How to create Tiny Planets on the iPhone

One of the most friequent questions I get asked on my blog is how I create my Tiny Planets. Tiny Planets are commonly referred to by there technical name, Stereographic Projections. The process involves a tripod and taking a series of overlapping photos using a fisheye lens. Each planet is made up of 20-30 individual shots then merged together with a program called PTGui creating a very large panorama.

The merged image is then brought into Photoshop and manipulated into the planet. The process takes a while and is complex, but produces a very detailed, high quality image (sometimes 1GB in size). While this process is tedious, a much easer process can but achieved using an iPhone and two apps.

1) Download "Photosynth"(free) & "Tiny Planets"(99¢) from the App store.

2) Launch Photosynth and start slowly moving the camera around. The App will capture the overlapping images. Be sure you complete a full 360º when taking the photos or the planet will not render correctly. Also be sure to capture the zenith (what's above you) and the nadir (under your feet).

3) When you've completed a full 360º panorama, hit finish and Photosynth will start stitching all the photos together. The process can take several minutes and you can choose to skip this process and do it at another time if you're anxious to keep photographing.

4) When the stitching is complete, you will able to pan around the photo within the app. To export the image to your camera roll, select "share."

5) Choose "camera roll"

6) You will be given the option to crop the image, I recommend you leave it as it is.

7) Next, launch the "Tiny Planet" App and load your recently exported panorama from your camera roll.

8) When the image is loaded, select the tiny planet button at the bottom left.

9) You now have your own Tiny Planet. Select "next" at the top right to export the image back to your camera roll.

With a little practice, you can get some nice planets. There are a few other Apps out there that will also do this process. The App 360Panorama has it's own Stereograph feature built in, however it doesn't capture as much area as Photosynth. The App "Retouch" will help with the removal of your feet/shadow in the Tiny Planet.

For comparison, I also shot the same planet using my Canon 50D:

From my Canon

From my iPhone4

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Home office is now complete

After a few months of procrastinating, I finally finished my home office.

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Review of Mini Wide Angle Lens for iPhone

I got a mini wide angle lens for my iPhone 4 as part of our annual secret santa exchange at work. The lens is a 2-in-1 and also acts as a macro lens. For $20, the quality is amazing. One problem, with the iPhone 4, the magnetic ring adhesive doesn't stick to the glass iPhone backing very well and keeps falling off plus I really don't like the look of having something stuck to the back of the phone all the time. I came up with a simple solution involving a mini suction cup and part of a binder clip. Since the lens is magnetic to begin with, it sticks right to the binder clip. I bent the clip a little with some pliers to get it just right. Works like a charm.

yes, these were all shot with an iPhone 4 and a $20 macro lens

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1893 Golding Pearl Printing Press

For the past year I've been wanting an old printing press. My life is surrounded by technology and I needed something more analog to occupy my time so I figured this would be a neat project. The problem however was actually finding a working printing press since most got destroyed when computers started taking over. I researched a lot of presses and got it narrowed down to a few models I'd settle for but like I said, it's not like there's an abundance of them around. I tracked down a guy that collected printing presses and had a few of the ones that I really liked so I emailed him to see if he'd want to sell off some of his collection. I was actually surprised to find out that he was just about to start downsizing. He was located 7hrs away in St. Louis so I made the trip over Thanksgiving weekend. The press was a mess, covered in 100+ years of oil/grease/dust/funk but it worked and it was complete so that was the main thing.

The press weighs around 500lbs and is an absolute bitch to take apart. I spent the last month cleaning and getting it presentable. I wanted it to be the focal point in my home office so I totally redid the room as well to really set the press off. Now I just have to learn how to use it.

Watch my inspiration on Linotype:

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Crosley USB Turntable is Amazing!

My mother just bought me a Crosley USB Turntable for $150 and it's definitely worth the money. I have it plugged into an Apple HiFi and the quality is so good you can't tell if it's an iPod or vinyl.

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How I was the target of a Craigslist iPhone scam

Jer and I decided to upgrade to the new iPhone 4s about a month ago. The deal was we would sell our old 3GS ones and break even on the new ones. All our friends were having success selling theirs on Craigslist within hours of posting so we figured there shouldn't be any problems. I posted the 16GB for $299 & the 32GB for $399. I had a response from a guy who said he was interested in the "product" I was selling. Since I didn't know which phone he was referring too, I responded telling him that I had two and which one was he interested in.

A day later, I got a call from the guy who told me that he was interested in both phones since he also wanted to buy one for his girlfriend. We agreed to meet the next morning to do the exchange. That following morning he called right on time and told me he forgot he had to take his son to softball practice and if we could meet later in the day, which I said wouldn't be a problem. He called back at 3:30 and asked if we could meet at McDonalds since his girlfriend was the manager there and he wanted to show her the iPhone before he bought it. I figured this was fine since it was a public place. When I got to the McDonalds, a hugh black man about 6'5" & 350lbs was sitting in a booth who smiled and said "you must be Bob?" I went and sat down and we talked for about 10-15 minutes. He talked about how he wanted to unlock the phones to put them on the Sprint network and how he was going to give his old iPhone to his daughter. He seemed like a nice guy who was a good father since he had taken his son to softball and his daughter was going to inherent his old iPhone. He mentioned that we just had to wait till his girlfriend got a 5min break to come out and take a look at the phones, which was fine. About five minutes later, he seemed to get frustrated with her and told me to wait a second while he went and showed her the phones.

Now, I've always thought of myself as a good judge of character and tend to trust people. I sat in the booth waiting for about 10 minutes (completely out of eyesight from where he had walked) and I start thinking to myself, "I bet that asshole isn't coming back." I sat a few minutes longer dreading what was about to happen. I went over to the cashier and asked where the guy with the iPhones was. The girl looked at me and said "what guy?" I told her the story and she told me I got scammed and that the guy had walked out the front door awhile ago. He was on foot, so I hopped in my car and drove around the neighborhood, which I realized was actually a bad part of town.

I was having a minor breakdown in the car. I had never been scammed before and I didn't care for this feeling of being violated. I managed to calm down and go back to the McDonalds and call the cops to file a police report. The cop was there within 10min and spent about an hour with me taking notes and running a trace on the number that the guy had used to call me. I was a mess the rest of the weekend.

The kicker:
The day before all this happened, I called up my insurance company (Allstate) and added a $1,200 mobile communications policy with $100 deductible that would cover theft/damage since I was paranoid about these new iPhones I had just gotten.

When I called Allstate to report my old iPhones stolen, I figured they would investigate me for insurance fraud. However, I had a police report, the original boxes with the serial numbers, both Craigslist ads that I had posted, a witness statement, and so on. I had amazing customer service with Allstate back in April when my BMW was totaled, now it was time to test how well their other insurance policies would work. The waiting game began and I was guessing it would take months before there was a conclusion.

After almost a month to the day I filed the claim, I got a call from Allstate that they had come to a settlement. My agent, Shana, started off telling me about depreciation and how they don't make the 16 or 32GB models anymore, I was bracing myself for a huge let down. She said that after the $100 deductible, I was going to receive a check for $732! That was exactly the outcome I wanted and I didn't even have to haggle with her!!!

Moral of the story
Be very cautious of Craiglist ads and meeting people. Also, Allstate is a fantastic insurance company and I highly recommend any type of insurance with them.
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Polaroids of Myrtle Beach

I just got back from a vacation in Myrtle Beach. Altho it wasn't my first choice, I had a good time and took lots of pictures, mostly Polaroids. The following images were shot with a Polaroid 300, Landcam 250 or an SX-70.

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