Tuesday, October 22, 2013

the Ultimate Guide for easy awesome VR panoramas

copertina2.jpgIf you have already read some my instructable here, you know I tend to go for the simplest way to reach an objective. This usually means making affordable and simple projects, but of course I always keep an eye on the results quality.
My passion for immersive photography has born some years ago on the same wavelength, so after a few researches about nodal point, stitching techniques and gears, I've decided to build my own wood panohead and I started the journey which led to an impressive huge 360° images gallery.

Now you have the chance to travel through these steps together. Some of them could be boring, and probably you already have a good experience with many of the described concepts, so I'll try to be more concise and less theoretical as possible.
I want to highlight that this instructable is not supposed to be a personal gallery of my best work, but my ego didn't let me choose ordinary photos ;-)

copertina.jpgI'm sorry I can't skip the theory step but I won't be mathematical ;-)
The concept behind the spherical panoramas is nothing complicated, this technique is meant to reproduce in virtual reality (VR) the first person view taken in any direction at a certain instant. In simple words you have to take a lot of pictures all around, at full 360° on the horizon and also up (zenith point) and down (nadir point), and merge them into a single image.

Problems appear when you try to merge the pictures together, indeed they have to be warped to match each other. A software could do that easily, but to do that it has to recognize the identical details in different images to overlap them. These identical details are named "control points" (CP). The more you overlap sequential images, the more CP you'll have. To be fair the number of CP is not as essential as their "quality". Years ago I created this panorama of Milan Gallery adding manually 5 CP for each couple of the 16 picture, and the final equirectangular image came out very precise. In case you wondered what equirectangular means, this projection type is the most used way in VR to display a sphere on a plane, and if you'll manage to load it in a panorama viewer it will be certainly supported.

Stitching a set of photos in a uniform single equirectangular image is totally a mathematical issue, and it has been possible thanks to the efforts of Prof. Dr. H. Dersch (who created Panorama Tools) and Andrew Mihal (who created Enblend and Enfuse tools).
If you want to study in depth the subject there are a lot of forums managed by skilled people where you can find really interesting discussions about this process, the most popular are panotools.org and www.kolor.com.

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Smoke Grilled Tri-Tip Sandwich With Caramelized Vidalia Onions

vidalia-2.jpgTonight’s tri-tip ended up as awesome tri-tip sandwiches with caramelized Vidalia onions.  The sweetness of the onions complimented the flavors from the Santa Maria seasoning on the tri-tip and buttery glaze used at the end of the cooking process. For the past couple of weeks I’ve practiced different recipes and flavor combinations to get this delicious complement of flavors. I love Vidalia onions and cooking with them has been interesting and educational.vidalia-onions-200x300.jpgThe caramelized onions, tonight, had plenty of sweet goodness. Normally when I caramelize onions for burgers or sandwiches I have to add sugar to help with the process but in the case of the Vidalia the natural sweetness of the onion makes it that much easier.  And cooking with the cooking the sweetness is intensified.  They are yummy. One of the reasons Vidalia onions are so sweet is because of the low-sulfur content of the soil in the Georgia counties they are grown in.  Since, ultimately it’s the sulfur in the onion that causes you to tear up when you cut onions, the low-sulfur has the added benefit of keeping the tears to a minimum.  I’ve cooked almost 10 pounds of Vidalia onions in the past couple of weeks and not once did I shed a tear.  It’s quite nice to not have to worry about crying while cutting onions.

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Everything for Windows Updates, Adds Better Filters and Search Options

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Almonds and bananas cake

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De-Wrinkle Your Clothes Without Ever Touching an Iron

Ironing is barbaric. There I said it. Heating up a giant metal plate to slowly smooth out wrinkles is, at best, a tedious exercise, and at worst it requires way too much set up to be practical. Fortunately, there are alternatives.

It should go without saying that anything you do that involves heat should not be left unattended and should be handled with care. Some of these tricks are less risky than others, but in general, always use caution around the house.

De-Wrinkle Your Clothes Without Ever Touching an IronEstimated time: 30 minutes to an hour.

Before you get ready for work in the morning, spray your wrinkled clothes lightly with a water bottle and let them hang to dry. You don't want to soak them, but just get them lightly damp. You can also add a bit of vinegar to the mix, but this can be harmful to some fabrics and may result in a smell if you include too much. This method can take as short as 15 minutes if you don't mind your clothes being a tiny bit wet, but for best results, let them completely dry.

De-Wrinkle Your Clothes Without Ever Touching an IronEstimated time: 5-10 minutes.

If you're in a hurry, you can use a similar method to the one above. Lightly spray your clothes with a water bottle, then toss them in the dryer. You won't want to use this method unless you're about to wear the clothes imminently. If you leave them in the dryer or a laundry basket for hours, those wrinkles will just come right back. However, for a quick, out-the-door method, this will do in a pinch. Alternatively, you can also toss your clothes in with a wet towel, instead of spraying your clothes directly.

De-Wrinkle Your Clothes Without Ever Touching an IronEstimated time: The length of your shower.

When you shower, you fill a tiny room with a lot of heat very fast. Make use of that by hanging your clothes near your shower. Obviously, you'll have to take care not to get them wet, but the closer you can get them to the heat and moisture in the air, the better (though not quite as close as the picture above). In an emergency, you can accomplish the same thing by running hot water and leaving the room, but this will waste water. It would be best to do this when you're already using the shower.

De-Wrinkle Your Clothes Without Ever Touching an IronEstimated time: 5-20 minutes.

Okay, so maybe this is cheating on the whole "never touch an iron" thing, but a hair-straightening flat iron is arguably a bit more safe than a full-fledged clothing iron. With a much smaller and dual-sided surface area, you can focus on certain problem areas. Before you use it, you'll want to make sure that your flat iron is completely clean of all hair products, as these can damage your clothes. You'll still need to be careful about burning yourself or anything else, but it's still more simple than using a much larger iron and giant flat surface to work on.

No matter what method you use, you'll always want to make sure to be sure that it won't harm your clothing. For most everyday clothing, these methods should be okay, but delicate clothing with specialty instructions should always be treated with extra care. Be sure you know that what you're doing won't harm your garments before proceeding. If you do decide to go the old-fashioned route, you can still cut down on your ironing time with a simple sheet of aluminum foil.

Lead image mixed from LizMarie_AK, photos by Diego Torres Silvestre, Casey Fleser, Steven Orr, and Michelle Yee.

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How I Motivated Myself to Face My Weight and Debt Problems

There was a time when I was overweight, but didn’t want to admit it to myself. I didn’t feel in control of my health, because I couldn’t quit smoking or eat healthier for longer than a few days, nor exercise regularly.

Thinking about my weight made me feel horrible, so I didn’t want to even think about it. Of course, not thinking about it meant I never did anything about it. Not facing my problems made it worse, which just made me feel worse. It was a downward spiral, and really hard to stop.

I had the same downward spiral when I was in debt (at the same time in my life, about eight years ago). I couldn’t pay all my bills, so I would stuff them in a drawer so I didn’t have to see them. I had creditors calling me but I didn’t answer their calls (I knew their numbers on the caller ID). I didn’t know how much debt I was in because I never wanted to open the envelopes, much less add it all up on paper. I’d borrow money to pay bills, then owe more. And I’d skip paying lots of bills, and accrue interest.

It wasn’t a smart way to manage my finances, but I couldn’t stand the thought of facing all of it. I felt bad even thinking about my finances, so I’d avoid them, and think about other things. Of course, this led to me seeking distraction in food and entertainment and shopping, which led to worse debt. Not facing my debt made it worse.

How did I overcome all of this? I’ll share it here, in hopes that it will help others facing the same problem—or not facing it. It’s also important to note that if you know someone in bad health (or bad financial shape), they are probably also in denial. They don’t want to even talk about it. How do you help them? I’ll share that below too.

So how do you face a problem, so you can work on it, when you don’t want to face it? There has to be a point when you say, “This isn’t good. I need to do something about it.”

In truth, there usually isn’t just one point—there are many. It’s a building problem, where you get many data points over time—you see yourself in a picture and don’t like how heavy you look, you get a comment from someone that’s less than flattering, your pants don’t fit anymore, you breathe heavy when you try to run for a couple of minutes. But then there has to be a point where you decide that enough is enough. You start to feel some resolve. You decide you can do something—it’s not insurmountable.

How exactly I got to that point, I can’t fully remember. But I do know that there were several things that helped me:

Inspiration: Seeing other people with similar situations who overcame the problem— in blogs and magazines, mainly.Do-ability: I didn’t think I could lose all the weight or overcome my huge mountain of debt in a day or a week… but having a small step I could actually do was mentally empowering. If I could do something in a day or two, that was doable. It felt like I could take control again.Motivation: When I saw that my health problems were going to be an example for my kids, I knew I had to make a change. When I saw that my financial problems were hurting my family, I knew I had to make a change. In both cases, my motivation for change was bigger than myself—I was doing it to help people I cared about.Commitment: When I was inspired by others to make a change, I took an easy step that’s actually a very big step—I made a commitment. Making a commitment is actually very easy—you can tell a friend, a child, a spouse, or the world (via social media or email) that you’re going to make a change. Commit not just to “losing weight” or “getting out of debt” but to something specific: “run 3x a week and cut out sweets” is better. So is “make a list of all my debts, then make a payment to the first one." Those are first steps… you can always “add more veggies” or “make a meal plan” after you get started. But making a commitment is an easy (if a bit scary) first step that will lock you in to further steps.I have to admit that it wasn’t as simple as making a decision to change, and then continually making progress with no discouragements. Not at all. I would try to make a change, slip up, feel bad, then start again. And again. And make adjustments each time, learning about myself in the process, and over time getting good at the skill of change. But the first step—facing the problem—was made possible by inspiration, do-ability, motivation and finally commitment.

I firmly believe that you can’t force anyone to change. You can only inspire them to change, if you’re lucky. That’s not an easy task. If you have a friend or family member who is struggling with health issues, or financial problems, or something similar where they don’t want to face the problem … it’s tough. They probably don’t want to hear it from you.

However, that’s not to say you should throw your hands up and forget about it. You can still help. Just don’t try to force it.

Here’s what I would suggest:

Never attack—empathize. Never tell the person they’re doing something wrong, or imply they’re a bad or undisciplined or lazy person. Assume that they have the best of intentions, that they would change if they could, but they feel bad about it. Assume that you would feel the same if you were in their position—and try to remember a time when you felt that way. Don’t be patronizing, nor “sympathize." That’s condescending.Inspire. Set an example, and share what’s working for you. Share stories of other people who have overcome problems.Suggest something do-able. And do it with them. If you want them to tackle health issues, suggest the two of you go walking after work every day. Just for 15 minutes (at first). It’s a nice way to socialize and bond, but also get active. This is a small step that can be built upon—later you can walk further, or faster, and maybe add some jogging intervals to the walking after a few weeks or months (health permitting). You can also later do some diet challenges. But the key is to make the steps do-able, easy, and social.Offer to be an accountability buddy. If the other person admits to not being motivated, suggest that they commit to you, and be accountable to you (email you every day or every week to share progress or lack thereof). Suggest that they set a fun consequence (something embarrassing) if they don’t live up to their commitment to you. Or do a challenge, where the two of you are doing something fun at the same time —a pushup challenge, a thousand-steps challenge, an eat-more-vegetables challenge.Despite your best efforts, this might not work. You can’t force change on someone. They have to want it themselves. And if they don’t, you can’t make them want it. In that case, you’ll have to back off, though showing concern and wanting to help is always something you can do. Change is possible. Facing problems is totally possible. You just might need a little inspiration to do it.

How I Finally Faced My Weight and Debt Problems | Zen Habits

Leo Babauta is the creator and writer of Zen Habits. He's married with six kids, lives in San Francisco (previously Guam), and is a runner and a vegan. Read more about him: My Story.

Image remixed from pond5.

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