Category: Arts & Entertainment (Page 1 of 4)

Image Background Removal

Image Background Removal

When working with photos, a common task might be image background removal. This is where you edit the picture so that the background and miscellaneous details are wiped out. You’re just left with the subject of the photo.

Maybe you need to do this with your headshot, for your LinkedIn Profile. Or perhaps you have something more creative in mind. Whatever your pursuits, removing the background of a picture is very easy to do. You do not need Adobe Photoshop or other complex tools for this.

The Photos App in Windows 11

Microsoft has built this popular function into all new PCs. It’s hiding in the Photos app. Just open your pic in Photos and click the Edit Image button to the top left. Then click the Background button to the upper right and use the Remove function that appears.

The Preview App in MacOS

Apple has put this functionality in their Preview app. If you open your photo in Preview, then you can follow these steps and remove the background.

If you’re running the latest MacOS (Ventura), you may also right-click (command-click) any photo in Finder, select Quick Actions and then click Remove Background.

Free Websites

There are also countless websites that offer image background removal. A longtime classic is that is now owned by Canva. Photoroom also offers this tool for free. It looks like Pixlr has added this in, too.

These websites are extra-convenient, especially if you are using a Chromebook or other limited device. They promise to respect your privacy with whatever photos you supply, but I still wouldn’t upload anything sensitive.

The Beekeeper

the beekeeper a movie review

You can tell what kind of movie The Beekeeper is before you watch it.  If its star Jason Statham isn’t a dead giveaway, then the movie trailers surely reveal this as a “lone-killer-out-for-vengeance” film.  You may have seen one or two of these already: John Wick, The Equalizer, Nobody.  Kingsman, Taken, Hardcore Henry.  The Professional, Collateral, The Accountant.  The Beekeeper follows the trope well, and will deliver gratuitous, creative and merciless violence for 105 minutes.

If that sounds like your cup of tea, then I recommend you check out this movie!  I don’t want to label (most) movies as good or bad, and, despite my opening, I think this is an enjoyable film.  Plus, it brings an important issue to the big screen: tech scams.

The Beekeeper’s story begins with a common technology scam, much like those that I write about so often on my blog: A pop-up appears on someone’s computer. They believe the scammy message and dial the on-screen telephone number. Cybercriminals answer the call and trick the person into allowing remote-access of their computer and bank accounts. All of the money is quickly stolen and the victim is shook to their core.

In true Hollywood-fashion, the movie plays fast and loose with the truth and details. But here I didn’t mind it so much. The core of the scam is accurate enough, and I am so very satisfied to see this crime shown in a mainstream film. Representation is important! I appreciate director David Ayer for this, because his film could help “ring a bell” and save someone from falling for a real-life computer scam.

For the rest of the movie, I recommend you relax and don’t think too much. The Beekeeper is meant to be entertaining and not cerebral. The score tells you when a bad guy has entered the frame. All of the actors, even the scammers, are good-looking. Villains shoot up some beehives and escape unscathed. (My beekeeper wife would surely roll her eyes at such silliness, but we’d have a much shorter movie if all the bad guys perished in the first act to a swarm of angry bees.)

I did notice that The Beekeeper missed the opportunity of using an uncapping knife in battle. Those things are dreadfully sharp, and would’ve fit the bee-motif in a clever way.

Overall, though, I appreciated the moral core that surfaced from behind all of the coarse language and brutality. I thought The Beekeeper had great camerawork and set-pieces. It’s no perfect film, by any means, but I’m sure to rewatch it someday. I’ll give it a Bee-Plus.

Free Audio Editing Software

free audio editing software

For those looking to edit audio files, or mix and create digital music files, please consider these open source options. There are a lot of free audio editing software options out there!

Audacity is the mainstay for editing and recording, and is available for Windows, MacOS and Linux. It looks like you might even get this to install on a Chromebook. And they still offer legacy downloads that may work on very old computers.

LMMS is comparable to Audacity, but more for editing and not recording. It’s available Windows, MacOS and Linux.

GarageBand is for Apple devices only, and is a digital audio workstation, like LMMS. You can get it for your Apple computer or iOS device, but it is not available for Windows computers. If you encounter anyone offering GarageBand for PCs, beware, it is likely a scam or a virus!

