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spot.us - community funded reporting

Here is a business idea that I like and think that could catch on (if there is a working micro payment system worked out in our lifetime that is). Its community funded reporting. You think you are a journalist? You believe in free reporting? You still need money for your reporting and survival? Well this place is about to help you. It sports a wiki where you can make a pitch about a story you want to report on. You say how much it costs to produce the story. Concerned citizens and locals interested in the story donate to your pitch - if the reserve you have set is reached you get the money and do the piece. Then the final story is send to spot.us where its fact checked and spellchecked and made into a neat package that then gets distributed (for free I guess) to local media outlets. This makes so much sense its great. Yet I did say that a real micropayment system needs to be worked out for this - as I might not want to spend a lot of money on each story but small change here and there to get the truth out. Maybe you could buy a $10 credit or the like and then spend that on whatever story. Anyway I will be watching that project it might just get huge with just one hit piece of reporting where the traditional media has failed (and that wonīt be very hard to achieve). It also solves the "pennyless blogger sweatshop problem"... Only thing that might get in the way is a site setting the topic not to "environmental political news" but to "more gossip from plastic stars" - which would ultimately suck in all the money.


SpamWar: The Captcha Lie

I am a fierce opponent of Captchas from the day they have emerged because I understood from day one there is no solution to the spam problem that involves more barriers and more walls - walls never work over the long term. I also believed that if a human can solve a captcha then a computer can too at one point down the road - as so many other spam fighting systems that were sold to the masses as "the perfect solution" have been tricked. Also I hate captchas myself and recently some of them have become undecipherable even for a human. Some want you to even learn some code to decipher it - something I am not willing to do when I just want to post a quick comment or such. Captchas are one step to take the bidirectional out of the internet.
But all that is mood when there is a huge industry that earns its money solving captchas with human power instead of machine power - and that is apparently already happening in India. For $1,50 you get 1000 human solved captchas - that is a lot for a little. If someone wants to flood a captcha "secured" site with spam - and I believe captcha secured sites do not have more barriers as they are captcha believers - then then for $150 they get 100000 accounts - that is probably something that makes them a profit (as the 3% rule of spam states - thats 3000 people buying some overprices viagra or fake rolex watches).

Matt Mullenweg founding developer of wordpress has phrased it greatly:

"Ultimately Captchas are useless for spam because they're designed to tell you if someone is 'human' or not, but not whether something is spam or not. Just because something came from a real human being doesn't mean it isn't spam...."

Read the full article at zdnet its highly interesting.


Japanese Individual Fashion Expo

individualfashionexpo.jpgNo secret when I say that I like japanese futuristic pop culture - yes even some of the kitchy stuff. I see this a one of the very few left over breeding grounds for revolutionary culture that actually advances the 20th century mindset by totally opening up to new ideas. Anyway I just read an announcement on "an eternal thought in the mind of gozilla" about the The Individual Fashion Expo IV that grabbed my attention. It apparently drawed over 2000 people last year and is going on in the Tokyo Dome City in Tokyo. I guess you can see some of what is shown on Tokyos streets its always great for those who havenīt been to Tokyo (me?) to have a glimpse at their culture.

More information here.

And for you to enjoy - a video of last years show:


Rapid Eye: Every Day a picture from any point on earth - made in Brandenburg/Germany

rapideye.jpgI know that there are a lot of people out there dreaming of an "realtime" google maps in ultra high resolution - for some its a nightmare, for others its fun, for the next a business opportunity and for a small number a survival tool and for some freaks a surveillance tool. Well we are not at the point yet anyway so no need to get hyped up - but we are one step closer now. I was happy to learn that a company that is based in Brandenburg Germany (so its almost local for me - the town that hosts this very website) has been sending five satellites into space since 2007 that are making ultra fast very high-res pictures anywhere on the globe. Rapid Eye AG is private company running these together with the German Aerospace Center which has bought the rights to use the data scientifically. They are also for sale commercially.
Today was the opening of the operation center and everything apparently works as expected. I hope I can get a photo from then on here through my informant Cassandra (thanks!).

