Plant Design Awards: Special Honors, Outstanding Strip Location: Lapels Dry Cleaning


If a Photo Is Worth 1,000 Words, Vine Gives Tweeters at Least 6,000

While Twitter allows users to communicate in 140 characters or less, its new app Vine extends and enhances that brevity while retaining the social networking roots of Twitter.

So what is Vine, exactly? It’s a service that lets you take super short video clips and share them with the world of Vine users. Plus, it lets you connect Vine to your Twitter feed so that you can tweet your Vine videos to your Twitter followers — but you don’t have to use Twitter to use Vine.

6 Seconds? Are You Kidding?

Before you really think about it — or experience it — 6 seconds seems far too short to be useful at all; however, it’s quite a long time in practice. Since the average attention span of humanity has been shrinking every time a person looks at a smartphone screen, 6 seconds might be the new length of a sitcom by the middle of 2013. If Two And A Half Men were posted on Vine each week, I’d still be a fan.

Joking aside, Vine says that its GIF-like video posts are all about abbreviation.

“They’re little windows into the people, settings, ideas, and objects that make up your life. They’re quirky, and we think that’s part of what makes them so special,” Dom Hofmann, Vine cofounder and general manager, explains on the company’s blog.

How quirky and how special? Well, that remains to be seen. Some posts are quirky and some are special, and some of the posts I viewed seemed so bright and fast and jerky that they made me shy away from focusing my eyes for fear that doing so would induce a seizure.


Preview in a Browser?

While Twitter can be functional without an iPhone — or any smartphone — Vine is really useful only if you have an iPhone and you installed the Vine app. Otherwise, you don’t yet have any real ability to discover Vine videos. The only discovery conduit is through the app itself.

Once you download the app, you’re prompted to create a profile. Like Twitter, you need the profile so you can follow other Vine users, comment on their Vine posts, and connect the Vine service to your Twitter account. In fact, you can sign into Vine with your Twitter account and then grant Vine the ability to send posts to Twitter. Some early users had some trouble logging in, but this may have been due to a massive blast of people trying out Vine all at once. For me, it was seamless and easy.

Finding Vine videos, however, was easy but not particularly satisfying. As of right now, there’s a lot of dumb videos. Fortunately, there’s at least one editor on the Vine staff who creates Editor’s Picks, but that person still has to find cool stuff. A few thousand people liked a “Banana #magic” post by a guy named Dave, as did the “Editor” of Vine.

It’s basically a banana that incrementally disappears in slices really quickly. It’s not exactly magic, but it’s indubitably a banana, and for all you Twitter users out there, you can immediately see the connection of “#magic” with how the hashtag world of Twitter works.

The hashtags let you search on topics, or you can simply search for people you know, too. Try searching for Ian Padgham who made a Vine post about a staring contest that a) made me laugh out loud, albeit briefly, and b) made me realize that 6 seconds is quite a long time. He used the #comedy hashtag but did not mention “staring contest” at all in his brief description, which brings up another key point Vine: It’s currently undercooked.

Or perhaps that’s not quite fair. It’s certainly minimalistic. Either way, as near as I can tell, you can’t edit or delete any Vine post that you post live to the world. Once it’s there, it’s there forever. Unless you email the somebodies behind Vine, via the minimal Help page.

If you email them, well, who knows what will happen exactly or how quickly. So if you do a line drawing face on your belly button and film it in an argument with a piece of chocolate cake, don’t expect to retract it from the world anytime soon — or even when you sober up.

Along a similar line of thinking, there isn’t a way to send, show, or publish Vine content privately. If you create a Vine video and post it, it goes out to everybody on Vine. If you tweet it, Vine will create a short url, which will let people view your Vinevid in a minimalistic Web browser-based window.

Here’s my first one ever, and yes, that is my real voice with a real grunt, and while I wish I could edit it to sound smoother and slightly less harsh, it’s there forever: And sorry it’s not my belly button arguing with a piece cake. (I couldn’t get the lighting right and hold the iPhone while acting out the parts.)

But don’t let me shy you away from Vine — there are some very creative people out in the world, including this kid’s “HULK SMASH!!!!” vid:

How to Create Vine Videos

Fortunately, using Vine is intuitive and easy. To create a Vine video, you point your iPhone camera at something and touch the screen. While you’re touching the screen, Vine is recording. When you stop touching the screen, Vine stops recording.

