12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

Creating a Color through Black and White Picture

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christmas-parade-08-25I featured some pictures last week during Phriday Foto that had everything Black and White except the only important person in the picture, my daughter.  Turns out this is pretty easy and can be done with a free program, so I thought you might be interested in learning how to do it.

First, you need GimpGimp is a FREE graphics program like Photoshop, which is expensive.  Gimp is not quite Photoshop, but for free, it rocks.  Also, it works on either Mac or Windows.  I first learned about it from Frank Turk who has a Gimp University blog with loads of tutorials.

Simple directions are first, followed by detailed directions and screenshots.

Simple Directions

  1. Create a duplicate layer:  Layer->Duplicate Layer
  2. Desaturate the top layer:  Color->Desaturate (pop up window->desaturate)
  3. Erase the top layer where you want color to shine through:  Tool->Eraser
  4. Save As your picture in the format of your choice.

Detailed Directions

I’m going to post pictures of the progress as we go through.  Click on the pictures you see in the article for a full sized picture.

For this process, I picked a Christmas Parade picture in which a very colorful lady presented a profile, but she blended somewhat with the other spectators in the original picture.

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For well done graphic work, everything is done in layers, so get used to adding multiple layers to an image.  To create a duplicate layer, you need to select the layers menu and then duplicate layer from that menu.

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This is going to give you two layers in the layer menu toolbar.

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Next, you want to take all the color out of the top layer, which is called desaturatization.  The easiest way to do that is to drop down the color menu and choose “desaturate.”

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You’ll get a pop up with several options.  Just click the big desaturate button.

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This will give you a Black and White layer over the color layer.

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Then select the eraser tool from the tool tray, select the brush size you want and erase where you want the color to bleed through.  (The more precise way to do this is to create a mask that will create a selection around the place you want to erase, but this is the quick, easy and dirty way to do it.)

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When you are done, from the file menu, click “Save As” and save the image.  I created this by naming it “color through BW.jpg” and it automatically took me through the process of exporting it as a jpeg image.

(Click for Larger Pic)

Better Blogging: Tweaking Firefox

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Firefox is the best internet browser around, but did you know you can tweak it? You can make this browser more efficient and adapt it to your own interests. There are two ways of doing this: Add-ons and Scripts. An add-on is an additional program that gets, wait for it, “added on” to the basic Firefox code. Scripts work within Firefox to cause it to act differently and are more susceptible to malware (malicious software) written by hackers and act like viruses. Avoid these by checking the downloads of the scripts on the download page to make sure plenty of others have gone safely before you.

You can cruise the add on section at Firefox for some that you might enjoy.

Here is a list of the ones that I have installed. Feel free to share with the class some of your favorites.

Adblock Plus :: Firefox Add-ons – Blocks Advertisements in articles and on websites. I never see the dancing mortgage ads at Yahoo anymore. Huzzah!

Auto Copy :: Firefox Add-ons – Automatically copies to the clipboard anything I highlight, saving me extra clips. This plugin is essential to efficiently putting together a “Link Load” post with tons of links to interesting things. It saves 2-3 extra clicks per link, and is used in combination with a couple of other programs for great speediness. Just call me Speedy Gonzalez. Andele!

Better Gmail 2 :: Firefox Add-ons – This add on kicks into gear when you log on to your gmail account. I don’t use gmail that much, but if you do, go to the home page and review the features to see if it’s for you.

CoLT :: Firefox Add-ons – This add on is a power blogging must: Copy Link/Text. When clicking on a link, this add on adds a couple of items to your right click pop up menu: 1) Copy Link Text and 2) Copy Link Text and Location as… The second option has an arrow and gives you several choices. The first choice is “as HTML” which, when selected, will produce a fully formed html coded link in the clipboard and it saves you TONS of time and energy. This is the primary way I was able to produce all of the links that you see in this post in just over five minutes. The typing next to the links, a little longer.

del.icio.us buttons :: Firefox Add-ons – Inserts a button in the toolbar of Firefox that will let you bookmark a page in del.icio.us. If you don’t know what that is, it is a place to store your bookmarks online, so that you can access them anywhere without having to be at YOUR computer.

