Archive for the ‘Computing’ Category

MacBook Pro 13 inch – what’s in the box?

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

It is over seven months since I bought my 2010 version of the MacBook Pro 13 inch. Maybe it is time to put up the photos of what was in the box!

Unlike other computer manufacturers who throw everything into plain brown cardboard, Apple always have an elaborately designed box. Their idea of user experience extends to the packaging. The outside of the box is minimalist in the usual Apple way. You get a photo of the MacBook Pro viewed from the front with the lid closed. The text says “13 inch LED-backlit widescreen notebook”. None of Steve Jobs’ usual hyperbole here!

macbook pro 13 2010 in the box 01

On the back of the box is the MacBook viewed from the same angle, but with the screen opened.

macbook pro 13 2010 in the box 02

The box is reasonably thick, and when you open it the first thing you see is the MacBook. Apple prefers you to view the main product first, rather than having to fish through cables, manuals and CDs to get to it. The inside top of the box is padded to make sure your MacBook gets to you in one piece!

macbook pro 13 2010 in the box 03

Here’s a closer shot of the laptop. On the black label it says “Designed by Apple in California”. You can see another box which holds the power cord to the right.

macbook pro 13 2010 in the box 04

After removing the MacBook you see the power brick with the cabled tied neatly and a mysterious black package.

macbook pro 13 2010 in the box 05

First here is what is in the white box to the right. It is the power cord. As I bought this in the UK it has the usual three pin UK plug socket. You can choose either to have a long cord, or to have the power brick directly connected to the plug.

macbook pro 13 2010 in the box 06

Here is a photo giving you a closer look at the power brick. It is very small and shiny compared to a usual laptop power brick.

macbook pro 13 2010 in the box 07

And here is the power cable connected to the power brick to make a perfect square.

macbook pro 13 2010 in the box 11

This photo gives you a closer look at the black package. Out of everything in the box, this part seems the least designed.

macbook pro 13 2010 in the box 08

And this is what is inside. A manual and another CD sized folder.

macbook pro 13 2010 in the box 09

Inside the CD sized folder you’ll find the Mac OS X install disk, and the application install DVD, as well as the warranty information and some Apple stickers.

macbook pro 13 2010 in the box 10

Here is the final MacBook opened up and switched on.

macbook pro 13 2010 in the box 12

If that is not enough excitement for one day, you can read my review of running Windows 7 on a MacBook Pro, and about how I triple partitioned my MacBook.

windows 7 macbook pro 13 2010


Non–blocking Facebook and Twitter buttons

Friday, November 19th, 2010

On all the posts on this blog (like on most other websites you probably visit) you’ll see buttons to ‘Like’ a post (from Facebook) and to ‘Tweet’ about a post (from Twitter or TweetMeme). These buttons are very popular but if you use the iframe versions of the buttons (which are easy to install) you may have noticed a problem.

twitter facebook tweetmeme logos

If either the Facebook, Twitter, or TweetMeme servers don’t respond quickly enough when your browser requests the page content, your page loading may well block. On this site I’ve seen the Facebook Like button delay the page by 1-3 seconds. The bad part about the type of blocking is that in most browsers the rest of the page doesn’t render whilst the browser is waiting for these 3rd party servers to respond. There’s a more in depth explanation of why this is so on Steve Souders’ High Performance Web Sites blog.

Browsers usually start loading resources in the order that they are specified in the HTML. Below is a screenshot of one of the pages on this site (this one in fact). The red line shows the order of loading of the page. This order is typical for blogs.

rml page load order facebook twitter

If you place the social bookmarking buttons before your content then the problem is particularly noticeable as they can block your whole content from loading. During which time your visitor may decide to go elsewhere.

Is there a solution? Yes there is a well understood solution to this problem. Simply load these externally hosted buttons after your content. Here’s how I did it on this site.

Use a div to reserve space for your buttons

You should reserve the correct amount of space for your buttons. If you don’t you’ll cause the page to be re-rendered once the buttons are inserted.

<div class="socialbuttons" style="width:450px; height:28px; text-align: top;">
</div>

In my case I’m including the compact Facebook like button which is 25 pixels high, and either the TweetMeme button (20 pixels), or the Twitter Tweet button which is also 20 pixels high. More about how I decide on which Twitter button to include later.

For this blog I’m including the buttons at the start of my content, and at the end. If you are using WordPress you could add the div to your content either directly in the template (single.php) or by using a plugin such as PostPost.

I’m including the top div in the template, and the bottom div using PostPost. The reason I’m using PostPost for the bottom div is because this plugin gives itself a priority of ‘1’ which means that it inserts the div before most of my other plugins insert their content.

User JavaScript to add the Facebook/Twitter buttons after the content has loaded

You’ll notice that the div has the id ‘socialbuttons’. This allows us to easily find the element and insert the social bookmarking buttons after the content has loaded.

