15 June 2008

Mac Utilities and Applications

I've only recently converted to the Mac, so I've been on the lookout for new utilities and tools. I have a set I use in windows, this what I have found useful so far on the Mac:

  • 1Password - an awsome password vault
  • AppleJack - OS command line utility for disk recovery - FREE
  • BlueHarvest - cleans up mac files from network shares
  • CyberDuck - FTP Client - FREE
  • DiskTop - indicates if a CD is loaded in the Mac by showing a CD/DVD on the desktop - FREE
  • Drive Genius - drive and file recovery
  • Flip4Mac - allows Quicktime to play Windows Media files
  • Google Notifier - checks for new mail and appointment on google - FREE
  • gSync - syncs my iCal with Google Calendars
  • HandBrake - DVD ripping - FREE
  • iStat Menus - general performance stats in the Mac Menus - FREE
  • Jolly's FastVNC - a VNC client - FREE
  • Jungle Disk - Amazon S3 remote disk storage
  • KeyFixer - allow the Home and End keys to work like they do on a PC - FREE
    KeyFixer for Firefox - Home and End fixes for Firefox browser - FREE
  • Little Snitch - personal firewall
  • MacTheRipper - DVD ripping when HandBrake fails - FREE
  • NetShredX - shreads surfing history and temp files for Safari and Firefox
  • NuFile - right click to create a new blank file (primarily to create new TXT files) - FREE
  • Perian - QuickTime codecs including DivX- "The Swiss-army knife for QuickTime" - FREE
  • SynergyKM - GUI for Synergy to share keyboard/mouse with other computers over TCPIP - FREE
  • Tech Tool Pro 4 - disk maintenance, recovery, and system checks
  • Toast 9 - CD Burning
  • Name Mangler - basic file renaming utility - FREE
  • Visual Hub - universal video converter for the Mac (convert encoding, size, etc.)
  • VLC - cross-platform video player - FREE
  • VMWare Fusion - virtual machines for the Mac - how I run windows now
  • X-Lite - VoIP application - FREE
I have also been trying various applications - these are the ones I'm partial to at the moment:


Data Archiving - Jungle Disk and Amazon S3

I've settled on a data archiving plan - using Amazon S3 along with Jungle Disk to store my critical files. I like the fact the files are encrypted prior to being transfer to Amazon. Amazon S3 should be very reliable and the cost should be minimal. It will ensure that if the house burns down or the computers are stolen, I'll still have what I need.


14 June 2008

Changing Blog Providers

Its that time of year again - time to renew my web hosting contract.

I've decided to moved this blog from a Wordpress blog hosted at ANHosting (who I still really like) to BlogSpot hosted blog. As you know, I don't blog much, so it seems dumb to pay $84 a year just to host a blog. I'm still paying to host my photo gallery at SmugMug. The SmugMug RSS photo feeds actually integrate nicely with BlogSpot.

The only issue I found with blogspot was with uploading files (PDFs, etc.) There is no way to upload anything other than a photo, video, or audio clip. I found a work around by hosting files on a Google Site web page associated with my GFYD account.

I'm considering getting a Mac Me account when it is released, if for nothing more than the forthcoming real time iPhone sync features. We'll see how it works during my 60 day trial.


13 April 2008

First Borneo Photos Posted

After a long weekend of sorting, a sampling of photos from Borneo have been posted. There are more to come in the near future. Enjoy! Click on the Photo Gallery link in the menu above.


06 April 2008

Made it back

I have arrived home from Borneo. Photos will be posted soon!


25 March 2008

Borneo Itinerary

Click to view the itinerary PDF: Borneo Itinerary


Where Am I?

I’m going to be traveling with a small GPS satellite link called the Find Me Spot which will allow me to check-in from time to time while Traveling. The coverage in Borneo looks to be marginal, but I’ll give it a try anyway.

