Apple Pundits, Start Obsessing!


Sometimes tech pundits drive me crazy and Apple-watchers can be some of the worst offenders. (For the record, I am an Apple fan.)

Announcements went out to the press and, as usual, everyone goes crazy. Not without reason. Apple releases are Big Newstm and it's not unheard of for them to sneak little hints of what's to come into these emails.

Everyone expected an iPad 3 (or HD) announcement. The picture seems to confirm that. But then... what's this?! The next iPad does not appear to have a Home button!

Stop! The! Presses!

Could the pictured device be in landscape mode which would put the Home button on the side? Apparently not based on the icon spacing (so I read).

My thought was that it could simply be in portrait mode, but upside-down (the Home button would be at the top). To illustrate, I thought I'd throw together a quick demo.

The setup wasn't as straightforward as I thought it would be since I was dealing with two opposing forces. I am both anal retentive (wanting to match the shot exactly), but I'm also inherently lazy (wanting to get the shot over with). In fighting past my warring psychoses, I made a few observations.

I don't have big hands so whoever Apple is using in their picture must have tiny hands. Wow!

The edges of the text in the Apple photo is smooth and sharp. A retina display seems to be a lock. (No big shocks there.)

I'm not sure that the icons are the same size. Obviously they would not be in terms of total pixels if the resolution of the display has doubled, but assuming everything had scaled equally, the "physical" size should be the same. I have two reasons for thinking that something might be off.

First, using the drops on the background as a guide, things just don't quite line up.


The arrangement of drops at the upper, left-hand corner of the Calendar icon just about touch in the new iPad picture, but on my version, it's not nearly that close. The new icon would seem to be larger.

Admittedly, it's quite possible (and even likely) that the wallpaper is not exactly the same and that's the difference. Particularly since height-wise the icons seem to be about the same.

My second reason is that my finger can't be that huge as compared to the model's! Can it?

Moving right along ....

The bezel seems larger on the new iPad. Again this is down to a comparison of my thumbnail to the model's entire thumb up to the first knuckle.

The edge of the new iPad seems pretty dark where we see the back cover. If this is indeed in a portrait orientation and upside-down, this would be where the 3G (4G?) antenna would be which would make that edge material a black plastic. It does not look like the light aluminum edge that I would expect.

Of course, it could just be the lighting. I mean, why would Apple marketing go to the trouble to flip an iPad upside-down to avoid getting the Home button in the picture, but then also grab an iPad with cell service and that ugly, plastic piece?

That's really the bottom line. We don't know. The speculation is fun and interesting up to a point. When a single picture gets an almost Zapruder film like analysis, things start to edge toward the absurd.

I guess the upside is that this is way more interesting that discussing who is suing whom over what patent now.

The Stork Delivers More Paintography

One of the challenges I have sometimes is figuring out just how to turn a picture into something more than just a snapshot. Not that there's anything wrong with snapshots, mind you. It's just that sometimes I had grander plans when I took the shot.

As I mentioned previously, I've been playing around with creating a painterly effect. In that old post, I talked about Adobe Pixel Bender and gave a few examples of what the options there are.

Of course, I can't leave well enough alone and worked to massage the piece a bit more by creating a feeling of depth. Not depth of scene, but depth as it relates to how paint might sit on a stretched canvas.

The result of this experiment is what you see above. Unfortunately, because it has been sized to fit your screen, it loses a lot of what I worked to get. So to illustrate, I've cut two 400x400 pixel swatches and they are shown below.



I will continue to experiment and post the results here.

Intellectual Property and You: Not All Bad


The other day I wrote about some recent frustrating experiences with intellectual property (mine) and the pain and/or inconvenience it can bring when someone either uses something without permission or takes credit for your work.


I wanted to follow that up with a couple of positive experiences.

The first was when I was asked about including some of my photos that I had released as iPad background in an Apple related magazine from France. The deal was struck and as you might have seen at the top of this post, I've got a copy of the magazine to prove it.

The second involves the author of the book I mentioned in my previous post, Stephen H. King. He decided to self-publish and we arranged for him to continue to use the "Ares" piece. Personally, I feel he did a much better job with the cover than his old publisher did.


If you think this might just be your thing, then click the book cover or click here to grab a copy. It's only $3.99.

And if you head there before March 19, 2012, Stephen has been kind enough to provide a coupon for 25% off if you use the code CN33X when you make your purchase.

So, you see? It's not all pain and frustration. Sometimes your stuff will show up places you never imagined and you'll meet new and interesting people.

Intellectual Property and You


About a week ago, after a very long day at work, I came home and just wanted to relax, eat, hang out and maybe do a little "work" on the computer. Unfortunately I received an email from a book author who had found out that the eBook publisher he was planning on using seemed to have a thing for "borrowing" artwork to be used as cover art. He had decided to match as many book covers to artists as possible and tracked me down in order to let me know that a painting of mine was being used on a book currently being sold on Amazon.com.

