Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another Camera Card Blues Recovery Assistant

With digital cameras now so popular and the numbers of photo storage cards that everyone needs to use them getting to astronomical levels, probability must dictate that instances of users deleting images or corrupting the cards must also be on the rise.

So, if you're in that boat or want to arm yourself should the inevitable happen, there are a few free card file recovery utilities available. I've already mentioned PC Inspector Smart Recovery, Exif Untrasher, Zero Assumption Digital Image Recovery and PhotoRec but I've found another one for Windows that looks worth adding to the armoury.

Digital Photo Recovery 3

The free Art Plus Digital Photo Recovery tool can help you recover lost images from corrupted or accidentally formatted digital camera memory cards.
  • It works with all types of memory cards.
  • It can recover images from formatted cards.
  • It reads corrupted cards (even if they're not recognized by Windows).
  • It recovers JPG, TIF and most RAW files (DNG, Canon CR2, Konica-Minolta MRW, Nikon NEF, Olympus ORF, Pentax PEF, Sony ARW, SRF and SR2).
  • Runs on Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, XP and Vista.

The publishers state that the program should be able to read all memory cards currently available on the market and recover lost JPG, TIF and most of popular RAW file formats and, while it's not optimized for that task, it also reads damaged floppys, CDs and DVDs.

All you have to do now is hope you never need to use any of them.

Related Posts: Data and Photo Recovery, Recovering Lost or Corrupt Camera Images

Monday, January 28, 2008

Gickr - Animated GIFs Made Easy

Animated HummingbirdGickr is a simple web utility for creating animated GIF images. Gickr lets you upload up to 10 images from either a Flickr account or your hard drive and turn them into a simple, frame-animated slide show. Animated GIFs are widely used across the web, mostly for animating small profile images or avatars but they can be used to make more complex mini-movies or even game sprites. Earlier web pages used them a lot before the emergence of Adobe Flash as the default web animation medium.

Animated GIFs aren't new by any means as they were intoduced in 1989 with the GIF89a standard but making one was always a bit on the tricky/techy side for the average user. Gickr makes this easy so it's an ideal tool for those that just want to make an animation quickly. Gickr lets you choose the final image size from a choice of four options (100, 120, 300 and 450 pixels wide) and frame change delay speeds of fast, slow, normal or 3 seconds. It'll even host the animation for you if you wish with the option to tag it for inclusion in a gallery.

On the downside, Gickr burns in a watermark at the top left of the image of the two larger sizes. The site is also fairly heavily ad supported but it's free so, if you don't have the luxury of owning Adobe Photoshop or Flash and need a wee animation, then this is worth trying out.

Friday, January 25, 2008

OWA GAL Search

Found a useful wee add-on for Microsoft Entourage called OWA GAL Search, which allows you to search a Microsoft Exchange Server's Global Address List (GAL) via Outlook Web Access (OWA). Well it is useful, assuming you use Entourage in an Exchange environment.

When Entourage is configured to connect to an Exchange account, it uses LDAP to talk to the directory server. Generally if you're outside the office network, then you can't connect to the GAL without first making a VPN connection into the network. OWA GAL Search allows Entourage to search the GAL via OWA. As long as you have Entourage configured correctly and can connect to your email account using the web, then Entourage can lookup email addresses for you

As anyone unfortunate enough to have to rely on using Entourage knows, it sucks at mostly everything and is a really poor substitute for Outlook 2003/2007 on Windows. OWA GAL Search makes living with it a little more tolerable.

It's compatible with Office 2004 and Office 2008 for Macintosh, although I haven't got hold of the latter one yet to try to it out. I'm hoping the Entourage application has improved over the 2004 version, but wouldn't be difficult.

General Electric Cameras - Don't Shoot Till You See The Whites Of Their Eyes!

Just spotted an article by Matthew Sparkes in PC Pro stating that General Electric (GE) are trying to break into the digital camera market over here in Europe with seven models to choose from.

It's expected that GE will offer models from the A-series (7-8 megapixels), the G-series (8 megapixels) and the E-series (8-12megapixels) digital cameras, which feature Smile and Blink detection, built-in panorama stitching and, the now expected, image stabilization. All models have the same user interface and software so there's only one user manual.

