December 02, 2008

Press Release: Canvastic LLC Launches a Web Version, Canvastic.NET

Contact: Steve Gandy

Canvastic LLC Launches a Web Version, Canvastic.NET
'Really Simple Easy Page Publishing for Primary Students'

Lafayette, CO December 2, 2008 - Canvastic LLC announces the launch of their first online version of the popular publishing solution for students and teachers called Canvastic.NET. Canvastic version 3.5, is the desktop application for Macintosh and Windows computers. This web application version, .NET, extends the use of Canvastic to any computer anywhere with Internet access and the Adobe Flash plugin installed.

Canvastic.NET (pronounced: CANVASTIC DOT NET) continues and expands on the concept that software tools our students use to publish should be flexible and incredibly easy to use. It loads in just seconds. It is designed for primary students to easily combine their own writing and drawing into attractive, useful published pages. Besides the basic drawing tools and text area there is a feature called "Replay" that displays the student's work in sequence as in a movie. It is engaging and useful. Vince Ardito, the technology coordinator at Mountain View Elementary School outside Denver, said, "Replay gives me dozens of great ideas for useful activities with the younger students. They love it and it is just a click of the mouse." Students can print or save a downloaded JPEG file to preserve their work.

Canvastic.NET was developed for three reasons. First, to draw attention to the brand name and the flagship application, Canvastic. Second, to provide a free alternative for primary students' publishing in schools where budgets for software are non-existent. Steve Gandy, Canvastic LLC partner, said, "So, many teachers have been interested in Canvastic but have told us that there just isn't any money for software in their schools." Finally, Canvastic.NET is also a way around the draconian security policies that are in place in many Windows based schools. Gandy also said, "A lot of teachers tell us that they are not even allowed to download software for trial at all - even if we provide free licenses, pilot programs or assurances of safety. They are restricted to using Microsoft Office for all their students. It is just sad - for us but more importantly for the students."

The plans for Canvastic.NET depend upon its popularity. It will always be available as a free, ad-supported alternative for students and schools everywhere. In the future, ad-free access may be sold as a yearly subscription. Additional features and the customization that is a big part of the desktop application will come as soon as possible.

Canvastic.NET has been successfully tested on Macintosh, Windows, Linux, and Solaris computers using Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox browsers. Installing the current version of Flash is recommended for optimal performance.

Any school can continue to pilot the desktop version of Canvastic for up to 60 days on as many computers as desired. See this prior press release for details:

Many school districts still qualify for a free site license for 50% of their schools. See this prior press release for details:

About Canvastic LLC
Canvastic LLC is the coming together of two companies to develop and market the software Canvastic. FlatTop Technology, Inc. ( ) builds custom software applications for businesses in a wide variety of industries and was the lead technical developer of the Canvastic software. TeachTech Inc. ( ) is a consulting firm founded by Steve Gandy that specializes in school and small office training and support. Full product information is available at:


November 21, 2008

Press Release: Bumper Sticker Spotting Dot Com

TeachTech Inc. Launches Bumper Sticker Spotting Dot Com Web Site
‘Because the sign spotters were getting all the attention!’

Lafayette, CO November 20, 2008 – TeachTech Inc. announces the launch of a new web site for sharing photos that are fun, interesting, and thought provoking. “Spotting” is finding and sharing things of interest. Spotters like to note, photograph and lay claim to the instances of their interest. The act of spotting, photographing and sharing signs, trains, planes, celebrities and just about every thing of interest has spawned web sites, books, and a lot of laughter and thought around the world for years. Now, brings that interest and fun to our cars’ rear ends.
BumperStickerSpotting is a free service and web site that is presented in a web blog format. The blog format is always in reverse chronological order so that provides for the relevancy of “current” pop philosophy to be the first stickers seen there. This should keep the site current and interesting. It is hosted by the popular blogging service,, from Google. Viewers can send bumper sticker photos or text to to have them included and viewed by everyone. Everyone and anyone is invited to participate.

About TeachTech Inc.
TeachTech Inc. ( ) is a consulting firm founded by Steve Gandy that specializes in school and small office training and support, photography services and interesting web sites.


