Saturday, May 31, 2014

Tips To Make That Dish Look Appetizing

Photographing Food? 6 Tips To Help You Make That Dish Look Appetizing

Photographing Food? 6 Tips To Help You Make That Dish Look Appetizing

By Matthew Hughes

Do you know what’s better than sitting down to an amazing meal? Taking pictures of it, of course.
We’re all guilty of it. You go out to dinner, and after scouring the menu for what feels like hours, you eventually come across something that is utterly mouth-moisteningly tantalizing. When it gets brought to you, you just have to take a food photo to share with your Facebook friends, just to brag about the amazing feast you’re about to devour.
With that said, some food photos… Well, they just plain suck.
Between sloppy lighting and even sloppier presentation, there are myriad ways in which your food photos can fall short. Thankfully, if you follow these tips, your food photos will have everyone drooling like they’ve been lobotomized. Bon app├ętit!

1. (Do) Play With Your Food

Arranging your meal to make it more physically endearing isn’t really a science. It’s more of an art form, and there isn’t really a set way to do it, although there are a few rules I tend to obey when arranging my food.
If you’re working with grains and pulses, such as rice, quinoa and tabbouleh, try shoving your food into a pudding cup. Then, quickly upturn it onto your plate and lift the cup up. This should ensure that it retains a solid form, and doesn’t look haphazard on the plate.
food quinoa   Photographing Food? 6 Tips To Help You Make That Dish Look Appetizing

2. Size Matters: Consider The Height Of Food

I also consider the height of each food item on my plate. If you’ve got a juicy piece of sirloin that is being obscured by a mountain of quinoa, your photo won’t work. The centerpiece of the meal has been hidden.
Likewise, if a shadow is being cast by a large mound of rice over an enticing piece of meat, your photo won’t work. Consider how you compose your plate in regards to your lighting.
Just experiment. If you feel as though the way you’ve composed your photo isn’t working out, don’t be afraid to change things around.

3. Get A Tripod And Use It

I don’t always obey this rule. Indeed, a sizable proportion of the food photography I do is taken with my trusty Blackberry Q10 smartphone. And, y’know what? they’re usually pretty decent photos.
However, if you’re using a heavy, bulky DSLR, you’re going to want to get a tripod.They’re not too expensive, and if you find yourself having to adjust the composition of your plates, you won’t have to spend time re-framing your photo with each take.
food quiche   Photographing Food? 6 Tips To Help You Make That Dish Look Appetizing

Furthermore, you’ve got a bit more precision when using a tripod. Shaky hands rarely make for good photos.
If you’re taking pictures with your cell-phone, consider buying a small tripod. Or, even better, make a tripod yourself.

4. Avoid Flash Like The Plague

Food isn’t usually a single, continuous shape. No. Food is a mess of non-uniform shapes clashing on the small canvas of a plate. As a result, when you use flash, all the natural shadows created by those contours, curves and bumps are flattened out. Gross.
food pho   Photographing Food? 6 Tips To Help You Make That Dish Look Appetizing

Think about lighting. Ideally, try to take your photos in natural sunlight. Perhaps near a window, or outside on a garden table.
If you want to add a bit more of a shine to your photo, you don’t need to use flash. Just grab a bit of olive oil and dab it onto your food with a pastry brush. Although, if you’re planning on eating the food later on, make sure you think about how this will impact the taste of the dish.

5. Be Quick And Shoot Whilst Hot

Have you ever gone to a really good Japanese restaurant and ordered steak?
More often than not, they tend to come on a searingly hot slab of slate, with each strip of meat sizzling and popping, with steam rising and dissipating into the atmosphere, and with little bubbles of oil rising and then popping.
food steak   Photographing Food? 6 Tips To Help You Make That Dish Look Appetizing

Now, tell me. Do you think that steak would look better photographed in thirty minutes time, when it had gone cold? Of course not.
Hot food is chemically and physically different from cold food. Embrace that, and use it to take beautiful shots.