Here is the WordPress specific JavaScript that I’m using. I add it just before the closing </body> tag. For WordPress this means editing the footer.php template.

<script  type='text/javascript' language='javascript'>
<!--
var permalink='<?php echo urlencode(get_permalink()); ?>';
var socialhtml='<iframe src="http://www.facebook.com/plugins/like.php?href=' + permalink + '&amp;layout=standard&amp;show_faces=false&amp;width=300&amp;height=25&amp;action=like&amp;font=arial&amp;colorscheme=light" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" style="border:none; overflow:hidden; width:300px; height:25px; display:inline;"></iframe>';
<?php if (new_twitter()) { ?>
socialhtml += '<iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets/tweet_button.html?url=' + permalink + '&via=reviewmylifeuk&related=reviewmylifeuk&text=<?php echo the_title(); ?>" style="width: 130px; height: 20px;"></iframe>';
<?php } else { ?>
socialhtml += '<iframe src="http://api.tweetmeme.com/button.js?url=' + permalink + '&style=compact&source=reviewmylifeuk&b=2" height="20" width="90" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="border:none; overflow:hidden; display:inline;"></iframe>';
<?php } ?>
var divs=document.getElementsByTagName('div');
var divcount=divs.length;
for (var i=0; i<divcount; ++i) {
	if (divs[i].className=='socialbuttons'){
		divs[i].innerHTML=socialhtml;
	}
}
//-->
</script>

This JavaScript works by find all the div tags with the class ‘socialbuttons’ and then inserting the Facebook and Twitter HTML inside the div tags.

I’ve highlighted in red my Twitter account name. You’ll want to change these values to your own Twitter account name. If you aren’t using WordPress you’ll need to replace the get_permalink() function with something that correctly encodes your current page URL.

You may be wondering what the new_twitter() function is.

PHP to select TweetMeme or Twitter Tweet button

TweetMeme is handing over the Tweet button to Twitter. As of July 2010 the recommended button to use (recommended by both TweetMeme and Twitter) is the official Twitter one. Unfortunately the Twitter Tweet counts will only be correct for articles posted after July 2010. Therefore for the moment I’m using the TweetMeme button for articles posted before July, and the Twitter one for articles posted after.

Here is the WordPress specific PHP that checks if the current post is after July 2010 (you could make it a one-liner if you like).

function new_twitter(){
	$twitter_switchover_date = strtotime("2010-07-01");
	$post_date= get_the_time('U');
	if ($post_date > $twitter_switchover_date) {
		return true;
	} else {
		return false;
	}
}

If they ever remove the TweetMeme button completely it will be very easy with this code to change all the Twitter buttons to be the official Twitter ones.

Including hashtags with the TweetMeme button

The old TweetMeme button had the option of specifying hashtags for the Tweet. You can add this in as well if you want. You’ll need to write a function to get the hastags (e.g. called something like get_hashtags()), and include it in the TweetMeme URL.

You can find code for constructing the TweetMeme hashtags in the TweetMeme plugin. Look in tweetmeme.php for the ‘// append the hashtags’ section.

If you manage to create your get_hashtags() function you can replace the TweetMeme line in the JavaScript with.

socialhtml += '<iframe src="http://api.tweetmeme.com/button.js?url=' + permalink + '&style=compact&source=reviewmylifeuk<?php echo get_hashtags() ?>&b=2" height="20" width="90" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="border:none; overflow:hidden; display:inline;"></iframe>';

(again don’t forget to replace my Twitter account name with yours!)

Does it make a difference?

From my experience of using this code it definitely makes a difference. The annoying delays (caused mainly by the Facebook Like button) have gone. The button still sometime takes several seconds to load, but at least it isn’t blocking the rest of the page.

More info on how to customise the buttons

If you want to customise the buttons have a look at the developer documentation for each one.


Fixes for YouTube annoyances

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

YouTube is great; apart from a small list of annoyances. But fortunately there are solutions to these problems.

youtube

Videos with wrong aspect ratio

A video you are trying to watch is stretched or squashed

If you are trying to watch someone else’s video, but find it has been stretched or squashed, you can switch to watching it on the excellent VLC player instead of on YouTube. VLC has options to re-aspect the video as you watch it.

vlc media player

To view the video in VLC download the video first and then load it into VLC.

Alternatively copy the YouTube URL and paste it into the Media->Open Network Stream box in VLC. Make sure you paste in a plain video URL that looks like ‘http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxxx’ and not a playlist or other type of URL.

If the URL looks like ‘http://www.youtube.com/v/xxxx’ you’ll need to manually convert it into the ‘http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxxx’ format.

Then go to Video->Aspect Ratio in VLC and experiment with the different options until the video looks right.

Note: I haven’t found VLC ‘Open Network Stream’ feature to be very reliable with YouTube so I’d recommend you download the distorted video first.

