Dazzling Portraits Come From PhotoDazzle

In my never ending quest to collect enough Mac photo enhancement apps to equal the price of Photoshop, I came upon an easier, faster, less expensive way to improve portrait photos with a minimum number of clicks.

The app is called PhotoDazzle: Beautifier and it’s one of those inexpensive photo wizard apps which does one thing. Improve the faces in portraits. With two exceptions, PhotoDazzle: Beautifier could be the most fun you can have creating classy looking portraits.

The tools are straightforward, familiar, but somewhat limited to enhancements on the face– eyes, nose, lips, teeth, skin, hair. Otherwise, the tools are what you expect– a magic brush, undo, eraser, a loupe, a color picker, and a bunch of effects which are rendered on the screen in real time.

PhotoDazzle - Tan Skin

You’ll find specific tools to enhance eyes, eye color, lashes, brows, as well as teeth, lips, and skin. A simple slider bar adjusts the intensity of each tool.

PhotoDazzle - Dye Hair

For example, it’s relatively easy to change eye color, add eyeliner or lip gloss with just a few clicks. You can add or change the color of a beard, dye hair to a different color, add eye shadow, or whiten eyes.

Skin blemishes are easily removed while rouge and makeup is easily added, including shadows, shine, soft glow and the all important tan.

All editing is non-destructive to the original portrait photo, and therein lies one of the two issues I see in PhotoDazzle: Beautifier.

First, trial and error is your friend. While the tools are simple to operate, you still need a steady hand for each control; the more you use it, the better you get, but trial and error takes time.

Second, non-destructive doesn’t mean what it used to mean. PhotoDazzle: Beautifier works very well, but previous versions were prone to occasional crashes while applying effects. Yes, it uses Apple’s built-in OS X Core Image and it’s fully 64-bit so it renders in real time, but stability has been an issue, even on an up-to-date Mac with 16GB of RAM.

Otherwise, if you’re after an inexpensive way to put notable improvements into your portraits, this is a good place to start.

The Top Hot Rod Is A Buick

This is a blast from the past. An 850-hp Buick Riviera took the top hot rod honors at the Detroit Autorama. Alex Lloyd.

Losing its four-seat capability, the award-winning Riviera makes do with two, featuring a 6.2-liter GM-sourced LS-series engine, good for 850 hp thanks to its twin-turbos. Power to the rear wheels arrives via a six-speed manual transmission. The waste gates and turbos are located in the trunk, with heat vents blended into the rear tail lamps. The front fenders feature additional venting, along with a hot-air exit in the hood. It’s far from the stock Riviera it once was, but to win this prize, that’s a necessity.

What’s the gas mileage?

5 iPhone Tricks

The irrepressible Zach Epstein manufactures another list of information you don’t need.

  • Get rid of the crap you don’t need
  • Treat it like a computer (clear the caches)
  • Delete old texts
  • Turn off auto updates
  • Turn off location services

Slow news day at BGR. Those are tricks which will have little bearing on how ‘smooth‘ your iPhone runs.

BBQ By The Numbers

Julia Bainbridge highlights what might be the best BBQ in the U.S., Aaron Franklin’s BBQ.

  • Average wait, in hours: 3 (4-5 on Saturdays)
  • Most amount of people in line at the time of opening: 400
  • People who get to skip the line: 0
  • Hours Anthony Bourdain waited in line: 2.5
  • Time the door opens: 10:59 a.m.
  • Time the first order is in: 11:00 a.m.
  • Time the brisket sells out: 2:30 p.m.
  • Number of briskets Aaron cooked before he opened: 20
  • Racks of ribs Aaron cooked before he opened: 1
  • Number of times Aaron says “flippin’ awesome” in a two-hour interview: 5

Even the BBQ at DFW is good.

The Website Photo Gallery App For The Mac

Check around. What you won’t find in the photo section of Apple’s Mac App Store is too many apps which create website photo galleries. It seems to me to be the road less traveled. After all, the popular JAlbum is free, Apple’s free iPhoto creates website photo galleries, and most Mac users don’t bother to create actual photo galleries anyway. In the case of website photo gallery apps the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason.

Still, if you have a few bucks to lose, and you’d like something different, there’s 1Gallery, a website photo gallery app for the Mac that’s worth the money, though the end result is an online photo gallery that looks like most online galleries.

1Gallery Drag and Drop

It starts off with drag and drop. Grab photos for your website. Drag and drop onto 1Gallery.

