Archive for October, 2007

Halloweenie Roast

I admit it, I’ve never really been one for celebrating Halloween (or for that matter, a lot of other holidays like Columbus Day and Valentine’s Day). In fact, there’s only one real “tradition” that I have around this time of the year - listening on the radio for the annual rebroadcast of something that happened around 55 years ago. The scene is like this:

The Armed Forces Network decided to send some of their correspondents into the Frankenstein Castle in Darmstadt, Germany. While in there, with the commentators already nervous about being in this deserted castle at midnight, a noise suddenly was heard in the vicinity of the microphones. What the reporters didn’t realize was that this was all a setup; the statue was set to fall while they were in there. However, because of this, one of them wound up fainting due to the shock of the event.

All of this caused calls to flood the switchboard in Frankfurt; in the end, they all got out of the castle safely, and it lived on as a piece of radio lore to this day. The station that I listen to the most often (a talk radio station, with a nice chunk of news in the morning and the afternoon), usually plays it on Halloween night, but since they have a basketball game tonight, it was played last night. The only odd thing is that this year, since the time change doesn’t happen until this weekend, it wasn’t dark when it was played; it just didn’t seem the same…

It’s out there on the ‘net, but I’m not exactly sure where to find it; I found a site that has a torrent of it, but apparently there’s a TV station that has it available for downloading. I’ll do some more digging to see if I can find it; I ought to be able to ;)

Incidentally, something that I don’t get about Halloween (and, again, quite a few holidays) is people decorating for the occasion. We almost put up decorations (a single banner), but that didn’t last too long because the wind blew one of the thumbtacks away, and then I made the observation that nobody would see it anyway.

As far as trick or treating goes, the last time I did it was over 10 years ago; I think I just put on a pair of glasses with some covering on it. However, the one trick or treating I remember was one where I was let loose on the streets of the town I live nearby to and allowed to walk the streets. If I remember correctly, I had a radio and was listening to the football game (Packers v. Bears), or was getting updates from someone. Since this was before the days of cell phones, I had to walk quite a distance, all the way over to where my cousin was living at the time. There are two details that I really do remember - first is that the clock on the bank hadn’t been reset for the end of daylight saving, and the other is the fallout shelter sign that was in the building where my cousin lived.

The other thing about trick or treating was that there was one neighbor of ours (not next door, but fairly nearby) who would put out food for folks to pick up; they always made sure that we got down there to pick up some candy from them. Luckily, though, we never had anyone ever stop by us to ask for candy; I know, lucky, eh? ;)

Comments (1)

Host images online for free? Yes, you can!

Yesterday, I noticed a comment on Snoskred’s blog from River, who was asking about how she could get her photos on the web for everyone to see. Having been in a similar position (and not wanting to use the space that I was given by my ISP for obvious reasons), I am aware of the various free image hosts that are out there.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I am aware of some others thanks to certain sites which I will not disclose for other obvious reasons. ;)

So, I’ll show you four of the more common free image hosts out there, and give you some tips on how to make your images “ready” for the web.

Free Image Hosts

There are, surprisingly, quite a few free hosts out there - some of them require you to register an account, but I’ve found that it’s quite common for them to allow you to upload images without registering.

ImageShack

The shot was taken in IE, thus all the ads

The host that I personally have the most experience with is ImageShack. They allow you to upload images and, more recently, video, for free and without registering. They allow you to upload images that are up to 1.5 megabytes in size (that’s about the same size as an unedited picture from a 3-megapixel camera in high quality).

You also have the option of allowing them to resize the image for you, however, I recommend that you do it on your own, because most of the time, these image resizers online will cause the image to not look that great. Also, if you do it on your own, you have control over the size of the image you want to use.

With ImageShack, all you will see when you go to their page is simply the upload box. To upload a picture, simply click on Browse and find the picture you want to upload. Now, I will warn you that I have spotted that there is an option to have it pop up a window with jobs from CareerBuilder - I’d recommend that you just turn that off since nobody likes popups anyway :)

R. Hymes - that famous receiver…

When the image is uploaded, you’re presented with a set of options for displaying the image. The one I used most often was the direct link to image as I was displaying full images, and didn’t necessarily want to have the thumbnail showing. If you want to give the link to friends, or link to it from a site without the image appearing, then you’d use the “Show image to friends” address, second from the bottom.

Then, you can link to it like this - <a href=”{Show Image to Friends address}”>LINK TEXT</a>

While it’s not required that you register, there are a number of advantages you receive if you do register - the first of which is that you don’t need to write down all of the image links you’ve created. The images you’ve uploaded (including the ones you did prior to registering) are stored for you and can be retreived from the My Images panel. You can also mark images as public or private (note that even if you do mark it as private, you can still link to it at will).

