Going to IFA – slightly transparent

I just posted an article about Hasan Elahi on the Norwegian blog I’m contributing to. Mr. Elahi is the artist that exposed his whole life on the internet when the feds started following him.

I’m not going to pull an Elahi here, but as part of my experiments with GPS technology and my iPhone I’ll be posting my position live on the intertubes from time to time during my trip to IFA in Berlin.

The map in this post will be updated with my position and a track when I’m online. I’ll also post some messages on Twitter and some geocoded images on Flickr. I know that I have a tight schedule in Berlin, so I can’t promise immense amounts of information, but now you’re informed of my tiny experiment.

GPS tracking powered by InstaMapper.com


(Yeah, I know. The map is slightly too big for my layout.)

Direct link to the map. Direct link to a mobile version of the map.

Unfortunately, the maps will not auto update. You need to refresh. And due to the limited battery and no multitasking on my iPhone I can’t track my whole trip.

We’ll see how it goes. Will this provide any useful information for anyone? Will it be too much work for me?

Going to IFA – slightly transparent

eirikso.com just moved to a new server

So. We’re over at the new server. Now you can start commenting on all the stuff that’s not working. Files that I forgot to move. Plugins that I forgot to install.

Of course I hope everything works out fine. I’m back on Dreamhost, on a “Dreamhost PS”-based server. Meaning that I have my own protected space on one machine. Please let me know if you find my site slow or unstable. It shouldn’t be. At least not in the US. Depending on the traffic over the Atlantic it might be a bit slow here in Europe.

Also, use this post as an excuse to tell me what you would like me to write about! Or throw in a comment just to tell me that you’re out there… According to Feedburner more than 1000 people subscribe to this blog and according to Statcounter something between 1000 and 2000 users are visiting every day. A whopping 1.8 million users have been here since I started using Statcounter back in 2005. But the best motivation is still those good old comments from real readers!

When moving back to Dreamhost I also found that I have five pretty decent invitation codes if you consider them for hosting. The invitation codes will give:
– Up your plan features to 2TB disk and 20TB bandwidth!
– Give $150 off a 5-year signup or $200 off a 10-year signup!

But maybe you would want to wait a couple of weeks. So that I can share my experience with Dreamhost anno 2008 before you select them. They have some very user friendly functions and a very powerful control panel. One click installs, one click upgrades, one click google docs and google mail etc. But that’s all useless if they’re slow and unstable. I’ll get back here with my experience.

Anyway, if you want to use dreamhost right now, comment here and remember to put in a valid email in the form (not in the comment itself) and I’ll send you a code.

eirikso.com just moved to a new server

My current backup strategy

You don’t understand that having backups of important data is a good idea before you’ve missed something very important. I have twenty years of experience with hard drives and learned very early that backups are a very good idea.

So people keeps asking me how I administrate my data. Now here’s the quick story:

1. Apple Time Machine
It does a constant backup of my system drive. With several versions and very easy restore. It has saved me a couple of times already.

2. Mirrored RAID on the media server
I have a couple of large disks with my video, audio and images. Stuff that I don’t want to loose. These disks are configured as something that’s called RAID 1. Or in plain english: each disk is actually two disks. On the computer they show up as one, but everything that is stored on them is actually stored on two disks. See the four disks in the image above? It’s not four terrabytes of data. It’s two. Giving instant backup. If one drive fails I simply replace it and the system will rebuild it. To do this you can use the built in RAID support in Mac OSX, but that is lame, so I use SoftRaid. And yes, when I buy a new external hard drive I buy two. Meaning twice the security and twice the price.

The RAID system has also saved me a couple of times. It’s not a question of “if” a drive fails. It’s “when”.

3. Portable hard drive
I also want an off site backup of my most important files. A backup that will survive burglary or a fire in my home. This is mainly for my images. For that I have a two layer system. First I have a drive that I fill up and keep in a drawer at work.

