Tag Archives: howto

The Despondent Pit of Techno-Despair

Don't fear the Pit.

Don’t fear the Pit.

 

Have you ever been in the Despondent Pit of Techno-Despair? You know what I’m talking about, if you’ve been there. You’ve been trying to get some type of technology to work, usually in front of other people. It probably worked yesterday, or even earlier today, when you tested it by yourself, but the controls are now mysteriously incomprehensible and you’d swear they look different than they did an hour ago. Possibly a lot of people are waiting to do some very important work supported by the technology you’re fooling with. Time stretches and warps in a weird way, and it feels like everyone else is holding their breath and staring at you with saucer-sized eyes. You can almost see them thinking, “What the heck is this person’s problem, and how long is it going to be my problem too?” You start to feel like you are at the bottom of a giant black hole in the earth and the sunlight is so far away you will never see it again. You kind of wish it would just collapse on you and everyone would go away and let you die of embarrassment in peace.

Yeah. Welcome to the Pit.

I spend a lot of time in the Pit, which sometimes surprises people because I generally seem to have a handle on technology. (Generally.) But think about it: I spend a lot more time walking along the edge of the Pit than most people. It stands to reason that I’ll fall in fairly often.

So why would I keep wandering around on the edge of this scary, deep, dark Pit if I know how awful it is when you fall in?

Simple: I also know the way out.

I’ve built a ladder that I use to get out of the Pit. Rung by rung, I can climb my way back to the sunshine. Knowing this makes me unafraid to fall in, and even lets me laugh about it and take it in stride. Well, sometimes.

Here, I’ll show you my ladder. This is the ladder I’ve built for when I’m working with a group, and I’m the one having the issue.

  • Starting on the bottom rungs, I breathe and I stay calm. I can’t do anything if I’m not calm, so that’s the first thing to get under control.
  • Moving up a rung, I say oops! That is, I acknowledge there’s a problem and I briefly say what it is. This usually gives me the space to realize what’s likely going on and then I can…
  • Move up to the next rung, where I Try One Thing. Just one. The most likely one. If it works, yay! I’m out! If not, I reach up to the next rung…
  • Which is to switch to my backup plan. (Always have a backup plan.)
  • Once I’m in a stable place with the backup plan in effect, I briefly say what went wrong that made me put the backup plan into action. I describe it neutrally, remembering that the computer is really not out to get me, nor am I an idiot. I just fell in the Pit, is all. At this point, I reach the top rung…
  • And I can move on — I’m out!
My ladders, now your ladders.

My ladders, now your ladders.

 

I also know how to climb down on purpose and bring other people out with me. It’s almost worse than falling in yourself: You’re walking along with someone on the edge of the Pit, and suddenly they fall in and start panicking. They’re terrified you’re going to wander off and leave them down there (which is what happens when they encounter really bad tech support).

The temptation to cut the poor person loose can be very strong. Don’t be that guy. Climb down there and show them the way out, now that you’ve learned it.

Here’s the ladder I use when I’m helping someone else out of the Pit:

  • The bottom rung is about getting them calm. Say, “It’s okay, let’s take a moment to figure this out.” Next rung…
  • Get them to stop making it worse. Say, “Okay. Don’t click anything until we figure out what’s going on.” (If they keep clicking, they keep changing the state of the problem, and you’ll never work it out.)
  • From there, climb up to the next rung and ask them to describe what they see on the screen, again without clicking anything. Literally ask, “What are you seeing right now on the screen?” This is assuming you’re working remotely and can’t see them, of course. If you’re right there with them, you can skip this rung.
  • If what they describe gives you the answer, go ahead and say it. If that works, yay! You’re both out. If not, there’s more ladder.
  • If you can accomplish the same task another way, switch to that backup plan. (You do have a backup plan, right? You always have a backup plan.) If not, and you can easily view their screen (have them share it in a Skype call, for instance), try that.
  • Once you’re stable, either in the backup plan or because you can see their screen and talk them up another rung, explain what happened in a neutral way. Nobody is an idiot. The computer isn’t out to get anybody. It’s easy to fall in the Pit. No worries. Then, grab that top rung…
  • And move on! You’re both out.

Take my ladders with you next time you’re heading for the edge of the Pit. It really helps to have a way out!

Posted in everything. Tagged with , , .

Cleaning Chart Photos with CamScanner

One of the participants in last month’s Advanced Visual Facilitation workshop pointed me to a new (to me) app for cleaning photos, CamScanner. I’m pretty happy with the way it cleans charts, and like many of you I’m having trouble with ScanScribe as my laptop advances technologically and poor ScanScribe does not.

CamScanner is an iOS app (there is also an Android version). It can open photos from your phone or iPad’s camera, or you can take photos with the app itself. Once you get a photo in there, you can correct the keystoning (straighten the edges), drop the gray out of the background paper, brighten the image, and transfer it to your laptop for final clean-up or editing. To my delight, I discovered that I could even do the transfer to my laptop even while sitting on a plane with no internet access.

