Picasa

By Pete | @kingpetey | 04 Jun 2006

Digital photography has become so easy and cheap that if you’re like me I have hundreds if not thousands of photos on my computer. While Windows offers some basic photo viewing and editing options it doesn’t really allow you to touch up your photos to make them even better. One option is Google’s free photo editing program – Picasa 2 (

). When first installed it scans either your documents folder or hard drive for pictures. This can be annoying if you have graphics in your documents folder as you then have to remove them from Picasa. Unfortunately as many pictures and photos share the same file types it is very hard to distinguish them. Picasa allows you to do all the basic photo editing fixes such as removing red eye, straightening the photo, cropping and altering the colour/contrast. 

 

As well as these there are more advanced options for tuning the light, highlights, shadows and temperatures as well as a range of effects including sepia, black & white and tint. Editing photos is simple in Picasa, I usually use Adobe Photoshop or Macromedia Fireworks but these can be complicated especially with the range of options available for advanced users. While Photoshop gives you more control over the photo Picasa is easier for the average user.

 

Apart from the editing functions in Picasa, it makes a good photo viewer allowing you to zoom in and out of photos as well as setting up slideshows and timelines. Picasa is similar to iPhoto on OS X while I prefer the interface in iPhoto, Picasa is more responsive when moving through a large library. Picasa provides easy ways to share your photos as well as print them. There are also options for setting pictures as desktop and screensaver.

 

 

I found the batch operations to be very useful. With my cheap Kodak camera being able to correct the colour and contrast makes such a difference to the quality of my photos. If you don’t like any of the changes made by Picasa you can revert back to the original. Picasa will work with the majority of digital cameras and is available for Windows 2000/XP and now Linux. Overall Picasa is a feature rich program that is free and will cover all the basic needs for managing photos.

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"Source Radio has been the starting point for many rising stars but one show has stood out this year for its creative content and unique features. The Monday Night Show with Pete White, Ben Powell and Chris White has been on air since October every Monday night between 6pm and 8pm. The almost famous tag line “Power Pumping Passion” is one the defining points of the show."

We started the show simply out of curiosity for Source Radio and it was an instant hit because of the humour and entertainment we brought to the station. From early on we made an effort to discuss student issues on air where appropriate. In November we debuted our version of on air dating, people would send in profiles and we would read them out on air making the occasional joke. It worked really well and people found it really entertaining and we even matched some people up!

By December we had edited out our best bits and put them on the Internet for others to listen. The feedback we had was great, allowing people who hadn’t been able to listen to the show experience it as well giving our regulars some of the funniest moments again. The editing wasn’t easy and took hours to shift through our previous shows but it was well worth it just for the exposure it gave us.

January came and we wanted to promote the show even more as well as cover more student issues. This is when I came up with the idea to invite the Vice Chancellor Madeline Atkins on the show for an interview. She accepted our invitation and we started to plan questions and features. When we told the rest of the stations members about the VC interview we had planned there was almost a sense of shock but they realised a great opportunity for the station. This VC interview was not the only planned content for the show we also had an exciting new game show. Being a student station we thought we could push the boundaries slightly more than other stations, which is why we thought of “Feed Chris”, each week we would ask Chris three questions and a bonus question, for each question he got right he got a meal on Tuesday. If he got none of the questions right he didn’t get to eat! While of course he never went through with it and the questions were rigged against him it provided a lot of spontaneous entertainment.

Our first Interview that we mocked up was with Kiefer Sutherland (Jack Bauer from 24), being heavy 24 fans and the new series about to start we made a very funny interview with some sound clips from 24, the interview is still available online. We were also fortunate with the help of Bill Bennett to get an interview with Tim Westwood for the show when he was DJing in the SU. Bill got Westwood to “pimp” a toy car as well as asking him about Coventry and the Students, the Westwood interview is also available online. In February our Vice Chancellor interview came round, we spoke for about an hour covering a range of topics including the new student centre, crime on campus and the future of the University. We had some great feedback about the interview from students and staff as well as over 600 downloads for listen again of the show. The show still continues on a Monday Night and has recently played sets from this year’s Trance Energy Festival in Holland. You can listen in between 6-8 on www.sourceradio.co.uk, if you want to listen again to any of the interviews or best bit segments visit www.imafish.co.uk.

 

*This article was featured in Coventry University's Source Newspaper in the March Issue.

