April 28, 2009

Air Force One Photo Op Done Dirt Cheap!

You may have heard about the embarrassing photo op FAIL yesterday put on by our pals in the US government. Yes a 747 (now reported to be Air Force One or a replica) escorted by two F-16 was flown at a very low altitude over lower Manhattan, sending New Yorkers into a panic and causing evacuations in many Manhattan buildings.

So, I would like to offer my services to the US Government and the White House to be the official government Photoshop dude. I propose cutting the spending budget of all Federal photo ops by using stock photos and a little of my Photoshop skillz to make some pretty darn believable looking photo ops. This could work with locations as well as pretty much any person that wants to have a photo op with the president or any member of congress.

As the first example of my Federal Photo Op Portfolio, I present to you the Air Force One / Statue of Liberty archival photo of 2009!:

Air Force One Photo op!

I literally created this manipulation in about 5 minutes with some help from Google Images and Photoshop CS3's Magic Wand to show everyone how easy this would have been for a "real" Photoshop expert to create. No one could ever tell the difference! Notice, I didn't even white balance or correct the exposure or shadows on the little Air Force One. But if I had not have pointed that out, 99% of people looking at this wouldn't have cared. The light source on the F-16s was pretty spot on! I should have played with it more but I wanted to show what 5 minutes of my intermediate Photoshop skills could do.

Come on! Lets stop being wasteful with our money, AND lets keep our population informed. People get freaked out when they are not informed. And that's how the blanket of socialism takes over... just a thought... from The Horse's mouth.

(Disclaimer: I do not own these original photos. They have been combined together for parody purposes. This is a derivative work which I have reason to believe may be protected by parody laws. If the owner of these photos decides to come forward, I will gladly remove them from this site.)

April 20, 2009

Summer Movies That Are Going To Rock Your Face Off!

This summer the movie studios have pulled out all the stops in the Action - Adventure genre for the summer blockbuster season. I'm just going to go ahead and say that May is going to ROCK YOUR FACE OFF!

So you've heard about the rumors and the hopeful release dates. I've got em all right here complied for you on The Horse. It looks like there's going to be at least one AWESOME geek movie released every single Friday night in May and more coming in June and July. So I'll start you off by telling you what "Josh" is going to see and I'll link you to a trailer for each of them. (no need to thank me...)

  • May 1: X-Men Origins: Wolverine: (trailer here) staring Hugh Jackman (duh) and Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth. We see the start of Wolverine and his early story of the military conversion of mutants into killing machines and evolution into his X-Men character. Other characters we will finally see are: Gambit (Taylor Kitsch), Kayla Silverfox (Lynn Collins), William Stryker (Danny Huston). Directed by Gavin Hood. News flash rumor mill! Apparently the unfinished movie has been leaked onto bit torrent sites already and was rumored to be one of the causes leading to the arrest interrogation of the owners of the Swedish The Pirate Bay warez and pirate peer to peer site last week. I chose to "not participate" and watch it in the theaters.
  • May 8: Star Trek: (trailer here)Probably the most anticipated movie of the summer. JJ Abrams (Lost, Fringe, Cloverfield) directs in this prequel staring Chris Pine (Smokin' Aces) as James T. Kirk and Zachery Quinto ("Sylar" on Heroes) as Spock. Fans have been waiting for this prequel for a long time. This is going to be huge!
  • May 15th: Angels and Demons: (trailer here)Adaptation of Dan Brown's earlier (and better in my opinion) book and follow up to Ron Howard's adaptation of The Da Vinci Code. Howard returns to direct Tom Hanks (returning as Robert Langdon), Ewan McGregor and Stellen SkarsgĂ„rd in this historical thriller about a murder and time bomb in the Vatican and the ever ellusive Illuminati. I'm a huge fan of this book and I've been waiting for this ever since I heard the rumor last year and posted an early review trailer at the time in this post.

