Thursday, October 22, 2009

Keeping up with Flickr

A co-worker gave me a link to 10 Flickr Groups For Serious Shutterbugs. Which overall is a pretty good article. But...

I've found it incredibly difficult to keep up with the Flickr users. I tried to check the feeds of the groups I belong to to review their pictures. I can't keep up. And that's not even counting the attempts at trying to be involved with their discussion groups. I can blow a few hours each nite on the couch with the laptop trying to look at all the photos in the Flickr groups I belong to. And yes, I've tried RSS'ing them.

The system I came up with is to read the RSS feed for the local flickr user group. That way if there are events or discussion, or what-not, I generally read the new posts within a week. As to all the other Flickr groups that I belong, I've relented and don't participate in their discussion forums. I try to look at new photos posted once per week. Generally on the weekends when we are vegging in front of the TV at the end of the day.

Of course, there's also the emails, public comments and private comments that I receive from my own photo's. I try to respond to them as best I can - when it makes sense to do so. Someone quipping "Nice Photo!", that generally doesn't warrant a response in my book . I know there are some Flickr users who'll post a "thanks" comment for each one of the niceties that someone's posted on a photo's discussion thread. I'm not one of them. Not that I don't appreciate it, but a photo with 30 "thank you" comments? Nah, that's not me.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A real timesaver: summarize

If you're like me, time over the course a weekday is very valuable. Free-time is scarcer then it's ever been it seems. But how would you like to get at least a few minutes back for yourself?

If you're a Mac user, remember the folllowing out-of-the-box key command: cmd-control-s. What is it? The "Summarize" service. Use this the next time you are surfing with Safari and you come across a long article, that you'd like to read, but don't really have the time to spend reading it. Highlight the text of the article. Press cmd-control-s. Use the slider to adjust the number of sentences and paragraphs in the summary. Less time available means crank down the sentences and/or paragraphs. More time? Crank the slider up.

If an article has several pages, look for the "printable" version of the article. Choose it, and then use the summarize technique above on it.

This little key combination can save you loads of time. To be honest, I don't use it all the time. In fact, sometimes I'll go for a spell without using it at all. Then realize I've been "wasting my time" by not using it and pick it up again. :)
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Sunday, April 05, 2009

How long do you keep old machine backups?

I'm spring cleaning the computer room. No, I've not moved anything physically. Rather, I've powered on all the old hard drives and and backing up, backing up the backups, verifying the backups are working (or have worked) etc etc.

One of the drives is a full backup of my old G5 PowerMac tower (which I need to sell. If you're interested, let me know). It was replaced by the current machine, a Mac Pro Tower in late 2008.

Why do I still have a backup of it the old G5 machine?

Do I absolutely need that backup?

I don't think I should. I "migrated" the old machine to the new (via OSX's migration tool, when you buy a new machine).

One would think that the fact it was migrated alone would alleviate the need for keeping the backup of the old machine.

Yet, here I am, looking at this drive, thinking I should format it, relabel it and use it for some other task. Have I formatted it? Nope. Will I? Probably not. Unless I need the diskspace. Which ATM I don't think I do. So the drive will continue to sit there, unused, untouched. But just incase I need a file from the old machine, which I would have deleted from the current machine, there the drive sits.

And the G5 still sits in the corner of the room, ready and packaged to be sold, and that's still not done yet either. Procrastination++.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Face recognition in photographs: OpenCV and iPhone

Last Wednesday at our March 2009 Central Ohio Linux User's Group meeting (COLUG) the topic was Social Networking on the 'net. That of course led to some discussion about privacy. Inevitably the Google came up because of it's intertwining of it's services. Case in point; Gmail and Picaso. Upload photos to Picaso, and it can start matching faces in photographs with people you know. Are you sending those pictures through Gmail at all? Who's in your contacts in Gmail?

jawildman demonstrated how the facial recognition worked within Google's Picaso. It's amazing technology that seems to work very well.

