Turn Your Mac Into A Security Camera

There’s nothing like a little paranoia to start the day. If you worry about who’s wandering around your home while you’re away, or who is checking out your cubicle while you’re at lunch, here’s a way to capture the perps (TV lingo for ‘perpetrator’). It’s a Mac app with the clever name Security Cam and it records both photos and video clips of whatever walks by your Mac’s built-in camera.

You can buy security cameras that work in standalone mode but they’ll cost $100 or more (Dropcam is a favorite), but this is a security camera in app form and it comes with a whole laundry list of features so you can customize to meet your security needs.

The Motion Trigger option turns your Mac into a motion detector. Set the trigger to capture a photo or video clip as soon as motion is detected by the camera and app.

There’s also a built-in Audio Detector which will snap the camera when a pre-defined level of sound is detected by your Mac.

No security camera is worthwhile unless there’s a stealth mode and Security Cam has that, too. It turns off the Mac’s display but keeps the app active. Security Cam is accessible from the Mac’s Menubar and displays settings, current camera view, and other options.

Security Cam for Mac

Security Cam can be customized with frequency settings, too. That means the audio trigger and frequency capture combine. There’s a similar setting for both frequency and motion detection.

As you would expect, the app exports videos and photos with a simple click, and if you prefer, each can have a time and date stamp so you can see exactly what took place and when.

Security Cam is nicely done, affordable, very Mac-like in usage, and a boon to any Mac user who is paranoid about home or office security. After all, if everyone is out to get you, a little paranoia is the right attitude to have.

Microsoft Predicts NFL Games

This is exactly what Skynet would do to divert our attention from the imminent takeover of the world’s computer systems and network. A computer that predicts NFL games. Tony Manfred:

Microsoft’s Cortana — the virtual assistant that correctly predicted 15 of 16 World Cup knockout stage games — went 9-7 in its NFL picks in Week 2

So, about the same as a monkey picking red or black on a roulette wheel.

10 Worst Rock Lyricists

We’re a nation of readers who gobble up shallow top 10 lists, and here’s another from Rob O’Connor:

There are so many to choose from, and I tried to kick up the variety. I looked for consistently bad writing. Sting should’ve been here; I just know it. But I don’t listen to his music enough to know the worst of it.

Spoiler Alert!

  • Paul McCartney
  • Jewel
  • Neil Peart
  • Conor Oberst
  • Gavin Rossdale
  • Trey Anastasio
  • Dolores O’Riordan
  • Gene Simmons
  • Bon Jovi
  • Alanis Morissette

No word on whether O’Connor made the list of Top 10 Lame Lists of 2014.

30 Rolls-Royces

What will $20-million get you? Kelvin Chan on a deal any car salesman would die to have.

A Hong Kong tycoon has placed the biggest ever order for Rolls-Royce cars, agreeing to buy 30 Phantoms to chauffeur guests at a luxury resort he’s building in the global gambling capital of Macau.

A single Phantom’s base price starts at nearly $750,000. How big is Macau’s gambling mecca?

With casino revenues of $45 billion last year, Macau is the world’s most lucrative gambling market, outpacing the Las Vegas Strip seven times over. After authorities ended a casino monopoly a decade ago, newly wealthy mainland Chinese high rollers started pouring in to wager at glitzy new resorts built by foreign operators such as Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Wynn Resorts.

7-times Las Vegas?

Cheap: Fhotoroom Brings Fhilters To Fhotos On A Mac

The digital generation is wreaking havoc on my iPhoto collection. It’s growing. Growing by the thousands each year. And it’s not just the taking of more photos which causes my photo collection to grow. Every photo that gets enhanced with new effects and filters causes a doubling or tripling of that photo. Here’s why.

I lay the blame squarely upon clever Mac app developers who create useful, inexpensive, feature-laden photo enhancement apps. A good example is Fhotoroom X for the Mac. For just a few dollars, or about the price of a combo meal at McDonald’s, you get an app that comes with a gazillion photo tools– filters, effects, and much more– to improve almost any standard photo file format (BMP, PNG, TIF, JPG, JPEG, GIF, TGA) as well as camera RAW support (ARW, CR2, CRW, DNG, EXR, MRW, NEF, ORF, PEF, RAF, RW2, SGI).

Filer and effects are straightforward to implement and include numerical slider bars to adjust each control.

Fhotoroom

Controls?

Fhotoroom has exposure controls for highlights and shadows, white and black point, gamma, and the standard sharpen, contrast, and brightness, but also brings color correction controls for vibrance, temperature, tint and contrast, plus saturation.

