Saturday, October 31, 2009

Talk: GeoDjango with Google Maps

Screen shot 2009-10-31 at 6.34.33 AM.pngOn Thursday, November 5 2009, I'll be presenting at the Sydney Python group SyPy.

SyPy Nov 5th: "Using GeoDjango with Google Maps" - Peter Marks

GeoDjango is the GIS branch of the Python Web Framework Django. It aspires to be a world-class geographic web framework. The project goal is to make it as easy as possible to build GIS web applications and harness the power of spatially enabled data.

Peter will:

  • Give some background on the GeoDjango face of Django

  • Demonstrate a simple mapping application that overlays a Google map with markers, polylines and polygons

  • What you get for free - GeoAdmin with OpenStreetMap

  • Software dependancies: GEOS, GDAL, and PROJ.4

  • Geo enabling your

  • Discuss using MySQL as the spatial database and the short-cuts they've taken so far...

  • Talk about performance:

    • loading just the visible overlays

    • using json for mapping

  • Show a real application

*RSVP: Please RSVP on Anyvite to get your name on the door*

Time: 6:30PM (for a 6:45pm start) - 7:45PM (then pub after)

Getting There: It's a 10min walk from Town Hall station over the pyrmont bridge (directions) or catch the light rail to the casino station.

Go to level 5 or if the doors are locked wait outside and look for smiley happy google people to let you in.

NB. Snacks are provided by google and we also go to a pub afterwards that has dinner available.

Andy Todd will be the man in control. Also a big thanks to Google for hosting us again.

The slides are available via SydneyPython.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ubuntu 9.10 release candidate on Acer Aspire One

ubuntu.pngThanks to Telstra Bigpond's excellent unmetered download feature it was a breeze to grab the ISO of the release candidate of Ubuntu 9.10 "Karmic Koala" to be released on October 19.

I'm installing on a netbook, the Acer Aspire One, and for the first time there are no problems of installer windows extending off the bottom of the small screen (1024x600). The installer is more beautiful than ever, I was particularly taken with the new timezone chooser.

Although I had Fedora 11 on the machine before, Ubuntu's installer didn't detect it and happily offered to wipe the disk saying there was no operating system found. Fair enough but it's always been a criticism of Microsoft's installers that they never want to co-exist with other OS's and it's a pity if this feature is broken.

First boot graphics are lovely, like a stage with a single spotlight from above. Unlike Fedora 11, sound on the Acer was smooth.

Wireless worked right off and found my network with ease. The menu bar icons are looking lovely and very "Mac like" these days...

The trackpad works well and the right edge window scroll is enabled.


I got a warning about "Incomplete Language Support" saying the language support files for my selected language were incomplete which is a bit weird for English. The window suggested an action and had a button to run that action. I clicked and it then wanted to update more stuff. In the end the language support install took a long time - it was getting English - Australian, it did get there after 17 minutes. Perhaps the release candidate servers aren't ready.

The Acer Aspire One fan has always been a problem, requiring a kernel module to stop it running flat out all the time. I've always had to build acerhdf which does the trick very nicely. Under Ubuntu 9.10 the fan seems to be changing speed so at this point I'm not sure if something is there to control it or if I'm just imagining things, I'll let it go for a while until I figure it out. Hmm, it seems to be under control but does run more than with acerhdf. Update: the fan was running all the time. Fixed now.

On a soft reboot, the wireless didn't come up. I've seen this before and it's fixed but shutting down and then starting up so I suspect that the wireless firmware gets in a strange state from time to time.

Great things

I guess it's Gnome, but visually everything is smoother and even on a low power netbook, visual effects, such as menu actions seem to fade in a little - rather like the Mac.

Browsing the network shows all our devices both windows and mac services. Fedora didn't show anything for me. Looks like it can see Bonjour adverstised services including ssh and Mac screen sharing - unfortunately the remote desktop doesn't support Apple's encryption yet. Browsing for ssh worked just fine though. I was able to browse for my mac and copy files to it using sftp all very transparently.

Finding printers didn't work for some reason, although it has in the past. Incidentally, I find the distinction between the Administration and Preferences menus a little puzzling. Printing is in the Preferences.