Digg This! :: Firefox Add-ons – Adds a “Digg This” item to the right click menu so that you can easier submit things to Digg. By the way, if you want to be read, you want to be dug. If you and your friends will start digging each others interesting posts, they will start reaching a much wider audience.

Download Statusbar :: Firefox Add-ons – Replaces the download window with a status bar at the bottom of the page. Easier to keep up with and not as much hassle with a pop up window.

DownThemAll ! :: Firefox Add-ons – Allows you to download multiple files instead of one at a time. Very useful.

Fasterfox :: Firefox Add-ons – Makes Firefox more efficient and helps it to load pages faster. it can do nothing about slow connections, so if you have one, a slow internet is what you will have. If, however, you have a highspeed connection, this plugin makes Firefox seem even faster than you would have guessed.

Forecastfox :: Firefox Add-ons – Puts a radar screen and weather alerts in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen, as well as current temps and the forecast for the next two days. Also alerts you to dangerous weather when watches or warnings are released.

Greasemonkey :: Firefox Add-ons – More on this one in the next section, but this plugin allows you to insert scripts.

MinimizeToTray :: Firefox Add-ons – Minimizes Firefox windows to the system tray.

Skype Sidebar :: Firefox Add-ons – If you use Skype to webchat, this gives you some tools in Firefox.

Web Developer :: Firefox Add-ons – Tools for Web Developers.

Now, to the Scripts that you can add.

Greasemonkey refers to the shade tree mechanic who used to lift the hood and tinker with his car to make it just a little faster, just a little better. These scripts are computer programming’s version of folks lifting the hood of Firefox and tinkering with some great help in efficiency and some just fun applications.

First, you have to install the greasemonkey addon, then you can install the scripts. Here are a few that I’ll recommend.

Akismet Auntie Spam for WordPress … If you’ve ever gotten much spam caught in the anti-spam plugin, Akismet for WordPress, you probably have been frustrated while looking for legitimate comments among the pages of spam. This is especially tedious when the spam is several thousand words long with a hundred some odd links to sites hosting medicines without prescription, porn and investments. This script recognizes that you are in Akismet and collapses all the comments into one line entries. You can expand the entry with a click if you think it is legitimate and verify. It collapses pages of spam to 1/10th the size.

WordPress Comment Ninja This script does two things. The first thing it does is allow you to reply to comments from the notification email you get when someone comments on your blog, providing you are reading the comment in Firefox. The second thing it does is to create links to do the same thing from the comment section of wordpress. Although I use Outlook to receive my email for 12 Witnesses, I have used this script to answer comments from within the WordPress.

Amazon – Denver Lookup 1.2.6 When looking at a book on Amazon, this script will form a link under the title that will take you to Denver Library’s information about the book – usually more than what Amazon has to offer.

Google Image Relinker This script will allow you to click on an image from Google Image Search and it will go straight to the image, rather than to the framed version of the original website. This is if you don’t like Greased Lightbox below.

Download YouTube Video III Allows you to do just as it says, download videos from YouTube.

Greased Lightbox (v0.16) Now here’s a great script. When you search for images on Google Image Search and click on one, it will launch the large picture against a black background. You can then navigate VERY QUICKLY through the page with the arrow keys on your keyboard.

Flickr Photo Magnifier Creates bigger pictures from smaller ones on flickr.

Google Doc Download GM Script Allows you to download documents stored on Google Docs, and when combined with “downthemall” allows you to get all your Google Docs quickly, which is handy if others have been editing them.

GZoom Allows you zoom in on Google Maps beyond what you normally could.

Google 100 Instead of 10 results from Google, you get 100 results on a page.

Facebook Auto – Colorizer Colors Facebook pages to blend with the main picture on the page. Somewhat fun.

Facebook Fixer A collection of enhancements for various aspects of Facebook eg. showing bigger profile pictures, making it easier to view albums, showing people’s age and sign, auto-reloading error pages, changing redirecting links to direct links.

Pearl Crescent Page Saver is a free FireFox extension that you can use to capture images of web pages as PNG or JPEG files. You can capture an entire web page or just a portion of it.

