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Tech News — Facebook adds video to Instagram!

Last week, Facebook announced a new video feature for it's photo-sharing service, Instagram.

Instagram is offering the new video service for both iPhones and Android smart phones.

Users will be able to choose from 13 optional "filters" that alter the appearance of their videos, in a manner similar to the filters that Instagram offers for still photos.

Other features include "Cinema" that uses the motion-sensing gyroscope in smartphones to automatically adjust and smooth handheld wobbling.

Facebook is currently the second most watched video site on the Internet with 60.4 million viewers watching 727.4 million videos in May this year.

This recent purchase aims to compete with Google's YouTube, the number one video website, as well as rival social network Twitter's recent acquisition of Vine - a similar video sharing application.

PNG or JPG ? Which one should you use?

Both file formats are compressed image formats very popular on the Internet but each format has its strengths and weaknesses.

For this reason, it is common to use both formats on the one web site, depending on the type of content in each image.

PNG format is a lossless compression file format. PNG is a good choice for storing line drawings, text, and iconic graphics at a small file size.

JPG (or JPEG) works best with photographs and complex images. JPGs use a compression method that removes non-human-visible colours from images to decrease file sizes.

Both format are comparable in file size though JPG is often smaller. However, if you increase the compression of a JPG too much, you will begin to lose important colour information that cannot be recovered.

PNG (55kb): Image text comparison  JPG (36kb): Image text comparison  JPG (29kb): Image text comparison

In the first two images, the JPEG is smaller and the loss of quality in the top image is negligible and there is minor deterioration in the bottom text area. The third image is an overly compressed JPEG image with little file size advantage.

Tech term of the Month — Algorithm

No, it has nothing to do with a previous Vice President of the Unites States or the writer/presenter of the climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore, but rather it's a step-by-step procedure used in mathematics and computer science.

An algorithm is a set of instructions, sometimes called a procedure or a function, that is used to perform a certain task. This can be a simple process, such as adding two numbers together, or a complex function, such as adding effects to an image.

Most computer programmers spend a large percentage of their time creating algorithms. The aim is to create efficient algorithms that do not waste more computer resources (such as RAM and CPU time) than necessary. The refinement of algorithmic processes is referred to as optimisation.

Euclid - algorithm flowchart

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Product Showcase — XMind

XMind 2012 is the latest version of the well known mind-mapping software.

It brings with it numerous tools and features that can help brainstorm, organise your thoughts or plan your projects.

Features include a drag and drop mind-mapping builder, cloud integration, fishbone charts, spreadsheet views and Gantt Charts.

XMind can export maps into a variety of popular formats such as PDF, Word, PowerPoint, HTML, plain text, and of course images, like PNG/GIF/JPEG/BMP.

Go to XMind

Google Search Tips — Smoke and Fire

Google's main search invisibly combines search terms with the Boolean construct "AND". When you enter smoke fire – it looks for smoke AND fire.

To make Google search for smoke or fire, just type smoke OR fire

Instead of OR you can type the | symbol, like this: smoke | fire

Boolean connectors like AND and OR are case sensitive. They must be UPPER CASE.

Search for a specific term, then one keyword OR another by grouping them with parentheses, like this: water (smoke OR fire)

To look for phrases, put them in quotes: "there's no smoke without fire".

Tech Talk — Mondays 3.30pm — IT Area

Visit IT on Monday afternoons at 3.30pm for Tech Talk, our half–hour initiative to share, learn and discuss some of the diverse tools and methodology that are used in the company and in IT worldwide.

Talks are aimed at both the tech-minded and those generally interested in technology issues.

With everyone in mind, recent topics have ranged from application development, new technology, as well as the importance of good communication and what makes a good presentation.

Everybody is welcome to attend.

Google Search Tips — Advanced Searches

1. The best way to begin searching harder with Google is by clicking the Advanced Search link.

2. This lets you search for exact phrases, "all these words", or one of the specified keywords by entering search terms into the appropriate box.

3. You can also define how many results you want on the page, what language and what file type you're looking for, all with menus.

4. Advanced Search lets you type in a Top Level Domain (like in the "Search within site of domain" box to restrict results.

5. And you can click the "Date, usage rights, numeric range and more" link to access more advanced features.

Google Doodles — a history and selection

When Larry Page and Sergey Brin decided on a whim to put a little Burning Man figure behind the Google logo back in 1998, they had no idea how much of a part of Google’s identity the now-common Google Doodles would become. While most companies spend endless time and money to keep their image consistent, Google has gone the other way, making its variation one of the most beloved aspects of its identity.