Photobucket

Apparently there’s a Spider-Man ad blitz on…

If I had to guess, Photobucket would be the most popular free image host (either that or Webshots, which I will not cover here). However, I have absolutely no experience with the actual site, other than viewing photos and videos on it. The biggest reason is that they require you to register to upload pictures.

That being said, I have not heard a bad thing at all about them, so I would definitely still recommend them for hosting your photos.

jpghosting.com

jpghosting. Nothing really witty comes to mind…

This and the next host are two of the lesser-known free picture hosts out there, but their features are pretty good on their own right. jpghosting.com allows you to upload pictures without registering, but right now they aren’t allowing it (probably because of someone abusing the system).

pix . nofrag . com

The spaces are part of the name

While not many people know about it, pix . nofrag . com is probably the easiest free host to use. As you can see, when you go to their site, all you have is the image upload page, along with the terms of use. No bells, no whistles, nothing asking you to register or sign in. Like ImageShack, image uploading is the same - browse to the picture and click Upload. This will bring you to a page like this -

R. Hymes again? It was in the folder I was looking in.

- where you are given options for showing the picture in various ways, but a critique of their service would be that they don’t offer proper HTML links, rather only links for forums. If you’re comfortable with converting Forum code to HTML, then definitely use this service. Otherwise, you will be much better served by using ImageShack or Photobucket.

This is, by no means, an exhaustive list of all the free image hosting solutions out there. If you search for free image host, you’ll find hundreds of thousands of sites with the service.

Optimizing Images for the Web

However, there is an important thing to know about all of these services - they’re not big on images that are viewed by tons of people every day. For that reason, it is important that you optimize your images for uploading on the internet. An added side benefit is that folks who want to view your images will be appreciative of your efforts to ensure that they have a quick loading image.

Here are some quick tips to make your image good for the web:

Resize

If you have a camera that has come out in the last few years and takes pictures at a size of 3 or 4 megapixels, then you are probably aware of the fact that the images don’t usually fit full-size on your monitor (even if you have a widescreen monitor, I might add ;) )

As a general rule, if you are posting an image to be seen full-size on a website or blog, it should be no wider than about 650 or 700 pixels. If it is any wider, then you start to have the issues with scroll bars appearing at the bottom of the screen.

Depending on the program that you use, the method for resizing images will vary from one program to another. Personally, I use Paint Shop Pro 8 (I’ve linked to a review since it is well out of date now), and you have the option of resizing by exact pixels, or by percentage. There are also a number of options for how the image is resized. I generally stick to Smart Size, but play around with it and find the one you like :)

If you are uploading images that you will link to with either a thumbnail or a text link, then you can get away with resizing it to around 1024×768. I use that setting for the pictures I post on the weeks in walks. Most of the free image hosts will automatically resize photos which are too big for your monitor to fit, thus removing most of the scrolling issues; you can view the full size image usually by clicking on the picture.

Optimize

If you’re using a decent picture editor, you will have the option of optimizing the file size of the image you create. This is something that you need to do, especially when uploading images to the web. I’ve become quite finnicky about the size of images since I’ve moved to a self-hosting option, as I am aware that there is limited bandwidth available.

My goals are, for the week in walks posts, to keep the image size between 100 and 200 kb. I know I can get away with the images being that size because I upload them and then post as thumbnails. However, when I want to display an image full-size, then my goal is to keep the file size around 50 kilobytes.

Now, there is a definite trade-off in quality when you start to do this optimization - the images will start to pick up “artifacts” if you are working in JPEG format, or if you are working in other formats, you may start to lose colors.

Converted to compression level 15; see below for size

For example, I’ve taken this image, cropped it from my camera’s original size down to 1600×1200 and saved it at compression level 15; yes, I’m breaking a rule here :). Paint Shop Pro has 99 levels of compression to choose from, and the image size gets smaller as you go up the scale. Here are a few examples of the file size (with “Exif data” turned off - on this picture, that would add around 60kb of data to the photo), along with the time that it would take to load on a dial-up connection -

Compression
Level
File Size
(bytes)
Time to load
(seconds)
1 1,305,142 233
15 302,576 54
20 247,073 44
30 126,983 23
40 74,548 13
50 57,948 10
60 49,315 8.8
70 44,113 7.9
75 42,134 7.5
80 40,353 7.2
85 38,741 6.9
90 37,160 6.6
99 34,676 6.2

As you can see, as you go up in the compression levels, there isn’t much of a saving of file size, at the great cost of quality. Have you ever seen an image in compression level 99? If not, you may want to cover your eyes. This is the same exact picture as is above, just a bit more…compressed.

