GB) — which is smaller than a pack of gum. $154 worth of floppies would be needed to match a $7 Flash Drive. (Prices do vary widely for USB drives. Better drives could be purchased for the same $7 or $20.)

Longevity. On average a floppy disk had a lifespan of 9 months, if you treated it well, and didn’t use it too often. The data wouldn’t completely disappear, but some data loss would be evident on a large file.

Meanwhile I have a Flash drive I bought about 7 years ago (shown at right) which I once found at the bottom of a washing machine after a spin cycle; and it worked. Later, I forgot it was in the front of my computer when I bumped into and bent it; and it’s still working today.

Thinning out the Inbox

On April 30 I posted an article Make May Day “Unwanted Email Unsubscribe Day” with tips on clearing your Inbox of unwanted email — not spam, but subscriptions you signed up for, but no longer had an interest in. The article was well received and it received a few comments, too.  (Surprisingly I received a lot of email about it).

One great comment came from David Bondelevitch at dB’s Blog, who said:

Not just the inbox; every once in a while I will run a search in my trash for the word UNSUBSCRIBE and click on most of them.

Be careful though, some e-mails use that link to phish, and all you are doing is confirming to them that it is a functional e-mail address.

Today, I am still thinning out the Inbox and unsubscribing to several emails.

I am also updating my subscriptions, too. Some of the email addresses I subscribed with are addresses I’m not interested in using as much as I used to. So in some cases I am going back the original signup web site and updating my subscription details.

Some of the companies I receive mail from have taken this into consideration, and they’ve included a “Update your Preferences” link at the bottom of the email. Some other haven’t prepared for this possibility. In extreme cases, I have had to unsubscribe one address and resubscribe with another.

So keeping the Inbox thin is just like keeping yourself thin. The work never ends, it’s an ongoing process.

3D HDTV Available Now

At the beginning of this year, 3D TVs and 3D Blu-ray players started appearing in the marketplace. 3D TVs aren’t a new type of TV, it’s just a new ‘feature’ found on some of the newer HDTVs. 3D TVs function like any other HDTV, but when 3D content is detected — either through a 3D Blu-ray player or through a TV broadcast signal — then it can be set into 3D mode. Some sets can even convert regular 2D content into 3D.

Samsung 46-inch 3D HDTV (Model: UN46C8000)One new 3D HDTV is Samsung’s UN46C8000. This is a 46-inch 3D LED HDTV, and it produces a full high-definition image with 1080p resolution. The June 2010 issue of Consumer Reports gave it a very favorable review, and complimented it on its “excellent picture detail and satisfying colors and contrast with 3D and regular HD content”. TigerDirect sells the Samsung UN46C8000 for $2,520 after $280 instant savings.

Samsung 3D glasses3D Glasses. As with 3D in the theaters, these 3D HDTVs require you to wear special glasses, and you currently need to get the glasses from the TV manufacturer. For example, if you had a Panasonic 3D HDTV, you would need 3D glasses from Panasonic; and a Samsung 3D HDTV owner would need 3D glasses from Samsung. The glasses are not interchangeable with other manufacturers sets.

The 3D glasses use a “high-speed shutter” system in the lens. Some of the glasses are battery powered, while the others are rechargeable. Consumer Reports compared the Samsung UN46C8000 against the Panasonic TC-P50VT20 3D HDTV, and they found that Samsung’s glasses were “lighter and more comfortable than the Panasonic’s.” Samsung’s SSG2200AR 3D Glasses (shown above) are rechargeable and are sold separately for $199. The children’s rechargeable 3D glasses sell for $179.

3D Content. Of course to appreciate the 3D imagery, you’ll need some 3D television content or a 3D Blu-ray player. There have been a few 3D programs available from Cablevison and Comcast, and ESPN and DirecTV are expected to offer 3D content next month. Discovery channel also plans on launching a 3D network soon.

3D Blu-ray disc players are interchangeable, so a Sony 3D Blu-ray disc player will work with any other 3D HDTV. Two current 3D Blu-ray disc players are:

Samsung 3D PackageBoth units allow you to view Internet content on your television by utlizing your home wireless network, so you can watch video from Netflix, YouTube and others on your TV.

3D Quickstart. If you want to get started quickly with a 3D HDTV and Blu-ray player setup, you can get a Samsung UN46C8000 46″ Class 3D LED HDTV and Samsung BD-C6900 3D Blu-Ray Player and Samsung SSG-P2100T 3D Starter Kit Bundleicon for $2,889 after a $659 instant savings from TigerDirect. The ‘Starter Kit Bundle’ comes with 2 3D Active Glasses and a Monsters vs. Aliens 3D Blu-ray movie disc.