6. Get In Close

If you can’t smell your food, and feel the heat of the dish on your face, you’re doing it wrong.
food feijoada   Photographing Food? 6 Tips To Help You Make That Dish Look Appetizing

No, seriously. If you want to take great shots, you’re going to have to choose the correct angle to use. For the most part, I tend to get close to my plate and shoot downwards. However, sometimes you can take great shots directly facing the plate, with the lens of the camera slightly above the rim of the plate.

How Do You Appreciate Food?

For me, food isn’t just about eating it. It’s a visceral, personal thing, and something I enjoy with all of my senses. Whilst some see food photography as inherently narcissistic and obnoxious, I see it as appreciating my meal.
The MakeUseOf team are quite fond of food. Do you know that we have a food blog where the staff writers share their recipes? No? Well, we do. Check outMakeFoodOf.
Do you have any food photography tips? Tell us about them in the comments box below.

10 Wrong Ways To Set Up Your Wireless Network

10 Wrong Ways To Set Up Your Wireless Network
By Matt Smith

When I turn on a wireless device in my apartment, I immediately find over twenty five wireless networks, all with strong signals. This is an example of how prevalent wireless Internet has become, but some of the networks I can find are not set up properly, making them insecure or unreliable.
Here are 10 avoidable mistakes that cause such WiFi woes.

Throw Away The Router’s Manual

The prevalence of plug-and-play equipment has made it possible for users to neglect or throw away hardware user manuals. This is mostly a good thing, but routers are an exception, as they usually require some configuration. Your router’s manual will provide details on how to access the administration panel, configure the firewall, change security options and reset the device if something goes wrong.
While you may think an online manual is all you need, this can short-sighted; a serious router problem will also knock you offline. Save a copy of the online manual to your PC at the very least.

Put Your Router By A Brick Wall

routersecurity 640x320   10 Wrong Ways To Set Up Your Wireless Network

All forms of wireless communication are bound by certain physical limitations. One of these is the fact that dense objects block radio waves, which means you shouldn’t put your router next to a brick wall. Walls with piping, dense kitchen countertops and backsplashes, and metallic furniture can also cause issues, and placing your router on or next to them is a great way to reduce signal range and performance.
Instead, place your router on a plastic or wooden stand in a relatively open area with no major obstructions nearby. A large open space like the living room is usually best, but closets can work too if they’re free of the mentioned obstacles.

Forget To Create A Unique Network Name

Of the 25 networks in my apartment complex, ten of them use very similar network names, such as HOME8435. Some of my family members do the same thing, which mean visits inevitably involve a discussion about whether their network is HOME 8345, HOME8411, or HOME8409.
Theoretically this could be a security issue because similar network names are easier for ne’re-do-wells to mimic. Inserting an open network called HOME 8354 among the above group, for example, might pick up users who connect to it on accident.
In reality, that’s unlikely because most home users connect a device to their home network once and then save the network in the device’s memory, but picking a unique network name does help if you have a friend with tablets.

Use The Default Passwords

adminpassword   10 Wrong Ways To Set Up Your Wireless Network

Routers always have a default administration password from the factory. This password will be listed in the manual. Many users keep the default because the admin panel is theoretically accessible only by a user already connected, so who cares if it’s secure?
However, routers aren’t flawless, and there are ways for your home network to be accessed, either by guessing your password, or exploiting a flaw in the router remotely. If your network is compromised, easy access to your router’s administration panel will only make things worse. Changing the default password is a must.

Don’t Turn On WiFi Encryption

I feel like this one shouldn’t have to be said, but we’re talking about mistakes, and this is a big one. Not setting up WiFi encryption leaves your network open to anyone who might want to sniff your traffic and also will leave open any network drives you use.
The solution is pretty simple; turn on encryption. Remember that manual you didn’t throw away? It will tell you how.