You can also create an account with CamScanner to get cloud storage for your documents, but I didn’t. You can do everything described below without creating an account.

Here’s the original photo I was working with, taken on my iPhone:

Original chart photo

A teaching chart from the AVF workshop (original iPhone photo).

 

And here’s the way it came out of CamScanner after less than a minute of work:

Cleaned chart image

The same chart cleaned up in CamScanner.

 

Get a Photo Into the App
Launch the app and either use the camera button to take a photo (I haven’t tried this with a chart so I don’t know what the results are like), or use the import button (the smaller button) to grab one from your photo roll. You can open a few at a time.

CamScanner screenshot

Adding a photo to CamScanner

 

Correct the Keystoning
If you added a single image, the app takes you to the keystoning correction right away. Match up the circles with the corners and middles of your chart and click the checkmark to save.

CamScanner screenshot

Correcting the keystoning

 

If you added several images, it looks like the app does the keystoning for you. Tap one of the photos you imported to look at it more closely. If the auto-correction is not quite right just tap Re-Edit (top right) to do it yourself.

CamScanner screenshot

The Re-Edit button

 

Correct the Color
After you do the keystone correction, the app applies Magic Color almost as if reading your mind. That’s the one that drops out the gray paper background. You can check it against the original by tapping the Original button, or play with the other settings, but Magic Color usually does the job. Sliders at the bottom let you adjust the magic, the brightness, and the saturation. Click the check mark when you like what you see.

CamScanner screenshot

The Magic Color button

 

Wait… Was That an OCR Button?
Yes, yes it was. There are several languages you can choose from, but don’t get your hopes up. I haven’t found the OCR to do very much with my hand-drawn charts.

Put Them on Your Computer
Hidden behind the More button, the app has several ways to share your photos (email, text, upload to social media, connect with apps like Dropbox, Evernote, and others, and so on).

CamScanner screenshot

Sharing options

 

If you save them to your Camera Roll, you can use Air Drop to transfer them to your computer. I was utterly delighted to be able to do this on a plane, because I needed to clean one last chart to complete a project and Photoshop wasn’t cutting it. There was too much variation in the background. Since I had the photo on my phone already and plenty of time on my hands, I decided to give CamScanner a try. It did a great job, I saved it back to my phone, and then I used Air Drop to share the photo back to my laptop in about ten seconds.

Finish Up in Photoshop
CamScanner leaves a bit of garbage behind, but it was very easy to clean up compared to trying to do the whole chart in Photoshop.

And there you go! I definitely recommend it for speeding up your chart cleaning if you’ve lost ScanScribe.

What else have you found to quickly clean charts? I’d love to explore more options.

Posted in everything. Tagged with , , , , .

Importing Custom Brush Sets – Sketchbook for Mac

This deals with the desktop version of Autodesk Sketchbook, not the iPad version. Sketchbook is now a subscription application. Only the paid, Pro version allows importing of brushes.

Illustration of Rachel's brush set

My custom graphic recording brush set.

 

Some time ago, I created a custom brush set for Autodesk Sketchbook Pro (an older version). I’ve updated the brush set and created a video showing how to import a brush set into the application.

Download my new Graphic Recording brush set for 2015.

If you prefer the older set, it’s still available here (scroll down, it’s near the bottom of the post), and it can still be imported.

Don’t unzip the files; Sketchbook will look for a zip file when you try to import the brushes. Happy recording!

Posted in everything. Tagged with , , , , .

How to Make a Movie with WorkVisual Exporter (Alpha Version)

Even if you don’t have access to the original Brushes app, you can make movies of your iPad drawings and sketchnotes again thanks to the new WorkVisual app. As the developers say in no uncertain terms, the Exporter tool is in alpha release. It’s not an easy process, but it’s possible!

A lot of the setup only needs to be done once, and after you get your workflow underway it goes faster. Keep in mind that these instructions will only be useful until the alpha software changes. Also note that the WorkVisual Exporter only works on the Mac at the moment.

THE DEMO MOVIE

I used an old diagram I drew a while ago so that I could test a movie with tracing for this demo. Read on for the long and detailed instructions on how to get your iPad drawing into a file you can open in your favorite video editor.

After following Steps 1-4 below, I imported the .mov file and still frame into Final Cut Pro X, sped the movie up, and added the title that looks like a piece of tape.

A. THE EASY PART: Drawing on the iPad

  1. Open a new drawing in WorkVisual and set up your layers.
  • Create 3 layers and don’t reorder them. This is very important. Because of a bug in the Exporter, the movie will show layers in the order they were created, so if you reorder them, your movie will not look right.
  • Import a picture if you are tracing. It gets placed on a new top layer. Drag it to the bottom. Because of a bug that this time works in our favor, the imported picture will be invisible to the Exporter, so it doesn’t matter that you reorder this one layer.
  • Set opacity on the picture layer down low enough that you can see it but it won’t get in your way. (Ignore this step if you didn’t import a picture.)