1Gallery - Options

Select from multiple themes, add a title and description, set the height, toss in a copyright and select a few options, and click the Generate Gallery button.

1Gallery - Website Gallery

Once you’ve created the website photo gallery, what’s next?

You’ll need to upload the gallery to a website and for that you’ll need a website, and an FTP/SFTP app to handle the transfer (it’s not built in to 1Gallery). If you don’t like the included gallery theme, choose from others that are available in the Galleria site (think ‘extra cost’).

The problem with 1Gallery is simple. It’s going against the grain and appeals to a small subset of Mac users still into using the web to store photo albums and photo galleries. Themes are attractive but expensive.

Monster: iPhone 6

I want to get paid for writing drivel like Ashraf Eassa for Seeking Alpha.

If there’s one thing that’s consistent about Apple’s smartphones and tablets, it’s that the Cupertino giant has always been obsessed with providing the best performance that it can.

RAM seems pretty anemic to me. Too many page refreshes in Safari when multiple tabs are open.

Thanks to a move to TSMC 20nm, an updated SoC micro-architecture, improved IP blocks all-around, and a large budget by virtue of the high margins and importance of the iPhone to Apple’s business, the iPhone 6 will be a performance monster, particularly in graphics.

An hour later Samsung said it was building the A8 chip for Apple.

Credibility much?

No Suds: The Waterless Laundry Machine

It’s not even dry cleaning. Liana Aghajanian‘s mistitled article:

Using 70 percent less water and half the detergent one would normally use, the Xeros Commercial Laundry System’s polymer beads clean clothes by absorbing stains, dye, and soil from fabric at lower temperatures—which means it also uses 50 percent less energy.

It’s no suds, but still uses water.

9 Cars That Average 50 MPG or Better on the Highway

The only problem in Sean Williams list is that gasoline powered, diesel powered, and electric powered compete for the MPG crown.

Spoiler Alert:

  • Honda Civic Hybrid – 50 mpg
  • VW Passat TDI SE – 51 mpg
  • Toyota Prius Plugin – 55 mpg
  • Toyota Prius Four – 55 mpg
  • Chevrolet Volt – 76 mpg
  • Tesla Model S – 102 mpg
  • Ford Focus Electric – 107 mpg
  • Mitsubishi i SE – 116 mpg
  • Nissan Leaf SL

13 Shockingly Salty Foods

Jessica Girdwain’s list has a few surprises. My Top 5:

  • Cottage Cheese
  • Cereal
  • Veggie Burgers
  • Pancakes
  • Chicken Breasts

As to the latter, chicken breasts are often treated with a high-in-sodium flavor solution.

My Favorite Mac Zip Archive App Is Better

Every now and again I run into an application on my Mac which simply cannot be replaced by a substitute; either with the same features for less money, or more features for the same money. Otherwise, what’s the compelling reason to switch sides?

So it is with BetterZip, my favorite Mac tool to zip up and archive files, which I do on a daily basis.

Apple turned folder and file archives into child’s play but left it at that. Archives on the Mac remains a child. Right-click on folders or files in the Finder and select Compress. That action zips up the folders or files into a compressed archive. Easy peasy, right?

What’s missing is Windows compatibility. There’s no password option. There’s no encryption. And, checking out what’s inside an archive requires you to open the archive to examine the contents.

BetterZip goes way beyond what’s needed to archive folders and files and view archive contents. First, it lets you look inside an archive and remove only files you need. Drag and drop.

Second, BetterZip archives and unarchives files with more compression formats than I knew existed. ZIP, SIT, TAR, XAR, GZip, BZip2, RAR, 7-Zip, CPIO, ARJ, LZH/LHA, JAR, WAR, CAB, ISO, CHM, RPM, DEB, NSIS, BIN, HQX. Who uses all those formats?

Third, BetterZip makes it child’s play to add a password, create a WinZip compatible archive with AES-256 encryption. Need to update an archive? No problemo. Remove any file from within the archive without bothering to open the archive first. Even add files to an archive, or rearrange the files in the archive.

Mac users don’t worry about it much but Windows and Linux users know the problems with archives from Mac users. OS X drops in specific file and resource data. Good for Macs. Not good for the rest of the world. BetterZip can strip them out automatically.

BetterZip uses a Finder-like interface with self explanatory options in the Toolbar.