Hence the reason for this post. After the meeting I stumbled upon OpenCV. OpenCV is "A computer vision library" that focuses mainly on real-time image processing (thanks Wikipedia).

And someone's done the work to link the library to your XCode iPhone projects: Using OpenCV on iPhone. How cool is that? They even took the time to wrap it all up in a nice git-clonable repo with example iPhone Xcode project that'll run in the simulator and "just work". It seems to work quite well.

Now to come up with some iPhone Application ideas that could use this and sell well in the AppStore. ;)
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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Can books be cursed?

A while back I was reading "When Ghosts Speak". If you've viewed the front page of this blog, it shows that I'm 'reading it'. Well, I was. I finished it. I didn't update the blog. Yes, I need to. I will. soon.

But that's not the point of this post. I was reading that book and "Ghosts amoung us". I didn't feel anything odd while I was reading them, but my wife did!

She just brought this up the other day by saying something towards "Those books gave me kreeps". I was surprised, and noted that I didn't recall her saying anything about it when I had the books here from the library (for a total of about a month). She says that she mentioned it a number of times. I don't recall this.

But what she did say is that she felt like someone was here with us while I was reading the books, and left when the books left.

What's weird is that I've always considered myself more psychic then her, if I am psychic. I get vibes from people. I believe I've seen spirits a few times.

But I didn't get a feeling off the books at all. In fact, I quite enjoyed reading the books and thought I got a lot out of both of them.

My mom's since given us a few quince seeds, which I need to put above the doors. My wife took one and put it in her purse, but I don't think the quince seeds are intended for that use. Anyone know?
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Friday, January 30, 2009

I wish my laptop...

I have a MacBook Pro (Late 2008), 17", 4GB Ram. I received it two xmas's ago from my employer. It was s'posed to be my "main machine" that I'd use for everything. The laptop held up to that requirement for a bit, but then...

Then we switched from a LAMP shop to a .Net shop. It's a vast change that affected everything.

Including my needs as the developer/network admin/sql-dba. I knew I could run Visual Studio via Parrallels or VMWare just fine. I had never tried running it 24/7, along with MS SQL admin tools and various other win32/64 apps. I quickly found out 4GB of RAM really wasn't going to cut it.

And that's where this blog entry comes in. I wish laptop could handle 12GB of RAM. On the surface, that seems like an extravagent amount of RAM. However, run a WinXP VM, a Win2k3SVR VM (Sharepoint Devel), then run LAMP on the local machine (because we still use it, and seemingly always will, where it fits to be the "best tool" for the job that we have the authority to make the decision) and then XCode for Cocoa. And what do you have at the end of the day? a 10GB RAM requirement.

That's what I have on my new Mac Pro tower, and it flies. I wish the laptop could have done it, I'd still use it as my one and only machine.
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Why business phones are awesome no more

When I first started in IT, I thought getting a pager was the coolest thing. I could carry it around, almost like a badge. "See, I'm important!" it yelled to everyone. "Everyone can contact me" whenever needed! Of my group of friends, I was the first to get one. I was kewl. At bars I looked like someone important. I could pickup chicks with it because they could see I was "the man". I dreamt of the day of having a work-provided cell phone, because though I wanted a cell phone, they were much too expensive at the time to justify the monthly.

Years later, I graduated to my first personal cellphone. It was now a badge of importance. By this time in my life I was married with kids and house in the burbs with my very own brick of a cell phone. It was convenient to have, and one typically justified the monthly cost as "I need this".

The curse of curses was soon to arrive, I just didn't see it in my headlights. It came around the corner in an awesomely brilliant flat-black motorola disguise, the Nextel.

Over time I moved IT jobs just like everyone normally does when they're young. I had recently moved to a new venue. They suggested that with the importance of IT ever-increasing, IT needed cellphones. We received Nextel phones. We were the only staff provided phones. We were l337.