More about it in an old german article on astronews.com.

Sigraph Paper: Capture Normal Maps with Camera Flashlight

In my ongoing series about absolutely stunning developments from Siggraph this year comes a techdemo /white paper that is so simple yet so powerful. Every serious 3D artist knows that it is hard to capture real life textures and replicate them with lots of details and try to make them appear haptic. Tricks like making fake bump/displacement maps by extracting a range of values in a certain color channel only get you so far and touch up is time expensive.

Now Mashhuda Glencross and Gregory Ward from the University of Manchester in the UK and Dolby Canada in Vancouver developed a dead simple - everyone can do it way to extract the normal map of any photo that is shot twice - one time with normal exposure and one time with the flash turned on. From that the get the depth data of the surface. Look at the video of how simple this is - no commercial product yet but believe me that this takes about two weeks to surface (if it isnīt patent locked in some closet).

Watch the video to see how it works and be amazed:

Original Article over at the NewScientist

And I found this tutorial in the comments over there on how to fake this with 4 photos and a lightsource other then camera flash.

OpenGL ES specs on the iPhone

iPhoneOpenGLES.jpgBesides Apple trying to keep anything and everything under wrap there are things I wish they would just publish loud and open. I had to look about an hour today to find the maximum texture resolution and the general graphic specs for the iPhone implementation of OpenGL ES - since I am not developing but producing content for a developer I have no access to the specs but needed them badly. I eventually found some light info on geeks3d.com which refers to an pretty extensive article called "OpenGL and Mobile Devices: Round 2 - OpenGL ES for the iPhone and iPod Touch" by Richard S. Wright Jr.
that is available from Dr. DobbsPortal:

There are a few limitations you should know from the start:
* There is no stencil or accumulation buffer.
* There are only two texture units.
* The maximum texture size is 1024Ũ1024 (use power of two only).
* The maximum space for textures and surfaces is 24MB.
* Only 2D textures are supported.
* There is no software rendering fallback.


Whats wrong with Adobe Apps?

A website lets users speak out what frustrates them with Adobe apps and the new open Adobe Company is responding in depth and length that I have not seen any other company doing ever - I think thats quite great.

Read the following part about a Linux Port of Photoshop in the discussion:

Linux - there are a lot of people there wanting Linux versions of your leading apps. And yet that's been glossed over time and again. And while it wasn't me that added that particular gripe, Photoshop and Lightroom really ARE the one and only reasons why I can't ditch this POS Windows operating system for Ubuntu.

[I can't speak for other products, nor do I want to give you false hope. Having said that, the architectural investments we're making will make the Photoshop codebase more flexible and portable over time. The fundamental problems with moving to Linux are A) sales to Linux users don't represent growth, they represent replacements of Windows units, and B) Linux use is heavily based in antipathy towards non-open-source commercial software. --J.]

I mean this is some reasonable thought on the issue that Linux users might even understand.

There is much more juice with questions and answers about prices of the Creative Suite, User Interface consistency between apps. While some answers are a bit inward looking instead of outward looking there are so many details in there its hard to recount them all here so head over first to the dearadobe.com website and add your gripe then go to the dear adobe top 25 problems (its a must read and if you ever come into contact with adobe apps I am sure you agree with 26 of the 25 points being made.) and finally go to the official Adobe Photoshop insider blog of John Nack to see a huge company open up to the world in a way I have not seen before. Especially follow the discussion after the blog entry where there is a healthy back and forth between users and developers - I hope there are some other big time developers out there taking a cue.


