Archive for May, 2012

Low-Res Screens Can Transform into Better-Looking Hi-Res Displays With Simple Vibration [Video]

Well this is fantastic news for anyone who's ever wanted a device with a high-res display, but can't afford fancy hardware like the iPhone or iPad. Floraine Berthouzoz and Raanan Fattal, a couple of graphics researchers, have found a way to make crappy low-res displays show high-res imagery. More »


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Andrew Liszewski

May 31st

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This Beautiful Retro Airplane Porn Is My New Desktop Background [Image Cache]

Gizmodo reader Rob Hall took this amazing photo of a MiG-17F performing a minimum radius horizontal turn with afterburner at the Warriors Over The Wasatch Airshow, which happened over Hill Air Force Base, Utah. It's a beautiful plane and a beautiful shot. [Flickr] More »


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Jesus Diaz

May 31st

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Goodbye Photoshop, Hello Cloudinary

cloudinary logo - transparent (500px)

Manipulating images for your website is such a tedious chore. You need to open Photoshop, click your mouse about ten thousand times, then save the file and upload it. Then next month you redesign your site and suddenly need to re-size all your image elements again! Startup Cloudinary has a good alternative for you: use custom URLs to transform your images in the cloud! I was a bit skeptical when I first read about Cloudinary, but after five minutes of goofing around with it I’m sold.

Upload your images — either through the Cloudinary dashboard or from your own applications via their API — and then access those images using specially crafted URLs to apply a variety of transformations to your images. That’s the real magic: you don’t need to do anything other than request your image with the transformations you want. Your original photo is still available, if needed, and each new variant you request is cached and delivered through Amazon’s CDN.

You want that full-size image scaled to 100 pixels high? Here you go!

http://res.cloudinary.com/demo/image/upload/h_100,c_thumb/butterfly.jpg

Oh, you just want the woman’s face from that photo in a nice 90×90 thumbnail? Cloudinary provides face detection, so no problem.

http://res.cloudinary.com/demo/image/upload/w_90,h_90,c_thumb,g_face/butterfly.jpg

You need rounded corners?

http://res.cloudinary.com/demo/image/upload/w_90,h_90,c_thumb,g_face,r_20/butterfly.jpg

Or how about a circle?

http://res.cloudinary.com/demo/image/upload/w_90,h_90,c_thumb,g_face,r_max/butterfly.jpg

Users can create named transformations in their dashboard, which can then be used in the URLs for convenience and clarity. “round_thumbnail” makes a better URL component than “w_90,h_90,c_thumb,g_face,r_max”, wouldn’t you agree?

Cloudinary can also trivially grab profile photos from Facebook and Twitter:

http://res.cloudinary.com/demo/image/facebook/scottmerrill

http://res.cloudinary.com/demo/image/twitter_name/smerrill
And all the various transformations can be applied to these images, as well.

Cloudinary offers a robust and well-documented API. Pricing plans look reasonable, and they have a free tier for low-volume or proof-of-concept users. Now you can quit mucking around with Photoshop and get back to agonizing over which font to use for your blog about ancient Egyptian cat worship.



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Scott Merrill

May 31st

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This Is Vinyl Tap [IPad Apps]

Nobody has to remind us how fun it can be to mess around with music apps designed to mimic the formats of days gone by. However, the same instinct that compels us to try them also encourages app developers to build lots of random iPad apps for pretending to play vinyl. More »


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Eliot Van Buskirk - Evolver.fm

May 31st

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This New Ballistics Tester Will Play Catch with Air Force Artillery [Video]

Normally, when the military tests an artillery prototype, it uses the direct method—they fire it at a wall using a cannon and record what happens. But that's an expensive and destructive test method. A new method, however, developed by students at Rice University may soon revolutionize how the Air Force tests its big guns. More »


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Andrew Tarantola

May 31st

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Usher Will Be Joined By Hologram Backup Dancers in Upcoming Concert [Holograms]

One hologram performance is enough for the year, and we're already put that behind us with Tupac's Coachella reincarnation. Now Usher is jumping on the virtual performance bandwagon—he'll be appearing with digital backup dancers in a concert next month in London. More »


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Leslie Horn

May 31st

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Kickstarter Responds To Hidden “Failed Project” Claims

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Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter, dropped us a line about the systems in place to “hide” failed projects. He told us that Kickstarter does indeed hide many projects from search robots, but it’s for a good cause.

“The original poster was correct in noting that we don’t have a browse area for projects whose funding was unsuccessful,” he wrote. “This isn’t to ‘hide failure,’ as the original post said, it’s because it would be a poor user experience (there’s no action that anyone could take) and it would expose the creators of unsuccessfully funded projects to unnecessary criticism from the web (those projects would be prime for trolling).”

