Tag Archives | Photography

More Pointless Privacy Trolling Over Color

As if the Chicken Little “the sky is falling” privacy recriminations over the Color photo-sharing app since last week’s launch weren’t enough, privacy advocates are ready to pounce once again. This time a security researcher says that the application is vulnerable to “geolocation spoofing,” essentially meaning a user could fake his location to view images at that location.

Veracode chief technology officer Chris Wysopal is the man behind this latest statement, and said the spoof is done by use of a unofficial third-party app on a jailbroken iPhone. Of course, the whole flaw is dependent on that — normal iPhones would not be susceptible to this as Apple would never let such an app in the App Store. Most iPhones aren’t jailbroken.

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Color’s First Fifteen Hours: It’s Revolutionary! It’s Pointless! It’s Brilliant! It’s Terrible!

I don’t like writing about stuff I haven’t tried. Plenty of products that look swell in demos to tech journalists don’t work very well. Sometimes, in fact, they don’t work at all. So I sometimes pass on covering new gadgets, apps, and services until I can spend time with them–even as other sites are expressing opinions based largely on having the items in question described to them in glowing terms by tech execs.

Yesterday, however, I wrote about Color, a new smartphone app that automatically shares photos and videos with people near you. I thought it was a nifty idea. It comes from a company cofounded by Bill Nguyen, whose previous startup Lala was definitely a nifty idea. And I did get to fool around a bit with the app during a demonstration in a real-word setting–a restaurant, which is the sort of place that Color is supposed to be fun and useful. That’s a major step beyond just having it explained via PowerPoint.

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HP Technology Repairs Damaged Photos

Old crumpled, folded, and otherwise damaged photographs may have gotten a new lease on life. HP’s research wing has devised a technique to remove creases from photographs using standard scanners, according to reports published Aug. 12.

Once flaws are detected, an automated process takes over to repair photographs using techniques including infilling and texture synthesis. A more detailed description of how the technology works is available at the HP Labs Web site.

This is a neat development, and HP is once again being an innovator in consumer technology. It is a leader in software development and testing, but its commercial products do not always stand out from the crowd.

I did a quick Web search and found another HP research project that it says will lead to better color accuracy in scanning.

When I was younger, only the biggest techies owned scanners, and it was a pretty big deal to own one. Scanners have since become a commodity technology, and it has been a long time since I have taken notice of them. It might be time to begin paying attention again.


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Polaroid: A Great Name Taken in Vain

Edwin Land With SX-70Maybe it’s because I consider the SX-70 one of the very greatest gadgets ever invented. Or perhaps it’s because I grew up a few miles from the company’s headquarters in Cambridge, Mass. Whatever the reason, I feel protective about the Polaroid brand–and boy, am I sorry to see what’s happened to it over the past few years.

To recap: In 2001 Polaroid went bankrupt. In 2002, the brand was acquired by a company called the Petters Group, which proceeded to slap it on DVD players, TVs, and other products that had nothing to do with the company’s proud heritage in instant photography (as well as a few that did, such as digital cameras). Petters later bought Polaroid outright for $426 million. In 2007, Polaroid stopped making instant cameras, and in 2008 it announced plans to stop making film for its old cameras in 2009. In 2008, it became known that Petters founder Tom Petters was the subject of a federal investigation for massive financial fraud. Then Polaroid went bankrupt again.

And yesterday, Polaroid was sold again, this time for a measly $88 million to a joint venture that owns other distressed brands such as the Sharper Image and Linens ‘n Things. One of the partners said this about Polaroid:

Polaroid is an iconic brand known globally for their technical innovation and high-quality products that deliver on its reputation of ease-of-use.

Very true. But another exec added:

The Polaroid brand has immense global appeal that translates into almost all categories,…This is a terrific opportunity to unlock Polaroid’s brand value and transform its multi-channel platform of diverse and unique consumer products using leading technologies and trend-setting innovations.

Which I fear is corporate doublespeak for “We’re going to continue to license the name out for use on all sorts of consumer electronics products, most of which are commodity items which have nothing to do with the qualities that made this a great company decades ago.”

You gotta think that the late Edwin Land, Polaroid’s founder, is deeply sad if he’s out there somewhere, watching what’s become of his brainchild. (He died in 1991, after Polaroid’s golden age but before it became absolutely clear that chemistry-based instant photography didn’t have a future, and neither did Polaroid as an independent, inventive entity.) Here’s a great story from a 1972 issue of TIME that makes clear that Land was one of the greatest tech CEOs ever–a sort of combination of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak who thrived for decades and was also a philanthropist of note.

There is one exception to the generally dismal fate of the Polaroid name: It’s being used on photo printers and digital cameras that incorporate the printing technology developed by Zink, a Boston-area startup that’s full of Polaroid veterans. At least it’s a genuinely innovative idea that brings the original idea behind Polaroid photography into the 21st century. But I wonder if there’s an alternate universe somewhere in which digital photography was invented at Polaroid, and the company is doing better than ever?


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That’s LIFE–on Google Image Search

lifelogoHere’s an unexpected treat: Google Image Search is putting millions of photos from LIFE magazine online for the first time. And not just all the wonderful photos that filled LIFE for decades, either–they’re digitizing the entire LIFE archive, 97 percent of which consists of images that were never published anywhere. All of a suddent, Google Image Search isn’t just about a ginormous but random assortment of pictures all around the Web–it’s also home to some of the best photography ever done anywhere.

A home page for the LIFE collection lives at images.google.com/hosted/life, or you can just go to images.google.com,  type in whatever keywords you like, and append “source:life” to the end of the query.

The images look great and are in reasonably high resolution, and I can’t think of many more entertaining ways to delve through a sizable chunk of 20th century history than to browse your way through them. A few queriws I had fun with:

astronaut

american president

hippie

ice cream

baseball

fad

movie star

macy’s

All of this is, of course, free, but there is a commercial aspect: You can click through from any image to buy it as a print. Oddly enough, I don’t see any link through to information about what is and isn’t permissible to do with these photos. Search Engine Land has a good post that links to a FAQ, but says that this FAQ doesn’t spell out LIFE’s stance on reuse: They’re up for grabs for personal, noncommercial use but not for professional purposes. I’m hoping that I won’t go to copyright jail if I give you a peek at the searching interface:

lifeastronauts

Highly recommended–just make sure that you don’t begin browsing if you have any pressing, immediate deadlines…


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