Flickr, Picnik, and potential replacements

If you are a Flickr user you know that the online image editor Picnik that was integrated with Flickr is going away. What’s a photographer to do when all they want is a quick crop or to rotate a photo while looking at Flickr?

If you are a Google + user, you’ve probably noticed that the Picnik technology has moved into Google + and can be used to edit photos there. That’s nice, as long as you’re a Google + user.

There are alternatives to Picnik.

FotoFlexer will work with photos from Flickr (and Picasa and Facebook and other places) and will do pretty much what Picnik does.

PicMonkey was built by some of the folks who worked on Picnik, and does much of the same type of image editing. The hang-up right now is that it only works on photos you have stored on your hard drive. Not that having a free online tool to edit photos isn’t fabulous, but it needs to allow you to choose photos from online storage places and then save the changed image back to its original location.

Are you aware of others that make sense as replacements for Picnik?

iPhone 4S- How Does Siri Work?

It’s Monday morning and you get up from the bed to get ready to office. You wonder would it rain or not. You pick up your iPhone 4S, click on the microphone tab and ask the question-

‘Siri, Will I need an umbrella today?’

‘The weather is Sunny today in Sydney. Hence no need for the umbrella.’ Comes the prompt reply.

Welcome to the world of voice recognition and artificial intelligence. With the new iPhone 4S, the world of mobile phones has transformed how we use our electronic devices and has provided us with better productivity and convenience.

The Siri application has taken the world by storm by performing certain basic activities like taking notes, sending email, scheduling appointment and many more just by following voice commands. It is better than other speech recognition software we have encountered till now as instead of functioning on pre-determined words, Siri actually tries to understand what you speak and perform tasks accordingly. This leads to an important question- How does Siri work?

When a voice input is provided to Siri, a chain of algorithm is followed which tries to understand what the command means and accordingly produce the output. The following processes occur when you give a command to Siri-

How Does Siri Work?

  1. Your sound is channeled through the noise cancelling microphone of the iPhone and is encoded into digital format and stored temporarily.
  2. The digital data is then transferred via internet connection through your ISP to the Siri server located in cloud which is loaded with pre determined AI algorithms to understand the data and provide suitable feedback to your phone.
  3. Further, the digital data in your iPhone is analyzed locally by a built in recognizer (which communicates with the server) installed in your phone which tries to determine whether the command can be resolved locally (by creating contacts, schedules etc.) or it must connect to the internet for command execution. (For more sophisticated commands like weather report, sending an email etc.)
  4. The server compares the data with various statistical algorithms already provided and tries to understand the data based on the letters and order of the letters to come up with a solution for the command (voice command). Meanwhile the local recognizer in the phone also tries to compare the data with a shorter version of the statistical algorithm and comes up with a solution. Based on the highest probability between the two solutions, a go ahead signal is given to the corresponding channel.
  5. The response is then passed through a language model which then tries to compare it with a list of probable interpretations to further ensure accuracy of the response. Then the phone will produce a voice feedback to insure that the command was properly understood. If the program is convinced with the results, then it will execute the task corresponding to what it understood.

how seri works
Image © Divya Rawat

For instance if it understands that you want to make an appointment with a certain contact, Jack, it will go ahead and ask the question ‘Do you want to make an appointment with Jack?’ to ensure that it properly understood your command.

If it receives a yes or a similar response to the question, (which will also be scrutinized in the same manner) then it will go ahead and create a new entry in the appointment folder with the appropriate note linking with the contact Jack.

The beauty of the program is that the whole process takes less than 3 seconds and can provide with instant feedback and solutions for your queries. Hence Siri can be regarded as a good start in field of Artificial intelligence and although it may not be perfect for now and make lot of mistakes, with further improvement in R&D, the future will be ruled by AI.

Guest author Divya Rawat is a mother and a self confessed SEO and tech-enthusiast. She works as a Writer @ iNetZeal (which offers variety of services including content wrting–click here to read more about their content writing service.)

Review: Head First Mobile Web

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Head First Mobile Web (Brain-Friendly Guides) by Lyza Danger Gardner and Jason Grigsby is from O’Reilly (2012). I confess I got a little excited reading this book, which I haven’t done in a long time with a book I intended to review. The excitement came from the fact that I was learning so much.

Generally, I review books about topics I have some experience and expertise in–mostly HTML and CSS with a few general web categories thrown in. I may learn new things, but I’m mostly looking at what’s covered, how it’s handled, how clear the writing is, how clear the examples are, the overall tone of the writing, and the order in which information is delivered.

But I know little about building for the mobile web as a first (and perhaps only) step in creating a web site or app. Hence, excitement.

If you’ve never used a Head First book before, be prepared for different. There are a lot of images, jokes, exercises, quizzes, reminders, and other techniques you don’t normally see in technical writing. Head First books are written this way because of learning research into how best to help you, the reader, remember and use what you read. As you read, you are expected to work along with the text. Downloadable files are provided to help you put together the mobile web sites discussed in the examples. Here are the topics in the table of contents:

  1. Responsive web design
  2. Mobile first responsive web design
  3. A separate mobile website
  4. Device support
  5. Device databases and classes
  6. Frameworks for mobile (the book example uses jQuery Mobile)
  7. Progressive enhancement, offline mode, and geolocation. This is a very good chapter–the explanation of cache manifests is excellent.
  8. Hybrid mobile apps with PhoneGap
  9. Being future friendly
  10. Appendices include setting up a web server environment, installing WURFL and installing the Android SDK.

In going through these chapters you actually build more than one web site–a responsive one using media queries, a business oriented site with password sign in, and a mobile site with user input and offline uses. There is plenty of discussion about problems, pitfalls and ways to work around them.

I think you could get the information you need to get started building for the mobile web from this book and don’t hesitate to recommend it as a text.

Summary: Good hands-on experience while learning.

A review by Virginia DeBolt of Head First Mobile Web (rating: 5 stars)

Have a little fun with QR codes

There’s a beta site called QRhacker that has a clever twist on QR codes. It will generate a QR code for you based on some text, a URL, a phone number, a V card, or wifi access. Then you can customize it by adding a photo in either the background or the foreground. You can also select a foreground color.

I made two and saved them as images. One has my photo in the background, one in the foreground. Try them out and see where they take you.

background image foreground image

Useful links: Accessible New Year?, Responsive, App/Apple, Women in Tech

A Resolution for an Accessible New Year talks about the Fix the Web project and gives details and ideas about how you can participate in fixing the web.

The Goldilocks Approach to Responsive Web Design takes a different approach to the concept. Sure to be discussed widely, so go read it.

Understanding Apple is a review of the biography of Steve Jobs with lessons extracted and applied to app developers. Very interesting and worth considering if you are developing apps.

Emily Lewis decided to speak out about her experiences with the long-festering topic of ignorant male colleagues that plagues women in tech. It’s a part of her Here’s Hoping essay.

I wish Twitter would . . .

I wish there was a way to select a series of tweets and then reorder them according to age – oldest to newest – so you could follow a series of tweets from someone about a topic or a conversation in chronological order.

There’s a filter tool in Tweetdeck that sort of does some selecting of tweets, but it’s limited. I think it would be good to go further than Tweetdeck does.

That wish has two parts: selecting tweets and reordering tweets.

How about it Twitter, can that be done?