There’s also a built-in HDR filter which enhances shadows and highlights. Yes, there’s more, including a lens correction control for distortion, rotation, chromatic aberration, and perspective.

See what I mean? Filters and effects by the dozens, each of which is simple to adjust, and results are displayed almost instantly.

Fhotoroom

Any Mac photo enhancement app worth more than a few dollars needs presets so you don’t have to go into perpetual trial and error mode just to improve a photo.

So, Fphotoroom X has dozens of presets which also include the history of each, grouped into Film, Undertones, Duotones, Lomo, and Color categories. The list of custom adjustable styles is extensive.

  • Tsar
  • Tsaritsa,
  • Americano,
  • Mack,
  • Classic Pro,
  • Velvia X,
  • Herc,
  • Rain
  • Tinge
  • Cape
  • Komo
  • Kapla
  • Haze
  • Adele
  • Hazelnut
  • LowDef
  • Ansel
  • Silver
  • Dose
  • Bella,
  • Lucy

That will keep you busy for awhile. Any misgivings or caveats? Yes. There’s no trial version for the Mac. Fhotoroom for iPhone is free, but has four in-app purchase options to complete the filters and effects collection, so, for a change, the iOS version actually costs a bit more than the Mac version.

Still, if what you want is a growing collection of tools to apply to your photos, including many presets, Fhotoroom X for Mac is a good buy, but it’s a dollar or two beyond my personal threshold for throwaway money (without a trial version).

Samsung Bashes Apple Again

If you can’t beat ‘em, and you can’t join ‘em, bash ‘em. Samsung, which is gettered hammered by Apple in the premium smartphone segment, and attacked by low cost Chinese makers at the low end, tries to look cool by bashing Apple. MDN has all the commercials and BGR the details:

What’s interesting is that Samsung isn’t making fun of Apple customers anymore, which was a strange approach anyway to convince iPhone fans to switch to the next big thing in previous years, but instead it’s making fun of Apple Genius employees, who are supposedly making fun of their own products.

Yeah, like that will make Apple customers switch. Where are the Samsung geniuses?

Samsung is making fun of Apple’s big screen devices and wearables, while at the same time promoting its own devices that were unveiled just days ago and happen to be… big screen devices and wearables.

To prevent alienating prospective customers, bashing needs to be subtle and humorous to be effective. You know, like the ‘I’m a Mac, I’m a PC‘ commercials from a few years ago.

9 Things You (probably) Didn’t Know About Luke Skywalker

Interesting reading from Scott Collura:

In early drafts of George Lucas’ Star Wars script, Luke was no farm boy at all, but rather a seasoned Jedi general — an Obi-Wan type who was an advisor to a king. In the second draft he became a short and chubby 18-year-old called Luke Starkiller, while a holy man from thousands of years earlier was known as “the Skywalker.” It was this mysterious figure who had discovered the Force and helped found the Republic… But, eventually Lucas settled on the bratty moisture farmer version instead

8 more just like that one.

Why Many Disney Characters Don’t Have Moms

Some insight on Disney’s ability to touch emotions from John Boone:

Ever notice how Disney characters—especially Disney princesses—rarely have moms? Their moms are either died, have gone missing, or are otherwise unaccounted for?

So, Boone got an interview with producer Don Hahn who worked on The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and other Disney classics.

One reason is practical because the movies are 80 or 90 minutes long, and Disney films are about growing up. They’re about that day in your life when you have to accept responsibility.

The other reason is more tragic.

The other reason—and this is really odd—Walt Disney, in the early 1940s, when he was still living at this house, also bought a house for his mom and dad to move into. He had the studio guys come over and fix the furnace, but when his mom and dad moved in, the furnace leaked and his mother died. The housekeeper came in the next morning and pulled his mother and father out on the front lawn. His father was sick and went to the hospital, but his mother died. He never would talk about it, nobody ever does.

Sesame, Mac Security, & The Value Of Proximity Controls

It’s been a long time coming, but proximity controls are about to enter the mainstream of technology, thanks to Apple. Apple Pay and Apple Watch will be used to make payments at retail stores without the need to open a wallet or purse, fumble around to get a credit card, wait for the swipe and transaction to complete, and then put everything back.

Wave iPhone or Apple Watch over a scanner and the transaction is done; safely, securely, quickly, and someday soon; maybe.

Here’s a good example of proximity controls Mac users can enjoy now. It’s a free app called Sesame that locks your Mac when you walk away.