It took only about a week or two for the honeymoon to wear off. When you are on the couch for the evening and someone from work beeps in "Shane, Shane are you there. I thought of something" and then 10 minutes later does it again... and again. When your wife ends up describing the phone as "that damned beepy thing" and "if you don't shut it up I'm going to throw it in the toilet". When your heart skips a beat and you cringe anytime you hear the Nextel beeps no matter where you are, you know something's not quite right.

Luckily it only lasted about a year. It turns out the Nextel coverage out where we were wasn't all that great. We were missing calls and having connectivity issues.

Our phones were upgraded to Sprint phones. I liked this phone very much. I could tap into it to get online when needed with my laptop (Dell Inspiron 8000 I believe, cool at the time but now viewed as a "brick"). This phone was reliable, the coverage was excellent. It was tiny and silver and with the remote connectivity was everything I'd ever wanted in a phone. I pulled old code from my sourcecode repo's from the pager-days for announcements. Our equipment and systems SMS text'd us as needed. Even threw a nice little perl scripted web page up so people could SMS page easily enough.

Alas, this too was not to last. We weren't the only ones given phones. This time it was corporate bigwigs that were using Sprint phones with us. And it turned out some of them weren't having much luck with reception.

When our contact was up, we switched to Verizon. All staff who had phones sang with glee. Except me. I was quite happy with my prior phone. We were told Verizon would give us the best coverage. Which some of our staff do agree with. But not me, I wasn't having problem-free reception. And I couldn't just tap into the phone's bluetooth to get online with a laptop. Oh no, Verizon plays games with crippling phone's bluetooth protocols. So you can't always sync your phone's contact information in/out. And you certainly cannot assume that you'll be able to use the phone's bandwidth to get your laptop online.

We've stayed with Verizon for quite a few years (still are to this day, in-fact). We'd even been upgraded from the normal tiny cellphones to the WinMobile PDA/phones.

I hated these WinMobile phones. Winmobile (was it 4? or 5?) version at the time sucked. Slow. Crashed all the time. I immediately begged for a different phone. Nope, this one's what everyone wants, it has a keyboard and everything and you can get your Outlook on it". Sigh. (To my supervisor's credit, he did bend over backwards and was able to finagle a choice for me, but the choice was a phone without Bluetooth or one with but Verizon had hacked it so bad no one who had it could get online. Though I had a choice, I really didn't).

The phones we were given just flat out sucked. They crashed all the time. Eventually only a full reset helped. But you had to put all your information back into it every-time you did a full reset. Once, ok. Twice, no problemo. Tenth time, forgetaboutit! Slowly, but assuredly, it turned out I wasn't the only one having such problems. A staff revolt ensued. People were missing calls. Their phones crashed. Verizon sent us new "black" versions of the phones that were supposedly better. For a short time period they were. But they really were not.

Fast forward to this past year. It was deemed these WinMobile phones had to go. Viva La Revolucion! I rejoiced! We were about 3 months from the supposed iPhone 3G rollout. That's the phone I wanted. Everything I had read signaled this would be the phone to have for quite some time.

But wouldn't you know it, I was presented with a shiny silver box from Verizon. My new shiny silver Blackberry phone arrived! They had bought everyone Blackberries. Why? So everyone can "stay in touch" and "your Outlook is in it" and "it has a keyboard" and "it doesn't crash".

Keep in mind this was done about 3 months before the 3G iPhone was announced. I pleaded this was a rush decision, that we should have at-least waited for the new to-be-released iPhone to appear to make a decision. Nope. This was it.

I had joined the Crackerberry gang.

People that I knew, that had a Blackberry, welcomed me. "Your one of us now, young Padawan" they said. "You can download stuff on this and use it as an mp3 player" (I was already on my 2nd or 3rd iPod by then). "You can reply to your email wherever you are" they exclaimed.

