Tag Archives: graphics

Edit Images with Gimp

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Marques is back this week with a short review of his favorite image manipulation program – Gimp. Gimp is free cross-platform software that can help you complete a variety of image tasks with ease.

Gimp is a very powerful piece of software. Marques uses this program for all of his graphics on his site instead of using the expensive Photoshop software. You can do anything with Gimp that you can do with paid alternatives.

It is a raster editor, which means that it performs operations directly on the pixels that make up the image, and not a vector editor. Other (proprietary) raster editors include Adobe Photoshop, Jasc Paintshop Pro and the humble Microsoft Paint. An alternative free editor is the KOffice project, Krita. Users wanting to edit photographs will certainly want a raster editor like GIMP. Graphic designers and illustrators may prefer a vector editor depending on their tastes.

Gimp is a fantastic alternative to Photoshop or other titles you hear people raving over all of the time. It’s great for everyone from beginners up to experts and will be able to handle any project you can dream up.

Are Two Cores as Good as Four Cores?

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Michael from CMPLive decided to do a special episode of “Real or Hoax” for our channels. He is a brave soul, and decided to take on the age-old question of whether or not two cores really are as good as four. In order to do this test properly, he made sure that the machines used were truly alike, apart from the cores themselves.

To run this test, Michael performed tests on four different popular games. He also did tests on several different types of software. You can see from the graph shown in the video, there’s a significant difference in the performance, but could easily be a bottleneck in the graphics. The difference is most definitely NOT double, though, as you might expect.

During a different test, Michael set his graphics to the highest possible settings. Low and behold, there was NO difference between two cores and four cores as far as performance. This is because his graphics card experienced a bottleneck long before the CPU would have.

When testing playing Assassins’ Creed, you can see by the charts that both low and high graphics usage produced nearly the exact same results – no matter how many cores were being used.

Flight Simulator X has been long believed to be CPU intensive… again, though, there was no difference. How can this be so?

Overall, Michael proved that there truly is not much difference when you use four cores instead of two. The biggest difference was in rendering and processing videos… the quad-core machine definitely performed faster. In every other case, though, it didn’t matter how many cores were installed in the computer. When it came to the games, the graphics card mattered far more than the CPU itself.

Thanks, Michael, for producing a fantastic video for us.

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Do You Appreciate Your Technology?

Gordon asked on Geeks recently: “What do you consider to be this most ignored item of technology?” He talks about how we often take for granted the items we have around us… our gaming consoles, our computers and even our navigation systems. He’s right, you know. Most of us use these items without really thinking about them or appreciating them.

We want the newest technologies. We want things that are better, faster and newer than what we have. But do we stop and think about what we have? Do you appreciate the fact that science has evolved enough to even allow the design and implementation of that smartphone you cannot live without? Do you ever think about those people whose brains are so much more advanced than mine (and perhaps yours) that they can come up with things like this to make our lives easier and more fun?

What piece of technology do you think is the most ignored? What one item do you believe we all tend to overlook – despite the fact that we likely use it every day?

Don’t overlook the hot new software and app deals we have for you on our download site.

Turn Photos Into Art with the iPad

Photo Brush is a very cool app that’s been available for the iPhone and iPod Touch for a while now. The app allows you to easily apply sharp text and fun, bold brush designs in unique combinations. Once you have done that, you can save your work of art or upload it to your favorite social networking site.

The app has been modified for the iPad, and will be released this weekend with the name of Foto Brush Pro. Using the larger screen of the iPad, you will be able to add even more details to your masterpiece, creating something truly unique. The app can be used to paint blank canvases or photos, add text, and otherwise enhance or create art.

Playing around with photos is something we all tend to do. Who doesn’t enjoy enhancing and changing up their pictures? Create something original and share it with the world, or just play around for fun in your spare time. This app should be released soon. Thanks to TUAW for discovering this app.

AMD Eyefinity Multi-Monitor for Gaming

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Playing games is fun, but sometimes one screen is just not enough. Wouldn’t you have a much better experience if you were using three screens? With AMD’s Eyefinity, you can easily run three screens off of one graphics card. I spent a little bit of time with Casey while I was at AMDs campus in Texas recently. Casey is the Director of Product Marketing for the graphics side of their company. He wanted to share with us the advances made with Eyefinity, and how it can improve your gaming experience, along with your productivity.

The Eyefinity project allows you to expand your gaming experience from one monitor to three. Many of you are now trying to point out we’ve had multi-monitor capability for awhile now. That may be true, but there were drawbacks. We were pretty limited to two monitors. Also, the dual-monitor setup didn’t always work for gaming. Sure, it would work to extend your desktop. However, as soon as you fired up that favorite game you’d be stuck on only one screen again.

What AMD has done is to re-architect their video card to where they can treat the entire three-screen resolution as one single large surface. Instead of seeing it as three separate panels, the operating system will now see it as only one. It’s difficult to explain, because you honestly have to see it in action for yourself. It’s very fluid, with an amazing performance.

