Alastair helps with my newest book (in a funny sort of way)

By | September 1, 2010
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In the Computers newsletter this month:

  • Alastair helps with my newest book (in a funny sort of way)
  • Google’s latest has me gobsmacked
  • A tip from next door
  • Check up on ships and planes all around the world from your PC


Once again it’s been a busy couple of weeks, not least because I’ve been hard at work finishing off a new book.  I’ve been writing it for a while but with little Alastair arriving, the book got put on hold for a while, as you can imagine!

He’s helped out in a strange sort of way, though.  Sometimes, in the middle of the night after his feed, he’ll only go to sleep again if he’s curled up on my lap.  Which means I have to be up for an hour or so – but at least it gives me a chance to (quietly) put the last finishing touches to the book!

Anyway, more about that soon.  It’s not quite ready yet but once it is I’ll let you know in the newsletter before it’s made public so you’re the first to know.

Those clever chaps at Google have been busy again

I seem to have been writing about Google a few times lately – they keep coming up with new things to tell you about.  But this one had me gobsmacked when I saw it.

You might have heard of a program called Picasa – it’s a program Google made for editing and printing photos.  In the past I didn’t rate particularly highly… but lately they’ve been adding some very clever features.

A while ago they added face recognition.  By that I don’t just mean it can recognise “That’s a face”.  But it can go through your photos and recognise which ones have the same face in them.  So it can group together all the photos with (say) Aunt Maud in.  It’s not perfect at it but it’s pretty good.  And I’m impressed it can do it at all.

Now they’ve gone one step further with what they call “Face Movies”.  You select a bunch of photos of a particular person, tell it how long to show each photo and then click on “Face Movie”.  It looks at where the face is in each photo and resizes and rotates it so they all match up – then makes a video (sorry, movie – they’re American!) of them all, with the face staying in the same place and size.

It’s easier to see the result than describe it – there’s one Google made earlier here.

Their example is of a girl growing up but it doesn’t have to be.  In fact Picasa chooses what order to put the photos in to make the transition between photos as smooth as possible.  Though I suppose often that’ll mean they’ll be in age order – there’s a big jump from a baby to a 50 year old but only a small jump from a baby to a 1 year old!

Anyway, if you’re interested you can download Picasa from here (see over on the right of that page for the button to download it)

They have step by step instructions on using the Face Movie feature here.

Tip from Next Door

If you’ve ever rung up to order any books, chances are you might have spoken to Louize, Laura, Emma or Georgia – they sit in the office next door to me.  Over time, they’ve picked up lots of tips about using the PC – some from me, some from customers and some they’ve just figured out from scratch. So I thought it would be handy to let them share their best tips – here’s the first one, from Laura:

When you’re typing a letter in a word processor (Word, Open Office or most others) if you want to highlight text, say to change the font style or size, then rather than fiddling about clicking and dragging with the mouse to highlight it, you can click the mouse near the text you want to highlight, hold down Shift and use the left or right arrow keys to highlight the text you need.

That shortcut works well if you’re only selecting a few words, but if you want to select the whole page of text, holding down Ctrl and tapping the letter A will instantly highlight it all for you. Saves a lot of time fiddling with the mouse.

Websites that track boats and planes

A month or so ago ( I mentioned two websites that let you see where trains are currently up to in their journeys.  Even more impressive, one reader told me about these two websites:

They show the whereabouts of planes and ships – right across the world.  Very handy if you want to keep track of a relative’s journey from Australia, say.  Or if you have a friend or relative working on a ship and you want to track where their journey is taking them.

With the ship one you need to click on a box to zoom into that area – and the number in each box is how many ships the website knows of in that area.

It doesn’t include every ship (I bet there are some the Royal Navy wants to keep hidden) but it has most cargo ships and lots of others – worth a look.


That’s all for this time – better get back to finishing off this book!



Tim Wakeling

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