Monday, March 31, 2008

Google Steet View comes to Tampa

Google Street View now has imagery from Tampa and St. Petersburg. They covered quite a bit of the area, even well outside of the City of Tampa.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Web 2.0

Rob ran down a list of the Web 2.0 apps he uses.

If I run down my browser's bookmarks toolbar, I use:
  • Gmail - my primary non-work email. I also keep quick notes as drafts and backup smaller files by emailing them to myself.
  • Google Reader - I check Reader more often than Gmail. I follow about 20 low-traffic blogs and other RSS/Atom sources in near real-time and about 100 other feeds that I scan onces or twice a day. It's been a great timesaver compared to just bouncing around my top 50 bookmarks randomly. I also "star" things to read later if I'm short on time and share things that I used to email people. (You can see my shared feed over here somewhere on the right side of the page ---> )
  • Facebook - I follow a feed of my friend's activities. Normally that wouldn't be too many but a ton of adults from our church are on Facebook. Tipping Point. Otherwise it's a few scattered people I used to know (include Rob, who I went to high school with and hadn't seen or talked to in 20+ years). I otherwise pretty much ignore it. I don't do most of the apps and I don't do a lot of Twitter-like microblogging. I did develop a small sample app but the Facebook servers are so touchy that the timeouts were making me nuts. I might still get back to building an app.
  • Google Calendar - We have a Google calendar for each family member so I can see at a glance who's got what. Plus I get fed a few other calendars like the NFL schedule. I don't sync it with anything though. I do use SMS to interact with it.
  • Google Docs - I mostly use this to share docs with my wife. I also keep some docs I use for children's ministry. Otherwise all my docs are on a PC or in email.
  • Blogger - I like it a lot better than tweaking Wordpress and having to keep up with their patch cycle. Especially since we're on GoDaddy for hosting now and they're a pretty weak host for Wordpress. I can do 90% of what I want on Blogger with little effort and it keeps getting better.
  • Flickr - I upload almost every single photo I take to my Flickr Pro account. I'd much rather use Picasa Web (Google Photos) but the same amount of storage would cost me a fortune. I do use Picasa Web for some photos though. I really need to shuffle things so my Flickr Pro is just for backups and use Picasa Web and a free Flickr account for sharing.
  • Netflix - We juggle 3 DVDs at a time and 4 queues, one for each family member. Plus the kids can usually watch something they want with streaming.
  • LinkedIn - It's exploding with people. In the last month I've seen more people I know join than I used to see in six months. It's the first place I go to look for people I know in any technology field.
  • Traineo - Tracking my weight loss and exercise.
  • LibraryElf - Monitors our local library account of every family member so I automatically know when books are coming due or holds are available. I get updates by RSS, SMS and email.
  • Twitter - Still not quite sure how I will use Twitter. I originally used it to collect some other RSS sources, like my blog posts, but FriendFeed is better for that. I also used to mirror tweets to my Facebook status but I stopped that. Now I just post things that aren't worth a whole blog entry.
  • FriendFeed - I'm starting to use this as a macro view into all my different RSS feeds that I feel like sharing.
  • Mint - Tracks our spending. It's still rough around the edges, but it's got a lot of potential.

Friday, March 28, 2008

CMD as Local System Account

The other day I was doing some testing with different Windows accounts and needed to run a bunch of tests as the Local System Account. Normally I can use runas to get a CMD window for each user I need to test with. But Local System Account is special and you can't just do a runas for it. I don't know why I didn't think of these, but there are at least two ways to get a CMD.exe running as Local System Account, setting it up as a service or using an "at" command.

Find out what's on Clearance at ThinkGeek!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Classic Looney Tunes

Lately the kids have been watching one of the classic Looney Tunes DVDs every day. I noticed that YouTube has a lot of Looney Tunes shorts so it makes it easy to find ones you remember.

Two of my favorites are a series where the the bulldog inflicts different punishments on the cat. "No! Not Happy Birthday! Not HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!" Those shorts are Early to Bet and It's Hummer Time. Those also reminded me of Bully for Bugs, the one where Bugs Bunny battles a raging bull and sets up the Rube Goldberg-esque finale.

The we had to watch Hair Raising Hare and Water, Water Every Hare, two of the big red hairy monster shorts.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

NIV Study Bible

Book CoverIBS has the book introductions from the NIV Study Bible online for free. They give a good background and overview of each book. It's helpful to understand the likely author, intended audience, and timing of each writing. Other study sources do sometimes disagree with the NIV Study Bible, but it's a decent starting point.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tool for new artists: AmieStreet

I saw AimeStreet in a recent article. It makes it easy for new artists to distribute digital music. From the buyer's side, a track ranges from free to 98 cents. The price rises as it becomes more popular. They can buy individual tracks or whole albums at once.

From the artist's side, they make 70% of each sale (after it sells $5). I'm not sure but that seems like a decent payout rate considering that there are no up-front fees and it isn't an exclusive agreement so you can sell through other channels. You only get paid quarterly though.

There doesn't seem to be an affiliate program for the site but you'd think they'd consider one. You can embed a player in other sites to promote artists you like for free. I picked some random Christian artist to embed below. It's better than the current best-selling artist on the site.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Another blow for Sweetbay

Sweetbay leaked 4.2 million credit card numbers, probably including mine.

