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Showing posts from 2010

10 Best Data Visualization Projects of the Year – 2010

10 Best Data Visualization Projects of the Year – 2010: This looks fascinating, worth some exploration.

Full Body Scanners

Schneier on Security: Full Body Scanners: What's Next?:
"The truth is that exactly two things have made air travel safer since 9/11: reinforcing cockpit doors and convincing passengers they need to fight back. The TSA should continue to screen checked luggage. They should start screening airport workers. And then they should return airport security to pre-9/11 levels and let the rest of their budget be used for better purposes. Investigation and intelligence is how we're going to prevent terrorism, on airplanes and elsewhere. It's how we caught the liquid bombers. It's how we found the Yemeni printer-cartridge bombs. And it's our best chance at stopping the next serious plot."Yes, normal people agree with this too!

Scott Adams' Nerdgasm

Review: Brasyl by Ian McDonald

I read it, generally I liked it. The mystery behind how the three main characters and time-periods relate (and the therefore the wrap up) was not too surprising from a general knowledge of the many-worlds hypothesis of quantum mechanics.

Brasyl on Amazon.

Bike ride maps

So here's the weekend bike ride:
http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=4145074
10 miles in under an hour. But some people can run that fast?
The map site shows what can be done with google maps api....

An experiment: embedding google maps

Here's the Battle Branch Trail green space:


View Battle Branch in a larger map

Make: Online : OpenStreetMap: The Maker's Map

Make: Online : OpenStreetMap: The Maker's Map:

Just found another connection to OpenStreetMap, Gmaps Pedometer, which has the 'OSM' overlay. My office mate maps his bike rides on it.

OSM is pretty amazing already - it shows the houses in my neighborhood with accurate sizes and positions.

And here's a cycle-centric view, OpenCycleMap. This is fun.

Google toolbar and the Gmail tiny box

Once in a while my Google toolbar in Firefox will refuse to show me my Gmail. The Gmail icon will show whether I have mail or not, but clicking on the button does nothing (it normally opens Gmail), and clicking the menu triangle shows a tiny box with nothing in it (it normally shows either the subject of the new mail I've received, or a 'refresh' option). The problem persists if you restart Firefox (I'm using 3.6.x, but it's happened for quite some time).

The solution is to clear cookies: Tools menu, Clear Recent History, change the time-range to Everything, and uncheck everything except Cookies. Restart Firefox, login to Google, and your Gmail button is back to normal.

Update: Could be just logging out of the toolbar and logging back in fixes it, too?

wxWidgets wxMemoryFS bug with filenames

This one drove me crazy this afternoon, using wxWidgets 2.8.8. Not the most recent, but I haven't found any notes that says it's been fixed.
I added a file to a MemoryFS
wxString name = "C:\data\my_file.txt";
wxMemoryFSHandler::AddFile(name, out_s.GetString());
//(where second arg is the file contents as a string)
but then I couldn't retrieve it:
wxFileSystem fs;
wxFSFile *fs_file = fs.OpenFile("memory:"+name);
if (!fs_file) return; // fs_file always NULL, so I'd get an early return
Turns out, when trying to look up the file, filesys.cpp:: MakeCorrectPath is called on the string that's passed in, so it converted back-slashes to forward-slashes, and the names weren't equivalent. I did this:
wxString name = "C:\data\my_file.txt";
name.Replace("\\", "/");
wxMemoryFSHandler::AddFile(name, out_s.GetString());
and now I'm able to retrieve it.
8Oct 10 Update: I submitted a defect.

Inno Setup and recursive installers

We've got a recursive installer in our Inno Setup script. What I mean is that our main setup program installs another setup program (for a viewer), so that the user can copy/install that viewer program at a later date.

Here's how to do that in an Inno Setup script:
[Files]
Source: {src}\viewer_cd\*; DestDir: {app}\viewer_cd\; Flags: external recursesubdirs replacesameversionall on one line, of course. I discovered today that Flags: replacesameversion is critical, because it causes the 'setup.exe' file inside that folder to be replaced during debugging. Before I put that flag in, I tested my main installer, then ran the viewer setup.exe, and it ran an old version, with bugs I thought I'd fixed! How annoying. Now setup.exe will get replaced, even if it has the same embedded 'version' info.