Your own video has the wrong aspect ratio

If your own videos have ended up on YouTube in the wrong aspect ratio (squashed or stretched) then you can fix the videos by adding a video formatting tag. YouTube explain how to do this on their formatting tags help page.

The video changes resolution when you select full screen

YouTube currently suffers from an annoying problem/feature. If you are start loading a video at 360p, and then switch to full screen, the video will automatically change to 480p if 480p is available.

This might sound like a good idea – if you make the video larger you want more pixels. The problem is that doing this causes all the buffered 360p video to be discarded, meaning it has to start loading the video again. If viewing over a slow connection, or if YouTube is struggling to keep up you will have to wait before you can begin watching again. For an idea of just how annoying this YouTube ‘feature’ is see this thread on Google’s YouTube forum.

The resolution switching problem also prevents you from pre-loading multiple videos as each time you set them to full screen the data will be lost.

You can disable this behaviour if you have a YouTube account (Account Settings->Playback Setup), or there is a simpler way if you don’t want to log in.

You can add an ‘&fmt=18’ parameter to the end of the video URL. So change
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxxx into
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxxx&fmt=18.

Alternatively if you are using Firefox or another Greasemonkey compatible browser you can install the ‘YouTube Automatic Fmt=18 Adder’ script which will do this for you. You’ll have to install Greasemonkey too.

Video has black bars on all 4 sides

If the video has black bar on all four sides then VLC can play it zoomed in for you. Video->Crop will let you do this. Either play the video via Media->Open Network Stream, or download it first.

Downloading YouTube videos the easy way

Sometimes when YouTube is being too slow to watch videos live (or even too slow to buffer them up) you might have to resort to downloading them first, and then watching them in VLC.

The easiest way to download YouTube videos is with the YouTube downloader application. It will only let you download them one at a time, but it is simple.

youtube downloader

Downloading a batch of YouTube videos

If you want to download multiple videos in a batch without having to manually download each one then youtube-dl does a great job. It is a python script so you’ll need to install python as well if you don’t already have it (if you don’t know whether you have it or not, then you probably don’t!).

Once you’ve downloaded youtube-dl you can write a simple batch file (.bat) like this to download multiple videos, one after the other. The ‘-t’ option gives the video a sensible name.

youtube-dl.py http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxxx1 -t
youtube-dl.py http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxxx2 -t
youtube-dl.py http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxxx3 -t
youtube-dl.py http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxxx4 -t
youtube-dl.py http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxxx5 -t
youtube-dl.py http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxxx6 -t
youtube-dl.py http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxxx7 -t

YouTube video is too quiet

Sometime YouTube videos are uploaded with the sound encoded at a lower volume than normal. Even if you turn the volume up to the max, it might not be enough. On Windows 7 there is an easy way to boost the volume. Go to the Control Panel and click on Hardware and Sound. Click on Manage audio devices, and then on Speakers and Properties. Go to the enhancements tab and tick the ‘Loudness Equalization’ box. Now with a bit of luck the volume should be boosted up to the normal level.

loudness equalization

Make YouTube window stay on top of all other windows

If you want to watch YouTube in the corner or side of your screen you can use DeskPins to fix the YouTube browser window on top of all other windows.

2011 staff holiday planner

Friday, November 12th, 2010

I had a request to create an Excel staff holiday planner in addition to my usual one page calendars that you’ll find on this site. The Excel staff holiday calendar for 2011 can be used to note down holidays, training days, sick days, and home/off-site time at your company. Here’s an example of what it looks like with some information filled in.

2011 staff holiday planner example

Is has the whole of 2011 going left to right, and staff members can be listed from top to bottom. The weekends and months are coloured, and the days are labelled to make it easy to see where you are in the calendar. Week numbers are listed as well – I’m using the ISO 8601 week numbering convention if you are interested in such things.

I’ve frozen the top and left parts of the spreadsheet so they are always on screen. The staff role column has an auto-filter box in case you want to filter by job type. And on the top left (highlighted in the red box below) are a number of colour coded categories that you can easily copy and paste into the relevant cells. Change the category names, and colours to suit your taste.

2011 staff holiday planner categories

To delete the colours in any cells just copy and paste an empty cell over it (Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V is the fastest way).

Here’s a final picture of the blank staff planner which you can download for free from the link underneath it.

2011 staff holiday planner blank

Download the 2011 staff holiday planner calendar – Excel XLS (20kb zipped)

Staff holiday planner with remaining holiday formulas

By popular demand I’ve created a second version of this spreadsheet. This one has built in formulas to calculate the remaining holiday. It has extra slots at columns C and D for allocated holiday, and remaining holiday. Column D counts cells containing the work ‘Holiday’ and ‘Half’ which subtract one day and half a day respectively from column C. If you look in the comments of this page you’ll see some other formulas as well for counting holidays only, and also for counting holidays and sick days as well.