You didn’t cover your eyes, did you? ;)

I think the highest compression I’ve ever used on an image that wasn’t purposely for confusing scammers was around a 35 or 40; the drop-off in quality beyond there, for what is really little savings in the way of size, isn’t worth it.

Crop

Sometimes, there isn’t a point to resizing a complete image when all you may want is just the picture of the airplane in the middle. In that case, you can crop the picture to the size you want. One of the cool things about Paint Shop Pro is that you can give it a size and force it to keep the image at that aspect ratio; I’ve used this quite a bit, including when I was making the header images for this site.

All in all, to get images that look good and are of good size, it’s usually a case of trial and error. In the past, if the first resize to 1/2 image size doesn’t work, I’ll use different values, and some trickery to reduce the size, without sacrificing quality.

Further Reading

This week, we have another split subject; while I’m looking at image hosting, Snoskred revisits blog stats, and compares stat counters to server stats - The Truth About Blog Stats Revealed - Tech Tuesday. I’ve had the server stats activated on here, and I have to say that the difference between the counters and the server logs is stunning!

Previously in the Tuesday Think Tank

21st August: RSS
14 Reasons Readers Unsubscribe From Your Blog
Tuesday Think Tank: All About RSS

28th August: Blog Templates
Blog Design - Open Your Eyes.
Demystifying Blogger Template Editing

4th September: Nofollow
Spam, Spiders And Do Follow, Oh My!
Say No! to Nofollow

11th September: Site Meters
Do NOT Rely On Your Site Meter.
Track Your Visitors with Google Analytics

18th September: Technorati
Technorati - Sending Out An SOS
The Ups (and Downs) of Technorati

25th September: Google Reader
Google Reader Can Make Your Life Easier - Here’s How.
Improving your Google Reader Experience

2nd October: HTML
Basic HTML for Bloggers.
Some HTML Tips & Tricks

9th October: Time Management
Time Management - Tuesday Think Tank
Use Google Calendar to organize your life

16th October: One last Blogger Thing
Move your Blogspot blog to your own Domain with ease

23rd October: Skype
All About Skype - Tech Tuesday
Skype - A phenomenal tool for communication

Over to you

Do you use a different image host to the ones I have listed above? What do you think about their services?

In case you’re wondering, I know I didn’t mention Flickr. That is a great service for hosting pictures as well, however that’s almost another post in itself. Another issue I have is that they convert everything to JPEG format - when I was making the US Blogs image, this conversion actually increased the size of the file by some ten times!

Comments (12)

This was the Week that Was, Vol. 19

The update this week is going to be quite short as I have only begun to scratch the surface of my reader - marking all read really helps sometimes, especially when you have 1000+ unread in one folder alone. I still have a couple hundred unread articles as it is though.

Posts I liked -

  • Mr. Brown (of the Mr. Brown show) has a couple of excellent Thai commercials posted on his site - Cheers Beer - which is a lighter commercial; and Thai Insurance - which are very touching ads.
  • There’s finally a PageRank update going on! Andy has some details, and so does Meg. Personally, I got a 4, and I am very happy with that - it’s an improvement over what my old rank was. :)
  • Tay had a great article recently about advertising on your blog; I hadn’t linked to it yet, but since I’m kind of short on things to link to, here ya go ;) - Start making more money and sell your own ads. I think as long as you do it with nofollow on, you’re ok with Google.

New blogs this week in the US Blogs community at BumpZEE -

Keywords -

  • kick someone out of a group skype chat - you can’t, unfortunately. You’ll have to start a new chat with just the folks you want in that case
  • how to dress like a doctor - Um, buy a stethoscope and put it around your neck? A white lab coat won’t hurt either. ;)
  • 747-400b - I’d love to ride in one of these one day. Either that or an A380 :)
  • chasers where the bloody hell are you - Why aren’t their spoof ads airing yet?
  • sephyroth google blogger robots.txt - You do know I have a site search here, right? It’s not the greatest, but surely it’s better than google, hehe ;)

This week around the blog, I talked about What’s next for me, along with a site you all need to check out. Also, I dragged out the slow cooker and used some wine that I bought.

In the Tuesday Think Tank, the topic was Skype. Snos showed you how you can save tons of money by using Skype - All About Skype - Tech Tuesday, and I filled everyone in on the basics of installing, signing up and finding folks with Skype - A Phenomenal Tool for Communication.

Coming up this week. Well, I have no clue, I haven’t planned out my blog for the rest of the week; anyone have any ideas of what I could write about? I’ve got a list of things here; I’ll have to dig that out and see what I haven’t done yet… ;) However, NaBloPoMo starts on Thursday, and I’m in it officially this time.

