Best bits of Morning Ireland

In her recent blog post, my wife pointed out that the “it Says in the Papers” section of Morning Ireland is a really useful tool for giving you a super-condensed daily overview of the major stories in Irish media. And it’s true. It’s my favourite part of Morning Ireland (well, technically it’s my second-favourite, right after Harem Lousch reading the weather forecast – honestly, nothing brightens your day quite like hearing a Dutch person saying “schattered schowersch”). So I was pretty happy when my wife said “It Says in the Papers” was downloadable as a podcast.

Turns out that’s not strictly true.

It’s actually only available as part of the general Morning Ireland podcast, which also includes the news bulletins, the sport, the weather, as well as miscellaneous stories broken out into their own individual podcast episodes. In other words, there’s a whole load of shit there that I’m not actually interested in and don’t want to spend five minutes each morning deleting the extraneous crap from my feed just to get at the stuff I actually care about.

So I’ve created “Morning Ireland - The Best Bits”, which takes the Morning Ireland podcast firehose and filters it down to just the bits I care about – the news bulletin, It Says in the Papers (and Harem Lousch reading the weather).

To subscribe to it, just add the following URL to whatever podcasting software you’re using:

http://lowbrowculture.com/podcast/morningireland.xml

Obviously, the normal legal stuff applies – I don’t actually own the license for the media, this is for personal slash educational use only, caveat emptor – etc. etc. If you’re using it and you have any feedback, drop me an email.

Reconstructing Rome from Photographs

A group of researchers from the University of Washington are conducting a project to construct a 3D map of Rome based on the more than 2 million results on Flickr for “Rome”. There won’t be any real results for another couple of months (so much for their “Building Rome in a Day” thing), but they’ve already got a nifty video showing their results in constructing the Colosseum. You should check it out.

rome-day

But one thing that caught my eye from their video was the idea that we can also learn about the layout of the city based on where the photographs were taken. For example, this frame from their demo video shows where all the cameras were when they snapped their shots of the Colosseum, and what direction they were pointing - that long line going down to the bottom-left corner is going down Via dei Fori Imperiali. This street is only pedestrianised on a Sunday, so we as well as placing them spatially, we can also (roughly) place these in time. I’ve put the frame next to a screenshot of the same scene from Google Earth, so you can actually see it on a map.

But look at all the whitespace - it shows exactly where people cannot or are not allowed to go. With this information, we could construct something at least as interesting, if not entirely as whizz-bang-gee-isn’t-that-nifty cool as the 3D Rome project.

So, armed with phpFlickr (to access the Flickr API), gheat (to generate the map overlay), and a couple of hours to myself, I went about constructing a heatmap showing where the most photos are taken in Rome. I did this by grabbing around 2000 photographs geotagged to within 5Km of Piazza Venezia, ranked in order of “interestingness”. There are some interesting results.

[caption align=“aligncenter” width=“500” caption=“Photo heatmap of Rome”]Rome Photo Heatmap 2[/caption]

[caption align=“aligncenter” width=“500” caption=“Heatmap of Piazza Venezia / Colosseum”]Rome Photo Heatmap - Piazza Venezia / Colosseum[/caption]

For example, even without the map underneath, someone familiar with the layout of Rome could probably recognise this as Piazza Venezia/Colosseum area just from the shape of the “hot spots”.

[caption align=“aligncenter” width=“500” caption=“Heatmap of St. Peter’s Basilica”]Rome Photo Heatmap - St. Peter’s Basilica[/caption]

I find this one pretty interesting because it’s a close-up image showing where people tend to take photos within St. Peter’s Basilica. They take photos right within the doorway and then above that, where the Pieta is. Then they head further in (left) and take photographs around the high altar.

I’m not sure there’s a practical application for all this, but I’m still absolutely fascinated by it - being able to see the “interestingness” of a city. From a bird’s eye level, you can see what parts of a city are most interesting (or at least visually pleasing), and then you can zoom in to a specific area or monument and see what’s most appealing in there.

Right now, I’ve only got this running on my local computer, but I’ll be trying to get this up and available online. In the meantime, I’ll be posting stuff to my Flickr account, so feel free to check it out there.

All Things Considered →

NPR’s All Things Considered is one of the few great news/current events radio shows out there. That’s why it’s so galling that they don’t have an official podcast. You can only download snippets from their website, which is generous of them, but getting these onto my iPod was such a colossal pain in the dick that I decided, instead, I’d construct a podcast myself. So I did.

If you want to subscribe, launch iTunes, go to Advanced -> Subscribe to Podcast, and paste in the following URL: http://www.lowbrowculture.com/atcpodcast.php

Usual disclaimer: This is provided as-is, with no guarantees, warranties or refunds. It works for me. If it doesn’t work for you, drop me a line. This podcast is completely unofficial and in no way endorsed by NPR.

New Project: Cinema Verite

I’m working on a new project: Cinema Verite.

Using processing (a powerful programming language with a lot of media capabilities), I’m ripping apart some of my favourite movies and putting them back together again. By taking screenshots at every second of the movie and laying them out flat - one image per second, sixty images per row - you get a completely different view of the movie.

So yeah, check it out, if you like that kind of thing.