By my earlier prediction, the one by me has 16 more months before it'll be out of business.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Canon SD1000 Firmware Replacement

Canon SD1000I saw the other day that there's a build of the CHDK replacement firmware for the Canon SD1000. (Look for the IXUS70 model, which is the same camera.) I've had CHDK for my Canon S3 IS for a while. It enables some interesting things like shooting in RAW mode, but I actually haven't found RAW that useful on the S3. But now that I carry my SD1000 almost everywhere I go, it's great to have the same firmware for it.

For me the coolest thing it gives you is the ability to script your photo taking. You can have a script do bracketing on most of the variables. The script I like the most is interval shooting. I can easily shoot 90 photos at 1 minute intervals, capturing something like a sunset. It goes way beyond the time lapse video setting on the SD1000. Or I can have it automatically shoot kids at church at about a shot every other second.

There are even scripts (that I haven't tried) that do things like shooting when the scene changes, essentially doing motion detection.

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Friday, March 07, 2008

WPF install problems

If you want to install the "Visual Studio 2005 extensions for .NET Framework 3.0 (WCF & WPF), November 2006 CTP" *after* you have installed .NET 3.0 Service Pack 1 you will receive a message saying

"Setup has detected that a prerequisite is missing. To use Visual Studio 2005 extensions for .NET Framework 3.0 (WCF & WPF), November 2006 CTP you must have the .NET Framework 3.0 runtime installed. Please install the .NET Framework 3.0 runtime and restart setup."

In this you either need to

1) uninstall 3.0sp1, reinstall 3.0, install vsexwfx, reinstall 3.0sp1


2) or add the following value to your registry

"DisplayName"="Microsoft .NET Framework 3.0"

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Game Master

I don't want to be the only geek not blogging about this. Gary Gygax died the other day. I think half the people reading this know exactly who that is. For the other half, Gary was the primary creator of the Dungeons and Dragons game.

I've read a lot of geeks' stories of how they got into playing Dungeons and Dragons so maybe it's time for mine. I got the original Basic set for my 11th birthday. I read through the rules but I couldn't quite understand how to play this new game for a while. But I finally got going and soon had a fairly regular set of kids playing: me, my brother, my best friend Avron and sometimes his brother David. Some other kids from the neighborhood and school came and went, but for a couple years you could probably find at least the three of us playing D&D every week or two.

It was really the beginning of my sort of "double life" that I've lived at different times. Throughout middle school, you had about a 50-50 chance of finding me inside playing D&D with one set of friends or outside riding a BMX bike or playing the sport of the day with a different set of friends. It's interesting that neither group of friends could understand the other. The BMX guys would never understand how excited I was that my halfling thief was the one that outsmarted and defeated Strahd von Zarovich. My gaming buddies would never understand why a Torker or Profile was so much better than a Huffy. In a couple more years I was splitting my time between playing high school football and hanging out with band/car/metal-head guys. I guess I kind of still do it today. I know most of the guys I know from work or other places will never understand why I do children's ministry. And I know some of my friends from church are astonished that I've actually drank a few beers in my life or that I used to spend my nights and weekends wading through fire scenes for the Red Cross.

I learned a lot through and thanks to the game. Probability of course, with all the die rolls. I learned a lot of history and eventually some anthropology. Ecology, civil engineering, city planning, sociology, etc. You see, I was a realism nut. I always wanted adventures I created to make sense. By the time I went to college, I had crafted a small dungeon adventure that all made sense. The structures had 100 years of history and features like ventilation shafts. All the creatures in it had a purpose and a viable way to feed themselves. The local village had factions, some religious, and a power struggle. A lot of work, but it made me learn and think a lot. Finally, like most software developers my age, my first computer programs generated characters and I always wanted to build the ultimate computerized dungeon.

Somehow I don't think I ever played a single session of D&D in college. It's a shame, really, since there were some great guys like V gaming there. My group did play a lot of hearts, Illuminati, quarters and some Car Wars, but very little role playing.

I did keep collecting though. I've always kept collecting. That's another personality trait I can maybe trace to D&D. I haven't bought anything in almost 15 years but I do have an almost complete collection of 1st edition AD&D and most of 2nd edition. I've been tempted a few times to unload the whole thing on eBay but haven't. It's by far my biggest "collection".

So after Georgia Tech I moved back to Clearwater and quickly got bored with the "blow $50 drinking at a club every Friday night" routine. I managed to find a D&D game with a couple guys my age and a random assortment of high school kids. Soon I was playing every week. We'd get together about 9pm on Friday and play until 5am. This was an interesting group. Once the younger kids died off (or fell asleep), we had some great adventures. It was much more of a role-playing, theatrical, style than I'd ever played. I also got heavily into painting miniatures, often stripping off bad paintjobs from 10 years before. I had a blast for about a year and a half.

Then came Ann and marriage and USF and work and kids... Now I haven't played a non-computer D&D session in 15 years. From time to time I think about trying to connect with a local group and get started again. But I just don't have the energy and bandwidth for the all the drama and baggage most gamers bring to the table.

I also keep thinking maybe it's time to introduce it to our daughter. She loved the Lord of the Rings movies. She was fascinated by Neverwinter Nights. I know she'd love it. But I'd rather have her go play with kids her own age. Maybe in a couple years I'll give her the new-in-box 1979 Basic set I have and she can go discover it on her own.