Set Up The Wrong WiFi Encryption

enable wpa2 on router 590x220   10 Wrong Ways To Set Up Your Wireless Network

Turning on encryption isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. Most routers come with several WiFi encryption options, but won’t say which option is the best. Routers may even default to WEP, an old and insecure standard, or list it at the top of the drop-down box. WEP is better than nothing, but it’s not very secure.
Go with WPA2-AES instead and use a long, highly randomized password. This is the most secure WiFi encryption standard that’s practical for home users, and increasing the length of the password makes a brute force attack against your network more difficult (though not impossible).

Mix The Wrong Adapters And Routers802.11ac1   10 Wrong Ways To Set Up Your Wireless Network

Routers and adapters are almost always backwards compatible with older versions of WiFi. 802.11ac, the newest standard, works with 802.11n, which works with 802.11g. In fact, most modern adapters support all but the very first version of the 802.11 standard, which is well over a decade old.
Still, mixing the wrong adapters and routers is a problem if you care about performance. An 802.11ac adapter will only function at 802.11n speeds if paired with an 802.11n router. If you have an old 802.11g router, network performance will be slower still.
There’s nothing wrong with using an old version of the 802.11 standard if you find it adequate, but don’t upgrade your adapter without upgrading your router, or vice-versa. Doing so is a waste of time and money.

Neglect The Firewall

The firewall built in to home routers is one of its most valuable features. In most cases it is enabled by default, and it can protect against a wide variety of intrusion attempts with little to no configuration.
That doesn’t mean you should neglect it, however. You may need to open up ports so software can function, or certain ports may be configured as open by default to enable router features. Check in on these ports and, if you aren’t actually using them, close them. Doing so closes off an unlikely, but possible, avenue of attack.

Enter Incorrect Configuration Information

ip6address   10 Wrong Ways To Set Up Your Wireless Network

What was that IP address supposed to be? Hmm, perhaps it was, or was it Time to look at the manual again!
This is the WiFi equivalent of checking to make sure the power cord is plugged in. If something is wrong – you can’t access the admin panel, a computer isn’t connecting, a firewall port is still blocking World of Warcraft, whatever – go over your numbers. Did you put the decimal in the right place? Probably not, because you’re not a robot.

Forget To Update Firmware

I’ve already made some allusions to router security flaws. They’re a serious issue. Earlier this year some ASUS routers were found to contain an exploit that made connected network drives visible to anyone on the Internet who knew one weird trick.
In that case, updating firmware wouldn’t have helped because ASUS had yet to address the issue. Now, however, a patch is in place. If you’ve downloaded it, you’re fine, but if you haven’t, the Internet can still see your dirty laundry. Updating firmware is boring, but forgetting to do it is a big mistake.


These are only the ten most common errors users make when setting up their home network. There are plenty more. Let us know the problems you encountered when setting up your own WiFi by leaving a comment below.

The Perfect Replacement for Windows XP

Forget Linux – A Chromebook is the Perfect Replacement for Windows XP

Forget Linux – A Chromebook is the Perfect Replacement for Windows XP

By Daniel Price
There are innumerable reasons why users might still be using Windows XP, but ever since Microsoft announced that the operating system would no longer be supported there has been a debate around how its last advocates should proceed. The ceasing of support will unquestionably create problems for people who still rely on the system, and it’s clear that an alternative OS needs to be found – but which one? There are a plentiful number of Linux distributions that can adequately replace the ancient Windows software, and they do have the benefit of not costing users anything to install, but can Google’s Chromebooks also be considered as a valid alternative? We think they can, here’s why…

Chromebooks Cost Less Than Mainstream Laptops

Of course, you could upgrade to a newer version of the Windows OS. You might hit a problem though – if you’re running XP on a laptop more than five years old or if you have been using a smaller netbook, there is a good chance the computer will not have sufficient specifications to smoothly run one of Microsoft’s more recent offerings. A Chromebook can be bought on Amazon for between $199 (Acer C720) and $319 (Samsung Chromebook 2), whereas a well-endowed Windows computer would comfortably set you back $500 or more. An Apple machine can cost you in excess of $1,000.acer c720 640x449   Forget Linux – A Chromebook is the Perfect Replacement for Windows XPFurthermore, if you are looking to replace old Windows XP machines in an office then you’ll get an additional price incentive – Google is running an offer until the end of June whereby businesses that decide to switch to Chromebooks will get $100 off each managed device bought. If your business opts for a device with VMWare Desktop included as a service, you will get a $200 discount.