One way to make money on your website is through adverts, Google’s adverts are used across the web and provide a good revenue source whether you’re a blogger or small business. These short tips will introduce you to Google’s Adsense program and help maximize potential revenue for your site. 

1. Know how Google ads work. Google’s adverts bring much better results than normal advertising because each advert is targeted to the content of that page. For instance you might have a webpage about food, Google would index your page then target adverts based on that content. Adverts may range from catering services to supermarkets; some may be more relevant than others, the key is to get adverts that your visitors are interested in.

2. Are Google ads right for you? If your site already sells a product or service you most likely don’t want adverts, as they will attract possible customers attention away from your site. If you’re a Blogger there are other ways to make money from affiliate programs, sponsorship, donations and merchandising. You might want to consider a couple of these revenue ideas in order to make money from your site. Cafepress is one company that allows you to create your own products with customized logos and writing.

3. Sign up for Adsense In order to qualify for Google’s Adsense program you need to make sure you site conforms to their program policy, you shouldn’t have a problem unless your site contains hardcore pornography, illicit drugs, hate crimes or other illegal activity. If you do have any problems applying either check the content of your site or contact Google.

4. Know how and where to place ads. Placing adverts is very simple but it is very important you get the adverts in the right place. Within your Adsense account you can choose the layout and customize the style of the advert, this produces a piece of JavaScript that you then cut and paste into your webpage where you want the advert to show. Placing your adverts on the right part your page is important so that people looking at your site will see the advert. Putting adverts in with your page content is a lot more effective than putting them in with navigation or at the edges of the page. On the other hand putting ads too intrusively into your page will put people off, some sites use ads in such a way that they have to write “Story continues below advert”, if the advert is that big then you might want to try a smaller advert. If your advert is in the middle of a large chunk of text then the reader is going to come across your advert as they read your page, doing this also has the added effect of breaking up areas of text.

Adsense also offers the ability to add Google search to your site, sometimes adverts simply don’t work and with Adsense for search you get paid when someone clicks on a sponsored advert when they search for something. At the top of the ImAFish forum I have put a Google search box, I have then been advertising this and trying to get my users into the habit of using it to search Google rather than their normal means.

5. Placing ad’s on content rich pages. Putting adverts on pages full of navigation links won’t normally give good-targeted adverts. A good example of this is the front page of the ImAFish forum as it is simply links to other forums on more specific categories. When Google can’t find an advert to place on a page it will display a public service advert that you will not get paid for. The same could be said if you had an empty page with just adverts on, as Google can’t find anything to display, public service ads will be shown. You may have problems with adverts on image rich pages, I had some adverts on my gallery at one time and found I had a lot of public service adverts as Google can’t analyze the contents of an image unless it has meta data associated with it. Try to avoid placing adverts in frames, as the ad may not correspond to the content in the other frame.

6. Attracting people to your site. The more people you have visiting your site the more people that are likely to click an advert! That’s why good careful marketing of your site and its content is important. There are a lot of simple free ways to get people on your site, adding your site address to your email signature a simple one or as I like to do put new features or content from my site on my MSN name. Be careful not to spam people, as it won’t give your site a good name. You can add your site to various directory websites for instance the open directory project dmoz.org has many categories you can add your site too. For Bloggers sites such as blogdex.net/ and technorati.com are good directories while notification services such as pingoat.com are useful for pinging other directories to get your Blog noticed.

7. Good Site Content The best way to attract people to your site and to get relevant adverts is your sites content. Good site content though will not guarantee relevant adverts. On the forum we had a problem of just getting adverts for Blog services rather than the content in our forum posts, this was mainly because of the word Blog in the navigation, unfortunately the only way round this was to remove the word from the navigation. If there are certain URL’s you think are competing with you’re content rather than being useful then you can block them in the “Competitive Ad Filter” in your Adsense account.

8. How much will I get from Google Ads? This depends on a number of things, the position of the ads on your page, number of visitors you get, relevancy of ads and how well paid each advert is. With Adsense each advert is not worth the same, you could have one advert that would give you 10cents then another may give you $1 per click. It depends on the demand for that type of advert, for instance if a number of companies are competing for advertising space on loans the company offering the most per click will get their adverts displayed first.

