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David and Goliath
Wooden: A Coach's Life



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Will's books

The Silent Man
5 of 5 stars
Another great John Wells book. I previously compared Alex Berenson and his hero, John Wells, with Vince Flynn and his troubled CIA agent/assassin, Mitch Rapp. Towards the end of Flynn's short life and in his final Rapp books, Flynn got a...
tagged: fiction and troubled-assassin
Getting Started with Hobby Quadcopters and Drones
2 of 5 stars
When I was looking up reviews of drones on the web, I found several mentions of this "book" (a pamphlet,really). It's OK,but all the information can be easily found elsewhere online. The repeated warning about crashing your drone and sta...
tagged: non-fiction
The Martian
5 of 5 stars
Wow. Just . . . wow. This was one of the most entertaining books I have read in a long time. The story is fabulous and the execution wonderful. Basically a diary of an astronaut left behind in an escape from a failed Mars mission (though...
tagged: fiction
The Target
2 of 5 stars
I can't even begin to imagine why this book has gotten good reviews. I have read and enjoyed Baldacci's books before, but this is the first book in the Will Robie series that I've read. Probably the last as well. It's the third one of t...
tagged: fiction and troubled-assassin
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants
3 of 5 stars
I didn't love this book. While I generally like Gladwell's style and analysis, he seems to be running out of interesting observations or topics to cover. There are a few good tidbits and the book is short. If you love Gladwell, it's wor...
tagged: non-fiction
Anthem
4 of 5 stars
I love Ayn Rand's thought-provoking books and stories. I'm fundamentally aligned with her libertarian way of thinking so, for the most part, her stories are just one's that drive home a point that I already agree with or, at least, under...
tagged: fiction
Thinking, Fast and Slow
5 of 5 stars
This is simply a fabulous book about how the mind works and how our behavior is driven by our levels of thought. It's not a terribly difficult book to get through, although it does require a lot of System 2 thinking - Kahneman's term for...
tagged: non-fiction
Killing Jesus: A History
4 of 5 stars
As with the other "killing" books by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard, I really don't like the positioning that the book is based entirely on fact - insinuating the other crappy books I've read are made up. In the documenting of Jesus' li...
tagged: non-fiction
Wooden: A Coach's Life
4 of 5 stars
How can one not like a book about John Wooden? The man is a sports icon. Most of all, of course, he's a teacher, which is exactly what he wanted to be and prided himself on. He based his entire life on teaching basketball fundamentals an...
tagged: non-fiction and sports
Dead Eye
5 of 5 stars
Wow. Just. Wow. This is a great book. In the ex-CIA-troubled-assassin genre, this may be my favorite book ever. Greaney does a fabulous job of balancing action with storyline. Never gets boring, but the reader is overwhelmed by ridiculou...
tagged: fiction and troubled-assassin

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Checkin’ Out Photosynth

When I saw the coming out demo of Microsoft’s Photosynth technology done at the TED Conference over a year ago, I was totally blown away.

Photosynth automatically assembles a set of individual photos of a particular subject into a three dimensional, explorable universe of the scene. The more photos, the more detail and the more explorable the final “synth.”  It differs from stitching – the process of aligning and joining several overlapping photos to create a single larger image – in that the resulting image is a space rather than a flat 2D image.

When the public beta was introduced a couple of months ago, I was all over it.  I played with other people’s synths and was impressed.  But, of course, I had to give it a go myself.  I decided to throw what I thought would be a difficult scene at it – one with trees.  Trees always give stitching programs fits and, as it turns out, they do the same for Photosynth.  There are just a whole lot of edges to align.

I took 144 photos of a location (you don’t need to take that many, but I wanted to see how complete a scene I could create) from every angle I could get to.  Photosynth cranked on the photos for a while and broke the scene into many different views.  There should have only been one, but the program couldn’t match up the views to form a single synth.  The results are below.

Photosynth reported that my 144 photos were only 23% “synthy.”  Basically, Photosynth could only make heads or tails of 23% of my photos in creating the final synth.  If you look at the synths on the web site, you’ll find excellent ones that are >90% synthy like The Boxer.

The user interface for creating synths is very simple and the program creates synths with virtually no user intervention.  Exploring synths is a different matter.  The browser interface is a bit strange to me.  I’m never sure what the arrows and buttons are supposed to do, even after trying them.  I may be using it to its fullest, but I may be missing the point entirely.  A few more tooltips might be helpful.

You need to download the Synther, which runs on your PC (no Mac support yet).  The Synther will upload the synth to servers in the cloud.  You’ll need a Microsoft Live ID to use the service.  For now, all uploaded synths are public.  Everything is free.

I think this technology has tremendous promise and I plan on playing with it a lot more.  Of course, I’ll report back on my findings.  In the mean time, you may want to give it a try.  It’s easy and very cool.

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  • john bower

    Will,

    So I first saw this on DPReview and gave it a quick look, then I believe you mentioned once to me.

    I think some of the navigational confusion comes from thinking this is a type of photogrammetric program. One that remaps the pixel information onto 3D surfaces and results in essentially a single texture mapped 3D surface file.

    In fact this appears to something more and less than that. In essence, the program appears to create a series of hyperlink tags that contain the 3D location and orientation of each of the images in a synth group. The synth viewer is the interface through which one navigates these hyperlinked files.

    Instead of an underlined set of text to indicate a hyperlink, a ghostly trapezoid outline appears indicating another image file that shares common spatial information with the image that is front and center. If another image is a complete subset of the present image, e.g. a close-up view, you can access that information by either clicking within the outline or merely zooming in.

    What is quite fascinating is its paradigm for categorizing and accessing huge amounts of visual data. That and the essentially automatic process to do the categorizing.

    This is also the first significant use I’ve seen of the jpeg2000 file format. Which also shows its great potential.

    John

  • john bower

    Will,

    So I first saw this on DPReview and gave it a quick look, then I believe you mentioned once to me.

    I think some of the navigational confusion comes from thinking this is a type of photogrammetric program. One that remaps the pixel information onto 3D surfaces and results in essentially a single texture mapped 3D surface file.

    In fact this appears to something more and less than that. In essence, the program appears to create a series of hyperlink tags that contain the 3D location and orientation of each of the images in a synth group. The synth viewer is the interface through which one navigates these hyperlinked files.

    Instead of an underlined set of text to indicate a hyperlink, a ghostly trapezoid outline appears indicating another image file that shares common spatial information with the image that is front and center. If another image is a complete subset of the present image, e.g. a close-up view, you can access that information by either clicking within the outline or merely zooming in.

    What is quite fascinating is its paradigm for categorizing and accessing huge amounts of visual data. That and the essentially automatic process to do the categorizing.

    This is also the first significant use I’ve seen of the jpeg2000 file format. Which also shows its great potential.

    John

  • http://www.2-speed.com/ Will

    John,

    That’s a great description of how the UI works and that’s how I understand it, too. I guess my problem with the UI is not so much that I don’t understand it, but more that I think it could be better or, at least, more intuitive. I can see it turning many people off.

    I agree that there’s tremendous power here. I just think that Microsoft could make it more accessible or, at least, less intimidating.

    I didn’t realize that they were using JPEG2000. Cool.

  • http://www.2-speed.com Will

    John,

    That’s a great description of how the UI works and that’s how I understand it, too. I guess my problem with the UI is not so much that I don’t understand it, but more that I think it could be better or, at least, more intuitive. I can see it turning many people off.

    I agree that there’s tremendous power here. I just think that Microsoft could make it more accessible or, at least, less intimidating.

    I didn’t realize that they were using JPEG2000. Cool.