Casey also showed me the Eyefinity 6 Edition. This single graphics card can effectively run SIX monitors. Yes, I typed that correctly. SIX. MONITORS. It was insane to see that in action up close and personal, let me tell you. There were six 24″ displays, each running with 1900×1200 resolution.

Some people may wonder why they would want three – or six! – monitors. Why can’t you just use one huge 50″ television, instead? It’s all about resolution, my friends. With one large TV, you’re going to have this huge picture, but it’s not going to be very clear. With multiple smaller screens, such as those Eyefinity runs on, you’re going to have an amazing picture, and it will be seamless… not stretched out beyond recognition.

Eyefinity is an amazing advancement in both gaming and productivity technology. Until you see it for yourself, you’re honestly not going to be able to understand it. Seeing it in this video gives you an idea. But having it running right in front of you is on another level entirely.

I have to thank the folks at AMD for bringing me to Texas for the SXSW conference, as well as for all the time they spent with me to answers questions from our community.

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What Should You Look for When Buying a New PC?

The other night, I posted a blog post from Dan, with his tips on how to find information. He sent me a second list, and it is definitely something you all should read through. Here are Dan’s tips for how to make sense of Windows computer specs when buying a new computer.

  • SIZE Decide what general dimensions you want and what personal preferences you have. Examples are: laptop or desktop?, screen size?, keyboard size?, physically large or small? It is important to have SOME idea of what you want because a store employee is going to try to sell you the most expensive computer they can.
  • RAM The more stuff your computer does at one time (internet+music+documents+email) the more RAM you’re going to need. Vista (which ships with all Windows PCs now) needs significantly more RAM than XP does, but most of the major manufacturers have added RAM to compensate. If you plan on pushing your multi-tasking ability to the limit (or if you’re going to game) you’re going to need 3 to 4 gigabytes. For a normal user- 2 gigabytes should meet your needs just fine.
  • HARD DRIVE The more pictures, video, and music you want on your computer, the more hard drive space you’ll need. The hard drives are getting really large to compensate for the increase in personal digital media creation. Keep in mind that it’s probably better to keep your valuable data in an external place anyway, so don’t get carried away. (100-200GB is a smaller size, 300-500+ is really large.)
  • PROCESSOR The processor controls almost all operations of your computer, so again, if you’re going to be pushing your computer a lot, get a faster one (2-3GHz). Vista needs 1GHz to run comfortably, but even most laptops have a faster one out of box.
  • Shop Around! There are a lot of brands of computers, at a lot of different prices, found in a bunch of different places. I’d recommend sniffing around a couple of big-box stores, then seeing if there’s anything in online stores that may match you better. A computer is a significant investment that should last you for a long time, so do your homework!
  • Video Cards If you plan of doing any gaming, make SURE you get a dedicated video card (usually ATI or Nvidia). If it doesn’t have a sticker for one of those on the case, then it’s an integrated graphics chipset. In most cases, it’s going to be significantly less powerful.
  • Getting Ripped Off If you go to a large store like Best Buy or Circuit City, be wary of all the ‘But there’s more!’ packages they try to throw at you. Be wary of the protection plans, but get it if you need it. DO NOT buy the security suite they try to shove down your throat, there are much better free alternatives for Windows security out there.

How to Make Graphics for T-Shirts and Mugs

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Have you ever tried to take a color picture and turn it into a black and white one? I don’t mean greyscale… I’m talking just black and white. If you’re not skilled with using an image editor, you’re going to have to rely on a service. I found an excellent website that will take those color photos of yours, and turn them into a very cool work of art.

Magnigraph allows you to easily create your own cool-looking magnigraphs a picture or sketch. Your magnigraph can then be scaled down for printing on T-shirts, mugs, or posters. You can either use a picture that is already on your computer, or enter the URL of a photo on the Web. Low-resolution, high contrast images work the best, and please make sure you don’t use someone’s copyrighted material without their permission.

It takes only a couple of seconds for your image to render. There are a few different options you can play around with. Click on the red or blue links at the top of the picture, and your image will render in those colors, instead. Easily change the size proportionally by clicking one of the preset sizes just above the picture, as well.

Why would you want to turn a color picture into a black and white one? You can use these to print onto tote bags, coffee mugs, or any number of other items to meet your promotional needs. This is extremely simple, and a lot of fun to use. Have fun playing around with your pictures today!

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Where do you Find Photo Fun?

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I love being able to manipulate images on my computer and even within my web cam. There are just so many different things you can do. If you visit Cameroid online and click on the “Scenes” button, you can apply any of their pre-defined themes or templates to your images. Cameroid is free, and simple to use. It lets you take crazy pictures from right within your browser. Cameroid is brought to us by the makers of SlideShow.

There’s nothing to install. You have to have Adobe Flash on your computer. And, of course, you need a web cam. You don’t need a web cam with sound if you don’t have one. There are some really cool templates on Cameroid. There’s a monkey, the Mona Lisa, a ninja, Frankenstein, and even a GNOME! You don’t have to apply one of the scenes. You can also distort the image, blur it, select certain areas, or change the color filters. If you want to take a fun but serious photo, you can add any one of several different frames around yourself.