The way the layers look at the end

What the layers look like when the drawing is finished.

  1. Start to draw or write.
  • Use the top layer for your outlines, text, and other top-level content.
  • Use the second layer down to color in shapes you have drawn.
  • Use the third layer down to add shadows or airbrushing under the colors and shapes.

Detail of the drawing

Detail of the drawing. The outlines are on the top layer, the colors on the next one down, and the shadows on the one under that. The bottom layer is the tracing (set to 0% opacity and invisible at the moment) and the other one is a rogue layer that sneaked in there.

  1. When you’re done, go back to the Gallery to send yourself the file you need.
  • Tap the Share button.
  • Choose Export for Mac Tool.
  • Mail it to yourself (mail needs to be set up on your iPad and you need a wifi or cell connection.)

The Share button in the gallery

Gallery and share button.

 

B. THE HARD PART: Creating the Video File on the Computer

There are four main steps: Install the WorkVisual Exporter; install or identify a program to handle your image sequence; export your image sequence; turn the image sequence into a video file.

Step 1. Install the WorkVisual Exporter.

  1. Download the WorkVisual Exporter in exchange for leaving your email address for update notifications.
  2. While you’re there, you may wish to look through the workflow description on the same page. It’ll help the rest of this post make more sense.
  3. The download link gets emailed to you, so check your email, click the link, and save the file where you can find it again.
  4. Go find the file and double-click to open it. It’s a .zip file, so this will unzip the Exporter.
  5. Double-click the Exporter to launch it. If your computer asks you if you really want to open it, search your soul and do as your conscience dictates. If you decide not to open it, you’re done but you can’t make a movie. Otherwise, read on.
  6. If you wish, you can drag the application icon to your Dock, or place it in your Applications folder so you can find it again later.

Step 2. Install (or identify) a program to handle your image sequence.

Leave the Exporter alone for a moment while you get the second piece of software you need: the one that will turn the image sequence into a movie. There are a lot of choices for how to do this, ranging from free to expensive.

Things to know:

  • Beware of the free tools you might find by doing a web search. Image and video converters are notorious for containing malware. Not all free tools do, but use common sense when making your selection, and do a search on the name of the tool to find reviews and comments.
  • Photoshop can apparently convert images into video, but each frame becomes a new layer. The Exporter generates a LOT of frames. I don’t know how many layers Photoshop can handle before it goes nuts, but I’d be careful.
  • Adobe Media Encoder can also do this, although I found it frustrating when I tried it and eventually went with QuickTime Pro 7.
  • I gather that Adobe After Effects can also do it, though I don’t know how to use it.
  • It’s possible that Final Cut Pro X does it, which would save a step, but I haven’t figured it out yet. Final Cut Pro 7 used to do it but that was a while ago.
  • Most tools want you to only open the first image in the sequence. Don’t select and open all of the images, or it won’t work.

I chose to use QuickTime Pro 7, which is very old but still available and still functional. Please note that although QuickTime is built into OS X, the function that we need isn’t. You can have QuickTime 7 installed right along with the one that comes with OS X. If you don’t have QuickTime Pro already, you can buy it for $30.

Installing QuickTime Pro:

  1. Check your Utilities folder to see if you already have QuickTime Player 7. (Look in Macintosh HD > Applications > Utilities).
  2. If you don’t have QuickTime Player 7, you can download it here (free and necessary in order to upgrade to Pro).
  3. Double click the download file and follow the instructions to install it.
  4. Once you have QuickTime Player 7, open it by double-clicking it.
  5. If you already had QuickTime Player 7, check to see if you have the Pro version by choosing Registration from the QuickTime Player 7 menu (upper left, next to the Apple menu). If you see a code in the box, you are good to go. No code? Just installed it? Read on.
  6. If you need to get QuickTime Pro, you can buy it here.

Here is a good, if old, QuickTime overview for your reference.

If you prefer to explore other options, try searching on ‘convert image sequence to video’ or look at the article Convert an Image Sequence to a Movie by Andrew Noske.

Step 3. Export Your Image Sequence.

Now you’re set up, and you don’t have to do Steps 1 and 2 again for your next movie. From here down is the repeatable part.

  1. Go back to your email and look for the one you sent yourself with the drawing file attached.
  2. Download the attachment and save it in a new folder somewhere. Don’t skip the step of making a folder. You can thank me later. Also, don’t change the .workvisual part of the filename. You can change everything before the dot if you want.
  3. Go back to the WorkVisual Exporter that we launched and left running while we installed QuickTime Pro 7.
  4. Go to the File menu > Open, and navigate to the file you just downloaded. Open it.
  5. The image shows up in your WorkVisual Exporter window.

The Export button

My drawing in the Exporter window. The Export button is highlighted.

 

  1. To export the image sequence, click the Export button in the top right of the Exporter window.

Video options in the Exporter

Video export options. Use the Standard one.