This pause lets you cut to a new scene, cut to a new subject, or move an object. Touch the screen again, and you’re recording again. Stop touching, you pause, and you can switch scenes, subjects, or adjust your content. In this way, you can compress a concept that takes a lot more than 6 seconds . . . down into 6 seconds. So yes, there’s some brilliance built into Vine.

The down side is that Vine doesn’t let you do any retakes. If you get 5.5 seconds shot perfectly — but then screw up the last half-second — you’re stuck with it . . . or you have to start over and get it all right in one (albeit potentially staged and fragmented) take.

Still, there’s something cool going on with Vine. At the very least, some creative Twitter users will use Vine to add thousands of words into their short Twitter tweets — via a Vine vid. For everyone else, well, it’s kind of like most social media apps . . . it could explode into something amazing or get displaced by an app that gives you 9 seconds.

Sports fans prefer turning to their phone to access sports scores

Not knowing the scores of important sporting events can be nerve-wracking to sports fans, so many turn to their electronic devices to put their mind at ease. Nielsen reports that nearly 60 percent of U.S. smartphone and tablet owners access sports scores on their mobile devices each day. In the case of smartphone owners, 24 percent say they look up scores at least two times each day. Smartphones, along with laptops, are unsurprisingly the preferred method of finding scores. Nielsen reports 16 percent of respondents use their smartphone most often to cheek scores, and 9 percent use a tablet.

Firefox OS to debut on two developer phones by Geeksphone next month

Mozilla today announced a preview version of its mobile operating system Firefox OS will arrive next month. A pair of smartphones built by little-known manufacturer Geeksphone will debut in February, but the smartphones are just developer previews of the upcoming HTML5-targeted OS.

Firefox OS will first be seen on an entry-level smartphone known as the Geeksphone Keon, and a more appealing midrange device known as the Geeksphone Peak.

The Keon features the trademark orange hue wrapped around a phone with a 3.5-inch HVGA screen. The phone also has a 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon Processor, 4GB of internal storage, 512 MB RAM, a 1,580 mAh battery, and a 3 megapixel camera. The 3G HSPA phone will be sold unlocked and have support for microSD, Wi-Fi N, light and proximity sensors, G-sensor, GPS, and microUSB connections.

The Peak has a white rear and black face with a 4.3-inch qHD screen. It features a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 512MB RAM, and 4GB of storage. It has the same support for sensors and connectivity options as the Keon, but the phone upgrades the battery to 1,800 mAh, and adds a 2 megapixel front-facing camera in addition to a rear 8 megapixel camera with flash. It will also be sold unlocked.

Mozilla will make its Firefox OS phones available in February. Anyone purchases the device will be among the first consumers or developers to experience the HTML5-based Firefox OS, and will have an early chance to build web applications optimized for Firefox OS.

Lenovo, Linux, and the Coming of the Chromebooks

However great the strides made by user-friendly distros such as Ubuntu and Mint in recent years, it seems fair to say that Linux has not yet enjoyed any sweeping successes on the desktop the way it has on the mobile side with Android.

That, however, may be changing.

Thanks once again to none other than Google, Linux is now appearing with increasing frequency in the PC lineups of hardware makers including not just Acer and Samsung — whose Chromebook is no less than Amazon’s top-selling laptop — but now Lenovo as well.

Schools may be the initial target for Lenovo’s machines, but given Samsung’s success, in particular, there’s no telling what may come.

Bottom line? It just may be “another nail in Microsoft’s coffin,” as it was recently put.

A Rapturous Response

Linux Girl

Now, mention the words “Microsoft’s coffin,” and you’ll soon get the rapt attention of more than a few Linux fans.

Attribute it to something Linux-based — such as Chrome OS — and you’ll have a party on your hands.

That, indeed, was pretty much the scenario down at the Linux blogosphere’s Punchy Penguin Saloon when news of Lenovo’s new machine arrived.

Linux Girl fired up her Quick Quotes Quill and recorded as much as she could.

‘The Sooner the Better’

“Hopefully Lenovo is just the next in a long line of hardware manufacturers,” enthused Google+ blogger Linux Rants, for example.

“The environment is fast, stable, and safe from many of the threats that plague modern day PCs,” Linux Rants explained. “Add to that that they’re remarkably inexpensive, and you’ve got a winning combination for a sizable percentage of computer users.

“Add that to Android tablets, and you’ve got enough to put some serious hurt on Microsoft and its waning desktop domination,” he added. “The sooner the better.”


‘People Don’t Want M$ Crapware’

In fact, “I would say, What took you so long, Lenovo?” Google+ blogger Alessandro Ebersol told Linux Girl. “Chromebooks are hot, and it’s their prime time.