Prices will range from around £60 for the entry-level models A735, A835 and the A840s, about £120 for the G2, about £150 for the E1035 and about £180 for the E1235. The 10-megapixel E1050 is expected later in the year and will feature a 3-inch touchscreen and dockless high definition TV playback. There'll also be a E1050 variant with a built-in GPS receiver. The E1050 models are expected to start from £200.

I quite like the idea of blink and smile detection and built-in panorama stitching could be useful for those large landscape shots. GE isn't really a name associated with photography kit so they'll have an uphill run against the already well-established players such as Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Sony and Panasonic. I can't see any official European GE web site with camera technical specs yet but I'll be interested in seeing the first reviews when these hit the streets.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

globalPandora Down!

It looks like globalPandora has been closed down :-(

The rumour mill has it that Pandora have blocked their IP addresses so no more access for us in the UK. Can't really blame Pandora as they're just covering their backs and obviously don't want to be targetted for legal action by the UK music publishers.

In the end both Pandora and the UK music publishers are losing out as well as us now non-listeners. Pandora is (or was) a great service for discovering new music and artists. globalPandora are treating this as a technical outage for the moment but they are also listing links to a number of alternative music radio sites.

The FranticIndustries blog has some more suggestions on using other proxies to access Pandora from outside the US so I'll maybe investigate that or maybe just make the move to

Related Posts: Pandora No More (Or Maybe Not)

Twitter - Is It Useful?

I've been seeing loads of references to social networking/microblogging site Twitter for ages and finally signed up this lunchtime to see what it had to offer.

I'm not entirely sure how much use I'll get out of it (or it out of me) as it seems to focus on individuals with lots of friends. It also requires a lot of input to get the best out of it, assuming anyone's actually following your twittering, and do you really want to microblog your life?

Where it seems to fail, in my opinion, is the lack of any search facilities. I mean how can you use it to meet new people or reply to topics of interest if you can't actually find any of them? You can add people to your ring of friends by letting it search for existing users from your e-mail account contacts or you can just send someone an invite if you already know their address but that's it unless you choose to "follow" someone.

There's a Public Timeline so you can follow public posts for a bit but you need to subscribe to the RSS feed to get much more than a few entries and those whizz by very rapidly. Searching can be accomplished, in a fairly restrictive way if you ask me, using Twitter's new tracking feature, where you can track any word or concept on Twitter, and have the updates sent to your phone or IM. Why not on your web account? I don't use IM services and have no desire to give them my mobile number so they can fire lots of texts at me at my expense.

If I can't find anyone or anything on Twitter, then how would anyone find me or my posts? I'll give it a few weeks to see if it's any use so, if you're a Twitter user, then you can follow me on

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Skitch Screen Capture Goes Public Beta is a web service that works hand in hand with an application to give you simple but powerful screen capture facilities on a Macintosh, the results of which you can then upload and share on the web.

Most Mac users are aware that the ability to capture the full screen, a portion of it or even a window can be done with a few key presses but Skitch goes a step or two further in functionality. With Skitch you can capture a web page, a chat moment, an application, an iSight image or even open up an existing image from your iPhoto library, hard drive or Skitch history. You can even just sketch an idea. Once you've got an image into Skitch, then you can edit it like you would with most other image editors.

You can flip, resize, crop or rotate the image. You can add stuff like circles, rectangles, lines, arrows, text or just scribbles if you want to. Skitch automatically smooths hand-drawn lines as well. On top of that, all of the elements you can add to an image - shapes, arrows, text, etc. can be grabbed and moved, edited, resized, recoloured, etc.

Sharing the result is easy too. Upload your image to or use your own FTP, SFTP, Flickr or .Mac account and paste your link into any web-page, blog, forum or chat. The Skitch application is very easy to use and, even though it's still in beta, it's a very polished looking piece of coding with loads of options and lots of built-in help and online tutorials.

The only other free solution that comes close at the moment is The Jing Project, which works on both Macs and Windows although it does screencasts as well as sceen captures. Unfortunately, there's no indication that Skitch will remain free once out of beta but I suspect not as the developers,, sell a few other graphics products like Comic Life and Doozla. That said, they are pretty inexpensive so Skitch may not burn too deep a hole in your pocket if you get too attached to it now.

Related Posts: Clip It!, How To Grab Web Page Screenshots, Screencasts - The Jing Project, Screen Capture Tools

Picasa For Macintosh In 2008!