  1. The top three options will export a nice JPG for you, but that’s not what we want.
  2. The bottom three options export the image sequence for video. That’s what we want. Pick the standard definition. NOTE: Your computer can run out of application memory and crash if you use the large or high-def settings. Even a nice, new computer. USE WITH CAUTION. This is a bug and they’re working on it.

 

Out of memory alert

This is what you’ll see if you run out of application memory.
Force quit the Exporter, shut everything else down normally, and reboot.

 

  1. Make another new folder inside the other one and name it Image Sequence or something equally memorable. You want all your images to go into one folder that has nothing else in it.
  2. Save the file with whatever name you want but MAKE SURE YOU ADD .jpg to the end of the name. If you skip that, this will not work.
  3. You’ll see a “Saving Image” progress bar. Let it do its thing, go get some coffee, whatever. It’s best if you don’t try to do anything else with your machine while it’s exporting.

 

The progress bar

There it goes! Don’t mess with it. Just walk away.

 

  1. When you get back, there will be a bunch of .jpgs in the new folder, all neatly numbered in order. Don’t change the filenames.
  2. It’s useful to export a still frame at the same size as your video, so go ahead and do that now using the first Standard setting. Remember to add .jpg to your filename. You’ll use this still frame in your video editor, adding it at the end of the video so that you have a nice hold for a few seconds when the drawing is done.

 

Image options in the Exporter

Choose the same size for the image as you did for the video.

 

Step 4. Turn the Image Sequence into a Video File.

To do this, we’ll use QuickTime Player 7 (even though we upgraded it to Pro, it’s still helpfully called Player). We just need to tell it which image to start with and what settings we want. If you chose a tool other than QuickTime Pro 7, you’re on your own here, but the process should be generally the same.

  1. Switch to QuickTime Player 7, or launch it if it isn’t open.
  2. Ignore the default window or close it if it’s in your way. Go to File menu > Open Image Sequence… and select the first image in your folder.

Opening an image sequence

Only select the first image, not all of them.

 

  1. Set your frame rate. I used 30, which is a standard frame rate. (24 and 29.97 are good too.) If you want to learn more, read this article on frame rate or play with this demo.
  2. Click OK, then wait a bit while nothing appears to happen. After a moment, your video will open. It’ll look like a blank white screen. Click the Play button at the bottom of the window to preview your video. You’ll notice it’s pretty slow. You can fix this in your video editing program later.
  3. Save the file as a self-contained movie and you are good to go. Ta da!

Using self-contained movie option

Choose self-contained movie.

 

If you want to fiddle with settings, you can choose File > Export… and play with different formats and different options for each one. The Save method described here results in a pretty large file size but you will get good quality.

The Other Part: Making a Whole Movie

I’m not going to cover this in detail because there are lots of great tutorials out there for making movies (one of my favorites is Izzy’s Final Cut Pro tutorial series).

  • Open your favorite video editing program (I use Final Cut Pro X, but iMovie, Premiere, or any other program will work too).
  • Import the video file and the still frame you created in the previous step.
  • Add audio, a soundtrack, still images, or whatever else you wish.
  • Adjust the timing so it’s faster or slower or whatever you need.
  • Place the still frame at the end of the drawing sequence to give people a moment to absorb the finished drawing.
  • Render it out and there you go!

If you try this process and discover something new, or if your experience with it is different, please share what you found!

Posted in everything. Tagged with , , , , .

Two new resources for better visual meetings

Cover of the book on gallery walks

The Gallery Walks book

My colleague and friend Lisa Arora of Get the Picture recently published two digital books about important topics in graphic recording — how to really make the most of the dance between a facilitator and a graphic recorder, and how to conduct gallery walks of completed charts — and they are outstanding.

How To Get the Most Out of Working with a Graphic Recorder is an excellent resource for facilitators and graphic recorders (GRs) about how to work together. The suggestions and explanations are clear and insightful, and if you implement them I guarantee they will make your very next tandem engagement better. I highly recommend it for anyone running a meeting or workshop who plans to work with a GR, even if you don’t think of yourself as a facilitator. If you’re wondering whether you want to hire a graphic recorder and have never engaged one before, read this book to understand how to work with one so that you reap the real value of working visually. If you tend to work solo (doing both the facilitation and recording yourself), you might pick up a few tips, but the book is really aimed at facilitator-graphic recorder partners, and for those who plan to engage one or the other.

The other book, The How To on Effective Gallery Walks for Visual Meetings, is comprehensive, creative, and brilliant. It really gets into gallery walks (where participants spend reflective time looking at the maps at different points in the meeting, and thinking deeply about them). It goes way beyond grouping people up and having them file past the charts. If you want to extend the life of the maps, maximize their usefulness to participants, and deepen the level of thinking in the group, get this book, read it, and build a real gallery walk into your next visual meeting. I’ll be pulling ideas out of this one starting immediately, I can tell you.

Go take a look at the two books. If you partner or hire facilitator/GR partners, get them both. If you are a graphic recorder, a facilitator, or a dual-role graphic facilitator, or if you plan, host, or sponsor visual meetings, get the one on gallery walks. You’ll be glad you did.