A switch, taking my own advice

I've taken my own pointer and run with it. Let's go see what
http://www.aronhelser.com/
looks like :)

Mashable: Run Your Business Online with $10 and a Google Account

HOW TO: Run Your Business Online with $10 and a Google Account:
Seems like a cool way establish an online identity more concretely. I didn't know $10 was all a domain costs for a blogger blog. (blog blog blog ....)
Matt Cutts posts some useful stuff.

Review: The Angel's Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I almost labeled it fantasy. If you start this book, please put aside the time so you can finish it rapidly! I took a week break, and felt lost coming back because of the threads of the plot I hadn't held on to.

It is a fascinating book, worth the time, and it doesn't quite fit where you expect it. The mystical aspects are stronger here than in his first book (The Shadow of the Wind), and that's a negative in my opinion. My wife and I were both somewhat puzzled and dissatisfied with the epilogue/resolution. I enjoyed the characters, the intrigue, and the twisting plot. Overall, recommended.

The Angel's Game at PBSwap.

Building libpano13-2.9.17_rc1 for Hugin

Hugin is great panorama software, but they need people to build it for Windows. I've been occasionally working on it, and I've succeeded in doing complete 32 and 64 bit builds in MSVC 2010. I've almost documented how on the MSVC 2010 wiki page, but it's not quite complete. Thought I'd make note, and invite others to attempt it as well!

Today I compiled the libpano RC, and I'll try the hugin RC soon.

Inno Setup MSVC vcredist without bothering your users

If your C++ program is compiled with MS Visual Studio 2005 Express, and you link with the DLL versions of the C run-time libraries, you probably already know that you have to run vcredist_x86.exe to install those dependencies on a new computer before your program will run.

Here's how to do that in an Inno Setup script.
First, download vcredist_x86.exe from MSDN, Microsoft Visual C++ 2005 SP1 Redistributable Package (x86)
Notice that's for SP1, the instructions are different for non-SP1, and for the vcredist_x86.exe that comes with Visual Studio Standard or Professional. See the credit link below.

Include this in your script:

[Files]
Source: {src}\bin\vcredist_x86.exe; DestDir: {app}\bin\;

[Run]
Filename: {app}\bin\vcredist_x86.exe; Parameters: "/q:a /c:""VCREDI~3.EXE /q:a /c:""""msiexec /i vcredist.msi /qn"""" """; WorkingDir: {app}\bin; StatusMsg: Installing CRT...


Alternative for x64 ( I haven't teste…

Inno Setup custom data directory location

In my last post, I forgot to point you to Inno Setup; go get the Inno Setup QuickStart Pack to get going.
I showed how to copy a directory full of data, like tutorials or sample data, that might change depending on the customer. That means the files are not known when the installer is compiled.

Here's what it looked like:
Source: {src}\data\*; DestDir: C:\MyCompany\data;
   Flags: external recursesubdirs skipifsourcedoesntexist onlyifdoesntexist uninsneveruninstall;
   Permissions: users-modify

This time, I 'm going to show how to let the user choose where this directory is located, and whether to install the contents of the directory at all.

First, let's show an obvious choice:

Source: {src}\data\*; DestDir: {userdocs}\MyCompany\data; Flags: [as above....]

That new constant will put the data in a subdirectory of My Documents, for the user that installs the program. This might be fine for you, if each user of your program is going to install it themselves, and generate thei…

Inno Setup user data directory

One of the requirements we have for an installer is to create a user data directory. We'd like the installer to create C:\MyCompany\data\, and copy any data we decide to give this customer on their install DVD into that new folder. VS 2005 Install projects couldn't do it without a custom action. Here's how in Inno Setup:

Source: {src}\data\*; DestDir: C:\MyCompany\data;
   Flags: external recursesubdirs skipifsourcedoesntexist onlyifdoesntexist uninsneveruninstall;
   Permissions: users-modify

I've put that on multiple lines so it's easier to read, but it's all one line in the .iss file. Let's take a look at what each of those pieces mean.
First, that '*' in the Source: field is magic. It means it will go and find whatever is there in the data\ directory next to your setup.exe. It must be combined with the Flags: external, so that Inno Setup knows not to look for it when your script is compiled. DestDir will be created by the installer, and files cop…

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Engrossing, great airplane read. I really like the few different types of mysteries involved, and how the characters recognized the classic 'locked room' mystery type, while poking at the boundaries.

