Monday, November 30, 2009

1.5TB External Hard Drive for $99

Need I say more? Oh yeah: Free Shipping.

[Update: that one finally sold out, too. Gotta be fast!]

New Video Cameras

Exciting News! We just added 9 new video cameras to our equipment lending program. They're Aiptek Action HD GVS camcorders. Here's what you need to know:

The cameras record to SD or SDHC memory cards (not to tapes) that you will need to provide. Currently, the Computer Connection sells 4GB cards for $16 and 2GB cards for $13. You can figure out for yourself which is the better deal.

The cameras shoot in HD (1080p, 30 frames per second) at about 4GB per hour. They shoot standard definition (more than adequate for most people's needs) at only 2GB per hour.

The cameras also function as 5 megapixel point-and-shoot still cameras. The quality is a little better than you'd get from a 5 megapixel cell phone.

Although they do shoot in HD, and they do a good job, they are not quite the same quality as the Sony and Canon HD cameras we lend, and they don't shoot a very wide angle. But they are much smaller, lighter, cheaper ($200 replacement cost), and easier to use.

If you're curious, you can read the manual online at

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hard drive deals

I hope you've all been looking at the various Black Friday deals online. Circuit City has this 640GB drive for only $119.00. It's a good deal, and I love this kind of hard drive. It's portable enough that I just keep one in my bookbag all the time. It holds a huge amount of video, photos, or music.

[Update: They're now sold out. See? I told you it was a good deal.]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Equipment extensions for TG Break

Hi all. Our online equipment lending system only allows you to borrow equipment for up to 3 days at a time. But since Thanksgiving vacation is coming up, we'll be glad to extend your reservation until Monday, November 30 if you ask us when you come into the lab.

Google Sidewiki

Google announced "Sidewiki" late last month. Basically it allows ANYONE to leave comments on ANY webpage that are viewable by EVERYBODY. (or at least everybody who has Sidewiki installed) You need to install the Google Toolbar to enable the features (we do not currently have it installed here in the lab). Once it's installed, you can visit any webpage and leave your own comments, as well as read those by others. To help reduce the effect of comment spam, users can vote on whether they find a given comment useful or not. Comments are not anonymous per se, as they are tied to an individual's Google account.

The good thing about this tool is that it puts so much power into the hands of users.

The bad thing about this tool is that it puts so much power into the hands of users. (A Google search will bring up plenty of angry comments from corporations who are upset that they have no control over the comments users leave about their site, and no way to opt out of the system.)

After installing the Google Toolbar and enabling Sidewiki, visit to see how a user left instructions on how to find coordinates for any given location. How great is that? One user sharing his knowledge and expertise directly with the people who are coming to the webpage where they most need that information.

Another interesting page to check out (again, after installing Sidewiki) is The CEO was smart enough to jump in first and leave a welcome message to others using sidewiki. It's followed by a list of more negative comments (not surprisingly).

And another is at where someone left their comments on a specific article.

One way I was thinking it might be useful to library users is that it could allow users to leave comments or reviews about individual library resources or even individual books. I think this would work for main webpages ( or, for example) but not so well for books in Franklin, since the URL for a book record page changes each time you visit it (to the best of my knowledge).

More info at

Twilight Parody

All of you readers who like the Twilight books and movies (like me, 12 year old girls, and ANTH160 students) may enjoy this SNL parody from a while back:

And Conan O'Brien did his thing for the New Moon release:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Closings this week

We'll be closed tomorrow (Tuesday, November 24) for a class from 10:30-Noon. Sorry for any inconvenience this might cause.

Also, we'll be closed this Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving, but we'll be open Saturday 12-5, and Sunday 12-9.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Magic Mouse has Landed!

Yes, we have the magic mouse! They just arrived in stores today, as best I can tell, and I picked up three of them for the lab. Ask a lab consultant if you'd like to try one out.

The entire top surface of the mouse is touch sensitive. It has a left and right mouse button, and then you can drag along the top to scroll up-down or left-right. If you use two fingers to scroll left-right, you can use it as a back-forward control for your web browser. It has a very different feel in your hand than the mighty mouse, which we've been using so far. It runs on AA batteries, and I'm not sure how long they'll last. Probably the best bet would be to use rechargeable NiMH batteries to save on money and be kind to the environment.

Feel free to leave comments on this post to let us know what you think.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Hue Slider

It's true, you know.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Documentary Filmmaking Workshop

Thursday, November 19, 5:00-6:00pm
WIC Seminar Room, Van Pelt Library 1st floor, West

Come learn how to get started on making a documentary - from lining up interviews, shooting video to editing and trailer creation. Jacob Finkel, SAS undergraduate, made his first documentary film in 2005, and founded the non-profit Corporation for Civic Documentaries. Jacob is directing a documentary on former Senator Harris Wofford (D-PA). Sen. Wofford counseled Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., advised President Kennedy, helped create the Peace Corps, is a powerful advocate for National Service, and was an early supporter of the Obama campaign in Pennsylvania. The film has been in production for sixteen months and includes many interviews, including ones with Sen. Ted Kennedy, Gen. Colin Powell, Bill Moyers, Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, and former President George H.W. Bush.