Posted in everything. Tagged with , , , .

Virtual Meeting Tool: The Check-in Grid

Getting people comfortable in a virtual meeting can be a challenge, especially if you plan to use some of the more advanced features of your web conferencing tools. Even if that’s not in your agenda, it’s helpful to have folks take a minute to check in once the group has assembled. You’re familiar, I’m sure, with the awkward-silence-and-simultaneous-speaking method of going around the virtual room. How about trying a visual alternative in your next meeting? This one was shared with me by a student in one of my digital facilitation workshops.

The check-in grid is a quick, easy and fun way to avoid the awkward stumbling while still giving everyone a chance to have his or her voice heard. It also lets folks experience the group whiteboard feature of a web conferencing tool during a safe and low-stakes activity, so that later, when you ask them to dot vote or contribute to a group visual, they aren’t totally lost.

You’ll need to enable the collaborative whiteboard feature in your web conferencing tool. Some of them require you to do this when you set the meeting up, and others let you activate it once the meeting has begun. (See below for alternative ideas if your system just doesn’t have this feature.)

Start by drawing a grid on the collaborative whiteboard that has at least enough squares for each person to have one (including yourself). You can do this in advance of the meeting, or while people are gathering in the call, or right after you call the meeting to order when everyone is present.

the check in grid - it looks like a tic tac toe board.

Draw a simple grid.

 

Next, set the stage for participation by saying that you’d like to have the group do a visual check-in. When you give the signal, everyone will pick an empty square and use the drawing tools to draw a simple face that reflects how they are feeling right now. Alternatively, you could frame the instructions in one of these other ways:

Draw a simple face that shows…
• …how you are feeling about our progress so far.
• …how you are feeling right now about the issue we have come together to discuss (name the issue so it’s clear).
• …how your weekend went.

And so on. Explain that there will be a little pandemonium for a moment as people sort out which square to use. Point out that there are enough for everyone, so if two people start to use one square, one of them should just choose a different one instead.

Show people where the drawing tools are and how they work, if they don’t already know. You can invite everyone to make a test mark outside the grid if they want to practice.

When everyone is ready, tell them to go ahead. Let them sort out the squares themselves – it’s a mess at first, but it will work out. It’s okay if they talk. Wait until it looks like most people have chosen before drawing your own image in an unused square.

filled-in version of the check in grid

Makes you want to know what’s up with the cat person, doesn’t it?

 

When everyone has finished, start at the top left and go along the rows. Ask each artist to identify him or herself and say something about why they chose to draw what they did. Acknowledge each person’s contribution.

There you go! You’ve given everyone a chance to speak and share something about themselves, and you’ve established a speaking order that you can use throughout the meeting to help avoid talking over one another.

Bonus Points:
Once everyone is done drawing but before you go around for the verbal check-in, take a screen shot or download the image, open it in your drawing program, share your screen, and graphically record everyone’s remarks around the outside of the grid. Only do this if you can manage it very smoothly and quickly, or you will lose the good energy built up by the drawing.

No collaborative whiteboard? No problem!
Alternative #1: Ask everyone to draw a quick face on a scrap of paper, take a photo with their phone, and either upload it to the web conferencing tool (if that’s easy) or email it to you right away. Flip through the uploaded drawings in the web conference, or share your screen and open them one by one on your computer. Have each person explain as above.

Alternative #2: There are a lot of free shared whiteboarding tools that you can use for your meeting. Flockdraw is one. You just create a whiteboard and share the link, and everyone can draw together using its incredibly simple interface. There are many other options too — just keep searching until you find one that you like.

flockdraw screenshot

A co-conspirator and I created this in about fifteen seconds on our first Flockdraw visit.

 

Alternative #3: Instead of drawing a face, everyone can use the whiteboard type tool to write one word that describes how they are doing (or answers whatever question you have asked them).

Give it a try — let me know how it goes!

Posted in everything. Tagged with , , , , , , .

Same site, new look (and changes under the hood)

Digital Visual Facilitation has had a facelift! (Also, an unplanned mini-vacation.) Both are a result of the news that Posterous, this blog’s former home, is closing down at the end of April. Over the past week or so, I’ve moved the blog to another host and converted it from Posterous to WordPress. The only issue I ran into is that some of the embedded links to movies, photos, and slide shows stopped working after the move and had to be relinked. I think I’ve caught them all, but if you find something odd, just drop me a note and I’ll get it fixed.