On the AAO suspend and hibernate both worked just fine although with the fast boot time I experience hibernate seems redundant.

What's new

There's a lot new in this release. Faster boot times thanks to continuing work on Upstart that has optimised the time to get going. The Aspire One boots in 25 seconds.


There's a new way to find and install software called Ubuntu Software Center.

Gnome has been revved of course and is on 2.28. Before this install I had a look at the latest KDE and it's looking very nice these days too.

With this release Ubuntu is offering a storage in the cloud service. Despite some bad press thanks to Microsoft/Danger, backup to the cloud is really a good idea - I'm a long time dotmac/mobileMe subscriber and having lost a disturbing number of hard disks and even CDs I'm happy to let professionals manage that.


This is a very slick desktop. Visual effects, speed, graphical beauty. If your Windows 7 upgrade didn't go well, or you don't want to pay the Microsoft tax, I would definitely recommend Ubuntu 9.10 on a PC. Clearly being influenced by good things from MacOS which is a good sign. I wonder when a dock will appear?


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Checked out the unibody MacBook

Dropped by the Chatswood Apple store this morning to check out the new plastic MacBook this morning. The unibody plastic case feels very solid and the round corners are pleasing. It's heavier than I'd hoped and the lack of ports is a bit of a pity.

The design is clean, the battery life sounds outstanding, and I'm sure they will sell really well.

Like many, I've succumbed to the impulse purchase of a netbook, in my case an Acer Aspire One. I do like it, but the small screen, small keyboard, short battery life and bad trackpad means that when I want to do more than just look up the TV guide I reach for a proper computer. I think Apple's right to hold off delivering something too low in usability to satisfy for more than a few minutes.

The new magic mouse was not on show yet, very keen to try it out to see if Apple can win me back after the disappointment of the mighty mouse. The only Microsoft product I use these days is a mouse - they are good at those.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Splitdorf radio - Scientifically correct!

My neighbour, Rob VK2ZNZ called on 3.595MHz just after the WIA broadcast this morning and invited me over to "see a thing of great beauty". He was not wrong.


I can't find many mentions of the Splitdorf radios, but it looks like it's missing a big wooden case.

radio front.jpg

Certainly a thing of beauty. My impression is that it's been restored at some point.

radio side.jpg

A very simple circuit.

radio coil.jpg

They sure have a lot of patents!

radio patents.jpg

It is so simple it would have to be a TRF or perhaps regen radio. Anyone know anything about these radios?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Apple Macbook Pro 13 inch on the road

Screen shot 2009-10-10 at 6.29.40 PM.pngWhen I purchased this laptop a few months back I was looking forward to a snappy machine that, while a little heavy, would be solid and durable enough for travel.

While in Malaysia recently, I spent a day in a small room with a group of people who had all been issued with very nice looking Lenovo Thinkpads. There were not enough power points for everyone and all day they took turns desperately topping up their batteries.

To their amazement, I didn't pull my charger out until an hour before the end of the day, even then the Macbook Pro said it had an hour to go and probably could have lasted.

The figure shown top right is not realistic but when not hammering the machine I do see almost seven hours, this kind of battery life changes the way I think about the laptop. Apple made the right decision to switch from a removable battery in favour of a larger flat system.

My only concerns are that there is something strange about the return key on mine and sometimes I think I trigger the G force drive protection (it makes a clunk).

Those icons in the menu bar are Google GMail Notifier, Expandrive, and Evernote all recommended.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Google Apps is an exchange server for iPhone

googleExchange.gifJust found this out the other day. My employer uses Google Apps for our domain - Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Sites, all that good stuff.

If your administrator turns on Google Sync for the domain and you have iPhone version 3 or above, you can configure a Microsoft Exchange mail account according to these instructions.

With this turned on, you get push mail, contacts and calendars. It's fun to have your calendar open, go to the web, make an appointment and see it appear in seconds on the iPhone.

I was a little anxious about what would happen to my existing contacts, sync'd with my Mac, but all is well. The contacts from my company's list appear as a separate group and further I get a "Global Address List" group as well.

It's funny how Google never once mention the word "Exchange" and try to refer to this protocol as Google Sync.

