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Stitching panoramic images with Microsoft's Image Composite Editor and Photosynth

I recently had the opportunity to go out and shoot some landscape photos in Vermont. I had wanted to try out Microsoft's Image Composite Editor. ICE (that's the acronym) is an advanced panoramic image stitcher that uses Photosynth technology. Here's a quote from the Photosynth site.

Using techniques from the field of computer vision, Photosynth examines images for similarities to each other and uses that information to estimate the shape of the subject and the vantage point each photo was taken from. With this information, we recreate the space and use it as a canvas to display and navigate through the photos.

One of the key features of Microsoft's ICE is the ability to drag and drop hundreds of photos taken in a rectangular grid of rows and columns. With that in mind, I set out to take some photos. I attached a wide angle lens on to my Nikon D40 and I was on my way.


Over two hundred images were used to create this composite

I decided to go all the way and also installed Microsoft Photosynth. I created an account on their site, so I could upload the the composite images from Microsoft ICE. This is one of two options for saving the final composite image. The other being an image format (.JPG, .PSD, etc.). Click here to see more of my photosynths.

Here's a list of features from the Microsoft ICE home page:

  • Accelerated stitching on multiple CPU cores
  • Ability to publish, view, and share panoramas on the Photosynth web site
  • Support for "structured panoramas" - panoramas consisting of hundreds of photos taken in a rectangular grid of rows and columns (usually by a robotic device like the GigaPan tripod heads)
  • No image size limitation - stitch gigapixel panoramas
  • Support for input images with 8 or 16 bits per component
  • Ability to read raw images using WIC codecs
  • Photoshop layer and large document support
  • State-of-the-art stitching engine
  • Automatic exposure blending
  • Choice of planar, cylindrical, or spherical projection
  • Orientation tool for adjusting panorama rotation
  • Automatic cropping to maximum image area
  • Native support for 64-bit operating systems
  • Wide range of output formats, including JPEG, TIFF, BMP, PNG, HD Photo, and Silverlight Deep Zoom

I am really satisfied with the output from Microsoft's ICE and Photosynth and encourage you to give it a try for yourself.

Enjoy,
Scott

My top five favorite Windows 7 features

In this article, I thought I would share my top five favorite Windows 7 features I find most useful.

Calculator

Calculator

You can use Calculator to perform simple calculations such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Calculator also offers the advanced capabilities of a programming, scientific, and statistical calculator. You can perform calculations by clicking the calculator buttons, or you can type calculations by using your keyboard. You can also use the numeric keypad to type numbers and operators by pressing Num Lock.

Command Prompt Here

Command Prompt is a feature of Windows that provides an entry point for typing MS DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System) commands and other computer commands. In Windows 7, Microsoft has integrated the ability to open a Command Prompt from within Windows Explorer. If you have ever had to navigate to a folder and/or file in DOS, you will love this feature. To do this, hold down the Shift key while right clicking on a folder in Windows Explorer and select Open command windows here from the context menu.

Aero Shake

Using Aero Shake, you can quickly minimize all open windows on the desktop except the one you want to focus on. Just click the title bar of the window you want to keep open and drag (or shake) the window back and forth quickly, and the other open windows are minimized. To restore the minimized windows, shake the open window again.

Note:

  • Some windows, such as open dialog boxes, cannot be minimized using Shake.

To minimize windows using Shake

  • For the window you want to keep open, drag (or shake) the title bar back and forth quickly.
    To restore the minimized windows, shake the open window again.

Geek Tip:

  • Press Windows logo key Picture of Windows logo key +Home to minimize all windows except for the currently active window. Press Windows logo key Windows logo key +Home again to restore all windows.

Aero Snap

You can use Aero Snap to arrange and resize windows on the desktop with a simple mouse movement. Using Aero Snap, you can quickly align windows at the side of the desktop, expand them vertically to the entire height of the screen, or maximize them to completely fill the desktop. Snap can be especially helpful when comparing two documents, copying or moving files between two windows, maximizing the window you’re currently working on, or expanding long documents so they’re easier to read and require less scrolling.