“Most unsuccessfully funded projects come up short because of a lack of interest in the project or because their creators didn’t promote it enough, not because of the Kickstarter page itself. Success on Kickstarter comes down to making a video, pricing things reasonably, and telling people about the project.”

In fact, project creators asked that Kickstarter projects be de-indexed for a reason: they ranked high in search results and, if Google crawled them, the resulting failures would percolate towards the top. “Because Kickstarter projects index very highly in search, creators were seeing their unsuccessfully funded projects ranking extremely high — in some cases as the #1 result — for their name. That obviously sucked, so we made the decision to de-index them.”

The company has added a FAQ to address the problem here.

As we said before, this isn’t a marketplace, it’s a dog show. You don’t want the ugly mutts hanging around when there are plenty of great specimens to peruse. This is crowdsourcing perfected, in a way, and if there’s one thing we know about crowds it’s that they’re easily swayed, fickle, and rarely kind.



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John Biggs

May 31st

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Solar Mosaic Raises $2.5 Million Series A To Be The “Kickstarter For Solar”

Screen shot 2012-05-31 at 2.51.03 PM

Solar Mosaic, an Oakland, California-based startup that is creating a crowdfunding platform specifically for solar energy projects, has taken on $2.5 million in Series A funding.

The round was led by Spring Ventures with the participation of Serious Change, Jim Sandler, Steve Wolf, Tom Chi, and a group of angels from the “Toniic” investor network. The round was first disclosed in an SEC filing that surfaced earlier this week which was reported on by GigaOM’s Earth2Tech blog. Today the company confirmed the funding and disclosed more details.

Solar Mosaic, which also goes by just Mosaic, says it wants to be the “Kickstarter for solar” — enabling people to invest their own money into solar energy projects large and small. To date, the company has facilitated the crowdfunding for five projects in its beta mode, in which more than 400 people invested more than $350,000 in five rooftop power plants in California and Arizona. The company says it will use the new funding to build out its platform for crowdfunding on a larger scale.

Now, the Kickstarter comparison may not be completely accurate: According to Solar Mosaic’s website, investors earn a return from each project’s eventual revenue — so it seems to be facilitating actual equity investing, not the donation model used by sites such as Kickstarter. Today, only accredited investors are legally allowed to invest money into private companies in exchange for equity — and to receive accreditation, individuals must meet certain criteria such as having a net worth in excess of $1 million. Existing crowdfunding public platforms like Kickstarter allow people to fund projects on a “donation” basis — they can’t receive a stake in the company in return.

However, the JOBS Act signed into law last month contains passages that remove that restriction, allowing virtually anyone to invest in private companies. Crowdfunding as it stands right now is already huge — more than $1.5 billion was raised with crowdfunding methods last year alone — and the recently-passed JOBS Act will soon opening up the floodgates even further for a brand new investor class to enter the scene. The crowdfunding aspect of the JOBS Act is still being reviewed by the SEC, so Mosaic may be teeing up its widescale public launch until it goes live.

Overall, I think Solar Mosaic seems like a smart idea that comes at a smart time.Thanks to debacles such as Solyndra’s, government bodies and traditional venture capital firms are now a bit skittish about investing in solar energy and green projects. Opening up the space to crowdfunding could give the industry the jolt it needs to keep innovating. Of course, people looking to donate money have to be very careful here — but that is always the case, isn’t it?



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Colleen Taylor

May 31st

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The New Essential Apps May 2012 [Apps]

iPhones. iPads. Android. We've updated all of our essential apps lists to include a few forgotten favorites, some long awaited arrivals and, as always, even more amazing apps. Check them out! More »


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Leslie Horn

May 31st

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The Rumored iPhone 5′s Four Inch Front Panel Can Nearly Swallow An Old iPhone Whole

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Another day, another iPhone 5 leak. This time we’re looking at a four-inch long front panel of what appears to be a new iPhone. This panel suggests a longer, 16:9 style body and screen and lines up with previous news of a longer iPhone casing with a Micro USB port on the bottom.

I’m very skeptical in regards to these videos simply because rapid prototyping and sourcing is getting so simple these days anyone can carve out a convincing iPhone shell and take some good footage of it. Am I skeptical enough to dismiss this outright, however? No.

Japanese bloggers at Macotakara acquired the piece and compared it to the current iPhone. The clear portion is almost as big as the entire screen of the old iPhone, making this a fairly radical redesign. It’s not as slab-like as other phones out there but it gives you a bit more screen for media consumption.

Will we really see this at WWDC this year? Who knows. It’s always nice to dream.



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John Biggs

May 31st

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