An Animated GIF Exercise

Animated GIF for my Blog

Animated GIF for my Blog

So this weekend, I decided to get my hands dirty with designing an animated GIF for my blog. I used Photoshop Elements 9, although this can also be acomplished with everyone’s favourite free image editing tool, GIMP. There are plenty of video tutorials available in Youtube to get one started.The above GIF with animated text is probably one of the simpler designs and hence ideal for a beginner.I used this for reference. I have used the Impact font and the Wave font style.Also I have used colours which are in coherence with my wordpress theme. The  idea was to depict one conquering small milestones over a long winding road, which I hope comes out as the message in this GIF :) . Although my original intention was to make the characters lie flat, in order to depict a road; turns out it wasn’t all that simple to implement.

The basic technique behind creating an animated GIF is to run a slideshow over a sequence of image layers. Hence, the more the number of layers, the greater is the detail captured in the GIF. One can create more complicated GIFs using the inbuilt shapes that come in PSE.Google, and you will find truckloads of information :) .

Now I know that sometimes an animated GIF can be a tad irritating to the eye as they constantly keep blinking. And no wonder they are used to create all those online Ads. Different browsers support different ways of stopping animated GIFs. Hopefully, that will make for another blog article.

Till then, enjoy this animation :) . I would also love to have any feedback and suggestions on my GIF design.

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What I Don’t Like About iPads

Yes, I am still an ipad fan :) , despite this post.But, as they say, you really can’t have it all. So, I thought of doing this writeup on things I don’t like about my ipad 2. And this is purely from the hardware perspective.

1. No USB port : Yes, I know that’s shocking. So that means you can’t plug in your external hard drive or even pen drive for that matter into this baby. Want USB port badly?….you need to shell out some money and buy the USB adaptor.Also, there’s no SD card slot. So no way of extending capacity and no way of plugging in a device with more capacity :(

2. Proprietary Connector Port : Yes, I’ll admit that I was warned that purchasing an apple device means getting locked in to it’s ecosystem :) . What the proprietary connector port does essentially is ensure that if you ever want to connect any external gadget to your ipad, you need to buy a corresponding adaptor for it. So you better have deep pockets if you want to marry your ipad with other third-party goodies and candies :)

3.  No economical cover cum stand : Now, I really don’t get it why a simple cover for an ipad should cost more than 2k. I mean, really, why??? And why do all of them look so hideous? Yes, the Smart Cover is probably the only exception but then it only protects the screen (the recent ones do cover both sides) and needless to mention, comes with a ridiculous price tag. And all the electronic stores that I visited so far, don’t keep demo pieces for ipad accessories. Do they really expect the customers to shell out in excess of 3k by judging the ipad cover from the cover it itself comes in?It’s frustrating to say the least.

4. Charging issues : Whenever I try to charge my ipad through my laptop, it charges upto 5% and then says “Not Charging”. Charging through the wall outlet goes fine though. When I googled for this issue on the internet, I found that “Not Charging” actually means charging very slowly because the USB’s don’t emit enough power to charge a device like an ipad. Ok, this doesn’t bother me much since a workaround is available, but nevertheless it’s a dampener on the user experience especially since I am running out of wall sockets for my electronic devices.

5. Proprietary data distribution channel : The culprit here is iTunes. Yes, it’s free, yes it’s feature rich and yes, it looks very cool. But what if I want to use an alternative tool for managing some, if not all my media. Doesn’t the user have a choice? Can’t we just lazily drag and drop media files from laptop to ipad? Well, apparently NO.

6. Handle with care : When you hold the ipad in your hand, you just can’t help get the feeling that it’s one of those beautiful and expensive pieces of cutting-edge technology that needs to be handled delicately. So you need to be extra careful to ensure that it doesn’t slip from your fingers and drops on the floor. And if like me, you haven’t purchased the cover yet, well then you need to be insanely careful :)

If this article has put off anybody who was contemplating purchasing an ipad, then let me reiterate. I still love my ipad!! :)

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The Tablet Market

Tablets can easily qualify as probably the best gadget innovation that happened in quite some time. They are rapidly becoming part of our lives and changing especially the way we consume media on a daily basis.The tablet penetration in India is still at a nascent stage but increasingly people are seen preferring a tablet over a laptop.The main reason for this sea change in customer attitude is owing to the fact that tablets deliver a superior user experience, are more portable and have a lower price tag.

The tablet market has been flooded by several vendors.Here are the resources and information links for some of the best tabs so far. The starting prices refer to the price at which the lowest configuration of that tab was launched in India.

