Powers of Ten

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 21:23:02

I recently came across the Powers of Ten Flipbook, a wonderful odyssey in to the world of remote sensing. I can’t say it better than the product description;

“Based on the best-selling classic Powers of Ten, this magnificent journey begins one billion light years away, with every two pages representing a view ten times larger than the view two pages earlier. As readers flip through the pages, they will descend the dimensions of the the universe, through our solar system down to a park on earth, then into the human body, its cells, DNA and finally a single proton. A fun and compact visual odyssey, The Powers of Ten flipbook shows us not only the relative size of things in the known universe, but also our place in it.”

Really puts a new perspective on things!! And, of course, what I didn’t realise when I saw this was that this was based on the original 1971 movie (and by the looks of things an earlier B&W version). Play it below…. well worth the watch.

Journal M3trics

Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 19:52:52

I wrote a while back about Researcher ID and the notion of flipping the standard journal performance to look at researcher performance. In that post I listed the two main sources of citation information, namely Web of Knowledge and Scopus. Well I’m used to the former (compiled by Thomson Reuters) through their Citation Database and very useful it is too. I’m far less familiar with the latter with their Journal M3trics. Scopus is compiled by Elsevier, however (unlike Thomson Reuters) they make their metrics data freely available through Journal M3trics and currently this is calculated as the Source-Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) and SCImago Journal Rank (SJR): its worth reading the FAQ to see how these metrics perform. They are more complex and are contexualised for subject area and “quality” of citing source. Something metrics like Impact Factor don’t do.

This market place is only going to get busier and more competitive. With pressure on institutions and individuals to demonstrate “value” and “worth”, how you measure this is important.

Windows Sort Order

Friday, January 27, 2012 at 22:52:40

Came across a very strange problem recently….. all files in any Windows Explorer or Open/Save dialog were sorted by reverse order. I could go back in to Explorer, get up the “Details” view and then resort it. However it would default back to reverse order. Very strange and frustrating!!!

A quick Google brought up this article. In short, if you hold Ctrl and click the close window “X” it remembers the last sort order…. permanently. So the solution is to re-sort (as you want it) and then Ctrl-“X”.

Simple solution to a very frustrating problem!

New release: GDAL/OGR

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 15:31:28

A new year and a new release of GDAL/OGR (1.9). It’s been a while since I last covered this, but there continue to be significant improvements with the big news being the support for ESRI File Geodatabases and Google Fusion tables (see James Fee’s blog). However CounchDB, Idrisi, GRASS, ARCGEN are all worthy additions. Keep it in the toolbox…. because most of us do, and that includes ESRI.

Humax PVR Update

Tuesday, January 3, 2012 at 11:53:34

After the best part of a year since I reported on my new Humax PVR, I thought I’d give an update as the firmware has been upgraded a few times and I’ve finally gotten around to playing a little more with it.

First up, a reminder that it’s a Humax HDR-FOX T2 with HDMI output, twin tuners and a capacious 500Gb HDD. It supports plugging in USB media and plays a large range of formats (although its not entirely complete, FLV missing for instance). It comes with a LAN port and you can plug in Ethernet over powerline or go for a wifi dongle. The former is much faster and more reliable. And FTP server is built-in for uploading/downloading content, but as I noted before all content stored on the box is encrypted. It is also able to play media files on uPnP servers (for instance my Synology Diskstation) and act as a uPnP server as well.

I won’t go in to detail about the software, but suffice to say (and read the many reviews) it is well written and intuitive. Series recording is a breeze and there is a more sensible folders method of storing files which makes finding recordings easier. The integration of internet TV is generally good (and improves with each version of the firmware) although not all channels are supported. iPlayer is the big one though and works well as long as your broadband connection is fast enough (although it does optimised for screen and connection I gather). The one slight pain is automatic tuning…. yes it works well, but where you are in an area with overlapping transmissions it often ends up storing channels from many of them which can cause dropped recordings. use this advice to manually retune your receiver… works well.

OK, so what about some of the “extra” things you can do? First up their’s a very useful summary FAQ of all the things you could possibly want to know about the T2. Secondly, there is now a well established updated firmware (actually firmware patch) that removes many of the restrictions of the T2 and adds other extra features.

I haven’t patched my box (yet!) but that’s simply because I’m happy with what I’ve got for the moment. So… I can play content off my Synology uPnP server. That works well. I can also directly play stuff off the T2 using it as a uPnP server. This is actually more fiddly than it needs to be (for the moment anyway)…. you need a uPnP browser and video player. Portable VLC is more than happy streaming video content, but (for the moment) doesn’t have a browser so you need to provide it with a URL. I have been using the mp3 player Foobar2000 with the uPnP browser plugin. This allows you to get the filename and paste it into VLC. There are other players around (e.g. XMBC) which also work: the above are portable and small. And, by way of experimentation, I used uPnPlay on Andoird to browse to the T2 over wifi and then play back the video using BSPlayer. It works…. but the video files are a little big for the wifi so its not smooth. It does work fine from the Synology though.

