How To Manipulate Images In Pixlr X

You may remember the free browser image tool PixlrX from my post about using it to resize images easily. I have used it to create images from scratch, but I find it very similar to the free version of Canva. Because the library has a Pro subscription to Canva, I tend to use that platform for the additional features.

If you do not have a pro subscription to Canva, you may want to consider Pixlr X as your main image creator and editor. In addition to all of the typical features you would expect, it also has some pretty great effects available. Check out these TechConnect videos created by New York Public Library that demonstrate how to use some of these enhancements.

Because these processes are not always intuitive, here is a site that demonstrates to how save Pixlr images to your device. If you’re looking for more tips and tutorials for working with Pixlr, the Pixlr blog is a wealth of information.

Have you tried Pixlr X, or do you have another favorite image editor? Let us know about it in the comments.

Learn More About Your Unique Family History with Ancestry

Ancestry is one of the big names in genealogy research. Their database contains thousands of records including US Census Records, Birth, Marriage, Death, Military records, and more. During the pandemic, Ancestry offered home access to its library database with your library card. Now that most libraries are open to the public, ProQuest has once again required Ancestry Library to be accessed within the library by either using a library computer or with a device connected to the library’s WiFi network.

You can search for a specific person by entering the first and last name and other optional information such as places they have lived or the year they were born. You can also add optional information such a particular family member, occupation, and their race/nationality.

In addition to searching, you can also explore record collections of Census and Voter Lists, Birth, Marriage and Death Records, and Military Records.

If you would like to learn more about how to Ancestry Library Edition, check out our YouTube video tutorial:

Have you tried out the Ancestry Library edition? Let us know in the comments.

Save Your Eyes with This Free Tool

Humans weren’t designed to look at TVs, computer monitors, and smartphones all day. Now that our lives tend to revolve around these devices, digital eye strain has become a widespread issue. Symptoms of digital eye strain include itchy/burning eyes, blurred vision, or even headaches after using a device.

As an IT professional, eye strain had become a daily occurrence for me. I believed if I could just soften the brightness or shift the color of the screen, my eyes wouldn’t feel so assaulted by it. I also found that my optimal monitor brightness changed throughout the day, depending on the brightness of the room. Messing with my monitor settings didn’t help, so I went looking for a software solution.

Enter F.lux

F.lux is a free, lightweight utility that can control the display “warmth”, and thereby brightness. Corporate site licenses are available for Windows machines, but they are only required if your IT admin wants to control the installation and settings. F.lux is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, iPhone/iPad, and Android. It can be used in one of two ways:

  • Enter your location and the type of lighting you have, and let f.lux adjust your display automatically throughout the day
  • Change the brightness or warmth of the display to a single comfortable setting that remains constant all day. This is what I do since I spend most of my screen time in a room with fluorescent lighting where the time of day does not affect my ambient brightness.

Using F.lux

For the purposes of this article, instructions and screenshots refer to the Windows version of the software. During installation, you will be asked for your location. This information will help f.lux determine the kind of natural light you get and what time it is where you are.

After installing F.lux, you will find it in your taskbar on the bottom-right of your screen. In this image, it is the icon immediately to the right of the arrow:

Screenshot of the taskbar, showing the f.lux icon location

Click the icon to open the tool. Here is how mine looks:

Screenshot showing the f.lux control window with a menu icon in the upper left.

Because I knew I wanted the same warmth/brightness all day, I simply dragged the white button on the slider until the display looked more comfortable to me. The other information on the screen would suggest that the time of day is involved in the settings, but if you look in the upper right, the status is “warm all the time.” This means my setting stays the same all day.

If you want your warmth/brightness to change by time of day, click the orange dot next to the Circadian response percentage. This will convert the single slider into three sliders that can be set independently:

Screenshot showing three sliders labeled daytime, sunset, and bedtime.

After setting the sliders, you can click in the circadian response area to get a time lapse 24-hour preview of how the display will change over the day. If it’s not what you’re looking for, try adjusting again.

