Recently, my work was gracious enough to purchase additional monitors for my workstation. I guess all my ranting about increasing productivity with multiple monitors payed off! Now I feel obligated to get more work done, but first I have to waste time by looking for panoramic wallpaper!

You’d think there’d be lots of tri-monitor wallpapers out there, something 4800×1200, but after an extensive search the results were entirely disappointing. It turns out I wasn’t searching with the right keywords. Don’t bother searching for anything with the word “wallpaper” or “multi-monitor”, instead just simply google “autostitch”.

That’s right, autostitch. Autostitch is a small program created by Mathew Brown, a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia. Autostitch is based on research by Brown and his supervisor Professor David Lowe. The program automatically recognizes similar images and “stitches” them together to form a seamless panoramic. Despite the stigma of being “academic software”, autostitch is a revolution in creating panoramic images.

I have always avoided the desire to take dozens of pictures in a wide panoramic. Think of those idiots on top of the Eiffel Tower taking a series of photos in a slow rotation. I never thought there was a point to that activity, not without expensive cameras capable of capturing a real panoramic image. Autostitch proves that even cheap digital cameras can produce amazing panaormic images, perfect for my multi-monitor display!

Here is my first attempt with Autostitch:

Solana Beach – near my house

What’s more, I even managed to produce a great image of a simple street corner:

I’ve linked to the full-size images for those of you with tri-monitor displays looking for a 4800×1200 pixel wallpaper!

Overall, I am in awe of the quality of autostitch. Photography often fails to capture the simple beauty of an ocean, or a mountain, or even a street corner. Beauty is often found in the full breadth of view, the vastness of contrast between a simple street and an ethereal sky. Autostitch enables anyone with a camera to better capture the experience of a breathtaking ocean, or even a breathtaking walk around the neighborhood.

And now back to my multi-monitors!

Walking in the Foreign Lands of Web 2.0

You ever wonder how to monetize the long tail? Or how to realize cyberinfrastructure? Hopefully you have no idea what I’m talking about, which means you’re thankfully naive to the politics of academic supercomputing and the hyper-fluff of over-paid business leaders “revving the web” at this years Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

I realized from day one I was out of my element, talk of business models and ad placement left me wondering whether academic politics aren’t such a bad thing after all. But are these worlds really that far apart?

Amidst the pretenders and the venture capital monkeys the Web 2.0 conference brought together a collection of like-minded individuals with one cohesive idea: the web as an application platform.

Academics have been pushing this idea for years, albeit in a backwards and borderline retarded method of grid portals and high-latency web services. User experience is an almost alien concept in academia, leaving would-be web portals in a state of chaos and such poor usability that they’re… well… unusable.

Based on my completely unscientific and haphazard estimate, the private sector has been pushing further and faster than academia that it’s at least a few years ahead of academic research projects (especially when it comes to deploying web services and web applications). The idea of REST, RSS, ATOM, AJAX or even CSS are strangely missing from academic projects who are currently pushing such hot new technologies such as SOAP, WSDL, and the ever successful JSR-168.

Hopefully, you’re spending your thoughts on more important topics such as the flying spaghetti monster, but I’ve been up at night wondering why academic web applications are so disparate from their private sector counterparts.

The industry leaders at Web 2.0 may be motivated by money, but they’re inventing their way to successful business models based on technological innovation; building and integrating web services in novel applications creating new levels of connectedness and information sharing; something sorely lacking in mainstream academia.

So what do we do about it? We do what everyone (including Microsoft) is doing: we watch Google and copy everything they do!