The process of moving house wasn’t difficult at all, really. I started with Sarah Gooding’s instructions for the process, and used a workaround described by Antonio Cangiano:

  1. I started by making a backup of my Posterous site as described here, and then downloading the backup to my computer.
  2. Next, I needed a place to set up the blog on the web again. Since digitalfacilitation.net simply pointed to ninmah.posterous.com, I removed that pointer and set up an empty WordPress install at digitalfacilitation.net.
  3. Then I tried to use the Posterous Importer plug-in for WordPress, but it didn’t appear to work (the little “working” indicator just spun and nothing happened). I tried twice (just in case, right?) and then looked for an alternative method. Following the “Quick Tip” link in Gooding’s instructions, I found Antonio Cangiano’s instructions for a workaround.
  4. Using the backup of my Posterous site, I created a new, empty blog at WordPress.com — apparently the Posterous Importer plug-in works on wordpress.com but not on private WordPress installations — and imported the Posterous backup into it. Once it was there, I exported it to WordPress eXtended RSS (WXR) format — an extra step, but it worked like a charm.
  5. Finally, I returned to my new, still empty WordPress installation at the new digitalfacilitation.net, and imported the WXR export.
  6. The very last step was to go through the posts and fix the missing images, videos, and slide shows. In each case, the URL was there, just not in a format that WordPress could use. For most of them, I pasted the URL into my browser and got fresh embed code from the original item to paste back into the blog post.

The mini-vacation was a result of a bug in the domain transfer system at my hosting provider, and was unrelated to the move. I decided to consolidate things by moving the domain registration for digitalfacilitation.net to the same provider where I’m now hosting it, and where my other blog is hosted. They had an issue that caused the domain to fall off the internet (there’s probably a more accurate technical explanation for what really happened) for a few days.

At any rate, welcome (back) to the new digitalfacilitation.net!

Posted in everything. Tagged with , .

Cleaning Chart Images with ScanScribe

The instructions below come from David Sibbet of The Grove and were updated by Cynthia Derosier of Good Juju. I’ve just edited them a little and am reposting them for convenience. If you’re looking for another method of cleaning chart images, I have previously posted instructions for cleaning chart images with Photoshop

Cleaning Up Your Charts

Once you’ve taken photos of your charts, you can run them through a program called ScanScribe to drop out the shadows and the gray or yellowish background that results from photographing paper charts. It’s quick and easy, once you get ScanScribe set up. It’s not like most applications — it’s really a script, so you have to be prepared to fiddle a little bit, but once it’s working it’s a great tool for the job. Like David, I haven’t used it’s other features, but I know it’s capable of more than just whitening images. ScanScribe is available for Mac and Windows platforms.

David Sibbet says, “The best program [for cleaning chart images] is still ScanScribe, a never-released piece of software from Xerox [now Parc]. The interface isn’t very intuitive, but it does a great job keeping your yellows intact. You can change the exposure settings: 4 or 7 seem to work best. You can also correct for keystoning under the edit function. TIFF files work best. These are the only functions I’ve ever used and it seems to work very well.”

Using ScanScribe

  1. Download ScanScribe from the Parc site: http://www2.parc.com/isl/groups/pda/scanscribe/
  2. Save it to a spot on your computer where you will be able to find it (perhaps make a ScanScribe folder inside your Applications or Programs folder).
  3. Double click on the Scan app. This will launch a terminal program that then opens the software, so don’t be alarmed when the new program opens.
  4. Under EXECUTION, open “SCANSCRIBE.” 
  5. Go to “Options” set your Automatic FB/BG Color Processing on Image Load/ background sensitivity to 4 (or 7 — you can experiment).
  6. Under FILE open the folder where you have your chart pictures. It doesn’t have menus that open automatically so you have to go through each click manually.
  7. Open your file. It may take a little while to process, during which time it can look like nothing is happening. After a bit, your photo should open. When it opens, the photo will be magically whitened! (If not, see the notes below).
  8. To adjust for keystoning, go to Edit/Keystone Unwarp. This gives you a box that you can change by using your cursor on the corners. Drag corners to where you want them to be on the photos. Then click the button in the window frame that says “run Keystone” and the picture will unwarp.
  9. Save As a TIFF file if possible, or a JPG if you can’t work with TIFFs.

Notes

Cynthia reports that she had a very large TIFF file and had to reduce its file size in order for the program to work. If you load the photo and have done all the steps correctly but still see no change, you may need to reduce the file size. Cynthia noticed that the script at the bottom indicated the computer was out of memory for a TIFF file, but did not run out of memory for a JPG of the same size.

I have noticed that ScanScribe can have difficulty opening files if they are too deep in my computer’s file system — that is, if they are inside a lot of nested folders. I think this is because all the folder names get added to the path name for the image, and perhaps the long path name exceeds some limitation in ScanScribe, but that’s just a guess. To get around the issue, I created a folder inside my Pictures folder called “For ScanScribe,” and I just drop all the photos in there that I want to clean up. ScanScribe remembers the last folder it opened images from, so this is a handy way to avoid having to click through your folders to find your images. I just save the edited versions right back into that same folder, and then move everything to where I actually want it when I’m done to keep the folder clean.

If you have additional questions, please check the ScanScribe discussion forum

 

Posted in everything. Tagged with , , , .

precision lettering in iPad drawing apps

I received a question today that many people have asked me: How do I make my lettering so neat and precise when I’m using drawing apps on the iPad? I’ve been asked if it’s a font, or if I use a special stylus or some other trick. Here’s my (perhaps disappointingly simple) answer.

