Archive for the 'Geek Stuff' Category

WordPress and Gallery Geekiness

I’ve been using WordPress for this blog for quite a while now, and I’ve been using Gallery for my photo gallery for a very long time. I finally got around to putting the two together. It’s not really that hard since there’s a WordPress plugin for just this function. It’s called WordPress Gallery2 Plugin (WPG2).

The main thing stopping me was the need to upgrade my Gallery installation so it would be compatible with the latest WPG2. This turned out to be fairly painless. I made a backup of my gallery database using phpMyAdmin. Then I downloaded and installed the latest Gallery release and ran through the web setup pages. It went off without a hitch. I installed a couple Gallery plugins to make things work better with WordPress, including ImageBlock and ImageFrame.

Pounding surf at Baker's BeachNext I installed the WPG2 plugin for WordPress. Basically, you just unzip it in the plugin folder and click on the WPG2 tab in the WordPress administrator page. Once again there was a simple web based setup and I was ready to go. Now you can see my gallery embedded in my blog layout by clicking on PHOTO GALLERY in the dark blue navigation bar near the top of the page. I also added a photo gallery navigator and random picture to the sidebar to the right. Another cool feature is it lets me add pictures to my blog postings directly from the gallery, and I can even enable neat effects like Lightbox pop-ups (click on picture on right).

The only down side so far is that loading my main page seems slower, but maybe it was that slow before. Hopefully all this new technology will improve my blogs more than not.

Posted on 3rd February 2008
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Google My Maps

First of all, Happy New Year! I had planned to write a log blog about everything that happened in 2007, but I guess all you really need to do is look through my old posts…

Google MyMapsThe other day I was playing around with the My Maps feature on Google. It’s pretty cool. You can find an area of interest on the map and annotate it with various markers. I had made one a while ago for my trip to Africa. This time I marked a bunch of points of interest at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Mary and I visit there just about every weekend looking for various types of raptors and other wildlife.

Posted on 7th January 2008
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Digiscoping for Dummies

Sometime in November I mentioned that I had purchased a spotting scope for Mary’s birthday. I have also mentioned digiscoping before, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about digiscoping and what I’m doing.

Pentax PF-80ED-AThere are two primary components needed for digiscoping, a digital camera (digi) and a spotting scope (scoping). After a lot of research, I ended up buying the Pentax PF-80ED-A with a 20-60x zoom eyepiece from Eagle Optics. You can read a bit about it on Eagle Optics’ blog entry: Spotting Scopes for Birding. For the digital camera, I have been using Mary’s Casio Exilim EX-S500. It’s not the best combination, but I’ve managed to get some decent results.

VignettingSome things to consider are the camera’s zoom (4x is supposed to be about the best) and the scopes eye relief (distance your eye or the camera lens can be from the scope eyepiece and still see the image). These factors combine to determine the amount of vignetting you will have in the picture (black ring around your image). You can see an extreme example of vignetting in the picture to the right, which was my first attempt at digiscoping with the Pentax and Casio setup. Zooming the camera to 4x and zooming the scope eyepiece to 40x pretty much eliminates the vignetting for me.

Digiscoped peregrineOne of the main difficulties with digiscoping is getting the camera lens lined up with the scope eyepiece. So far I’ve been doing this mostly by hand, and occasionally set up a second tripod with the Casio, but lining up the two instruments on two separate scopes is not so easy, and it is definitely not very adjustable. I did manage to get a decent picture of a peregrine falcon atop a power line tower (picture on left). There are many mounts and adapters available to connect the camera to the scope, but none that I have found work with the huge eyepiece on the Pentax scope. I’ll have to figure something out to solve this problem.

It’s pretty fun stuff. Once I find a good adapter solution, it should be much easier to set up and track birds. So far I’ve captured a white-tailed kite, red-tailed hawk and a peregrine falcon.

Posted on 16th December 2007
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Green Linux PC for $199


Read about it on GreenValhalla.

Posted on 2nd November 2007
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Silicon Valley Code Camp 2007

Today, Mary and I went to something called the Silicon Valley Code Camp. It’s a free, two day conference “by and for the developer community.” It’s basically a bunch of sessions about various aspects of software development, from Microsoft’s .NET to Google’s KML. There were multiple, concurrent sessions through the weekend, and a free lunch was provided by Microsoft. The sessions were presented by developers with varying experience in development and presentation skills. Mary and I only attended 2 sessions.

One Laptop Per Child: Give 1 Get 1

The first session was “Programming for Children” presented by Edward Cherlin. The session was supposed to introduce us to the XO Laptop from One Laptop Per Child. The XO is targeted to “provide children around the world with new opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves.” You can read more about the XO on the OLPC website and the OLPC wiki. You can donate an XO and get one for yourself by clicking on the “give 1 get 1″ logo. There are other ways to contribute as well.

From the session description, we expected to get the answers to the following questions:

  • What kind of content is needed, and what is the process for creating it?
  • What is the process for Sugarizing existing software?
  • How will the children adapt software to their needs, and learn to write more?

Mary with XO computerUnfortunately, the presenter was not very focused. He kept getting easily sidetracked and it didn’t help that a few people in the audience would ask questions that would get him further off topic. About all we did learn is that Edward Cherlin is a well intentioned but very odd individual. I suppose we did get some background on the OLPC project, but most of that is on the wiki. On the bright side, we did have an opportunity to touch and feel an XO laptop in person. There’s a picture of Mary with the XO on on the left.

The second session was “Design Patterns - What They Are and Why You Should Care” by Fletcher Johnson. This was a much better presentation than the first one. In fact, the presenter even taught at San Jose State University for a time, so he is a well seasoned lecturer. According to Wikipedia, a design pattern is “a general repeatable solution to a commonly occurring problem in software design.” It’s a way to describe and classify a solution to common problems. One example given was imagine you are designing a 2 story building and you needed to figure out how people will got from one floor to the next. You could use stairs, escalator, elevator, etc. These are design patterns. The session focused on design patters as they pertain to object-oriented programming (OOP) where design patters typically show the relationships between classes or objects without specifying the final class or object. The lecture was well done, but I don’t have a lot of experience with OOP, so most of it was lost on me.

Posted on 28th October 2007
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