Blog entries from September, 2008

PM and WSG photos

Sunday, September 28th, 2008 at 08:05pm

After a long delay I have finally caught up with putting my photos from Melbourne Perl Mongers and the Web Standards Group up on Flickr:

At some later point I need to change the name of each photo to be descriptive, not just the image filename.

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No more

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008 at 08:38am

For a few years now I have been following because of the cool projects, many of which involved old SGI or Apple hardware.

Unfortunately this has come to a premature end, as Mark Hoekstra, the guy doing the projects, passed away a few days ago.

Not good. Not good at all.

Some of my favourite projects:

Riding with a mounted camera

Sunday, September 21st, 2008 at 04:50pm

Today I went for a ride with Brendan and Hamish (they are getting ready for the 100km around the bay) up the Eastlink Trail to Ringwood, around to the other end of the tunnels and then back. As well as it being the first time riding along that section of Eastlink it was the first time I had a camera mounted to my bike.

Last Thursday I spent some time making a bracket so I could mount the secondhand camera to my bike. I thought I was going in the right direction until I discovered that the older Cateye mount wouldn’t fit on the newer Cateye mount. So I stopped.

On Friday I remembered a bracket that I had in my box of bicycle bits that might be suitable for this style of mount. This is the result:

Simple camera mount for bicycle

with the camera mounted like this:

Simple camera mount in use

I had to remove one of the Cateye mounts, remove the light from the other one and there is no quick way to remove the camera, but it worked surprisingly well. However the camera wasn’t quite level, partly due to the shape of my handlebars and partly because the tripod mount on the camera isn’t centred.

I have another old mount of the same type, so a new version I am thinking of is to use both mounts, one of each side of the stem, with a horizontal bar in between. The camera is then mounted onto the bar. As well as better distributing the weight of the camera it would also keep it level with the handlebars. The bar might also provide a place to attach a quick release for the camera.

Enough about the mount. What about the camera?

For the first two thirds of the ride I had the S45 attached. It was on all of the time and when I saw something interesting coming up I would reach over and press the shutter. I ended up with almost 200 photos, most of which are ok, even if they aren’t necessary showing anything interesting. I also tried out the video function which worked nicely except that it is only 320×240 at 15 frames a second for a maximum time of 3 minutes.

For the last third of the ride I had the Flip video camera mounted and after reviewing the video I can see that it isn’t suitable for this purpose as the vibrations coming up from the path surface are seen as distortions in the video. In contract the video from the S45 is shaky, but each individual frame is fine.

Aparat from the cost of the Flip I am not that concerned as I prefer to have photos of the ride at a much higher resolution than a video camera would give. Instead of reaching over to press the shutter I am thinking of two methods to take a photos automatically:

  • A firmware enhancement such as CHDK that provides an intervalometer function.
  • Wiring up a timer of some kind to the camera that mimics pressing the shutter.

I shall see how things go.

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A new (old) camera

Friday, September 12th, 2008 at 08:12pm

For the next two months I won’t have my little digital camera, it will be travelling Europe with my parents. I won’t miss the camera, except for when I go for rides. Which I am planning to do a few of in the coming weekends.

Since it’s not practical to take my 400D and the camera in my iPhone isn’t good enough for what I want I ressurected an idea I had when I first mused about taking photos while riding: buy a secondhand camera to mount to the bike instead of the camera I bought new.

So I started watching eBay for cheap, but working cameras, even bidding on a couple. I ended up bidding on, and then winning, a Canon S45. There wasn’t any postage costs either as it was literally around the corner so I walked around to pick it up.

I have two thoughts about how to mount it:

  • the simplest being to attach the mount from an old Cateye light to the tripod mount on the camera and then slotting that onto the brackets used for one of my lights
  • more complicated is a bracket that holds the camera forward and at the same level of the handlebar, possibly with damping to reduce vibrations

I’m thinking the first one … for now.

(lets not mention the Flip video camera that I have also been meaning to mount, but that would be more suited for the second option)

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Yet another IBM PC Convertible

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008 at 01:47pm

Today I received my fourth IBM PC Convertible. I got the first one because it looked like something unusual, the second because it included the thermall printer, and the third because of the backlit display and the original IBM carry case.

What does this one have going for it?

Not much, apart from a Targus branded carry case. To be honest I didn’t think that I had bid high enough to get it. It turns out that I was wrong.

I really need to work on sorting through my collection, not adding to it.

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A response from Garmin

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008 at 04:51pm

A few days ago I ranted about the trouble I had unlocking Garmin maps and I have an update.

Aparrently they did recieve me question (I still can’t see it in their support site) because today I received a response via email. They didn’t address my problems with the site, instead they just told me what my unlock code is and where to manually enter it to unlock the maps.

I suppose any response is better than no response, but that was only one of my issues with the unlock process.

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My first geohashing expedition

Monday, September 8th, 2008 at 10:41pm

Ever since The Alogorithm was first announced I have wanted to go on an expedition.

Last Saturday I was a bit late in checking for the days location (it was after the official 4pm meetup time), but as it was so close to home I had no option but to ride over. More details can be found on the expedition page which I have just finished updating with my info and photos.

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Where is the eBay iPhone app?

Monday, September 8th, 2008 at 07:32pm

This afternoon something, I can’t remember what, reminded me of an official iPhone app for eBay. I have been using the mobile interface, but a native app should be a big improvement.