1.  iPad

Spec : iPad 2, iPad 3 (The New iPad)

Engadget Review : iPad 2, iPad 3

Starting Price in India : Rs 24,500

2. Samsung Galaxy Tab

Spec : 620 (7 in), 680 (7.7 in), 730, (8.9 in), 750 (10.1 in), 310 (2nd gen. 7 in), 2nd gen 10.1 in

Engadget Review : 620, 680, 730, 750,  310, Galaxy Tab 2 10.1

Starting Price in India : Rs. 26,680, Rs. 36,670, Rs. 32,790, Rs. 34,910, Rs 23,250, Rs. 29,999 respectively

3. Amazon Kindle Fire

Spec

Engadget Review

Starting Price in India : Rs 12,590

4. Sony Tablet S

Spec

Engadget Review

Starting Price in India : Rs. 22,990

5. Asus Eee Pad Transformer

Spec : Transformer TF101, Transformer Prime

Engadget Review : Transformer, Transformer Prime

Starting Price in India : Rs 26,124 and Rs. 49,999 respectively

6. Acer Iconia

Spec : A500, W500

Engadget Review : A500, W500

Starting Price in India : Rs. 27,900 and Rs. 31,500 respectively

7. Blackberry Playbook

Spec

Engadget Review

Starting Price in India : Rs. 13,990

8. Microsoft Surface (Coming Soon)

Spec : Windows RT, Windows Pro

Engadget Review

Starting Price in India : Rs 30,000 and Rs 35,000 respectively

Here is the most recent market share data for various tablet manufacturers. Also, refer this for the most important things to consider when purchasing a tablet.

Anyone tab hungry??? :D

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‘i’Ayesha’s ‘i’mpressive ‘i’Pad

 

Yayyyyy!!!!! Finally I have an iPad :)

I had been toying with the idea of purchasing a tab for quite some time. With it’s user-interface for dummies design and lightweight nature, not to mention a killer form factor, a tab can actually be a better ROI than the conventional laptops when it comes to daily use. With the release of iPad 3, iPad 2 prices were slashed by as much as 5K and I thought it would be a good time to splurge :) . I decided to go for iPad 2 as opposed to the New iPad firstly because it was cheaper by 6K, secondly becabuse I really didn’t care much about the new iPad features of retina display, 4G and camera improvements, and lastly because I reckon it would be foolish to think of making long term purchases in the highly competitive gadgets market. Few friends suugested the Akash tab, but it’s dreary look and terrible performance was a huge turn-off. Though I did give some serious thought to Samsung’s Galaxy tab which came with a higher price tag, I ultimately decided to stick to Apple’s iOS with the thought of purchasing an Android smartphone later.

I bought my iPad from the Staples store in my neighbourhood. I was initially looking to buy the 32GB version, but the guy at the store informed me that iPad 2′s were now being sold only in the 16GB version. So 16GB it was :) , since I am of the opinion that computing devices should come with lightweight just enough storage, and an external storage device should ideally store all my data. Also, I decided to go with the Wi-fi version, instead of the 3G version, because firstly it’s cheaper and secondly because it wasn’t my plan to use my iPad on the move, especially since the 3G coverage in India is nothing to write home about :) . Also I preferred a black iPad over a white one, as I had read not very positive online reviews of the white version.

Along with the iPad, I also purchased a transparent protective film, which set me back by 600 bucks and which on second thoughts could have been done without. And I am yet to settle on a suitable cover. I heard that the magnetic covers are now available with a back cover as well, but not sure whether it’s available here yet.

And oh, the day I got this baby it had my full attention until the wee hours of the morning :) . And did I mention that I bought this for my dad? :) …yeah, that’s the long term plan :)

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My First Ever Video

Recently, I enrolled for an online course on technological entrepreneurship conducted by Chuck Eesley, a Stanford professor. As part of the course, we had to optionally make a commercial with the intent of improvising/marketing a bad idea. The above video was our team’s entry for this assignment.

I made the video over the weekend using tools like Windows Movie Maker, Gimp, Picassa and Audacity, all free tools :) . Had a great time working with layers in gimp and patching up all the different images to create a sequence of moving images through movie maker. All these tools are not only free but also very intuitive and in case you get stuck there’s a lot of support available by way of forums and documentation.The challenge, of course is in the theme creation and designing the artistic content of the video itself.

Hope you like this video :) . And what are you waiting for?….Go ahead and make one of yours :)

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Learning Programming on the Go!!

Today in office, one of my teammates pointed me to a very interesting site http://labs.codecademy.com/. It has been around for some 4-5 months and is still at a very nascent stage. The site promises/aims to teach you programming online without downloading any IDE or editor.Currently it offers courses only in Javascript, but Python and Ruby courses are also on the way.

Each course is divided into several lessons and a lesson consists of several exercises.To encourage the learner are incentives in the form of badges and points. The lessons are pretty straightforward and are presented in a very logical fashion.An online editor is provided for the learner to key in the commands and see the output.And oh, did I mention that you can create your own lessons? Frankly, it’s difficult not to be wowed by this thing.

So today, I spent some time in this place learning javascript.From my end, codeacademy has a big and emphatic thumbs up :) .It really makes learning a new programming language less painful. Can’t wait for the upcoming lessons!!

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Playing with FlashDevelop

The project I was assigned to in my new job had a web-based Flash UI and looked pretty cool!!. In the past, I have never been directly involved in any web UI related work. So I thought that it would be a great opportunity to learn something new and that’s basically the inspiration behind this post.

