December 31, 2002

Everything MP3 and the kitchen sink

Dell - Dell Home Systems Handhelds. I just figured that my son is much more relaxed with classical music playing in the background. So I downloaded some Mendelssohn, Mozart, Beethoven mp3s from the net and was stuck there. I could play them with my rinky-dink pentium 133 laptop, but the built-in speakers are horrible. Then I read up on mp3 players and drooled over the Apple iPod. 20GB of disk space for all your mp3s and still use the thing as an extra hard drive--hard to beat the slick design of the device either. But to spend $500 on it isn't justifiable. Then I came across a supposed deal on the 1 GB IBM compact flash microdrive at techbargains sold by newegg and read through the reviews. One of the reviewers questioned why anyone would want to buy an iPod when you could buy a Toshiba e370 Pocket PC and add more media like the microdrive to it for more content. I couldn't see a problem with that logic (other than the fact that with an iPod you could get a whopping 20GB of disk space). You sure could do a lot more with a Pocket PC for the money. And would I ever need more than 1 GB of songs? The Toshiba has a built-in 802.11b unit for wireless connectivity and so I could always stream my music on another computer for access by the Pocket PC at home, right? The problem is, the Toshiba Pocket PC is just pricey as the iPod. Step in Dell. You have to admit, the Axim handheld with 400MHz of power by the Intel X-scale processor is a sweet little machine. And at the quoted price of $299, it definitely is competitively priced compared to the iPaq and other Pocket PC units. Put this little device on my "wish list." $299 plus $235 for the microdrive and you have an iPod slayer. Pop in a wireless 802.11b card coupled with a Yagi antenna, and you got a wardriving toy. Now, the trick is, how can I get this device with my current salary? Looks like I have to collect lots of cans.

Posted by johnvu at 01:23 AM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2002

My personal web gallery

BB-Zone's Web Gallery Automation Script, bbgallery. I've been working on increasing the automation of putting up my digital pics and have found this gem. Works well with ImageMagick installation in Linux Mandrake 8.2 and 9.0 standard installs, but is still buggy with the gimp. I installed gimp-perl (via the urpmi command, which is now a favorite tool) but gallery generation with gimp is not consistent, so I turned it off with the -I option. The webpage suggests using JPG2jpg which is installed with bbgallery to rename .JPG extensions to the lower case .jpg. However, with Linux Mandrake, the "rename" command-line program is available and renames .JPG to .jpg in a breeze. Command to do this is "rename .JPG .jpg *.jpg"--punch that at the commandline in the directory housing all your .JPG files and you should be set. bbgallery is also buggy in that it handles filenames poorly--you have to be sure the filename doesn't contain any fishy characters, and this includes spaces. So you'll need to use the "rename" or "mv" commandline tools to change the filenames for bbgallery to recognize.
Be prepared to have the html files and the jpg files in the same directory--I haven't found a way to customize the script in such a way so that the html files can be dumped into a separate directory from the image files. I have to admit, I had to always go back to Photoshop 6 at work to generate code and images for my web galleries, but now with this free tool, I will definitely use PS 6 much less.

Posted by johnvu at 03:02 AM | Comments (0)

December 23, 2002

Eat your heart out Shutterfly and Ofoto

Walmart PhotoCenter - Where it's easy to do more with your photos. I just picked up prints that I ordered from Walmart at my local store and I have to say, Shutterfly and Ofoto must be scared to death. Walmart not only gave me great looking prints from my digital shots, but the shipping was fast and free since I chose the option to pick-up the prints at my local Walmart store rather than it mailed to my door. Also, it ended up much cheaper than what Shutterfly or Ofoto charges! How can you beat 26 cents for one 4x6 print, with no minimum number of prints required? Add the convenience of pickup at your local store and I foresee that the other companies will have to follow suit with better pricing or fold. I know this sounds like a commercial, but I'm really that ecstatic about this photo development option. I photoshopped a few of digital photos (with added text and such) and still the prints came out great. Although Walmart says that the upper limit of the picture file is 2 megs, I uploaded files a little bit bigger than that and it still worked. The prints took less than a week from the time of upload to having the photos at hand. If you have a Walmart near you, I suggest checking this out.

Posted by johnvu at 11:35 PM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2002

Get Movable Type Working

Finally, I think I have Movable Type working the way I like it on my linux mandrake 8.2 installation. I pretty much followed the directions indicated in the installation manual and had a few missteps. My first problem is that since I turned on virtual hosting in my apache installation, I needed apache to know that the cgi-bin dir is actually under my separate DocumentRoot directory and not in the standard DocumentRoot script directory (/var/www/cgi-bin). What I forgot to do in my Vhosts.conf file was to define a ScriptAlias directory and once I did that, everything was almost easy-peasy. The following line was added to my VirtualHost configuration:

ScriptAlias /cgi-bin/ /absolute/path/to/new/cgi-bin/

Note both directories have a final frontslash (/) included--this is very important!

In regards to the rest of the installation, because I didn't read the installation instructions completely before embarking, I ended up adding a new blog user instead of editing the temporary first user (login:Melody,passwd:nelson). Well, I had problems trying to get rid of that second user, especially since I opted for the MySQL backend rather than Berkeley DB. Because of that I had to login to mysql server (mysql -u root -p) and then manually deleted the user described in the table mt_author and mt_permission (delete from mt_author where mt_author_id=2;). Well, that took care of that problem.

All was dandy until I had a look at the final published blog, and it looked horrendous! I realized from the html source that the cascading stylesheet was referenced incorrectly and this was because the URL I defined for the blog was incorrect--I had not only to define the website domain name, but also had to include the site's subdirectory where the blog was located. This setting was changeable in the movable type section "Blog Config" under the manage menu for the blog configuration. Once that was figured out, I edited the index.html template to include my PHP header and footer script files specific for my site, and added the correct variable for the "Syndicate this Site" link in the template file (<$MTBlogURL$>).

Other than the above problems, I'd have to say so far that the Movable Type Blog engine is so far living up to my expectations. It creates an RDF file for syndication. The output is entirely configurable. It archives my posts. The archives are searchable. Time will tell if this setup will hold out.

Posted by johnvu at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

Here goes my second post

Finally, a blog of my own to quick jot down notes or record occurrences of interest. Just got an email yesterday from The Public Library of Science that the Betty Moore Foundation granted the library $9 million to start peer reviewed journals with better policies for access (open source scientific publishing, if you will). The press release is found at the PLoS. Hopefully this grant is an indicator of things to come in the future for all scientific (esp. biomedical) journals.

Posted by johnvu at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2002

First try

This is my first attempt at weblogging. Here goes nothing. If this works, I could cut my web publishing time in half or more. Who knows, maybe this could be fun?

Posted by johnvu at 05:12 PM | Comments (0)