At the Hadrian Hotel

At the Hadrian Hotel

Friday, December 23, 2005

Google Holiday Logos

The folks at Google are at it again with this year's Google Holiday Logos. Over the past few years they've occasionally replaced their search page logo with a series of logos that tell a story or celebrate an event. Here are the ones they've done so far:

  • The first one
  • July 4th
  • Sydney Summer Olympics
  • Happy Holidays 1
  • Winter Olympics
  • Happy Holidays 2
  • Happy Holidays 3
  • 2004 Summer Olympics
  • Happy Holidays 4
  • Keep checking back at this year's doodle page to see how the cat and mouse do....

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    Sunday, December 18, 2005

    This Year's Gingerbread House

    Front View

    Rear View
    Originally uploaded by Chris Tengi.

    The boys spent a few hours on this last weekend, and their effort shows. Eric did the side of the roof visible in the front view and Mark did the side of the roof visible in the rear image (the one with the covered porch).

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    Saturday, December 17, 2005

    XBOX Mania

    I just walked past the local Best Buy and saw a whole bunch of people sitting along the wall on camp chairs and benches. I overheard somebody ask one of them if they were sleeping here and he said "yes." At the time I had no idea what they were all waiting for....

    My son and I went into the store and started our shopping. We saw one of his friends who asked us if we saw all the people waiting for the XBOX 360. Apparently, this Best Buy store is expecting 44 of this year's ultimate stocking stuffer and it looks like these winter campers are waiting out the delivery truck.

    While I know my boys wouldn't mind finding Microsoft's latest under the tree, I feel fortunate to know that they would never expect me to sleep overnight outside a store just to get one. I guess that we're raising them right.

    Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    Google Talk Maps

    Google Talk Maps is another cool, interesting (and potentially useful) thing you can do with Google Maps. If you're a Google Talk user, add "" to your Friends. If you use a jabber server other than Google Talk, you can add "" to your contacts or "buddies" list. If you use one of those non-XMPP instant messaging systems, you're out of luck....

    Take a look at the bottom of this blog's sidebar and you'll see another feature of Google Talk Maps -- a map thumbnail showing you whether or not I'm available on Google Talk, and where I am. Pretty cool, eh?

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    Monday, November 28, 2005

    Love Your Smoke Detector

    Prior to 24 November 2005, the only time I ever heard anything from
    any of my smoke detectors was when their batteries were running low
    and needed to be replaced. All of that changed after our
    Thanksgiving dinner this year.

    To quote Arlo Guthrie, we had "a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be
    beat" and then spread through the house to do various different
    things. The kids were watching TV with their grandfather, my wife
    was helping my mom with some web-shopping, and I was showing my
    mother-in-law how to use some of the features of her new digital camera.

    About 10 minutes into my camera tutorial, one of our smoke detectors
    went off. Neither seeing nor smelling smoke, I walked over to the
    detector to check it out. When I got there, I was shocked to see 1-
    foot high flames dancing on my dining room table. Yikes! I yelled
    "FIRE!" and ran to the table to try to put it out.

    A few napkins had been tossed on the table and had landed too close
    to a "tea candle." While not covering the candle, apparently part of
    a napkin was close enough to catch fire. When I got to the table, I
    started smothering the flames using un-burnt napkin and table cloth
    while my 14-year-old son ran in and doused the pile of cloth with
    some water. The combined effort quickly put out the flames.

    If the smoke detector had not gone off, the fire could have easily
    spread over the rest of the table cloth and onto the rug under the
    table. At that point, our only option would have been to leave the
    house and call 911 (in that order!).

    As a reward for its selfless devotion to my safety, I'm going to give
    my smoke detector and its brethren new batteries. I love my smoke

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

    Monday, October 31, 2005

    A Picture is Worth a Thousand Data Points

    Well, maybe more like a few dozen.

    By now, we've all looked at digital photographs. We see them on the web, on our home computers, on PDAs and cell phones, and even on iPods. However, what you see isn't the entire story. Most JPEG photos you see today have more information encoded in them, in the form of EXIF and IPTC headers. The information in these headers can be viewed by many photo viewing applications, such as iPhoto and Preview on the Mac and Google's picasa, Stuffware's Photo Studio and Microsoft's Picture and Fax Viewer on MS-Windows.

    Much of this data is put there by the digital camera but there are tools that you can use to add or change the information in these headers, as well as view them in more detail than is generally possible with photo viewing applications. Doing a search for EXIF on or Google will yield pointers to a number of different tools and web sites. The two tools I've made the most use of are jhead and ExifTool. The former is written in C and the latter in Perl. They both run under Linux, Mac-OS and MS-Windows.

