Tourist Remover

OK this made me laugh, don’t get me wrong, it appears to work and I having been a traveller I know what it’s like trying to get a photo of “just the view” and not the view AND the other 200 people walking in front of you. So the ability to remove moving objects such as tourists or passing cars from your photos would be a VERY good thing.

There are the usual gotcha’s. Like you need to take multiple photo’s of the same scene and it helps if the clouds don’t roll over head and change the lighting.

What the program does is blend the pics into a single composite photo without any interfering elements (that would be the aforementioned 200 people).

Head over to Tourist Remover and have a look.

It’s web based ( no installation) and it’s free. Cant do better than that.

Mozart’s Melody Machine

I have been fascinated with stochastic composition methods for a long time, there are some wonderful ideas and theories that I have seen or thought up over the years and it appears I am not alone. This comes from an article entitled Math Trek: Mozart’s Melody Machine by Ivars Peterson at Science News Online

The short version goes like this (but do read the article, it’s a ripper).

In the late 18th century in Europe Music Publishers vied with one another to print the works of the latest “hot” composer. One of the tricks of the trade to get the punters in was to publish systems that would allow any amateur to compose music without having to know anything about composition.

The London music publisher Welcker, for example, issued a “Tabular System whereby the Art of Composing Minuets is made so easy that any person, without the least Knowledge of Musick, may compose ten thousand, all different, and in the most pleasing and correct Manner.”

This is so cool. It seems that Mozart, Bach and others have all invented these musical dice games. And with New York getting ready for the 250th Anniversary “Mostly Mozart” Festival it seems like it might be a good time to have a look at Mozart’s games.

Mozart Transcript

RIP Syd Barrett

By now you will probably have heard that Pink Floyd’s legendary founder, Syd Barrett has died at his Cambridgeshire home.

Here is a quote from the New Music Express…

The singer, 60, who suffered from an LSD-induced breakdown while at the peak of his career in the Sixties, died last Friday (July 7). It has been reported that he died from complications related to diabetes, however, other reports suggest the cause of death was cancer.NME.COM – News – Pink Floyd legend Syd Barrett dies

There is a ton of “new” SYd footage out there now, but my favourite is courtesy of Bedazzled Pink Floyd on “Look of the Week” 1967 with Hans Keller berating them for being to loud. Not too long after this the band got David Gilmour as second guitar and within a year Syd had left (or the band left Syd). Saucerful of Secrets was released with only one Syd Barrett track and that was the end of his career with Floyd.

But not his influence, for me, Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” with Shine On You Crazy Diamond (their tribute to Syd) will always be their best album and I can still remember in the late Sixties listening to Piper at the Gates of Dawn and being blown away, Astromomy Domine is the piece that they play on “Look of the Week”. I would set the speakers on the stereo up and make sure that I was sitting precisely in the middle. So that I would hear everything exactly how They wanted me too. Listening to Syd’s guitar and wondering how the hell did he get it to sound like that.

Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd are one of the bands that helped shape my taste in music. The band and Sid maybe gone but the music and what I learnt from them about the power of sounds I still use today.

Over at Sharpeworld there is a link to peter whitehead’s experimental film featuring some footage of Pink Floyd’s first recording session, I dont know avout the movie, but the band sound great.

Nasa – Solid Rocket Booster Video

This is amazing. NASA engineers attached a camera to one of the Solid Rocket Boosters during last week’s shuttle launch. I believe that this is the first time they have ever done this. It is a rather interesting perspective of the launch!

http://mfile.akamai.com/18566/wmv/etouchsyst2.download.akamai.com/18355/wm.nasa-global/sts-121/right_forward_srb_camera.asx

If the link doesn’t work, just go to http://www.nasa.gov and look for the Solid Rocket Booster Video (Windows) there is a link from the main page (at least there was tonight)

Alert: We are talking about alerts

As some of you will know I am one of a trio of contributors over at the Duggup blog. The rationale is basically “live music isn’t dead… YET”. Anyway, running this new site is producing some amazing results.

Not the least of which is, I wrote a post about an Italian musician last Sunday and by 6:00pm he had left a comment that he was “indeed singing in English” (read the post). Now that’s about an elapsed time of 30 hours. So the question I was left with was “How did he know that unadvertised and obscure website halfway around the world had written a review of his music”?

It’s a ripper little question and I think I have the answer to it here and needless to say Google appears in it somewhere (you sort of knew it would).

