Categories: "computer/tech"

Flight pattern visualization

Flight patternsFlight Patterns - This is a time-lapse view of the entire country, showing each plane in flight as a small dot that leaves a trail. The result is mesmerizing. I was just going to email this link to my dad, a pilot, but I think you might enjoy it, too.

(via Digg.com)

DVDs on your iPod

iTunes 6 has no way to import a DVD into the library. But I found this guide for ripping a DVD to a format that you can import to iTunes, then sync with the iPod. The same site also has a guide for converting any downloaded video for the iPod using ffmpegX, another free program that I already have installed. So, a person could wait until the next day and download one of 5 shows from the music store at half of the normal tv resolution for $1.99, or they could use BitTorrent to start downloading almost any show on tv about an hour after it airs, and get it for free in High Definition, then use ffmpegX to convert it if they want to watch it on the iPod. Hmm. Not that I would bother with any of this when I can watch the show on my tv. The important thing is that it will be possible to take content you already have and put it on the iPod. Not easy, exactly, but possible.

vPod Speculation

Edit: Looks like the video iPod has been confirmed. They also announced iTunes 6, music videos and tv episodes for sale in the music store and a media center add-on for the iMac. Details are still filtering in, but let's see how it compares to my expectations.

Apple rumor site Think Secret first reported that today's media event would not be to announce the highly anticipated video iPod from Apple. There have been hints that Apple will release an iPod-like device capable of playing back videos, not the least of which has been that iTunes has added support for playing videos. But now Think Secret is saying that it may be a video iPod that is announced today at 10am PDT after all. Many people have said that Apple wouldn't release a new iPod when the Nano is selling so well. But I think they'll be different enough products that they won't be in competition. I thought I might take part in the speculation and lay out what I would like to see in this product (whether it's announced today or later on).

1. An easy way to put my DVDs on the device. iTunes already lets me make a copy of a cd and store it on my computer or copy it to a portable device. It would be disappointing if the vPod didn't do this just as easily with DVDs. I know the movie studios would fight this, though. This functionality could come in the form of a new version of iTunes or a new app altogether.
Edit: There's still no word on whether iTunes 6 will be able to do these things.

2. A/V-out connections. This one should be no problem since it is already included in the iPod Photo. If I have video on the device I won't always want to watch it on the built-in screen. It should be easy to hook it up to a TV.
Edit: Check.

3. Big screen, small form factor. There's a delicate balance somewhere between being too bulky and having a screen that's too small to enjoy video on. If anyone can strike that balance, it's the designers at Apple.
Edit: I haven't seen a confirmed picture yet, but the screen is 2.5", 320x240, and it's thinner than the old iPod.

4. Some kind of way to interface with a DVR. I'm dreaming here, but it would be nice to dump the latest episode of the Daily Show from my Tivo onto the portable device to watch on a car ride or something. I doubt this will happen with Tivo, but maybe someone will make a MythTV plugin that can do this.
Edit: Probably not. But buying tv shows is an interesting alternative. Not that I'm going to pay $1.99 to watch something on a tiny screen that I can watch on a bigger screen for free.

5. Decent price. The high-end 60 GB iPod is currently $399. That's already a lot. They're not adding much more than some software changes and a bigger screen. $449 would be nice, $499 would be bearable, but anything else would be pushing it.
Edit: 30GB will be $299, 60GB will be $399. Better than I expected.

6. 80 GB hard drive. It's already well-known that Apple has access to tiny drives of this capacity. This should be a no-brainer. Video takes up a lot more space than audio.
Edit: This will have to come in a later update. 60 GB is still pretty good.

That's what I would like to see. If the new product matches this description, then I'll take it as a sign from on high that I should buy one. I guess we'll find out later today.

Edit: Here's a picture of one alongside the Nano. It's not much bigger than a Nano.
Click for a bigger image.

Pawn f2 to f4

I've been playing around with Speech Commands in Mac OS X. It's really fun. It has most of the basic commands you need already built in. As soon as I enabled speech commands I could say "switch to Firefox" into my microphone and it would switch applications and show me Firefox. You can navigate the menus and do some basic interaction with applications.