*sigh*

I am not a professional artist. I like snapping photos, drawing and playing around in Photoshop. People occasionally like what I do and buy prints or download copies to be used as background for various devices, but never in a million years did I think that I would have to worry about someone actually stealing something from me. The truth is that when listening to or reading various discussions on "intellectual property" (IP) issues, I tended to listen with about as much interest as I would any a story about a 100-million dollar lottery winner. These are things that happen to other people. Little did I know....

Going From Bad...

So the work of mine that was used without my permission is my "Ares" piece that some of you who have followed me for a while will immediately recognize.


If I do a search of the Internet for this image, I find that it seems to be fairly popular. Frankly, I like that quite a bit. It's flattering. Most, if not all, of the results returned seem to be "fair use" and while I may not like every place it is being used or the modifications that someone might have made, I am absolutely fine with it being out there.

Almost every drawing, painting or photograph that I post online has a Creative Commons license applied. Because I usually provide a high resolution file, this means that if you want to download a picture of mine, you are free to print it out and hang it on your wall without asking for my permission or paying me one red cent. This is exactly how I want it to be.

In fact, if you have something of mine hanging on your wall, I'd love to see. Hit me up on Twitter (@tomgehrke) or on Google+ (+Tom Gehrke) and let me know!

I set the bar pretty low when it comes to using my work. Typically it involves dropping me a note and letting me know what you want to do. The result of this "policy" is that I have really had very little trouble when it comes to IP theft. It's kind of hard to steal what is pretty much given away.

In this particular instance, however, someone was profiting from my work and the work of many other artists. A publisher should know better. It's their job to know better. I dropped Amazon a note and in something under 48 hours, the book was no longer available for sale.

This did not make me feel particularly good since there was an author out there who had been excited about getting his book published and through no fault of his own, there I was trampling on his dream. Fortunately the author contacted me, we had a very reasonable exchange and we worked things out. He posted an article to his blog to let his readers and fellow authors know how things had ended up and linked to my original Ares piece on deviantART.

...To Worse

Unfortunately, I had long ago parted ways with deviantART and the posted link was to my Ares piece that someone else had posted as their own work.

*sigh*

Now deviantART is supposed to be a site for artists and I would have expected a fairly easy method for reporting abuses. There are, however, no links from a particular piece to a form or instructions for reporting a violation for someone who is not logged in to the site. My impression from reading their copyright policy is that some utility might be available for those with an account.
If you believe that a submission on deviantART infringes upon your copyright you may either report the submission using our internal reporting system or send us a copyright notice via email. 
[Emphasis mine.]
There was no way that I was going to create a new account just to file a complaint so I opted to go the email rout. I sent essentially the same thing that I sent to Amazon while also pointing out that the person had left my signature intact on the image in question. They were not claiming to be Tom Gehrke, while I, very obviously was.

The response I got back was that I needed to provide some very specific information and provide it in a fairly formulaic way.
To file a copyright infringement notification with deviantART, the copyright owner or an agent acting on his or her behalf will need to send a written communication that includes substantially the following:
1. A physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed. 
2. Identification of the copyrighted work claimed to have been infringed, or, if multiple copyrighted works at a single online site are covered by a single notification, a representative list of such works at that site.
3. Identification of the material that is claimed to be infringing or to be the subject of infringing activity and that is to be removed or access to which is to be disabled, and information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to locate the material. In this regard please provide URLs when you identify the location of the material.
4. Information reasonably sufficient to permit the service provider to contact the complaining party, such as an address, telephone number, and, if available, an electronic mail address at which the complaining party may be contacted.
5. A statement that the complaining party has a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
6. A statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
What? I can drop an online retailer like Amazon.com a friendly note that will likely result in a product being removed, losing them revenue, and things are taken care of, but this site requires forms signed in triplicate? (Figuratively speaking.) If someone can explain to me why this should be the case, I would love to know. 

A little online research led me to believe that what deviantART was asking for amounts to the requirements for posting a DMCA take-down request. This seems to me to unnecessarily raise the bar for copyright holders. If deviantART (or any community-based site) has reasonable proof that the violation claim is valid, they should be able to simply take the offending work down. 

My signature was on the drawing in question. I was emailing from an account with the same name. I used to do volunteer work for deviantART in the past and the person responding to my violation email was hired at the same time I was brought on to help with the site's fledgling print program. My piece was one of the earlier prints available in the store. Several of the site's administrators had copies of Ares on their desktops or hanging on their walls.

