Tag Archives: photos

Episode 61 News: Content Is King

In case you were on vacation last week like we were, you may have missed the non-Batman news from the West Coast…Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced he would be retiring within the next 12 months and with no obvious successor in view, it seems like it might be a bit of a PopeWatch thing there in Redmond. Windows 8.1, thought to be the corrected version of Windows 8, is due for release on October 17th for current users who wish to upgrade.

Nokia, the company that makes the Lumia smartphone for Microsoft’s Windows Phone system is also said to be working on its own tablet that will run the much-mocked Windows RT software. According to the Verge tech site, the Nokia Sirius will have a 10.1-inch screen, look like a big Lumia phone and be price around $500. If it’s real, let’s see how they do with that.

Summer’s pretty much in the archive now anyway, and September is shaping up to be a big month for the announcements aside from Nokia. Samsung has confirmed it will be introducing its Galaxy Gear Smartwatch at the IFA Consumer Electronics show in Berlin on September 4th. Apple has not officially confirmed it, but major media sources are reporting the company will introduce its next round of iPhone at a press event on September 10th, with the new models possibly being available on September 20th.

All Things D and 9to5Mac are among the sites reporting that Apple is prepping the program will allow customers to trade in their old iPhones for credit toward a new model. While Apple had no comment on that, the company issued an update for Apple TV this week that brings the Disney Channel, the Weather Channel, Vevo Music Videos and the Smithsonian Channel all to the main screen’s channel lineup. And one more bite of Apple news here — the company’s legal team has responded to the Department of Justice’s proposed punishment in that e-book case this summer. (Hint: Apple is not happy.)

The Federal government has been looking into other tech business as well, and just released a memo on mobile malware findings. According to the report, 0.7% of all mobile malware affected Apple’s iOS system, while 79% was aimed at Android and 12% was targeting the Symbian OS.

While we’re talking about national security, it seems US fugitive Edward Snowden did not need to have a sophisticated scheme to steal all those 20,000 leak-worthy documents from the National Security Agency. The investigations team over at NBC News did some digging and reports that multiple intelligence community sources told them all Snowden needed was a few USB thumb drives and the willingness to exploit a gaping hole in an antiquated security system — all without leaving a trace. (Hint: The NSA is not happy, nosireee.)

In other product news, Facebook is starting to roll out shared photo albums this week. Feedly has just announced the general availability of Feedly Pro. Feedly Pro offers Evernote integration, but if you really like Evernote — and writing in journals by hand — check out the Evernote Smart Notebook from Moleskine.

zombiesIn the casual gaming world, the sequel to the popular PopCap Games title Plants vs. Zombies arrived this month for iOS. The new game, Plants vs. Zombie 2: It’s About Time had 16 million downloads during its opening week. The game itself is free but has many in-app purchase opportunities for coin packs and additional plants. No word on when the game will be available for Android.

Actor and producer Kevin Spacey had some words of warning for TV executives at the Edinburgh Television Festival in Scotland last week. (Hint: Content and story make people happy — while schedules and devices don’t matter.)

And finally, the old ways do work well for some people. Instead of going all digital video that some of the franchise’s previous installments, Star Wars VII will be shot on good old-fashioned 35mm film stock to recapture the feel of movies from the 1970s. The news comes in the same month that Gilbert Taylor, the cinematographer for the original Star Wars, passed away at the age of 99. In addition to Star Wars and many other films, Mr. Taylor shot Dr. Strangelove, A Hard Day’s Night and some episodes of The Avengers TV series. Before his film career took off, rhe spent six years with the Royal Air Force Force during World War II and filmed night raids after a request from Winston Churchill. Rest in peace, Mr. Taylor — and thanks for all the amazing work.

(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Picture a Better Passport Photo

If you travel internationally, you need to update your United States passport every 10 years — and this means getting a new picture taken. If you hate going to those little passport-photo places and want to have more control over what you look like on your official government documentation, you can take your own pictures with a digital camera (at least here in the US, anyway; check with your local government if you live elsewhere).

While you can take your own photo, but not just any snapshot will do. The State Department has the official passport rules and guidelines on its site, as well as a photographer’s guide and a photo composition template.

As for the photo requirements, here are some of the highlights:

  • Hand-held cellphone selfies are not allowed. The government wants professional quality pictures here.
  • Take the picture in front of a plain white or off-white background.
  • Make sure the photo presents the full head from the top of the hair to the bottom of the chin. You need to present a full-face view, facing the camera, without hats, sunglasses or other things that cover your head and face. If you normally wear eyeglasses, you can wear them, but you have to make sure there’s no glare in in the picture.
  • Use a neutral expression — no goofy faces or wacky grins — and be looking straight at the camera. Facial-recognition software likes neutral expressions.
  • Also, you are not allowed to use image-editing programs to “digitally enhance or alter your appearance in any way.” That means no overdone beauty-magazine cover retouching, zit removal or wrinkle smoothing. Just touch yourself up beforehand and take another photo.
  • The final photograph needs to be two inches tall by two inches wide — and you need to have two copies of the image. You also need to have your head centered within that space the height of the head and the eyes within a certain measurement within those two inches of photo. Full details are on the State Department Web site.

The site even has a free photo tool (shown below) that lets you prepare an existing photo on the computer for use with a passport. You basically start up the Flash-based app and select a photo stored on your computer. You can resize and rotate it if needed and crop it to 600 by 600 pixels. There’s a template on the page that helps you get the head size and proportions correct. Once you get the picture sized and cropped, you save it, print it and send it in with your passport application.

passporttoolAnd remember, if you haven’t renewed your passport in awhile, as of 2007, the State Department has only been issuing what it calls “U.S. Electronic Passports” — the kind with a computer chip embedded in the back cover. The chip stores an electronic copy of the same information printed inside the passport’s pages, including your photograph. As the State Department Web site states:

The inclusion of the digital photograph enables biometric comparison, through the use of facial recognition technology, at international borders. The U.S. e-passport also has a new look, incorporating additional anti-fraud and security features.

Curious about those electronic chips and records? Read up on the official US Electronic Passport FAQ. And then have a lovely trip overseas with your personally approved passport photo, the one you won’t be ashamed to show off at the border or customs counter.