Note that you can only have a single Exchange account set up on a phone.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Todd Sampson fan club

todd.jpgAlways liked Todd Sampson, CEO of Leo Burnett advertising on the Gruen Transfer but on Q and A on the ABC last night he totally blew me away.

This guy is the smartest, quickest, most sensible person I've ever observed. His instincts are spot on. His emotions are well placed.

What sweet irony that he works for a spin company!

Why on earth did the Nobel peace prize go to the president of the United States? Obama is already the most powerful leader in the world, why not give the prize to a Tebetan activist in a Chinese prison or something? Something that will make a difference.

How lucky we are to have Todd in Australia as a contributor to the intellectual debate in this country. Hang in there mate, and one day you'll get the Nobel prize too.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Airbus A380 experience

Just returned from Singapore flying on an A380 for the first time.


It's a big plane, two stories throughout, and getting on and off takes a little while. Interior is modern and LED lighting is used throughout to good effect. The big feature for me is the back of seat entertainment system.

connectors.jpgThe screen is much larger than anything I've seen before, pretty good quality and has a very directional filter so you hardly see your neighbour's picture.

As you can see above, the controller mounts in front rather than in the arm rest, there's a cup holder which is really handy, not sure what you do in that cavity behind it. On the right is the panel you see here with analog video in, USB port for plugging in a key drive containing audio or video and an ethernet port - I think. (In the instructions there's a diagram that kind of suggests there is a cable available for iPods that plugs in here).

To fit all this, the tray table is folded in half but it works well.

There's a good selection of movies and TV shows plus heaps of on demand music to play. I enjoyed The Hangover and a Flight of the Conchords.

I flew with Singapore airlines, checking in on-line is very worth while, I skipped the long queue and joined the few clever internet users to check in my luggage.

On the way back my new ePassport is fantastic now in Sydney. You poke it in to a machine that scans it and asks a few questions, then you go straight to a machine that takes your picture, although it's rather confusing which camera to look at as they all ask for attention, and then you're through.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Ricoh GR Digital 3 review

The thing that annoys me about digital "point and shoot" cameras is the delay between when you see the decisive moment and push the button, and when the camera captures the image.

One camera in this category happily does not have this disadvantage, the Ricoh GR Digital III.


(Click the image for the full size view).

Like the wonderful film version GR1, the lens is fixed and excellent quality.

While a little slow to start up, the key feature of this camera is that when you push the shutter, it takes the picture within a fraction of a second. Fans of street photography will appreciate the ability to pre-set the focus and just shoot with that - very much like Henri Cartier-Bresson used to do with his Leica.

The camera is compact, not as much as many consumer cameras, but considering the features, much much more pocketable than an SLR that might deliver some of the features and speed.

Features, in order of interest to me:

  • Fast response to clicking the shutter button. If you don't pause to focus it shoots a reasonable focal distance.

  • Wide angle fixed focus lens at the equivalent of 28mm F1.9

  • Amazing macro down to 1cm

  • The battery lasts 370 shots but if stuck you can run it on two AAA batteries

  • Programmable buttons for access to the features you prefer

  • HDR High Dynamic Range feature that takes two shots and combines them

  • Bracketing

  • Adjustable everything

  • The mode button has a push lock

  • Hot shoe and the option of a nice optical viewfinder - a little expensive...

  • Big 3 inch display

  • Shoots RAW in DMG format

Now Ricoh has included all sorts of in-camera stuff, such as perspective adjustment, but I really feel that this should be done in the computer rather than the camera.


The best thing about this camera is that it looks pretty much like all the other pocket cameras and won't attract attention.



Just installed version 1.21 of the firmware from Ricoh here. To find out what version you have, turn the camera off, hold the macro (down) button and press play for a few seconds. The firmware is the "main" version shown.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Working in Singapore

I'm working out of Singapore and Malaysia for the next week or so.


Spare time is devoted to walking around the electronic gadget shops checking out what's on sale and the prices. There's no doubt that gadgets in Singapore is 10-20% cheaper than in Australia.

There's a dizzying array of digital cameras on display but my impression this year is that there are fewer print shops.