Comics coming to the iPhone - a medium finds a new host

Gosh I donīt own one (and unless they are getting smaller and the dataplans cheaper it will probably stay that way) but I love the iPhone for that it shackles up so many traditions and morphes us closer to a 21st century society - also it starts to save trees which is all and about a great thing. How? Well there are starting to appear comics on the iPhone that would have been printed on dead trees beforehand. Given that especially in Japan the throw away cheap comic culture is huge this might even have a measurable environmental impact at one point. But comics coming to the iPhone is even cooler. I have noticed the rise of webcomics lately but I find reading them in a regular browser takes a away a bit of the magic that happens when you dive into a paneled layout without distractions all around it that blink and try to draw you into a different universe - you know what I am talking about if you have ever seriously used a computer. A comic on the iPhone would is different - you have the screen and the comic fills it - yes it would break with the traditional panels on page layout and is instead only serial panels scrolling but you could even mimic the move from panel to panel which sometimes goes left to right sometimes top to bottom and sometime just quirky - depending on the content - by sliding the panel out/in to the corresponding side. You could even give a "page" overview on how the panels would be arranged for every virtual physical page. Quite general I love the idea and I think with the rise of epaper readers and the iPhone and the current attention deficit society comics become a much stronger medium in itself.

Japanese Manga Comes To The iPhone (Mike Cane)
The Future Is Almost Now (Publishers Weekly)


Mudbox - the end of rendering near

mudbox2009realtime.jpgI promised to put out some more cool stuff that was announced at Siggraph because I think that Siggraph this year has awoken the sleeping Motion-Graphics-Visual-Effects-Dragon(tm). Some extremely unexpected wow factor came from a video presentation about the new Autodesk Mudbox 2009. Its a competitor to the much acclaimed ZBrush (which has been lacking development lately so competition is good) but was never really up to be head on with the latter 3d sculpting tool (coming also 3 years later to the party). Basically this category of programms is "realtime sculpting and texturing of organic forms with subdevision models". There has been great innovation coming from this approach like an extended focus on normal and displacement maps and easier UV transfer from between models. But ZBrush dropped the bomb like last year that they can now do ultra high precision modelling in realtime and add some lighting in the process of sculpting - making a unprecedendet modelling process possible that already generated a lot of highly detailed wierd and real looking characters (some of the Lord of the Rings characters have been modelled in ZBrush). But this year Autodesk who had just bought Mudbox like a year ago is upping the ante with modelling in ultra ultra high resolution - we are talking about 15 Million Polygons + to add detail that floors everyone and the modelling is still realtime and yes you are actually working with the quad polygons and not some normal map trick. The guy in the video is subdeviding the model he works on again and again - to like level 7 or 8 (that is quadrupling polygons on every step) - most programs crash out on level 4 up til now. But when you think it couldnīt get any better he turns on his texture, Light with Shadows, realtime HDRI lightning, RealTime ambient occlusion and realtime Depth of Field. WTF. Looking at the model (see the picture above) you think its rendered with renderman and took about 4 hours to render - but yet he continues to draw details on this fully lit fully textures models as if this is a low poly un-textured model - the light updates the viewport updates, he can reposition the main lights to see how the crinkles work he just painted - absolutely stunning.
See the video and more over at Autodesks Area User Platform (so to see the video you have to be registered).

idée TinEye Picture Search Engine actually rocks

There has a plethora of new search engines around the web lately all trying to dethrone google but none has really fully amazed as something that could even compare to google. Yet today I came across TinEye (gosh this reads like an advert - but wait for it - its not its real). It is a pure picture search (no audio, video or text search) and it has a unique but seemingly working take on it

With TinEye you either upload a picture or tell it a webadress of a picture and then it looks for the picture or pictures that look like the picture all over the net. Its database is now at something like half a billion pictures (that 400 Million and something and probably counting upwards by the minute). Well I thought I test so I registered (grumpy bumby why do they all want a phony web adress from me? you really think I am going to give out a real one that I actually use?) and put some photos in personal and not so personal and I got a success rate of 8 out of 10! That means for 10 photos I tried I got 8 that gave me a result that was absolutely spot on. Heck I could even ease my mind with finding out about that rocky impossibly balanced house I posted a couple of weeks ago (its a photoshop ffs. fooled me. from now on I never believe any photo that looks awesome anymore). Anyway the engine is straight forward and works well is incredibly fast - as fast as google so it has to do so much more then google one would think (I think I am having this commercial voice again - sorry but I am quite amazed). Now there is one huge implication this will have -> copyright. If you have copyrighted images on your site and a photographer, artist or whoever who actually enforces their copyrights expect to get nasty letters very soon (that reminds me I still have to write this copyright embed research blog post that has been hovering on my computer for some time).

