Blend Your Last Frogs. Google Turns A Blind Eye To Flash.

Google has announced that it will no longer index Flash files.

Journey with me to a time in a faraway internet; a time before we had monetized social media. A time when the page you shared with your friends was your page and not a page on someone’s network. Way back when Visual Basic was what Python is now and JavaScript was a hack mostly used for cool effects. A hero arose. Macromedia Flash opened the gates to the interactive web, and for a chunk of time it consumed more than a decent portion of humanity’s attention and artistic output.

Computer art was growing, but was it public? How many grandmothers would see a demo?

New grounds were paved and anyone who wanted to become an animator or a web designer could manage it in a few tutorials. Only a few years before Flash took off, people had started talking about computers as a source for art in mostly theoretical terms. There were demoscenes, university studies, and professional communities, of course, but were they truly public? Suddenly Flash made computer art an everyday thing. How could computers not be used for art? In schools and offices all over the world people of varying technical skill would get links to games, animation, and clever sites sent by their friends and colleagues.

For 23 years Flash has had this incredible creative legacy. Yet it’s not perfect by any means. It’s a constant headache for our friendly neighborhood super-conglomerates. Apple hates how it drains the battery on their mobile devices, and that it’s a little village outside of their walled garden. Microsoft sees it as another endless security violation. They all saw it as a competitor product eating their proprietary code bases. Continue reading “Blend Your Last Frogs. Google Turns A Blind Eye To Flash.”

Project Egress: [Fran] Makes A Latch

[Fran Blanche] is on the team of elite hackers that has been offered a chance to contribute to [Adam Savage]’s Project Egress, a celebration of the engineering that got humanity to the Moon 50 years ago this month. By the luck of the draw, she landed a great assignment: building a replica of one of the fifteen latches that kept the Apollo Command Module hatch dogged down against the vacuum of space, and she’s doing a great job documenting her build with some interesting videos.

The first video below is mostly her talking through her design process, materials choices, and ideas about fabricating the somewhat intricate pieces of the latch. All 44 makers involved in the project get to choose what materials and methods they’ll use to make their parts, and [Fran] decided to use wood. Her first inclination was to use oak and brass, a nice combination with an 80s vibe, but in the second video, which covers more of the initial fabrication, she explains her switch to walnut. Unfortunately, the only CNC option she has is a Shaper Origin, which presents some difficulties; the handheld tool requires some complicated fixturing to safely machine the small parts needed, and its inability to read STL files means that [Fran] is stuck with a complicated software toolchain to drive the tool.

There are more videos to come as [Fran] gets further into the build, and we’re looking forward to seeing how her part and the rest of the makers’ builds come out.

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Adobe Neural Net Detects Photoshop Shenanigans

Photoshop can take a bad picture and make it look better. But it can also take a picture of you smiling and make it into a picture of your frowning. Altering images and video can of course be benign, but it can also have nefarious purposes. Adobe teamed up with researchers at Berkeley to see if they could teach a computer to detect a very specific type of photo manipulation. As it turns out, they could.

Using a Photoshop feature called face-aware liquify, slightly more than half of the people tested could tell which picture was the original and which was retouched to alter the facial expression. However, after sufficient training, Adobe’s neural network could solve the puzzle correctly 99% of the time.

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Impossibly Huge Depth Of Focus In Microscope Photographs

Sometimes, less is more. Sometimes, more is more. There is a type of person who believes that if enough photos of the same subject are taken, one of them will shine above the rest as a gleaming example of what is possible with a phone camera and a steady hand. Other people know how to frame a picture before hitting the shutter button. In some cases, the best method may be snapping a handful of photos to get one good one, not by chance, but by design.

[The Thought Emporium]’s video, also below the break, is about getting crisp pictures from a DSLR camera and a microscope using focus stacking, sometimes called image stacking. The premise is to take a series of photos that each have a different part of the subject in focus. In a microscope, this range will be microscopic but in a park, that could be several meters. When the images are combined, he uses Adobe products, the areas in focus are saved while the out-of-focus areas are discarded and the result is a single photo with an impossible depth of focus. We can’t help but remember those light-field cameras which didn’t rely on moving lenses to focus but took many photos, each at a different focal range.