4. Network based backup
Of course I don’t bother to bring the portable disk back and forth very often, so if everything fails at home I would probably loose months of images. That’s why I have an extra layer of remote backup for the last year of data. A system that immediately starts uploading files to a remote server as I add images and important files. There are several systems for this. Back in the days when I used Windows I relied on Carbonite. Another good solution is Mozy. But I use JungleDisk. Because I trust Amazon and their encryption. And because it gives me a virtual drive that lets me access my files at all times from any computer.

That’s it. Time Machine. RAID1. Portable disk and JungleDisk. Share your backup strategy and fire away with questions in the comments.

My current backup strategy

Update on the USB charging problem of the iPhone 3G

After I posted my last article I decided to do some experimenting based on the description of the DIY iPhone 3G charger I linked to.

I checked the two travel chargers I have, and just as expected: The one that charges the iPhone 3G has a 2.4v and 2.8v reference voltage applied on the data pins in addition to the 5v charging voltage. The one that charge my iPod but not my iPhone have no voltage on the data pins.

So, I guess the solution is to make a small adapter that gives the required voltage on the data pins: USB in, some resistors and USB out. Like described in the article about the DIY iPhone 3G charger.

That simple adapter will solve the problem of some of the USB chargers that won’t work on the iPhone 3G, but not the problem with the equipment that use the old FireWire method of charging (like the Dension ICElink in my car). For that you need a slightly more advanced adapter.

Update on the USB charging problem of the iPhone 3G

Problems with USB charging of the iPhone 3G

OK. So Apple ditched support for FireWire charging on the iPhone 3G. Stopping it from working properly with a lot of audio systems and car installations. FireWire support has been on its way out on the iPods for a long time and I guess Apple had to remove this feature at some point. Apple have a history of removing old technology pretty fast, but usually they have provided some kind of replacement. An external floppy drive when that was removed. An external DVD drive for the MacBook Air etc.

In this case they did not provide any adapters, leaving a lot of people pretty angry. Whatever. Other companies are already working on the appropriate pieces of electronics. And I need one of those, because the iPhone 3G will not charge in my car.

However, I am experiencing problems charging my iPhone through a lot of standard USB equipment as well. Stuff that charges my Nokia Phone, my iPod and a lot of other USB based gadgets.

It seems like the iPhone 3G does more checking on the USB port before it starts charging. Here are some examples.

The image shows two standard USB charging units. Simple connectors that converts the 12V in the car to 5V in the USB port. The white one charges my 60GB iPod but not my iPhone 3G. The black one charges both my iPod and the iPhone 3G.

The same goes for these travel chargers. The one to the left only charges my iPod. The one to the right charges both.

And because of the not-so-impressive battery life of the iPhone 3G it would have been nice if this portable battery / solar charger would work. But it won’t. Works fine on all USB based gadgets I’ve tried, but not on the iPhone 3G.

Others are also looking into this, but if you have a simple explanation or know about an adaptor that will make all USB chargers work on the iPhone 3G – please let me know.

I did some more research and found a solution.

Problems with USB charging of the iPhone 3G

Automatic geotagging of your images

Geotagged image of a white cat

You’re geotagged, baby!

Six years ago I did an experiment after returning from a trip in France. I matched the time stamps of my digital images with the time stamps in the track from my GPS to be able to automatically place all my images on a map. At that point the trick included a lot of manual work, coding and hacking.

Fast forward to 2008 and there are a lot of software to help you do this. And I really like all solutions that can help me with automatic tagging of my images. Like most people I’m not too clever at manually tagging my images…

Time to find the best solution. My iPhone has a built in GPS and the best solution would be to leave a GPS tracker running on it at all times. Unfortunately that’s not possible due to the stupid fact that the iPhone doesn’t support proper multitasking. And it would probably drain the battery on my phone too fast.

So I’ll opt for yet another gadget. A small tracker that I can leave in my camera bag. It needs to be sensitive, fast and have a very good battery life. And it must support Mac OSX.

