Category Archives: Computer Graphics

PrioVR Virtual reality suit

I’ve never been interested in computer games. (I’d rather program computers than be played by them.) However, a new virtual reality body suit now being funded on Kickstarter is intriguing. Watch this YouTube video to see it in action.

priovrVirtual reality systems can train police, first responder, rescue, assault, and exploration personnel for high risk missions at low risk. Soon they can be trained at low cost, too. The PrioVR will start at less than 400 dollars.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Adobe, like Microsoft, is moving to a subscription model.

Adobe Systems’ May 6 press release announced that they are killing their popular Creative Suite and replacing it with the subscription-based $50 to $70 per month Creative Cloud. A bean counter at Adobe must have calculated that they can quadruple their annual revenue if they discontinue selling their market-leading Photoshop image editing application, part of Creative Suite, and instead charge a monthly rental fee. Microsoft is moving toward the same subscription model.

I’d like it, too. It guarantees an annuity. It’s gotta be a financial controller’s dream: more or less predictable revenue makes cash flow predictions easy. There’s just one problem: user backlash. After all, there are good Photoshop alternatives.

I don’t use Photoshop; I use the open-source GIMP image editor. Its user interface differs from Photoshop, but there’s a plugin that makes GIMP behave like Photoshop. For simple image cropping, resizing, and single-layer effects I use Irfanview. I don’t use Microsoft Office, either; I use the open-source OpenOffice.

Here’s my Photoshop alternatives article.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Instagram instantly sells . . . itself. website
Polaroid 900 photo: Jean-Jacques MILAN
Instagram marries instant photography with the telegram.

Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg recognizes a good social networking idea when he sees one, so Facebook recently paid a billion dollars to acquire Instagram. iPhone users can upload photos directly to Instagram, and choose to make them publicly available or share them with friends only. Instagram can polish and then distribute your photos to multiple image-sharing sites. It sounds like Facebook without words.

Instagram has helped share ideas across borders because no language translation is necessary. It’s only about 18 months old and has yet to make a profit, so its sale to Facebook represents an excellent ROI by its founders.

I’ve noticed, while watching people browse the web, that some people simply aren’t comfortable with words. They communicate best with images. They’ll love Instagram.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Create diagrams like a pro

drawing by Russ Bellew. small network
Small Computer Network drawn by Dia
With Dia, make pictures worth a million words, without spending a penny.


My tech proposals make dull reading. They lack something: a simple graphic that describes my plan. I’m familiar with Visio (I used it before Microsoft bought it), but it’s fairly expensive.
About screen for the Diaw that I use

I recently tried a free Visio-like program named Dia, and it’s exactly what I needed! You can download it gratis from” target=”_blank”. It’s developed by It’s small and is available for use on Windows, GNU/Linux, and Mac platforms.

My immediate needs are for diagramming of computer networks, but Dia includes symbols for flowcharts, civil, chemical, and electrical engineering, et al as well. Additional shapes (CMOS, Building Site, Living Systems, etc.) are available at

Dia is super-easy to learn. Without reading any instructions, I was able to begin drawing diagrams almost immediately.

Dia (pronounced “dee-a”) was originally created by Alexander Larsson and is now produced by a team of dozens of programmers and tech writers who’ve donated their work. It’s licensed under the GNU General Public License, which means that all source code is available. Versions for MS-Windows and GNU/Linux are available.

I salute Alexander Larsson and the entire Dia team. They’ve created a very useful tool. Try it. You’ll like it.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Obama’s birth certificate: Curiouser and Curiouser

Youtube clip demonstrating Obama birth certificate may be a forgery
Screenshot: Youtube

You’d think that a forger wouldn’t omit the last step in the forgery process.


I’m watching and re-watching a fascinating video clip on Youtube. It seems to demonstrate that the just-released Obama birth certificate is a recently fabricated document. The presenter uses Adobe Illustrator to dis-assemble the PDF document, showing that it consists of multiple (reportedly 5) layers. I don’t have Adobe Illustrator, so I can’t do this myself.

Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Gimp, and other image creation and editing programs employ the concept of layers: One layer might contain photos, another the background, another layer might contain a form, etc. At publish time, all the layers are superimosed upon each other and the program produces a finished document. This finished document is a “flat” file upon which all layers have been flattened into a single “layer”. What’s odd about Mr. Obama’s birth certificate is that whoever created it forgot to perform the flattening step.

Who produced this PDF file? A government worker in Hawaii? . . . or a graphics artist working for Mr. Obama?

Here’s one comment: “I’m a graphix guy as well and have plenty of experience with Illustrator and scanners. This is NOT OCR. If it were, it would separate all the text, not just parts of it. OCR also does not create clipping masks. You can perform a task in Acrobat, “Recognize Text Using OCR”, which does a very good job. This is an obvious forgery. The only ‘retard’ here is the guy that didn’t flatten the image before he said “it’s good to go Mr. President!”