So, how does this all work? Keep reading for all of the technical details…

Tad purchased the Find Me Spot I am borrowing. He will have far more use for it that I will. I am interested in seeing how it works on the trip to Borneo, however I don’t have high hopes that it will work well. The coverage maps for the Find Me Spot show that coverage will be reduced or non-existent. Never the less, I’m taking the unit to see what it will do.

There are a few issues with the Spot. It has a tracking mode which will beacon a position every 10 minutes, however the information is only available by signing into the spot web page, which only the owner can do. There is also a Check-In mode which will send email to a list of people each time the check in button is pressed. The email includes the coordinates and location of the check-in along with the time/date and a link to Google Maps to show the location. While this is useful, it could be annoying to get a ton of emails as I move around. I really wanted to show my location on a web page that people could check (or not) when they were interested.

My first thought was to send the emails to an email account and have the blog software retrieve the emails and display them. While in theory that would work, issues with IMAP and SSL prevented me from taking the easy way out. Instead I needed to find another way to broadcast the information. I considered a mailing list - then people could subscribe/unsubscribe as needed. I setup a free discussion list using Google Groups. I setup the Spot to send email to the group. Then I found that I could get an RSS feed of the emails from Google Groups. Now were getting some where.

I setup an RSS feed reader in Wordpress to display the last few emails that were sent to the group. Using a custom module called the KB Advanced RSS Widget I was able to display the feed and enable the link to Google Maps. Finally some GPS-Mapping goodness.

Next I moved on to the Yahoo Pipes mash-up editor with the intent of cleaning up the text of the messages displayed in the RSS feed. While working on that I got side tracked by a Pipes module called the Location Extractor. This module will look for latitude and longitude information in the RSS feed and parse it out into coordinate - and I will do this from (among other things) a Google maps URL. Pipes outputs a GeoRSS feed which can be presented in a dynamic KML file, which a custom Google Maps API web page sucks right in and processes into the map you see above. Since the original title of the emails from the Spot are always the same, I threw a Replace module in and copied the content field to the title field so you would get the whole message when clicking on the marker.

So from the ground GPS signals are received, a message is sent to a satellite every time the Check-In button is pressed. When the satellite signal is received an email is generated and sent to Google Groups. Google Groups receives the message and adds it to the RSS feed. The RSS feed is displayed in the Where Am I panel on my Wordpress blog. At the same time, the RSS feed is parsed by a custom Yahoo Pipe which transforms the feed into a KML file, which Google maps reads and uses to dynamically generate the map. Simple!


22 March 2008

Where is Borneo?

Below is a map the island of Borneo (in the center) and the surrounding area. The island is shared between Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. I will be visiting the north eastern Malaysian State of Sabah.

View Larger Map


Adventures in Borneo

Mt Kinabalu — http://wikitravel.org/en/Mount_Kinabalu
Leeches — http://www.endemicguides.com/Leech/Leech.htm

This looks to be an interesting trip!


17 March 2008

Comming Soon: Borneo

The countdown has begun. 1 week until my Borneo trip begins. I’ll post more information here as I get it. Stay tuned!


Replacing Phanfare with SmugMug

Well, the time has come to move on to a new photo sharing site. Phafare is changing it model and will no longer allow open sharing of photos. Instead, you have to open a Phanfare account to see my photos. Since I don’t want people to have to open an account to see my photos, I’m in the process of moving them to SmugMug. While offiering a completly different set of features, at a higher price, the quality and free access is there. They also gave me a discount for my first year because I was leaving Phanfare.

One of the features I’m looking forward to is the ability to geocode a gallery and display the locations the photos were taken. I’ve purchase a bluetooth adapter for my D200 camera (the RedHen Blue2CAN) and a very small bluetooth GPS (the Wintech WBT-201) to send it signals. The combination will allow me to geocode the photos in the camera. I hope to make the forthcoming trip to Borneo a geocoded gallery.

More to come as I post more photos and get settled into SmugMug.


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