Chromebooks Are Virus-Free

One of the main reasons for upgrading from Windows XP is the operating system’s increasing security vulnerabilities. Chromebooks couldn’t be more different, with the stateless system virtually immune to viruses. They have been designed to be secure as possible, using a blend of automatic updates, sandboxed browsing, verified boot and localised data encryption to deliver a built-in level of safety that is unrivalled in the tech world. Even in the event that a hacker bypasses this security and uses the Chromebook’s software development kit to introduce security vulnerabilities, the exploit would only allow the attacker to access the user’s data for a single session.avast web rep 640x400   Forget Linux – A Chromebook is the Perfect Replacement for Windows XPOf course, you still need to be vigilant against phishing attacks (we recommend using Avast’s Web Rep extension) and there are some additional security tweaks you can make, but Chromebooks are arguably the most secure laptops on the market today. It’s all in stark contrast to Windows XP’s security nightmare. Even the security features on Microsoft’s Windows 8 require a significant amount of management and user-input – despite being the most secure version of the OS to date.

You Can Install Linux On Chromebooks

Although Google is introducing a growing number of offline applications, it remains true that some specialist software is simply not appropriate for web-based usage or is not available through the Chrome Web Store. Thankfully, this does not pose a problem. Chrome OS is a Linux-based operating system and, therefore, there are a number of Linux distributions that can be quickly and easily installed on any Chromebook – enabling you to install any software which is compatible with Linux. This includes Skype, VLC Media Player and any other specialist software.Skype on Chromebookv3 640x359   Forget Linux – A Chromebook is the Perfect Replacement for Windows XPRemember, once you’re running Linux you can even use Wine to run Windows software – you won’t even notice that you’re not using Windows! If you intend toinstall Linux on your Chromebook, we recommend purchasing a model which uses an Intel processor to maximise compatibility.

Chromebooks Are Updated Frequently

Chromebooks offer you three ‘release channels’. Each of these is aimed at a different type of user, and switching between them is easy. The channel that most people will use is the ‘Stable Channel’. On this channel, major updates are released every six weeks, with smaller tweaks and changes released every two weeks. This means that if bugs and errors occur they are fixed far faster and more efficiently than on either a Windows, Apple or Linux machine.Chomebook Change Release Channel   Forget Linux – A Chromebook is the Perfect Replacement for Windows XPOn the other end of the spectrum, the experimental ‘Development Channel’ receives updates twice per week, but due to a lack of thorough testing it can be buggy and unstable. It is not recommended for most users. This update frequency is in stark contrast to the user-experience offered by Microsoft’s infamous ‘Windows Update’ tool. For the inexperienced user it has always been unclear what each update does and its relative importance – not to mention the memory consumed by the non-stop stream of rollouts.

You Can Work Offline Using A Chromebook

Since Chromebooks were launched one of the main criticisms they faced is the lack of offline functionality. This argument no longer holds true with modern Chromebooks as all of Google’s native Chrome apps work offline, and there are a vast number of apps in the Web Store which work without a connection, from games and entertainment software through to productivity and academic tools.

What Are You Going To Do?

Are you still running Windows XP? Do you consider Chromebooks to be a viable alternative? What steps have you taken to either protect yourself or upgrade your systems? Let us know in the comments below.
Image Credits: TechnologyGuide TestLab Via Flickr Source:

How to Backup Your Android Phone Logs and SMS to Google Drive Spreadsheets

How to Backup Your Android Phone Logs and SMS to Google Drive Spreadsheets
By Mihir Patkar

Your Android smartphone only stores the last 30 days of phone calls made or received. Your text messages are also a mess after a point, especially with contacts you talk to often. If you want to keep this data safely backed up, the new IFTTT for Android will automatically store them forever in your Google Drive.
Of course, Titanium Backup is still the best backup solution for your Android smartphone, but remember that’s paid and only for rooted phones. Plus, it only keeps the data safely and doesn’t turn it into an easily searchable spreadsheet.
With the launch of IFTTT for Android, some users are already suggesting unusual automated recipes for the app. The folks at I Love Free Software came up with the idea of backing up phone logs, and we decided to take it further and back up our text messages while at it.

