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February 28 2011

13:30

How to Remove Location Information from Mobile Photos

Prabhas Pokharel contributed research and writing to this post.

In a previous Idea Lab post, we described how to add location information to mobile content, including images and stories. For some reports, location information adds value, context, and interest to venue-specific reports. But today, we talk about how to remove that same location information. This is also detailed, step by step, in the screencast below.

There are many reasons why one would not want to include location information on content or images, but at the top of the list is the need for security and privacy. For journalists, citizen reporters, and activists to be secure in insecure regions -- especially when reporting in repressive media environments -- careful planning and strategic considerations are required.

How does location information get added to smartphone photos? All cell phones have a small amount of storage space on the SIM card. This is where contact information, call history, SMS messages, and, of course, mobile photos are saved. Most smartphones also store the time photos are taken and may include location information, such as the photos' latitude and longitude coordinates.

Step One: Check to see if location information is being captured.

The first step is to see if location information is, indeed, being captured and stored with your images. Most pictures from smartphones today have location information stored in the metadata.

To see whether there is location data stored in your photo, you will need to use a tool that reads location-based EXIF data. On most smartphones, you can check this via the photo gallery. From the gallery, press Menu to get details. If you can't tell from your camera or smartphone alone, you can also check on your computer.

On a Mac, open the image in Preview, click Tools, select the Inspector tab, and go to the GPS section where the latitude and longitude of the image are (potentially) shown.

In Windows, right click on the image, click Properties, select the Details tab, and scroll down to the GPS section, where location may be shown.

If neither of these options work, you can also use an EXIF viewer. Just upload the image in question, and the viewer can determine what, if any, location information is available. Again, if specific latitude and longitude information is available, it will be shown here.

Step Two: Remove the location data.

Once you know whether your image has location information attached to it, you can now go about removing it. The safest way to remove EXIF data is to upload your photo to the computer and remove the data using software.

This can be done with free or trial tools. For example, you can download a tool called PhotoLinker, which is designed to let you edit and remove location information.

To remove EXIF data in PhotoLinker, use the program to open the image and view its location information. You will also see a detailed map and a list of all other tagged data, including a timestamp. Using this software, you can remove or change the information under Photos/Remove GPS information, and re-save the image before sharing or publishing it. (Watch this in action in the screencast above.)

In addition to the location it comes from, EXIF data may also reveal other information about your phone such as its make and model. There may be instances where you want to retain certain information, while removing other data. For example, you may want to leave in the make and model of the phone as well as the date and time of the photo, but remove the location information.

Such selective editing of this EXIF data can be done. There are some apps available on iPhone and Android that offer EXIF manipulation on a device, such as EXIF Wizard and others.

Step Three: Check your defaults.

Another way to remove location data is to have your photo sharing site scrub the location information for you. The two most popular sites in the U.S., Facebook and Flickr, both do this. As of last year, it was the default policy on each service.

The Flickr policy can be accessed here. Under "Defaults for New Uploads," make sure that "Import EXIF location data" says "No." This will ensure that the default for new photos is to not import any location information that may be on the metadata for the image.

However, do note that for sensitive photographs, importing to Flickr still contains risks. The location data removal is done at Flickr's servers and anyone able to access your photograph while it is being uploaded to Flickr will be able to access its embedded location information.

The same is true of Facebook, which -- for now, at least -- strips location data off all images.

Do you have any additional experience using EXIF data? Do you have any stories about when removing location data came in handy -- or would have? Please leave your insights in the comments below.

September 24 2010

14:19

How to create a wordpress magazine theme using Twenty Ten – Part 4

This is part three of a short series outlining how to tweak a wordpress template to get some magazine style functionality. Part onePart Two and Part three are available here.

In part three of this short series we looked at adding a second loop to our edited index page to get round the problem of our Featured Post being repeated on the front page. In this final part I’ll look at adding a thumbnail and styling up the page.

Image thumbnails

Over the years, theme designers magazine themes have come up with many weird and wonderful ways of getting thumbnail images on front pages. But it’s only recently that WordPress developers added solid support.

One of the things I wanted to do with this series is to avoid too much tweaking of files. So I’m going to be relying on some of the core features for wordpress to get thumbnails on the page rather than fancy tricks. So beefore we get back in to editing the template code to display thumbnails there are few things we need to check.

