Stamford Says Hi

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I’m a bit preoccupied at the moment with some backed up email (what’s new?) and my presentation for next week which isn’t quite complete, but a couple of quick items for your consideration:

  • Backups:
    On the drive over to the airport this morning, I was thinking about my personal backup situation which if anything is more primitive and inefficient than our RedMonk procedure. While it’s not the most cost efficient solution possible, I’m sure, I’d more or less convinced myself by the time I got to DIA that this weekend I’ll begin the tedious process of getting at least my music and documents up onto either S3 or one of Joyent’s offerings. After reading about what happened to Alex today, I’m now scared that I didn’t manage to do this before I left.

  • Asterisk:
    Quick update for those of you interested in Asterisk. My new VOIP provider Telasip finally finished porting my Packet8 home number over to their service last week, and for about 10 glorious minutes I had everything working. Calls to the home line also rang my office and cell phones, voicemails triggered not just SMS notification but actual WAV files arriving in my email account, and all the weird Asterisk features – like weather reports via the phone – were working like a charm. Then I got the bright idea that I should update my trunks (Asterisk speak for phone lines – sort of) with the ported number, and as soon as the last update hit my installation everything stopped working. Meant to fix that this weekend, but the WordPress stuff took priority. Also, the hardware device I was going to use to patch in both my RedMonk POTS line and my cordless phone is no longer on sale. One step forward, two steps back, but I’m getting closer.

  • Blackout Dates:
    The word ‘blackout’ is definitely not a favorite of mine. It’s bad enough that DirecTV blacks out the NESN Red Sox feed that I pay extra money for according to rules that they can’t explain to me (this drives me absolutely crazy), but the airline blackouts are killing me. I have three free flights on Frontier at the moment, and probably another four on American, and one or two on other carriers like United or US Airways. Can I use them to get home to NJ for Christmas? Of course not. The entire week before Christmas is blacked out. What’s the purpose of accumulating free flights if I can’t use them? To add insult to injury, it’s looking like the flight home for Christmas is going for about double what it does any other time.

  • Themes:
    Those of you who visit the site rather than pick this up via a reader have probably noticed that the site looks different seemingly every hour. There are two reasons for this; first, I haven’t settled on a final theme yet, and two, there’s a bug in one of the themes that apparently causes WordPress to revert to the default periodically. Your patience – and feedback if you like/don’t like one of the themes – is appreciated.

  • Impress:
    I’m really quite frustrated with the latest version of Impress (2.0.4) – OO.o the Powerpoint equivalent. It’s crashed better than a dozen times since I’ve been working on my latest deck, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why; there’s nothing complicated or unusual about it. Unfortunately, my options are limited. I really can’t see myself running Powerpoint on top of CrossOver Office, which I have installed, because while I haven’t had any huge problems with that application I’m not terribly fond of it either. Most of the online presentation designers I’ve seen, a la Zoho, include only very basic output options so I’m not thrilled about them. I’m really going to think hard about doing my next presentation on the 13th in S5 or an equivalent.

  • Speaking of Presentations:
    My Photoshop and/or GIMP skills being more or less non-existent, I’m wondering if one of you can tell me how to do something that seems totally basic. I’d like to start giving more presentations with non-white filler, but run into the problem that our logos are generally red text on a white background. I need, therefore, to make the white transparent, so that the graphic renders properly on a variety of backgrounds. It can’t be that hard; can any of you tell me how to do that, preferably using tools I have (read: GIMP)? Thanks in advance.

As a reminder, I’ll be here in Stamford until Thursday, returning (hopefully) late that night. Best of luck to my friends back in Denver what with the 6 inches of snow and single digit temperatures expected tomorrow. Sounds like a lot of fun πŸ™‚


  1. w/r/t your logo issue, I suspect this is not easy. Gimp/PS require dark powers to operate well. And you need to have some level of design sense in cases. For instance, I suspect you may need some kind of thin edge around the red goop to make it stand out against, say, a red background πŸ™‚

    Outsource via Mechanical Turk, perhaps?

  2. The way I’d do that using The GIMP is as follows:

    – select regions by color (Shift+O)
    – click on white background
    – select invert (Ctrl-I), we now have the logo selected and no background.
    – copy (Ctrl-C)
    – Edit->Paste as New, this should paste the selection into a new, transparent background image
    – ensure you save in a format that supports transparency, and use a presentation tool that supports transparent images of the format of your choice πŸ™‚

  3. I’ve made logo backgrounds transparent several times with the GIMP. I worked on the principle that a) lots of people need to do this and b) ‘theoretically’ it’s simple so just had a poke around the menus trying things. Luckily I found ‘color to alpha’ in the menus and it did exactly what I needed it to.

    Googling around it appears many people use the technique andyp suggests (or minor variations), which might get fiddly if you have several non-contigious areas, for example within letters e, o, a, b, p, q etc.

    The tricky bit with my method is that if it’s an indexed image (gif or png) then you need to convert it to RGB (or grayscale) or else a lot of the filters, including this one, will be grayed out.

  4. Couple ideas on Impress:
    – Downgrade to 2.0.3
    – Try an official binary

    If you run `ulimit -c unlimited` in a terminal and then start up Impress from the same term, you might be able to get a backtrace with useful information for filing or searching for a bug.

  5. GIF is the only way to go if you wish to have the flexibility of placing your logo onto backgrounds of any color. Photoshop and GIMP support alpha channels (transparency). Here’s a link to the GIMP method: http://aplawrence.com/Linux/crousegif.html

    By selecting white as your alpha (in this specific case) you’ll avoid the problem inherent with the method suggested by andyp.

  6. GIF is fine if your logo is pretty simple. If it includes photograps, then you’ll want more than 255 colors (plus transparent). To do that, just save as PNG; it supports full 24-bit color and alpha/transparency.

    I’ve done this with Gimp in the past and I’m sure Photoshop can do it too. I use both Gimp and Photoshop, depending on exactly what I need done.

    In Gimp, you can use the “color to alpha” (already mentioned) or you can just start with a transparent background and put your solid graphic on top. This has the advantage that you can still do anti-aliased fonts that will blend correctly with the background (when saved as PNG).

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