Sesame is a Bluetooth device, much like a thumb drive or key fob, which links to your Mac. Walk away with the Sesame device and your Mac, through the free Sesame app, gets locked down. The idea and implementation are sound, but there’s a price for the device and that is likely to limit appeal. After all, both iPhones and Android smartphones can do much the same thing with a third party app for far less money.

But if you don’t use an iPhone or Android phone, Sesame offers another layer of security. You can adjust proximity sensitivity to lock the Mac as you and the Sesame device walk away, as well as set a time period. It also comes with a nice feature which will mute and pause iTunes when the screen is locked, then resume iTunes at the same volume when you return.

For yet another layer of security, Sesame provides a two-factor authentication option which requires a password and the Sesame key fob. The key fob weighs next to nothing, uses Bluetooth LE (low energy) so the batter can go for a long time, and it won’t put a drain on your Mac’s battery.

I can see the need for a device in an office setting where an employee steps away from a Mac frequently and needs an automated method to ensure privacy and security, but there are some issues.

Sesame doesn’t work on most Macs beyond 2011 (MacBook Air and a Mac mini model are an exception). It an extra device to buy, manage, and maintain. Because it’s not smartphone based it will have limited appeal to the masses, but it is indicative of the need for proximity controls on our devices so they can communicate with one another automatically.

New iPhones: What You Need To Know

TechnoStorm has everything you need to know about the new iPhone 6 models; few details, plenty of pictures (or, just visit the Apple site):

With screens sizes of 4.7 and 5.5 inches, respectively, the iPhone has finally broken the 4-inch barrier, bringing Apple’s phone up to speed with most other high-end smartphones on the market. In addition to the bump in sizes, these two new iPhones also pack performance enhancements, courtesy of Apple’s new A8 chip, and better cameras.

The ‘better cameras’ is an understatement.

Apple Watch vs. Android Wear

No one outside of Apple and a limited few partners have actually used an Apple Watch, yet Jacob Kastrenakes is ready to compare it with various and sundry Android-based wearables.

There are already quite a few competitors vying to define what should go on your wrist, however: Google beat Apple to the punch just a few months ago by releasing Android Wear, and watches powered by it have been hitting stores all summer.

Know anybody who has one (or, admits to it; lots of returned items, I hear)?

Unlike choosing between an Android phone and an iPhone, the smartwatch you get is pretty much decided by what phone you have. Android Wear watches only work with Android phones, and the Apple Watch only works with the iPhone.

That pretty much ends the discussion, right?

How To Keep Your Car Forever

This isn’t really possible, but it’s interesting reading, especially if you’ve grown tired of the trade-in hassle every few years. Steven Lang:

I say avoid that debt trap. One of the dirty secrets of the business I see as a car dealer is that nine out of ten new-car shoppers don’t actually need a new car at all. I routinely see customers curb cars that are worth keeping.

That’s from a dealer. Here’s the spoiler list:

  • Replace suspension components
  • Invest in tires
  • Look beyond motor oil
  • Wax job
  • Invest in interior

Free For Your Mac: 5 Stars, Photos to Artwork

Free is good, even if there’s an asterisk attached to the price tag. If you have plenty of photos of average quality but you want to enhance them, Autodesk Pixlr can do it and has the five star reviews to prove it. All it does for free is apply a mixture of more than 600 effects and filters so you can turn a bland photo into an artistic masterpiece, and do it in minutes.

Pixlr comes with three levels of passion. The first is free; a photo editing platform with tools, effects, filters and everything you need to put art into photos.

Pixlr

Photos are easily cropped, resized, straightened, and Pixlr makes it simple to adjust color, resolution, contrast, brightness, even texture. Two photos can be merged using the Double Exposure tool to provide more depth.

Heal and Red Eye tools remove blemishes and imperfections, as well as eliminate the red-eye from flash. In addition to the effects, there are hundreds of overlays and borders. Pixlr even has pencils and brushes which can be applied to a photo for an artistic look.

More Pixlr

All those Photoshop-like features make the free Pixlr a good entry-level photo enhancement tool, so what’s the catch?

The second level is called Essentials, also free, but you need to create a Pixlr account to unlock a few of the aforementioned features (Double Exposure, overlays, borders, etc).

The third level is Pixlr Pro which unlocks additional tools such as Influence Masks, color channels and the like– for $14.99 or $1.99 per month. The first two levels make using Pixlr easy as the barrier to entry is zero, and the learning curve nominal. The Pro level still falls well below the price of Photoshop, but, after a few months of subscription usage, is more than Pixelmater, which, in many respects is more powerful.