My favorite so far has been chess. I can open the chess application and play a whole game against the computer, all without touching the keyboard and mouse. I demonstrated this for Sara and she's doing a really good job at concealing her amazement.

But with a little customizing I've been able to do even more. Each program has its own speech commands available to it. Safari has one called "Make this page speakable." I figured out that I can copy the little file it makes to the Firefox folder, or better yet, the Everywhere folder. Now I can say "Check my Gmail" from any application and it pops Firefox to the front and opens up my inbox in a new tab.

You can download more speech commands (though I haven't found many good ones) or you can roll your own using AppleScript. But a much easier solution is to define keyboard commands. If it can be done with a keyboard command, then you can attach it to a phrase to make it speakable. I did Command+W with "Close tab" for Firefox, and Space with "Pause the movie" and "Play the movie" in VLC. This one is nice for when I'm laying on my couch watching a Doctor Who episode on my computer, wearing my headset. I just say "Pause movie. Fullscreen mode. Check my Gmail. Close tab. Switch to VLC. Fullscreen mode. Play movie." All that without even getting up or even lifting a finger.

It's more than just laziness and novelty that has made me look into this. I've been fighting a case of RSI, and the less I use my mouse and keyboard at home, the better.

Speech commands don't let me do any typing with my voice, but there are a couple of products for under $100 that do dictation for the Mac OS: Via Voice and iListen. The more popular Dragon Naturally Speaking is only available for Windows.

New website: Wimfields.com

I've been working on websites for a few businesses and this one went live yesterday:

Wimfields.com

I already run the website for the local newspaper, so when the publisher opened a restaurant, I got the job for its website, too. Wimfield's opened for business this morning and we had lunch there. The pork tenderloin sandwich was delicious. I would love to hear what you think of the site, expecially if you find any bugs. I think I'll write a post sometime describing how I made it. It looks simple, but I used some JavaScript and PHP to get around browser bugs and make it easier to maintain.

Google reader = yawn

Google announced yesterday that they have an online RSS aggregator in their labs. I schlepped on over to google.com/reader to check it out. I was able to import all my feeds in an opml file from Bloglines, which is nice. Google Reader is pretty, but other than that, I'm not impressed. It doesn't work the way I want it to like Bloglines does. I usually want to read all of the unread posts from a particular site, but Google Reader just shows me individual posts pulled from all my feeds in chronological order. I only have time to skim many of my feeds (if that), but others I read every word. So this won't work for me. It has tagging, but it's not clear how that works or if it would even help me. So, I'm sticking with Bloglines for now.

Writely

Writely is a browser-based word processor. You have most of the basic functionality of any desktop work processor, but there's nothing to install. Your work is stored online and you can publish it and collaborate with other Writely users. This might be a good way to work on the Brendoman.com book. I read about this on Slashdot, where several other AJAX browser-based apps are mentioned.

We Love Katamari

b2evolution plugin: Bookmarklet 2

This plugin is for the upcoming Phoenix version of b2evolution. It does not work in the current verion. But, if you have a pre-alpha copy of b2evolution and you want to try it, installation is easy. Just grab this file, remove the .txt from the filename, and save it in your plugins directory:

_bookmarklet2.plugin.phps

It works about like the stock plugin Bookmarklet, but it behaves more like the Movable Type bookmarklet that I'm used to. I've never liked making my post title a link, and that's what the stock plugin does. But my version puts the link in the body of the post.

Gallery upgrade

I upgraded my photo gallery software, customized it to match my blog and fixed the random photo block in my sidebar. Gallery 2 was released this week and it's a great step up from the version I had been using (1.4). Each album can have its own theme now, so my hostees don't have to have a gallery that looks like my blog. The upgrade went really smoothly. The new verison stores metadata in a MySQL database where the old version used files. That should improve perfomance and security. Next up: I need to upgrade the Gallery installation on Brendoman.com.

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