The Menu

For most folks, that would be enough configuration to make a world of difference. If you would like to dig deeper and discover more adjustments. If you have smart lighting in your home, you will definitely want to check out the “options and smart lighting” section.

If you use dual monitors like I do, getting both monitors to change can be tricky. If you only have one monitor showing the change, go to Settings>System and try duplicating the monitor display or changing which monitor is primary. Often, changing one of these settings will trigger f.lux to make both displays the same. Afterward, you can revert the settings to the way you had them and both screens should remain matched.

Other Resources

While F.lux is a great tool and using it on all of your devices will definitely reduce eye strain, there are other steps you can take to reduce eye strain, such as wearing blue light blocking glasses. Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rensselaer County has put together a video and an article that offer additional strategies for reducing eye strain. What are your favorite methods for battling eye strain? Let us know in the comments!

Restore Your Precious Old Photos with This Free Tool

We have highlighted several artificial intelligence (AI) tools on this blog lately because it is being used to power so many emerging trends and tools. Many folks think of AI as a sort of substitute human, owing to the early days of automated telephone customer service up through the sophisticated Alexa/Siri/Google digital assistants, I’m sure movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Robocop, Terminator, Her, and so on, helped solidify this image. In fact, artificial intelligence can just be a really good algorithm that can learn from experience and patterns. Examples of AI without names or faces would be software that creates deep fake videos, creates images from text, or writes copy for you based on key points.

The tool we’d like to share today doesn’t have an exciting name or website, but what it can do seems like magic. It is so simple to use that there is zero learning curve. If you can attach something to an email, you can restore your photos. Intrigued? So was I.

GFP-GAN

This wonder tool is called GFP-GAN. You can either use the demo version at Baseten as I did, or you can download the code for free from GitHub. The demo page invites you to upload your own photo or choose one of their photos to restore. You are given the option to download the restored image.

I clicked on their image of Harriet Tubman and the cleaned-up version was so good I wondered if there had been manual intervention in the restoration:

Original and restored portrait images of Harriet Tubman in black and white side-by-side

Next, I tried my own photo from the 1970s:

Original image on left of slightly blurry Mom holding a baby with the restored image less blurry on the right

This is a less stunning transformation, but the restored version is definitely less blurry.

I didn’t have any really rough images to try, but in my research about the tool, I found an article demonstrating some really amazing restorations, as well as going into deep detail about how the tool works. Here is the one that made me sure I wanted to write about this tool:

Original photo of a woman's face is torn, creased and faded on the left, and the restoration on the right is crystal clear

The AI “looks” at the image to find patterns, and then fills in what it determines is most likely to fill in the damaged parts. Because the image I uploaded was just blurry instead of damaged, there wasn’t much to fix or fill in.

Would You Use GFP-GAN?

Do you have old photos you would like to restore, but don’t have the expertise or equipment to do it yourself? Professional photo restoration is expensive, but this free tool may be just what you need to clean up your treasured image collection. Have you tried the tool? We’d love to know how your restorations turned out. Let us know in the comments!

Meet Craiyon, the Powerful AI Who Creates Art on Demand

You may have heard of the many things that AI (artificial intelligence) can do. There are chat bots that can assist you with various tasks, and you may be familiar with Alexa and Siri, digital assistants who can help you with various tasks like giving directions and setting timers. We have even previously written about Rytr, a tool that can help you with your writing. Now there is a new type of AI that can create art by simply entering a keyword or two.

Craiyon, which was formerly known as Dall-E Mini, uses AI model drawing images to create images based on any prompt.

You can use a broad term. This is what it came up with when I entered “mountain hotel”:

Screenshot showing a Craiyon prompt field with "mountain hotel" entered and nine image options below.

Or you can get a little more specific. This is what it came up with when I entered “cat reading on the beach”:

Screenshot of a Craiyon prompt field with "cat reading on the beach" filled in with nine image options.

There are all sorts of fun things you can try, such as famous people, places, or food. Have you tried Craiyon? Let us know in the comments.