One of several listings at PBSwap.

Review: The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt

Math! War. Rarefied intellectuals, often gay men, confronting the first world-war. And trying to solve one of the long-standing mysteries of mathematics: the Riemann hypothesis. I enjoyed the varied characters, many unfamiliar, and the alien feel of the setting, even though it's not that far away or long ago. It did take me a long time to finish, just being interrupted by other things, and shorter books. I'm glad I read it.

At PBSwap.

Review: Beyond Fear by Bruce Schneier.

I've finished Beyond Fear by Bruce Schneier. I enjoyed it, mostly, and now I'm writing about it 2 months after finishing. I was surprised at the number of examples he used that I didn't remember, or hadn't heard about to begin with. I read his blog, so most messages are reinforced there.

I'm mostly posting to remember when I read it. 6/25/10. :)

Why VB script can destroy an installer

We've had it with VB script. We've been using Visual Studio 2005 Standard installation projects for a few years, and we needed some custom setup that was outside the standard abilities of the install projects. So I wrote some '.vbs' files to perform these actions. Things like copying config files that were different for every customer, and copying a data directory that might have different stuff in it. We have had so many failures of these scripts, that I'm switching installers completely - to InnoSetup.

Virus checkers would block the scripts from executing. The script would fail to set permissions properly. If there was some dust on the DVD, it would fail to copy the data, and roll back the whole install. And the only error message it could report is 'A script needed by this installer failed....' with no useful information.

I'm planning to follow up with information about what I've discovered about InnoSetup. So far, it's all good.

Annoyance moderation

I don't understand why I need to do this, but I'm enabling captchas on my comments. The majority of comments I get are in Chinese, and have about 20 periods at the end with links to .info websites. Reporting the posters as spammers hasn't stopped the comments, so hopefully this will.

Update: Fail! two spam comments have already appeared on this post. If Blogger doesn't fix this problem, I will move to WordPress.

Update2, Sept 7, 2010: Blogger has enabled automatic spam comment detection, and a comment spam box. I've not seen spam comments in the past week, and so far no spam comments in my inbox. I'm becoming optimistic. Foolhardy, I know.

xkcd makes me smile

I took a course like this.

The Illuminatus! Trilogy, by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson

I think my wife hit it. It's interesting to a teenager, but not so much to me. I read the first 'book' of the three. I liked the secret submarine with stealth technology (that didn't work) tracking the crab excavator robots looking for treasure in Atlantis, and f**king an apple statue with a woman inside as an initiation rite, but all the non-linear hallucinations got tiring. I appreciated the self-mockery of the short section that quotes a reviewer panning the book for not doing non-linear style as well as a more famous author. Another swap from paperbackswap, and it's destined to return, hopefully sent to a teenager.

Review: The Savage Detectives, by Roberto Bolano

I couldn't finish it. I made it to pg 166 of 648, then skipped ahead a few times to see what might happen. Someone dies, surprise surprise. I couldn't get interested in the drop-out poet who likes sex and occasionally does drugs, and tries to save a prostitute. Eh. The diary section that switches to a multi-character non-linear interview style is mildly interesting, but I couldn't stay focused or follow it long enough. Free trade on paperbackswap, and it's probably going back there.

More feeds I might read, but don't have time for...

These just post too much, so I can't keep up. If I have spare time, I might go to the main website....
Beyond the Beyond Bruce SterlingBoing Boing TV (and/or BoingBoing)Design MilkDig Photo SchoolFiveThirtyEight: Politics Done RightLifehackerNo Impact ManReason MagazineThe KitchnTreeHugger I liked design/architecture and science.WebUrbanist
Wired ScienceWorse Than Failure

Feeds I might read, but don't have time for...

I'm purging my feed reader:
Economics catergory
blog.pmarca.com
BuzzMachine
Cheap Talk
Freakonomics-nyt I stopped when they killed full-feed.
Free exch. Economist
Nudges
The Becker-Posner Blog
The Undercover Economist
WSJ.com: EconomicsThere are several others I do follow, but these I'm purging....