2011 staff holiday planner formulas

I’ve set the XLS to count to the end of 2011 only, even though the holiday planner extends into the first few weeks of 2012. If you want different behaviour you’ll need to make some minor modifications.

Download the 2011 staff holiday planner calendar with formulas – Excel XLS (21kb zipped)

If you have any suggestions for the 2012 version let me know in the comments below.

Note: You’ll need at least Excel 2007 (or OpenOffice which is free!) to view the whole year, as earlier versions of Excel limit the number of columns to 256. And we need 365+ columns to fit the whole year in!

Who are North Korea’s 13 Twitter friends?

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

In the past few months North Korea has embraced social media, first creating a YouTube channel, and in August a Twitter account with the name @uriminzok, which roughly means ‘our people’ in Korean.

uriminzok following wide

uriminzok followingNorth Korea has since been busy and has already racked up 457 tweets for its 10,334 followers. Pyongyang is however being very selective over who it chooses to follow. As of today it has followed only 13 other accounts. Who are these 13 accounts that North Korea has deemed worthy of following? You might be surprised by the answer.


1. @noaheverett

noaheverettNoah Everett is the creator of TwitPic, the service that makes photo sharing on Twitter easy.

North Korea has become a regular user of TwitPic to share photos from around North Korea, as well as political cartoons. To date they have shared 30 photos using the service.

Perhaps that is why they have befriended the TwitPic creator.


2. @TwitPic

twitpicAs if to confirm their love of TwitPic, North Korea are also following the official TwitPic account. Presumably to keep up to date with the lastest TwitPic features, and API updates.

Sidenote: North Korea are also heavy users of TinyUrl on their Twitter account but haven’t become friends with them yet.


3. @ljwalters

ljwaltersDespite only having 4 Tweets with a combined total of 12 words, ljwalters has managed to get 50 followers including the North Korean account.

ljwalters 12 tweeted words reveal a Happy Birthday message to ‘Peter’ and the fact that he/she is reading ‘Outliers’. Still this was enough to grab the attention of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and mark ljwalters as one of the chosen 13.


4. @RadioactiveHair

radioactivehairRadioactiveHair is a Twitter user who follows 93, and has 16 followers. This user’s 168 tweets reveal a possible like of ‘Rap’ music. In September this user sent a message to North Korea’s @uriminzok account expressing admiration for Kim Jong Il. They are now Twitter friends.


5. @comandantmarcus

comandantmarcuscomandantmarcus runs a socialist website on tumblr where he lists ideas for housing, transport, music, alcohol and more. Perhaps the DPRK were inspired by his thoughts, which prompted them to follow him.


6. @_chinpingpong

 chinpingpongIt is harder to understand why North Korea is following _chinpingpong. This user is a very regular tweeter with 9,414 tweets and 191 followers.

Recent tweet topics include Inception, music, and The Big Bang Theory (the TV show). This account doesn’t look like an obvious one for Kim Jong Il and the DPRK to follow. But that changed after _chinpingpong retweeted one of @uriminzok messages. North Korea then decided to follow this user.


7. @JimmyDushku

jimmydushkuJimmyDushku is another committed tweeter with 2,649 tweets to his name. He is tweeting about life and the news. One of his tweets caught my eye: “Only way things would go better would be if I got my N. Korean visa”.

Perhaps this is the reason for North Korea’s interest in Jimmy. Maybe they want to ensure that his visa is successfully obtained, and that he has a good time when he visits.


8. @DaveP18

davep18DaveP18 only has 13 tweets, but two of them reference uriminzok. Other tweets reference Tiger Woods, the App Store, and Vladimir Putin. Seems that was good enough for Pyongyang.


9. @________T__

        t  ________T__ (if that is his real name) only has two tweets in his account. The first is a retweet of a tweet from uriminzok. The second is thanking uriminzok for following him. “It is an honour” he says.


10. @eduardo_89

eduardo 89eduardo_89 is a student from Mexico living in Berlin who is interested in politics, economics, history, architecture, and photography (it says this on his website).

The link between him and North Korea seems to have started on September 14th when he sent a tweet to uriminzok asking how to get a visa to visit. uriminzok tweeted back the advice that this can be arranged at the embassy or consulate mission to the DPRK and that “Pyongyang always welcome you”.

They have been mutual followers ever since.

Sidenote: If you want to visit North Korea there is nothing stopping you. The government run tours of selected sites, and as long as you are happy to be followed by their guides 24/7 and do what they say, you should have no problems. Wikipedia has an article about tourism in North Korea here.


11. @khomeninja

khomeninjakhomeninja tweets about Obama, Palin, and politics. Maybe Pyongyang appreciates the political opinions offered by this user’s 173 tweets.


12. @olakrez

olakrezolakrez has produced 23 tweets so far and is mostly tweeting about what he/she is doing. Nothing North Korea related until a welcome message to uriminzok was posted on September 2nd.

uriminzok returned the favour by following olakrez.