Unfortunately Google does not let you see how much an Advert is worth so it is hard to produce content aimed at those sorts of adverts. Adsense has the ability to put your earnings straight into your bank account so there is no messing about with cheques in the post.

9. Managing your Adsense account. Keeping track of your Adsense account is important, some people like to check their Adsense account daily (a bit like counting your money) others check it less frequently. I like to check a few times a week but if I’m running a feature on the site such as this article I will check more often. It may be obvious but make sure your details are up-to-date and Google are always bringing out new ways for you to make money so keep checking the Adsense site.

10. Keep monitoring your adverts. If you have certain adverts doing well keep a close eye on them as they may not keep doing well, a change in your navigation could change the content of the adverts so keep an eye on the adverts across your site. On Blogs and Forums where the content is constantly changing from user posts and comments you might even get some adverts you weren’t expecting. Channels are a good way of checking certain pages and advert layouts (are certain adverts on a page doing better than other ads?). Adsense also has an affiliate program so if you do want to give it a try you can with the banner below. Hopefully this article has given you an insight into how Adsense works and whether it will be useful for your site.

Mac Mini/OSX

By Pete | @kingpetey | 25 Feb 2005

I have wanted a Mac (www.apple.com/uk) for some time now but could never justify spending £550 for the cheapest eMac. When the Mac Mini (www.apple.com/macmini) was announced in mid January the Mac was finally more affordable and soon after the launch date I ordered one.

Apple say 3-4 weeks building and delivery online but mine came within 5 working days which was a pleasant surprise (ordered Monday afternoon came 9am Friday morning). The Mac Mini comes without a monitor, keyboard or mouse so in essence its just the desktop box.

The first thing you notice is its size, I have seen plenty of pictures on the net but its not until you hold one that you realise how small it actually is. I have had a Shuttle PC (shuttle.com) for quite some time yet the Mac Mini brings a whole new meaning to small desktops.

All of my Mac Mini Photos:

Photos

(When I refer to a PC in this article I mean a computer running either Windows or Linux, when I say Mac I'm referring to my Mac Mini.)

Technical Specification

1.25ghz PowerPC G4.
512mbs DDR Memory.
ATI Radeon 9200 32mb Graphics Card.
40 GB Hard Drive.
CDRW/DVD Drive.

(Complete specs)

By default the Mac Mini doesn't come with 512mb of memory but for any heavy handed multi-taskers such as myself it is recommended to upgrade from the standard 256mb.

There is a slightly more powerful Mac Mini available (as shown on the specs link above), with a larger hard drive but I'm not sure if the processing power would make a lot of difference and I already have an external hard drive with the majority of my data on.

As well as being small the Mac Mini is almost silent in fact my external hard drive drowns out any noise from the Mac and even that is fairly quiet. If it wasn't for the start-up jingle or the white power LED it would be hard to tell the machine was actually running.

OSX

Looking at the specs the Mac Mini doesn't look as powerful as similarly priced systems from PC manufacturers but after using the system for a while you realise that you cant compare a Mac's hardware to a PC's hardware like for like.

As OSX is made specifically for certain hardware, programs tend to run faster (Rather than Windows or Linux made for a range of compliant processors and motherboards etc), this along with the way OSX caches running programs you get what seems as programs running just as fast as they would on higher specification PC hardware.

On the down side open up too many programs at once and you soon run out of memory. Even with 512mbs once you have your web browser, mail client, audio manager, office suite and messenger program running your soon run out of memory.

When first booting your Mac Mini you are asked to fill in a few details about yourself and you get asked some basic questions to help configure your Mac. This is also the first time you see some of the 3D effects used. Each screen of the form is on the side of a cube, every time you press next the screen animates the cube turning. While its nothing really important its something your don't see in Windows or Linux.

The different animated effects go through all different areas of the OS from icon zooming in the dock to the minimising of windows.

The dock is where you find most of your common day applications, if you have come from Windows or Linux then its quite a different way of doing things. In a way its an interactive quick launch bar, interactive because it tells you which programs are running. Any programs you minimise go to the right side of the dock along with your recycle bin.


The Mac screen has a constant menu bar at the top, this changes based on which application you have on top. If you are on the desktop you have the finder menus and if you are in iTunes then you then have the iTunes menus at the top and so on.

By default on the menu bar there is the time, language and volume control, this gets added to for instance by plugging in a Bluetooth device you get a little Bluetooth icon with various options.