My iPad notes of MK Haley's keynote at #IFVP2012

A recent piece. I’m still working on my lettering, by the way. Always.

I don’t use a stylus; I just use my finger. I zoom way way in so that I can only see a few words at a time, and then I scoot along as I write. The precise lettering is mostly due to practice — if you look at some of the earliest work I did, you’ll see that I’ve come a long way 🙂

Bryan Alexander's Keynote

The very first iPad graphic recording I ever did – May 8, 2010. For reference, the iPad I was using (wifi + 3G) became available on April 30, 2010 — about a week earlier. I leapt right in.

One trick I can share is to line up the baseline of whatever you’re writing so that it’s a little bit above the app border on the iPad. For instance, if you zoom way in, you can move the page around to put the words about half an inch above the bottom edge of the app, which of course is straight. Then use that as a guide while you write. In Brushes, you’d do this by using the two-finger-spread to zoom in, then use two fingers to move the page around until your text was just above the toolbar (or the bottom of the app if you’ve hidden the toolbar). Write a bit, use two fingers to move the page sideways, and continue.

zooming in with Brushes

Zooming in and lining up the baseline of text in Brushes.

That’s the main reason I don’t use a stylus, by the way — I’m always zooming and moving the screen, and if I had to hold a stylus while I did it, it would take way too long.

Happy zooming!

 

 

Posted in everything. Tagged with , , , , .

Doing the Gmail Two-Step

Some friends have been asking about two-step verification for Gmail accounts. Should we do it? How does one go about it? What behavioral changes will we have to put up with afterward?

The answer to the first question is yes, Ruthie, yes. Read on for answers to the other two. First, though, if you’re imagining that this is a funky new dance step, you need a little background information. Go read Matt Honan’s story. This is what we’re preventing with this precautionary measure. I’m not a fear-monger, but it could happen to you, too. Go read it. I’ll wait.

Back? Great. Now, go watch this Google video explaining two-step verification. Don’t follow the directions yet — just watch it and come on back here, and I’ll walk you through it. Take your time.

All done? Okay.

Two-step verification, then, pairs a password with a unique numeric code that exists in another physical location (the phone or mobile device, or the printed list of codes). In order to log in to Gmail once two-step verification is enabled, you need both of these pieces of information. Banks commonly use this system to verify their customers. World of Warcraft also provides an authentication option that works the same way — you need both a password and a unique code that gets generated when you want to log in. The idea is that even if your password is hacked or guessed, someone still can’t get into your Gmail account without having that code also.

Google will ask you to enter this code every 30 days on a trusted computer (if you switch browsers on the same computer, or clear your cookies, Google will ask for the code again). You can also choose not to have a given computer be “trusted,” and Google will ask for your code every time you log in.

Note that if you are using Google apps, and not a regular Gmail account, you can’t use two-step verification until your site admin enables it for the site. If you follow the steps below and get stuck in the middle of Step 1 because you don’t see “2-step verification,” this is the case for you. Contact your site admin to see about getting it enabled.
Two Foot

Two Foot by Jack Keene. Creative Commons.

So, how does one go about it? 

Let’s get started.

1. Gather what you need.

Setting this up properly will take 15 to 30 minutes, and you don’t want to get interrupted in the middle, so make sure you have enough time before you start. Grab your mobile device(s), including phones and iPads. A printer is handy but not absolutely necessary. You’ll do most of the work on your main computer. If you use more than one computer to access your Gmail account (a laptop and a desktop, or a work computer and a home computer), you’ll need to do some of the steps on each one, but you can start with just one for now.

Ready? Let’s go through the process. First, we’ll enable 2-step verification. We’ll set up apps and devices, and then set up backup options for our account.

Start by logging in to Gmail as you normally would, on your computer (not on a mobile device).

2. Enable 2-step verification for your Gmail account.

In Gmail on the computer, click on your name and the plus sign at the upper left of the screen (for example, mine says “Rachel+”). This takes you to your Google+ profile. Click the gear icon in the top right and choose Settings from the drop down menu.

If you haven’t set up Google+, you can get to your profile by clicking your email address in the top right and then clicking “Account.”

Click Security on the left.

See where it says “2-step verification”? Click “Edit” to bring up the setup wizard.

Step through the wizard and have it send a code to your phone. Look at your phone for the text message (or voice message, if you prefer) from Google. Then enter that code on the computer screen. Ta da! Google takes you to a new screen. Stay there for the next step.

3. Enable access from mobile devices.

Here’s the tricky bit: some things that you have already set up to access Google can’t do the two-step, so you have to set up special passwords for those things. You’ll do that next (do it now, even though Google gives you the option to do it later). This includes email programs on your phone, email clients like Outlook and Thunderbird, calendar clients, chat clients, and so on. Read on.

The top of the screen you are looking at lists things that you have connected to your Google account. Take a moment to look over the list of stuff that has permission to access your Google account (or that you opted to sign in to using your Google ID), and revoke access for anything you’re not still using. You can leave the rest alone. Now, look at the lower half of the screen for the next part.