13. @qwertyvn

qwertyvnqwertyvn lists their location as Vietnam, and sends uriminzok a message announcing that their countries are friends on September 3rd. And according to Twitter they are! qwertyvn has only had time to post three messages but two of them reference North Korea’s official Twitter account.


Conclusions

Can we learn anything about North Korea’s secretive regime from who it is following? I don’t think so. I’d guess that when they set up their Twitter account, they just followed the first bunch of people who tweeted messages to them or about them. Maybe at some point they’ll clean up the list and follow a different group of people who better reflect the political opinions of the DPRK.

If you want to be updated by Twitter when new posts appear on reviewmylife you can follow me at @reviewmylifeuk.

2011 Excel week numbers calendar

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

If you work in a company then you may find yourself dealing in week numbers rather than dates. E.g. the deadline for this project is week 38!

Here is a free downloadable Excel calendar for 2011 that has the days of the week across the top, and then the week numbers for the whole of 2011 down the side.

2011 week number calendar

Each day has five boxes for you to write in, and the days of the week are frozen at the top, making it easy to see which box is for which day.

I’ve saved two versions. One standard version for modern versions of Excel (2007 and above), and an older version which should work in Excel 97.

2011 Excel week number calendar (for modern versions of Excel – 2007+)
2011 Excel week number calendar (for old versions of Excel – 97+)

If you prefer a month by month view of the year then I also have a one page 2011 Excel calendar on this site available for free download as well as a calendar for 2010.

i-gotU GT-600 GPS data logger review

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

The last time I reviewed a stand alone GPS data logger it was the GlobalSat DG-100, a functional but not very stylish box for recording GPS tracks.

The new i-gotU GT-600 GPS Travel & Sports Logger from Mobile Action (disclosure: they sent it to me for free) has the same SiRF Star III chipset as the DG-100, but it comes in a smaller and more attractive package.

i gotu gt 600 gps data logger 01

You’ll want a GPS data logger if you want to record your travel and sports tracks (walking, running, cycling, sailing, etc) and tag your photos with their GPS locations. Recording this GPS information will allow you to examine your route on the computer later on, and see exactly where you were when you took your photos.

i-gotU GT-600 hardware

The GPS measures just 46×41.5x14mm and weighs only 37g. It is made of shiny white plastic, and there is a soft plastic case around it (presumably to protect it if you drop it). Here is what the packaging looks like from the front and back.

i gotu gt 600 gps data logger 02

And this is what is inside the packaging. You get the GPS data logger, a USB cable, a velcro strap, and a mini install CD. If you have Windows 7 you won’t need the CD – you will have to download the software from their website.

i gotu gt 600 gps data logger 03

Here is a closer look at the sides of the unit. On one side is the cable connection, and on another there is a hole which you could use to attach a wrist strap.

i gotu gt 600 gps data logger 04

Here is the underside of the unit, the holes in the casing are there for you to feed the velcro strap through.

i gotu gt 600 gps data logger 05

The velcro strap allows you to attach the GPS unit to your rucksack, bike, boat, etc. Ideally you should have the unit positioned so that the front faces clear sky. Here is the unit strapped to my bike, ready for a cycle around the city.

i gotu gt 600 gps data logger 06

i-gotU GT-600 in use

There is only one button on the GT-600. Just hold it for a few seconds and a blue LED (under the plastic) will light up. You then need to wait for 30-60 seconds for it to get a lock on the satellites.

How long it takes depends on how many satellites are above visible from your current location, and also on cloud cover. In ideal circumstances it could get a lock in about 30 seconds. The time will also be reduced if it was on in the last few hours as it will still know the positions of some of the satellites. Once it has a lock then both the red and blue lights will start flashing.

Once it starts recording you can do whatever you want; Walk, run, cycle, sail, and it will log your position every 5 seconds. The unit is water resistant so it should be ok to use in the rain.

Remember to check the unit’s flashing lights regularly to make it is still recording. It can be very annoying if you get home and realise that only half your journey was recorded because a thick cloud or other GPS signal blocker stopped the unit from logging your GPS tracks.

The battery lasts about 30 hours if you log every 5 seconds (longer if you increase the logging interval) and is charged by the same USB cable that you use to transfer the GPS data.

The unit can store 262,000 way points (locations) so if it is logging every 5 seconds this will be enough for 363 hours GPS tracks. More than enough for most adventures!

To make the battery and memory go further it has a motion detector built in. If you are still for a while (perhaps you have stopped for lunch for example) it will stop recording. They claim that this will give you an extra 20% logging time.

Holding the button for a few seconds will turn the unit off. Because the button is easy to press I’d recommend that you don’t keep the unit in your back pocket. If you do you may well accidently turn it off when you sit down, or bend over. Either keep it strapped to your rucksack, bike, or clothing using the strap, or be careful to place it so that the button won’t be pressed. I find it works fine when put in the front pocket of my rucksack. The logging might now be quite as accurate as it would be if it had a view of the clear sky, but it is good enough.

To sync your data to your PC you just plug it in via the USB cable and start up the @trip PC software.

i gotu gt 600 gps data logger 07

i-gotU software

The i-gotU GT-600 GPS data logger comes with three pieces of software.

  • @trip PC – which is the software you’ll want to use if you want to manage your trips and geotag your photos.
  • Sports Analyzer – which shows your GPS tracks in a view that allows you to easily see average speed, calories burned, and when you did each of your activities.
  • Where I am – which simply shows you where you are now on a map.

I’ve mainly been using @trip PC. After importing the GPS tracks you have the option to create a ‘trip’. A trip can consist of one or more GPS tracks along with the associated photos. If you have synced multiple tracks you can go back and create new trips for the other tracks later on without having to sync again.

i gotu gt 600 gps data logger 09

You can choose which photos you want to include in the trip. When you’ve chosen them the software can add GPS location information into the image.

i gotu gt 600 gps data logger 10

After creating the trip you’ll get something a bit like this. It shows you the route you took, and the locations of all your photos. You can ‘play’ the trip and watch a moving icon go along your route. The photos you took will pop up as the icon reaches them.

i gotu gt 600 gps data logger 12

i gotu gt 600 gps data logger 13

You can customise the look of your trip. The view above is the basic view, and the one below is a sporty view which shows a graph of your speed and a few sporty facts about your trip such as total distance, and average speed.

i gotu gt 600 gps data logger 14

The @trip PC software is easy and quick to use for viewing your tracks and tagging your photos. The main thing it lacks is an sensible way to delete rogue way points (sometime you’ll want to manually clean up your tracks a bit). You can get a list of all way points, but when you have thousands of them it can take several minutes to find the one you want. The software should ideally let you select one or more way points by clicking on them to allow speedy moving or deletion.

In the version of the software I used (2010.06.09) there were some UI annoyances, and other problem such as slow syncing, and unreliable communication with the hardware – on my Windows 7 machine if you have done a sync, you can’t delete the data on the device unless you unplug and replug the device back in – you get a ‘Failed to clear log data. (Error=4)’. But you can work around all these issues.

If you are only interested in sports tracking and aren’t going to geotag any photos you can use the Sports Analyzer software instead. This is a simpler interface which just shows you your tracks along with speed, distance, calories burned etc.

sports analyzer

i-gotU GT-600 advanced configuration

Using the @trip PC software there are some advanced options you can configure. You can set the GPS unit to only record at certain times of the day. And you can set how frequently the unit logs your position.

i gotu gt 600 advanced options

Sharing your trip

If you don’t just want to keep your trip to yourself you can share it with just a few clicks. The @trip PC software can upload your tracks and photos to the @trip server. You have the option of uploading the photos to the @trip server (it will shrink the photos for you), flickr, or Picasa.

Your free @trip account only give you 100mb of space on the @trip server so I’d recommend creating a free Picasa account to your save your @trip account space for the GPS tracks. A Picasa account will give you 1024mb of photo space. Or if you already have a paid flickr account then that will be best as you can store unlimited photos there.

Here is the @trip interface showing some trips that I uploaded (one public, one private).

i gotu gt 600 gps data logger 17

Once uploaded to the @trip server you can view the trip in a flat Google Maps view, or by using a 3D Google Earth view – this will be great if you are recording your mountaineering, or hand gliding adventure.

i gotu gt 600 gps data logger 19

Rather than just looking at a static image of my @trip account your can have a look at the real thing showing a trip I made to Naoshima Island in Japan.

There is an option on the @trip server that allows you to embed a trip in your blog, such as I have done below.

Overall verdict of the i-gotU GT-600

This is a good GPS data logger with a long battery life, and large memory. The unit is small, easy to use, and has worked reliably during my two weeks of testing. The software makes it very simple to view your trips on your PC, geotag your photos, and share them all on the internet. I’m just hoping they release a software update to sort out the minor problems and bugs that I found.

Where to buy

If you are in the UK the GT-600 is available from this seller on Amazon, but last time I checked it was slightly cheaper from Maplin.

For more comprehensive information on where to buy the GT-600 around the world see Mobile Action’s – Where To Buy page.

Update: 15th September 2010 – @trip PC suite not loading issue

I started having a problem where @trip PC suite would not load (at all). But Sports Analyzer still loaded. I tracked it down to a corrupt sub folder in this resource directory – C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Mobile Action\atrip\Resource. If you are having this same problem and want to try to track down which folder is corrupt.

  1. Backup the whole resource folder (C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Mobile Action\atrip\Resource) so you can restore it later.
  2. Rename one of the sub folders in this directory and try restarting @trip PC. The corrupt one will probably be one of the ones you’ve edited most recently.
  3. Repeat until you find the corrupt one. You have found the corrupt one when @trip PC starts. However you’ll now see that in @trip PC all the trips belonging to the resource directories that you renamed have disappeared.
  4. Exit @trip PC.
  5. Now restore the whole resource folder from your backup, and then delete the corrupt sub folder.
  6. Restart @trip PC and you should have all your trips back (minus the corrupt one). You’ll have to recreate the corrupt trip if you want it back.

An extra bit of info if you are digging deeper: A list of the sub folders is stored in C:\Users\[username]\AppData\Roaming\Mobile Action\atrip\Resource\RESOURCE_INFO.INI. When you successfully manage to load @trip PC again it will delete the entries for the folders that you renamed. You need to restore from your backup (point 5 above) so @trip PC knows about the non-corrupt sub folders that you renamed.

Trusteer Rapport for Mac

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Trusteer Rapport is a piece of security software to help protect your Mac’s internet browser against key logging and phishing attacks. It is being pushed by a number of large banks including NatWest, ING and First Direct. I’ve previously written about using Trusteer Rapport on a PC , and today I’m putting up some screen shots of what it looks like on a Mac.

When installed (you can download it from here you’ll get an extra icon next to your address bar. It will be green if the website is being protected, and grey if it is not. You can choose to protect a website that you log into by right clicking on the grey Trusteer arrow and clicking on ‘Protect this website’.

trusteer rapport for mac 1

If you click on the arrow you’ll get an information box like this which will allow you to access the console.

trusteer rapport for mac 2

The first page of the console should look a bit like this giving you the option to disable the Trusteer Rapport icon.

Trusteer Rapport for Mac has a lot less options than the PC version. On the security policy page all the options are set to the highest level of protection apart from the ‘Warn when login information is used in unknown websites’.

trusteer rapport for mac 4

If you want you can set this option to ‘On my partner & my sensitive websites’, which will give you a warning if one websites’s password is entered into another website.

trusteer rapport for mac 5

I have read one account of someone having problems with Trusteer Rapport on a Mac, but I’ve not experienced any problems with it on my MacBook Pro. If you do find yourself wanting to uninstall it you can get full instructions from Trusteer’s uninstall page.

Proof that Alexa rankings can be very inaccurate for small websites

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Here is a comparison of the actual viewing figures for this site (as recorded in Google Analytics), against the values that Alexa reports.

Alexa vs Google Analytics page views

This is a fairly small blog, getting 600-800 page views per day. If you too have a website which is of a similar size you might be interested in just how wrong Alexa’s statistics can be. Here is Alexa’s estimate as to how the number of page views I’m getting has changed in the last three months (snapshots all taken on the 15th July).

alexa page views

Looks pretty amazing right? A 2420% increase in page views in three months. But all is not as it seems. Here are my actual page views from Google Analytics (same three month period). You can see the actual figures show a very gentle increase in page views.

google page views

Alexa operates by sampling data from the people who have installed its toolbar, or who have installed (or had installed for them!) some other piece of software which sends data back to Alexa.

The percentage of internet users who have Alexa software on their computers is small so the data is subject to anomalies, especially as the website gets smaller. A large website such as Facebook or MySpace probably gets ok results from Alexa as there will be thousands of people browsing these sitse who have the toolbar installed. But the smaller the site, the bigger the potential for the results reported by Alexa to be out of sync with the actual results.

Alexa vs Google Analytics page views per person

So why the huge reality vs Alexa distortion for my site? I’ll come to that later. Next let’s looks at another graph. This is how Alexa thinks my page views per person is doing.

alexa page views per user

Pretty impressive! The page views per person has gone from 1-2 all the way up to 30 pages viewed per user. If that were accurate it would mean that people really love reading what I write! But unfortunately my blog isn’t quite that engaging. Here are the real figures. Each of my visitors looks at about 1.3 pages. That figure has remained fairly flat over the last three months.

google page views per user

Alexa vs Google Analytics visitors per country

Here is my final set of figures. This is where Alexa thinks most of my visitors are coming from.

alexa percent traffic by country

You can see from their figures that they think most (74%) of my visitors are in Japan. It is vaguely plausible as I do have quite a few Japan related postings on this site. However it isn’t accurate. Here are the real figures.

google percent of traffic

You can see that only 1.4% of my visitors are in Japan. This largest percentage of viewers is actually from the UK (44%), but Alexa only believes that 4.5% of my viewers come from the UK.

So why is Alexa so badly wrong?

What is causing Alexa to be so badly out of sync from reality? I am pretty sure I’ve worked out the reason. I believe that the massive inaccuracies are the result of a single person. Me.

Not on purpose, I did it entirely accidentally. But it is interesting that one person could cause the perceived page views of a 600-800 page per day blog to jump 2420% in three months. It is also interesting that one single person could accidentally cause the Alexa traffic rank to jump from about 600,000 to 200,000 in such a short time. And it is impressive that one single person could cause Alexa to think that 74% of visitors are from Japan when in fact only 1.4% of them are. Also that I could cause the average page views per person to go from 1-2, all the way up to 30ish.