The other thing to remember is that the T2 stores it’s files as .TS; this is how they are broadcast and are essentially the same encoding as DVD (MPEG-2). The files are quite big (upto 1Gb for 30 mins) but fairly easy to work with. So I said above that there is encryption on the box to stop you copying files…. how do you work around that? Well if you login to the ftp server and copy files off the stay encrypted. However if you use the remote to copy the file to an attached USB stick on the T2 it removes the encryption. You can then copy it back on to the box and FTP it off. OK, so it works but is a little bit of a faff. Well it turns out that there is another workaround given that the T2 is a uPnP server. To stream video it needs to be unencrypted for the client to play it. So if you know the URL (use Foobar above!) you can simply paste this in to your browser address bar and it will download the entire .TS file. How easy is that?! Note, it doesn’t work for HD recordings; the T2 keeps them encrypted regardless, so what can you do about that?? Well, you can use Foxy to remove the encryption from the recording by FTPing off the header file (HMT), reprocess it and copy it back. You still can’t access it using uPnP, but you can copy it off on to a USB stick where it is decrypted and then copy it back on to the T2 unencrypted. Neat.

Finally then…. .TS recordings. Well VLC plays them off-the-bat no problems, but if you want to archive them then you really need an MP4 type codec. Whilst H264 is “de rigeur” I still tend to prefer to encode to XVID because its open source and remains reliable; expect a compression ration compared to .TS of about 5:1. I use Mencoder for this.

There’s plenty more things in the offing for the T2, but all-in-all it’s a great bit of kit and is firmly placing itself as a media centre. And a rather elegant one at that. Just ordered one of these to experiment with streaming stuff around the house. See how it goes.

SMS Backup

Sunday, January 1, 2012 at 22:21:16

Got lots of SMS on your Android phone? Want to backup or delete some?? SMS to Text is a simple app to do just that…. export to your SD card, filtering by your contact list or simply all of them and press go. Output formats are TXT or CSV. Simple, useful, does the job.

ArcGIS for Android

Sunday, January 1, 2012 at 08:49:42

Well anfter the initial fuss that ESRI had actually released the ArcGIS for Android (AA) app, I realised that it wasn’t compiled for ARMv6 deviecs, which includes my cheap and cheerful San Fran. So I put it to the back of my mind. I happened to be browsing the Market this week and realised that the latest update had provided support in this area and so I took the plunge and installed it. And in ESRI fashion, its not a lightweight app…. 17.83 Mb my phone reports which is by some margin the biggest app I have installed. And for those with not too much memory its a real space hog so just as well they provide support for moving it to SD.

Probably best to see what ESRI have to say on the topic…. and if you read this it’s pretty clear that AA is an ArcGIS Online viewer, and a pretty big and bloated one at that. Yes it allows you to zoom in and out, search using a gazeteer and add and remove layers. Its “strength” is the tie in to ArcGIS Online… if you use it. It also allows you to add bespoke layers from ArcGIS Server as well. What it doesn’t do is anything related to data collection, working with feature classes, editing or any other mobile GIS type activities. For that you’ll need (a license for) ArcPad. In fact it’s no where near as usable as Google Maps which has a very simple, but elegant, interface, that works fast and does what it says on the tin. For example, I wanted to send my brother a location to meet up… fire up Google Maps, identify your location, long press and then select “Share”. Messaging (amongst others) others you to txt a shortened URL. Nice. That said, ArcGIS isn’t competing with Google: it’s in a different marketplace.

So, AA (obviously!) is an ArcGIS tie in and supports reasonably tightly the ArcGIS product line (and don’t forget ArcGIS for iPhone). And perhaps this reflects the strength of ArcGIS more generally…. (on Windows) it may not be the fastest, most reliable or most user-friendly interface, but you can almost guarantee that it’ll be able to anything you could possibly want done (perhaps with a little coding). Hence the expansion to Android and iPhone. In this sense the application itself is relatively unimportant and that the key aspect is actually the SDK. The application is the exemplar, but it is corporates demanding iOS and Android platforms to roll their own apps out on to. As long as the SDK has the functionality built, who cares how big and bloated it is as long as it supports the full workflow. So AA is not the one to watch, but the apps that follow-on from it… it’ll be interesting if a whole new industry grows up around this in the same way it did for ArcGIS on Windows (e.g. XTools Pro, ET GeoWizard, GME, Jenness).

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