Friday, March 28, 2008

Geotag your digital photos with GPS coordinates...

I always blog about all these gadgets and gizmos that I wish I had. Today, for a change, I am going to talk about a new item that I have actually had the opportunity to try. I recently read an article about a little GPS device that will let you tag your digital photos with GPS coordinates. Then when you upload them to Picasa, Flickr, or wherever you post your pictures online, they will be placed on a map exactly where you took them. I saw this on eBay earlier in the week and couldn't resist.

The process is pretty simple. The ATP Photo Finder comes ready to work right out of the box. If your digital camera uses SD cards (most do), then you are more than halfway there. Follow these steps to start tagging your photos based on where you took them:

  1. Turn on the GPS Photo Finder. The display will tell you that it is finding a satellite lock. this took 3-5 minutes for me.
  2. After the satellites are located, you must change the time on your digital camera to match the satellite time. This is how the Photo Finder will match your location to the time your photos were taken.
  3. Leave the Photo Finder on and near you as you take your pictures.
  4. When you have finished, the camera card is inserted into the Photo Finder. The photo finder will automatically tag each photo based on your GPS location at the time the photo was taken.
  5. When you upload the photos to Google Picasa, they will show up on the map where they were taken (video example from my pictures below).
Although the idea is a clever one, I don't think this device is quite ready for prime time. I took 6 pictures during my test run this afternoon. Of the 6, 3 of them didn't really put the pictures right where I took them. One was off by about 100 feet (forgivable) and 2 were off by a good quarter mile (weak). Considering the fact that Picasa lets you drag and drop your pictures onto a map with the same end result, it probably isn't worth spending the extra money just yet. When they start including GPS chips inside digital cameras (they already have) at a reasonable price (not yet), then the fun of automatically tagging your pictures with latitude and longitude will be realized.

In the meantime, I have a GPS Photo Finder for sale on eBay. It was only used once. Any takers?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Resurrect lost web pages with Google Cache...

Have you ever gone searching for web page that you have accessed in the past, only to find that it has moved or been deleted from the server? Annoying, isn't it?

My school recently changed the company we use to host our website. In theory, all of the files had been backed up and moved via FTP to the new host. The move was supposed to be entirely transparent to users of the site. Of course, anyone who has ever experienced a move knows that no matter how careful you are, there are always a couple of things that seem to get misplaced en route. Unfortunately, my entire directory was among the things that seem to have been "left behind." Go figure.

The only thing worse than learning that every web page you have created in the past 4 years is missing is learning it in the middle of the day when you try to access a page that is required for a classroom activity. Ooops. The moment had the potential for catastrophe.

Luckily a combination of quick thinking and Google's cache feature were sufficient to save the day. I was able to find Google's cached version of my missing page, save it as a web page, then upload the file to my personal web server (where my classroom pages will reside from now on), and business continued as usual. I think we lost about 4 minutes of class time.

Here are some screenshots detailing the fateful event:

  1. I discovered the page was MIA.

  2. I entered the address of the missing page into Google:
  3. I clicked "Cached" to view the last time Google crawled and saved the page./
  4. I was able to see and save the page that had been saved by Google about 1 week before.
    Thus, the tech person's life was spared.
If you are ever in a similar jam, I suggest you try it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Free Mosaic Maker Software...

I've been looking for a free Mosaic making software for a long time. If you aren't familiar with it, it is the software that lets you make a large photo that is actually made up of 100s of other photos. I posted a few examples below. Each example shows the original photo and the mosaic(if you click on the mosaic, you can see the larger version to make out the individual tiles).

I really like the fact that you actually download the software to use on your computer. I have found a few sites that offer this service in the past. This requires you to upload your pictures to an external site, then wait for a long time as your mosaic is processed. I once had to wait 2 days for a mosaic that I made on a website! This program lets you choose a folder full of pictures to use as tiles, choose the picture you want to end up with at the end, set some options, then go. I was also pleasantly surprise at how quickly it processed. The whole process for each of the pictures below took about 2 minutes.

There are some very cool potential classroom posters in the works in the near future....

Monday, March 10, 2008

Green Screen on a Budget...

I may have created the cheapest special effects green screen of all time. We are about to do a project in which my 8th grade students will create Presidential Campaign Commercials (of the "I approve this message" variety). I thought it might be very clever and cool to try to tape in front of a green screen and edit in custom backgrounds for the videos. I did a little online homework and found that Adobe Premiere Elements 2, which I already had from a couple years ago, can do chroma keying. The results ended up being quite impressive, considering the budget. I have posted a sample video at the bottom of this post. Here is a basic shopping list if you want to try to recreate this effect on your own:

  1. Two 3' x 9' pieces of green fabric from Walmart - $15.00
  2. One Digital Camera - $75 (more or less depending on specs)
  3. Adobe Premiere Elements 2 - $20 and up on eBay
  4. Stock Footage - Free on