Exploring Ancestry Dot Com
December 31st, 2011 | View Post


The cover to my grandfather's 1939 DeWitt Clinton high school yearbook
This is definitely NOT an endorsement for the website ancestry.com, namely because they traditionally spammed the hell out of people for business, however my dad recently signed up for their system and started building all sorts of artifacts pertinent to my grandparents. Suffices to say it has some pretty phenomenal digitized records available on it. While the hand-written census tract data is cool enough (it's all been scanned), they even had pages from my grandfather's yearbook at DeWitt Clinton High School and other similar types of documents. I don't know exactly where they get some of their data from and I'm guessing that one of the benefits to ancestral research is that the population was significantly smaller a century ago. That might not seem significant, but it makes fuzzy data matching much easier to do. Incidentally, they got his date of death wrong despite that fact that such records are readily available in this day in age. Again, I suspect it's due to having TOO MUCH data vs. the limited record-keeping we did a century ago.

Their overall UI/UX is lacking quite a bit for my personal taste (to non developers, this just means it's not especially convenient to navigate), but the information and records available for digital consumption are excellent. I will definitely be using their site to gather additional information for my own family philanthropy work and to anybody especially interested in this type of research, would at least recommend you check them out on a trial basis - if for no other reason than to grab the documents and images they've collected for you.

New Website Progression Updates
December 29th, 2011 | View Post

It's been a couple of months since I finally decided that it was time for a full overhaul of kevinludlow.com and there have been some pretty significant changes already made to the architecture of the site. I was joking to DaveG just a couple of days ago how significantly my CMS architecture skills have improved since I first developed the concept back in 2005, and even since formally releasing it in 2007.

The size of the codebase has been significantly reduced and puts much more strain on the SQL server for larger, more complex operations (as opposed to parsing data via code after simple queries). Additionally, most all of the original Javascript used has been replaced with jQuery or removed entirely. While I'm thrilled to have done this, it's not entirely an original design flaw. When I first began coding the system, the jQuery library was not yet available and developers were essentially limited to the Prototype / Scriptaculous packages. To this day I contend that those packages are hugely bloated and should not be used for web development projects given the complexities that they add to the maintenance of projects. This was especially the case in 2007 when I first released openFace given processors were that much slower and front-end Javascript weighs a browser down. Fortunately jQuery provides an excellent balance of functionality and programmability while still remaining pretty light (provided one avoids their various UI packages).

In parallel to this development (which is really just in my spare time), I have been hiring people to take on the arduous tasks of scanning photos, digitizing movies, digitizing old audio recordings, and etc. As of this writing I already have 11,254 new photos that will be added to the website once it is fully launched, though I'm guessing it will be closer to 17,000 new photos once I'm finished!

Wall Socket Sex
December 25th, 2011 | View Post

This is what I spent my post-Christmas dinner with the family working on. I saw a hand-drawn version sort of like it on Reddit and thought I could run with the concept and practice some Photoshop.

The red Fedora was indeed a tribute to my OS.

Ave Maria
November 30th, 2011 | View Post

JJ Baty is performing Ave Maria in the upcoming Kujda wedding. He's a well-trained opera singer and I have no doubt that he's going to kill it. But since he doesn't really want to do it A Cappella and doesn't want to use a tape, he asked if I could play a basic background accompaniment to it.

Since he lives in Houston and I live in Austin, I recorded this quick version just so that he had something to work with. It's FAR from intricate, but should suffice for what we're doing.

Many thanks to my good buddy Preston for lending me his cherished classical guitar.

My Brewster Logo
November 16th, 2011 | View Post


The original
On our way back from Orlando, I was showing Caroline some tricks for getting a little better at Photoshop. Unfortunately whenever I try to show anyone how to use Photoshop, particularly if I have my own computer with me, it just makes me want to play with it as well. Anyway, we started playing with a picture we had recently taken on our trip to Garner State Park of Brewster (her dog) standing on the hood of my car.

After about an hour of trimming, layering, and really not having any idea of what I wanted to do, I came up with an idea to create a simple two-tone picture out of the original. The image below is what resulted.


Brewster: 1) Caroline's Dog; 2) A former Austin city council member

Howard Ludlow Sr. Slide Collection
October 26th, 2011 | View Post

As some of you already know, or have possibly noticed popping up on Facebook over the months, I have finally taken on the arduous task of digitizing and restoring all of my grandparent's (Momma and Poppa) old slides. In truth I actually started this project a few years ago, but was not satisfied with the quality of output that I getting and ultimately shelved the idea. A dear friend of mine, Mark Holzbach (http://www.austinforum.org/speakers/holzbach.html), was kind enough to provide me with his Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 and SF-210 Slide Feeder finally making the process both bearable and of exceptional quality. I am very pleased with the final result.