Comments (2)

The Week in Walks, etc. Vol 14

Sunday, 21st October

Walking 21/10/07

An old jalopy goes past while I’m out walking; there were two of them, and really, the pictures weren’t that clear.

I went out to walk towards the end of the light for the day, but there was enough so that I didn’t need to use the head lamp too much. It was still on the warm side for the day, though.

Total distance: 5524 steps, 4.41km

Monday, 22nd October

Walking 22/10/07

The flash causes the rain to reflect into the lens. In the background, you can see the horses I walk past.

It rained the whole time while out walking; fortunately, this was the only day that it did rain this week while I was walking. I did something different - I didn’t carry my bag, instead taking my bottle of water in my orange windbreaker.

Total distance: 5537 steps, 4.42km

Tuesday, 23rd October

Walking 23/10/07

Remember the trees I mentioned ages ago? They’re still there.

Finally, a sunny day for a walk and I was going out before the sun was going down. It’s almost rare to do this now. I also took the opportunity to take a longer walk, up and around the parking lot. Interestingly, the kids who come out for the soccer are still showing up, their parents dropping and leaving them there.

Total distance: 7601 steps, 6.08km

Wednesday, 24th October

Walking 24/10/07

This is a view from the end of one of the disc golf holes; you can see how much more open the area is now that a lot of the leaves have fallen off of the trees.

Another sunny day, and another good walk; not much to mention, other than that it was a bit warmer and I decided to forgo the coat for the walk, and it was comfortable.

Total distance: 5529 steps, 4.42km

Thursday, 25th October

Walking 25/10/07

This is from the bench that was visible above; the pink is from sun refraction ;)

I went out a bit earlier and did a more straightforward route - not as much backtracking as I was a bit short on time since I had to go to the clinic to get some more medicine; another sunny day, but it was a touch cooler.

Total distance: 5271 steps, 4.21km

Friday, 26th October

Walking 26/10/07

I’m not a fan of graffiti on boxcars, but I like the message here :)

It was another gray day which started with rain while I was on the way to my volunteering; however, I had some time to sit around before walking down there and it wound up finishing before I went over. The main walk was also in gray conditions, and involved me going off of the path when a fella came down the path wearing all black; not good to wear that when the sun is going away, ok?

Distances:

1.38PM - 1268 steps, 1.25km
5.00PM - 3523 steps, 2.81km
6.13PM - 9384 steps, 7.50km
end of day - 9604 steps, 7.68km

Saturday, 27th October

Walking 27/10/07

Creepy, no? I’ll let you have a guess as to the origins of this picture. ;)

As I mentioned, it was a busy day, and I didn’t go out to walk until it was dark, but I had new batteries for my head lamp, so I had the option of more powerful light this time, but I chose to stick to the white light anyway. I also did the shortest walk I’ve done in quite a long time, since I was getting disoriented and going off of the path, almost as if I was drunk or something…

Total distance: 4573 steps, 3.65km


In other news, I’ve got the appointments for the therapy this week. Wednesday is going to be a long day, and one that could be, I am guessing, challenging and possibly intense. I also have my new chair put together and I am sitting on it; I almost did not get the chair that I was going to get, but the deciding factor wound up being one of whether the chair could lean back. This one can, and now I am using it (it also has a 15-year limited warranty, I’ll have to keep that in mind…)

As far as maximizing my use of the new space, I feel that I am more productive now, and it is a great thing, I think. :)

Comments (2)

A busy day…

I’ve had quite the busy day today with getting the house winterized and getting a new site up and running (along with getting a new chair, yay!), so I’m just getting around to posting now at 9pm, but I have a bit of a special treat for y’all today; proof that I won’t win any Photoshopping competitions anytime soon. OK, I did enter these into competitions against some great competition, and I am quite pleased with the work I put in on these.

I was reminded of this while going through some pictures and finding the base I used on the first picture; it was actually taken along the freeway in 2005; it’s up to you to determine what’s the shopped in parts, k? ;)

Hint: The plane wasn’t there originally.

This other photo was taken out of town. The change on this one is quite simple - the statue has been replaced, quite creatively (and almost straight! :) )

The Federal Reserve honors Captain Morgan? No way man!

As always like most of the time, clicking on the picture will bring up the full-size version. ;)

Now, the next task is to do a dry-run upgrade of WordPress, but I might just wait ’til tomorrow to do that one :)

I also have some more Photoshop specials that I’ve made (including one where trains moved into the Potomac River), but they’re either on a CD somewhere, or on another computer.

Comments

« Previous entries