Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Steam: The Netflix of Gaming

Do you ever wish that there was a Netflix Instant for video games? Well, the online video game platform Steam comes pretty close. Steam is a product of the Valve Corporation, maker of games like Half-Life (1998) and Portal (2007). After downloading Steam for free, it allows you access to over 2,000 video games that you can play on your computer or mobile device instantly. 

How does it work?

First, you have to install Steam, which you can find for free on the website. It's available for PC, Mac, and Linux, and can also be downloaded as an app for iPhone or Android, or even on your TV.
Once it's installed, simply visit the website to download games and play them instantly. Most games are for sale at varying price points, but there is also a large selection of free games available. 

Other features of Steam

Steam offers a few other dimensions to its experience besides just downloading and playing games. First is the Community, which allows you to form groups and chat with other players, as well as share artwork, screenshots, and guides. The second feature is the Workshop, with which you can create, add, and share original content for different games. 

If you're a hardcore gamer, Steam will give you easy access to hundreds of video games (including early access to some new ones), plus the option to interact with other gamers and create your own content. If you're a casual gamer or just looking to pass some time, Steam's easy to use format and collection of free games are also worth checking out. 

Happy gaming!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Photoshop Quick Editing Tips

The biggest problem with Photoshop’s tools is that it is very easy to over-use them, creating images that look unnatural. Overall rules to follow: be as detailed in your editing as possible (as in make minute adjustments to the image, rather than broad, all-image adjustments) and don’t overuse a tool. Here are a few simple suggestions for how to greatly improve your photo-editing techniques:

Original Image:

The curve adjustment is one of my favorite Photoshop tools. Manipulating image contrast is one of the easiest ways to add clarity, definition, and appeal to your photo; it should be the first step in editing photos, simply because it is so impactful. That being said, there is a right and wrong way to do this. The wrong way: the Brightness/Contrast or Levels control; the right way: Curves.
All you have to do with curves is make a nice, usually fairly unexaggerated S-shaped curve with the diagonal line the Curves tool presents you. Even just a slight, simple curve will drastically make the image more visually appealing.


Hue/Saturation is a tool that online-ers love to take full advantage of…to the point of making the image look completely unnatural and very tainted. So, the bottom line for this tool is don’t over use. Sure the bright colors are appealing to the eye at first, but don’t forget to take a step back and scan over the image to check if it is too abnormal-looking. Viewers tend to dislike photos that are clearly manipulated. Therefore, the key is to simply enhance the colors, letting them pop a little bit. Cameras usually are unable to fully capture the brightness of colors in real life; color-manipulation should restore the colors back to their original state.
The tool to use is Hue/Saturation. To quickly break up the aspects of this tool: the Hue meter manipulates the properties of the colors; Saturation manipulates the intensity of the color; don’t even worry about Lightness.

Bad Edit:

This is on the Master (affects all colors in image).  All I did was pull the saturation way over to the right.

Good Edits:

Here I isolated the color-fixing to just Reds (from the drop-down menu) and increased it a little bit.
Here I manipulated just the Yellows and decreased some of those bright background yellows.

Crop Tool:
This is a powerful and incredibly simple task. If the image doesn’t look quite right, this is a great way to play around with the image dimensions to find the best fit for what you envision for your image.
All you have to do is drag the dimensions to where you want them to lay, then hit enter. Remember that you can hit command/control+Z to revert back to the original version. This is useful for changing how much head room a person has, how much sky is in the image, or making subjects more off-center.

New area selected:

After you hit enter, this is the new image:

Dust, Specks, and Quick Edits:
If you scanned film photos and have dust or specks in the image, then there are a few tools that can help get them out of it without disturbing the overall image. The options include the Spot Healing Brush, the Brush Tool, and the Clone Stamp Tool. All three tools are useful; it just depends on what best fits. My recommendation for this is to choose the one that best helps you reach the desired outcome.

Black and White Images:
People love to throw images into black and white because frankly, it looks cool, and can make a so-so image stand out. By using image adjustments, Photoshop can help you make a very generic B&W transformation of your image, however it does not allow for very good fine tuning. If you have an audience that won’t notice the difference between good and bad B&W filters, then go ahead and use the filter Photoshop provides; if you want a quality filter, then try downloading programs like Silver Efex Pro to help you do a great job. It will look as real as film photography.

What not to do…

…so it doesn’t look like this:

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Converting Non-searchable PDFs Into Searchable PDFs

Searching through PDF files is important for students whether you are a senior doing thesis work or anyone else who is given huge amounts of reading. Doing this can save you a lot of time and stress. However, many times, people cannot use their PDF’s search function when they open up their PDF’s.

When you are in this situation, your PDF was saved as an image PDF. This can happen when you download a PDF from online or when you use a copy machine to scan a book. To convert your image PDF into a searchable text PDF, you just have to do 5 simple steps.

Check if you computer has Adobe Acrobat Pro.

This version of Adobe is definitely available in some but not all Whitman College computers. It is best if you consult the library help desk or the technology help desk about which computers to use. Computers in the Multimedia Development Lab (MDL) definitely have this version of Adobe and you can visit the MDL in Hunter Conservatory during its open hours.

Unfortunately, Adobe Acrobat Pro is not free, and most people only have Adobe Reader on their computer. Both versions of Adobe allow you to use the search function on searchable text PDF’s. However, only Adobe Acrobat Pro allows you to convert image PDF’s into searchable text PDF’s. Below is a table to clarify the difference between the two.

Adobe Reader
Adobe Acrobat Pro
NOT Free

Able to search text PDF’s

Able to search text PDF’s

NOT Able to convert image PDF   into
text PDF’s

Able to convert image PDF into text PDF’s

Available on ALL Whitman Computers

Your computer likely has it too, if not you
can download online for free.

Available on SOME Whitman computers

Ask the technology help desk which computers have this or go to the MDL to use it.

There was a lot of information above. However, once you have determined whether your computer has Adobe Acrobat Pro, then the hard part is over.

Right click on your image PDF and open it with “Adobe Acrobat Pro”

At the top of your screen click on the “Documents” tab. Under that tab you’ll see “OCR Text Recognition”. Click on this and then click on “Recognize Text Using OCR”


Afterwards, a window will pop up asking which pages you want to convert to a searchable text PDF. At that point all you need to do is click “OK”.

Once you have clicked “OK” you just need to wait a few minutes to allow the computer to convert the image PDF into a searchable text PDF. And once the conversion is complete you can save your PDF.

If you are like most college students, you do not have Adobe Acrobat Pro, so you had to convert your PDF on a school computer. Once you have saved the PDF as a searchable text PDF, you can then save the PDF onto your USB drive, gmail account, or Dropbox account. From there you can then save the searchable text PDF onto your computer.

After you have converted the image PDF into a searchable text PDF you can then use the search function. Below are some steps and tips about using the search function for searchable text PDF’s.

Using the search function of searchable text PDF’s
Once your PDF is a searchable text PDF you can left click on the PDF to open it on your computer. In this case, you do NOT need Adobe Acrobat Pro. The standard software on your computer should be able to open the PDF. Once the PDF is open, press control+F to open the search box near the top of your screen. Then you can type in a phrase or word and the program will look for any instance where that word or phrase appears and highlight it in yellow.