WaveShop is like Audacity, but old-school. Try this one if you like the retro feel, or if you have a very old Windows computer that can’t handle newer software.

Mixxx is more for DJs and mixing together audio tracks. It works on Windows, MacOS and Linux.

Free Flight Simulators

free flight simulators

Google isn’t the only one to offer simulated flight. If you’re looking to take to the skies from your computer screen, check out all these free flight simulators:

Google Earth Pro: downloadable for Windows, MacOS and Linux computers, after you launch the software, click Tools and choose Enter Flight Simulator.

Geo-FS: this one is web-based, meaning you should be able to use it in any browser on any type of computer.

YSFlight: downloadable for Windows, MacOS and Linux computers.

FlightGear: downloadable for Windows, MacOS and Linux computers.

DCSWorld: for Windows only, and is more battle/mission-oriented

Free Illustration Software

free illustration software

If you’re looking to create digital drawings and other graphics, you’ll need to find a suitable software. Adobe Illustrator is the professional mainstay for this. But the pricetag for that is considerable, and I like to promote free software choices. Here are some fantastic free illustration software offerings, for you to try!

Krita is highly regarded as a professional-grade painting program. You’re welcome to install it on Windows, MacOS or linux.

Inkscape is a similar full-featured software, and is also downloadable for Windows, MacOS and Linux systems.

Sumo Paint allows you to draw and create in your browser, so it’s largely OS-independent. Use on your Chromebook, if you like!

ArtWeaver has a free version that you may install on Windows only.

Sketchbook is available for Windows, MacOS, Android and iOS. It has a $20 pricetag if you want it for your computer, but is free to download onto any mobile device.

Microsoft offers two apps for digital art creation, one is Paint 3D and the other is Fresh Paint. These are both free, but also only for Windows.

Adobe Fresco is a freemium offering, for iOS and Windows devices. By freemium, I mean that it starts out free, but as you bump into the limitations of the app, Adobe is ready to sell you the extra features they have locked up. Adobe Fresco is not (yet) available for Android or MacOS.

Vectornator is only available for iOS (iPhones & iPads).

You’ll find that some photo-editing apps also help with drawing projects, but what I’ve listed here are focused on art creation and likely offer the best tools for that. Enjoy!

PS: Adobe Express is a new free web-based tool to consider. It’s trying to do a lot of things, ranging from photo-editing to graphics creation to helping with your social media posts and videos. It could be a great freebie for any of your graphic design pursuits!

Online Piracy

Please avoid online piracy. And by piracy, I mean: Downloading movies/music/software from ersatz sources without paying for them. Just don’t do it. You’ll live to regret it.

I won’t preach or get all moral about this. That’s for other people to do. And I can’t judge; I’m sure I’ve poached an album or two, back in the day. Instead of appealing to your ethics, I want you to appreciate this matter from a computer security standpoint. Pirated downloads carry with them a risk of infection.

When you obtain and open a cracked software package, or start to watch that movie you saw posted on Twitter, how do you know what’s in there? Some of these popular pirated movies come with a dose of malware. Your antivirus may not block the viral load. Your VPN doesn’t matter. And the infections can range from nuisance pop-up ads to serious password and data theft. Yikes!

Look, I’m as excited as many of you are to own and re-watch the new Super Mario flick. But online piracy has a cost that you can compare against the price of what you want to enjoy. Weigh it like this: You can buy a streaming copy of the aforementioned movie, through legitimate means, right now for $30. (That price will come down as the Blu-rays are released in a month or two.) Or you can take your chances with a torrented copy or pirate download from some shady link, and then pay me to fix your computer. My labor fee for virus-cleanup is typically a bit higher than the price of a properly-bought film.

PS: Besides the viral risk, there is also a non-zero chance that you could get in legal trouble. It’s rare, I’ll admit, but I have seen a few people get some nasty threatening letters from lawyers, over the years. Getting one of those letters is sure to ruin your weekend.

Steam Card Scams

Steam Cards function like gift cards: you spend an amount of money for the card, to be able to use that as a voucher on the Steam website for purchasing video games and other software. And like any other gift card, Steam Cards are often targeted in scams.