BetterZip

Just like in the Mac’s Finder, BetterZip lets you preview files from within an archive by using Quick Look. The app also adds menu options to OS X’s Services menu so you can view archives, extract archives, and create archives from within the Finder with little more than a right-click and menu selection.

All this archive goodness comes at a price. BetterZip isn’t free but doesn’t seem to have much competition at the high end. There once was a time when I wished BetterZip had Stuffit capability built-in, but those days are long gone. Who uses Stuffit?

BetterZip comes with many well deserved five star reviews. The only niggle I’ve run into is a slow down when extracting some larger archives in RAR and a few other formats, but otherwise no other issues worth mentioning.

Target CIO Resigned

Larry Dignan on the departure of Beth Jacobs, the CIO in charge when Target’s credit card information was stolen.

Jacob had been CIO since 2008. In a recent interview with ZDNet prior to the breaches, Jacob walked through Target’s approach to mobile commerce, the in-store experience and ironically how point of sale technology leaves an impression. Target’s point-of-sale terminals were at the core of Target’s data breach.

Ouch.

Disappointing Dozen

12 of the most disappointing vehicles from Consumer Reports:

There are many great car choices today, just as there are many models that are not competitive with the best the market has to offer. Such vehicles score below our threshold to be recommended in our comprehensive road tests. And while these underperformers can sometimes be relatively popular models, perhaps with their own distinct virtues, there are better alternatives for most shoppers.

Low Score Spoiler Alert:

  • Chrysler 200
  • Jeep Patriot Latitude
  • Toyota Tacoma
  • Jeep Compass Latitude
  • Dodge Avenger
  • Toyota Yaris
  • Toyota FJ Cruiser
  • Chevrolet Spark
  • Mitsubishi i-Miev
  • Scion iQ
  • Smart ForTwo
  • Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

Word vehicle I’ve ever owned was built by Chrysler (five of the worst dozen).

McDonald’s Of The Future

Jason Best:

A McDonald’s in Laguna Niguel, Calif.—and soon at an unspecified number of other test locations—you don’t just order your run-of-the-mill Quarter Pounder or Big Mac off an iPad but a “custom” burger topped with such un-McDonald’s fixings as sharp white cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, grilled mushrooms, or applewood-smoked bacon.

Seems like the future is here already.

Compare And Contrast: 2 Beginner Paint And Drawing Apps For The Mac

Entry level paint and drawing apps are not a dime a dozen but the pricing is close. Professional level paint and image enhancement apps can be had for less than $30, so what does a free painting app not do that a $10 painting app can do better?

The answer is simple. Not much.

Today’s tale is of two entry-level, beginner level Mac paint and drawing apps. One is called WowPaint and the other PaintCat. The only thing surprising about either app is that they’re not free.

Apple builds a number of components into OS X which makes it easier for app developers to drop in complex tools to handle image and drawing functions. These include Core Image, Core Graphics (Quartz), and others. That probably explains why the Mac App Store is loaded with entry level paint and drawing apps of dubious capability.

PaintCat enters the market at almost $10 but comes with the barest of a bare set of tools. Shapes, text, draw, erase, eyedropper, and fill make up the basics, which includes a fullscreen mode, color palettes for foreground and background colors. That makes PaintCat good for a pre-school or elementary school child with money and time.

PaintCat

For less than half the price of PaintCat WowPaint actually has more useful tools and more drawing capability, though still closer to the entry level position.

WowPaint has the standard graphic tools but also features Soft Pen, Glitter Pen, a 3D Pen with multiple variations, as well as tools like Smudge and Drag. 10 paintings can be worked on at a time and stored in WowPaint. It features a multiple undo and redo, pinch to zoom on the Mac’s Trackpad, layers, and customizable color sets.

WowPaint

If you’re an adult with a child WowPaint makes the better value of the two. If you’re an adult and want to begin learning about digital drawing and image enhancement, less than $30 will get you into Pixelmator, one of the Mac’s most highly touted and Photoshop-like apps.

Link Bait Headlines

Sam Mattera on the failures of Samsung’s new Galaxy S5:

The screen is a tiny bit bigger, but not any less sharp.Touchwiz is largely unchanged, except for a new menu system. The processor is slightly faster, but still 32-bit. The backplate is now dimpled, but still made of plastic. The phone is waterproof, but the ports are annoyingly covered. The two biggest changes are the addition of a heart rate monitor and fingerprint scanner — ancillary features that could appeal to some users, but are far from instrumental. Samsung isn’t shipping the same phone as last year, but the improvements it has made are hardly noteworthy, and extremely disappointing compared to what was rumored.