Just spotted this little gem on TechCrunch

PicasaAt this year's Macworld, TechCrunch's Duncan Riley asked Google if Picasa for the Mac was coming and was told "Picasa for Mac is under-development and will be launched later this year."

However, other Google representatives wouldn't confirm or deny this for a fact but they were smiling a lot at the time. Now, regardless of the fact that Duncan asked someone who obviously blurted out something that they shouldn't have, the horse has indeed bolted and it looks like we could well be seeing Google's excellent photo management software on our Macs sometime this year.

Given that they've already released Picasa for Linux, it shouldn't take a huge amount of work to make it Mac compatible. I really hope they don't resort to making us use Apple's horrendous X11 environment to get it running.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Fixit Guides - DIY Mac, iPod and iPhone Upgrades And Repairs

If you have an Apple Mac, iPod or iPhone, then you'll know just how unfriendly they are to the average DIY repair or upgrade enthusiast. Sure the Apple Support site has manuals and some basic upgrading instructions but they're usually limited to how to change your laptop battery or upgrade the memory.

However, US-based Mac parts site iFixit have an excellent set of step-by-step tutorials on how to upgrade or replace just about anything on a portable Mac, iPod or iPhone. They even have a useful knowledgebase for help with troubleshooting problems.

iFixit Guides
The Fixit Guide Series covers Mac laptops, Mac Mini, Airport Extreme and iPods, etc. Each Fixit Guide has detailed disassembly instructions that walk you through the process of easily accessing and replacing batteries, hard drives, screens, and more so it's a valuable resource for anyone wanting to support or upgrade Apple kit. Also, if you're lost when sites mention things like Lombard, Pismo, 2nd Generation or 3rd Generation models, then don't worry as they also provide a very good set of resources to help identify which device you have.

Related Posts: How To Change An iPod Battery

Monday, January 14, 2008

Qipit - Online OCR Scanning For Free

If you've ever come across a piece of written text and thought "I'd like a copy of that" but the thought of having to copy it by hand is a real put off. Now, if you have a mobile phone with a camera or a portable digital camera, then all you have to do is take a shot of whatever it is you want copied and then send it via e-mail or MMS to Qipit.

Qipit will take your photograph, whatever it may be, and scan it to PDF for you. Just think of it, hand-written notes, the contents of whiteboards, text documents, lecture notes, etc. and all transferred to text for you for free.

Qipit will then e-mail or fax the resultant PDF to your desired recipients so it could be a useful means of sharing with others. They'll even store your scanned docs online and you can then publish those on your web site or blog. You don't even have to send the image to them as you can just log-in on the site and upload images directly.

With the proliferation of mobile phones with built-in cameras and the ever-dropping price of digital cameras bringing mobile photography further into the reach of most people's pockets, then this could prove to be a very useful service.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pandora No More (Or Maybe Not)

If you're a fan of streaming radio site Pandora and live in the UK, then you'll probably have been dismayed to learn that, after a year of trying to negotiate realistic royalty rates with the UK music publishers and record labels, they've been forced to block access from the UK from the 15th of January.

I for one will be really disappointed in losing the service. It's been a great medium for finding new music based on bands and artists that I like and I've bought several CDs based on some of what I've heard on Pandora. I can't understand how the music industry can't see the potential in such a service and are only interested in how much they can make directly. How we music fans are buying music is changing and they have to start moving with that change or they'll face some hard times ahead. The recent online sale of Radiohead's In Rainbows album as a digital download shows how even the artists want to change the selling model and, going by the estimated sales they made, they may tempt others along the same path and cut out the middle men.

However, there may be a ray or two of hope. Firstly, there's an petition on the go on the government's E-Petitions site to Save Internet Radio so, if you feel strongly enough, then get over there and sign it.

Secondly, some nice soul has set up a means by which those outside the US can still access Pandora. It's called globalPandora and it works for me at the moment. I suppose the acid test will come on the 15th but other users from countries already blocked say it works for them. I'm not sure how long it'll last because, this way, no one outside the US is getting any royalty fees so I imagine the UK music industry will do their best to kill this off and hammer yet another nail into their own coffin.

