Monday, April 19, 2021

Copyseeker finds online photo pirates

A couple of decades back, on one of the anniversaries of the Woodstock music festival, The New York Times asked readers to submit one of their personal photos taken at the festival. I had one that I always liked and I thought they would too. Apparently they did because the newspaper used it as the lead image for its reader gallery.

After sharing my photo with the Times, I uploaded it to the Wikimedia Commons, an online repository of more than 100 million images and sounds that are available for free use in Wikipedia entries and by its users. Today, Wikimedia lists about 25 Wikipedia articles where the image appears. They are in about a dozen languages and used to illustrate topics such as hippies and fashion as well as the festival itself.


But I wondered who else might be using my photo and that's when I turned to Copyseeker. It's an online website where users insert an image with a link or an upload. Copyseeker then uses reverse image search technology to discover other websites where the image appears. 


Copyseeker was created to help people find instances where their photos -- their intellectual property - are being used without their permission or compensation. Many people wrongly assume that anything posted online can be used without payment or attribution. According to Copyseeker, there are more than 2 billion instances of image theft on the Web.   


Reverse image technology uses sophisticated algorithms and artificial intelligence to match and identify images anywhere on the Internet, even when a user has cropped, filtered or blurred an image to disguise its origin. The service can use an uploaded image or a link to an entry on Instagram where some 100 million images are uploaded every day. 


I used Copyseeker's drag-and-drop box to enter my Woodstock photo. Users can also enter a Web page address or select a photo from Instagram. 


After a few minutes, I was presented with a list of about 80 sites where my hippies appeared. The sites included a French blog about transit issues, US sites that write about vintage clothing, a Russian blog post about epic traffic jams (no surprise there) and other sites written in Polish, Dutch, Chinese and other languages. 


A few of sites that used my photo also used the credit line that Wikimedia suggests for giving image owners proper credit as the source. My use of Copyseeker was born out of curiosity. I had posted it in a free-use repository so I wasn't looking to find thieves and scofflaws. If that had been the case, I could use a form that lets users to file a copyright claim.    


Copyseeker is a free service, but it does suggest that you make a small donation and give the it a nice review if you like the service. You can see if it works for you at the Copyseeker website

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Sanitizing dispenser gets a high-tech look

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us all to be more vigilant about our sanitary habits. We wear face masks when gathering in public spaces and regularly use hand sanitizing lotions. You can keep a mask in your pocket or purse but you can't always count on having easy access to germ-killing lotion.

The people behind the Sani Amigo have an answer to that problem. The Sani Amigo is a small personal lotion dispenser that you can clip to your belt or attach to a neck lanyard that many people wear at work to keep their ID cards visible.

The Sani Amigo is the focus of a current funding campaign at Indiegogo and is scheduled to be available later this summer.

The dispenser has an internal tank that can filled and refilled with the user's preferred lotion or gel. A clear window on the side of the device lets users easily see when the tank's supply is getting low.

The Sani Amigo can also remind user's when it's time for another squirt. A battery-powered timer can be set to vibrate every 30, 60 or 120 minutes. The timer runs on an inexpensive coin-style battery that has a long life and can be purchased at most drug or convenience stores. 

Sanitizing lotion is delivered by a pump that swivels out to deliver a squirt and avoids unwanted drips by rotating back to its home position.

The developers of the Sani Amigo said they were inspired by the evolution of COVID masks from bland objects to fashion statements. 

That’s when it hit us: sanitizer bottles weren’t keeping up. Either there wasn’t sanitizer around, or we’d forgotten it in the car, or it spilled in our travel bags, or the plastic bottles were uncomfortable in our pockets. 

Their goal was to create a sanitizer dispenser that would be more useful and more personal than the big plastic bottles that people have at home to see in some public spaces. 

The Indiegogo campaign has already reached its goal of raising $3,985 to finance production but  early bird special deals are still available until May 7. Packages start at $25 for one dispenser.

To get a closer look at the Sani Amigo, check out the video below, read the Sani Amigo story at Indiegogo and visit the product page on Facebook or Instagram. 

Sani Amigo - The Smart Dispenser from Sani Amigo on Vimeo.


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

License plate recognition isn't just for bridges and toll roads

If you frequently use a bridge or highway that charges a fee for access you’ve probably noticed that something is missing: the little toll booths where you drop a few coins or hand someone your dollar bills. Across the US and around the world, those booths are being replaced by digital cameras that scan and record license plate numbers as fast as the speeding vehicles pass under them. 

Those cameras are connected to computers equipped with ALPR - Automated License Plate Recognition. The computers check the plate number against a cloud-based database of vehicle registration data. Even if your car is registered in a state hundreds of miles away from the bridge you just crossed, chances are you will get a bill for the toll.  

ALPR is a technology that helps the bridge and highway owners pay for construction and maintenance costs by reducing or eliminating toll collection expenses (i.e. the people who work in the toll booths). It also helps maximize revenue by insuring that no users get a free ride. 

Now vehicle number recognition is also starting to deployed in other locations such as parking lots and garages, business districts and even private residential areas. In the Toronto area city of Oakville, developers are using ALPR to manage access to a new complex of condos and townhomes. Instead of keypads or fobs, permitted vehicles breeze through gates and garage doors by simply by driving down approach lanes and passing within a camera's view. 

When the system captures a license plate number, it compares the number to a database of authorized users and automatically grants access. Vehicles that try to sneak past the checkpoint are also identified and added to a blacklist. The system saves money by eliminating staffing costs and it allows developers or individual residents to use a vehicle's arrival to trigger other smart home or office technology. 