It takes a bit of getting used to as you expect the menus to be at the top of the application window rather than the top of the screen though once you familiarise yourself it adds to standardising the layout.

Another nice feature of OSX is Expos? which can be best described as an organisational tool for your desktop. By pressing f9, f10 or f11 you get to see different views of your desktop and the windows on it. For instance f9 zooms out all the windows on your desktop allowing you to select one which is then zoomed back in on. F11 on the other hand clears all the windows to the edge of your desktop.

There is a nice Quicktime video on the Apple site which explains this better. Expose Video.

Burning CDs was very easy and fast on the Mac Mini. Audio CDs can be burnt in iTunes and data CDs can be done through dragging and dropping in the finder.

The final section I want to cover for OSX is the Finder, this is the square face icon found in the left of the dock and is sort of a ?My Computer? for OSX. Down the left are all your drives (including network), applications and documents then you get the contents displayed on the right.

Applications

The Mac Mini comes with a range of software including Apple Works 6 and iLife 04 and iLife 05 (05 comes on a separate DVD while 04 comes installed ? I'm guessing iLife 05 was finished after the Mac Mini's software image was made)

Out of the iLife suite I found iTunes and iPhoto to be the most useful. GarageBand, iDVD and iMovie are great if you have the time and creativity and they are easy to get to know for even someone with little prior experience.

I loaded up GarageBand and quickly produced something that most people would say sounded nothing like music. However it was fun to use and at least I was happy with my ?song?.

GarageBand comes with over a thousand different music samples, its then upto you how and where you position these on your score to compose a song. This can then be exported to iTunes and converted to an mp3 to send to your friends (or record studio executives).

iTunes has been a favourite of mine in Windows and I have used the store excessively. In Windows I always thought it didn't quite fit in with other programs but on the Mac it fits right in.

iTunes is one of the best audio players and managers for a number of reasons. First I like the way you can create as many play lists as you want (displayed down the left hand side). Then with the library at the top which is able to search through your music instantly.

That combined with the music store that lets me listen to music in OSX, Windows or Linux (through Crossover Office which is much better than any windows media based service can boast.

iPhoto was another program I enjoyed using, while it was a bit slow with my 2000+ photos, I found the enhance and crop tools very useful. I don't normally use photo organisational programs but because of the similar interface to iTunes it was easy to pick up.

There are a lot more comments I could make about the iLife suite but more detail would make this article longer than it already is.

I installed a few essential programs, one being Firefox and another Thunderbird. Not that there is anything wrong with Safari or Mail its just that I'm used to the Mozilla applications in Windows and Linux, making comforts such as favourites and mail boxes easy to import.

Firefox didn't work as well in OSX compared to Windows or Linux, for instance the middle mouse button would not open new tabs meaning you had to use the command key + left click. Not really a big issue and I believe its being fixed for Firefox 1.1.

Both Firefox and Thunderbird look at home in OSX, Thunderbird especially has a nicely polished design being uncluttered and simple.

I had a quick look through Appleworks 6 and wasn't too impressed though it has now been replaced by Apple's iWork this however did not get shipped with the Mac Mini. I use OpenOffice on my other machines so it was an obvious choice over the others just for compatibility purposes.

OpenOffice itself requires x11 to run and looks out of place (like most X11 applications in OSX) while it retained the functionality and was perfectly usable it didn't fit in. Fortunately I came across NeoOffice, an OSX specific of OpenOffice that cuts out the need for X11 and makes a good effort to make OpenOffice look nice (I'm writing this article in it currently).

NeoOffice is still in its beta stage, I have not seen any major problems though it can be ?laggy? at times. Even as a beta I would recommend NeoOffice over OpenOffice simply for the reason it fits in better yet providing the same functionality as OpenOffice.

Along with buying my Mac Mini I also got an Apple keyboard and mouse. The keyboard is fine and the main difference is in the command button which is used in a lot of cases as a ctrl replacement (in Windows) for short cuts such as copying, pasting and program menus. Some of the keys are in funny places, such as the @ and the ? have been swapped and the hash key has to be done through alt + 3.

The mouse on the other hand only has 1 button and no scroll wheel. While the lack of scroll wheel is slightly annoying for the majority of OSX apps the need for a right click button is minimal (If needed can be simulated with the ctrl button).