Here are a few pages full of other scripts that you can explore for yourself.

25 useful Greasemonkey scripts you should take a look at

This list is in no particular order from best to worse, it’s written just as I’m going through my plugins!

Best of: Greasemonkey Scripts

This post is a compilation of the best and most popular Greasemonkey scripts available to its users, broken down into category for easier reference.

Top 10 Greasemonkey scripts to improve your productivity

“Greasemonkey extension (with the help of Stylish) can do wonders for your productivity”

I got the basic gist of this from the video of Lorelle Van Fossen’s address at Wordcamp 2008, a convention of bloggers who use WordPress listening to the pros talk about specific aspects of blogging and WordPress. If you check out the video (at just about an hour long) you will hear a couple of other things that I will reference in later posts in the Better Blogging series.

Better Blogging: The Beginning

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can you hear thisI’ve recently found a ton of information from the pro-bloggers, those that design a lot of the blogging software, about how to blog better. I am sifting through that load of information and then will pass on to those who may read what I learn. Of course, I’ll be linking to the originators of these ideas, so you can go straight to the source, if you want.

I talked with a fellow pastor last week and he was on his way on a Mission Trip. I asked if he would be blogging the trip the way I did Vietnam. He said that he wasn’t set up for it, but really thought it was an effective tool for communicating. I promised to help him set up when he got back from his trip.

My friend was right. Blogging is a powerful form of communication and also is highly effective to those who read. The questions are, “Who is reading?” “Can we reach those that don’t know us?” If we can do it well, then we stand a better chance of getting the message out.

With that in mind, no matter who you are, I am embarking on another tech series to help you blog better and more efficiently. Hopefully, it will save you time and you can reach others. I can say that my feed subscriptions have doubled this week since I’ve been doing a few things differently. I haven’t even really gotten started.

This series will have a little something for everyone. If you are a lurker (someone who just reads and doesn’t even comment) there will even be stuff for you. Nevertheless, I will be aiming mostly toward those who already blog.

In this series, I plan to address:

  • where to blog (service and software)
  • content choice
  • how to blog for better search engine results
  • all kinds of software to help you do cool stuff – for free
  • what to do WHEN your rss feed gets scraped and used by a splog (spam blog)
  • how to get it done quickly and efficiently
  • more…

While I am gearing up for this, I want to offer you a chance to ask questions now that might form an answer post. Now’s your chance. Just ask away in the comment section.

If you haven’t switched to Firefox yet, give it a whirl now. A lot of what I will be writing about will have to do with it. For those who don’t understand what and why, I’ll explain:

Firefox is a browser, like Internet Explorer from Microsoft. The primary difference is that Firefox is what is called “Open Source,” which means that people other than those who own and run Firefox are free to develop “add-ons” and “scripts” that can be installed in the browser to customize it to your liking. It works for Apple or PC, so whatever your native operating system, you can use this browser.

The up side of open source is that you have MANY people working to make things better for you. The down side is that some people will write intentionally malicious software to mess others up and you might be a victim. However, this is usually avoided easily. Choose add-ons from Firefox’s site and Scripts that have been downloaded significantly by others (if others use it and it is malware – malicious software – then they will report it and it will be taken down). I’ve never had a problem with anything I’ve used in over two years of using Firefox.

The main reason I switched is that almost all the pros use it. I figured they knew something worth knowing. Astoundingly, I was right. They did.

After I switched, I found that Firefox is the standard in “compliance” – which is to say, it is the best browser for interpreting the computer language in which web sites are written. In Firefox, everything seems to appear as it was intended.

For instance, my site, when viewed in Internet Explorer, has the “footer” at the top of the site between the sidebar and the content columns. In Firefox, it is at the bottom of the page, where it was designed to be. If you use Internet Explorer all the time, try Firefox for a week. You will be absolutely amazed at how different the websites you visit look. Some change drastically. Next in the series, I will give you a huge list of all kinds of tweaks you can do for Firefox to customize it.

Some of these updates will help you blog better and some will help you read better, so whatever you do in the blogosphere, there will something for you there.

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