Don't get me wrong, this wasn't a feeling of entitlement on my part. This was not a case of "don't you know who I am?" This was a case of being shocked by how difficult (relatively speaking) this process was from a  place that I thought would be the last on Earth that I would have a problem with.

So I danced the dance and used a DMCA take-down template I found online. If you are curious about what one of these things looks like, here you go:


This, thankfully, did the trick.

Why did I bother with the take-down notice for deviantART? Well, not realizing that this guy was actually selling prints (I can't tell if he actually sold any), the issue is that deviantART is a well known host for artwork of all kinds. Anyone trying to find the creator of "Ares" would likely assume that the "artist" on dA was the actual owner. Worst case, someone might get permission to use my work from someone who does not have the right to give it. Best case, it's confusing.

"Fine, Tom. Nice story and all, but why should I care?"

The fact is this. If you create something, you should be prepared to defend it. This does not mean that you have to take draconian measures. As I said earlier, I put my stuff out there and set the bar for use pretty low. I am not interested in watermarking my images or posting stamp sized copies. I have no plans to scour the Internet to find and vanquish infringers. If I come across someone who is unfairly profiting from my work, however, I will take some steps to try to set things right. 

As you can probably tell, the entire situation was frustrating for me. It was not that difficult (even though I thought it was more difficult than it needed to be in some cases). It was simply the fact that I had to take the time out of my day to do something that was not particularly enjoyable. 

It probably took more time to write this post than it did to do everything I've described above. If reading this helps you out in some way, then it was worth it. Even if all it does is make you think about where you might want to draw the line for protecting your own works, it was time well spent.

If you have questions or want to further educate me on this topic of intellectual property rights, please feel free to comment. I am always interested in hearing from you and learning all I can.



Cast of Characters


Luis Vera - Author and whistle-blower
Stephen H King - Author of the book whose publisher used "Ares" and fellow victim
Trestle Press - Publisher of questionable values and practices
deviantART - Art site

Painted Zebra, Paintography and Pixel Bender


This will be another "lemons to lemonade" story and rather than my typically long preamble, I'll jump right to showing you what came out of the camera.


Kind of flat and boring. Not to mention the fence is visible in the background. While almost all of my animal shots are taken at a zoo (Memphis Zoo in this case), I also like to avoid making that fact too obvious.

We'll whiz right past my photo "restoration" in Lightroom and Photomatix. The goal was to really get the zebra's stripes to pop and to get some depth back into the picture.

Even with that, I was not particularly happy. The picture was just too... "dirty".


Part of the reason for this is that I had an idea that I wanted to try something new (at least new to me) and I wanted to create something with more contrast than I might otherwise have aimed for. The technique is called "paintography" and one of the tools commonly used is an Adobe Labs extension for Photoshop called Pixel Bender.

(For more on paintography, check out the blog of Ray Bilcliff. His work on Google+ is what inspired me to give this a try.)

Pixel Bender has a number of filters. The one I was particularly interested in using is called "OilPaint". The effect is controlled by five sliders. I'm not going to cover the ins and outs of this filter now, but here are some examples of various settings:





The first example is the one I actually used. My goal was something that looked photographic but that had a painterly quality upon closer inspection.

Speaking of "closer inspection", maybe this will better help to illustrate.


I am sure that not everyone will appreciate this look. Some will no doubt say, "he just clicked a couple buttons and the software did everything for him." Well, yes. And no. This does take some up-front planning and while you can just monkey around with the sliders, it helps to have something in mind to start with.

The key thing is to keep trying new things. What's the worst that can happen?

Support Your Local Artist: Hugh Prysten


Hugh Prysten isn't really local to me. I live in Paducah, Kentucky and he lives in New York City (or thereabouts). In the context of The Internet, we we might as well live right next door. I "met" Hugh on Google+ and when I saw that he did custom, Asian-inspired ceramics, I became an instant fan.

When he opened his Etsy shop, I had to buy something. I started out with a ceramic cup (pictured above). It came well packaged with a nice note. I could not be happier.

I'll be honest. You will pay more for something like this than you would at your local housewares store. But I feel that I got more than just a container for liquids.

I am not going to try to sell you anything. If paying a little more for something handcrafted does not appeal to you, I won't be able to convince you otherwise. If it does, then I encourage you to check out Hugh's work.

Maybe ceramics isn't your thing. That's cool. Might I interest you in some original photography? ;)

Wrinkles


Elephants are pretty interesting looking creatures. As different looking as they are, they seem strangely expressive. I swear I've seen this guy sitting in the rocking chairs outside the local Cracker Barrel.

Actually, this particular pachyderm calls the Memphis Zoo, with their reasonable rent, decent food and a great social life, his home. Only downside is that the lemurs next door carry on all night long. No wonder he looks so tired.