“You see, all that BS that the netbook is dead, is, indeed, just BS,” Ebersol explained. “People just don’t want winblow$ + Intel (Ok, winblow$ definitively not, but Intel can slip through, folks will accept it).”

Microsoft “proclaimed the netbook dead because it could not succeed on that market,” he suggested. “Intel also is not good with ant-sized processors. Now, we’re seeing a boost in Chromebooks sales.”

So what’s the lesson here? “It’s not that people don’t want small computers; people don’t want small computers loaded with M$ crapware (and worse, paying a premium for it),” Ebersol opined. “I would like to be a tiny fly on the wall in Redmond and see the red face of Mr. Throwing Chairs, when he realizes people are buying the ‘dead’ netbooks (Chromebooks) and Surface is just getting dust on retailers’ shelves.”

‘This Will Open the Door’

Thoughts on Technology blogger and Bodhi Linux lead developer Jeff Hoogland saw it similarly.

“I certainly hope more companies start selling Chromebooks,” Hoogland agreed. “At the very least this means more devices that are coming Windows-free (and thus cheaper cost) by default.”

Small, light and cloud-oriented computers “seem to be the future,” Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C. mused.

“In that sense, Lenovo is welcome,” he told Linux Girl. “I think this will open the door for some GNU/Linux distributions into some other models of Lenovo, and other computer makers. Once their Chrome OS computer is a hit, they’ll taste the Linux world. So be it!”

‘This Fits the Trend’

And again: “There is a definite trend to having content live on the Internet and just accessing it with your device, and this fits the trend,” Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien concurred.

“Think of streaming music, streaming video, and how phones and tablets are used to access them,” he explained.

“The big weakness with phones and tablets is that typing is very hard,” O’Brien pointed out. “A Chromebook gives you that with six hours or more of battery life and reduced weight. It won’t make all laptops obsolete, but you can see where it fits.”

‘Put Down the Crack Pipe’

Hardware vendors essentially have no choice, Slashdot blogger hairyfeet opined.

“Not only does Win 8 make Vista look like a hit, not only is it driving sales down when the OEMs were already hurting thanks to brain-dead ideas hoisted on them by Wintel like ultrabooks and touchscreens where they made no sense, but MSFT has made it clear that they see the future as ‘MSFT hardware running MSFT software that can only get programs through a MSFT app store’ a la iOS,” hairyfeet explained.

“I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: the board at MSFT needs to put down the crack pipe before it completely obliterates what Bill took 30 years to build,” he concluded.

‘Competition Is a Great Thing’

“Sticking with Wintel may provide a slowly sinking revenue forever, but Lenovo requires growth,” blogger Robert Pogson pointed out. “They had to break the mold to get that.

“For most of Wintel, OEMs were in fierce competition with tiny margins,” Pogson explained. “Thanks to M$, they could not cut prices for the OS. They had to cut on hardware, which made competition even more difficult.”

Then, “when ARM became popular on smartphones, many millions saw that Intel was not required to have fun, a lot of fun,” he suggested. “Lenovo could not ship ever-more-powerful Intel processors to retain market share. Every OEM now has to ship ARM and x86/amd64 with GNU/Linux and Android/Linux in order to avoid losing share to those rapidly growing segments.”

Now it’s become clear that “smart thingies are not just accessories but main computers for people,” he added. “Lenovo sees that and has to ship what people want or they will get it elsewhere.”

In short, “competition is a great thing,” Pogson concluded. “Thanks to M$’s inability to fit a rapidly changing market, we are returning to a free market after decades of corrupt anti-competitive deals. It had to come eventually, but it’s better late than never.”

OkCupid Snafu Raises Online Dating Privacy Alarm

OkCupid this week debuted a new mobile app that sets up blind dates by supplying likely matches for users who plug in a time and venue.

As it turned out, though, Crazy Blind Date was doing more than just sending hopeful singles to a meet-up. Shortly after its launch, The Wall Street Journal identified a security flaw that made users’ email addresses and birth dates accessible to anyone with enough tech savvy to uncover them.

The WSJ notified OkCupid, which reportedly patched the glitch within hours and told the Journal that it didn’t see evidence of anyone having taken advantage of the vulnerability.

OkCupid did not respond to our request to comment for this story.


Your Private Parts Exposed

Aside from those offered by financial services, mobile apps are known for their lax approach to security and privacy. However, it is particularly ironic that this latest security lesson is being driven home by an online dating site — a place where people should be particularly careful with their personal details.

