Stamp Image Bursting software

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Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by jadrake »

I have written a few tools to assist my stamp collecting. As a software architect by trade, I often using these tools as technology learning platforms to learn new techniques and area of the field (with the side benefit I can help organize my collection). One such application is my Stamp Image Bursting application.

This application was written because none of the image editing applications available to me allowed me to quickly burst a scanned image into smaller images and distribute these across a file structure. Currently I use a web-based application for managing my collections and the stamp images are stored on a static web-site under their country name by catalogue number. This application was written to try and reduce the number of clicks and key strokes as well as automatically handle the country folder heirarchy.

I put together a short video demo and uploaded it to Youtube to demo: http://youtu.be/228XRlCnHiM.

If there is any serious interesting in using it, in order to make it available to others, I need to modify some underlying code to not be dependent on my web-services and I need to resolve some licensing information on some third-party software I am using to be in compliance with their licenses. This isn't a huge amount of work, but it would be taking up my spare time (or lack thereof). :-)

I would make it freely available to anyone for use

Please take a look and let me know. I could probably have sometime available to release it publicly by New Years if there is interest.

Thanks

-Jason
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by mcgooley »

From a purely selfish viewpoint, I can see tremendous potential in my particular field (collecting postmarks) whereby this could/would simplify loading images into a spreadsheet.

I notice you can choose different formats for saving images. What is the optimal resolution this software would support? (If I have a poor strike, for example.) And, can you vary the resolution with images on the one page?

The other question would be the difficulty of embedding these images into an existing program, i.e. Excel. Is it possible to provide a direct link to a particular cell?

Nice work :D
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by sandgroper »

Amazing potential Jason, very clever software. I would love to access the software at some time.

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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by drvvr »

I dint click the link because, the link is http://www.youtu.be/xyz and not http://www.youtube.com/xyz... Is the video in youtube or a similar site?
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by pitronix »

Just the type of program I have been looking for, this would be very useful for all kind of collectors! You should definitely make it available to collectors! Great piece of software, congrats!!!
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by CollectorColin »

drvvr wrote:I dint click the link because, the link is http://www.youtu.be/xyz and not http://www.youtube.com/xyz... Is the video in youtube or a similar site?
youtu.be is a 'url shortener' run by Google. It allows the link to the video to be shortened. If you click on the link it takes you to the youtube page.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by muruk »

I currently do this using Microsoft Office Picture Manager.

Scan a stocksheet of, say, 40 stamps.

Make 40 copies of the sheet.

Open each copy and crop to one individual stamp.

A looooooong, tedious process.

I would certainly have a use for your burst application. :D

Very well done.

drvvr ... it seems the link is working OK for those of us that have looked ... it comes up as a youtube site.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by skilo54 »

Yep, I like it! Nice Job!!

So when can we expect this to be made available from you? I think you have a winner here!

Have a good one,

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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by norvic »

It's excellent, and would be ideal for those postmarks that we put on the British Postmark Database!

Please, tell us when it is available. Do you want it advertised wide? When you are ready I can mention it on other forums, twitter, and my blog.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by jadrake »

Thanks everyone for the great comments and feedback. I'll try and answer the questions below.

In terms of requirements, it would require Java 1.6 or higher to be installed, and approximately 1.0 GB of memory.

What needs to be done before I can release
As I stated, I have a few things to cleanup in the software prior to making it available. I expect end of December it'll be ready (I have family coming so this is why I am predicting end of December). The following is a list of the items I need to complete:
  • Since I am using some third-party software libraries (all open source) and other tools, I need to provide references to these tools on a Help "About" page. I just haven't bothered to do it yet (since it was only me using the software) but it is required for distribution on some of the licenses.
  • The country "drop-down" will likely be renamed to folder.
  • The list of countries comes from my web-services. Ideally I want to prompt on startup whether you are running in a connected fashion to my web-services (this would only be me), or locally. For locally I thought I should provide two options:
    (a) The ability to pick a flat file which is a list of the target folders (you could use Excel and save as CSV)
    (b) The ability to pick a directory and the direct child folders would form the target folder list.
  • The ability to add a folder "on the fly" to the drop down.
  • A little other cleanup and styling issues that are on my plate.
  • I need to setup my site for Web Start launching of the application (I'll have another post on this below)
  • Modify my internal distribution system to include creating snapshots of "public releases" so that I can have previous releases available.
Current features
In terms of features, the last one I added was the conflict handling to avoid naming conflicts. I was outputting a sheet and made a typo that caused a bunch of images to be overridden from a previous scan so I built in the conflict handling dialog to assist there.

