Sunday, November 29, 2009

Giftie Giftie Gifts Lists

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"Giftie Giftie" at is an Online Gift List Organiser.

Instead of guessing what friends and family want for the birthdays, weddings, and Christmas, we can share "wish lists" online and see what they really want. It's private by invite only, and best of all, its free.

The sign up process is the usual thing: Supply an email address, User ID, and Password, and from there the main steps are as follows.

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When we type in and add an item, Giftie uses Amazon to find weblinks to the item for our invited friends and family to be able to buy it for us online if they want to.

For example, I entered in a Boss Chorus Pedal for guitar onto my list:

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and when I clicked the "Add this Gift" button, set up web links to various types of Boss Chorus pedals: (if I click the actual "boss chorus pedal" link, I can see about twenty different items).

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(I don't have a Chorus pedal because the Native Instruments emulator on my PC has Chorus, and my Marshall Guitar amp also has inbuilt chorus, but a Boss pedal would be nice to have as well).

Amongst the items we add onto our list, we can flag certain items as "Most Wanted". A Chevrolet Corvette is my most wanted item..... because we can dream to the max on Giftie !

The second step after creating a wish list is Create or Join a Group if we are planning to have our whole family put up Christmas Wish Lists together:

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The third step is to view other people's lists and to "reserve" an item on their list if you are planning to buy it for them. Once an item is reserved, its gift tag turns red so that other people know that the item is already taken care of by somebody else. But the recipient does not know that the item has been reserved.

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The nice thing here is that we can reserve an item without being required to purchase it online through any of the links that Giftie has provided. So the service is really free with no strings attached.

Giftie also provides some interesting stats on what the most popular gifts on its lists are:

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In these stats, we can pick a category and then "drill down" to what interests us.

For example we can find out what are the most popular video games for the Nintendo Wii :

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So for this Christmas, why not give "Giftie Giftie" a go: it's free, and it's fun.

And it just goes to show there is a free web application for nearly everything !

Big Passy Wasabi

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Animated Christmas Card

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Every year around Christmas time, people email around these great flashing lights animated Christmas Cards.

So this year I decided I would have a go at making one myself as an animated GIF file. The resulting output from this project is shown above.

Next Christmas I will aim a bit higher and make a Flash animation, that has Christmas Carol music with it as well as moving images.

The following instructions and resources files are specifically for making the above Christmas Card in Adobe CS3 Fireworks, but could easily be used to make the same type of animation in Photoshop, or various other photo imaging software.

The resource files supply the Background, Christmas tree, and Merry Christmas text, and it is just a matter of progressively coloring in the lights for each letter, and building this into a standard frame by frame animation.
So this card could be easily built in Flash as well.

Once we are finished making our animated card, we can insert the GIF file into an email to send it to all of our friends.
(This works fine in MS Outlook mail, but does not seem to work in Hotmail unfortunately).

To get around the Hotmail problem, we can save our card from Fireworks, as a Flash SWF file. We can then attach and send the SWF to our friends, and tell them to open it to play on their PC. (We did find however that the Flash SWF does seemed to play slightly faster than our GIF for some reason).

Here is a 1.48 Mb PDF file of detailed step by step instructions to make an animated GIF card like the one shown on this Blog post:

If you would like to have your own full size copy of this PDF, then simply click the save disk icon button on the PDF viewer, and you should be able to save it to your own hard disk.

Alternatively, you can view or save the full size PDF by clicking the link below:

To download a 1.39MB RAR file of Resources for this project, click the link below

Click Here to Download the Resource Files for this project

So if you need a little electronic DIY pre-Christmas Project, then why not make an animated GIF card and email it to all of your friends.

In addition, Christmas animations can be made in PowerPoint by using GIFs obtained from Google Images.

Here is a Jing video capture of a Christmas PowerPoint that my students made. They obtained animated GIFs from Google Images and each made a slide, We then combined the slides into a single PowerPoint with a music backing track.

Big Passy Wasabi

Friday, November 27, 2009

Brain Strain Reading Test

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So what is today's picture ?

First of all it is not a psychadelic jellyfish, and it isn't a group of swarming sentinels from "The Matrix" movie either.

