Feb 27, 2018

How to Record your Android Screen with the YouTube Gaming App

YouTube’s gaming platform, available at gaming.youtube.com, primarily focuses on live streaming of video games. It may not have an audience as large as Amazon’s Twitch TV but there exist a few unique features that make the YT Gaming app useful for everyone, not just professional gamers.

One, you don’t need additional hardware or software to live stream your games to YouTube. You can do a quick live stream from your desktop as well as your mobile phone. And the most interesting part, YT Gaming isn’t just for recording gameplay but can be used to record screencasts of any app on your Android phone.

How to Record Screencasts on Android with YouTube

Here’s a step by step guide on how to create screencasts on your Android phone via the YouTube app. Standalone screencasting apps may offer more features but with YT Gaming, the big benefit is that you can even live stream your phone on to YouTube with a tap. The app is free and there are no ads. Let’s get started.

Android Screencast with YouTube

Launch YT Gaming on Android and click the Go Live button. You may choose to live stream your phone directly or record the screencast first, edit the video and then upload it to YouTube.

One the next screen, select an Android App that you’d like to stream. YT Gaming will show a list of apps that fit in the ‘gaming’ category but can you click the ‘All Apps’ link to screencast any app that’s installed on your Android phone.

The recorder will stream everything you do while the session is on including incoming notifications and the text you type in input boxes. Also, it will record the audio from the speaker as well as surrounding sound though you do get an option to mute the microphone. The front camera can be turned off as well.

video-screencast-editor.jpg

After you are done recording, swipe down the notification drawer and tap to stop the session. You can now perform basic video editing before uploading the video to YouTube. For instance, you can replace the ambient audio with background music, trim the video or apply video effects like sepia, B&W and more.

That’s it. Your screencast video is now ready to share with the world.

Also see: How to Create Screencasts with YouTube



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Feb 22, 2018

How to Make Pixel Paintings with Google Spreadsheets

You are using Google Spreadsheets for budgeting and project management but did you know that the same sheets application can help you create impressive pixel paintings in minutes? The Google blog recently published a story of two illustrators who created a bright and beautiful wall mural using Google Spreadsheets.

Marina and Mallory connected on Google Hangouts to plan and sketch out ideas, and creatively “hack” Sheets in order to make art: resizing cells into thousands of pixel-like squares, merging cells to create color blocks, creating vibrant color gradients with conditional formatting and cell values, and other cool things we had no idea you could do with Sheets.

The idea is simple. Each cell in the spreadsheet corresponds to a pixel in the painting. You compute the color of the pixel and make it the background color of the corresponding cell. Now resize the spreadsheet cells in small perfect squares and your spreadsheet will look exactly like the original artwork.

How to Paint with Google Spreadsheets

If you would like to create your own spreadsheet art but don’t have the time to carefully paint every cell manually, here’s a simple workaround for you. You can take any photograph, vector art, or any other image and use a Google Script to convert that bitmap image into spreadsheet art.

Here are some examples of art created with Google Spreadsheets.

Watch the video tutorial or open this Google Sheet for sample artwork.

Create Pixel Art with Google Sheets

It takes two easy steps to make pixel art with Google Sheets.

  1. Open the Google Spreadsheet template and create a copy of the sheet in your own Google Drive.
  2. Go to the Spreadsheet Art menu and upload the image from your desktop. You can use images of any size or resolution.

The underlying Google Script will now parse every single pixel of your image and write the corresponding hex color codes in the cells of the spreadsheet.

It will then set the background color of every cell same as the color of the corresponding pixel. If you have chosen the ’emoji’ option, the cell will be filled with the closes emoji that matches the color of the pixel.

In the last step, the script will resize the cells and turn them into perfect squares. That’s it. Your spreadsheet art is now ready.

The latest version of the Spreadsheet Art project can transform your pictures into emojis pixels as well. It takes the average color of the pixel, finds the closest emoji and adds it to the corresponding cell in the sheet. The emoji module is based on the work of Monica Dinculescu.

The end result may appear slightly pixelated (video) because we have used a small image as the source template but impressive nonetheless. You can download the Google Sheet as a PDF file or save it in Microsoft Excel format.

Check this Google Sheet for more examples.



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Feb 20, 2018

How to Keep your Folders on FTP Server and Google Drive in Sync

How do you connect an FTP server to your Google Drive or Dropbox for transferring files in either direction automatically?

Well, the easiest option would be to use a desktop FTP client like Cyberduck (supports Mac & Windows, free) or Transmit (Mac only, paid). These software applications can connect to all the popular cloud storage services including Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox and Amazon S3. They can perform a remote-to-remote sync allowing you to recursively transfer files and folders from the FTP server to any cloud service and vice versa.