Sign up online!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fun Photoshop Examples

Some great photoshop manipulations over at, done by a variety of people. Check them out:

Closed Wed 4:30-6

Just wanted to let you know we'll be closed tomorrow (Wednesday, Nov 11) for a class from 4:30-6pm, so please try to plan around it in case you need to work in the lab or pick up/return equipment that day.

Google Chrome Frame

I just became aware of this last week, when I discovered that Microsoft's infamous web browser, Internet Explorer, lacks the technology to run Google Wave. The folks at Google, realizing the IE is still the most widely used browser around, wrote a plugin that allows IE to switch over to the far more advanced Google Chrome engine, thus allowing it to support certain HTML 5 and Javascript functions that it otherwise would be unable to cope with. And the plugin is open source, so you can check out the code before installing it, if that's really your thing.

Of course, the far wiser thing to do would be to simply switch to Firefox. But that's not an option for everyone, especially in certain work environments. So for those folks, there is Google Chrome Frame. Check it out (and install it) at

Monday, November 9, 2009

The dangers of tunnel vision

Our own David Lei has a column in today's DP on the SEPTA strike. Check it out.

Outsource your photo scanning projects

If you're like me, you have a box (or ten) of old photographs sitting in the back of your closet. You probably forgot they were even there until I just reminded you. Sure, you could lug them out, bring them into the media lab, and spend the next 4 weeks scanning them. Or... you could pay someone else to do it for you, such as one of the vendors (,, and that Macworld took the trouble to review.

Read the article at:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chrome Extensions

DownloadSquad has a list of 15 great extensions for Google's Chrome browser. I didn't even know there were ANY extensions available for Chrome, let alone 15 great ones. It's a really nice web browser, and I'd totally put it on the Macs in the lab if, you know, they'd MAKE a version for Macs. Anyhoo, here's the list for the PC-enabled among us if you're interested:

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Book Spotlight: iMovie 09 and iDVD The Missing Manual

We've got David Pogue & Aaron Miller's popular iMovie and iDVD book here in the lab for you to use--just ask the lab consultant on duty if you don't see it on the shelf.

From's review of the book:

The first three chapters show how to prepare your video before using iMovie and include lots of professional filmmaking advice. The chapters on editing are the heart of the book. They systematically take you through each feature and menu--working with clips; adding transitions, titles, and sound; and saving and exporting your work. Since this isn't an official manual, Pogue is free to point out iMovie's shortcomings. In sidebars, he shows how to exploit features iMovie does have to mimic features you get only with more expensive software--for example, how to create multiple simultaneously superimposed titles (great for wild typographic experiments) or how to "pot down" the soundtrack music to allow a voiceover.

To make better choices while saving your movie, the book discusses each of the save options, as well as how QuickTime works--in detail. Also, the book doesn't just suggest what software to use to burn a QuickTime movie onto a CD-ROM, it also shows how to make a Video CD. It even includes the HTML necessary to embed your movie into a Web page. In fact, this book contains an impressive amount of info. It's easy to jump in at any point in the text and discover some idea so exciting that you just have to boot up iMovie right away and get creative.

We have iMovie 09 (the latest version) installed our workstations, but just in case you're using the previous version (iMovie 08), we've got an older edition of the book, too. So make sure you're reading the right one.

As always, we ask that you use our books here in the lab rather than taking them to other parts of the library.

The Last Guy

This has been my favorite Playstation 3 game for the last week or so, ever since I downloaded it from the Playstation Network--worth every penny of the $10 it cost. It's called "The Last Guy." Unlike most Zombie games, there is no shooting or killing of zombies involved. But there is heck of a lot of running away from zombies.

The game takes place in various zombie-affected cities around the globe (I'll let you know if there's a level in Philly), and part of what makes the game so compelling is that the cities are actual satellite photos like those you might find in Google Earth, so you can really see/visit real locations you may be familiar with. You run around the city and gather up other survivors, leading them in an ever-growing line behind you, all the while avoiding Zombies, and ultimately leading your followers back to the safety of the Escape Zone where they will be airlifted to freedom.

Of course there are different types of zombies, each with its own special attributes, and there are power-ups to aid you toward your goal of avoiding them, and there's thermal vision, which helps you locate hiding survivors.

Here's a video someone nicely posted to YouTube of the first level, Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. Watch it in HD for a better view:

So what are YOU playing these days?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Flickr's new App Garden

Flickr just announced that they have a new spot on their site for the various and sundry Flickr-based applications that have popped up over the years. These are mostly applications developed by regular folks like you and me who have taken advantage of the API that Flickr generously made available to the world at large.

These includes apps like...

retrievr which let you sketch a quick drawing, and then it searches flickr for photographs that look familiar.

Spell with Flickr which lets you type in a word, and then it returns images of letters from flickr which spell out your word or phrase (see the title image for this post)

flump which lets you download all of the public photos for a specific Flickr account.