Enhancements/Future Requirements
The only open defect/enhancement (other than that listed above), is the ability to mouse over the thumbnail and see an enlarged image. If you consider plate numbers on early GB, and you have a sheet you'll know what I mean!


Answers to forum questions
I'll answer these right away in my next post below.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by jadrake »

Answers to questions from members

mcgooley
What is the optimal resolution this software would support? (If I have a poor strike, for example.) And, can you vary the resolution with images on the one page
Currently this is only bound by memory. I have the web start launch set to 1.0GB of heap space (meaning you need about 1.5GB of memory in your computer). With this I have not had any problems processing full stock sheets scanned at 600DPI in JPEG format (which results in an image ~ 3500 x 4600). The image processing is a major consumer of memory but much of that is freed up upon completion of the bounding box determinations. Post marks shouldn't be a problem, but we'd have to test it a bit. Another feature I need to likely add is an options dialog to tweak some of threshold values. I have pretty decent defaults (as my video shows) but there are some values that can be used to tweak behavior. I currently do not support setting a maximal size output to scale to. I suppose that could be another feature in the future if there is such a need (I'll never get back to stamps at this rate!)
The other question would be the difficulty of embedding these images into an existing program, i.e. Excel. Is it possible to provide a direct link to a particular cell?
This doesn't interest me particularly too much because (a) I'd have to dig into Excel APIs (b) personally do not have a need for it. That being said, perhaps being able to provide an embed link on the clipboard or something might be a possibility.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by jadrake »

Deployment Options

With Java applications there is really two deployment options. I will outline them and denote the drawbacks and perhaps you can decide.

Java Web Start
A Java Web Start application is as simple as a visit to a webpage and click on the icon/link. Up launches the application. You can also install a shortcut locally on the desktop/program menu. The biggest benefit is as new versions are released the program will automatically download the newer version to run. There is no setup of file management required. Common third-party libraries will be reused if needed between different applications. The program can easily be removed from your Programs via control panel. The downside is it requires the application to be JAR signed (this is a process of verifying the JAR was built by a particular vendor using a certificate). Unfortunately I do not maintain a certificate (there used to be free ones, but to tighten up the WEB they shut these down to reduce fraud) so I use the test certificate. Not a huge deal to many of you I am sure, but it will prompt on launch whether you wish to authorize the certificate. The other issue I know of is the memory heap size needs to be set in the launching config. As I stated I have been using 1.0GB to process 3500 x 4500 images, but if people want to process more we'll need more memory (approximate 4GB for twice that!) I can make different application profiles available with different memory footprints if this is really needed but would prefer to have a standard.

Zip file
In this delivery mechanism, the downloader will need to unzip the contents into a folder and execute a .bat or .sh file (*Nix people). This was the old school way of delivering java applications. If you provide clear and concise instructions on a website this mechanism isn't too bad, but some people will still struggle. You need to manually add shortcuts on your desktop/programs menu. There is no uninstall and no auto-update capability. The only real bright side (in my mind) is you could tweak the startup parameters to provide more memory by editing the .bat file.

