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Download old software and play old video games at the Internet Archive

Have you ever wanted to play an old video game from your past? Maybe play Pitfall on the Atari 2600 or Super Donkey Kong on a Colecovision? You can all that and more at the Internet Archive.

The Internet Archive logo

The Internet Archive (IA) is an online digital library with all sorts of free ebooks / text, videos, audio recordings, software and images. But they are best known for their history of websites from over 20 years.

Websites

The IA has a cool archive of websites going back over twenty (20) years. Do a search in the Way Back Machine for Microsoft.com or Facebook.com and you can find their very first website. I actually found one of the first versions of my own personal domain from 1998.

But since these pages are cached versions of the originals, some elements might be missing. Photos, videos and Flash / Java elements have a tendency not to get cached. But it's still fun to see what the Internet looked like a couple of decades ago.

eBooks and Text

With over ten million titles in their library, you would be hard pressed not to find something that interests you. Keep in mind that some these titles are old, but you can still find all sorts of cool publications. Hey, where else are you going to find a copy of Family Computing from December 1983?

The cover of Family Computing from December 1983
The cover of Family Computing from December 1983

The IA even has the ebooks / texts broken down into collections. I found a copy of The Principle of Relativity from 1920 in the MIT Library. There are all sorts of hidden gems here. All you have to do is search through them. And with over 10 million titles, that may take some time.

Videos

This is my second favorite collection and I have spent hours going through them. There are films, movies and videos ranging from old-time movies to classic cartoons. When was the last time you saw an old Popeye or Woody Woodpecker cartoon?

And if you're a computer geek like me, you'll just love the Computer & Technology collection. From old episodes of the Computer Chronicles and Net Cafe to made for TV movies like the Pirates of Silicon Valley from 1999. With over 2 million titles, you know I'll be spending more of my free time going through them.

Audio

The collections here range from old-time radio programs like Dragnet from the '50's to Grateful Dead concerts from the '70's. The quality of the audio will vary from file to file, but that is to be expected. Some of these recordings are quite old.

Also mixed into this collection you'll find audio books and poetry readings. I even found some recordings from the Spin Doctors and the Gin Blossoms. With around 3 million audio files, there should be something for everyone.

Software

Now I guess that I don't have to tell you that this is my favorite collection of all. The software here ranges from video game consoles from the '70's - '90's to old DOS and Windows games / programs. Most of the DOS games and video game consoles are emulated, so you can play these games right from inside your browser.

The Atari 2600 version of Pitfall
The Atari 2600 version of Pitfall

Anybody remember Tucows? Tucows was the place in the '90's to go for shareware / freeware software. Well they donated all of their software titles a decade or so ago to the IA and they are all here available for download.

The Colecovision version of Super Donkey Kong
The Colecovision version of Super Donkey Kong

Now you can download most of the Windows software, but be aware that some of them are 16-bit and will not run on 64-bit operating systems. If you really want to run some of the old Windows software, you will need to set up a virtual machine like VirtualBox running that particular operating system.

Images

This collection is kind of a mixed bag. You have images from the USGS (United States Geological Survey), the Metropolitan Museum of Art and album cover art all in one place.

But the best image collection I think is the one from NASA. Some of the images are quite incredible. If you get a chance, check out the Moon - False Color Mosaic image.

Now before you go checking the IA out, I want to let you know that they are a non-profit organization (501C) and all donations are tax deductible. So if you find it useful and fun as I do, please make a donation.

To get the most out of the IA, it is recommended that you register for a virtual library card. For more information on the Internet Archive, just follow the link below.

Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine

Creating panoramic images with Image Composite Editor 2

One of the things I like to do when I go on vacation is taking panoramic photos. Since my camera doesn't actually take panoramic photos, I have to use software to stitch images together. One of the best image stitchers I have found yet is Image Composite Editor 2 from Microsoft Research Computational Photography Group.