You’ll need to generate bizarre application-specific passwords for all the places that you access Google other than your computer. For instance, if you use the mail program on your iPhone or iPad to get your Gmail, you need to make a special password for those devices. Google makes this very friendly and easy, and you don’t need to make up the passwords yourself or remember them after you type them in once. Before you start, go get your iPhone, Android phone, Blackberry, iPad, or whatever other devices you want to set up, and have them handy. You’ll need them.

Got everything handy? Now, look back at the bottom half of the computer screen. (If you wandered off to collect your devices, Google may ask you to log back in when you try to do the next step. Just enter your email and password as usual and you’ll be right back on track.) In the list on the bottom of the screen, you’ll see a text box and a button.

For each device, type a descriptive name in the text box so you know what it is later (like “Gmail on my iPhone” — spaces, caps, whatever you like is OK) and then click “Generate Password.” Now leave your computer alone for a minute and pick up the device — let’s say it’s your iPhone. Open the settings app on the iPhone. Click the “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” item in the settings list, and then tap the name of your Gmail account in the list of accounts. Tap again where it says “Account” with your Gmail address. On the device, erase the password that’s in there — that is still your Gmail password, but this device can no longer use it because of the two-step verification process. Now look back at your computer screen, and find the string of characters that Google has generated for you. Type them into the password field on your device. You can omit the spaces if you want. Click Done on the device. The iPhone will verify the information, and when it’s successful, you’ll see a row of checkmarks in all those fields on the iPhone. Click Done again on the device, and your device is set up. Ta da!

To set up the next one, click Done on the computer screen and you’ll get a new text box. You’ll also see that the device that you just set up is listed there now with the name you gave it.

Do the same thing for your iPad and any other physical devices you use to access your Gmail.

4. Enable access from other apps.

Next, we’ll set up other apps besides Mail. Examples of apps you might need to change are Spanning Sync, Google Notifier, Outlook, chat clients like Adium and Google Talk, and so on. These might be apps on
your computer, or they might be on your mobile phone. If you don’t use any of these, you can skip this part. If you try to access something later and it says that your Gmail password isn’t working, come on back and follow these instructions for that app.

In the same place where you set up your iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, or what have you, type in a name for the app you will be authorizing (“Spanning Sync,” for instance). Click “Generate Password.” Leave that screen up, and open the preferences for the app you are changing. Find where you put in the password, erase the password that’s in there, and put in the new weird one that Google has generated for you (spaces optional, again). Click “Done” or “OK” or the moral equivalent both in the app and on the Google screen, and you’re good to go.

4.5 Ack! I came back to do this part later and I can’t find the settings page with the text boxes!

In Gmail, click your name with the plus (“Rachel+” for me) in the upper left. Look on the right for the little gear and click it. Choose Settings from the drop down menu.

If you haven’t set up Google+, you can get to your profile by clicking your email address in the top right and then clicking “Account.”

Click Security in the menu on the left. Click the Edit button next to Authorizing Applications and Sites. Enter your password (your usual Gmail one) if prompted. There you are!

5. More information from your friends at Google.

Now, check your email. Gmail has sent you a helpful message full of useful details. It also contains action items:

1. Set up your backup phone. If your mobile gets lost or stolen, you can use the backup phone to receive a verification code. Click the link in the email, then click “Add a phone number” on the page it takes you to, and enter the backup phone number. If it’s a landline, be sure to select “voice call” and not “SMS/text message” as the delivery method.

2. Print a set of backup codes. Print these out, and even if you’re unable to access either phone, you can still use a verification code to get back into your account. Just carry these with you when you travel. If you don’t have a printer handy, you can save them to a text file and print them later. Follow the directions in the email to get these codes.

3. Optional: set up the Google Authenticator mobile app. If you like, you can get the Google Authenticator app for your mobile that will generate a code you can use, whether or not you have cell service. (This is great if you travel overseas.) If you want to do this, you need to get a free app from the app store and then set up your app using the online instructions. Click the link in the email for the type of mobile you have to get started, then just follow the on-screen instructions. You can configure the app to work with multiple Gmail accounts, if you have more than one.

Save the email from Google for later, just in case.

That’s it! Now your account is protected with two-step verification.

Huh. What behavioral changes will we have to put up with now?

Every 30 days, Google will ask you to log in again. After you enter your password, it will ask for a verification code. You can have that code texted to your mobile, or you can use the Authenticator app to generate one, depending on what option you selected when you set it up. If you change your mind about how to get the code, you can change that in your settings (see “4.5, Ack!” above for how to find your settings).

Something weird happened, or I have more questions.

Google has a great help system that covers 2-step verification.

This post is dedicated to my mom and my sister, with lots of love. Go do it now, guys.

Updated 8/8/12: Added instructions for folks who don’t use Google+.

 

 

Posted in everything. Tagged with , .
%d bloggers like this: