Move to Linode

Since I’ll no longer have a broadband connection (or much of a home) in a month to a month and a half, I decided that it was finally time for me to move my websites off of my desktop, which has been acting as my webserver for several years, and onto a hosted server. Having heard of Linode from several friends, I decided to check it out. The cool thing about Linode is that I get a virtual machine that I install my own OS on (I’m running Ubuntu 7.10 on it) and I have the root password for that VM. This means that I can do whatever I want, without having to rely on a sysadmin somewhere to install software as I need it.

So, starting today, I’ve begun the process of migrating my websites out of my apartment and onto the server. In another 3 hours, the data transfer should be complete and at that point I can begin testing to make sure I’ve remembered to install all the software and have the server configured correctly. Once I’m satisfied that everything is ready, I’ll update DNS to reflect the address of the new server and everyone should (hopefully) see a seamless transition as I’ll implement redirects while the new DNS settings propagate.

For those of you using Linode, do you have any suggestions for me? Nifty tips and tricks? Things to watch out for? If so, please, let me know.


And the transition to Linode is complete. If you notice any problems, please let me know.

Panasonic DVD Players – H02 error

I put a DVD into my Panasonic DVD-RP56 player this evening and to my surprise, it could not read any disc that I inserted. Instead, it simply displayed: “H02 Error”. A quick Google search indicated this was a common problem (defect perhaps?) to many Panasonic players.

The solution is pretty simple: remove the case, open the tray and then unplug the unit. Inside you’ll see the portion that spins the discs. Give this a few good whirls and start it up again. If it doesn’t spin on its own, spin it around yourself a couple times and it should start up.

Adding GPS Coordinates to Photos’ EXIF data in OS X

As I mentioned in my last post, my Garmin eTrex Legend HCx has no real way to talk to my OS X laptop, where I do all of my photo processing. Since my Nikon D70s doesn’t support attaching a GPS to the camera and using it to embed GPS data in the EXIF tags, the fact that the USB connection on my Legend HCx wouldn’t be compatible with doing that is moot.

So, for a multitude of reasons, I can’t easily put my lattitude, longitude and elevation into my photos. The camera doesn’t support it, the GPS doesn’t support it and Garmin doesn’t support OS X. Luckily though, I’m not the only one that wants to do this. My friend Gowtham informed me of an application called GPSPhotoLinker which uses track logs to find the appropriate coordinates and enter that data into the photo’s EXIF data. (Track logs being a log stored by most GPS receivers containing information about longitude, latitude and elevation with a timestamp.)

Since my GPSr allows me to save these track logs to the microSD card I have installed, I can simply use a card reader to pull the logs. (Fear not though, the program claims to support pulling them off the device over USB.) Once I have the log on my machine, I simply load it into the program via the button at the top of the screen.


After that, load the photos. Upon going to the batch menu, you’ll be presented with some options. You can tell the program to ignore images with location data already in the EXIF tags (which I recommend) and set tolerances for how close a track point must be to the timestamp in the photo’s EXIF data. You can also set it to link to the nearest track point or a time-weighted average point.

GPSPhotoLinker - Batch menu

Once you’re done, simply push the “Batch save to photos” button and sit back while you wait.

Garmin eTrex Legend HCx

In mid-July, Garmin released an update to their eTrex Legend line with the eTrex Legend HCx, which is basically a Legend Cx with a high sensitivity chip. Garmin isn’t using the SiRFstar III in this unit, instead, they’ve gone with the MediaTek MT3. You can see a comparison of the two chips here. Basically, the MediaTek chip provides better accuracy while requiring less power. A real win for portable devices like the eTrex line.

eTrex Legend HCx

I knew going in that Garmin has horrible support on both Linux and OS X. In fact, basically the only thing you can do on OS X is upgrade the GPS receiver’s firmware. On Linux, well… don’t even bother. What I didn’t anticipate was the difficulty I’d have figuring their software out once I had it installed in Parallels on my Mac. While I got it working eventually, this isn’t something I’d expect my parents to figure out. What’s more, Garmin’s GPS receivers that use USB interfaces (like the Legend HCx) don’t output NMEA data streams. And of course, it’s a closed spec, so don’t expect to hook your GPS up to anything besides Windows and get a data stream. So yeah, Garmin ignores everyone who doesn’t run Windows. Those of us who have been free of it for a while are used to that though.

How does the unit actually perform? That’s the important thing. Simply put, the reception is amazing. If you need to know the exact position of your toilet in a windowless bathroom to within 3 feet, this is the unit for you. The reception is great, the only place I’ve been with it where I can’t get a fix on my location is the basement of an 8 story building. That’s no surprise though as it is basically a concrete bunker. It handles my car, the woods, valleys and even canyons remarkably well. Besides spelunking, I wouldn’t hesitate to take it anywhere with me.