The Short version:
Google Alerts lets you set up Google searches.
When new “hits” to those searches are posted on the Internet, Google Alerts sends you an e-mail with a link to it.
As tools go it’ s a no brainer

The Long Version:

Let’s say you have a blog called “duggup” (oh look, there’s one I prepared earlier)

  • Step 1. Go to http://news.google.com
  • Step 2. Look down the left side of the page for “News Alerts.” and click on it (there is a little envelope icon)
  • Step 3. Add the “keywords” you want to be told about. I am using “duggup” {I use quotes around the search}
  • Step 4. Choose the type “News & Web” from the drop-down menu
  • Step 5. How often do you want a to be told about a “hit”. Lets try “As it Happens” from the next drop down menu
  • Step 6. Add your e-mail address and click “Create Alert”

That’s it, from now on, it just works (well that’s the theory).

Now here is a thought, if the search you are setting up is likely to generate a ton of information coming at you regularly, consider setting up a GMail account and using it to bear the brunt of the it. Leave a comment if you need an invite)

Have fun, the uses of this are really only limited by your imagination. AND yes I wll have an inbox with a bunch of links to this post in about 24 hours. I will paste it in as an update when it arrives.

Alerts ThumbnailUPDATE: The Alert arrived at 10:29am on Sunday… about 30 hours. Click on the picture to see what it looks like in Gmail.

Hidden data in Microsoft Word documents

It must have been the week for it. The most popular support question I had last week (other than the perennial “How do I make my machine go faster?”) is about the Track Changes settings in Word.

CNET News.com had an article back in January 2006 entitled Editing tips from the NSA (National Spooks Academy?) which detailed some of the bigger and better oopses that had been found and a 13 page PDF that the NSA (No Spying On Americans?) with the catchy title “Redacting with Confidence: How to Safely Publish Sanitized Reports Converted From Word to PDF”.

So what’s the actual problem here?

Firstly, if you send your e-mail business letters, resumes and personal documents as Word documents, you may be telling people things that wouldn’t really want to have out there. Unless you take extra steps, recipients of Word documents can easily see items deleted or modified.

For example, how about that report you sent to the client? Inside it you originally had the real budget figures. You changed that to the marketing figures but the client may now know what you really are charging. Hidden within that letter was your original wording. Microsoft Word dutifully saved it all. And your client doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to find it.

Anybody who uses Word risks exposing sensitive information. Word inserts metadata (information about data) to help identify author names, document titles, keywords, print and save dates, and names of people who have reviewed and saved a document. Metadata can also spill the beans about your place of business: your company or organization’s name, the name of the network server or hard drive on which the document is saved and any comments added.

Some of this data is easily seen in Word. And some can be viewed only by opening the document in a specialised program. Regardless, the data is there.

Why? Well metadata is useful when multiple people are working on one document. Let’s say you create a document and send it to your boss for approval. You’ll probably want to track changes that were made. However, it could be disastrous if others discover the information. Imagine submitting a business proposal with varying figures (written as comments) on “nonnegotiable pricing.”

Hey, if you have never run into this problem, don’t worry too much. Bitform studied Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on the websites of several large American companies (now remember this is the stuff that you and I can happily download just by clicking the link). and Bitform was able to identify thousands of user names from these documents. Privacy act ? what privacy act.

Using Office 2003 or Office XP? Microsoft have an AddIn for you to

Remove Hidden Data
. With this add-in you can permanently remove hidden data and collaboration data, such as change tracking and comments, from Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint files.

But for those of us not on the Microsoft latest and greatest BETA upgrade path and still using 2000 ( and quite happily I might add) we have been forgotten. But here are a few things that you can do.

Turn off Fast Save. This feature speeds up saving a document by saving only changes made to a document. But ( and here is where the fun begins) text that you delete from a document may still remain. Microsoft recommends turning off this feature to eliminate any chance of deleted text remaining in the document.
Click Tools, then Options. Click the Save tab. Clear the “Allow fast saves” check box and click OK.

You can remove personal information from a document when you save it. In Word 2000, click Tools, the Options. Select the User Information tab. Clear the information in Name, Initials and Mailing Address and click OK.

Turn off the Track Changes tool. In Word 2000 and earlier versions, click Tools, Track Changes, Highlight Changes. Click to clear the check mark in the “Track Changes while editing” box.

You can tell if the Track Changes feature is on by looking at the status bar (located at the bottom of every document). When Track Changes is enabled, TRK appears in the status bar. When Track Changes is disabled, TRK is dimmed.

IMPORTANT. Track Changes must be disabled before writing the document. Otherwise, any changes made will not be removed.

If this really worries you, consider dropping Word and move over to Open Office. I did, I really like the new version 2.