June 2008

I just wanted to try out MarsEdit, so I downloaded a trial copy. This is, of course, just a test post to make sure that it all works.


So far it’s really cool, and not only does it beat the native WordPress interface, it allows me to post to two blogs easily, and also work offline.

Nicely done. I may just have to drop the $30 on this one.

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Playing around a bit more with Ferret, one of the things that I wanted to do was to load a binary flat file of pixels where each pixel represents the area of 0.1 x 0.1 degree which of course changes with longitude and latitude.

To do this I wrote out data as a real*4 floating point number in one column running up from south to north then west to east. This is equivalent to the Generic Mapping Tools (GMT) command

grd2xyz -R159.9/230/12.4/32.5 -ZBLf area.grd > area.bin

where the grid spacing is x = 0.1 and y = 0.1

To load this into Ferret (on a linux system):

DEFINE AXIS/X=160:230:0.1 x10
DEFINE AXIS/Y=12.5:32.5:0.1 y10
DEFINE GRID/X=x10/Y=y10 g10
FILE/VAR=MYVAR/GRID=g10/FORMAT=stream area.bin
shade MYVAR # To view

the only difference on the Mac was that I had to byte swap, which is done with a /swap qualifier on the loading line:

FILE/VAR=MYVAR/GRID=g10/FORMAT=stream/swap area.bin

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Just a mini post here, but as I would really like to move the home video editing I do over to Linux, I have been collecting links to get the ball rolling.

Specifically, what I am looking at right now are:

Cinerella or Kino for video editing
Gaupol for subtitles
Dvdauthor to put it all together

There’s a nice guide here on one user’s experience with Kino that I might check out.

I’ll post more as I play…

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With the release of CentOS 5.2 I upgraded both my home server and my work machine. Ironically, while there is a known issue with kernel panics on older architecture machines (like my PIII home server), it was my core duo work machine which refused to boot with kernel 2.6.18-92.1.6.el5.

The workaround? I am now using 2.6.18-53.1.21.el5…

Other than that things seemed to have worked well. I appreciate the updaes in many programs such as Open Office, yet others such as Firefox were not necessary as I had already installed FF3 locally.

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I was looking for a good freeware program to convert DVDs on the Mac so that I can play them on my 3rd generation iPod nano.

While there are a few choices out there I ultimately went with Handbrake from Version Tracker as it was easy to use and free! I’ve put some screenshots below in an attempt to try to walk a new user through the necessary steps to convert a DVD to something that the iPod nano would be able to play.

Screenshot #1 – The Source window

Select the source that you want to convert

When Handbrake fires up it prompts you to select the source area which contains the movie you want to convert. Once you have navigated to the folder containing the movie just hit the Open button and you will be taken to:

Screenshot #2 – Handbrake’s main window

The main window of Handbrake

1. The first time that you run Handbrake there will be a different default conversion preset than what can be viewed on an iPod. The first thing that I did was to change this to the iPod Low-Rez preset. The iPod Hgh-Rez preset will also work, but obviously makes larger videos and on the test runs I did, I really couldn’t tell the difference between the two.

2. So now that I have the iPod Low-Rez preset selected (or the iPod High-Rez if you want the better quality) you can hit the little gears button on the bottom right and then..

3. Select this preset to be the default. Now this is all totally optional, but since I knew that I was mainly converting things for the iPod nano I just set a new default so that I had one less step to do!

4. The next thing that I do is to change the default location and name of the movie. Handbrake makes a pretty good guess as to where to put it and what to name it, but since I’m such a control freak I take over here. You could leave it as is defaults though.

5. The next thing to do is to pick the title off the DVD that you actually want to convert. In most cases this is Title 1, but you can tell by the length of the title.

6. You also have control as to which chapters you would like to convert. For test runs I would choose just the first chapter so that I didn’t have to sit through a two hour conversion to see that I borked it, but in most cases I would just convert all chapters. One advantage would be to skip the credits if you were so inclined I guess.

7. One other completely optional thing is to select the Audio and Subtitles tab and choose the audio streams and whether or not you wanted subtitles (which would be burned in).

Last – Hit the start button and go grab a cocktail!

Screenshot #3 – Audio and Subtitles menu

Handbrake\'s Audio and Subtitles menu

1. You can use this drop down menu to select the audio stream that you want.

2. Here you can select the subtitles that you want. Remember that these will be burned into the pictures and you cannot toggle them off once you select them.

And that’s pretty much it. If you are at this screen just hit the Start button and you’re good to go. I wouldn’t suggest messing with the advanced tab unless you really want fine grain control, and the chance of having to do this multiple times since you tweaked the wrong parameter!

Happy converting!

The main Handbrake website – http://handbrake.fr/

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Google recently released the Google notifier for the Mac and I thought that I would check it out. The Google notifier sits on your menu bar and provides you with both Gmail and Google Calendar notifications.

Installation was fairly straightforward, I just went to the Google notifier for Mac home page and dowloaded GNM.

One the .dmg file was opened you just drag the icon to your applications folder and fire it up!

As you can see below, two small icons appear on your menu bar, representing Google Calendar and Gmail, respectively. Clicking on the Google Calendar allows you to jump to the calendar or quickly add an event.

Google Calendar portion

Clicking on the Gmail icon allows you to check your mail or quickly compose a message.

Gmail portion

The notifier also has a nice overlay (with audio!) when new events reach your account.


Overall it’s a nice addition to the Google family.

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A while back I was interested in creating an “on the fly” sig generator using Python and ImageMagick. I started out by using ImageMagick calls from within Python, which is really a bass-ackwards way of doing things. I got turned on to the PythonMagick module but it really seems that development has stopped on it and there is no documentation.

In my travels, however, I got introduced to the Python Imaging Library, which is a really cool module library similar to what ImageMagick does. Not only does this allow me to use these image objects within Python, but it was already installed on both my home system as well as on 1&1 servers, who are my webhost. It’s definitely something worth checking out, but a brief tutorial here on how to make an image on the fly is below. One other cool thing that I want to mention is that you can load TrueType fonts in locally, which makes things very convenient for annotation.

So here we go, creating a new 550×125 pixel orange image with a 2×2 pixel internal black border.

# First, load the necessary modules
import Image, ImageDraw

# Now, create two images and then paste them together:
a = Image.new(“RGB”,(550,125),color=(0))
b = Image.new(“RGB”,(546,121),color=(255,125,0))
a.show() # See where we are so far
Image 1

# Now load in a font at 18 point, here we use Abaddon
draw = ImageDraw.Draw(a)
draw.text((50,50),’This is a test’,font=Abaddon,fill=(0)) # fill makes this black
a.show() # See the updated image
Image 2
# Now save what we have created!

And that’s pretty much all there is to it, but obviously there is tons more than you can do.

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