$199 Yesterday, 99-cents Today

Amazon’s slow selling Fire Phone is getting the fire sale treatment ahead of Apple’s iPhone launch. Adrian Kinglsey-Hughes:

Amazon has slashed the price of its Fire Phone smartphone from $199 to $0.99, as long as you are willing to take out a 2-year contract with AT&T. While Amazon’s previous forays into hardware with the Kindle ebook reader and the Kindle tablet have been seen as successes, the Fire Phone has been seen as a flop, with growth being painfully slow.

Only Amazon knows how many Kindles have been sold, but the number is so high that the company won’t say. And that’s success?

Waiting In Line

Apple’s new line of iPhones isn’t likely to be available for another week or so but people are already in line, ready to buy. YouTube video:

People waiting in line at the Fifth Avenue flagship store! They will be camping out in front of the store with tents for at least a couple weeks. iPhone 6 and other Apple products will be announced Tuesday September 9 and launched a couple weeks after.

I waited in line for my first iPhone a number of years ago. That was both the first and last time.

43.5 Socks

This kind of thing is hard to make up. AP:

The 3-year-old Great Dane was miserable and retching when its owners rushed him to a northwest Portland emergency animal hospital.

It was something he ate!

X-rays showed a stomach full of “a large quantity of foreign material.” Nearly two hours of surgery later, Dr. Ashley Magee had the answer — the dog had consumed 43 ½ socks.

What family has so many missing socks and doesn’t suspect a big dog is the culprit?

Microsoft Engine Picks NFL Games

If this works out with any level of success, sports could be doomed. Tony Manfred on Microsoft’s Cortana predicting sports games.

The predictions come from a model by Bing Predicts that takes into account 2013 results, offensive and defensive stats, margin of victory, location, weather, and public sentiment (which is meant to help identify real-time factors, like injuries).

Since the model just picks a winner and doesn’t predict a score against the spread, the hit rate should be well over 50%

Should be?

Cortana correctly predicted 15 or the 16 World Cup knockout stage games.

Old School, Meet New Age: How To Get Contact Sheets For Video Clips On A Mac

Way, way back in the day, back when photographs required film, processing, and printing, photographers would use contact sheets or contact prints to view all the photos on a roll of film after processing but before printing each photo (both costly and time consuming). Digital photography has all but ended the contact sheet steps, unless you’re a videographer and want to see video clips all in one place.

Enter MovieIndex, a clever Mac app that blends contact sheets from yesteryear with digital video clips. That’s right. Contact sheets from video clips. And the way it works is pure Mac. Grab a video file, a number of video files, or a folder of video clips onto MovieIndex and it spits out a contact sheet from the videos.

MovieIndex

MovieIndex handles video file formats including those which run in QuickTime Player and a few others (MTS, MKV, AVI, OGV, Google’s WebM). the contact sheet adjust the image size to match the aspect ratio of the video clip so images are not stretched.

Plus, you have options to choose the number of video clip images in the contact sheet, two modes of image quality, the size of the clip images, page number and background color. You can even print the contact sheet of video clips.

MovieIndex doesn’t cost much, works quickly to convert even up to dozens of video clips at a time, but the real question you have to ask is ‘Why have a contact sheet of video clips?” Once you try it, you’ll see (there is a trial version available) that there’s value in viewing many clips or scenes on a single image vs. scanning back and forth in iMovie or Final Cut Pro X. Think of it as a visual catalog of video clips (and much faster than importing and cataloging all clips into FCPX).

Real News: ‘Man Bites Dog’

As they say, a dog biting a man is not news. A man that bites a dog is news. So, this is news. From Luke Shearer in the U.K:

It happened so quick. We were walking to cut my grandma’s hedge so luckily we had some shears with us. The dog came and jumped at Sky’s neck, and it was life or death for my dog, so I just reacted and hit it with what I had. My dad was hitting it with his walking stick but that didn’t work, so I stabbed it four or five times in the spinal column, but it kept coming. I jumped on it and started biting its face until it let go.

That’s news.

7 Worst TV Series Finales Ever

Get your clicking finger ready. Answers has The 7 Worst TV Series Finales Ever. Spoiler Alert (which save you about 35 clicks)!

  • Lost
  • Seinfeld
  • The X-Files
  • Roseanne
  • Prison Break
  • Dexter
  • St. Elsewhere

Seinfeld tops my list. Great show. Terrible finale.