The complete collection is a little more than 6.50 GB. The file prefixes were consistent with how my grandfather (Poppa) had the boxes originally labeled and the slides were all scanned in the order that they appeared in the original carousels. There was no post-editing done to the scans (aside from the built-in Nikon/VueScan filtering) and so some are upside down, inverted, etc.

About the Slide Set

In total, there were 1,869 slides that were part of the collection. The date range of these slides appears to be from about 1973 - 1988. The locations are vast and span the North Atlantic, Canada, parts of New York and New Jersey, Eastern and Western Europe, Scandinavia, Russia, and Northern Africa (namely Egypt and Morocco). I would say that most of them take place on various cruises and other water transports, though certainly not exclusively. It's also worth noting that Poppa was very interested in shooting photos of locations and scenery as opposed to people. As it happens, he was actually very good at composition (in my opinion), but the downside is that probably less than 15% of the photos are actually of people. ...or at least people that are recognized by my family.

Digitization and Restoration


Poppa on a boat (7/26/1975) BEFORE infrared processing and and chrome color correction

Poppa on a boat (7/26/1975) AFTER infrared processing and and chrome color correction
The Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 allowed me to capture very high quality image data. I initially intended to scan all of the photos in RAW format, but ultimately decided against this calculating that the 500 GB or so of data that would be required would be very difficult to mobilize and would not justify the benefits given the otherwise VERY high quality of scanning. Instead I wound up scanning each slide at 4000 DPI and stored them in 100% uncompressed JPEG format. The lack of compression makes this more or less equivalent to TIFF data; there is no (or should not be) adjusting of the color pallet. The complete dataset wound up being 6.50 GB of JPEG data or about 3.477 MB per photo - essentially the same as any high resolution photography these days.

The scanner also utilizes a technology known as digital ICE (which incidentally was invented by a friend of Marks). Essentially after each slide was scanned, it would be rescanned using an infrared light. Unlike traditional white light used for scanning, infrared is capable of detecting depth. This is used to automatically detect dust and similar particulates as well as scratches on the physical film. Once the process finished, a proprietary software program I purchased (called VueScan) compared the infrared layer of data to the color layer and automatically eliminated the granular imperfections. The final step was to apply industry standard color corrections to the various types of slide film (Kodachrome, Ektochrome, etc.).


London Wellington Arch (4/17/76) BEFORE color correcting

London Wellington Arch (4/17/76) AFTER color correcting
The blended result of these technologies is a wonderful restoration of the entire photo set. Aside from physically improving the slides under a microscope, I'm not sure they could be restored or preserved any better.

I should also note that I did not use any sort of cropping on the slides. The reason for this is that I occasionally find the algorithms to detect the edges of slides not to be very good. I wanted to preserve the entirety of the slides and so you'll note that almost all of them have the slide frame scanned around them. If you zoom in and look very closely, you'll even see the frayed edges of the film against the slide frames. In the few occasional instances where no slide frame is visible, these were slides that simply had no lip.

Also, if you are interested in printing any of these photos, just open the photo in a graphic editor of your choosing and crop as desired. The quality is FAR great enough to produce very nice prints. Even 16x20 prints of these slides should print without any pixilation.

Storing


Some of Poppa's original notes
Several years ago I carefully moved all of the slides from their carousel trays to specialized air-tight acrylic slide containers. The slides have been placed back into these with all of the notes that Poppa kept on them (I will be getting these notes typed up sometime soon). The slide containers only hold up to 50 slides each, so there are quite a few of them. Each of these slide containers was then placed into air-tight photo boxes (available at craft stores such as Michael's). Upon the completion of my company warehouse (hopefully to be open in early summer 2012), I will be storing these slide boxes in a fireproof safe in my hidden room. There will be some irony should they burn, I realize this, but that's about as safe as I can think to make them.

Additional Photos


One of the air-tight acrylic slide boxes
I am still hoping to get any remaining family photos, slides, or the like from old boxes or books in order to have them digitized and add them to my collections. I would also like to note to anyone reading this that if you DO have photos in those old sticky-magnetic photo books, please note that the glues are only accelerating the destruction of the photos. You may want to consider removing them from those books (as I did for my parents 2 years ago) and storing them in proper photo containers until they can be digitally preserved. This is especially the case given the pervasiveness of modern scanning technologies and methodologies.

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