While searching for a suitable Flash Editor, I came across FlashDevelop, FlashBuilder and FDT. Both FlashBuilder and FDT are eclipse plugins for flash and flex development with FDT being the editor of choice for ActionScript coding. The only downside is that these two eclipse plugins have an attached price tag. However, FlashDevelop is a free and open source editor. It provides support for ActionScript coding and haXe development.According to this, FlashDevelop is more generally a great web developer IDE with integrated source-control support(svn, git, mercurial), tasks/todo, snippets, XML/HTML completion and built-in zen-coding for HTML.

I downloaded the FlashDevelop executable and tried to install it on my dev machine. The installation was however not a smooth ride as the installer kept failing in downloading third party tools (I guess some proxy/timeout issue).I spent a good one hour troubleshooting this error, but couldn’t find much help on the net. Finally, I found a workaround here, which worked like a charm :) . Now, I have my editor up and running.

FlashDevelop has it’s own wiki, which has loads of helpful information and very convenient for beginners.I will need to spend a lot of time here going through the various concepts and buzz words(ActionScript, Flex, haXe, AIR….blah,blah,blah).

Some of the things I want to achieve with FlashDevelop are,

1. Create a small movie. It will actually be a slideshow of pictures with music playing in the background.
2. Create a sample Flash desktop application (prototype of my PoC work in office??)
3. Create a sample Flash web application (prototype of my PoC work in office??)
4. Explore the various features and capabilities of FlashDevelop.

Good Luck girl!! :)

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Eclipse Plugins for Swing

Today had some free time in office and so thought of learning GUI development in Java Swing and SWT. But I got stuck for quite some time when searching for a suitable eclipse plugin for swing/swt GUI development.Quite a few forums recommended using NetBeans IDE over Eclipse for swing development. However, I did manage to find the following eclipse plugins for Swing

1. Visual Editor : It is the oldest swing plugin on the block. It’s an Eclipse project, licensed under EPL, that has been archived since June 2011 due to lack of development support. Quite a few forums had complaints about the buggy nature of VE.For more information, refer http://www.eclipse.org/archived/

2. Visual Swing : It is a google code project by William Chen. This free plugin is designed to ease the pain of using Visual Editor. It has been there since 2008, but is still beta. For more information, refer http://code.google.com/p/visualswing4eclipse/

3. Windows Builder Pro : It has been donated to the open source community through the Eclipse Foundation and is in the process of becoming an Eclipse Project.It is a bidirectional GUI designer that supports Sun Swing, IBM SWT, Google GWT technologies. It also supports the popular JJGoodies FormLayout that enables creation of flexible swing applications for windows eenvironment. For more information, refer http://marketplace.eclipse.org/content/windowbuilder-pro-gui-designer

4. Swing GUI Designer : It is a commercial Swing plugin by Genuitec, LLC. It has been recently launched in 2009. It is a MyEclipse plugin and an implementation of Netbeans Matisse. For more information, refer http://marketplace.eclipse.org/node/1101

5. JForm Designer : It is a commercial Swing GUI designer by FormDev Software. It also has support for the popular JGoodies FormLayout,GroupLayout, TableLayout and GridBagLayout.For more information, refer http://www.formdev.com/jformdesigner/

For now, I have decided to use WindowsBuilderPro plugin for eclipse as it’s both free and open source and also has support for both Swing and SWT.Let’s see how this turns out :)

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About Coding and Redemption

Mostly at this time of the year with Christmas and New Year around the corner, the mood in office is very laid back, people go away on vacations and there is very little work perse. But not this time. Luckily or unluckily(I am still trying to make up my mind :) ), I was literally swamped with work, after sitting idle almost the whole year round (serving the notice period in previous job, followed by 2 months break, followed by ramp-up in new job, followed by the rather dramatic shutdown of our 1.0 project). After a painfully long time, I finally found myself burning the midnight oil at a stretch for one whole week. And the fruit of that labour was of course sweet :)

But this post is about something else. The PoC that I had to work on required building a command-line windows console with scrolling and navigation capabilities. I made use of pdcurses library which is a port of the ncurses library for linux environment. The curses library provides an abstraction over low level graphics related system calls. The best thing about it is that it is distributed with several examples, which can be easily tweaked to fit custom scenarios and hence needless to say, comes very handy when programming under severe time constraints.The pressure point, however, was coding in C which with it’s pointer madness did a successful job of giving me countless head banging moments :) .

In the process of breaking my head over background and foreground colours and screen coordinates, I inadvertently recalled the Graphics project I had worked on in college. The project implementation and execution was itself pretty smooth, however things got screwed up big time on the final day when we were supposed to present the project to external examiners.In lawn tennis terminology, this would be called an unforced error :) . I forgot to place all the files on my pen drive, because of which the project failed to run in college lab. I then had to sit in lab and hand code the missing files with a vigorously throbbing heart and palpating pulses, not to mention that the glaring eyes of the examiners didn’t do much to calm my nerves :) .I had managed to get it up and running, but the damage was done; the examiner had made up his mind before seeing the project itself and I didn’t secure good grades. But oh I passed…what a relief!!!

So in this past week, that college nightmare has come back to haunt in bits and pieces, everytime that something was not working.But the self satisfaction that came from working on this PoC was indeed nothing short of a long awaited coding redemption :) .Well done girl!! (pat on the back)

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