The only issue with using a desktop application is that it needs to be run manually on your computer. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could set up a task that continuously monitors your Google Drive (or Dropbox or OneDrive) for new files and automatically copies them to a specified FTP server?

Transfer Files from FTP Server to Google Drive

Enter Microsoft Flow, an online automation service that lets you create automated workflows similar to Zapier and IFTTT. The free plan lets you create unlimited workflows and each workflow would run every 15 minutes. And it is the only service in town that can simultaneously talk to Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox and FTP /SFTP servers.

google-drive-ftp.png

Let’s create a connector that will upload a copy of the file to Google Drive whenever a file is added to Google Drive. You can similarly setup workflows to sync files from a folder in Dropbox to folder on FTP server. Or connect to Gmail and download emails to your FTP server automatically in the background.

  1. Go the Microsoft Flow Connectors page and activate the FTP (or SFTP) service.
  2. Next select the trigger that should start the workflow. In our case, we’ll choose “When a file is added to the FTP server”
  3. Specify the host address, the username and the password for your FTP server. If you are using SFTP, you may also need to specify the SSH private key and passphrase.
  4. On the next screen specify the full path of the folder on the FTP server that should be monitored for new files.
  5. Click “Add an Action” for the New step, choose Google Drive from the connector list and set the action as “Create File”
  6. Select the folder in Google Drive where the files should be saved, set the file name and file content fields from the list of available files so they match the incoming file name and content.

Save the flow and test. Also checkout the documentation page to know about the various actions and triggers available for the FTP / SFTP connectors in Mcirosoft Flow.



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How to Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator outside Gmail and Google Chrome

Rapportive was one of my favourite Google Chrome extensions of all time. If you are new, Rapportive added a little widget in your Gmail sidebar, you could hover your mouse over any email address and the widget would show details for that contact including their current job title, social profiles, contact details and more.

This came handy in two situations. If you receive an email from an unknown person, you can quickly see their social profiles without leaving Gmail. If you are sending an email to someone but unsure if the address is correct or not, you can open the Gmail compose window, type the email address and hover your mouse to see if that person has an associated profile or not.

gmail-linkedin-profile

LinkedIn acquired Rapportive and rebranded the add-on as Sales Navigator targeted more towards the sales professional. The good part is that the original functionality continues to exist so you can still hover over any email address to view the corresponding Linked Profile right inside your Gmail Message.

Remove the LinkedIn Clutter in Gmail Sidebar

While the basic version of LinkedIn Sales Navigator is free, it is more cluttered and feels like a distracting advertisement for the premium version that is continuously displayed in your Gmail sidebar. See the screenshots below:

Gmail LinkedIn addon clean

If you would like to continue using Rapportive but sans the clutter, there are other CSS injecting Chrome extensions that can help. The idea is that you inject custom CSS into the Gmail website that hides any element on the page.

To get started, install User CSS in Chrome. Switch to the Gmail website, click the User CSS menu icon and add the following CSS code. The other good alternatives are StyleBot and User JS CSS if you prefer to inject JavaScript code in addition to user styles.

CSS for Gmail LinkedIn

Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator outside Gmail or Google Chrome

The Linked Sales Navigator add-on is the easiest way to find the LinkedIn profile of a person that is associated with a particular email address. Here’s how it works:

When you hover your mouse over an email address inside a Gmail message, the Chrome extension makes an HTTP request to a particular URL. The HTML response of that URL is rendered in the Gmail sidebar.

Open Demo Page

The interesting part is that this URL can be used outside the Chrome extension as well so you can just append any email address to that URL and get the corresponding LinkedIn profile.  The URL format is:

http://ift.tt/2ojKjWJemail@domain.com

Replace email@domain.com with any other email address, open the URL in any browser and you’ll have the basic LinkedIn profile, just like the one displayed inside Gmail.

Give it a shot by opening this page in your browser. The only constraint is that you should be logged in your LinkedIn account as anonymous requests are not allowed.

Also see: How to Verify an Email Address



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How to Verify an Email Address?

How do you verify if a given email address is real or fake? The obvious solution is that you send a test mail to that email address and if your message doesn’t bounce, it is safe to assume* that the address is real.

[*] Some web domains may have configured a catch-all email address meaning that messages addressed to a non-existent mailbox will not be returned to the sender but in most cases, such email messages will bounce.

Ping an Email Address to Validate it!

When you send an email to someone, the message goes to an SMTP server which then looks for the MX (Mail Exchange) records of the email recipient’s domain.