So where is it?

A search for ‘ebay’ in the app store (both on the phone and through iTunes) returns four results. None of them the offical app.

A google search for ‘ebay iphone app‘ finds, currently as the third result, the official eBay on iPhone page. This looks promising, but it says “available exclusively via the Apple App Store” in the fine print.

Wasn’t I just there and didn’t find it? Yes.

Then I realise that the words “Available Now” is a link to the App Store. Following that link on my PowerBook starts up iTunes, which is promising until I get the following message:

“The item you’ve requested is not currently available in the Australian Store.”


I go back to the eBay page to double check the fine print. There is nothing I can see about any region restrictions and I now remember seeing the eBay logo on one of the Apple pages, which I would consistenly be redirected to the Australian versions of.

And there it is. On right hand side of the Australian page for the iPhone 3G page, at the top of the Top Apps section on the right is a link to the eBay app. Again with an iTunes link that gives me the same not available message.

I’m confused.

The eBay page I can sort of understand as there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent page on the Australian eBay site. But the Australian iPhone page? I would consider it reasonable for the regional page to only list apps that are available in that region’s store.


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The Garmin map DRM annoys me

Saturday, September 6th, 2008 at 01:30pm

Tomorrow I’m going for a ride with a friend, so earlier in the week I set about installing the Garmin map software so I could load the route into my GPS unit. I had it installed previously, but that was before I built myself a new computer.

So over I went to the Garmin site to download the latest versions of the USB drivers, the firmware update tool, and MapSource, the mapping program. Installing these went fine until I installed the Australian maps that I had bought at the start of the year.

It wouldn’t let me unlock them. Specifically it wouldn’t let me retrieve the previous unlock codes.

The version of MapSource that I was using was 6.14.1 and the unlock procedure was different than I remmembered it. Instead of giving me an option to restore the unlock codes from a backup file, the only option was to unlock online.

After installing a Garmin plugin in Firefox the unlock web page was able to detect my GPS unit and, according to the instructions, all I needed to do was enter the serial number of the unit and click ‘Retrieve Unlocks’.

No: “Unable to unlock map(s) for unit”

Why didn’t that work? The maps are still loaded on the unit (but not viewable in MapSource) and when I login to the Garmin site it correctly tells me what unit I have AND what maps are installed/unlocked.

Maybe they’re not competent to support multiple browsers so I try Internet Explorer. Still unable to unlock so that’s not the problem.

How about the support section of their site? I find a question about unlocking after a computer crash which seems promising. However the answer talks about an unlock wizard, more like what I remember from last time, which appears to be have been replaced by the web based process.

As I was planning to take a route drawn up in Bikely and my unit still has the maps installed there was no urgency in viewing them in MapSoruce, so I decided to submit a question. Which does lead to a browser support problem.

I first tried to submit my question in Firefox. But clicking submit didn’t seem to have any effect. The page that is supposed to “Access and manage your correspondence with Product Support” showed nothing. Had the question been submitted? Aparently not as when I tried it in Internet Explorer I got a success screen. But it still wasn’t being shown back to me as correspondence.

It is now 48 hours later and I hadn’t heard anything so I decided to try something different. Revert back to the version of MapSource that I had previously used (I had kept the 6.13.4 installer) and see what the unlock process is like there.

It was what I remembered and this time there was the option to use my backup file and the maps were unlocked. Yay! I then reinstalled 6.14.1 and the maps stayed unlocked. Another yay!

So what was good about this:

  • Garmin does update their software

But there is more bad:

  • The new web based process didn’t work
  • The support info was out of date
  • The support site didn’t work properly in Firefox ( if you were wondering)
  • The support site works more in Internet Explorer (7.0.6001) but maybe not entirely
  • If they did receive my question, then two business days is more than enough for at least an acknowledgement that they received it

I have it working now, but who knows if others have the same problems and if they are, then how would Garmin know if the channel for asking for help doesn’t seem to work?

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SLR shutter mechanism in slow motion

Friday, September 5th, 2008 at 11:10pm

(Normally I don’t post links like this, but this was just too impressive not to…)

Thanks to Gizmodo I found out about a photo sequence of the Nikon D3 shutter mechanism. The original site was down by the time I found out about it, but this animation of the sequence is well worth looking at.

In the final night of the Digital SLR course that I did recently, the teacher explained how the shutter really worked with the mirror lifting up and the two metal curtains that were what really controlled the exposure. I couldn’t really picture it. But now I don’t just have to imagine it, there is an animation.

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Chrome is not for me

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008 at 08:16pm

After all of the talk over the last day and so, I decided to have a look at Chrome, Google’s web browser.

It is nice, but I’m going to stick with Firefox. Mainly because the bits that are better are overshadowed by the lack of RSS support.

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The digital SLR course ended last week

Monday, September 1st, 2008 at 06:21pm

Last Monday was the last week of the digital SLR course that I was doing with David. After covering long exposures we covered exposure, perspective, depth of field and (not) using the flash. From this I have added some more photos to the Flickr set.

These include the stereotypical flower for depth of field:

Small DOF (28mm 1/250s f/1.8)

double exposure using an external flash twice in a long exposure:

Long exposure - flash x 2

and using long exposure again, but with a moving sparkler and the external flash:

Long exposure - Sparklers and flash (1)

I would recommend the course to anyone.

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