Image Composite Editor 2

Image Composite Editor (ICE) can take photos taken from a single location that overlap and create stunning panoramic images from them. Using techniques from the field of computer vision, ICE scans the images for similarities to each other and then estimates the vantage point for each photo. ICE can even create panoramic photos from videos too.

Sample ICE 2 panoramic image without auto complete
Sample ICE 2 panoramic image without auto complete
Sample ICE 2 panoramic image with auto complete
Sample ICE 2 panoramic image with auto complete

Microsoft Research Computational Photography Group recently released a new version of ICE. The following is quote from the ICE website of changes included in ICE 2:

  • Redesigned user interface
    ICE has a new look that makes all the features more understandable and easier to use.
  • Automatic image completion
    ICE can now fill in any missing pixels around the edges of your panorama, making a smooth boundary even in cases where you missed a shot.
  • Improved workflow
    ICE now guides you through the steps required to make a great panorama. And you can back up a step to change settings, then see the effects of those changes without having to start over from scratch.
  • Full-resolution preview
    Panorama previews are no longer limited by your screen resolution. ICE now allows you to zoom in to see every detail of your stitched panorama, no matter how big, before you export.
  • Built-in Photosynth uploader
    ICE no longer requires the installation of a separate application to upload a panorama to the Photosynth web site. You can now upload and share your panorama directly from within ICE.


Panoramic image of Jasper Forest inside of the Petrified Forest National Park

ICE will work on 32-bit or 64-bit versions of Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7 or Windows 8 / 8.1. For more information on Image Composite Editor from Microsoft Research Computational Photography Group, just follow the links below:

ICE Homepage
ICE Support Forums

Creating stunning documents, spreadsheets and slide-shows with OpenOffice 4

With the cost of Microsoft Office going up, not to mention the subscription / non-subscription thing, it's nice to know there are alternatives out there. One of the best office alternatives has to be OpenOffice. And it just so happens that the Apache Software Foundation recently released a new version of their free productivity software, OpenOffice 4.

The main screen inside of OpenOffice 4
The main screen inside of OpenOffice 4

For those who are not familiar with it, OpenOffice is a suite of office productivity programs that rivals Microsoft Office. It has everything you could need for creating great looking documents, spreadsheets and slide-show presentations. Here's a complete list of all of the programs included in OpenOffice 4.

ProgramEquivalent toProgram type
Writer Microsoft Word Word processor
Calc Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet
Impress Microsoft PowerPoint Multi-media slide-show presentation
Draw Microsoft Paint Graphic design
Base Microsoft Access Database
Math Design Science Mathtype Formula creation

OpenOffice 4 has some major improvements over previous versions. There's a new Sidebar that contains the most commonly used functions for that program, which can be docked, floating or completely hidden. There is also greatly improved compatibly with Microsoft Office documents. The drawing, graphics and gallery functions have also been enhanced, along with the copy & paste and drag & drop functionality.

The new Sidebar inside of OpenOffice 4 shown docked and floating
The new Sidebar inside of OpenOffice 4 shown docked and floating

OpenOffice does use Java, but it's not required for installation, as it can be added in later on. Compatibility with other document formats is pretty impressive, but Star Office is no longer supported. OpenOffice can automatically load / convert and convert / save Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) and Design Science Mathtype documents. The only file types that it cannot save to is the Microsoft Office 2007 - 2013 .???x formats.

And since OpenOffice is open-source, there are hundreds of third party extensions to expand on the functionality of the applications. Add in a copy of GIMP or Paint.NET and you have a complete, and free, desktop publishing package.

OpenOffice 4 is available for the Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems. For more information on OpenOffice 4, just follow the links below:

Apache OpenOffice Open Source Project
OpenOffice 4 Release Notes
Download OpenOffice 4

Stitching panoramic images for the web with Microsoft Research HD View

A while back. I wrote an article about creating panoramic images with Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE) and Photosynth. With ICE and Photosynth, you can create panoramic images and then upload them to the Photosynth website. But what if you wanted to upload them to your website? That's where HD View comes into the picture.