How did I (accidentally) cause Alexa’s figures to be so wrong?

There is one main cause of this massive misreporting of figures. I installed the Quirk SearchStatus extension for Firefox. This extension add some small items to your status bar at the bottom of the browser. They can show the Google PageRank for the web page you are currently on, and they can show the Alexa traffic rank for the website you are on.

But the extension doesn’t silently report the statistics. It actually affects the Alexa traffic rank statistics. As you are browsing where you go will now be recorded by Alexa.

In my case I spend a lot of time on my own blog. It is WordPress blog so I need to access it to put up new posts, edit posts, check posts, moderate comments, and install/configure new/updated plugins. In a typical day this could easily generate another 30-50 page views of my blog that are reported to Alexa.

It would seem that although all my page views are coming from the same IP address, they are still able to make Alexa think that my blog is seeing a huge surge in traffic.

The timing is right too. The time I installed the plugin matches the time I started seeing this huge surge in Alexa rankings. And that’s not all. A short while after installing the plugin I headed to Takamatsu in Japan and continued working on my blog from there.

The fact that I had moved from the UK to Japan caused caused Alexa to think that most of my visitors were now coming from Japan.

Almost all of this was caused by me accessing my WordPress blog in a normal way whilst having this Firefox extension installed.

What it shows is how inaccurate the numbers can be for small sites such as mine. The number of people whose browsers report statistics to Alexa is sufficiently small that a single person can seriously skew the data.

So look at Alexa’s statistics if you really want to. But remember that unless you are looking at the stats for a huge site, they may well be way off the mark.

Amiga nostalgia – Silica mail order catalogue

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

If you used to have an Amiga then you’ll probably remember Silica who produced regular mail order catalogues that could take an afternoon to get through. I had an Amiga 600, upgraded to 2mb of RAM, and with an external 200mb hard drive! It was one of those hard drives that was moulded to fit the Amiga 1200, so it didn’t look quite right on the Amiga 600, but it did the job. I still have that Amiga, and it still works!

amiga catalogue front page

I found one of the Silica Amiga mail order catalogues from December 1993. It is 64 pages so I can’t reproduce it all, but I’ve chosen 8 pages to display. On the cover is the Amiga 600 Lemmings pack for just £189. Like many great games Lemmings was originally developed for the Amiga. Also on the cover is the Amiga CD32 console, and the Amiga 1200 Race ‘N’ Chase pack. The most popular ‘home’ Amigas (500+, 600, 1200) usually came bundled with games and applications in these themed packs.

Here’s the Amiga pack I got – the Wild, Weird and Wicked pack. It came with the Microprose Grand Prix simulation which gave you all the ‘thrills’ of Grand Prix racing despite the animation only updating 2-4 times per second.

amiga 600 wild weird wicked

Push Over was a brilliant platform puzzle game where you had to arrange dominos in the correct order, and push them over. But these were no ordinary dominos; they could split in two, explode, fly up, and more, a really creative idea. I did eventually complete it! Silly Putty was a arcade platform game where you controlled a blue blob of Silly Putty. It could stretch, punch and jump its way around the levels.

The Amiga 600 wasn’t just about games though, also included was Deluxe Paint III. Deluxe Paint was an amazing paint package, which had powerful drawing features that I’ve never seen on any paint package since. The 3D rotations, and animated brush features could help to make really great artwork, despite it only supporting 32 (or 64 in the Extra halfbrite mode) colours.

There was plenty of add on hardware to make your Amiga better. Here is an accelerator (40MHz!) and hard drive (42-120MB) for your Amiga 500/500+.

amiga accellerator hard drive

I had a similar add-on for my Amiga 600, but it was just a hard drive. There was no practical way to make the Amiga 600 go faster.

Here is the Amiga dream machine – The Amiga 4000-40. It had the top rated 68040 processor at 25MHz. At the time this was a real PC beater. Commodore had their chance with the Amiga 4000 to compete with the big PC makers at the time. But unfortunately they blew it.

amiga 4000 computer

Another machine that was great on paper was the Amiga CD32.

amiga cd32 games console

It was a very powerful games machine for its time, but Commodore had manufacturing problems, and other big financial problems, which lead to it being discontinued shortly after release. Here you can see some of the ports that it had, and a comparison against the Sega Mega CD.

amiga cd32 games console tech specs

These catalogues also had plenty of games in them. The Amiga could be a serious work, music and graphics computer. But for many it was a games machine.

amiga arcade games

It had a lively book scene too. Many programmers of my age today probably got their first taste at programming on the Amiga. It had good beginner’s languages such as Amos and Blitz Basic, and plenty of opportunity to code lower level using C and assembly language. This was an age when many games programmers coded exclusively in assembly!

amiga books

Someday I’ll power my Amiga 600 back up and write some more about it.