How To Backup Phone Logs

The process to backup your phone logs is pretty simple. Fire up the IFTTT for Android app and create a new recipe. To backup all your phone logs, we will be creating three different recipes—one for missed calls, another for received calls, and the third for calls you place.
IFTTT For Android Phone Logs SMS Google Drive Backup Phone   How to Backup Your Android Phone Logs and SMS to Google Drive Spreadsheets
  1. Tap the channel for “IF”. Scroll to select “Android Phone Call” and tap the blue plus sign next to “Any phone call placed”.
  2. Tap the channel for “Then”. Scroll to select “Google Drive” and tap the blue plus sign next to “Add row to spreadsheet”.
  3. Choose whether you want to receive notifications or not when the recipe runs and hit Finish.
That’s it. Now every time you make a phone call from your Android smartphone, it will be automatically backed up as a row in a spreadsheet file in your Google Drive, which looks something like this:
IFTTT For Android Phone Logs SMS Google Drive Backup Calls Sheet   How to Backup Your Android Phone Logs and SMS to Google Drive Spreadsheets
As you can see, it logs the date and time, the phone number (blurred in above image), the contact, and the duration of the call. In the recipe’s settings, you can change these elements or their order.
Using the same method, you can also create new spreadsheets for phone calls answered and phone calls missed, selecting those in the first step.
Note that this only backs up the call logs and does not record the phone call itself. You need a different method to automatically record calls and never run out of space.

How To Backup Text Messages

Backing up your SMS is similar to how you backup phone logs.
IFTTT For Android Phone Logs SMS Google Drive Backup Texts   How to Backup Your Android Phone Logs and SMS to Google Drive Spreadsheets
  1. Tap the channel for “IF”. Scroll to select “Android SMS” and tap the blue plus sign next to “Any new SMS received”.
  2. Tap the channel for “Then”. Scroll to select “Google Drive” and tap the blue plus sign next to “Add row to spreadsheet”.
  3. Choose whether you want to receive notifications or not when the recipe runs and hit Finish.
And just like that, a new spreadsheet will be created for all the SMSes you get from now on. Note that it does not work with MMS media. In total, you will get five different spreadsheets—three for calls (answered, placed, missed) and two for text messages (received, sent).
IFTTT For Android Phone Logs SMS Google Drive Backup 01   How to Backup Your Android Phone Logs and SMS to Google Drive Spreadsheets
This method does not cover older messages, but we have a workaround for that. Download and install SMS Backup & Restore from the Play Store, run it and follow the instructions to create a backup. Once that is done, you will find an option to export the backup as a CSV file. This CSV file can be opened in any spreadsheet app. Just copy and paste it into a Google Drive spreadsheet and you’re done!

Share Your IFTTT For Android Recipes

When it comes to the web, the ultimate IFTTT guide covers most scenarios you will need. But the automation app is new to Android and people are still discovering its many potentials. So if you have some cool IFTTT for Android recipe, share it in the comments below!

Free Digital Painting Apps for Android

The Top 3 Free Digital Painting Apps for Android

The Top 3 Free Digital Painting Apps for Android

By Andre Infante

So let’s say you aren’t made of money. Digital painting is a great medium — cheap, convenient, you’ve got an easy undo feature – but you need a $50 Wacom tablet, and who has that in the couch cushions?  Luckily, odds are pretty good that you’ve already got a high-resolution touchscreen in your pocket.  Last month, I wrote about a number of digital painting apps for Windows – today, I’ll be running down the three best free digital painting apps for Android phones and tablets.
Unfortunately, due to the computational limits of current smartphones, most of these apps won’t do the kind of detailed material simulation needed to get that authentic paint look. However, they can still be useful for practicing your sketching on the go, and they can produce good results. To test each of them, I drew a simple eye using each app, to show you what’s possible.