It's actually some computer mapping imagery of the human brain.

The reason I chose this picture, was to get you in the mood for this interesting "Brain Test" that a student administered to me recently.

The test is to see how well you can read and decipher the following

passage of text: (Read on......)

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid lkie mnie.

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

So if you are not one of the 55% of people who could easily understand the above "mumbo-jumbo", then maybe consider some lifestyle changes, to preserve and conserve a few more of these:

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Yes we need a lots of these brain cells functioning in a healthy manner on a daily basis. (Again a marvelous computer image of our human biology).

So get those synapses a snapping, brain cells a buzzing, chess moves mastered, and Sudoku skills sharpened, because we all need to build up some extra brain power.

Big Passy Wasabi

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Friday Funnies with Charlie

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Some people will find the video below really funny, others might find it really annoying. Go ahead and be adventurous, push the play button, and give it a go.

If you liked "Charlie the Unicorn 1", then you will definitely like Part 2 below, (along with the almost 20 million other people who have also viewed it).

Okay, I know you are craving it, so here is Part 3 of Charlie's Adventures:

There are also a few other Charlie clips out there on You Tube that are well worth checking out some time.

I really like Charlie, he is a bit older, a bit cynical, slightly jaded, and very world-wise.

His two "friends" take him on an adventure, and his gut feeling is that he should not be following along with them. However, he is a fearless alpha male, and cannot pass up on the opportunity to see all things new and interesting.

In the end, he should have perhaps listened to the little doubting voice inside himself, as he finds he has been conned by the others, and it has cost him a kidney!

So the dilemma of it all is: What should we do?

Stay in front of the TV, or seek out adventure, (with the risk of losing a kidney).

I guess in the end we just have to be guided by our feelings and do what feels right at the time......and later on simply have no regrets.

The other thing about the "Charlie the Unicorn" series of animations is that the actual animation techniques are fairly standard, and are not a major Disney-Pixar production.

This demonstrates a really vital concept for multimedia: it is far more important to have a fresh new idea, and an interesting story to tell, than all the world's best production techniques and movie making software.

Big Passy Wasabi

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mona Lisa Pixelated

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The opening of the Sydney "Rocks Aroma Festival" saw a very large image of the Mona Lisa produced.

See if you can guess what she is made of:

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Answer: Several thousand cups of coffee of varing shades, but all of the same size. These were made into a giant Mona Lisa in Sydney, Australia, in July 2009.

The 3,604 cups of coffee were each filled with different amounts of milk to create five different shades of coffee circles!

The 12th annual Aroma Festival in Sydney happened earlier this year on July 19th. The Mona Lisa coffee creation was made at "The Rocks" in Sydney, and used to launch the festival.

Australians consume a whopping 1.2 billion cups of coffee each year.
While Italian blends are usually the best sellers, there’s an increasing interest in Turkish, Spanish, French and Japanese coffee.

But what about Java Coffee Beans ?

I'm not much of a Coffee drinker myself, but I do like the smell of feshly ground beans, and enjoy the odd frothy capuccino or a cool iced coffee in the summertime.

Here is a 2 minute stop motion video of the Coffee Mona Lisa being made:

This art work is a great example of pixelation. Eg. Having lots of different coloured dots actually forming an image, the same way as is happening on the computer screen you are looking at right now !

Big Passy Wasabi

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Trailer but not for a Movie

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Okay, so there has been a variety of material on this Blog over the last few months, but what the heck can a car trailer possibly have to do with ICT ?

Well trailers can be used to transport really big Bass Amps and Band PA's; (as well as a few Blade Servers), but that's not the answer this time.

Trailers and ICT are not related directly, but the picture shown is of Big Passy's recently rebuilt and reconditioned trailer, ready to be taken on its maiden trip to the recycling center.

What I want to share with you here is the power and usefulness of the internet whenever there is a job to be done.

Unfortunately I do not have a picture of the original trailer, with broken lights that did not work, and all rusty, with no rear closing gate on it, and so on.