In the past 14 years, the logo has changed temporarily over 1000 times, with the illustrations growing increasingly more elaborate and imaginative. The once simple tributes to special occasions and historic figures have evolved into animated, interactive features, and heartwarming odes to the people, places and things we love.

Here are 5 of the most celebrated Google Doodles (with thanks to Google Tricks) :

Martha Graham's 117th birthday - a beautifully animated tribute (May 11, 2011).
Les Paul's 96th birthday - an interactive logo with recording function (June 9, 2011).
Alan Turing's 100th birthday - a working Turing machine tribute (June 23, 2012).
Google Pacman - playable and addictive (May 23, 2010).
Robert Moog's 78th birthday - synthesiser with recording and playback (May 23, 2012).

Tech term — Cloud

A cloud

The term "cloud" comes from early network diagrams, in which the image of a cloud was used to indicate a large network, such as a WAN. The cloud eventually became associated with the entire Internet, and the two terms are now used synonymously.

The cloud may also be used to describe specific online services, which are collectively labeled "cloud computing."

Examples of popular cloud-based services include web applications, SaaS, online backup, and other types of online storage. Traditional Internet services like web hosting, email, and online gaming may also be considered part of the cloud since they are hosted on Internet servers, rather than users' local computers. Even social networking websites such as Facebook and LinkedIn are technically cloud-based services, since they store your information online.

While "the cloud" is simply a buzzword for most consumers, it plays an important role for businesses. By moving software services to the cloud, companies can share data more efficiently and centralize their network security.

And alternatively for the cynical: C.L.O.U.D. - Complete loss of user data.

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Site Review — Lucidchart

Lucidchart is a collaborative web-based diagramming and flowchart application.

It is built on web standards such as HTML5 and Javascript and as such can be accessed from any device with a browser.

It can be used to create flowcharts, iPhone app mockups, mind maps, organisational charts, website wireframes, UML diagrams, network diagrams, and many other diagram types.

Its ground-breaking real-time collaboration capabilities are above and beyond any other diagramming application on the market.

The following video shows the speed and functionality of Lucidchart in action:

Go to Lucid Chart

How Google Works...

Site designers, marketing mavericks, and tech gurus all behold the phenomenon that is Google.

Founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University. They incorporated Google as a privately held company on September 4, 1998. With products that have grown to include search, cloud computing, software and online advertising technologies. Its mission statement from the outset was "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful", and its unofficial slogan was "Don't be evil".

Site designers, marketing mavericks, and tech gurus all behold the phenomenon that is Google. Follow the link to see a detailed flowchart of a Google operation (with thanks to PPC Blog and Lawrence Liang).

Follow the link: How Google Works

Acronym — WWW

Stands for "World Wide Web." It is important to know that this is not a synonym for the Internet. The World Wide Web, or just "the Web," as ordinary people call it, is a subset of the Internet.

The Web consists of pages that can be accessed using a Web browser. The Internet is the actual network of networks where all the information resides. Things like Telnet, FTP, Internet gaming, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), and e-mail are all part of the Internet, but are not part of the World Wide Web.

The Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the method used to transfer Web pages to your computer. With hypertext, a word or phrase can contain a link to another Web site.

All Web pages are written in the hyper-text markup language (HTML), which works in conjunction with HTTP.

Site Review — Prezi

Prezi is a presentation tool which deviates from traditional presenation software such as PowerPoint by doing away with slides in favour of a single canvas and a roaming camera.

The camera is able to zoom in and out, rotate, and pan side to side. The end result is quite dynamic as you slide/roll/jump from scene to scene or zoom out to visualise the overall selection of elements.

As a presentation tool it has far greater animation and storytelling potential and each canvas element can be interactive, a video or contain their own subsets of elements.

It has also been used effectively in film and animation circles.

It comes in an offline and online version (via a Prezi online account) which uses a simple drag and drop approach to lay out elements and a path-to-path technique to control 'transitions'. The interface is both intuitive and powerful.

Online account holders can publicly share their presentations through the service, enabling an online presentation community without the need for traditional file sharing.

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Google Search Tips — Movies

The Google search experience has some in-built keywords and shortcuts to make access to information even faster.

1. By typing a keyword followed by a colon, you can refine your search and filter out off-topic information. Try movie: <name of film> to look for movie reviews. film: will do the same thing.

2. director: <name of film> will result in a dedicated biography page and relevant links for your search subject.

3. Typing showtimes will fast track to current films and trailer links.

4. Rather than searching for individual cinemas and session times, Google has a dedicated movies page. It make it a lot quicker and easier to check session information for cinemas in your area. Try it now: