Ever watch a video of an artist drawing? These quickly-drawn cartoons are used in ads and training videos. We got one for fun. It cost $5.
Our interest began when a reader asked for our recommendation on “whiteboard animation software.” That would be software that creates cartoon videos. “PowToon” and many others are free, but we weren’t sure about the art part. That’s when we turned to artists on Fiverr. There are hundreds and most are super cheap. Fiverr.com is a marketplace for people who sell services in dozens of fields at surprisingly low prices.
Wouldn’t it be fun, we thought, to have a video clip for our history club? We’re doing “history of fashion” and a plain PowerPoint presentation might be dull. Add a video clip and interest always picks up.
So we chose an artist whose sample video looked good. He’s in Pakistan where the average income is about $1200 a year, so $5 goes further. We gave him 15 photos to use as inspiration. We just wanted drawings but what we got were all the photos arranged as a presentation. Still, it was okay for $5. For hand-drawn art you have to go Fiverr’s “graphics” section and choose cartoons or comics that can then be animated. Or you can use stock comic characters that the whiteboard artist already has.
Next we had a technical problem with our website and we hired a guy from India who fixed the problem within a few hours, again for $5, The total price was $6 with Fiverr’s $1 processing fee. All payments are handled through Fiverr, which you pay either with a credit card — like any normal purchase, or through PayPal. The only downside is you pay upfront when selecting a vendor.
Besides programming and whiteboard animations, other Fiverr categories include music, advertising, “fun and lifestyle,” illustration, writing, business advice and so on. Under the “fun” category, we found $5 charms sporting a tiny map of your hometown or favorite location.
Update: Be wary of any vendor on Fiverr.com who needs a user name and password. The guy who worked on our website may have hacked it. We’re in the process of making it bulletproof now.
- “CamFind” is a free app that tries to identify what you take a picture of. It might be handy for foreign signs. We tried it out on a German sign on a web page, saying “Ein-U Ausfahrt freihalten” and found out it meant, roughly: “Don’t block the exit.” (Well. anyone would have known that.)
- “SendOutSupport” is a 99 cent app for those suffering from depression, stress, bereavement and other mental problems. Users search professional support networks and get helpful tips.
Giving Google Home Its Due
Most of the write-ups about the new digital assistants focus on “Alexa,” the voice inside Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot. Its main competitor is Google Home. You can expect at least a half dozen more competitors this year because this is the hottest new tech product this side of the Andromeda galaxy.
We have both and they’re both great, but Google Home lets you command your TV. For example, we were looking up Elke Sommer on IMDB (the “Internet Movie Database”) and noticed she was in a “Bulldog Drummond” detective movie, “Deadlier than the Male” that we’d never heard of.
Well, we like those Bulldog Drummond movies so we tried to find it on Amazon, which didn’t have it for rent or sale, except for a British DVD that doesn’t play on American players. So we said to Google Home, “Hey Google, play the movie “Deadlier than the Male,” on YouTube on BobJoy. (“BobJoy” is the name of our Wi-Fi connection.) The movie promptly started right up on our TV. It turned out to be a double feature. Afterwards, another Elke Sommer movie started up. This also works with Netflix movies, if you’re a Netflix subscriber. So basically, you can order even obscure movies and if they’re available on YouTube or Netflix, you said the magic word — or in this case, “words.”
Now, you know that the great rule in the digital world is “whatever you get, you have to get something else to make it work.” So here you also need a $35 Chromecast plugged into your TV. It’s about the size of a flat mini donut. Once it’s plugged in, anything on YouTube or Netflix will start playing on your TV when you give the proper voice command. Remember to press “input” on your TV remote and choose the setting the Chromecast is plugged into. They have slightly different names depending on your brand of TV. Our Sony, for example, offers a choice of HDMI 1, HDMI 2, and so on.
Faceoff – Free Word versus Paid Word
A reader pinned us down on differences between the free “Microsoft Word Online” and the Microsoft Word that is part of Office 365.
Here’s one: The Office program you pay for lets you work offline, the free version works only online. Once, while working with the free online version, Joy struck a few keys and lost several paragraphs. For some reason, the “undo” feature failed to work and those paragraphs drifted off toward the Andromeda Galaxy. It shouldn’t have happened, but the Universe is a strange place.
One minor difference: The paid version of Word, like the paid versions of Excel, PowerPoint and Access, has a few more options compared to the free one. But more options are exactly what drives us nuts in all the Microsoft products. The free versions have too many options already.
- ZinnArt.com has the humorous works of David Zinn, whose cute mice and alien creatures appear to descend into the sidewalk all over Ann Arbor, Michigan. He and many others come up if you search on the phrase “100 street art examples on YouTube.”
- “Top 100 Sand Castles.” We put that phrase into the search box at YouTube and saw some awesome sculptures. Several of the women made of sand looked like goddesses. The video is followed by time-lapse photography showing you how these sand marvels are made; it’s a lot of work.