But to get it to the pristine condition it is now in, I needed to:
  • Find out what plugs, cable, wires, and trailer lights I would need
  • Learn how to wire up trailer lights
  • Learn how to remove rust and then repaint steel metal
  • Find out where I could get some cheap replacement rubber tires
  • Check with the local traffic authorities if the trailer was large enough to require registration
Naturally all of the answers were quickly and easily found on the internet.
In fact I felt just like my hero "Neo"
in The Matrix: continually loading material into my brain and suddenly knowing how to do all sorts of things.

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For me it was just good fun learning new things, but there was also a lot of money saved by the DIY approach, especially in relation to the electrics.

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So my advice to any budding trailer enthusiasts out there, is to use "Penetrol" and "White Knight" brand paints for the rust locking and recovery and final painting.

And to Watch the following videos to learn all about how to wire trailers:

Perhaps I will see if I can get a good photo at the recycling center of a whole bunch of discarded computers or something interesting to spice up another blog post someday.

Big Passy Wasabi

Songsterr Online Guitar Tabs

Songsterr ( ) is a website offering the extraordinary online experience of hearing, playing, practicing, and learning guitar, bass, and singing. Songsterr provides a realistic guitar sound and gives you a full control over the playback - you can play at half speed, as well as repeatedly looping through sections until you can play them correctly.

When I first used it, it was allowing me to use the full set of functions including half-speed, looping, and printing. However after a week or so this free trial has cut out, and I can only use the player. I am not sure how this has happened, as I never signed up for a free trail. Maybe they enabled a free trial automatically by referencing my IP address each time I logged on. All I know is that it was significantly better being able to access this full functionality.

Here is a list of the functions, (which I no longer have), as they are only active for payed accounts (current charge is $9.90 U.S. per month):

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The other strange thing about Songsterr is that it has an amazingly large library of Tabs, yet there does not seem to be very much information about it on the Internet. Maybe it is relatively new, or perhaps because we have to pay for most of its useful functions, it is not all that popular ?

The Songsterr Player provides drums, bass, all guitar parts (Note that lyrics and Vocals are not displayed, unless you go into the Mixer function and click them on).

Songsterr is actually many Tabs rolled into one.
To isolate the Tab we want, we use "the mixer", where we can choose which Tab we wish to view.

Eg. Here is what the mixer setup for the Oasis song "Wonderwall" :

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In the mixer we can choose to mute various instruments, we can also select which tab we want to display. In the pay version we can also adjust instrument volumes.

Here are example mixer
selections from Songsterr's tab of Oasis "Wonderwall":

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So we could in fact use Songsterr for learning Guitar or Bass or just for practicing Singing, and learning the vocals for lots of songs.

The only thing in the player I would like, is to have the options for the lyrics to display with any tab, because I usually keep track of where I am in a song by singing or listening to the words.

Here is a YouTube 4minutes 30 seconds video on how to use Songsterr:

Here is a 30 second YouTube video that demonstrates the Songsterr Half Speed function:

And finally a 2 minute YouTUbe video that shows Sonsterr playing Stairway to Heaven, and a few other songs:

I am still deciding whether or not to get pay Songsterr for a month, overlapping with some holidays, and do some intensive song learning. The alternative is to have a printed free tab from somewhere like 911 Tabs, and just use the Songsterr player to help learn the song off the 911 printed tab.

Nonetheless, Songsterr is certainly a very impressive use of Adobe Flash to make an extremely flexible and fully functional online tab player.

Big Passy Wasabi

Photoshop Extreme Makeovers

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The above is a typical "Before" and "After" image of a Photoshop Makeover.

Like it or not, most of the images we see of people and food products in our supermarkets have usually been photoshopped in some way to make them seem supposedly more appealing.

Still, from a technical point of view, it is really amazing the progress that has been made in all forms of digital art in the last few years, especially digital photography.

YouTube Photoshop Makeover Examples

Here are several YouTube videos showing some fairly typical Photoshop Makeovers:

2 minute Makeover

1 minute 30 secs amazing makeover:

1 minute 30 secs "Beauty is Fake" makeover:

2 minutes 30 seconds several makeovers in one video:

3 minutes 30 seconds Photoshop makeover:

YouTube Makeover Tutorials

Here is a very basic 8 minute tutorial to get started on some typical makeover methods:

Photoshop Mama on YouTUbe has some good makeover tutorial videos.

