More photos from Mexico

Sunday, February 17, 2008 at 13:41
Today I scanned in a few photos from scuba diving in Mexico last May. This was our first diving trip and first attempt at underwater photography. I bought an inexpensive film camera in an underwater housing just to be able to get some photo experience. Most of the photos aren't great but the learning experience was worthwhile. Mostly I learned that I wanted better digital photo equipment, but also that underwater photography is significantly more complex than land photography because remembering to breathe and remaining really still are difficult when you're concentrating on your subject. The full album is online now. The cavern pics are from the Chac-Mool cenote near Playa del Carmen. Most of the others are from Tortugas (turtle) reef. Kevin Sorensen also has some nice photos from Tortugas.

Yukon Quest 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008 at 21:57

On our trip to the Yukon in 2003, we met a fellow named Frank Turner who has competed in the Yukon Quest dogsled race more than 20 times. We also acquired our dog Kaska from him as he had about 30 rescue dogs that he was trying to find homes for. This year, Frank is competing again and he keeps a photo blog of his race that is updated each day. We enjoy seeing the daily updates and the incredible strength and endurance of this team.

From Yukon 2003
This is Frank with the kids in a prototype sled that he was testing, and L with one of Frank's newborn (2 weeks old) pups. One of my all-time favorite photos.

More fun with Maps

at 20:19
The KML support in Google maps also makes it easy for me to create a map page showing all of my found geocaches. Earth has had this support for a long time now, but it's nice to see it in Maps where it's accessible to more people.


View Larger Map

Fun with Google Maps

at 14:51
I usually bring my handheld GPS with me when travelling. It's an older Garmin eTrex Legend that does mapping, but does not do routing. I've used it a lot for Geocaching and it's been great for that. I logged our main driving trips while on vacation in Costa Rica and today I spent some time playing around with the logs in Google Earth and Google Maps. I've used Earth and GPS logs quite a bit in the past, but the new Maps allows me to create a custom map and to import Google Earth kml files - so I can create and embed Maps links with my GPS info on them, viewable from any browser without the need to install Google Earth. Here's the map of our driving in CR. I'm going to experiment with adding some photos to this map.


View Larger Map

The other cool thing you can do if you have Google Earth is to download the kml file for this route and replay it in Tour Mode. It will follow the specified route, giving a birds-eye view of the drive. Chose the View Larger Map link, the the View in Google Earth link on that page to load the kml into Google Earth on your computer.

Is that a tripod in your pocket?

Thursday, February 7, 2008 at 20:21
I like to take photos, but I basically suck at it. It's not so much that I don't have a good eye for taking photos (I don't really, but that's not the reason my pics are bad), it's that I just can't hold the camera still enough. I bring a tripod along for driving trips but when flying or going on a backpacking trip, that's too much to lug along. I've toyed with the idea of using a monopod, but then I came across this idea for a dirt cheap stabilizer. I might have to give it a go; if it actually works it would be a great solution for hiking and backpacking and you could keep one right in the camera case, even a tiny one. In a similar vein, I recently made one of these poor man's steadycams designed by Johnny Chung Lee and it worked out pretty well.

p.s. Johnny is also doing some really cool hacking with Wii remotes.

Pedal faster, I'm thirsty!

at 19:52

This is the winner of Google's Innovate or Die contest. It is a human-powered water carrying and filtering system. The current prototype obviously needs some work to be robust enough to survive the expected conditions of use, but there's definitely some good potential for this kind of device. I'm reminded of the treadle pumps used in many developing nations. Combine the two, and you have a complete human-powered system for retrieving, transporting and purifying water. It's not clear what kind of filtration system is being used in the Aquaduct project. Any form of physical filtration would eventually require replacement so supply of replacement filters would be an issue. An alternative would be to use a dynamo to power a MIOX type system. Then the only consumable in the system would be common salt. Presumably that would be easier to source than some commercially produced microfilter.

Welcome to Cloud City

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 at 23:20

I've decided to try a technology experiment for 2008. I'm moving to Cloud City. That is, I'm going to attempt to reduce or eliminate my dependency on local computing resources. The idea is to do as much as I can using web-based and online services - basically, migrate as much of the stuff I use most of the time to cloud computing and see if I can actually operate that way.

I've been aware of the various applications and services that are available to use for several years, but never got around to trying any of them. So now I will.

I was motivated to do this for three reasons:

  1. Observing the way I access various services when I'm travelling - I can get a lot done using VPN and remote access technologies - I wondered how far I could take that idea.
  2. The fact that I use a lot of different computers every day, and it can be a pain to co-ordinate where I've left something or worked on it last. I have a NAS and various servers at home but enabling and securing access to them from other locations is a pain. USB keys are the new sneakernet, but not without issues (reliability, easily lost/stolen).
  3. I've been looking at the new micro-sized laptops that are/will be available. Specifically, the Asus EEE PC, the Everex Cloudbook and the OLPC XO-1. I got to thinking about actually using a small machine with only limited solid-state storage and would it be possible to do all my normal day to day (personal) computing on a device like that? Surely, you'd want to rely as little as possible on data you store on that machine or on removable memory cards.
So I've set myself a goal of moving away from locally installed applications and storage and seeking out online options instead. So far, I've accomplished the following:

  • Finally organized some of the 9.7 gazillion photos we have, created some albums of the best ones and put them up on Picasa.
  • Moved all my email usage to webmail. Nothing new about that - I don't think my kids have ever even seen or used a "mail client" - it's always been webmail for them. But I have 5 or 6 accounts I used regularly and using a mail program has been my habit since PINE was bleeding-edge. I consolidated them all via GMail using their Mail Fetcher.
  • Moved all my bookmarks to del.icio.us. Again not new, and I'm not yet seeing how I will benefit from the social aspect of it, but it does do a couple things for me - 1) Allows me to access all my bookmarks from any computer. No more bookmarking something on one machine then trying to find it again from another. 2) Allows my wife and I to have easily shared bookmarks. We can each flag stuff for the other to read. Maybe that's a partial win for the social thing.
  • Started moving some documents that I reference often to Google Docs. I've been using OpenOffice for a while, and GDocs imports their formats as well as the ubiquitous MSFT Office formats (which I also use, just like everyone else with a real job). Outside of work, I don't have any complex documents that the GDocs tool can't hande (yet...).
So that's my Cloud City experiment. I'm still researching mass online storage options, better photo storage, easy no-brainer online backups and more.

Frist Psot

Sunday, February 3, 2008 at 22:43
So all the cool kids have blogs now. Guess it's time for me to conform. I have a few projects on the go; thought this might be a good way to document them as well as to post some photos from time to time.

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