Microsoft Research HD View is a new viewer to help in displaying large images (gigapixels) across the internet. It allows you to create panoramic images for web pages that do not take a lot of bandwidth. When someone views the image, they are only downloading what is required for that view. It is only when they pan or zoom, that more of the image is downloaded. HD View / Deep Zoom is now included in ICE, also as a stand-alone command line utility and (here's the best), a Photoshop plug-in.

HD View / Deep Zoom export in Microsoft Image Composite Editor
HD View / Deep Zoom export in Microsoft Image Composite Editor

HD View / Deep Zoom export in Photoshop plug-in
HD View / Deep Zoom export in Photoshop plug-in

So if you're a Photoshop user, you can now export those panoramic images that Photoshop can create directly to HD View / Deep Zoom format. The Photoshop plug-in is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit. Here's a quote from the HD View website:

About HD View
HD View is a new viewer developed by Microsoft Research's Interactive Visual Media group to aid in the display and interaction with very large images. The HDView development team included Johannes Kopf, Matt Uyttendaele, Howard Good, and Michael Cohen along with Jonathan Fay of the Next Media group.

Recent advances in camera and sensor technology and software for stitching images together has led to the creation of images containing billions of pixels (gigapixels). These images are often panoramic, that is, they cover very wide fields of view. Since monitors typically contain only one to two million pixels, it is only possible to actually see 1/1000th of such image data at once. Also, viewing very wide fields of view require unwrapping of an image projected onto a curved surface (think of a map of the world) which can cause distortions.

HD View leverages current graphics hardware to allow smooth panning and zooming as well as the viewing transformation described below.

HD View was developed with a number of goals in mind. It should:

  • allow smooth panning and zooming on large images,
  • only download enough data to create the current view (and possibly look ahead to the next), and
  • always display the current field of view with an appropriate projection. This means that when zoomed way in you should be presented with a standard perspective projection providing a sense of immersion, and when zoomed out you experience a curved projection so that get a full overview of the scene. In between the projection should smoothly transition.
  • Finally, it should be easy to create your own HD View content and present it to the world via the web.

The HD View plugin currently supports all major browsers on the Windows platform. The first time that you visit a page with HD View content you will be prompted to install the HD View plugin.

For more information on HD View / Deep Zoom, just follow the links below:

Microsoft Research HD View
HD View Utilities (32 bit) - Microsoft Research
HD View Utilities (64 bit) - Microsoft Research

Draw on your Android device with Autodesk SketchBook Mobile for Android

Autodesk recently introduced the Autodesk SketchBook Mobile for Android app It's a painting and drawing app with professional grade power and features to match. Along with streamlined drawing tools, it also provides support for layers. And the tool palatte is comparable to Photoshop.

Autodesk Sketchbook Mobile for Android
Autodesk Sketchbook Mobile for Android screen shots
Autodesk SketchBook Mobile for Android on the Android Market

You can also import photos from the gallery, place them on their own layer and then draw on top of them. It's a great visualization tool for designers. Here's a quote from Autodesk's website:

The Autodesk® SketchBook® Mobile painting and drawing app extends your digital sketchpad to your Apple® iPhone®, Apple iPod touch®, or Android powered devices. With the same paint engine as Autodesk® SketchBook® Pro software, SketchBook Mobile offers professional-grade painting and drawing tools in a streamlined and intuitive user interface. Use it to digitally capture your ideas as napkin sketches or produce artwork on-the-go.

The Autodesk SketchBook Mobile for Android app comes in a free version or a paid version (it's only $.99). With the paid version you get:

  • can progressively save your work
  • export to PSD, PNG and JPG format
  • 40 extra brushes
  • ability to customize the brushes
  • a larger 1024 pixels canvas
  • move, rotate and scale tools

For more information on the Autodesk SketchBook Mobile for Android app, check out the following links:

Autodesk SketchBook Mobile for Android
Autodesk SketchBook - Google Play
SketchBook Mobile in action

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