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Archive for June, 2009

Updating Mozilla Weave for Firefox 3.5

June 29th, 2009 No comments

Firefox 3.5 logoFrom what I’ve read, it looks like Firefox 3.5 is going to be released officially tomorrow, so I decided to grab the release candidate today to see if there are any major changes that would require work on my part.  It’s a good thing I did, since I had to reconfigure my Weave server to work with the new version.

Mozilla Weave logoIf you don’t know about it, Mozilla Weave allows you to synchronize your bookmarks/tabs/saved passwords/etc. between multiple PCs.  The combination of Weave and Dropbox are what I use to keep my laptop and desktop in sync at all times.  (That will be the subject of a future post: a list of the various tweaks that I’ve done to make this work seamlessly so that all of my PCs are always in sync even if they’re not all online at the same time).  When I installed the Firefox 3.5 release candidate, I got the usual warning that most of my extensions were going to be disabled pending compatibility with the new version.  One of the ones that had an update available was Weave.  I was still running the older 0.2 version, but 0.4 has now been released.

Uh oh…My server is still running 0.2 (I run my own Weave server mainly because I don’t want to rely on the Mozilla servers for storing personal information + passwords, even though they’re encrypted, and also because when I first started using Weave their systems were overloaded and they weren’t accepting new accounts, hence the requirement to host it on my own server).   A big change is that they’re not using WebDAV anymore for the storage (fine with me, WebDAV was a pain to set up before), storage is now done using a choice of database engines, MySQL in my case.

Now the fun part, remembering the hackish way that I set up WebDAV for the old version (the new version won’t work if it’s still enabled) so that I could disable DAV.  After a little searching, I found where in the httpd.conf that I put the options before (I remembered to put in a comment when I did it :-)) and successfully reconfigured the web server.  I set up a new database and user, set the config options, and the server was ready to go!  (See the full instructions on how to set up the server for more details, it’s a little more complicated than that)

The current version of the server is 0.3, but it works properly with the 0.4 version of the client.
The new version allows for synchronization of bookmarks, cookies, forms, history, location bar, passwords, preferences, and tabs.  Basically, it means you can close Firefox on your laptop, and when you log onto your desktop, you can resume right where you left off.  Thanks to the development team, you did a great job.  I’m looking forward to future features such as extension synchronization.  Weave is still in beta, and there are still bugs to be worked out (when a problem occurs, it’s often necessary to dig through the verbose log file to try and figure out what happened), but it continues to improve with each revision.

 

Spent another beautiful day indoors

June 29th, 2009 No comments

Is anyone surprised? 🙂 The rain finally stopped this weekend, but I of course spent Saturday with a group of friends, indoors, playing an epic strategy game.

The game is called Twilight Imperium, and if I had to describe it in one word, it would be “long“.  It’s a lot of fun, though, as long as you only play it once in a while.  This is the second time that I’ve played, we usually play it once or twice a year, since it’s pretty much an all-day affair.  We started a little before 11am, and we finished after 8pm (with only one break for pizza in the middle).

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The basic goal of the game is to build your empire and achieve victory through completing various objectives (such as taking control of certain planets while controlling certain ships, or amassing various types of technology).  In the process, you can wage war against your fellow players (which often involves 20 minutes of rolling dice to determine the outcome).  You can form alliances (and then break them) with other players through trade contracts, and the layout of the board can create natural defenses such as supernovas or asteroid fields.  If you’re interested, check out the link above for a quick description, or go ahead and take a look at the full rules for the game (PDF file).

Thanks to Dan for introducing us to the game.  He won again, of course. 🙂

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After dinner at Famous Dave’s BBQ (mmm…sausage and chicken tenders), we spent half an hour cleaning up the board (that’s a lot of cards, pieces, and dice!) and played a quick (relatively) round of Munchkin Cthulhu, which I won.  Kill the monsters, steal the treasure, stab your buddies.  If you’re not familiar with the Munchkin series, you should definitely check it out (assuming you’re into fantasy/role-playing games and such, otherwise the humor will probably be lost on you).  It even comes with blank cards so that you can draw/add your own elements to the game.

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More pictures from our game can be found here.  If you want to buy the games (and contribute to my blog by making Amazon help pay the hosting bills):  Twilight Imperium and Munchkin Cthulhu.

Next weekend I promise to spend some time outside.  (Which of course means it will rain all weekend).  I’m hoping to get some neat pictures of fireworks with my new camera.

 

Almost ten years of photos to organize

June 27th, 2009 No comments

35,000+ photos (113 gigabytes)Ok, it’s time that I did something about the electronic equivalent of a few hundred shoe boxes full of photographs.  There are over 35,000 files in my photography folder, organized only by one or two word folder names.