Photography - The Ruins of Detroit

Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre Photography - The Ruins of Detroit
I know I've seen these before. Stunning photos. 'Decaying monuments', in Detroit. It's hard to imagine them lasting like the Coliseum of Rome, but the parallel is clear.
Michigan Central Station I've seen a whole set of this building alone....
William Livingstone House
United Artists Theater
Bank Vault
Wow. Yikes.

Why Cycle 9 - Cycle9.com

Why Cycle 9 - Cycle9.com
I'm impressed with the trade-in program. I'm thinking about the balance-bike option for my 2yr old...
I really want an electric bike.

Beyond Fear in progress

I'm reading Beyond Fear by Bruce Schneier. I'm most struck by examples of security failures. 'Hole in the wall' gangs that make a hole in the side of a house/building to avoid the security system. The airplane hijacker who demanded $200K and 4 parachutes when he landed, then took off again and jumped out the back staircase. Apparently inspired a bunch of copycats, which then prompted modification of the 727 rear staircase so it couldn't be opened during flight! He also says insects are often great examples of attack/response evolving, in weird ways. Fun so far.

It has to be a spiral

From Make: This is not a spiral
Optical illusions are fun.

The Technium: The Game-ified Life

The Technium: The Game-ified Life
Turning life activities into something that earns you points. My example: Blue-cross is trying to do this as a health-insurance provider to get me to perform more healthy actions.

A bit about spam

Since no one reads my blog, I'm always excited to see some comments. Right now, 2 out of 3 are spam. Sigh. But at least I figured out how to delete a comment: sign in to Blogger, then view your blog. When viewing the comment, there's a little trash-can icon, which will delete the comment.

Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

I stayed up late to finish this book. I was surprised by that, because I didn't think I would be engaged with the book during the first 1/3... I would recommend it.

Ista is a 'dowager Royina' who has been touched by a god. There are several interesting variations on fantasy themes that are explored and expanded skillfully. Five gods, mother father son daughter and Bastard, with the mischievous Bastard getting the attention here. Magic flows from demons, which start as elementals and gradually absorb qualities and skills from their hosts, often animals at first, jumping to a new host when the old one dies. They can be controlled by a person for a long time, creating sorcerers, until they loose control.... The gods get involved in human affairs by giving abilities and directives to people. Ista has had a bad experience in the past with this, and now resists the Bastard trying to draw her in again. She starts on a pilgrimage and ends up in a border fortress, trying to unravel …

Avatar plot wrecks

As good as the visual effects were in Avatar, the plot was a wreck. I was going to fill this out right after I saw it, but I give up, since it's been done in so many other places. It seems strange how the well-trodden path taken by the plot doesn't seem to hurt this movie. It doesn't help it a whole lot, either. I was most bothered by the frontal assault of the cavalry on the ground against the mecha. That was just dumb, something even a grunt marine should know was futile.

Sherlock Holmes

Went to see the movie Sherlock Holmes, with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. I enjoyed it throughout. The initial presentation of Holmes as a bit off his rocker was pulled off well. Watson's fascination with the cases and Holmes balanced with his frustration with his erratic behavior was front and center.

It's funny, though, the mystery was not so much what was going to happen, but how the evil 'magician' Lord Blackwood actually did it. Reason and science triumph again, and Moriarti pulls some strings and waits for the sequel.

We saw it at the Lumina, and the soundtrack was jarring - the calliope seemed to be too much for the sound system. Oh well.

Info at IMDB.

Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris

I've read them, they're fun. Good mix of suspense, sex, violence, mystery. Amazon collection of 1-7 Number 8 Number 9 I haven't read, not in paperback until April 2010.
True Blood, season one and two, are fun to compare to the books. They aren't first-person like the novels, so they range much wider following the other characters, especially Tara and Jason. Some elements are obviously aimed at people who've read the books, to surprise them.
Spoiler: the biggest is the continued existence of Lafayette, but the actor/writers in the show are having a great time with him.

The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier, review

I hope that many people in a position to do something have read and considered this book. Most of the recommendations are backed up by studies of the current state of the bottom billion countries. I was out of my comfort zone with this book, and I'm glad - it's made me aware of issues which I didn't know anything about. I am so far removed from doing anything about it, though, that it may just make me more cynical.
Amazon link.