Infinite Painter

Infinite painter, a decently full-featured painting program, benefits a lot from having a well-thought out user interface. The relevant buttons (including easily accessible undo and redo buttons) are all aligned in a narrow strip along the bottom of the screen. Picking a brush and color are easy, and you can bring up the brush editor with one tap. There’s also a menu button to access more complex features, like transparency and distortion. The interface is also attractive looking — the black on gray evokes a leather sketchbook.
InfinitePainterReal   The Top 3 Free Digital Painting Apps for Android
Crucially, the app also implements a really solid set of multi-touch gestures, allowing you to spin, zoom, and translate the canvas — a critical feature when working on a small phone screen, as it allows you to zoom in and work on the details of a small portion of the image whenever you feel like it. The app comes with a couple hundred brushes, running the gamut from the useful to the gimmicky.
Although only about 30 of the brushes are available in the free version, you still don’t feel cramped for options. Plus, the app is fast. The lines keep up effortlessly with finger motion, making control smoother and more intuitive.
infinitepainterpainting   The Top 3 Free Digital Painting Apps for Android
The main headline image for this article was created in about ten minutes using Infinite Painter, then touched up in GIMP, an open-source image editor for PC.  To read more about Infinite Painter, check out our full app review.

Sketch Guru

When you first open up Sketch Guru, the first thing that strikes you is that it is not an attractive app. Where Infinite Painter is refined, Sketch Guru is garish. The menu looks like the aftermath of a toddler’s raid on the glowsticks.
SketchGuruUI   The Top 3 Free Digital Painting Apps for Android
Once you get past the main menu, though, the app starts to make a lot more sense. Granted, the actual user interface is a lot more colorful than the other entries on this list, but it is more subdued than the main menu might lead you to believe. The layout is similar to Infinite Painter — a basic set of quick-reference utilities aligned along the bottom of the screen.
The cool thing about Sketch Guru is the dynamic brushes, which generate complex line patterns based on the motion vector of your finger. While this technically gives you less control over the final look and feel of the piece, it can give a lot of natural texture to your work, and can be a lot of fun if you’re just messing around.
SketchGuruPainting   The Top 3 Free Digital Painting Apps for Android
Now for the bad: the selection of brushes in Sketch Guru is pretty limited, and, while it is possible to zoom and pan, using those gestured is a lot more tedious, which makes the basic workflow significantly less natural. On the up side, the performance is just fine, and the app was very stable and responsive.


SketchBookXUI   The Top 3 Free Digital Painting Apps for Android
SketchbookX by Autodesk is an attempt at a more full-featured image editor for Android, produced by a large company notable outside the mobile space (Autodesk is the creator of Maya and 3DS Max — or, as you know them, the software used to make every summer blockbuster and video game you’ve ever heard of). It includes several draw modes (including straight lines and shapes), support for layers, support for text, and image tools like a color picker and a bucket fill.
SketchbookXPainting   The Top 3 Free Digital Painting Apps for Android
The app’s user interface is a little more cluttered than Infinite Painter, but still perfectly useable, although hiding the undo and redo buttons under the “more” button was a little cumbersome. The app performs well too, and the design is clean and the individual menus are well designed. The multi-touch gestures worked well, and the actual drawing was a joy to use.

Which Is The Best?

Of the three, Infinite Painter was my favorite, but you’ll probably need to try all of them to decide which one is right for you.
Try them out and let us know what you think!  Did we miss any great painting apps for android?  Would you like to see an article about painting apps on iOS?  Leave us a comment!

13 Essential Gmail Terms and Features You Should Know About

By Akshata Shanbhag Are labels the same as folders? How are both different from categories? You might have questions like these abo...