However in the case of NeoOffice and to a certain extent the Mozilla applications there is a greater need for the right click button. For instance on spelling mistakes in NeoOffice the right click is most useful for sorting out quick spellings (no excuse for the poor grammar in this article) or in Firefox viewing the properties of an image.

Most of these options are available in other menus but the right click menu just speeds things up. It wasn't long before I went back to my Microsoft Intelimouse though I could see the one button mouse being useful for people who do find two buttons confusing.

For my Mac to become a complete media PC one part was missing, a video player. OSX does come bundled with Quicktime and Windows Media Player is available for download however in order to to play a wider range of videos VLC is the best option. VLC comes with an OSX port that sits nicely into OSX and plays pretty much all types of common video files.

There is also DivX for Mac which includes the DivX player and a plugin for Quicktime. I preferred to use Quicktime where possible as it has a bigger bar for skipping through to specific parts of the video compared to VLC.

Video plug-ins for browsers was another area I was impressed, I installed Real Player then booted up Firefox and instantly I could listen to Radio 1 online. It was similar with WMP and the videos on Mp3.com and Quicktime for the new Star Wars trailer. This used to be a nightmare with Firefox in Linux (hours I spent trying to get Real Player working in SuSE and can also be a hassle in Windows.

Networking

Networking is similar to as in Windows and to some extent some Linux distributions (SuSE's YaST for instance) and if your getting settings through DHCP everything should work fine. OSX isn't full of conflicting networking wizards like Windows and (for me anyway) connecting to the network to get an Internet connection was easy.

Accessing files off a Windows machine was just as easy though if the file list in the Windows directory changed after viewing them I often had to remount the drive to see the changes. Network printing worked fine for my Epson printer but neither of my HP printers would work.

I have had a D-Link Bluetooth adapter for about 18 months and its hit or miss whether it works in Windows, sometimes you plug it in and it works with the D-Link drivers, other times it wants to use the Windows drivers. SuSE included support for it in 9.2 of their distribution though the functionality is limited.

On the Mac though it works straight out of the box. You plug it in, set a password and can then send and receive files or use a phone (tested with a Sony Ericsson K700i) as a remote control. There is no hassle, no installing drives, no hours of playing with settings it just works.

Conclusion

I have used so many different operating systems, from Windows, to Mandrake, to Red Hat, to SuSE and each has its various problems. OSX is based on BSD so if you look at the underlying file structure and console it shares a lot of similarities with Linux.

These similarities with Linux do give it a unique advantage as there are so many good programs available for X11 that the Mac can make available but OSX doesn't feel anything like Linux for the simple reason it takes so much hassle out of everything that Linux seems to add in.

Its so easy to get lost in getting things working or configured properly in Linux or Windows that you loose so much time that you could be using creatively. The Mac puts this back into the computer experience by taking out the hassle.

Most of all about the Mac Mini is that is looks cool, Apple didn't just bring out a desktop PC like everyone else they innovated to produce something that looks unique. Its the perfect size to pop into your bag and go to a friends house or to work and plug in an existing monitor, keyboard or mouse.

Mac Mini Photos

By Pete | @kingpetey | 20 Feb 2005

The following are some photos of my Mac Min.

Full size: Mac Mini

Front of the Mac Mini Box.

Full size: Mac Mini

Side of the Mac Mini box. Shows what is included in the iLife suite.

Full size: Mac Mini

Rear of the Mac Mini box. Shows simple installation instructions.

Full size: Mac Mini

Other side of the Mac Mini box.

Full size: Mac Mini

Inside the Mac Mini box.

Full size: Mac Mini

Taking off the top layer shows the Mac Mini itself.

Full size: Mac Mini

The bottom layer contains the power supply.

Full size: Mac Mini

The front of the Mac Mini with the slot loading DVD/CDRW drive. There is a power LED on the bottom right.

Full size: Mac Mini

The rear of the Mac Mini, connections from left to right ? power, 10/100base network, 56k modem, DVI (becomes VGA with supplied converter), USB 2, USB 2, Firewire, speakers/headphones. Above the power connection is the power switch.

Full size: Mac Mini

The top view of the Mac Mini when plugged in.

Full size: Mac Mini

The Mac Mini in size comparison with an Apple keyboard and a D-Link Bluetooth adapter.

Full size: Mac Mini

The Mac Mini again with a keyboard and Bluetooth adapter.

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