November 06, 2008

Obama Mama Cocktail

For an election night party we decided to make some Obama Mama cocktails. Not being able to find a good one online, we created our own recipe:

1/2 to 1 oz. white rum
1/2 to 1 oz. dark rum
Juice from 1/4 lime
1 tsp of powdered sugar
Cranberry juice cocktail to strength
1 1/2 oz. Blue Curaçao Liqueur

Combine all except the Curaçao into a shaker filled with ice.
Shake until cold
Pour over ice.
Pour the Curacao on top and watch the "state" of the cocktail change from red to blue to purple!

October 12, 2008

Clarify Tool in Adobe Camera Raw is now more useful!

Has anyone else noticed this little enhancement? The Clarify slider in Adobe Camera Raw, which previously ranged from 0 to 100 now has negative settings. You can set it from -100 to +100. Now, I have been using it often to give images that sometimes needed punch, especially when there is a lot of detail that you want to stand out...but now you can use it to soften the detail as well.

For some images this is exactly what is needed. See this example. Sharp detail is desired in this blossom (as yet unidentified flower) but the background and leaves suffered from "too much detail." I processed this raw file twice, once for the blossom and once for the background/leaves. The left has a clarify setting in the +30-50 range. The right side has a severe negative setting except for the blossom. A mask brought the blossom into sharp focus. Let me know what you think.

Click the image for a larger view.

September 16, 2008

iPhone update seems to be improving the scene...

Early reports are that the iPhone 2.1 update is helping's what Apple says it does:

  • Decrease in call set-up failures and dropped calls
  • Significantly better battery life for most users
  • Dramatically reduced time to backup to iTunes
  • Improved email reliability, notably fetching email from POP and Exchange accounts
  • Faster installation of 3rd party applications
  • Fixed bugs causing hangs and crashes for users with lots of third party applications
  • Improved performance in text messaging
  • Faster loading and searching of contacts
  • Improved accuracy of the 3G signal strength display
  • Repeat alert up to two additional times for incoming text messages
  • Option to wipe data after ten failed passcode attempts
  • Genius playlist creation

September 11, 2008

I wouldn't recommend the new iPhone 3G yet

I love my original iPhone...but from all the news and anecdotal info I have, it appears that the new Apple iPhone 3G is a bit of mess.

The 3G network that is supposed to make things "twice" as fast is quite spotty. At least in our area here in Colorado. So the phone has issues changing from the the 3G to the Edge networks and that can make for dropped calls, no or little bars and much frustration.

Also, the "half" price actually works out to more money if you factor in the whole contract. They upped the data plan to $30 from $20. So, that's an extra $240 over the life of the plan.

But there is a new update out today that is supposed to fix the 3G issues. We'll see.

July 13, 2008

iPhone Update and MobileMe

The recent new iPhones (and updates for the original iPhones) and the change of .Mac to the newly named MobileMe service are creating some questions and concerns...

You will be doing updates to iTunes, the system, and the iPhone...

Basically, as always, I recommend that:
  • you start on a freshly restarted system that is quiet
  • you repair permissions and verify the disk with Disk Utility (call me if you see any error messages)
  • you don't attempt these updates if you are in a hurry (altogether these updates took over an hour on my system)
As always, let me know if you have questions.

February 27, 2008

Time Machine's Confusing Message...

When restoring a file with Mac OS X Leopard's very helpful backup application, Time Machine, you can get a really confusing message. It happens when the file you are restoring hasn't been lost but is just different. You have a version in real time and versions stored in the Time Machine. When you restore this file you are present with this dialog box that I (and my clients) find confusing. See the image:

The confusing part is, which one is the original? The answer is that the "current and real time" version is what Time Machine calls the original. I think the language would be more clear if Apple used the word "current" rather than "original."

If you choose the both option, you get current one is renamed with the word "original" in the name and the Time Machine copy is placed into the current, real time folder.

February 14, 2008

Mac Update 10.5.2

This update just came out and seems safe. Please always:

  1. Backup first!
  2. Run Permissions Repair from Disk Utility
  3. Verify your disk with Disk Utility
  4. Unplug peripherals (printers, disks, etc.)
  5. Run the update and be patient
  6. Plug things back in and test critical programs and data carefully one by one.
Also, after the 10.5.2 update another graphics related update will appear. Go ahead and run it too.

Call me if you need help.