Here is a typical Photoshop Mama Tutorial Video: (10 minutes long)

Here is another 10 minute makeover tutorial from a different presenter:

Step by Step Free Makeover Tutorials

The following website has some great quick to do basic step by step Photoshop makeovers: such as these: ( also has some excellent free Photoshop retouching exercises like this one: "Photoshop Professional Make-up and Face Slimming Tutorial" :

This is the actual tutorial that the before and after photo at the start of this post came from. also has some great photoshop retouching exercises, but these are not free. Best to join up on the monthly $25 fee and be able to use Photoshop, Flash, Dreamweaver, and virtually anything else your designing heart could desire at: .

Anyway, time for me to go and give my teeth a bit of a makeover, the good old fashioned way, with brush, paste, and elbow grease.

Big Passy Wasabi

Moore or Less of Demi

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Normally we don't follow celebrity gossip, but somehow news of the "Demi Moore Photoshopping Controversy" has made it's way to Passy World, and we have felt compelled to make a response.

The above pictures show the storm in a teacup controversy over whether or not Demi Moore's hip has been reduced in size using Photoshop.

The MSN news report about this world-changing event went something like this:

"In the image the 47-year-old actress's hip appears to have been cut several centimetres skinnier than it should be above the cut of her sarong.
Some bloggers are calling it the "worst Photoshop ever", and even the Chaser's Chas Liccardello has weighed in with a comment on his Twitter yesterday. "Either Demi Moore's been photoshopped or she needs hip replacement surgery," he wrote."

You can read the entire MSN story here:

Demi Moore was quick to totally deny these claims on Twitter:

"Demi Moore has angrily hit back at claims that a chunk of her hip was airbrushed out of a photograph used on the cover of an American magazine.
The 47-year-old actress, who appears on the front of this month's W Magazine, has posted what she claims is the original picture on Twitter.
In accompanying posts, she tells people not to believe the reports...."

Here is the full web article all about Demi's rebuke:

Here at Passy World we certainly think there is something strange looking about the hip shape :

The hip looks flexed in, but the garment does not appear tight enough to be pulling it into this shape.

However, if Demi says it's her true hip, then we are happy to go with that.

Personally, I do not like the whole way Demi Moore has been over photoshopped by W magazine. I much prefer a more natural looking Demi like in these photographs:

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In reality, the whole over photoshopped media driven world is just another case of everything going full cycle:
  • In the beginning we had painted likenesses of beautiful women, sourced from still life models.

  • Then photography was born, and we were inundated with endless photos of beautiful women flooding our TV screens, newspapers, and magazines.

  • And now we have photoshopped likenesses of beautiful women, which are really just digital paintings, sourced from photographs of still life models.

It's such a beautiful beautiful photoshopped world,

Big Passy Wasabi

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Adobe CS3 Fireworks Layers

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The above picture was made in CS3 Fireworks from a picture of a Robot Sandcastle, and a separate picture of some blue sky with clouds. The pictures were placed on separate layers, and then preset filters and styles were used to create the chrome effect.

CS3 Fireworks is great to use as the first Adobe Product that students learn, because it has bitmap tools for photos, and vector tools for doing artwork. It is much simpler than Photoshop and Illustrator, but can still produce some amazing graphic art.

Where I work, we do Fireworks with Year 7 beginner students and then do Photoshop and Illustrator with them from Year 10 onwards. We are very fortunate in that our school has the entire Adobe CS3 Master Collection, so we try to use as many of the applications as we can with our students.

The following instructions and resources are from the first "Layers" lesson that I do with beginner students, and the finished item they make is the following picture:

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If you would like to download a 12MB .rar file of instructions and resources, then click here: Fireworks Layers Resources

Here are the instructions for making the "Robot Island in the Sky:"

If you would like to have your own full size copy of this PDF, then simply click the save disk icon button on the PDF viewer, and you should be able to save it to your own hard disk.

Alternatively, you can view or save the full size PDF by clicking the link below:
(File is 4MB in size).

So why not get some IT learning started off with a boom and a bang, and get into Adobe Fireworks !

And just to finish off:

While we're on the subject of Sandcastles, here is an early Chilli Peppers cover of the Jimi Hendrix song: "Castles Made of Sand"

Big Passy Wasabi

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rock House Rocks !