[The Thought Emporium] has shown us his photography passion before, as well as his affinity for taking the cells out of plants and unusual cuts from the butcher and even taking a noble stab at beating lactose intolerance.

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Focus Your Ears With The Visual Microphone

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A Group of MIT, Microsoft, and Adobe researchers have managed to reproduce sound using video alone. The sounds we make bounce off every object in the room, causing microscopic vibrations.  The Visual Microphone utilizes a high-speed video camera and some clever signal processing to extract an audio signal from these vibrations. Using video of everyday objects such as snack bags, plants, Styrofoam cups, and water, the team was able to reproduce tones, music and speech. Capturing audio from light isn’t exactly new. Laser microphones have been around for years. The difference here is the fact that the visual microphone is a completely passive device. No laser or special illumination is required.

The secret is in the signal processing, which the team explains in their SIGGRAPH paper (pdf link). They used a complex steerable pyramid along with wavelet filters to obtain local pixel motion values. These local values are averaged into a global motion value. From this global motion value the team is able to measure movement down to 1/1000 of a pixel. Plenty of resolution to decode audio data.

Most of the research is performed with high-speed video cameras, which are well outside the budget of the average hacker. Don’t despair though, the team did prove out that the same magic can be performed with consumer cameras, albeit with lower quality results. The team took advantage of the rolling shutter found in most of today’s CMOS imager based consumer cameras. Rolling shutter CMOS sensors capture images one row at a time. Each row can be processed in a similar fashion to the frames of the high-speed camera. There are some inter-frame gaps when the camera isn’t recording anything though. Even with the reduced resolution, it’s easy to pick out “Mary had a little lamb” in the video below.

We’re blown away by this research, and we’re sure certain organizations will be looking into it for their own use. Don’t pull out your tin foil hats yet though. Foil containers proved to be one of the best sound reflectors.

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Stripping DRM From OverDrive Media Console EBooks

stripping_drm_from_overdrive_media_center_ebooks

[Armin Tamzarian’s] local library recently started lending eBooks via the OverDrive Media Console system. He checked out a couple of books, which got him thinking about how the copy protection scheme was implemented. He wondered what recourse users had if they wanted to view a book they have already checked out on a different, or unsupported piece of hardware.

His research centers around Adobe’s ADEPT digital rights management scheme, which is used to protect the books offered on loan by OverDrive. The topic is broken down into three parts, starting with an introduction to the EPUB file structure, the OverDrive Media Console, as well as the aforementioned ADEPT DRM scheme.

The second part takes a close look at the OverDrive Media Console itself, where he uses the ineptkey and ineptepub utilities written by [I♥CABBAGES] to pull the RSA cipher keys from the EPUB data he uncovered. When he then tries to strip the ADEPT DRM layer from his books however, he discovers that OverDrive is using a non-compliant version of the ADEPT standard, which renders existing tools useless.

The final part of [Armin’s] discussion digs even deeper into the OverDrive Console’s inner workings, where he finds that the OverDrive Media Console stores quite a bit of information in an SQLite database. After a bit of digging, he finds all the data he needs to strip the DRM from his books. [Armin] also took the time to wrap all of his findings up into a neat little tool called OMCStrip, which as you may have guessed, strips the DRM from ADEPT-protected eBooks with ease.

Careful! That Gas Pedal Is A Nexus One

Indeed, the gizmo above is meant to be used as a gas pedal. [Grant Skinner] came up with the idea to control slot cars using an Android phone as a gas pedal. He coded the software for the handset and a computer using Adobe AIR. Once connected, the computer is sent the accelerometer data from the phone, relaying the speed control to the slot car track with the aid of a Phidgets motor controller. See it ‘go’ after the break.

We’ve seen the Phidgets board used in several projects like the augmented vending machine and the plotter white board. What we haven’t seen is hacks that make use of AIR, a framework we looked at two years ago. If you’ve got hacks that make use of AIR we want to hear about them.

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