Tip o’ the Week 462 – Instagram photos on your PC

clip_image001If you’re an Instagram fan, you’ll no doubt be quite used to posting, browsing, liking and hashtagging everything in sight, using your phone. If you like editing photos on your PC, however, there’s no simple way to upload pics to post as Instagram photos.

Instagram continually toys with their UI and the capabilities of the app – not always to great acclaim – and also offers a browser experience that lets you find and interact with content, but not upload it yourself. Various third parties offer other tools that integrate with Instagram – like the Top Nine meme that celebs were posting, showing their best pics of 2018.

clip_image003The Instagram Windows 10 app does give the option to upload photos by clicking or tapping the + icon in the toolbar along the bottom, but it can occasionally be a bit slow, and it only lets you clip_image005choose photos from your camera roll folder.

The Instagram app sometimes goes a little berserk, too.

There is a technique to use your PC to upload anything to Instagram, though, and it involves fooling the web site into thinking you’re on a mobile device rather than a PC. Start by signing into www.instagram.com using your existing Instagram or FB credentials. You’ll see a particular  UI with no + button in sight.

clip_image007Assuming you’re on Edge browser, press F12 to go into Developer Tools mode (or if you’re using a keyboard that’s a pain to get to function keys, click on the clip_image009ellipsis on the top right to bring up the menu, choose More Tools, Developer Tools).

When you see the Dev Tools pane appear, go to Emulation.

Now choose a device or set a browser profile that will tell the Instagram site that you’re using a phone… even a defunct one (at least while Instagram supports that profile – someday, you may need to tweak the other settings).

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And bingo; click on the ickle + icon on the bottom and you’ll get a regular Windows Explorer file dialog box that can be used to select and upload a photo from anywhere you like.

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clip_image015Chrome domes can do a similar thing, using Developer Tools (menu – More tools – Developer tools, or press CTRL+SHIFT+I) and then toggle a device toolbar that lets you test the page as if it was running on a different device.

Strangely, Windows Phone doesn’t appear as one of the default options, but you can, if you want, add a Nokia 520 back in.

Tip o’ the Week 460 – AI, AI, Oh…

clip_image002Artificial Intelligence has been dreamt of for decades, where machines will be as smart – or maybe smarter – than humans. AI in popular consciousness is not just a rubbish film, but if you’re a brainless tabloid journalist, then it means Siri and Alexa (assuming you have connectivity, obvs … and hope there’s no Human Stupidity that forgot to renew a certificate or anything), and AI is also about the robots that are coming to kill us all.

Of course, many of us know AI as a term used to refer to a host of related technologies, such as speech and natural language recognition, visual identification and machine learning. For a great example on practical and potentially revolutionary uses of AI, see Dr Chris Bishop’s talk at Future Decoded 2018 – watch day 1 highlights starting from 1:39, or jump to 1:50 for the example of the company using machine learning to make some world-changing medical advances.

clip_image004Back in the mundane world for most of us, AI technologies are getting more visible and everyday useful – like in OneDrive, where many improvements including various AI investments are starting to show up.

One simple example is image searching – if you upload photos to consumer OneDrive (directly from your phone perhaps), the OneDrive service will now scan images for text that can be recognized… so if you took a photo of a receipt for expenses, OneDrive might be able to find it if you can remember what kind of food it was.

clip_image006There’s also a neat capability where OneDrive will try to tag your photos automatically – just go into www.onedrive.com and look under Photos, where you’ll see grid of thumbnails of your pictures arranged by date, but also the ability to summarise by album, by place (from the geo-location of your camera phone) clip_image008or by Tag. You can edit and add your own, but it’s an interesting start to see what the visual search technology has decided your photos are about… not always 100% accurately, admittedly…

More AI goodness is to come to Office 365 and OneDrive users in the near future – automatically transcribing content from videos stored online (using the same technology from the Azure Video Indexer and Microsoft Stream), to real-time PowerPoint captions. Watch this space… and mind the robots.

Tip o’ the Week 458 – Grabbing pictures from websites

clip_image001There are plenty of reasons why you might want to get the URL of a picture that is embedded on a web page, and some of them don’t even risk breaching the copyright of the image’s owner or page author!