Aero Flip and Aero Peek

Aero Flip

With Aero Flip 3D, you can quickly preview all of your open windows (for example, open files, folders, and documents) without clicking the taskbar. Flip 3D displays your open windows in a stack. At the top of the stack, you'll see one open window. To see other windows, you can flip through the stack.

You can use Aero Peek to take a quick look at other open windows without clicking away from the window you're currently working on. Peek makes it easy for you to preview the contents of open windows and switch to the one you want just by pointing to a program or thumbnail on the Taskbar

Let me know what your favorite Windows 7 feature is.
Scott

Tether your Android's 3G to your pc with PdaNet

When I changed over to the Android, one of the functions I wanted was to use it's 3G data connection with my netbook. I found this great program from June Fabrics Technology called PdaNet. It allows you to tether your Android's 3G without having to do any hacking.

PDA.net

Once the installation is complete on both PC and Android, you will find connecting to be easy. Just connect the USB cable from the Android to the PC, start the PdaNet app on your Android and then use the tray icon in Windows to connect. Here's a quote from their web site:

PDA.net has been one of the most popular software for Windows Mobile phones, Palm OS phones and iPhones. It is now ported to the Android system! PdaNet provides you with FULL Internet access so all your email, instant message programs will work without any setting changes. Supports both USB Tether and Bluetooth DUN.

PdaNet does NOT require root access or hacking your phone's firmware in order to work. It is just a regular Android application that works on all Android phones as-is. Tethering is fast, secure and USB mode will also charge your phone at the same time. Your phone can either connect to 3G data, WiFi, or even through VPN and PdaNet will share the connection with your computer.

If you are looking to connect to the internet on your computer through your smart phone, I recommend you go over to June Fabrics site and take a look at their line of PdaNet products. BTW: If you use Windows 7, you can create a WiFi hot spot with PdaNet and Virtual Router.

Enjoy,
Scot

Use DejaOffice to sync Outlook with your Android

In my recent change to the Google Android from a Palm, there were two main functions I required. The second one was to be able to synchronize my Android to Microsoft Outlook. I have been using Outlook as a PIM (Personal Information Manager) for years now, as it's sort of the 'de facto' standard in the corporate world. I was pleasantly surprised to find DejaOffice by CompanionLink.

Being on the Palm platform for years, I became kind of pampered when it came to synchronizing data with Outlook. This really was one of Palm Pilot's strong points. So when I found DejaOffice, it was just the perfect replacement for the conduits from Palm. With the ability to sync Contacts, Tasks, Calendar and Notes, this is a 'must have' if you use Outlook. Here's a quote from their site:

Data from the PC syncs to DejaOffice, a mobile office application suite for Android. DejaOffice features robust contacts, calendar, tasks and notes apps that provide enhanced functionality over the native Android applications. Contacts and calendar automatically sync with the native Android databases to allow for full functionality with other apps.

I highly recommend you give this program a try. It's available from the Android page at CompanionLink.

Enjoy,
Scott

Work with Office files on your Android with Documents To Go

In my recent change to the Google Android from a Palm, there were two main functions I required. The first one was the ability to create, edit and view Microsoft Office documents on the Android. I was please to see that DataViz, the creators of Documents To Go, had a version for the Android platform.

Documents To Go on the Android platform

I have used Documents To Go for around a decade now on the Palm platform. The basic features are the same between the platforms, with a few minor changes. There is Word To Go (Microsoft Word), Sheet To Go (Microsoft Excel), Slideshow To Go (Microsoft PowerPoint) and PDF To Go (Adobe Acrobat). I like to create documents on my workstation, sync them with SyncToy to my Android and then be able to view / edit them when I am away from the office. Plus you can also open up documents you have downloaded too. (like PDF's). Here's a quote from their web site:

Whether you’re an organization looking to mobilize your sales professionals or an individual looking to increase personal productivity, leaving your office or laptop behind does not have to mean leaving your crucial files and work behind.

Now you can get your work done no matter where you are by using Documents To Go to view, edit and create Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files as well as view Adobe PDF files on your Android-powered smartphone. And since it is full featured yet easy to use, Documents To Go is one mobile office suite that makes good business sense.

There is a free version of Document To Go and it's available on the Android page at DataViz.

Enjoy,
Scott

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