What about battery life? It’s pretty good as well. The Legend HCx runs on two AA batteries (I use rechargeable NiMH ones) and Garmin says you get 25 hours on a set. I’m seeing closer to 30 hours per charge, but I’m using 2650 maH batteries.

Storage isn’t a problem either. While the unit doesn’t have much built in, the microSD card slot in the battery compartment means effectively unlimited storage space for maps, tracks and routes. You’ll definitely want to take advantage of this storage to put better maps on the unit. The Legend HCx basemap is incredibly sparse and only shows major highways. Features on the landscape are often out of place as well… more than once the GPSr claimed I was walking in Lake Superior as I drove along the highway.

Auto-routing with the unit is pretty good… though it has it’s moments of sheer frustration. On a recent trip to Green Bay, the GPSr really wanted to route me over a particular bridge. There was only one problem… the bridge had been torn out to be replaced. I obviously couldn’t drive over it and the Legend HCx doesn’t have a way for me to tell it the bridge is gone (like on a Tom-Tom). So, I backtracked, drove to another bridge and crossed the river, at which time the Legend recalculated my route… and directed me back over the bridge. Luckily traffic wasn’t heavy at the time and I was able to use the street maps on the device to navigate my own way the last few miles. Beside that one incident though, the unit has been spot on using maps from Mapsource Metroguide (Garmin’s mapping software). Once a newer version of City Navigator is out, I’ll put out the $150 for that.

eTrex Legend HCx

All in all, I’ve found the Legend HCx to be a good product, and it is probably one of the best GPS receivers I’ve ever used. Garmin’s interface is easy to learns, the auto-routing is pretty good overall and it’s performance under cover (outside and in) is outstanding. This is a solid win for Garmin. For those considering buying one solely for auto-navigation: look at a Tom-Tom, you’ll probably be happier with one of those.

Summarizing Summer

I’ve been fairly busy the last three weeks (not busy enough to actually justify a complete lack of updates though). Work has been going pretty well and has kept me working at least 45 hours most weeks. On the 29th, I went to Minneapolis so I could pick up Sarah (my sister-in-law) at the airport the next day; luckily Kim put me up for the night and I was able to spend quite a bit of time catching up with her. This past weekend I also took 2 of my MTTC tests, the Basic Skills and Social Science ones; I believe I did really well on both.

I pulled an 11 hour day today, and tomorrow looks as if it should be a 12 hour day. (See what I mean about long hours?) It wouldn’t have been so bad, except the technician Dell who was sent to replace the motherboard on one of our new servers discovered the problem wasn’t actually the CPU (well, the pins in one of the sockets on the old one were actually bent). Instead, one of the ISCI cards was bad, and causing the server to spit out the CPU error. Of course, we had disassembled the machine and rebuilt it with the spare parts he brought by the time we figured this out.

But, on to the more interesting part for you non-computer people. I’ve been fairly (at least in relation to the few weeks before my last post) productive on the photography front since the 19th. I finally processed all the photos I took at the ROTC Commissioning on Tech’s Campus in May. I only put a few of the photos online. (I gave the detachments a CD with over 100 photos on it.) You can find them on flickr of course.
ROTC Commissioning-2007-2

I took a few quick snapshots of my new apartment (I know the photos suck, I was in a hurry).

The Centennial Mine is the latest set of industrial ruins to garner my interest. I made an afternoon trip out there as a followup to a trip I made with Kevin in early June. Unfortunately, between now and then, someone had been through and locked up most of the doors, so I was stuck with what I could see from the ground and what I could climb to. It actually turned out to be a fun trip though, and I focused on a lot more of the details than I probably would have otherwise.

Hoist House

The 4th of July rolled around and I made the trip to Copper Harbor for fireworks again. (I went to Lake Linden on the 3rd, but a light fog kept me from taking any pictures that didn’t look like crap.) I’ve said it before, but it needs to be said again: “There’s no better place in the U.S. to watch fireworks than Copper Harbor, MI. I’ll just leave you with photographic proof.

My most recent excursion is one that I’ve been looking to for several years now. Douglass Houghton Falls is one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the area. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to get to and the path is a bit dangerous; this combined with the fact that it is located on private property means it is closed to the public. Honestly, it isn’t hard to see why, I’d be afraid of the liability issues as well. It turns out that I know the land owners though, in fact, I’m a regular at the restaurant she owns. So, my friend Gowtham and I were given a guided tour out to the falls and left to have a very fun photography session. You can see the results in my photostream.

Douglass Houghton Falls-2007-2
Douglass Houghton Falls-2007-3