New Google Camera with “Lens Blur”

Today (April 16, 2014) Google released a new version of the Google Camera application for Android 4.4+ (KitKat). The app comes with many new features, but my favorite is the “Lens Blur” mode, which allows the user to focus and refocus the photo after it was taken, similar to the stand-alone Lytro camera.

Below is a selfie illustrating the new functionality.

Google Camera Lens Blur collage
Google Camera Lens Blur collage
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Is it a Banksy?

Is it a Banksy? Cheltenham mum of five wakes up to find artwork on the side of her home.

Great new suspected Banksy piece on a wall in Cheltenham, the home of UK spy agency GCHQ
Great new suspected Banksy piece on a wall in Cheltenham, the home of UK spy agency GCHQ

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The 2014 A.T. Rank of social media networks

My annual ranking of social media networks comes out early this year. This time I only rank services I currently use, unlike the 2013 and 2012 rankings where I also ranked networks I had used in the past.

The table is self-explanatory, and the numbers shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me. Google+ shows the biggest gains, whereas Facebook drops to the bottom.

SERVICE 2014 RANK 2013 RANK CHANGE FROM LAST YEAR DYNAMIC INDEX
Instagram 10 9 1 11
Google+ 7 4 3 10
Stellar 8 8 0 8
Twitter 9 10 -1 8
LinkedIn 6 5 1 7
Pinterest 2 4 -2 0
Facebook 3 7 -4 -1
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How to make yogurt at home, the Bulgarian way

My wife and I grew up in Bulgaria, where yogurt is a nutritional staple. We moved to the US in the early 1990s, where we failed to find good yogurt. So my wife started making yogurt at home.

Yogurt is a fermented milk product produced by bacterial fermentation of milk. The bacteria used to make yogurt are known as “yogurt cultures”. Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus is commonly used alongside Streptococcus thermophilus as a starter for making yogurt. Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus was first identified in 1905 by [Bulgarian] Stamen Grigorov, who named it Bacillus bulgaricus.” –Wikipedia on yogurt history and provenance

Recently I made a yogurt batch at home with limited (but crucial) supervision from my wife. It was a three-hour-long process, of which I enjoyed every minute (not to mention the product).

Here’s how we did it (Mayia’s yogurt recipe below picture).

Making yogurt at home
Making yogurt at home

Mayia’s Yogurt recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 gallons of whole milk

  • 800 ml (buy 1 quart) of heavy cream

  • 2 cups of yogurt (Stonyfield, plain, organic, whole milk, do not use the sweet types)

Makes (8) 32 oz containers

Items needed:

  • thermometer

  • large pot 10″ diameter, 8 1/2″ high

  • (8) 32 oz plastic containers — best will be containers from yogurt or similar size plastic

  • baking pan  16″ x 12″ x 2″

Notes:

  • You may want to make a smaller batch first. Use half the ingredients

  • The yogurt can last a long time in the refrigerator — up to four weeks

  • You can use the leftover cream to make sour cream by adding some mixture to it in additional container and keeping it in the stove with the rest of the yogurt

  • If you have access to organic raw milk, you can skip boiling part

  • You can strain (remove most liquid from it for 24 hours in the refrigerator) the yogurt for use in cooking and as mayo, sour cream substitute

  1. Put milk and heavy cream in very large pot. Gradually heat to a boil. Stir periodically so no burnt layer is formed on the bottom of the pot.

  2. Boil for 20 minutes stirring periodically (every minute or so). This produces more firm, less watery yogurt with reduced acid content. Less boiling will work as well, however, the yogurt will be much more acidic.

  3. Fill the sink with cold water and put the pot in it. Stir every so often so cream is not formed on the top. Cool to 170°. Use thermometer to make sure it is not above that temperature. Putting the yogurt in too hot milk will kill the bacteria. If you have a good sense about temperature you can use your finger (entire finger) to place in the milk and feel comfortable, no burning.

  4. Once the milk is cooled down, add yogurt, mix well. Pour mixture in containers. Put containers in the baking pan, add 1”-1 1/2″ of warm water to tray.

  5. Heat oven to 170° for 10-15 min and place tray with containers into oven. If you are absolutely sure oven temperature is no more than 170 degrees (measure with thermometer) or have oven that can just keep on lower temp or warm, you can leave the oven on. I turn oven on/off every hour or so until the mixture becomes solid, that can be 2-4 hours depending on many factors. When the mixture is solid yogurt is ready.

  6. Wait until it assumes room temperature, put the containers in refrigerator.

 

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Google+ shows content view counts on profile pages

In a move brilliant in its simplicity, yesterday Google+ began showing total content view counts on profile pages. This is significant for several reasons, but I’ll focus on the main one.

Some background: Back in December 2013 Facebook — Google+’s main competitor in the social media arena — changed their news feed algorithm. With that, Facebook in effect usurped editorial powers over users’ posts, which resulted in hiding (most of) users’ content from (most of) their friends. Now if you want more friends to see your posts, you have to pay Facebook to “promote” your posts. Many users cried foul. Some have called the practice “bait-and-switch” and “Facebook fraud”. The New York Times wondered whether Facebook had become too big to care.

Showing total content view counts on Google+ profile pages is designed to set Google+ apart from Facebook and attract more users and brands. Google basically says: “Hey, we not only let your message through to all who want to see it, we tell you how many users actually saw it.” Google+ is smartly riding the wave of discontent over Facebook’s authoritarian stance.

This works for me. After fuming for months over various objectionable Facebook policies and practices, today I am beginning to gradually phase out my Facebook presence in favor of Google+. Find me there.

Atanas Entchev Google+ profile
Atanas Entchev Google+ profile
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Unlikely New Jersey Devils hockey fan?

This Russian firefighter living in the Far East (Khabarovsk) is a New Jersey Devils hockey fan. I love the internets.

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Amazing art or ugly map?

As a map geek I have been looking at all kinds of maps for 20 years. No map can surprise me, or so I thought until today. I just saw the amazingest map ever, reproduced below with permission (source).

Imagine my shock when I found out that this map was the winner of an “Ugliest map” contest, conducted by Dr. Brent Hecht at the University of Minnesota. Do you agree? Do you think this is an ugly map, or amazing art? Vote in the poll below the map.

[UPDATE April 01, 2014 (no joke)] The map creator is Daniel Taylor — “a very successful undergrad” at the University of Minnesota (via Prof. Hecht).

Amazing art or ugly map?
Amazing art or ugly map?

 

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