So what option do we go with?
Personally I have the Java Web start going and tend to think it works pretty well (you are also not limited to running it on the machine you unzipped it too. Any Java 1.6+ enabled computer will work if you have the webpage. The certification (or lack there of) sucks but for a limited user-base who is getting this directly from my site that probably isn't too big of a concern (especially since I will also have source code provided). But I leave it open for discussion.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by jadrake »

I have created a google code site for the application. While this would not be the launching site, it would be a location to file defects, provide code snapshots (as per my licensing) and provide a link to my distribution site.

I will attempt to add details as time permits and get on making the changes to the code over the next couple of weeks! Stay tuned.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by chipg »

muruk wrote:I currently do this using Microsoft Office Picture Manager.
Scan a stocksheet of, say, 40 stamps.
Make 40 copies of the sheet.
Open each copy and crop to one individual stamp.
Haven't had a chance to look at the youtube, but I can save you some steps with Picture Manager:
1 - scan the page
2 - open in Picture Manager
3 - crop the single stamp image you want
4 - Use "Save As" and give that image its own name
5 - hit "undo" (ctrl-Z) and it reverts back to the original, uncropped image
6 - crop the 2nd image you want to isolate
7 - repeat steps 4-6 until you have them all saved as separate files.

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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by norvic »

So what, and where, is Picture Manager, for those who don't have the inclination to trawl through Google?
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by chipg »

norvic wrote:So what, and where, is Picture Manager, for those who don't have the inclination to trawl through Google?
Picture Manager is an accessory that comes with Microsoft Office. If you have Office, you have Picture Manager, even though it is not usually the default image editing package unless you set it to be the application opened when you open a .jpg file. On my computer, it loaded itself into the "Office 2010 Tools" folder.

It allows cropping, rotation, resizing, and basic exposure and color adjustments. Basically, a decent, useful, free (if you have it) program.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by jadrake »

I can guanantee if you time the time it takes you to crop and save images from 40 stamps on a sheet into 10 different countries, my application is probably 5x faster. I was using Macros in paint.net to do the creating of a new image etc. but when you consider the time it takes to click and drag your selection 40 times (it really does add up!) not to mention selecting different output folders. It was the repetitive nature of the image cropping that led me to develop this application (plus the sick sense of figuring out how to find a bounding box of a stamp with perforations!) - but I'll make the changes so others can use it and let them be the judge (and yes it will be free, without needing to own Microsoft Office....). I personally never like to argue over what software may be better or not since it all depends on your usage model and abilities.

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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by norvic »

Thanks; Mac users can do the same in Preview.

I forgot to ask jadrake whether it would run on Macs but as it uses Java I imagine the answer would be yes.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by jadrake »

Mac users... sure as long as you have a Java runtime. Of course I can't test it with the evil empire. :-) But there is no code restrictions (I can only think of visual alignment issues or something - which we can test and resolve)

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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by memphre »

That"s a great piece of software you wrote Jason!

I also would be interested if it runs on the Mac. Cropping stamp images one by one is tedious and commercial image handling software do not deal well or consistently with the perforations and varying sizes.

Looking forward to using this.

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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by Alastair »

Hi Jason,

That is a really useful tool :!: :!: :!:
I have several full page scans that I have so far been too lazy to split up as I meant to do.

One feature that would be really cool would be to be able to save the images also in a different resolution, for example to have the scanned resolution plus thumbnails. I don't know how difficult that would be but I think it could be very useful.

In any case, I am certainly willing to beta-test your software.

I look forward to being able to use the tool :!:

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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by chipg »

Had a chance to look at the demo video. Looks to be very useful and will save many manual steps.
Thanks for building it.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by AMark »

Very useful and very creative Jason.

Can't wait for the release.

Cheers!
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by jadrake »

Alastair,
Generating a thumbnail image is rather trivial. Once I have the first "public" release out and people can play with it, they can file enhancements/defects through the google code website. We can then prioritize issues/enhancements. This seems like a logical high priority use-case (while I don't "need it", I do plan to have my Web application produce a PDF collection report at some point so it'd be nice if I didn't have to fiddle with enlarged images in that report generation....)

Overall, the current quality is relatively high (there is a few qwerks here and there) and I have a full suite of regression testing tools that are integrated into my development environment so I can test any changes to ensure the code functions as it should (I currently have tests covering about 80% of the lines of code written).

Never thought this would generate so much interest. I think you have all motivated me to get something out before New Years! I can't afford to purchase new stamps right now anyways, so filing be damned! Time for me to suck back a big mug of coffee and get to work! (well after work and when the kids are in bed....)

Cheers
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by deerlandstamps »

Phenomenal.

Question: Does this require paint.net to run, or is it an entirely separate app that can open any scan (I use GIMP to scan and process before saving individual files).
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by muruk »

chipg wrote:I can save you some steps with Picture Manager:
...
5 - hit "undo" (ctrl-Z) and it reverts back to the original, uncropped image ...
It hadn't occurred to me that modern apps can undo past a save.

Great tip, thanks. :D
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by deerlandstamps »

Another question:

Would this work on a scan of an album page (assuming the stamps are in black mounts)? I'm guessing that the processing would be a bit more complex but it doesn't seem fundamentally different.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by Trent »

Hi Jason

Great job. I would be very interested in using this.

A while ago I made a photoshop macro to burst stamp images from page. It was no where near as smart as your application and only worked on similar sized stamps.

Here is the link

http://www.stampboards.com/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=21358

I've got programming experience and even though it has been a long time since I have written any Java I might be able to help out a little if you need it.
I really should be doing something else...
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by jadrake »

To answer a few other questions

deerlandstamps :Does it need Paint.net to run
No it doesn't need Paint.net to run. I simply use Paint.net to scan images, resize the image (I usually scan at 600DPI and then resize at 90% original), tune any coloring etc. It is open source tool and does 85%+ of what Photoshop does at zero cost. I have actually thought about adding TWAIN or other support to it to skip the "other application" effect (this is why I added rotation support). Perhaps in the future. I debated showing Paint.net in the demo, but wanted to show where I was coming from.

Java... it just needs Java to run.

Will it work on a cream/white album page
It will probably work on an album page. Not sure though. Essentially it uses particle analysis to decypher the stamps using barrier edge detection. I suspect your "page" will show up as a burst and the individual stamps. I suppose we'll need to try it and there are a few approaches I can think of that could "exclude" the main page (short of having to hand delete it everytime - or ignore it). Now cream paper with clear mounts... that could get tricky! (that is how I mount my stamps so I suppose I could test it). I know it will struggle with imperf. stamps that have no border beyond the frameline (ie. cut into framelines on all sides). This is partly while I have the "add new overlay" action.

Trent: Macros
Yes - I too was trying to use macros but I found that since the stamps I collect were different sizes and I had them in all sorts of positions on the stocksheets it was a pain to get any selections to line up. I did write a macro in Paint.net that after selection would - copy, new image, paste, open save dialog, change type to JPG, but I found the time to do the selection, pick the correct folder etc. was still not as efficient... plus I wanted to learn all about particle analysis! Once the code/software is up there if you want to contribute I'd be happy to help you through it.

Again I thank everyone for the support, but I do need some time to clean up a few items before I can provide it for your use and it will not be happening in the few days. Plus the holidays are coming (my wife gets grumpy if I am holed up in the office on weekends while she is stuck with two screaming kids) I'll try and post updates on the code website: http://code.google.com/p/stamp-imagebursting/ - maybe create a checklist of what I have to do and what is left and will post here when all is ready. At least I know there is interest (which was the intention behind the video/thread)

Cheers

-Jason
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by Lakatoi 4 »

chipg wrote: Haven't had a chance to look at the youtube, but I can save you some steps with Picture Manager:
1 - scan the page
2 - open in Picture Manager
3 - crop the single stamp image you want
4 - Use "Save As" and give that image its own name
5 - hit "undo" (ctrl-Z) and it reverts back to the original, uncropped image
6 - crop the 2nd image you want to isolate
7 - repeat steps 4-6 until you have them all saved as separate files.