Media settings

When you add an image to a blog post you are given the option to add it as a thumbnail, medium, large or original size. We are going to be using the standard function to to get a thumbnail (you may remember it from part 1) and it uses the same shorthand to get an image

[php]

[/php]

The sizes for each these are set in the Media section of the settings tab.

The image size options

So our edited front-page is going to be based on these sizes. If you want any other sizes for your page you should set them here first. The downside of working this way is that this will impact on the sizes of images placed in your blog posts -that’s the trade off of keeping things simple.

Adding a featured image.

Version 2.9 of WordPress included a new post thumbnail option which allowed you to define an image to display “as the representative image for a Post or Page. The display of this images is up to the theme. This is especially useful for “magazine-style” themes where each post has an image.” The feature was renamed “featured image” in wordpress 3.0 – I’m guessing to avoid confusion with thumbnails. Whatever it’s called it’s ideal for our front page.

Adding a featured image

When you write a post you should see a panel called Featured Image. Clicking the Add featured image link opens up a standard image browser. You simply find the image you want to use and click the Use as Featured Image link and you’re done.

So before we go on, add a featured image to the post in your Featured Story category.

Adding the thumbnail to the template

Now that we have set up the Featured image we can edit our template file and get an image on our frontpage.

Open up the Main Index Template file and add the following and edit the first loop so it looks like this:

[php]

Our medium thumbnail

Now do the same with the second loop.

[php]

Thumbnails added to each loop

And that’s it.

Adding some style.

Technically we are done. All the elements we want are on the page. But it’s not looking as good as it could be. We need to add some styling information and make some amendments to the stylesheet file.

I’m not going to go in to a big write up of CSS here (try the excellent W3Schools for a basic intro) but if you’re interested in tweaking wordpress templates it’s one of those areas you’ll be spending a lot of time with.

For now, its enough that when dealing with stylesheets, we need to keep our eye open for two things; divs and classes.

Divs

If you look at the Main Index template file, you’ll see the following lines
[html]

……


[/html]

The div tag is an html element that doesn’t actually display anything by default, it defines a section of the page. When it comes to look and feel, the key part is the id . This ‘connects’ the div to display instructions defined in the stylesheet. The style definition for container is:

[css]
#container {
float: left;
margin: 0 -240px 0 0;
width: 100%;
}
[/css]

Anything that sits between the div tags will be effected by this definition.

Classes

One restriction of ID’s is that you can only use them once on a page. So if you have a lot of elements on a page that you want to style you have to use a class. Remember the html we used for our post title:

[php]

[/html]

That means we take the standard H2 formatting and add some custom styling.
[css]
#content .entry-title {
color: #000;
font-size: 21px;
font-weight: bold;
line-height: 1.3em;
margin-bottom: 0;
}
[/css]

This says, any time the class entry-title (denoted by the full-stop) is referenced inside the content div (denoted by the # symbol) apply the following styling.

Image Alignment

The first thing to sort out is the alignment of the images. I’m going to cheat a little here and pick up the standard style call for images.

Change the post_thumbnail function call in the first loop to the following :

[php]
“alignleft”)); ?>
[/php]

The post thumbnail function allows you to stack extra information in parameters that can be ‘added’ to the code as it’s generated. We have stuffed a reference to a style called alignleft. If you call up the Stylesheet file in the theme editor you can find the definiton of that style (you may have to search for while)

[css]
#content .alignleft,
#content img.alignleft {
display: inline;
float: left;
margin-right: 24px;
margin-top: 4px;
}
[/css]

This is very similar to our post title example above but this time there is also a reference to the image tag (img).

To finish up we can add the same class to the thumbnail call in the second loop:
Change the post_thumbnail function call in the first loop to the following :

[php]
“alignleft”)); ?>
[/php]

Boxing in the featured story

To make my featured story stand out I’m going to wrap it in a grey box. To start with I’m going to use a DIV to define that extent of the box.

[php]

…the rest of the loop….



[/php]

I’ve added a new DIV tag with an id called FeaturedStory and closed the div after the end of the loop.

If you update the file and looked at the page you should see nothing new. Remember DIV tags don’t show up till you style them.