"Rock House Method" provides instructional DVDs on how to play Guitar, Bass, Drums, and Keyboards.

I have used some of the "Rock Guitar" and "House of Blues" DVD videos by John McCarthy and found them to be excellent. John is a great enthusiastic presenter, who explains concepts really well, and each DVD also has a course booklet with tabs and additional information for the lessons.

Here is a You Tube video of one of John Mc Carthy's typical lessons:

The Rock House Method Homepage is at:

There is also a Blog that is continually updated and has some free lesssons on it.

The blog is located at:

Rockhouse is run by Joe Palombo and John McCarthy.

You can read all about them here:

You can ask your local music shop to order the DVD's in for you here in Australia, but I found that it can take weeks for them to arrive. Second time around, I have found it far better to buy my DVDs online from the American "" site.

Note that there are DVD's for Bass, Drums, Keyboards, and Vocals, (by an array of presenters) as well as John's own guitar DVDs.

So if you like what you have seen and heard, then why not buy a couple of John's DVDs and enhance your own Rock playing methods.

Big Passy Wasabi

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

WallWisher Parabola Graphs

My Year 9 maths students are currently learning the basics about Parabolas for the first time, and so they will need an online 24x7 online web-based Help site.

Good old "Wall Wisher" to the rescue, and we built the whole wall in one session, and did not move many post it notes around. This resulted in no problems or glitches whatsoever, and so this approach is definitely the one to use when building walls.

If you would like to view the above wall full size, then click on this link:

Note that we had previously done all our Internet research and had all the links and items we wanted to put onto the wall in a notepad text file.

However, we did have difficulty getting images to make themselves as zoomable post-its. Even though we built a practice test wall, where the images would display, when it came to building the real wall, they would suddenly decide not to display. It took a lot of fiddling around to get as many colour zoomable images as we now have on the wall to be visible.

So that's about it, parabolas are definitely my favourite shape, especially salt water ones like this classic "Rip Curl" beauty:

Big Passy Wasabi

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How to Use Google Maps

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Suppose we want to meet up with a friend at a coffee shop.
The old fashioned way was to photocopy a map page, and mark a location onto it. This is what I have done to the above image using Photoshop. I could now email that image to my friend, or print it out and send it to them.

But what about using something more modern, like "Google Maps" to mark the location of the coffee shop instead ?

In Australia, we go to this address:

Here is a YouTube video about how to make your own Google map, using "My Maps".

There is also written information about How to Create a "My Map" at this link:

Here is a map for the Coffee Shop that we created using Google Maps
(We have also included the big hotel across the road as a reference point).

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The really nice thing about a Google Map is that we can click to enter satellite view, to obtain an aerial photograph of our map like this:

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We can also click on the orange colored man symbol on the map, to take us into Google Street View.

Click and drag the orange man away from the plus sign to get into Google Street View. When we mouse release our Orange guy, we get a street view photo. We can even point our guy to look directly at the Vogue House Cafe:

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Here is our actual Google map, from the embed HTML that they provided us with:

The only problem is that we included two items on our map: the big hotel, and the cafe, and the hotel symbol is on top. It does not matter, once we zoom in a few times the two symbols will separate. Also in the embedded map, we do not get streetview available. To use streetview, we need to click the link further below.

View Vogue House Cafe in a larger map

And here is a link to open our map in a new browser window:
Link to Map for Vogue House Cafe with Street View

The other nice thing about the map is that our friend can get directions from wherever they are, to reach destinations we have marked on our map. In the directions lists, it even gives camera icons we can click and then see street view annotated photo scenes of the main road intersections we have to make turns at during our journey.

Finally, here is a PDF document, all about how we made our own Google map:

If you would like to have your own full size copy of this PDF, then
simply click the save disk icon button on the PDF viewer, and you should be able to save it to your own hard disk.

Alternatively, you can view or save the full size PDF by clicking the link below:

So making a Google Map, and sending the link to someone by email definitely gives them the full picture. They can zoom in and out, and then also use street view to get right in on those areas of interest that we have marked especially onto the map.

Big Passy Wasabi