Chip
Exactly how I do it now with Picture Manager, but it is so time consuming and this new application will be a Godsend :D

Well done Jason, this will save collectors (and dealers) countless hours of image cropping, etc. 8)
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by maptrekker »

I absolutely love your software package. So simple to use for all that it accomplishes. It will be extremely useful. I can't wait for the release.

Congratulations on an outstanding product.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by KevinHedley »

I have not read every post (will do so later) so I hope I do not waste time repeating a question.

How would the software go bursting a block of four different se-tenant stamps still in the original format. Will it recognise the perforation as the boundary for a block.

Congratulations on what looks to be a very handy tool for members of this Board.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by jadrake »

How would the software go bursting a block of four different se-tenant stamps still in the original format. Will it recognise the perforation as the boundary for a block.
Hi KevinHedley, no - I believe it would treat the block as a single stamp. I posted an overview of the algorithm on the google site, and the key step here is fill holes. This will attempt to transform the stamp into a single particle for particle analysis by filling the outline with any other pixel (how it finds the binding box) and this would cause internal perforations (or perfins!) to become filled.

Since the intent was the scan what I have, and if I had a block I would be unlikely to desire to split it this makes sense from the software's design/purpose. Nice question.

-Jason

BTW: I did get a few hours in last night after bowling working on breaking the dependency on my services backend. So work has begun!
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by Nick777VVV »

Looks brilliant! Couple of questions:

I'd like to achieve two things:

1. Digitally archive my stamp collection. All stamps are on black mounts, around 15 stamps per page. It looks like your tool would then give me 15 separate images. What would then be really cool would be if I could then give each image different attributes that could then be searched on to identify all stamp images that met that criteria, e.g. find me all mint, George VI with a 10/- value, or find me all US stamps with a railway theme etc. Is this possible?

2. Blow up images from thumbnails to be able to see intricate detail on screen. Would I be able to scan at 1200 for example so that this level of detail could be captured?

Once again, terrific software!

Nick
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by erthur »

Just checked out the video and I can't wait for the release of the software. I am sure there are many others who may find this useful as well.

A great piece of work.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by DJM »

As a dealer I NEED something like this - it's fantastic, would save me SO much time. The ONLY issue I have with the software is that could you please put a 'Sizing' function in the software ??? For example you need a large image for Ebay but Stampboards requires 840 pixels maximum.

Please let me know when the software is available !

Thanks,

Darrin.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by jadrake »

All - I am making progress, but please keep in mind I have a full-time job, two very young children and it is almost the holidays... so I am swamped. I am still on target for end of December. Also please note, the software in this application is only about 5% of the total code I maintain for my stamp related software - given that I can only afford to spend 10-15 hours a maximum a week on development (which means I punt on everything else) this would normally equate to about 45 minutes a week. It is simply a tool in my toolbox as it were.

The could news is I am almost done unbundled the code from my web-services system. The new login/session dialog is basically done and I have provided three options to get the output burst folders. The following shows the Find by Folder which will read a root folder and grab the first level child folders for bursting:

Image

As for the image resizing and image tagging requests, I will work to add features after the first release based on priority of the community members (I'll even put out a poll given the number of the members of interest). Also, others would be able to contribute if interested.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by mcgooley »

Jake, I think what you've come up with is a fantastic tool for anyone collecting in this digital age, and I don't know how others feel but I think that family comes first. If you haven't got the time (at this time of the year, who does?), then I for one can wait.

Stress less - - the silly season will raise your bp levels enough!
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by norvic »

I think we should all bear in mind that while we have various 'wish-lists' for this type of application, it is essentially being offered for free. True, Jake has asked for our thoughts and ideas, but we shouldn't be disappointed if it ends up as something a little less than we would like.