January 10, 2008

Acorn Review, Version 1.0.3

There are a lot of digital photographers that just don't want to join the Photoshop Army. And why should they? It is expensive, hard to learn, often problematic technically and just way too much for the average everyday photographer that isn't a real computer enthusiast. So, I’m going to review some alternatives to Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture for photographers that either don’t need all the complexity of those products or the cost. You will see reviews here soon of Pixelmator, Acorn, Compositor and any others I can find. Send me suggestions for others if you are interested.

I'm going to make some assumptions:
• that on the Macintosh platform you are happy using iPhoto for cataloging and organizing but that the editing feels like too little and you'd like to experience some growth in that area.
• that on the Windows platform you are happy using Google's Picasa for cataloging and organizing but that the editing feels like too little and you'd like to experience some growth in that area.
• that you'd like to spend less than $100 ( nice price!)
• that you'd like the product to create industry standard files that won't be "lost" in the future as technology progresses (necessary!)

Acorn, Version 1.0.3

Acorn is a very promising new choice for a low cost application that supports editing of photographic images. It touts itself as "Simple Image Editing" and it is that. It is fun and easy to use. As a Macintosh only program it takes advantage of the GPU processing power and built in functions that make it easy to manipulate images in some powerful but not quite complete ways. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes next in this young product. Some of the basic photographic controls are missing but it is still an interesting choice. It has some helpful "Actions" that allow you to send images to iPhoto, Mail, and the Preview applications.

The interface is simple and consists of three main pieces; the image window, an easy to understand tools and layers palette which is a bit bigger than you might expect but it holds a lot of information and functions in one rather than having many multiple palettes floating around as most other applications do, and the filter dialog windows that appear for making large changes. The tools are at the top of the main palette and are accessed through a text list; Move, Select, Draw etc. The layers and controls for them are below. The layers functions seem quite powerful and easy to learn though there is no masking. The program is excelling here as this has always been a steep learning curve area for digital photographers not already familiar with Photoshop.

Acorn has a handy zoom control built right into the Window on the lower right corner. It remembers where you place your tool palette in between launches of the program. It feels very quick on a new iMac and I like the easy keyboard letter commands for choosing tools; V for Move for example but I don't understand why they are under the View menu. Changing the size of an image is as easy as holding down the Option key while dragging the corner of the image window.

Acorn will open the normal formats (not camera raw files) including Photoshop and will save out to: Acorn (retains layers), PNG, TIFF, GIF, JPEG, and BMP. While working with layers you would be advised to use Acorn but for archiving images for the long term, photographers should absolutely use TIFF for archives and JPGs for sharing. It would be nice if layers could be saved in the TIFF format. Acorn will save changes in a Photoshop file if you open one but PSD is not listed as a choice normally and layers are discarded. Information from the developers' website forum pages (which appear very active) indicate that version 1.1 will include a "saving for the web" feature as well as others.

As for adjusting photographs, Acorn is almost there but not quite. It has controls for exposure, saturation, brightness and contrast but I'd like to see Levels, Curves, and color cast functions. There is no histogram to look at so the adjustments are all by how things look. This is a definite area of need in the program. The controls are all under the Filters menu and in one unexpected twist you can stack controls as you work. You choose a filter then click a small (+) sign to choose another and make all your adjustments in one sweep. However, you can't step back through them one-by-one. There are many, many filters for applying changes for color, composites, and stylized artistic effects. The Sharpen filter appears to work well and quickly too. Cropping and re-sizing are easy and intuitive but I do not like the procedure to straighten a horizon. You have to use a very touchy little jog wheel to adjust the rotation. It is way too small and sensitive which creates the need to guess the angle and type it in. Then you use the Crop tool to finish the fix.

I'm very interested in Acorn. I think it is attractive, intuitive and will definitely grow into a very useful program for photographers. It shows some understandable rough edges that are common in first version software. Some of the functions are oddly misplaced such as Transform Selection being under the Layers menu rather than the Select menu. If it soon gets controls for levels, curves and a histogram display I'll recommend it to photographers that don't need Photoshop. I look forward to using it myself to for quick adjustments to size, or format or crop.

You can download the demo here:
It allows you to use the program in an unrestricted way but after using it for awhile it puts up a request-for-payment banner on top of your image. You can quit and reopen it to do away with the banner for awhile.

Requirements: Mac OS X 10.4.9 or later, works great on 10.5.