Often these apps are even open source, meaning you could download them and alter them to improve on them.

Check out the full App Garden at

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Comic Life Magiq for ANTH 160

Here are a couple Comic Life Magiq links for those of you in Dr. Krasniewicz's "Mythology and the Movies" class:

Also, remember the Comic Life Magiq has a built-in help feature in case you get stuck trying to figure out how to do something.

Of course you know, this means war...

Oh i just love this. Adobe has apparently decided to let iPhone users where the real blame lies in the fact that they can't run Flash apps on their device:

My guess is that most disgruntled iPhone users (such as myself) were already aware that the fault lies with Apple, but Adobe is now clarifying for the masses. Adobe is clearly champing at the bit to make Flash available for iPhone users like you and me, so why won't Apple allow it?

(diatribe begins here.)

Easy: Money. SURPRISE! Flash opens up a whole new way for application developers to get their software onto your iPhone--without having to go through the iPhone App Store. Combine that with Apple's unwillingness to loosen its iron grip on control of everything that goes onto your phone, and you end up with the current situation.

To be fair, the iPhone wouldn't be anywhere near as popular as it is now without the app store, and the App Store wouldn't be as popular as it is now if Apple let every Tom, Dick, and Harry upload their crappy, bug-ridden software for you to download and crash your phone with.

Still, it all seems a little too parental to me. It's MY phone. Let me put what I want on it, and given the number of Flash-dependent websites out there (after all, 98 plus percent of desktops already have Flash installed. Apple actually had to stop airing an ad in the UK claiming “All the parts of the internet are on the iPhone=” because the lack of Flash and Java support were enough to get the ad yanked), it shouldn't be too surprising that I want Flash! So open up your email client and let Apple know they should get on the ball on this one. Or maybe better yet, write to Adobe and tell them you love their new error message!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Screen vs Print Resolution

Let's talk about resolution for a minute.

Every image on your computer is made of pixels--tiny little dots, each a different color, which, when viewed as a whole, make up an image. When you print that image out, the more pixels you can cram into the same amount of space (called resolution), the more detail your image has. Basically, the higher the resolution (measured in dots-per-inch or dpi), the more detail your image is capable of holding.

Here is a simulation of an image at 3 different resolutions, from highest on the left to lowest on the right:

Setting the resolution of an image in Photoshop (or other image editing program) has zero effect on the size the image appears on screen. Zip. Zilch. It's only the pixel dimensions that matter when you're looking at a picture on a monitor (unless, of course, you zoom in or out, but that's cheating). On the web, your computer will show the image at the full size--each and every pixel. So if you want to change the size of the image on the screen, you need to change the actual pixel dimensions. So the conventional wisdom that says to set your images at 72dpi for the web actually has no effect at all! (By all means, test it out if you don't believe me.)

On the other hand, when your image prints out, the printer isn't concerned with the overall number of pixels in the image. It's just concerned with how close together (ie. the resolution) it should print them. Of course, the more pixels you have to start with, the more you can raise the resolution and still have a high-quality print.

So keep this in mind when your sizing your images for output--screen or print.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Improve your photography with classical art

This is a nice little tutorial that uses Photoshop's "Match Color" command in a creative way to alter the color of your photographs to match the color scheme of another piece of art. It's almost certainly not what the programmers at Adobe intended for this command, but one of the things I like about this approach is that you can discover a whole new way of looking a photograph you had otherwise discounted entirely. Via Flickr's Photoshop Support group.

Monday, November 2, 2009

And now for something completely different...

You have Ivy to thank for this one. Yes, it's a little OT, but c'mon! How do you not love this?!

How to Browse without Leaving a Trace

Turns out there's more to it than clearing your cache and deleting your cookies. Lifehacker explains the details at:

E-Book Readers

Seems like E-book readers are becoming all the rage these days. I've been seeing them increasingly on the Amtrak train I take between Philly and DC, but not so many around campus. Given that Penn students seem fairly quick to jump on the hot-new-gadgets bandwagon (does anybody NOT have an iPhone around here?) it makes me wonder just how useful these devices will be to college students.

It seems like there are new models announced every day. In addition to the now-elderly-but-since-updated Sony e-book reader (we have one of the original model in the lab if you'd like to try it out), there's the various flavors of Amazon's kindle, Barnes and Noble's Nook, ASUS's recently announced reader to be released in March, and more.

Some libraries, both in the US and in the UK have been lending ebook readers to their patrons.

So my question is: Do you own one of these? Do you use or have you used one, and what for? And what were your impressions?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ryuneo Designs - the process

I love process, seeing the way a project goes from start to end, and artist Ryan Forshaw has made much of his process viewable -- at least in large discrete chunks, if not every step in between. Click on one of his projects here and watch a short slideshow of the progression of his beautiful work:

Lots of Photoshop posts lately? Yeah, I know. So sue me. I love Photoshop. If you've got some good links, let me know and I'll be glad to post them, too.