After some hours of research I’ve decided on the Qstarz BT-Q1000P. According to the reviews it is very accurate and sensitive. Due to the relatively new MTK 51 channel chipset. And probably due to a good antenna. The battery lasts for 32 hours continous use (according to a test the real life performance was actually measured to 36 hours). And it can be charged through a standard USB cable.

The Mac support isn’t out of the box but done with some third party software. Namely the MacTravelRecorder or the free bt747. I’ll get back here with my experience when I have received the device.

Geotagged image in google maps

Of course, I can’t just wait for that gadget to arrive, so I had to do some tests with my iPhone. I installed iTrail and went for a quick walk with my Canon 400D.

My camera doesn’t know anything about geotagging, but the beauty is that I’m now walking around with a device that records track points for where I am at any time (iPhone with GPS) and another device that snaps images and records the time when it was shot (the Canon 400D). And that’s the only thing you need to be able to place the images pretty accurately on a map.

Well back home I exported the track and used Gpicsync to do the work. The version of iTrail that I used doesn’t record time stamps for the track points, so the utterly intelligent Henrik Lied had to help me do some scripting to generate time stamps based on the start time and intervals. The author of iTrail promises time stamps in the next release. You point the software to the GPS track file and the folder with the images and it does the rest. It marks the photos with the nearest track point and adds tags for the actual location names. Meaning that you’ll not only get the coordinates, but actual tags with location names: “oslo”, “norway”, “marienlyst” etc. And the software will also make nice files for Google Earth and Google Maps. Here’s my experiment embedded:

And a direct link to Google Maps.

Don’t mind the boring images. This was not a test of my photography skills…

The nice thing about all this is that my image archive in Lightroom will be way better if I bring a GPS while shooting. Because of the fact that the software also adds names in the tags I can quickly find all images taken on a specific location.

Now, if I only had been smart enough to always bring a GPS the day I started shooting digitally. ๐Ÿ™‚

Some resources on geotagging:
trick77.com ยป Review: Geotagging software comparison for the Mac
Mac geotagging software showdown
Qstarz BT-Q1000P Platinum Travel Recorder – Review
Qstarz BT-Q1000 GPS logger review
ImageIngester – Software for professional digital photographers
VCP Serial Driver (you need it for Mac compatibility on a lot of the dataloggers)

And the two other data loggers on my shortlist before I went for the QStarz:
AMOD AGL3080 – Mounts like a USB drive to let you download tracks, meaning out of the box mac support. But using the older SIRFstar III chipset and can’t be charged through standard USB.

GISTEQ PhotoTrackr – Native mac software is a plus. Motion sensor for power management is a plus. But the dpl700 can’t be charged through USB and seems less sensitive than the QStarz (after reading several tests). The rechargeable Gisteq CD111 is supposed to have been upgraded to the new chipset, but according to ThinkGeek and Expansys they’re both still selling the old version.

So I’m waiting for my BT-Q1000P…

I have recieved my Qstarz device and it worked very well on my Mac using this program:
Mac TravelRecorder

It will set you back $49,- but it works very well. First of all, I could download tracks and update all settings through bluetooth. No drivers needed. In addition to that I installed the USB driver and it also works through USB.

The same thing is supposed to work with another software – BT747, but that software didn’t work right out of the box. BT747 is completely free, but I decided to go with the extra $49,- because I didn’t have the time to make BT747 work (please note that I have something close to zero patience if I have an alternative that works. And with this device I had a $49,- alternative).

The tests I’ve done with the Qstarz device show what I’ve been reading elsewhere. It’s very sensitive. Gives me connection where other devices won’t. I haven’t done any extensive tests during travel yet, but so far I’m very pleased with the device.

I’ve used the Qstarz on my MacBook Pro through bluetooth and USB. And on my 24″ iMac through bluetooth. Both running the latest version of Mac OSX 10.5.

Automatic geotagging of your images