TED Talks


In between audiobooks, I listen to a selection of podcasts. My newest favorite podcast is the TED Radio Hour produced by NPR. Let me tell you why...

I heard about TED Talks a few years ago and have watched a number of them since that time. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design and it started as a conference back in 1984 - almost 30 years ago. Who knew? I didn't and was surprised to learn that there are over 1500 talks that you can watch on the TED site - including the six talks from the first conference. From the TED site, "TED conferences bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less)."

The challenge, for me at least, is how to find the TED talks that are most interesting to me without watching an over 450 hours** of video. Mostly, I hear about them via Facebook friends, Twitter, or email. You can follow the TED Twitter feed (@TEDTalks or @TEDNews), like them on Facebook (they have over 3.3 MILLION likes!), follow via your RSS Reader, or do what I do - listen to the TED Radio Hour.

What I like about the TED Radio Hour is how they combine several different talks on a similar topic. In addition to clips from the original talk, the speakers are also interviewed. Recently, the show featured a talk from Nicholas Negroponte from 1984 where he made some technology predictions and looking back to see how many have come true (most have). He was talking about touch screens over 20 years before the first touch screen smart phone appeared on the market. You'll have to listen to the program to find out about the other predictions - Enjoy!

**452 hours is my estimate based on 1509 talks as of May 8, 2013 that average 18 minutes long which equals 26,162 minutes or 452.7 hours.

Fotor haiku

Essen haus - "Seatnig"?!?
only the neon is in color!


Online editing
choose some photos and upload
loads of cool effects


crop, rotate, adjust,
resize, straighten, enhance, tint
it's easy and FREE!


simple collage

quickie collages
stitch together some photos
see my examples?  



(click on images to see them full size)



stitched together with rounded corners



Google Timelapse

Google_timelapse_01Google has expanded its mapping platform to include a project called Timelapse. It takes you back through time to see how our planet has changed over the last 25 to 30 years. Google worked with the US Geological Survey, NASA, and TIME to combine over 2 million images taken by Landsat satellites.

Google went through almost a petabyte of data to find the clearest images of Earth taken every year between 1984 and 2012. The project includes a number of pre-selected locations, like the creation of Dubai's artificial Palm Islands, the melting of Alaska's Columbia Glacier, and the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, which is very dramatic. You always hear about how South America is losing so much of its rain forests every year, but now you can see how much.

Adjusting your desktop background image

You have a Windows 7 PC and a snazzy WIDESCREEN monitor. You set your desktop background to be a picture of your favorite pup, and... Whaaaaa??! Why's it all stretched out?I've been waiting to use this picture since I ran across it in MS Word's clip art

Luckily, Windows 7 has options to help you fit your favorite photo to your desktop. By default the option is to STRETCH the picture to fit the screen (hence the stretched out pup), but it's also possible to crop the picture to fill the screen, fit the picture to the screen, tile the picture, or center the picture on the screen.Ahhh... much better!
To change your desktop background settings in Windows 7:
1. Right-click a blank area of the desktop and choose Personalize
2. Select Desktop Background near the bottom
3. Choose a location from which to select a picture
4. Select your favorite picture
5. Under Picture Position (lower left), select to FillFit, Stretch, Tile or Center from the dropdown menu
6. Save Changes 

Thanks fo Sue A, whose very cute pups inspired this post!

Current 3D Printer Boom only a Taste of What Is Coming

I assume we've all heard of 3D printing by now.  In the wake of MakerBot, Reprap, Solidoodle, and so many others, many a mind have been illumintated by this new creative process.  The way the current printers work, though, leaves creations somewhat coarse and weak; capable of making mostly novelties and only a handful of practical things.

This is about to change.