Steam Cards can be bought at physical stores or online through the Steam website. They’re often on display with other gift cards, but the scams that involved Steam cards are a little bit different than you’d expect.

Examples of Steam Scams

  • You find yourself locked out of your Steam account, and someone is contacting you to help you regain access to it. But they need you to buy a Steam Card and send them the number from it before anything can be restored.
  • Someone messages you, stating, “I accidentally reported your account and am worried that you will be banned from Steam. Contact Steam Support at this number/email and do what they say to remove the account ban!” And if you cooperate, the fake support person will threaten to delete your entire library of games unless you buy Steam Cards for them.
  • An attractive person messages you over Steam or Discord, asking for Steam Card Codes, so that they can play the same games with you. Instead of pressure tactics, they may be flirtatious or send racy photos.
  • You encounter a Bitcoin investment opportunity, where you fund it with Steam Wallet eGift Cards.

In any case, treat Steam Cards as you would all gift cards: They are equivalent to cash, and should only be given to people you know and trust. Treat unexpected requests for Steam Cards as you would any other gift card scam. Shut it down as soon as you recognize it. Block or avoid the person trying to commit the scam.

If you don’t use Steam, you may still need to be aware of all of this to safeguard any young gamers in your household. As your children or grandchildren come asking for Steam funds, make sure everything is on the level. Check that they want these cards for their own use. If you learn that they want a Steam Card for something other than just buying a game, you may have a teachable moment on your hands!

Vudu’s Disc to Digital Program

If you like to buy and collect digital copies of movies, then you need to know about Vudu and their Disc to Digital offering. Using this program, you can add a digital movie to your library for $2 or $5. This is typically far cheaper than buying a digital movie from other vendors.

How this works is based on the movies you already physically own. You are buying a digital license for a DVD or Blu-ray that you have in hand. The process goes like this:

  1. On your smartphone or tablet, go to
  2. Scroll down to the Convert Disc button and tap it.
  3. Tap the next Convert Disc button and take a picture of a barcode from a DVD or Blu-ray case that you have on hand.

If Vudu can offer that movie to you as a digital copy, you will then have the chance to pay $2 or $5 for it. If the movie is not available for this program, Vudu will let you know.

Other Details & Thoughts

Not all movies are eligible for Vudu Disc to Digital, and I can’t find any “master list” of films, showing what’s accepted or not. But Vudu Support says that if you see the Movies Anywhere logo on the case, it should work. For older movies, you can only check by scanning, to find out if it can purchased.

While this is intended for you to expand your digital library based on your physical library, I don’t see much security or restriction to how this process works. So, thinking outside the box, this program would also work for you if you checked a movie out of the public library and scanned its barcode. Or borrowed a movie from a friend, and decided you wanted to add it to your digital library before returning it. All that is necessary is that you scan the official barcode from the movie clamshell case and pay the nominal fee.

And I have to say, I was astounded by one success I had personally with this program. I have a particular movie on Blu-ray that is out-of-print. At this point, it is not available for streaming, and can only be bought through collectors & shylocks on eBay. But somehow, Vudu’s D2D program allowed me to buy a digital copy for $2. Now I can stream and download a movie that I thought only existed on disc.

Steam Tweak to Reduce CPU Usage

Some clever people over on Reddit have figured out that the Steam Client sometimes gobbles up too much of your CPU. If you see Steam using too many resources in Task Manager, try these steps. It may lighten the load that Steam places on your gaming rig.

  • Open Steam.
  • In the lower-right corner, click Friends & Chat.
  • On the Friends window, click the cogwheel icon.
  • Go to the last option for “Enable Animated Avatars…” and switch it Off.

The Fortnite Settlement

If you play Fortnite, you may want to keep tabs on this: Epic Game, the maker of Fortnite, has to pay over a half of a billion dollars to our federal government. This is a settlement over charging players for unwanted items, as well as locking people out of the game when they tried to dispute charges.

And a lot of that money will come back to Fortnite players! But… the FTC hasn’t figured out that part yet. I’m sure it’ll come out soon. If this affects you, keep an eye on the FTC page about this settlement, or sign up for FTC email updates.

« Older posts

© 2024 BlueScreen Computer

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