Legitimate examples might include things like downloading a company logo from its website so you can include it in a PowerPoint slide; try going to just about any major company site and you’ll probably find it’s not straightforward to save the image file. Ditto all sorts of clever pages that might stop you simply saving the picture to your PC.

clip_image003clip_image005Normal behaviour is, mostly, to just right-click on an image and in Edge, you’ll be able to save the picture (or use Cortana to try to give you more details on the image, even trying to guess what’s in the image depending on how straightforward it is – it’s surprisingly good). Ditto, if you’re using Chrome, except you can search Google instead. Try the same on a company logo, and you may find you won’t get the option to save or search.

If you want to grab the actual URL for an image on a web page, the clip_image006foolproof way of getting it is to look at the source – if you don’t mind fishing through maybe a few thousand lines of HTML. It’s not too bad if the image is at the top of the page, but it could prove tedious if elsewhere. In Edge, an easier solution would be to right-click on the image and choose, Inspect element. You may need to press F12 to get these options in your right-click menu. Chrome has a similar thing, simply called Inspect, and can be invoked by CTRL-SHIFT-I.

The Inspect Element funciton in browsers is designed to help web page debugging; it’ll let a user or designer jump straight to the section of a web page’s source, and inspect or even modify the code behind the page.

clip_image008As an example, right-click on the logo on www.microsoft.com and Inspect Element. You’ll see the highlighted section is the bit where the logo sits on the page, and immediately next in the hierarchical representation of the page code, you’ll see the <img> tag, denoting that this pertains to the image itself.

Look for the src= part, double-click on it and you’ll see the URL of the image in an editable text box, meaning you can easily copy that to the clipboard and get ready to paste it wherever you need it clip_image010to go. Try pasting it into a new browser tab just to check that all you’re getting is the logo.

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Using a search engine

Of course, there may be easier ways to get an image – using Bing or Google search, for example.

Bing is actually quite a bit better in this regard. When you click on an image in the results from Bing’s Image search, you’ll see a larger preview of the picture along with a few actions you can take – like jump to the originating page; search for other sizes of the same image; use Visual Search to run a query on just some selectable portion of the image; or simply just view it in the browser, thereby opening just that image and showing you the direct URL to it.

In the case of both Google and Bing, if you click on “Share”, then you’ll get a link to the search result of that image rather than the picture itself – so if your plan is to embed the image in another web page or upload it to some other place, then you’ll be frustrated.

clip_image012Another legitimate use of the original URL for a logo might be to change the icon in Teams – assuming you have permissions to Manage a team site (click the ellipsis to the right of the clip_image013name and if you’re suitably perm-ed up, when you click on the Manage Team option, you’ll see a little pencil icon on the logo if you hover over it. Click that to change the picture).

Simply choose Upload picture, paste in the URL of the logo you want to use and you’re off to the races.

Figuratively speaking, anyway. You might have to jigger about with the proportions of the image by downloading it first and editing it elsewhere, as the image will need to be more-or-less square. Built-in icons in Teams appear to be 240×240 pixels in size so you could try to target that if you’re resizing.

Tip o’ the Week 442 – Whose phone? Your phone…

clip_image002Back at the May 2018 Build conference, an app for Windows was previewed, which would allow you to manage content from your phone, on your PC – “Your Phone”.

If you’re an Android user, and a Windows Insider, then you can get a preview version of the Your Phone app for the PC; after starting the app on the clip_image004PC, it will ask for your mobile number and text you a link to download an updated version of the Microsoft Apps app (ya falla?). Download the update, sign in as appropriate, and suddenly your photos on the phone will start appearing in near real-time on your PC.

The Your Phone app actually uses a Wi-Fi connection on the phone to sync content with the PC – they don’t need to be on the same network but they do need to be able to talk to the back end service that coordinates things. For now, it just does photos (and only on Android), but in time, more services will be added. See more details here. And here.

clip_image006The photo sharing capability is pretty cool – if you ever find yourself taking a photo on your phone and then immediately wanting to use it on your PC, then your alternatives are either to wait for OneDrive to sync your new pic from phone to cloud (and then back down to your PC)… or plug the phone in on a USB cable and root about in its file system to find the photo. Or the worst, but probably most used: you email the photo from your phone, to yourself…

Some features of Your Phone will be tied to particular preview versions of Windows 10 – such as the recent latest build, 17228.

