AutoPainter Express

If you’re interested in making your photos look like paintings, of course the long-time standard for doing this is Corel Painter, and that’s still the best way to create something that really looks painted. However, it also requires some artistic ability and a high level of skill and has quite a learning curve.

For those who prefer to let the computer do the work, by far the best solution I’ve found is Dynamic Auto Painter from MediaChance. Unfortunately, it’s only available for Windows, which has been a big disappointment to lots of Mac folks.

However, there’s good news: They’ve just come out with a sort of a kind of a version for Mac, called AutoPainter Express, as well as a version of Express for iPhone/iPod. (There’s an iPad version on the way, but it’s not out yet.)

I’m so happy to finally see a Mac version of this program, but unfortunately this one has a long way to go to get to the level of the Windows version. In Windows you have many options for customizing and controlling the result, while the Mac version is limited to four presets. You choose one, and the only other choice you have is to stop it before it’s finished, if you like your painting where it’s at right now and don’t want more work done on it. It’s not a very Mac-like application, either. For example, closing the window closes the program, just like in Windows, and there’s no way to close an image without saving it except by quitting out of the whole thing.

Still, it’s a nice start. Here are examples of what each preset came up with for this photo from a previous entry:

original photo of happyowl clutch

Using the Aquarell preset, described as “Running colors, water droplets, traces and scratches, it’s all there”:

aquarell painting of clutch
Click for larger version.

With the Benson preset, described as “a sunny palette with Mediterranean tones”:

clutch painted with benson preset
Click for larger image.

With the Cezanne preset, described as “warm reds and yellows with quick brush layers and chalk”:

clutch painted with Cezanne preset
Click for larger image.

And finally with the Van Gogh preset, “inspired by the Starry Night painting”:

clutch painted with the Van Gogh preset
Click for larger image.

There’s really quite a lot of detail in the full resolution images afterwards (WordPress won’t accept files that large), and it runs pretty quickly, even on my old C2D iMac.

Are any of these going to deceive people into thinking that you’re a brilliant painter? No, of course not, but they’re handy for created a quick illustrated look. The results vary a lot, depending on the  source image, but with fussier, more detailed images you’ll often get better results if you run the photo through something like Topaz Simplify first.

While it’s a little disappointing that this app is so basic compared to the Windows version, hopefully this is just the beginning and it won’t be long before there’s parity between the two.

Available in the Mac App Store for $7.99.

Transfer Video and Photos from iPod Touch to iPad

Several people have asked me if it’s possible to transfer videos shot with the new iPod Touch directly to an iPad, and yes, you can do this very easily. (It works the same way for photos taken with the iPod’s camera.) Here’s how:

What you need: your iPod, your iPad, the charging cable for the iPod, and the piece of the iPad Camera Connection Kit with the USB port (not the one with the card slot).

How to Do It

Your iPod videos actually appear in the Photos app, in a Camera Roll, if you don’t know where to look for them, but it doesn’t really matter, since the iPad will find them for you.

1. Connect the charging cable to the iPod, and then plug it into the USB port on the Camera Connection Kit piece. It’s a good idea to make sure that both the iPod and the iPad are well charged up, especially if you have a lot of videos/photos to transfer. Both should be turned on.

2. Connect the Camera Connection Kit piece to the iPad and wait a minute. The more stuff you have on your iPod the longer it will take to read it, but usually it doesn’t take terribly long. If you wait a minute or more and nothing happens, check to be sure all the connections are solid. (I couldn’t get a reliable connection while the iPad was in the Apple case, for example.)

3. Your videos (and/or photos) appear on the iPad. You can touch the ones you want to import, if you don’t want to copy them all over. Then touch the blue Import button at the upper right of the screen and choose Import All or Import Selected from the pop-out menu. (You don’t have to select videos/photos if you want to copy them all.)

4. While the video is importing a red Cancel Import button replaces the blue Import button, so you can change your mind if you want. When everything has been downloaded, the iPad asks if you want to delete the videos/photos from the iPod. Your call.

That’s all there is to it! Your videos/photos appear in an album in the Photos app on the iPad and you can just disconnect the iPod once you’re done.