Jake, however long a break you have over Christmas it is a time for relaxation and family. Sure, your thoughts may turn to this current subject, but pencil and paper in the pocket to jot down those thoughts is enough. Start the work again afterwards. Enjoy your time, and I hope it isn't too cold, but just enough to have a little snow for the youngsters :D
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by Not Bruce »

Where do I sign?

This is a fantastic bit of software that will hopefully allow me to start playing golf again rather than spending hours cropping stamp pics... please keep me up-to-date with developments!


Cheers,


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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by norvic »

Now there's a waste of time. I had lunch at our local club last month and watched three blokes tee off. Good solid hits, and off they trecked. One went straight ahead, one went about 30º left towards a belt of trees that separated him from the fairway, and the other went about 30º right into a small spinney. Miles apart; they didn't even get to talk to each other as they went round the course. :roll:

But I digress :evil:
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by Not Bruce »

Point taken... I would only do it for the exercise!
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by jadrake »

The good news is coding like stamp collecting is highly addictive (but can be very frustrating at times). At least I have automated tests to cover my arse and not lose hours wondering what I did.

I also noticed I have seen to have taken on a new identity..... This board seems to like to force everyone's name into 4 letter length ..... Tony, Glen etc.... my name seems to have morphed from Jason to jake! :wink:

-Jason
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by norvic »

OOOPS! :oops: Sorry, I just followed Mr Mgooglies post. :lol:
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by COLIN »

Excellent stuff
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by wlin98004 »

Hi Jason:

Excellent software and will be very useful. One suggestion, can we have an auto straighten feature? It takes a lot of effort to line up stamps in the card before scanning. If we can straighten out the stamps at the burst level, that will save some more time.

I am a fellow software developer (probably not as good as you). If you need some help, I will be glad to give it try.
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by memphre »

wlin98004 wrote: One suggestion, can we have an auto straighten feature? It takes a lot of effort to line up stamps in the card before scanning.
I did not dare ask for that but, since win does, I'll second the request. I was impressed at the neatness of the stocksheet in the demo; it is not something I achieve easily.

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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by jadrake »

For leveling/rotating stamps.... I suppose you could try and work that out prior to bursting. Due to the perforations this is actually a lot harder than you think (remember it is using particle analysis to determine the bounding boxes). So I guess it would have to determine the orientation of the particle weighting within bounding area and then rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise X radians. While I may have a steady hand, I simply look at the stamps and adjust any that are really out of wack prior to scanning.

It sounds like there is a few volunteers to help code with this (which is good) so perhaps this feature is possible in a later release. I could see the value (and headaches that go along with it).

-Jason
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by jadrake »

BETA Testers - So I have made the updates to the code and have it generating the java webstart launch with my integration servers. Things look good, but before it rolls out to everyone I need to perform some testing on different platforms.

I would like to hear from some BETA testers specifically to test the deployment and whether it works correctly on each of the platforms (specifically Windows XP/Vista or 7 32-bit versions, Mac OS, Linux (I have tested on Fedora 15 32bit)

Qualification should be:
  • You have Java 1.6+ installed
  • You know Java works on your system: http://java.com/en/download/installed.jsp (you can use this to verify you java version)
  • You know how to launch the Java console (so we can capture any stack traces etc.)
  • You understand enough about your operating system and computers to provide feedback on any failures (I don't need to waste time with users saying "It doesn't work!" - I need to know why....
  • Google ID so you can post defects on the code.google.com website
  • Willingness to spend 30 minutes playing around with it.
Please respond via Email to my address from my profile. I will provide a nightly update for the next few nights on any roles/user profiles that I need. I'll send out server links to the testers early next week. If everything goes smoothly, I'll look to provide a live URL/website shortly after Christmas.

Remember, BETA testers are to insure that others will be successful. Please don't volunteer just to get your hands on it. I would like individuals willing to give it a full "whirl" to ensure others will be successful in the future.

Thanks

-Jason
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Re: Stamp Image Bursting software

Post by skilo54 »

I am in, I'll send a message right away! :D
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