Related Posts: Music Recommendation Sites and Tools, Pandora: Discover New Music

Friday, January 11, 2008

PDF Hammer - An Online PDF Editor

PDF Hammer is a free web utility that allows you to do some basic edits to PDF files online. You can upload an individual file or multiple files and then easily rearrange the pages, delete pages you don't want or even combine files. You can then export your project as a new PDF file.

PDF Hammer
PDF Hammer is still currently in beta and currently has the following features…
  • Reorder pages
  • Delete pages
  • Append PDF to another PDF
The developers are working on adding functionality to allow you to rotate pages and apply watermarks and stamps to pages.

It'll never take the place of a dedicated desktop application for the serious PDF creators out there but for the rest of us, it's an ideal tool and it's free.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

NetNewsWire And FeedDemon Are Now Free


Macintosh and Windows software publisher NewsGator have just announced that their award-winning RSS reader products FeedDemon Windows Compatible and NetNewsWire Apple Compatible are now both free. On top of this, they've also freed up their (Blackberry, Windows Mobile and Java based) mobile device RSS reader NewsGator Go! and NewsGator Inbox, which works with Microsoft Outlook.

This means that, should you need the faster speed, desktop integration, smart lists and syncing capabilities of these products, then you can get it all for absolutely nothing. I used to use NetNewsWire Lite, before moving on to online news aggregator service Blogines, and it was pretty good for a free news reader.

One of the benefits I wanted when moving to an online aggregator was that I could get my feeds from any machine (work, home, mobile, etc.) and they'd always be in sync but NewsGator offers this service for its readers as well as long as you register with them.

Related Posts: Free RSS Readers

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

PicMarkr - Watermark Your Images

PicMarkr is a free web utility that lets you to add a custom watermark to your images. Very useful if your image editor application doesn't have that functionality and you want to protect your photographic copyright.

PicMarkr samplesWith PicMarkr, you can upload up to five images at a time from your hard drive or up to 10 if you let it grab them from your Flickr account. You can even resize them by width when uploading to either 500, 800 or 1024 pixels wide.

You can then choose to apply a text watermark or use a logo image of your own. If you choose to use text, then there are a few options available regarding colour and opacity. All of the watermarks can be aligned against a nine-position grid on the image and you can even choose to use a tiled text or image watermark. Once you've applied the watermark, you can download the new image(s) or upload them to Flickr.

I have to admit I'm not a fan of watermarking original photographs as I feel it corrupts the image and detracts from the look of it but it could be useful for editions used on web sites or for marketing the image through a stock agency. My only gripe with the system itself is that the sample image provided as you choose your options isn't any of the images you've uploaded and it doesn't reflect your chosen text or alignment options, etc.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Whats Its Color

What's Its Color

Whats its color is a web application/utility that will evaluate an uploaded image and give you the image's primary and complementary dominant colours, the number of visually unique colours in it and the top ten visually unique colours used.

Sounds simple but it's extremely useful when trying to find the best suited colours for borders, card mounts and frames. Results will display your image on the best suited background for the submitted image and they suggest that the more colourful the image, the better the results.

You can upload an image from your own system or provide a URL for the site to work on. The image is resized for display purposes but the calculations use the full resolution supplied. You can also choose to discard the image background as the calculations will be skewed by any overtly white or black backgrounds.

The only limitation I can see at the moment is that the supplied image can't be larger than 1Mb, which is a bit tight given current digital camera resolutions so you'll probably have to resize your images before uploading.

All images are deleted off the server 10 minutes after uploading and they are renamed during the upload process so no other user can view them. Whats Its Color does not retain any copies or image information.

Friday, January 04, 2008 - Touch-typing practice

If you're like me and probably the majority of computer users, then your keyboard typing skills aren't quite what you'd call "professional". I get away with using two or three fingers at a time but I've always wanted to learn to type a bit faster and more accurately.
So, enter free web application, a simple touch-typing practice tool that gives you a few escalating exercises in touch-typing that show you how fast and error-free your typing is. You can choose from a range of languages (English (US/US Dvorak/UK), French (France/Canadian), German, Spanish and Russian) and keyboard types where relevent.

If you are adept at touch-typing, then I suppose it could be useful if you're looking to change to another language or a Dvorak layout but for the rest of us it's a pretty useful practice tool. The only negative factor I found with it was that the text used in the lessons was pretty random and often bore no relation to actual words and that added another level of difficulty that may have been better to leave till a later exercise.