Blech! By this time, I didn't want to be connected 24/7. In-fact, I was damn well tired of it. Sure, I have IM running most days and nites. Yes, IRC too. But that's to "my electronic life". It's to keep in touch with people on freenode and open source projects and side-work. I will admit I use IM to communicate with a select few of my real life friends that are electronically inclined.

Most of my friends don't know what IRC, IM and Twitter are. They have a cell and they use SMS. Some have a gmail or some-such free email and only occasionally check it.

When I go home, I can turn these things off if I choose. In-fact, I can turn the entire computer and network off if I like and it in silence and read a book. Or go take some photographs. Whatever it is, I can disconnect and be in peace.

You can't turn the blackberry off. You can't stop it from beeping that there are new corporate emails because someone from work couldn't sleep and are emailing at unGodly hours.

And if you do turn it off?!? The faithful scream "but you're not supposed to turn it off!! You'll miss something!!".

I did not like the Blackberry phone. The UI was horrid. The browser was severely lacking and painful to use. They keyboard was small, the keys were lit with a blue that made it hard to see them. People will be quick to point out this is not blackberry's fault, but the phone manufacturer's. Yes, I know. Guilt by association.

But worst of all, I did not like the fact that I could not seemingly keep my work information on the phone totally separate from the personal stuff when I synced the phone. In iCalendar, I had two calendars, one for each. I use Exchange for work, and various pop/iMap for personal (ie gmail) picked up with Everything was kept 100% separate, even contacts. I was told the answer was "well just put everything Outlook".

Say what?!? That's totally *not* what I want. I don't want anyone at work to know that from 6-8pm I'm going to Lady Heather's place for a 2 hour wild session. (ahem joke...).

I was just tired of being on call 24/7 all the time. "But the website's important, it can't go down". "You need to be online all the time". Yes, I realize this has nothing to do with the Blackberry, per se. It's corporate policy. Many would say "If you don't like it, leave" I suppose.

Uh, no. 100% uptime is what you want? Then buy a load balancer set and redundant equipment. Shell out the cash for infrastructure. Make it happen.

When the iPhone 3G came out, I waited in line and bought one. I spent that week investigating it, to see if I could do everything with it that my Blackberry did.

It did (and more!), and I gleefully turned in my Blackberry.

Yes, that's right. I said it. I willfully gave my Blackberry back. I gave up my free ~$85/month phone.

My neighbors and friends with Blackberries did not understand how I could do such a faux pas. "I'd give anything if my employer gave me a phone" I heard that several times. I heard the "You're an idiot" in some people's breath or in their tones. People casually whipped out their Blackberries and demonstrated how easy it was to do the things they do with their phones. They eagerly showed me, visually showed me, sometimes stepping into my face near forcefully, that I was insane and must come back to the fold.

It's been near 6 or 7 months now that I've left "the clan". The past year has seen some of the quietest, most stressless (from work, anyway) times that I can ever recall. I'm not reading work email all the time. I'm not on a beck and call.

And I absolutely love my phone. It works. It works as advertised. My work and personal information is on it, and it's 100% seperate. If I need to, with a click, it can sync back and forth with work's systems giving me email and calendar and contact information. Or not, if that's what I want. Most amazingly of all, I can code up whatever app I want for it if choose to (which I do!). This phone is one of, if not the best gadget, that I've ever purchased. It is so useful, that this is the first time in my life that if I lost the phone I would really be "lost" because of the conveniences it provides.

For those of you who may have read all of this, take heart. Load balancers and equipment for redundancy were ordered too!! The light at the end of the human-on-call-for-24/7-uptime is shining!!
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Thursday, January 01, 2009

Cocoa programming for Tiger

I believe I have the old version of the Hillegass Cocoa Programming for OSX (link) laying around somewhere. I haven't had a need for it for a long time now. It's not new, it was read a few times over years. If you're in Central Ohio and you're interested in having it, drop me a note. If you're still running tiger and have thought about becoming a Cocoa programmer, this is great book. >>Keep Reading: Full Post and Comments