  • May 21st: Terminator Salvation (T4): (trailer here) The latest in the Terminator franchise. Christian Bale stars as the grown up John Conner and according to Entertainment Weekly, this one is set in the future with a grown up John battling Skynet after Judgment day. Much of the plot and characters are being kept secret by the studio and with good reason after the semi-bomb of T3. But, Christian Bale is definitely proving himself as one of the coolest actors in Hollywood after The Dark Knight. This one doesn't look too bad. I've been a huge fan of the the Terminator movies since day 1 so, naturally I will go see this one.
  • May 29th: Drag Me To Hell: (trailer here) I loved the trailer for this! And Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, Spider Man) is the man. I learned almost everything I know about low budget film making from his movies and Bruce Campbell's books. It looks creepy and sounds like a good story. "A loan officer ordered to evict an old woman from her home finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse, which turns her life into a living hell. Desperate, she turns to a seer to try and save her soul, while evil forces work to push her to a breaking point."(from IMDB). Staring Justin Long, Alison Lohman and Lorna Raver as Mrs. Ganush
  • June 24th: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: (trailer here) The much anticipated sequel to Michael Bay's rendition of the super popular toy and cartoon franchise. Shaia LaBeouf and Megan Fox return for this next thrilling chapter in the Transformers saga. I'm in geek heaven!
Also in July comes Public Enemies (with Johnny Depp), the new Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, and ... hold your breath... G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra! Because "knowing is half the battle..."

Seeya at the theater all next month!

April 15, 2009

Why I Started Blogging

Recently, my friend and local blogging entrepreneur Wade Kwon here in Birmingham, asked me and other local bloggers to chronicle why I started this whole blogging thing in the first place. So... let me tell you a little about the history of The Horse...You may wanna make yourself comfortable.

The History of The Horse

So, I started The Horse waaaaay back in 2005 on Blogspot (now Blogger) right after Google had purchased Blogspot and were introducing some new features like, mobile uploads via SMS/MMS and email. I found out that my new Samsung phone could send pictures directly to Blogspot, So I decide to try "mobloging" with my cell phone. The first picture I uploaded was a picture of my little palm tree that I kept on my front porch. I had kept it alive for over 3 years so, I was kind of proud of it.

I remember sending that first cell phone picture. Right after I sent it, I ran into my computer room and loaded up "Josh's Cell Phone Blog" and THERE IT WAS! My plant was on the Internet! I was so excited! I showed everyone I could. After that, you couldn't stop me. The next few years I kept "Josh's Cell Phone Blog" as a personal journal and moblog of my life. I uploaded more cell phone pictures and wrote a paragraph or two every once in a while about what was going on in my life. One particular era that I'm glad I blogged about was the job I got on the Wil Ferrel movie Talladega Nights. I shot as many cell phone pics as I could without getting in trouble with the director and actually blogged regularly during that time. Over time my blogging skillz evolved, (kind of like my nun chuck skills) and late last year (2008) I decided to start blogging seriously. I read all I could about professional blogging, studied SEO, keywords, copy writing and marketing and started up two more blogs where I could share some of my "expertise" about the random things that I have learned over the years (like Wedding Photography, writing, and computer/geek/nerd stuff). I converted a few posts I had done on The Horse about photography to my new blog The Wedding PhotogBlog, specializing in the wedding side of photography. Around that time I also converted Josh's Cell Phone Blog into what you see now as The Horse, a blog about technology, geek and nerd stuff. My most recent venture into online affiliate marketing was to start up a blog specifically to route traffic and business to my affliate, thereby making me money as a middle man. As of the time of this posting, I'm putting the final touches on it and I will be announcing it soon via all of my social networks and blogs.

But why do you blog Josh?
Seems like kind of a waste of time. I guess it boils down to a few reasons for me:
  1. Monitization - This economy has everyone worried. I needed a backup job, just in case I lose my primary source of income. Blogging can bring in a small profit if done professionally, you know what you're doing and you're willing to stick it out for a year or so. Google AdSense and other ad networks and affiliate programs DO work, if you are good marketer and know how to promote yourself.
  2. Keep Learning - I've always been on a quest for new knowledge. I'm always reading and Googleing and Wikipediaing and writing is a great way for me to have fun learning and finding out about cool things in the world.
  3. Helping Others - everyone says I'm a good teacher and that I seem to have a knack for explaining things and making things easy to understand. It gives me a certain satisfaction to know that I've helped someone learn something new that they can use to improve themselves or their business.
  4. Chronicling - I also use my blogs (especially The Horse) as a personal journal or diary so I can go back and see what was really important to me at the time and see how and why I've changed. Also I in the new Internet age, I want my kids, years down the road (after we get the new holographic blog), to be able to read and see what was important to me and to know who I was and what I believed in at that point in my life.
Why do you blog? Do you want to learn how to blog? Check out the Birmingham Blogging Academy if you want to get serious or maybe just become more informed about the blogosphere.