ALPR can also be used to add a new dimension to neighborhood watch programs. In 2018, Portola Valley, a small city in California’s Silicon Valley area, installed ALPR cameras to monitor traffic on the roads leading into and out of the city. 

This year, residents  of Los Altos Hills, another small city is Northern California, began exploring an ALPR system. Resident Rajiv Bhateja, a proponent of ALPR technology, told the Los Altos Town Crier that the system would be a deterrent to crime and he recalled a burglary at his apartment when he lived in Berkeley. “It is important to give people a sense of safety and security around their home, because I do remember when I was burglarized, it wasn’t so much the monetary cost; it was the sense of security and the violation.”  

Companies such as Camdog offer vehicle plate recognition as part of their cloud-based surveillance services. At Camdog, ALPR is included in the company's High Security and Business Video Analytics Plan. 


Friday, March 12, 2021

Kids love this erasable tablet

Grocery lists. Notes to spouse. Sketches of my next billion dollar idea. It seems we're always needing a way to record something important - or trivial.

This LCD writing tablet provides an easy way to capture words or images without generating more paper waste. It's been very popular with our pre-school grandchildren who use it to draw cartoon figures, practice letters and numbers or play tic-tac-toe.

The Tecboss tablet has a 10-inch LCD screen that responds to a stylus that rests in a groove along the top of the screen. Use the stylus to record doodles or notes, then flick a lock switch on the side of the tablet to preserve them or click the button on the front of the tablet to erase them.

The tablet runs on a tiny button battery that should last for more than a year and some 10,000 scribbles.

The Tecboss tablet is available in a pink or gray case $15.99 on Amazon.



Tuesday, March 9, 2021

New app will show you've had a COVID shot

Vaccines to protect us against COVID-19 are expected to arrive in a matter of weeks and before long, we'll all be lining up to get one. 

But amid that good news, there are still some unanswered questions about how we will function in a vaccinated society. Tiara Lyons had some of those questions after she gave birth during the pandemic and as she prepared to search for a babysitter. Ideally, the sitter would be someone who had been vaccinated. 

"I felt it was too risky for me to simply take the babysitter’s word they were vaccinated, yet also felt it was too invasive to ask a stranger for medical records," she said.

That's when she got the inspiration to create an app that would allow people to share proof of their vaccination certification. Today, Lyons is the founder and CEO of Vaccertify, a Seattle-based start-up that has created a prototype app that is also called Vaccertify. 

Once vaccinations are available, users can create a digital certification by uploading their vaccination record, a government-issued identification document and a selfie photo. Vaccertify then creates a ID screen that includes a scannable QR code linked to a profile in the Vaccertify database. The system also uses a private PIN that must be entered in order to view the certificate.

Like Lyons' babysitter concerns, Vaccertify is designed to be used in social or business interactions. 
For example, a homeowner might want proof that service providers are vaccinated before allowing them access to their home. A party host might want only vaccinated guests at an event. Visitors to a group home could be screened using Vaccertify. And certification could soon become a connection point for online dating.

The cost to use Vaccertify is $49.99 with the certificate posted in seven days. Users can pay more for faster processing.

For a closer look at the service and to find out when it will be available, visit the Vaccertify website and follow @Vaccertify on Twitter.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Want better Zooms at home? Check out EIG Pro

One of the things we’ve all learned during this long lockdown is that it’s possible to work and be productive without going to an office. Video conferencing tools like Zoom or FaceTime have become part of our everyday digital toolkit.

But if you’re like me, you’re tired of seeing everyone in tiny squares on your laptop screen. Is that a smile or grimace on your boss’s face? We’ve had to adjust how we read body language and physical cues in our new online workplace.

Think about how much better video conferencing would be if you used a big-screen TV, like the one you use to watch movies and sports. Consultants like EIG PRO can make that happen.

EIG - Elusive Integrators Group - has expertise in building video conferencing rooms for businesses in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. The photo here is one example. Now EIG PRO is doing more residential work because, you know, everyone has turned their homes into their business offices.  

There’s an article on the company’s blog that discusses some of the many business benefits of video conferencing, such as reduced costs and improved productivity. 

For a closer look at the range of work that EIG PRO offers, visit the company’s website.  You can also contact or follow the company on Facebook and Instagram and @eig_pro on Twitter.


Monday, January 25, 2021

DarkCyber blog features naked Bitcoin, Parler unplugged and me

I join tech expert Stephen E Arnold this week to discuss how Amazon pulled the plug on the alt-right message board Parler and what that might mean for the future of open communication on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. 

Arnold also has a surprising report on how Bitcoin might not be the anonymous money-moving system that we were told it is.And ties the efforts to unmask Bitcoin to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and to a mysterious suicide. 

You can watch the latest episode below and check out more of Arnold’s article and videos at his DarkCyber blog.



Friday, January 15, 2021

This Covid mask plays music and takes calls

Two things that don’t play well together in this pandemic world are Covid masks and earbud headphones. 

Adjust your mask and your buds might go sailing our of your ear. Trust me, I’ve been there.

That why the MaskFone caught my eye. It’s among the new gadgets that made its debut at the all-online CES trade show this month.

It’s a stylish black mask that has a built-in microphone and lightweight Bluetooth earbuds.  

The washable mask has a slot for replaceable PM 2.5 filters. The earbuds 12 hour battery life with function controls built into the front of the mask. The buds are IPX5 water and sweat resistant.

MaskFone costs $49.95 and is available on the MaskFone website.

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