So here is a video explaining TinEye but try it out yourself I know you love it - its a new way to search (also for yourself if you have lost it ;)


Chaos Radio Express on Funkwelle FM with fALk

chaosradio_express-logo-192x192.jpgI just had a very good but exhausting 2 hour interview for Chaos Radio Express hosted by Tim Pritlove. The interview was about the history of live audio visual art and my take on it in todays time. What Tim didnīt tell me before that it was also broadcasted live over the ether on Funkwelle FM - a one month local Berlin radio station sending from the tower of a church on the PrenzelBerg. You can hear it over at the chaos radio podcast or through the radio prototypen podcast in the next few days. I think it is informative and gives a good overview where we the VJs have come from and where I personally want to go - it definitely raises awareness to our artform - which I think is still very important. I would love to hear any kind of feedback or correction or additions to things I said during the time.


Using photographs to enhance Videos

This last two weeks have been amazing when it comes to new technology in the realm of visual fx production. I will show some over the next view days (when I discover videos for them to show what they are about). I would even say that the advancement of VFX and 3D over the last year surpasses the advancements we have seen the 5 years before that combined (read there where almost none). The first thing I want to show is not available yet in a commercial product but could revolutionize every hard task of compositing - basically cut compositing times for 75% of complex shots by 90%.
Apperently you take a couple of photographs in addition to your video of a scene without moving elements. Then the software matches the photographs onto the video and generates a depth map. Every compositor now knows that when you have a depth map you are in heaven because you isolate objects an make them dissapear or enhance parts of the image. But this software goes further. It reconstructs the image and blends it cleverly with the original footage using motion estimation and difference masks. If it works as shown compositing will start to be fun. Curiously they are aiming this demonstration video at consumers to upres there footage or stabilize it - but the market much more interested is the pro compositors and VFX houses. Because as a VFX supervisor you shoot photos on the set anyways so this would not even add any other level to the pipeline. Amazing. If its really that clean and artifacts free as seen in the video.

Using Photographs to Enhance Videos of a Static Scene from pro on Vimeo.

The PDF paper of the technology and slide shows of the talk are found here


The Ossetian war - connect the oilpipeline dots

dW_GAS_MAP.gifYou know you hear a lot about the recent war in Georgia and South Ossetia. A war that even has the potential to spin out of control with another cold war era dawning on us. Well you hear its all about ethnicity in the region and democracy and independence - well there is evidence to suggest that its about the same thing that killed 100.000 Iraqies and poses hardship and more war on Afghanistan - its oil - and further more its about the transport of oil. You can connect the dots when you look at the map to the left. You can clearly see the red Nabucco pipeline passing through so many trouble spots (and it even links to Theran - but thats another story I guess). Its the pipeline that US companies have planned for decades and that Europe is longing for to get away from Russian dependence. Its likely the pipeline that put another Region into turmoil and hardship. The thing is so - this time its not some poor undeveloped country that you can carpet bomb with high-tech fire and poisen their land so that there will never be resistance from there again - this time you have worthy enemy who has their own plans to plant some oil transporting tubes through the same region to expand their lock on the westeuropes energy demands.
The sooner there is true energy dependence in this world - that means clean energy for every inividual without anyone controlling the flow of it - the sooner this world sees a peaceful advancement of civilization.

map from the energy tribune

Soul Rocking King Curtis "Memphis Soul Stew"

King Curtis played as the opener for the famous 1965 Shea stadium Beatles concert (a must view too - the sheer energy in that crowd is hard to surpass and everyone who has ever felt even the slightest crowd feedback knows that this must must elevate you to a god status during the time it lasts) and I just crossed the following video of him performing with the "Memphis Soul Stew". They are just so awesomely groovy just like their awesome music.