I’m not a graphics expert; I defer to those who are, and withhold judgment on the veracity of this document. I’m sure that this new twist in the Obama birth certificate controversy will spread like wildfire across the Internet. Here is discussion by some graphics experts (and non-experts).

Here is the clip’s URL:
What do you think?

Late news: The original video clip has been removed by the poster. I have no idea why. A search on Youtube turned up an equally fascinating examination of the PDF file: I’m sure that more news on this will break throughout the day.



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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

I’m happy with FreeOCR

Here’s a free program that can save hours of typing.


I recently needed to convert text from a PDF file to ASCII text for pasting into an HTML document. I found that a Windows freeware program, FreeOCR, did exactly what I needed.

OCR (Optical Character Recognition) programs have always been clunky. For many years OmniPage was the benchmark OCR program, but it’s large, expensive, and consumes mass quantities of CPU cycles and memory. I was delighted to learn that FreeOCR loads quickly and has an interface that’s easy to learn. It can read PDF files directly, or accept input from Windows’ clipboard. It can also read JPG and other image files or accept input from a TWAIN-compliant document scanner. My tests with a network attached HP scanner went perfectly.

Read user reviews of FreeOCR and download it from CNET’s site:

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Digital photography best practices

Photo by mikebaird
Work like a professional photographer.

Even if you take only family photographs, you’ll find plenty of good ideas on the ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) Best Practices page. I’m impressed with how thoroughly they cover the all-important topic of backup. I especially like its Backup Overview page, written by Peter Krogh. His 3-2-1 idea is very sensible:

  • We recommend keeping 3 copies of any important file (a primary and two backups)
  • We recommend having the files on 2 different media types (such as hard drive and optical media), to protect against different types of hazards.
  • 1 copy should be stored offsite (or at least offline).
  • In fact, this 3-2-1 idea makes sense for any important file.

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    Photoshop alternatives

    When most people ask, "Where can I buy a cheap copy of Photoshop?", they’re really asking, "How can I edit photographs?".

    Adobe Photoshop has been the leading photo editor since the early 1990s. It’s available in Windows and Mac versions and is the industry standard. Its biggest drawback? It’s expensive (about $600). Second biggest drawback? There is no Linux version. Adobe Photo Elements costs less (about $60), but does less.
    You have excellent low- (or no-) cost photo editing alternatives:
    1. Gimp ( began as a Unix / Linux only program and is now available (gratis!) in Linux, Windows, and Mac versions. It’s excellent, but makes no attempt (probably for legal reasons) to mimic Photoshop’s user interface. Professionals swear that its color correction ability is equal to Photoshop’s. It lacks some Photoshop bells and whistles, but will work fine as the only photo editor for most people . . . but there is a learning curve.
    2. ( is a free photo editing tool for Windows. I’ve not used it, but it receives rave reviews from non-professionals. It uses layers, is easier to learn than Gimp or Photoshop and loads faster, but lacks some of those programs’ advanced features.
    3. PaintShop Pro ( was created by Jasc Software. I used it in the early 1990s and I was very impressed. Based upon recent reviews, it seems to have gotten even better. Corel now owns it and sells it for $70 to $100.
    4. InPaint ( is a specialized tool that erases objects from photographs. It’s $40 for a personal license and $100 for a business license. They have impressive demos on and they allow you to download a free trial version that does everything except save your finished photo. I’ve used Irfanview to remove objects from photos, but to some degree the deleted area’s square shape tells the viewer that the photo’s been doctored. InPaint’s object removal results are MUCH more convincing.
    If you’ve asked, "Where can I buy a cheap copy of Photoshop?", have a look at the above alternatives. I’ll bet that at least one alternative will do everything that you want — and save you big bucks.
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    Where did I find the photos for my website and who did those wacky Flash animations?

     Illustration: John Croezen
    I found many of my website’s photographs on License fees are low.
    The smart Flash animations on and were created by a Dutch illustrator, John Croezen. I bought rights to three of his Flash animations from John’s website is (His TV commercials are slick. Most are in the Dutch language, yet his graphics make them universally understood.)
    John has placed a well-done Sudoku game with looney illustrations and music online: You can send a greeting card with John’s wacky animations from this page:
    John’s dancing animals remind me of Max Fleischer’s early cartoon artwork.
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    How not to use Photoshop

    Photo released by North Korean government
    Close-Up. Note that Mr. Kim’s shadow is different than those surrounding him.
    Not a bad Photoshop job, but not perfect.

    Check out the official photo that was just released by the North Korean government to allay fears that Kim Jung Il is, well, ill. It’s easy to spot the inconsistencies surrounding the Dearest Leader: For starters, check out his legs’ shadow, compared to those who flank him.
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