The images can be easily saved to your hard drive to upload elsewhere or email to friends. Want to see some of what I did?

Oxygen Deprived

Humpty Dummy

Frankenstein's Other Monster

UFO Sighted in Seattle

Gnome Gnome

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Can you Paint Graphics in your Web Browser?

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I’m still struggling to find an image editor that I can really fall in love with. I’ve tried pretty much everything out there. I want it to be powerful, but simple at the same time. In some cases, all I need is a quick and easy way of doing one thing, and may not have software installed. I could use… Microsoft Paint. What? Nah, not gonna happen. I’m just not good with it, and need something better when creating an image. What do you use when you need to create or draw something? I’m talking simple… not Photoshop Elements. I’m still looking for something I’ll probably never find.

Until I find one that truly floats my boat, I’ll be usingSumoPaint. My friend David sent this along to me. You know I love web-based apps that are useful, and this one definitely is. SumoPaint gives you simple but powerful tools for creating and/or editing images right in your browser. You don’t even have to sign up for an account. There’s nothing to install, of course. You can then save your images to your computer, or to your SumoPaint account if you chose to register one. There are tons of tools included. You can select, move, smudge or blur. You can add text. You can zoom in and out, flip the canvas and so much more.

Thanks, David, for passing this along. It will definitely stay in my bookmarks. I’d love to see something like this inside an Adobe Air application, for sure.

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Graphics and Video Card Help

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I asked my chat room: “What kind of Video Card do you have?”. No matter what… I get asked this question constantly. Inevitably, someone wants to talk about Video Cards. “What do you have?” “What should I get?” “What is BEST?”

A video card, also referred to as a graphics accelerator card, display adapter, graphics card, and numerous other terms, is an item of personal computer hardware whose function is to generate and output images to a display. It operates on similar principles as a sound card or other peripheral devices.

The term is usually used to refer to a separate, dedicated expansion card that is plugged into a slot on the computer’s motherboard, as opposed to a graphics controller integrated into the motherboard chipset. An integrated graphics controller may be referred to as an “integrated graphics processor” (IGP).

Some video cards offer added functions, such as video capture, TV tuner adapter, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 decoding or even FireWire, mouse, light pen, joystick connectors, or even the ability to connect two monitors.

What’s the best video card? Well, it depends on what you’re going to be doing on your computer. Are you gaming? How graphics-intensive are your games? What’s your Operating System? There is no “best” video card. There is only a best for YOU, based on what you’re doing. I had an email from someone saying that he had asked the chat room what the best PCI card was to buy. Everyone threw out their suggestions, but it didn’t really help him. I can’t help him either in one respect. I can’t tell him what to buy, nor what is best with him. I can give recommendations… but that’s about it.

FirstRSS ERROR: "http://shop.tagjag.com/products/graphics" NOT FOUND!

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Windows Vista Makes Your Life Easier?

I kid you not. Here’s the official process for saving an image in a different format inside Windows Vista (using only what ships with the OS). Directly from the Windows Vista help center:

To save a picture in a different file type

  1. Click to open Windows Photo Gallery.
  2. Click the picture you want to change.
  3. On the toolbar, click Open, and then click Paint.
  4. Paint will open with your picture displayed.
  5. Click the File menu in Paint, and then click Save As.
  6. Click the Save as type list, and then click the file type you want to use to convert your picture.
  7. Click Save.

I discovered this only after being told that I couldn’t adjust saturation, hue, etc. on a BMP image. Sounds like a niggling point to bring up at this stage in the game, but it only underscores my initial arguments. “Wow?” This kind of workflow would have been acceptable in the days of, say, Windows 95 – but Windows Vista’s Photo Gallery should have been a bit smarter. If I can’t Fix a PNG or JPG in the Gallery viewer, then why is the toolbar button still illuminated? This isn’t just a fontface oversight.

I’ve been living inside Windows Vista (32-bit) for the past week, and I don’t think I could go back to Windows XP. I want Windows to be better – as a consumer, as a technologist. Maybe that’s why I’m disappointed when I find details like these skipped. Microsoft Paint is just… the anti-Vista. Why not just license PhotoFiltre or the fresh-out-of-beta Paint.NET? Let’s just see what gets patched when Vista’s first service pack hits the streets later this year.a

RSS, OPML, Tag, Bookmark Icons

We have a “standard” RSS icon and a similar working OPML icon, but I’d like to work with the graphics community on creating a “standard” Tag icon and a “standard” Bookmark icon – in a similar square style. These icons would tie into the functionality of my first two WP plugin ideas – where the user would only need to display one icon, and when the visitor hovers over it, would receive a nice callout to selected services. We could eliminate a massive amount of confusion and save page space at the same time. I think it’s time we started thinking about this – but I’m not a graphic designer. Help?