(Photo by john_a_ward)

April 6, 2009

My Thoughts on Linux Ubuntu 8.04

You might be saying, "OK, Josh, you've have had a month now to play around with your new Dell Mini 9 and Linux Ubuntu 8.04, are you gonna say something about it or teach us something anytime soon or just keep it all to yourself?" (Or, maybe this is the first time you heard about my new toys). The real truth is, I don't really feel qualified to "teach" anyone about Linux (even Ubuntu) quite yet, but what I will do in this initial blog is show you some of the positives and negatives or pros and cons that I have experienced and figured out for myself lately. Maybe this little article will help you make a more informed decision about trying out, or even switching to one of the many Linux flavors available right now.

A (VERY) brief history of and intro to Linux (especially Ubuntu)

In short, Ubuntu Linux stems from the old Unix operating system on which the internet's backbone resides. The name "Linux" comes from the Linux kernel, originally written in 1991 by Linus Torvalds. The rest of the system, including utilities and libraries, usually comes from the GNU operating system announced in 1983 by Richard Stallman. The original kernel has evolved and is still in use today in the modern Linux distributions including Ubuntu. Ubuntu uses the GNOME GUI for its graphical interface. The interface is slightly different but, to put it simply, the GNOME interface is as easy to use as Windows and alot more powerful and customizable than Windows and OSX.
The kernel (or core) of the Linux operating system is considered by many as one of the most stable operating systems in the world. For you this means less to no hang-ups, reboots, and no blue screens of death.
Installation is comparable with Windows XP installation, and just as easy (or difficult). Updating is done automatically and on a regular basis so the operating system is always up to date with the latest security fixes and there is a huge support community online in Ubuntu forums and tutorial sites.
Linux has a long and nerdy history, if you care to explore it in more detail but for now I'll go into some of the pros and cons of Ubuntu that I have experienced personally.

  • It's not Windows. You are free of the chains of Microsoft.
  • Simple installation of the operating system and applications
  • Very secure operating system (No viruses, spyware, malware or adware protection needed!)
  • Open source (anyone can examine and tweak the code)
  • Free alternatives to almost any 'commercial quality' programs.
  • Very helpful and knowledgeable community, and wide range of tutorials and help forums
  • Automatic updates always update ALL installed software, not just the OS
  • You can make it look and operate almost exactly like XP, Vista or Mac
  • multiple work spaces (virtual desktops)
  • cool customizable 3d and desktop effects with the powerful Compiz GUI effects suite
  • easy to use and maintain with automatic updates
  • It's not Windows. You have to use an emulator to use any Windows software, and then there are no guarantees the programs will work properly or at all.
  • slight learning curve as with any new operating system
  • Not all commercial software has Linux versions (but most can be run in a virtual Windows emulator)
  • Drivers for some hardware are not available or supported (ie. Samsung monitors, some video cards)
  • hard to uninstall applications completely and efficiently
Here's another great site if you want to explore the pros and cons in more detail.
So, I'll leave you with this intro for today and hopefully go into more specifics later on when I learn more about the operating system. I'll also try to share some tips and tricks to using Ubuntu in the following weeks.

(Photo by yum9me /FLICKR)

April 3, 2009

Photography For New Birmingham Area construction

Today I just wanted to share some of my recent photography I've been doing for The Terminal and new construction on Highway 280. Nothing too techy, just showing how you can use photography to show people about new stuff going on in the city.

Contrary to popular opinion, Birmingham's restaurant economy is doing great. I see it with our sales (and wait times) at The Cheesecake Factory to packed out parking lots at the new Surin West (on 280) and some of these new restaurant openings in the area (click on the picture for full size on Flickr):

New construction at The Summit on Hwy 280

New construction for a Tilted Kilt in the old Copeland's building on 280.

Saigon Noodle House in the Best Buy / World Market shopping center on 280.

For the full stories, check out our blog The Terminal about all things Birmingham and be sure to subscribe to make sure you stay updated on insider information and goings-on in Birmingham.