A brief video (sorry about the poor quality but all I had to use was my old still camera):

Traveling with the Virgin MiFi

Pros: no contract, small, easy to use after initial setup

Cons: often slow, keeps asking for setupvirgin mobile mifi 2200

When the new iPod Touch came out, I was really hoping for a pay-as-you go 3G option like the one for the iPad, but no such luck. Well, there’s been beaucoup ballyhoo about the new Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200, so I decided to give it a try on a trip to the Pacific Northwest last week. It’s gotten rave reviews, with an upfront cost of $150 retail (you can do about 30% better on the web if you shop around), and no contract, just $40 a month for unlimited use or $10 for 100MB for ten days. Your own personal wifi hotspot wherever you go–what’s not to love? Well, a couple of things, actually.

It’s certainly small and light enough.  Weighs only a couple of ounces and hardly takes up any space. However, the charger is another story. It’s also nearly weightless, but at not quite 2-1/2″ x 2″ x 3/4″  it seems surprisingly big and clunky, especially when you compare it to the current wall adapter for the iPod/iPhone.

Setup is a bit of a hassle (But I just created a log-in password! What’s this one for?), but it’s doable, which is a good thing, for reasons you’ll read about in a moment. Actually using the MiFi is very simple–one button and that’s all. All, except for needing to go back to the user guide several times at first to figure out what the one button is trying to tell you (blinking amber? something wrong? charging?). Once you learn its repertoire, it’s very simple.

mifi with ipod
The new iPod with the MiFi

Virgin says it’s good for about four hours of continuous use or 40 hours of standby on a single charge. I found I actually got closer to five hours, but that standby was a lot less. If I used it about 45 minutes during the day and it got left on overnight (it goes to standby after about ten or fifteen minutes of inactivity, at least in my experience), it would start flashing red–Charge me! Charge me!– almost immediately after I woke it up the next morning. Still, it’s plenty of time for normal use, and you can use it while it’s plugged in, too, so you don’t have to go offline to let it charge up.

So how well did it work? For the most part, pretty well. As long as I was in an area where you’d expect to have cellular service (not on the Sol Duc trail in Olympic National Park, for instance) there was usually a connection. Now the speed of that connection varies quite a lot. I had given it a good test drive at home before I left, and even there, where you would expect the speed to be fairly constant, it varied from “Darn, maybe I can get rid of my regular internet service,” to “watch paint dry”. Although Virgin says it’s unlimited service, one has to wonder if this isn’t the way they put a real life choke on usage. I didn’t notice anything particularly irritating about getting mail or web browsing, most of the time, but streaming video is completely impossible with this thing. If you want a MiFi so you can spend your evenings watching old Twilight Zone episodes on YouTube, this isn’t for you. It also takes a while to wake up or to establish a connection when you first turn it on, a minute or more, sometimes.

The other major irritation was that it kept asking me to go through the activation process all over again. It does this whenever it can’t find a signal, which is understandable if slightly annoying, but even when I was in urban areas where I knew there must be a signal it would often forget that it had been activated. After the first couple of times you get used to the drill, but if you do get one, take your sign up info with you or you may be stuck.

On the whole, I would say it’s worth it. It let me check mail and use  the map app and look around for info on the Internet, and it gives me the option of whether to take my iPod or my wifi-only iPad when I travel. The slow connection was the most painful part.

EDIT 10/30/10: Interestingly, I was in Asheville, NC  this week and there the mifi is blazingly fast, much faster than the hotel’s wifi, so I suppose it must depend on where you are. If you happen to be lucky in your location, it’s really good, but it hasn’t been like that anywhere else I’ve been, alas.

EDIT 1/13/11: Virgin changes the terms for new accounts:

How will it work?
Starting February 15, 2011, if you go over 5GB in a month on the $40 Unlimited Plan:

  • Your data speeds will be limited for the remainder of the monthly plan cycle. During this time, you may experience slower page loads and file downloads and lags in streaming media.
  • Your data speeds will return to normal as soon as you buy a new Broadband2Go Plan.
  • This change will only affect plans bought on or after 2/15/2011.
  • Incidentally, tried the mifi in Ft. Lauderdale last week–worst ever, just unusable. Dial-up would have been faster.