    Both of these tools can be used to display and modify the meta-information present in JPEG photos, but each one can make some changes that the other cannot. For example, jhead is only able to modify the "Comment" field present in JPEG photos that is outside of the EXIF headers, while ExifTool is only able to modify comment fields within the headers. Take a look around the web pages for each tool to see its particular strengths.

    One of my favorite uses for jhead is to set the file creation date to the time stamp present inside the file (put there by the camera when the picture was taken). Another use is to correct both the internal time stamp and the file creation date if I've forgotten to change the clock on the camera when changing between Standard Time and Daylight Savings Time. Oh, and don't forget about those pictures you've taken in another time zone, before you remembered to fix the camera's date and time. :-)

    Lately, I've been using ExifTool for geocoding. If you click on the image of Notre-Dame you will be taken (in another window) to its Flickr page.

    Beneath the picture, you will see two links: "Fly to this location" and "geotagged." The former will cause Google Earth to fly you to France. If you don't have Google Earth installed, you can click on the "geotagged" link to be shown the picture's location via geobloggers. Note that Firefox on the Mac does not display the map image on geobloggers. Firefox on other platforms works just fine, as does Safari on the Mac. It is a well known problem with Firefox, but only on the Mac.

    If you look near the lower-right corner of the Flickr photo page, under "Additional Information" you will see a "More properties" link. This will display all of the EXIF information contained within the photo.

    Unfortunately, the digital camera I used to take this picture doesn't have the ability to tag photos with GPS information. Fortunately, ExifTool does. Here is the command I used to tag the image with GPS and IPTC location information:

    exiftool -GPSLatitude = "48 deg 51' 11.00" -GPSLatitudeRef = "north" -GPSLongitude = "2 deg 20' 58.50"
    -GPSLongitudeRef = "east" -IPTC:Country-PrimaryLocationCode="FRA" -IPTC:Country-PrimaryLocationName="France" -IPTC:City="Paris" IMG_3968.JPG

    Another feature present in many modern digital cameras, but again lacking in mine, is the ability to tag the picture with the orientation of the camera when the picture was taken. Once again, it's ExifTool to the rescue! Here's a command to "rotate" the picture 90 degrees counter-clockwise:

    exiftool -n -Orientation=6 IMG_1234.JPG

    Unlike many photo viewing and editing tools, this command doesn't change the image information in the JPEG file, but merely changes the EXIF Orientation tag.

    More information on these tags and others can be found in the EXIF and IPTC references above as well as numerous other sites reachable by a web search or a multi-tag query. Explore! See what you can find!

    Oh, one more thing.... If you're going to be publishing your photos on the web, you may want to add a copyright notice inside the file. With the obvious command line changes, this can be easily done with:

    exiftool -Copyright="Copyright 2005 YOUR_NAME_HERE" *.JPG

    Will this stuff change the world? Probably not. Is it fun to play with? Well, a whole bunch of people have spent (wasted?) many hours tagging photographs and/or writing software to display them in interesting and unusual ways. Personally, I find it quite enjoyable to tag my photos and then see what's out there to let me use all of that information.

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    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    Bread Crumbs and Threads

    There are many cool web sites out on the 'net that let you do fun, interesting and useful things - for free! Among them are Flickr,, and Google Mail. There are many people around the world using these services every day. They post photos to Flickr, they list sites of interest in their bookmarks and they send and receive EMail using Google Mail. And of course, there are blogging sites just about everywhere.

    Using these services is like leaving bread crumbs around the 'net leading right back to you. For some, this is the whole reason to use the service. For others, it's just a by-product that they don't care about. For everyone, these bread crumbs define the public persona of the user.

    For those of us who are lazy and have the same username on any of the various services we use, it's fairly easy to find threads that tie the bread crumbs together. Even if you use different usernames, many times you want to tie your various sites together. Why wouldn't you want to use some of your Flickr photos in your blog, or at least put a pointer to them in a post? When a reader follows the link, they can see not only what photos you've posted, but any others that you've marked as favorites. It's the same for your bookmarks. You have no reason to save links that you don't find interesting or useful, so the links you do post are clearly of interest to you. What you blog about and how you write about it also tell others about you.

    When all of the threads are followed and all of the bread crumbs are collected, an image of the poster begins to appear. Depending on what's out there, the image may be more or less complete and more or less accurate (in real life). However, no matter how accurate, this is your public persona. It follows you around the 'net wherever you go. Am I personally concerned about this? No, not really. Should you be? Perhaps - it all depends on what you say and do (just like in real life). You just need to remember one thing: On the 'net, you are what you post.

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