Very good Tutorials for Photographing from novice to elite

exposure.pngI stumbled upon this site that is actually a gallery website for a photographer named Andre Gunther. In addition to having some pretty photographs on his site he also has an extensive blog with tons of tutorials on how to shoot good photographs. The expertise level of the tutorial ranges from the novice to the expert. Quite great. Or do you know how to best photograph fireworks?

Get the Andre Gunthers tutorials here.

Johnny Cash - unchain me


Can you guess what movie by only one letter?

movieletters.pngThis is a fun thing for a change and I was amazed how good I actually was - I got 15 right (and I am neither a movie nor a typo buff). You get a page full of pictures of letters that are from movie posters/titles and you guess which movie it was - you can cheat by clicking on the letter to see the movie for the time when you just canīt remember ;) It shows that movies that donīt use the same font actually benefit from recognition in the subconsciousness.

You can take the test here.


One Step closer to the Bionic Eye

bioniceye.jpgIn a surprise announcement (read as: nobody saw that coming just yet) researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have created an elastic image sensor that is mounted on a flexible silicone bubble that can be inflated. The silicone bubble protects the sensor and gives it heliospheric viewing angle. This is a big step forward for bionic eyes but in the shorter term (until they figure out how to wire this to the brain that is) it will revolutionize the way photographic camera lenses will work because stuff recorded with this sensor is always undistorted - something that lenses can only accomplish when there are lots of very very high quality lenses behind each other (read takes away light and makes the lenses extremely expensive). Also this approach would likely help to focus sub- and objects and do so much faster (inflate or deflate air instead of moving some heavy glass forward backward. It will be interesting to see how long this takes to hit the market - I think this will get into cellphones first as there is the biggest market with the biggest need of smaller lighter cheaper.

Original Article at nature.com


Bagdhad: City of Walls

Growing up in eyesight of a wall that was insurmountable - the end of the world basically I have the deepest aversion to all things that cage you, trap you imprison you limit you to move through this world that is so mine then it is yours then it is theirs. Watching this video documentary made me feel sad and angry. "Tell the world to see" the Iraqi man says showing a lake of sewage in front of the wall where his house is. Only thugs, thieves and misguided people who's feelings have been amputated can allow such human monstrosity to happen. Yes the surge is surely working to turn this beautiful world into an imprisoned hell. I encourage everyone to watch all three parts of this documentary by the guy who was friend to salam pax the first iraqi blogger who has been on my short blogroll since the beginning. He deserves a huge amount of respect trying to report the truth from a place where any misstep any spoken word come out wrong can mean the end of his life. This is something you will not see on any mainstream media - because it is the truth they donīt want the happy western shoppers to see.

Part 1: City of Walls

Part 2: Killing fields

Part 3: Iraqis Lost Generation


License für Internet TV in Germany - the dead is trying to kill the interwebs

It had to come at one point. When a huge company, media or anything else in a capitalistic system is dying it tries to bring down anything around it. So the TV lobby in germany is pushing hard for an extension to the "rundfunkstaatsvertrag" that would make any and all internet tv that has some kind of programming structure in it (read a website that just hosts programms on a webpage under the same name with a "similar kind of program") and more then a lousy 500 viewer (thats nothing really everyone can get 500 viewers in less then two month constant running anything) a pain in the butt to run because you would be considered a tv station with all its limitations and scrunity by regulators. Not that I see any way they would be able to enforce that but if you happen to have a hit and it generates publicity they are going to get you. It canīt be that you could dethrone mighty old dying TV you know then the ruling class would not have any leverage on the population and no way to brainwash them.
The freedom of the internet gets lots and lots of hits lately and if the people who love the webs donīt watch out we will have an overregulated castrated censored commercial push medium in the not so distant future - or some "rogue" state gets an atomic bomb and build huge server farms and then hosts all those freedom loving peoples web endeavors.

More about the Rundfunkstaatsvertrag @ Heise Online.