Next February, key patents on a different, better, 3D printing process will expire; setting the stage for a new round of consumer-level printers that can make useful, really cheap, everyday objects.  The patents are for a method called Laser Sintering.  Where current printers work by extruding a semi-melted filament (like a pastry decorator), laser sintering works by spreading layers of powder (plastic or metal) into place and using a laser to heat and fuse the powder into the created object(like the top of a creme brulee).  The benefit of this process is that much stronger, finer, objects can be created; the layers won't be as distinct.  And, what's more, the production cost of this process is potentially less than that of the current process MakerBot and others use. Really, it's not far-fetched to think that, say, if your mixing spoon, or bowl, or anything breaks, you can cheaply make your own replacement.

Here's a study that says a 3D printer could pay for itself, in replaced items, in less than a year.

Think about it.


Google Maps street view to become “broom view”?

Since 2007, Google has offered users the “street view” of numerous locations around the world and they’ve used their camera mounted cars to add more locations around the world since then.  Last month, Google left their cars and the rest of the muggle world behind and added Diagon Alley to their street view.  Alright, so they actually didn’t use camera mounted brooms, it’s actually the Diagon Alley set from the Warner Bros. Studio in London.  The view is clear enough that you can actually read some of the titles off the books in Flourish & Blotts bookstore.

Starting last year though, Google did actually leave the road and started getting images from a backpack mounted camera to take pictures of places not reachable by their cars.  They’ve been taking pictures of the Grand Canyon and are working on getting images from a number of places in Hawaii.  They’re also going to let other organizations borrow the backpack, called the Trekker, to take pictures to contribute to Google Maps. 

Google Indoor Maps

Food court and restrooms at East Towne MallHave you noticed Google Maps offers indoor floor plans of some of the more popular buildings around the world. I discovered this while playing around with Google Maps and noticed the local shopping mall by our office showed the layout with all the stores. When you're in “Map” mode rather than “Satellite mode”of Google Maps keep zooming in on a building, if it's part of Indoor Maps it will show you the floor plan of the building you're in or looking at. This also works if you happen to be using the Google Maps app built in on your smartphone.

My favorite feature if you happen to be looking at your smartphone while in a building that's part of this is that is shows you where the restrooms are.

Clipping Magic

2013_03_22_pacoLet's say you want to easily eliminate the background around an object in an image... and you don't know Photoshop or Gimp.

Clipping Magic* lets you do this using 3 simple steps:

1.  Upload the image

2.  Mark the object/foreground green, and mark the background red.

3.  Download or share your result

KittyAs they note on the Clipping Magic page, faint/non-existent boundaries will lead to a bad result, so Kitty with all his fuzzy cat hair may not have been the best example... but I can say that the process was quick and painless!


* Clipping Magic is currently free while it is an alpha, with an option to sign up for freebies once the service comes out of alpha


Learning how Computers Work by Making One

If you've got any motivated, technology/maker-minded teens milling about your library, have I found the project for them.  2 professors from MIT have put together a course that involves building an actual working (virtual) computer system from scratch.  Best yet, all the tools, projects, and first half of the textbook is available for free online (found here).  The textbook itself can be found on Amazon or MIT Press for less than $30. Check it out; share it out.

The Fourth Floor

Remember last month, I wrote about the DPLA (Digital Public Library of America) and encouraged all of you to check it out (I'm sure you do!)? I'm sure you did and saw what an awesome resource it is.

Well, last Friday, I was at the Lake Superior Libraries Symposium and had the opportunity to hear Nate Hill. Nate is the Assistant Director of the Chattanooga Public Library and the Co-Chair of the DPLA's Audience and Participation workstream. His work on the DPLA is pretty cool, but what he's doing at the Chattanooga Public Library is even cooler!

4thFloorThe fourth floor of his library was a huge, unused storage space - until recently. Now it's an event space, a 3D Printing lab, a place to digitize your photos, and much more. Check out their site and see all the cool things that have been going on there. Nate showed some amazing photos of the things their library has done with this space.

There were many factors that played into the success of this space - innovative partnerships, Chattanooga being a Gig City, supportive administration and city officials. In my opinion, one of the most important factors in the success of this venture is that they were  "not paralyzed by the need for perfection" (from Nate's keynote address). They experimented, tried things out, refined them, and tried again. And, they have an awesome new space and services for their patrons.