Photosmart C200 digital cameraI purchased my first digital camera during my freshman year of college (2001), an HP Photosmart C200.  By today’s standards, it was worse than a cell phone camera, but at the time it seemed like a great improvement from paying for film, development, and prints.  One glorious megapixel, flash, and a CompactFlash card that held a whopping 20 or so photos.  In retrospect, it was an advantage of sorts to have a limited amount of storage space, it forced me to only take pictures that were worth keeping.    My current 16GB SD card (an unthinkable size back in 2001) effectively allows me to take as many (often useless) photos as I desire.

Over the years, I upgraded to several other point-and-shoot cameras from Sony, Samsung, and Canon.  (I’ll post a list of the cameras that I’ve owned along with some sample pictures at some point).  Each camera gave much better resolution, at the expense of more and larger files.  I recently purchased my first SLR (a Canon EOS Rebel T1i), which supports RAW shooting (along with JPEG), meaning I’ll have even more to deal with.

So how do I plan to organize all of this?  I’ve recently started using Adobe’s Lightroom program.  I tried an early beta of this a few years ago and wasn’t impressed, but the current version(2.3) is a lot better.  Here’s my plan of attack:

  1. Back up the whole folder.  (already done)
  2. Go through each subfolder and get rid of anything that doesn’t belong.  (I’ve accumulated various photos from other people that have made their way into my folders, I’ll move those elsewhere, my aim is to have my Photography folder only contain pictures that I’ve taken or been involved with).  This should eliminate a few thousand of the files.
  3. Import the whole folder into a new Lightroom catalog.  This will be my temporary working catalog.
  4. Use the metadata sorter to arrange photos by year.  Identify any photos with incorrect or missing metadata and either repair or remove the metadata.
  5. Create a new folder structure organized by year.  For each group of photos, create a sub-folder with a descriptive name.
  6. Move the photos to the new folder and remove them from the temporary Lightroom catalog.
  7. Add the moved photos to a new, permanent Lightroom catalog.  Add tags/captions as appropriate.  (It’s unlikely that I’m going to actually tag all of my old photos, but I can do some global operations to organize things a little better)
  8. After moving all of the photos to new folders, create category-based shortcuts to allow easier navigation.  (The actual folders will be by year and name, I can then make a “Vacations” folder with shortcuts to each of my vacations in the various annual folders)

Using Lightroom will significantly cut the amount of time I need to spend organizing photos that I take in the future, as well.  My current workflow consists of copying the files, geotagging when possible (using GeoSetter – my obsessive geotagging of photos deserves its own post, to be written later) and then manually uploading them to my Flickr account.  I then use Flickr’s tools to caption and tag the photos, and then use a discontinued program called NitroDesk Media Edition (no longer available) to transfer the tagged photos to my other photo hosting accounts (usually Smugmug since their galleries look much better than Flickr’s, and occasionally Facebook).  This workflow is far from ideal, since I’m relying on Flickr for a lot of the metadata.  Using Lightroom instead will allow me to easily geotag, caption, tag, and upload all from one place (plus allowing me to work with RAW files and do image enhancement).  Thanks goes to Jeffrey Friedl for his excellent Lightroom plugins which save a ton of time (exporting to multiple photo sites with a few clicks, and letting me geotag directly in Lightroom).

I’m expecting this to take a few weeks (months?) to complete, a little bit at a time.  On the plus side, I’m sure I’ll rediscover a bunch of old pictures that I’ve forgotten about.  I’ll post any interesting ones that I come across.

 

Back to blogging

June 23rd, 2009 No comments

It’s been a few years since I last maintained a blog.  The last time I did this I was an undergraduate in college, and my posts mostly consisted of jokes, dumb quizzes, and rants about politics and my classes.  If you really want to see that, it’s still out there over on my old LiveJournal.  I’m going to try for some slightly more useful content this time (although I can’t guarantee against the occasional rant).  I’m using WordPress this time, which allows for a lot more flexibility than LiveJournal (plus I don’t have to pay anything other than my existing server hosting bill).

Expect to see the site change dramatically over the next few months as I decide on themes, categories, etc.

My plan is to use the blog for longer messages (I use Twitter for quick updates).  I’ll be discussing my hobbies, various interesting things that go on in my life, finance and money (including any good deals that I find), and opinions on the nation/world.  I like to take a lot of pictures, so expect to see links to my photo galleries, too (especially when I go on trips to interesting places, I have a tendency to take way too many photos).  I spend a lot of time fiddling with servers and coming up with obscure methods to solve problems, so I’ll post those too if I figure something out that I think can benefit other people.

Leave me a comment to let me know if anyone’s out there.  (that doesn’t mean you, though, spammers.)