Archive for the ‘Cool’ Category

Gmap Uploader now supports DeepZoom/Seadragon

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Now, all images that have and will be uploaded with Gmap Uploader will be available via the Deep Zoom URL format which means you will be able to view your images with Seadragon AJAX in your browser, and Seadragon Mobile on the iPhone.

So, either upload your image to Gmap Uploader, or go to the URL of a Gmap Uploader map you already have. After its done processing, at the bottom there will be a Deep Zoom URL. You can use this URL with either Seadragon AJAX, or Seadragon Mobile.

For Seadragon AJAX, I recommend putting this URL in the Embed The Viewer tool.

Once you’ve downloaded Seadragon Mobile to your iPhone, and opened it, follow these steps:

  1. Press the plus button in the bottom right of Seadragon Mobile.
  2. Select “Deep Zoom Content”.
  3. Pick a name, for example, “Awesomeness”.
  4. Enter the Deep Zoom URL from Gmap Uploader.
  5. Press the “Done” button.
  6. Be amazed.

Adding this feature probably means I need to change the name of Gmap Uploader. Any suggestions?

Seattle Startup Weekend – SkillBit

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Last weekend I participated in this thing called Startup Weekend in Seattle. Basically, there were over 100 people attempting to create a startup company (basically a web app) going from concept to launch in just over 50 hours. It was pretty intense.

The weekend started Friday evening with everyone sitting at tables of 5-6 people. Each person shared their idea with the table. They were then written down and one person took the ideas and pitched some of them to another table. The other table decided which 1 or 2 ideas were worthy. These ideas were collected at the front in paper form then randomly distributed to different tables. Each table read the idea on the paper separately and voted either yes or no to the idea. Only about 5 ideas made it past this stage. My theory is that ideas on paper in a sentence or two don’t get people nearly as excited as if someone else was pitching it to them. We ran through that again to get a different set of about 5. So, 10 ideas total. Each of these 10 was pitched to the entire group by the person who originally suggested it. We took a vote on all 10. You could vote either yes or no to each one by either raising or not raising your hand. There were about 4 that made it past this round. Next, there was discussion about each of these 4, and different people talked about the merits of each. Then, a final yes or no vote from everyone and we came out with a clear winner. We were going to build a RideShare that actually worked and that people actually used.

So… now to figure out exactly what we are building, and who else is building similar stuff. An hour or so into this, and the business development people come back with their findings on the competition. They determine that there are some strong competitors in our area, namely Goose Networks. They are doing a lot of the stuff we would be doing and it would be difficult to differentiate ourselves. So, we took a vote if with this new information we should switch ideas. Most people thought we should switch, and so we decided on the “ for Enterprise” idea.

Basically we would create a web application that would allow small to medium sized businesses get a better sense of what skills their employees had to better utilize these. Each employee in the business gets a profile which has basic information plus their answers to certain questions the boss had asked. So, the boss could ask something like “What languages are you fluent in?”. Each employee would answer this question and their answer would show up in their profile. Then, later you could search through the system to find an employee fluent in Spanish to talk with a new client. This is just an example. I’m sure there are plenty of questions you could ask to get useful answers to help in finding skills in your organization. What are we going to call this? We call it SkillBit. The skill part is easy to understand. The bit part represents the simplicity of the software and lack of features I suppose. As with any good web application, it does one thing, and does it well… hopefully.

We have yet to launch SkillBit publicly, but you can sign up on a waiting list to get an announcement of when it launches.  If you want more details about how the weekend went, you can read the Seattle Startup Weekend blog which was posted two by two people throughout the weekend.

Public Transit on Google Maps

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

I don’t know exactly when Google Maps added this, but now you can get directions from point A to point B using public transit instead of using a car in certain major cities. This works pretty well. You search for directions between two street addresses, and click “Take Public Transit”. It then gives you three options coming up in the next few minutes to take a bus. It shows you if any transfers are necessary. It shows you how long each option will take and when you have to leave and when you will arrive. It of course shows you the route on the map and which bus numbers to look for. I’ve started to use this pretty much every day. I don’t always leave work at the same time, and I want to avoid waiting at the bus stop for too long. There are a couple bus stops near where I work, so I have to choose the right one to minimize the waiting time. I use this new feature pretty much any time I want to go anywhere because, like I’ve said before, I don’t have a car. I use Flexcar when the bus just won’t do.

Kindle Review

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

After a few hours of playing with the Amazon Kindle, here’s what I’ve found so far.

It’s way too easy to accidentally hit the huge side buttons. You have to try not to hit them by always holding the device at the bottom and being careful to put your fingers somewhere where there isn’t a button.

Getting free 2 week trial subscriptions to newspapers and blogs is cool, but it looks like I have to remember to go and cancel them if I don’t want them. Getting previews of books is cool too. At least those don’t automatically get bought after 2 weeks.

The Kindle is indeed lightweight and easy to read. Although its still possible to get glare on the screen, its far less than on other types of screens, and looks great even in direct sunlight.

The back cover is really hard to get off, but I guess it was designed that way. At least it doesn’t come off as easily as the side buttons get hit. The battery and memory card slot are behind the back cover.

It comes with a book cover that is pretty cool, but it falls out too easily. They should have made the locking mechanism tighter.

You can start using the Kindle as soon as you get it. It doesn’t come charged, but it works while its charging so that’s not too bad. The Kindle is tied to your Amazon account when you buy it. So, from the home page where a list of all your reading is there was a personalized letter from Jeff Bezos. In the upper right, it says Kyle’s Kindle. I would assume yours would have your name on it instead.

The Kindle saves your spot in every piece of reading you have and shows you how far you are in each item on the home screen.

Something that isn’t talked about as much is the Ask NowNow service. From the Kindle, you can type in a question, and someone will browse the internet to find an answer for you. So, if you are driving around looking for a place to eat you can ask your Kindle “what’s the best place for burgers in Seattle?” and it will give you answers from 3 different people. In this case, the answer is Dick’s Drive-In at 111 NE 45th St. The people answering also listed several other places and gave a link to the CitySearch page where they got the results. I’m assuming they just used Google to search for “burgers seattle”. Which, I guess I could have done because the Kindle has a web browser.

Yes, that’s right, the Kindle comes with a web browser. It displays text and images in black and white. So, Wikipedia does indeed work, but not that well in my opinion. It says it supports javascript in advanced mode, but regular Google Maps doesn’t work. The non-javascript version sorta works, but the Kindle cuts off images if they are at the bottom of the first screen of a web page with no option to scroll half way. You either go to the next screen full, or the previous screen full.

The Kindle has a cool ‘screen saver’ type thing which gets activated after a while of non-use. Alternatively, you can activate it manually. I don’t think its actually saving the screen at all, but it does lock the kindle so that you can’t accidentally press buttons.

There is a back button! This is great for when you want to look up something, go to another book, check something on the web, then want to go back to wherever you came from. This not only works in the web browser, but in books, newspapers, in the menus, etc. So, its actually not that difficult to go to different sections or articles in the newspaper. You don’t have to click ‘next page’ a bunch of times. You just click the name of the section or article, read a little into it, then click the back button and you will be taken back to the list of articles or sections.

I bought a Kindle

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

Yup… that’s right, I shelled out $400 for an oversize PDA with a black and white screen that has a refresh rate of about once per second.

On the other hand, it has a free wireless internet connection wherever you go, replaces the weight of over 200 books, and has a screen which looks more like a book than a computer screen.


Sunday, October 7th, 2007

While reading Don’s blog (from the last post) I saw that SmugMug was having a contest this month for who could build the coolest application using the SmugMug API. The winner gets a free iPhone. So, I think I’m going to enter and make something cool. Wish me luck. As a side benefit to using their API, I get a free lifetime Pro account, so I’ve uploaded a bunch of photos I had sitting on my computer. You can view them here.

Set Amazon’s Servers on Fire

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

I just watched a really good presentation called Set Amazon’s Servers on Fire by Don MacAskill, CEO and Chief Geek at SmugMug. It’s an interesting look into one of probably the largest users of Amazon’s S3. He talks about how they are using S3, and are going to use Amazon’s EC2 soon as well. He’s candid about what Amazon Web Services doesn’t currently provide that is needed for a company like his.

[via AWS Blog]

Note: I would put a link here to the AWS Blog article that had a bunch of presentations, but I don’t want other people to suffer the CPU stranglization (?) while loading all the SlideShare presentations.


Tuesday, August 7th, 2007

I bought the Nike+iPod the other day. It’s pretty much exactly what you would expect from Apple and Nike. The user interface on the iPod nano is extremely simple, with only the features you need most often. When you plug your iPod into your computer, it syncs your runs to Nike’s website at the same time as all your music and such. You can then view the Nike website which will show you pretty graphs of your runs. You can set goals, and challenge other users, although I haven’t tried those features yet. I have, however, added the Nike+ widget to my facebook profile so that you can see my last few runs there. I’ll probably put the widget here to if its easy enough to do. The actual device itself is actually two pieces. One fits in your Nike+ shoe (or other shoe’s laces, or shoe wallet or something) and the other attaches discretely to the bottom of your iPod nano. While you run, it tracks time, distance, and speed. In addition to listening to your own music while you run you can opt to download customized workout music along with a pre-recorded trainer who takes you step by step through the workout. These of course cost money, and can be bought through iTunes.

iPhone + Video Blog + Apple Store

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

What: iPhone Demos

How: Video Blog!

Where: Apple Store

I just got some great inspiration from this video I watched on YouTube from Wallstrip. It is entirely possible to record and produce an entire video blog from within an Apple store. This might be a great way to demo the iPhone without actually buying one. I think I might do this once I get to Seattle on July 11th. But, if someone wants to start before then, please do, and at least give me credit for the idea by linking to this blog post.

Fun With 3D

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

Recently (through no doubt) I bought a SpaceNavigator which is an inexpensive 3d mouse. A regular mouse only allows you to move around in two dimensions. Left and right, up and down. This 3d mouse allows you to go left, right, up, down, rotate clockwise and counterclockwise, zoom and zoom out, and tilt up, down, left, and right. The SpaceNavigator works with both Google Earth and SketchUp, so I had to play around with both of them.

In Google Earth, you don’t even need to use your regular mouse to explore every nook and cranny of planet earth. It’s even cooler with the 3d buildings turned on because you can zoom down in between buildings and pretend you are spiderman flying over a street by jumping from building to building high above the ground. With SketchUp, the 3d mouse comes in really handy for moving the camera around the 3d object that you are editing.

In order to get my hands wet with 3d modeling in SketchUp, I started out trying to model the Duderstadt Center at the University of Michigan. This is a huge building on North Campus. There was already a 3d model of the Duderstadt Center done as part of the 3d Atlas of Ann Arbor, but it was just the outline of the building in 2d raised the height of the building and images placed around the outside. I wanted to add a lot more detail. It was rather difficult at first to get all of the shapes of the building the way I wanted them. I gave up to try something simpler. So, I moved on to The Cube. I used SketchUp to model the cube in 3d, and geo-referenced it so that you can view it in Google Earth.