Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Brief Explanation of Gifs

A gif is an image format for digital media (the web!) GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. (Don't worry, you'll never need to remember that.)

This word is pronounced like "gift" with a silent "T." Or like "gin" with an "F" instead of an "N. It is not pronounced like "Jiff," despite the delicious quality of peanut butter.

Other formats include JPG, PNG, and TIFF. (Old People: stick to JPGs and GIFs.) For the purposes of this lesson, there are two "types" of gifs. Still images, and animations.

A still gif is... pointless. (Unless you need transparent pixels. Pixels are the "points" in the image. The pixels make up the image. We can talk about that in another lesson.) Gifs are lossless. This means they don't store data well--an image saved as a gif is going to be less attractive and valuable than a JPG, which is lossy. Lossy images hold on to more data and compress better.

An animated gif is also lossless, which is to say it still has an inferior quality to a jpg. It has potential, however, to be totally awesome. A gif will require less data and information than a movie file, and are easier to share than a flash file. That's important--you can share a quick, soundless, clip without wasting time or memory.

Wikipedia agrees!
  • GIFs are suitable for sharp-edged line art (such as logos) with a limited number of colors. This takes advantage of the format's lossless compression, which favors flat areas of uniform color with well defined edges.
  • GIFs can be used to store low-color sprite data for games.
  • GIFs can be used for small animations and low-resolution film clips.
  • In view of the general limitation on the GIF image palette to 256 colors, it is not usually used as a format for digital photography. Digital photographers use image file formats capable of reproducing a greater range of colors, such as TIFF, RAW or JPEG.


As a result, gifs are a big part of Internet-based pop culture. They spread across blogs and message boards, often bringing joy and hilarity. I do this myself, turning YouTube videos of my niece into an endless loop of hilarity. She is forever dancing, drinking tea, and rocking in her father's chair. Have a look:

I know. She's hilarious and brilliant, right?

In review: GIFs can be unattractive, but are easy to make, and share. They can be used as mini-videos without sound.


Additional Resources:
Graphics Interchange Format, Wikipedia
GIF, Dictionary.com

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Technology Lesson: Screenshot

A screenshot is an image of... well, your computer screen. It's a snapshot of what you are looking at on your monitor.

A screenshot may also be called a screen grab, screencap, screen capture, screen dump, or print screen. Screenshots are often used (and sometimes cropped) on this blog.

Here is a screenshot I took while writing this entry:

You'll see the blogger interface, my other open tabs, and my browser.

A screenshot taken on a Windows machine will go to the clipboard after it's taken. (It can be pasted and saved.) You can take your screenshot by pressing the PRINT SCREEN button on your keyboard.

A screenshot taken on a Mac will save to the machine as an image file. You can take a screen shot by pressing these three keys at the same time: SHIFT + COMMAND + 3.

You can also take screenshots on your Android, iPhone, iPod, and Maemo 5 (which is a Linux-based system on the Nokia N900). In fact, most screen devices have this function.

Screenshots are pretty basic and very useful.

Additional Resources

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Technology Lesson: Adding Pins and Boards

OK, Pinterest is pretty fun. (And I have two guy friends on there. Take that, old me!)

We've discussed how to Pin from your toolbar. Let's look at how you can add a site or from your computer or web without leaving Pinterest.

You'll need to log in first. Remember, you probably connected to Pinterest via Twitter or Facebook when you signed up.

After you've logged in, click ADD+.

Choose one of three options. Are you adding something to a pre-existing Pinboard from you computer? Are you adding a site? Or do you need a new Pinboard?

Click UPLOAD A PIN to add something from your computer.

Click CREATE A BOARD to add a new board. (Follow the instructions from there. It's similar from previous lessons.)

Click ADD A PIN to add a Pin from the Internet.

Paste the web address in the address box and click FIND IMAGES. Now click the arrows on the left side of the dialogue box, under the image on the left. (It might be a blank box.) You'll cycle through the images on that page.

Click the bar on the right and choose the Pinboard you want to post your Pin to.

Provide a description. Say something, so your friends and fellow Pinners know what's going on!

Click PIN IT.


Seriously, these cookies are SO good.

Pinterest posts

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Culture Post: Phone Stack

Today's post isn't A Thing, exactly, but it's a challenge I think Old People will really appreciate. (Plus, I think even the small things are worth knowing when they cause a considerable buzz.)

Phone Stack is a "game" where dining patrons place their cell phones (and I assume, similar smart devices) in the center of the table. The first person to pick up his or her device pays the tab for everyone's meal. If no one picks up the phone, the bill is split equally.

I am making two assumptions: "Equally" means each person pays for what he or she ordered, because, come on, seriously. Since the game was devised by a Young Person, I am assuming that adults waiting on serious phone calls, or adults who left their minors at home, can set some sort of agreement. For example, if the baby sitter calls, it doesn't count, or, if a certain ring tone is heard (I know I'm not the only ringtone assigner!), or if the boss calls, the person is exempt for that phone call.

Phone Stack was invented by 25-year-old hip-hop dancer Brian Perez ("Lil-b"), who was inspired to create the game as a result of Young People's incessant at-the-table phone activity. Ideally, this will force dining patrons to behave and interact with their friends and family while out.

I know, you love it, right?!

Additional Resources:
Recipe for a free meal? First person to reach for phone at a restaurant pays tab, blogger urges, NYDN