For instance, when you send an email to hello@gmail.com, the mail server will try to find the MX records for the gmail.com domain. If the records exist, the next step would be to determine whether that email username (hello in our example) exists or not.

Using a similar logic, we can verify an email address from the computer without actually sending an email message. Here’s how:

Let say that we want to verify if the address billgates@gmail.com exists or not?

Step 1. Enable telnet in Windows or use the PuTTy tool. If you are on a Mac, open the iTerm app.

Step 2. At the command prompt, type the nslookup command:

nslookup  –type=mx gmail.com

This nslookup command will query name servers for that domain. Since we have specified the type as MX, our command will extract and list the MX records of the email domain. Replace gmail.com with the domain of the email address that you are trying to verify.

gmail.com MX preference=30, exchanger = alt3.gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com
gmail.com MX preference=20, exchanger = alt2.gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com
gmail.com MX preference=5,  exchanger = gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com
gmail.com MX preference=10, exchanger = alt1.gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com
gmail.com MX preference=40, exchanger = alt4.gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com

Step 3. As you may have noticed in the nslookup output, it is not uncommon to have multiple MX records for a domain. Pick any one of the servers listed in the MX records, maybe the one with the lowest preference level number (in our example, gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com), and “pretend” to send an email message to that server from your computer.

For that, go to the command prompt window and type the following commands in the listed sequence:

3a: Connect to the mail server:

telnet gmail-smtp-in.l.google.com 25

3b: Say hello to the other server

HELO

3c: Identify yourself with some fictitious email address

mail from:<labnol@labnol.org>

3d: Type the recipient’s email address that you are trying to verify:

rcpt to:<billgates@gmail.com>

The server response for ‘rcpt to’ command will give you an idea whether an email address is valid or not. You’ll get an “OK” if the address exists else a 550 error like:

  • abc@gmail.com – The email account that you tried to reach does not exist.
  • support@gmail.com – The email account that you tried to reach is disabled.

That’s it! If the address is valid, you may perform reverse email search to find the person behind the address. And if you get stuck somewhere, this step-by-step video should help:



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Feb 19, 2018

Perform Text Analysis with IBM Watson and Google Docs

Google, Microsoft, IBM and Amazon have made it easier for developers to add human cognitive capabilities (also known as artificial intelligence) within their own applications. You need not be a machine learning expert to build a computer program that can recognize objects in photographs, or one that transforms human speech to text or even a chatbot that converses with people in natural language.

The Google Photos app leverages machine learning to identify landmarks and faces in your photos. You can even build and train your own machine learning models by installing Google’s TensorFlow library on your own computer. IBM’s PowerAI lets enterprises deploy TensorFlow like frameworks in the cloud on power systems for training custom machine learning models of any size.

The IBM Code Patterns microsite hosts hundreds of ready-to-use examples around artificial intelligence. For instance, here’s an open source repo that explains how to recognize images of houses that have swimming pools. Another example on Github shows how you can easily build a system that can detect and count products on store shelves using the PowerAI platform.

Train your own Machine Learning Model

If you would like to build your own image recognition engine without the complexity of servers and TensorFlow, try this online demo of the Watson Visual Recognition engine hosted the IBM Cloud (formerly Bluemix) website.

watson-image-recognition.png

You can create your own classifier and upload a set of images to train the classifier.  It is also essential to upload a set of negative images that may look similar but are different. Train the model and, in about a minute or so, your model is ready. Upload any image and the classifier will be able to tell if it matches any of your trained bundles.

IBM Watson + Google Docs for Natural Language Understanding

The Natural Language Processing (NLP) service of IBM Watson uses machine learning to extract entities, person names, places, and understand the overall sentiment and emotion of text. Amazon Comprehend and Google Natural Language are other competing platforms that offer powerful text analysis in the cloud.

ibm-watson-nlp.png

Getting started with Watson NLP is easy and all you need is an IBM Cloud account to get started. The lite plan is free (no credit card required), it never expires and the quota resets every month automatically.

I’ve built a sample Google Apps Script based app that uses Watson NLP to analyze the text in your Google Document. Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Copy this Google Document to your Google Drive
  2. Select the text in the document, go to the IBM Watson menu and choose the Analyze text menu.
  3. Grant the necessary authorization and you’ll see get a pop-up with the list of entities found in the selected text.

The Google Apps Script is open-source and you can find a copy of the source code inside Tools > Script Editor. If you ever run into quota limits, remember to replace the credentials in the source code with your own Bluemix account.

ibm-watson-google-docs.gif

Disclaimer: The writer attended IBM Code Day in Bangalore at the invitation of IBM. The travel and accommodation were arranged and paid for by IBM.



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