Rumors rule.

Anthony Leather and five must-have features Apple needs to stay in the game:

  • 4.5-inch screen
  • Rapid charging
  • Better camera
  • HD AMOLED display
  • 5G Wi-Fi (802.11ac)

I wonder how much Forbes pays their so-called contributors. It can’t be much.

On A la Carte Cable TV

Rocco Pendola on cable TV.

There’s probably nothing more popular than the notion of a la carte pricing from cable (or satellite). In fact, there’s so much consensus that a la carte is righteous and cable companies are evil for not providing it that you really can’t be against it. Being against a la carte pricing is akin to being for cancer or child abuse.

On how Apple and Amazon do it.

Apple offers a la carte. Amazon offers a la carte. That’s what we want. Apple, for instance, doesn’t make you buy a package of core apps or something of the sort. It’s choose what you use. And, while it makes perfect sense for the circumstances, it’s not like it’s all that sexy.

What about the cable TV companies?

There’s this misnomer that cable companies don’t want to offer a la carte pricing. Historically and at the moment, they haven’t and don’t. But that’s because there’s been no need to mess with a very lucrative business model. However, when a company as massive as TWC/CMCSA emerges, the game changes.

Pendola argues that we buy a la carte from Apple and Amazon and if we could do the same from the cable TV company we would buy more than we think.

Cheap: Use A Mac To Erase Backgrounds On A Photo

Historically, creating masks to erase backgrounds, and erasing unwanted objects from a photo have been the most difficult for me to accomplish. Photoshop can do both, but there’s a healthy learning curve involved, not to mention the expense.

If cheap and fast is what you’re after, here are two solutions. The first is Snapheal for the Mac, which I’ve written about a few times. It’s a great app that lets you erase objects in a photo, and the app then fills in the space so it blends with the rest of the photo.

The second is Background Eraser which does something similar, except to backgrounds, and it erases them altogether, leaving the object visible on a white background.

Here’s an example of a photo with a colored background; in this case a gradient.

Background Erase - Before

By choosing specific tools, and using the erase to eliminate specific colors, the entire background can be eliminated.

Background Erase - After

What if the background isn’t a solid color? Simply use a different tool and erase all the background detail up to the edges of the foreground object you want to keep.

Background Erase makes the process relatively easy, but some effort to trial and error is required.

Background Eraser - Sample

Unlike using masks in Photoshop or other Mac image editing apps, Background Eraser is mostly simple to use, and the tools are not confusing, even for photo editing neophytes. Drag the photo to Background Erase, select the tool to use to erase, zoom in as needed, save the photo when done.

All for about the price of a bag of french fries.

Sony On Apple

Sony executives think Apple is ‘missing out‘ by releasing a new iPhone only once per year. Lee Bell with details from Sony Mobile Chief, Pierre Perron:

We definitely don’t want to miss out because the consumer is now getting access to 4G subscriptions more and more. In the UK particularly, those consumers have now got subscriptions that give them better experiences and we need to make sure that we answer to them, so Apple’s probably missing out at least this.

In other Sony news, Rachel King outlines Sony’s latest reorganization:

The consumer tech giant announced on Wednesday morning that it will be shuttering 20 stores. This in turn will result in approximately 1,000 layoffs at these locations nationwide.

Sony announced amid its last quarterly earnings report that it is planning to reduce its headcount by close to 5,000 over the course of the year.

Apple garnered nearly 90-percent of the smartphone and tablet industry profits last year.

Top 9 Most Valuable Major League Baseball Teams

Matt Reevy with a guesstimate (#1 on the bottom):

  • Philadelphia Phillies
  • Los Angeles Angels
  • Baltimore Orioles
  • San Francisco Giants
  • Chicago Cubs
  • New York Mets
  • Boston Red Sox
  • Los Angeles Dodgers
  • New York Yankees

Interesting that the St. Louis Cardinals didn’t make the list. The Cards have won more pennants and world series titles than any major league team not named the New York Yankees.

Consumer Reports: Avoid These Cars

From USA Today, the annual list of cars from CR; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Spoiler Alert:

  • Smart Car
  • Mitsubishi Lancer
  • Dodge Avenger
  • Ford Taurus
  • BMW 7 Series
  • Honda Crosstour
  • Jeep Compass
  • Dodge Journey