Tip o’ the Week 438 – Bing’s Visual search

clip_image002In an effort to attract users to the perennially under-rated search engine Bing, the service launched a “visual search” function some time ago (ToW 397). There have been some recent updates to mobile apps, enabling search capabilities from an image. Similar images will be identified or major subjects could be spotted, using AI technology to try to figure out what’s in the image, as well as find related info.

The Bing Search app and the Edge browser for both iOS and Android have been updated, as has the Microsoft Launcher for Android – each has added a little camera icon to the Search box, which makes it easy to take a pic and upload it to Bing for analysis. The Bing app can also scan QR codes and the Launcher can scan barcodes too. More features are promised for all 3 methods of app-based visual search, and for the Bing web site itself.

To use visual search in the Launcher, swipe from the left at the home screen and you’ll get the “Feed” page (a customisable summary of news, activities, apps, contacts etc), the top of which has a search bar with a camera and a mic (though if you’ve used the barcode scan in the Launcher, the camera will be replaced with a scanner symbol – just tap that as if to scan a new barcode, then tap the barcode with an X in the top right to revert back to camera).

If the results you get aren’t quite spot on at first, you could direct visual search to focus on a particular part of your snap – tap the magnifying glass in the top right, move the edges of the area to filter out any peripheral nonsense, and you may find results improve.

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Tip o’ the Week 418 – Preview Apps on Windows 10

clip_image002The Insider Program for Windows 10 is one of the largest public beta program in software development history with over 10m active users. There are various options for how much on the bleeding edge you’d like to be (eg how much pain are you prepared to tolerate, in order to get to play with stuff long before everyone else?) – and the “hit me baby” version, called Skip Ahead, is already now testing the next update to Windows (RS5) that will come after the one that’s due for release in the spring (RS4), which is still in the rest of the test branches. Capiche?

Way down in the text of the latest announcement, there’s mention of a new “App Preview” program which lets the quick & the brave get access to cool but maybe unfinished updates to Apps they like, but maybe aren’t as dependent on, as the stability of the whole operating system.

The first wave of apps that are Preview-enabled, will let more cautious Insiders experience the latest versions of …

  • Feedback Hub
  • Microsoft Photos
  • Microsoft Sticky Notes
  • Viewer
  • Microsoft Tips
  • Paint 3D
  • Windows Alarms & Clock
  • Windows Voice Recorder
  • Windows Calculator
  • Windows Camera
  • Windows Mixed Reality

clip_image004… by opting in, through going into the Settings within the appropriate app and choosing to join the fun. The app will update in the background, and may change the app title & version number…

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There are regular updates to the core apps for every Windows user, not running an Insider build. If you’d like to check, just go into the Store, activate the “…” ellipsis on the top right, and choose Downloads and updates, and review the list to see what apps have been updated and when, or hit “Get updates” to check for published updates to other apps.

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The Photos app has a new opt-in feature, in conjunction with a test app that is designed to make it easy to share Photos from a phone to a PC; even if you’re not running an Insider build, you can turn on the mobile import…

The “Photos Companion” test app makes a point-to-point connection between phone & PC (ie they need to both be on the same network), and by going to the Import menu within the PC Photo app, a QR code will be displayed on-screen.

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clip_image010Start the app on your phone, point at the QR code and you’ll quickly be able to send the selected photos from phone to PC.

Of course, you could use OneDrive on your mobile device to automatically sync photos to a Camera Roll folder in your cloud storage location; it has a bit of latency, usually, so you might find it takes a few minutes before the photo you’ve just taken has uploaded and is ready to be accessed or shared.

The Import over WiFi feature is handy to share right away, or to share with PCs that aren’t set up with your OneDrive, such as a friend’s PC, or if you’re working on a project where you want to collect photos from a group of people in a short space of time – maybe doing a collaborative video or something similar?