Open the Stylesheet file in the editor window and scroll all the way down to the bottom. Add the following:

[css]
#FeaturedStory {
background: #f7f7f7;
color: #222;
margin-bottom: 18px;
padding: 1.5em;
height: 350px;
}
[/css]

This does the following:

  • Changes the background colour to grey
  • Changes the text colour to a dark grey
  • Pads the bottom of the box with 18 pixels of space
  • Pads the all the way round with 1.5 em of space
  • Sets the height of the box to 350pixels

Save the file and look at the results. You’ll see a box around the featured content.

Conclusion

That’s pretty much it. We’ve pulled in a featured post and thumbnail to go with it. Then we added a second loop to pull in the rest of the posts without duplicating our featured post on the page and added a thumbnail to them. Then we styled the results to align the thumbnail and wrap the featured post in a box to make it stand out.

Along the way we’ve touched on PHP, functions, variables and stylesheets. All of which are play a big part in theme development. But we have done it all with the minimum of alteration to the core theme files.

Some issues

This method is not without its issues. Editing the raw files like this is risky if you forget to back things up. There is also the risk that if the theme is updates by wordpress (as it is from time to time) then your customization will be deleted. But the exercise has been more about some of the basic concepts than a robust solution.

So I hope you found it useful and it made sense. Here’s the finished Main index template file:

[php]
/**
* The main template file.
*
* This is the most generic template file in a WordPress theme
* and one of the two required files for a theme (the other being style.css).
* It is used to display a page when nothing more specific matches a query.
* E.g., it puts together the home page when no home.php file exists.
* Learn more: http://codex.wordpress.org/Template_Hierarchy
*
* @package WordPress
* @subpackage Twenty_Ten
* @since Twenty Ten 1.0
*/

get_header(); ?>

/* This is the new loop to display a featured story.
* It creates a variable and then loads all the posts that match the query.
*/

$my_query = new WP_Query('category_name=Featured Story&showposts=1');

/* Now it loops through the results and displays the content.
*/

while ($my_query->have_posts()) : $my_query->the_post();
$do_not_duplicate = $post->ID;

/* We load the Page ID in to a variable to check for duplicates later on
* Then it displays the title as a working link with formatting to
* match the Twenty Ten template.
* Then we display the excerpt.
* Then we finish the loop with the endwhile statement
*/
?>

“alignleft”)); ?>

/* This is the second loop that replaces the standard loop
* It uses the standard loop function calls
*/

if (have_posts()) : while (have_posts()) : the_post();

if( $post->ID == $do_not_duplicate ) continue;
update_post_caches($posts);

/* This line gets the post ID and checks it agains our duplicate variable
* If it matches it does nothing. If it’s different we display the content
*/

?>

“alignleft”)); ?>

/* Run the loop to output the posts.
* If you want to overload this in a child theme then include a file
* called loop-index.php and that will be used instead.
*/
//get_template_part( 'loop', 'index' );
?>


[/php]

Don’t forget, you need to update the Stylesheet file as well.

Questions, comments etc always welcome

September 10 2010

12:19

Does the lack of court reporting make shorthand a redundant skill?

shorthand sexism!

Interesting stuff coming out of the AJE conference today.  A summing up of the proceeding from the morning over on their website asks Is journalism deserting the courts? A good question and the research around it looks really good especially David Holme’s examination of the ‘marked decline’ in court reporting.

Which got me thinking…and this is me playing devils advocate…

I accept that there are some outlets that do court reporting very well; it hasn’t completly disappeared. But surely it’s now a specialist part of the reporting process.

Doesn’t that mean that one of the core reasons for banging on about the ‘essential’ and defining nature of shorthand is pretty redundant?

Image credit: Shorthand image from Sizemore on flickr

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February 25 2010

07:58

Not interest in hyperlocal that scales

I’m not interested in “hyperlocal” journalism that scales.  These start-up, disruptive sites have their best chance at success if they are locally run and locally owned.

Catching up with feeds, as you do, I finally got chance to read Brian Cubbison’s Q & A with Howard Owens about his award winning online news service The Batavian.

Howard is a US newspaper exec and long time advocate of the web, journalism and their combined disruptive power; I have an image of Howard in a t-shirt with the slogan ‘I’m disruptive’ on it.

Obviously the quote I picked chimed with me and my thoughts about hyperlocal only having to be ‘big enough’. But the whole  interview makes for interesting reading and offers some useful insight in to his approach.

Go and have a look.

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