“You have to divulge bits of who you are to get a date — that’s part of the deal — but this posed serious risk of overexposing members,” said Sarah Downey, attorney and privacy analyst for Abine.

“The fact that so much personal information could be exposed is pretty unsettling and should serve as a wake-up call to the millions of people who trust online dating sites with their most personal information,” she told TechNewsWorld.

Every free online service is rife with scams and fraudulent users whose sole purpose is to get you to disclose private information, said Tim ‘TK’ Keanini, chief research officer for nCircle.

However, cybercriminals love online dating services in particular, because people are emotionally vulnerable and therefore they are easy prey,” he told TechNewsWorld.

OkCupid attempts to educate its community with safety tips, Keanini noted, but site users have to read, understand and apply these tips for them to be effective.

“Unfortunately, the reality is that the vast majority of people have to get burned before they take online safety seriously,” he observed.

If there’s one place to take online security seriously, it’s dating sites, Keanini warned. “In these forums, more than any other online venue, privacy threats can translate directly to physical threats.”

First, Choose Wisely

People can still use online dating sites, Downey said — they just have to select them carefully. “Choosing a dating site is like choosing a date: You have to screen out the bad ones before you go with one you like.”

Prospective users should look at the privacy policy, particularly how it deals with third parties like advertisers or affiliates, she suggested. Dig into whether the site is sharing data with others, and if so, find out what it is sharing. Other questions to investigate are whether the site lets you delete your data, and if so, whether it is really gone or simply hidden from view. Find out how long the site stores user data.

It’s a good idea to consider how much information the site asks you to provide before you sign up, Downey recommended. If it feels like too much, you may want to use an alias.

In short, just as you would exercise caution with a new date, don’t overshare with a website, she said.

‘The Book of GIMP’ Leaves No Detail Behind

It is not the only useful instructional guide on navigating through the difficult photo editing app, but it is one of the most current options available. It focuses on the latest iteration of GIMP, version 2.8.

I’ve used GIMP for many years, often being forced to reach for a variety of self-help sources to complete a graphical editing task. The Book of GIMP, released this month, is an excellent teach-yourself alternative.

Working With Images

GIMP is a free, open source replacement to the commercial graphic editing standard, Adobe Photoshop, but learning how to use its professional-strength features can be an exercise in futility.

The latest version of GIMP has countless improvements and new tools, which only add to the challenge of mastering GIMP. Lecarme and Delvare’s approach can greatly reduce the frustrations encountered when striving for GIMP proficiency.

A Comfortable Read

Reading a book that describes how to use a software program is a method that doesn’t work for everyone. The skill-based learning that photo manipulation tools require typically are conveyed more effectively through hands-on learning. That is the teaching style presented in the first part of The Book of GIMP.

Part 1 contains tutorials that take you one skill at a time through essential GIMP features. For example, each of the opening eight chapters gives you a solid understanding of how to complete real photo editing tasks. Even the indexing structure is effective. The basic GIMP layout is shown in Brief Contents. This is supplemented with a more detailed listing, Contents in Detail, that lets you home in on specific tasks.

Each chapter starts with a hands-on tutorial and ends with exercises that reinforce those concepts. An even handier find-it device is available in the traditional index at the back of the book. There you can locate specific topics cross-referenced by editing functions with page listings.

Basic Tools

Book of Gimp

This multifaceted indexing system to the content may be all that you need to speed up your progress. You can jump directly to how-to guides with actual color pictures and detailed explanations for key editing tasks. These include getting started, photograph retouching, drawing and illustration, and working with logos and textures.

This method also helps you to handle more advanced editing techniques within the first part of the book. You can quickly focus on Composite Photography, Animation, Image Preprocessing and Designing a Website.

Some of these skills are part of major editing and image manipulation functions GIMP handles. Part 1 also addresses introductory-level basic tasks. Some users never need more than a working competency in areas such as resizing and cropping images, touching up spots and scratches, and customizing the work area.

Advanced Skills

Part 2 serves as a detailed reference to GIMP’s many features. For example, you get primers on color balancing, masks, filters and plug-ins. These tutorials are amply illustrated with color and black-and-white screenshots of actual editing processes within the GIMP user interface.

This second section contains 14 chapters and is the largest, most comprehensive section of the book. Part 3 is much shorter with five appendices. It is possibly worth the price of the book if you only read through its tips and helpful hints.

It contains reference guides for Vision and Image Representation, Tips and Hints for Selected Exercises, Resources, Frequently Asked Questions, Installing GIMP and Batch Processing.