Just an iPhone

If you really must know, yes, I'm getting an iPhone. It was not a no-brainer until very recently, when Rogers/Fido offered a promotional 6 GB plan for $30 on top of a voice plan. Still not a no-brainer, because after some speculation, about whether my plan was eligible for the most coveted of mobile computing platforms, I called Fido today to find out if I'm eligible for that which must be worshiped and/or bitched about. The plan has nationwide Fido-to-Fido calling, necessary for calling the girl while we had our long distance relationship, my being in Vancouver and her being in Toronto; unlimited weekends and evenings; something called "Can. ID" (can someone enlighten me as to what that does?); and that's it for exactly 30 dollars a month. That last point is important because it qualifies me for the $249 8 GB iPhone, not the $199 8 GB iPhone, which comes with a plan of more than 30 dollars a month.

Added to my current plan are Caller ID and 50 monthly text messages. No voicemail for quite some time now: it was always quicker for me to call the person back and ask them what they were calling about then to listen to the message, find a pen to write down the number (which requires rewinding not being as fast a write as people are talkers) and forget to delete the message, then listen to my voicemail later on wondering if it was a new message or not. Visual Voicemail looks interesting, but I don't get enough phone calls to warrant paying for it. Forgetting to ask the helpful French-accented Fido representative if I could keep the add on features, I still assume the answer is yes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What am I going to do with the iPhone?

Re-document my world, using Drupal of course, since the phone has GPS and there are going to be all kinds of cool applications on it. (Drupal + Location is in currently in a state of flux and I already have some geolocation stuff happening on this site and am planning more.) And listen to music and watch videos. Not making or receiving many phone calls, I don't really care all that much about the phone part of the iPhone.

Could I have bought an unlocked N95 at a cool $600 from an unknown Craigslist posting?

Absolutely. The 3-year contract the Rogers/Fido alliance goes in the "cost" column, and at $400 maximum to exit and not anticipating a move outside Canada in the next 3 years, that's something I can handle. The N95 is nice, but I can't stand the complete lack of usability on the Series 60 operating system. Everything's a pain. Everything on the iPhone looks so smooth.

When am I getting it?

Not today, and likely not this weekend. I'll wait until next week when the rush dies down a little bit. People are saying that stock is low today as well.

Does that mean you, dear reader, should get an iPhone too?

You don't have to get an iPhone.

What about your existing iPod mini, GlobalSat DG-100 GPS logger and Nokia N70 cell phone?

I never got Internet sharing between a Series 60 phone (like my Nokia N70) working with my Mac, and now I don't have to! The iPod, GPS unit and N70 will get new lives for people that don't have an iPhone. Since I don't have the latter yet, it'll be a few months before I give them away.

LoadMyTracks now supports the Globalsat DG-100 on Mac OS X
Boris gets an email from the development team. I'll send debugging reports about the altitude problem.

Collaboratively Mapping Vancouver's Public Spaces

Last night I attended my first meeting of the Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN) Mapping & Wayfinding group. They are a group of mapping enthusiasts who want to organize collaboratively mapping Vancouver's public spaces and have some interesting ideas on how to do so, including a web service with a REST interface, but also hand-drawn maps. Let it ring throughout the world that I consider Joey deVilla the master of the hand-drawn directional map, after showing me how to get to his work from his former house back when I visited in 2005.

Having heard about it two hours before and deciding to go with one hour to spare, I pre-loaded two of my maps on Flickr. One was the map I made of my bike route home, and the other was the map of a SkyTrain Explorer walk in Burnaby. I got to talk about the latter a bit, and showed off my GlobalSat DG-100, and we talked about the different methods to track points when mapping out various items in the city, like surveillance cameras, bicycle locks and billboards. (Especially "non-conforming signs": the CBC has a short story on the Lee Building advertisement that Vancouver City Council ordered removed after the owners lost their court battle to keep it up. Read more at the VPSN's page on corporatization.) I suggested taking a photo, since the times will match up with the GPS logger, but there are other good, paper & pen methods too.

Geotagged Icon

After the meeting, instead of doing the dishes, I looked deeper into geocoding on the Mac and added the 'geo' microformat to all of my Flickr photos hosted on that are tagged with a longitude and latitude. A good example is the photo I took of Dave Olson: if you have Firefox and the Operator extension, you can use the actions associated with location to get KML (Google Earth) or view the location on Google Maps or Yahoo! Maps. (I already provide a small Google Map on each geotagged photo hosted on my site.) At last night's meeting, I also learned about, which gives you latitude and logitude of locations if you give them a fuzzy description (like an address, or an intersection). They also have an API, for free or for fee. Wasn't there a web service floating around that would accept your text and send you back geotagged HTML if it found what it thought were locations inside that text?

I haven't decided whether to participate in the billboard documenting effort—it will depend on how much work surveying a quadrant will be—but I plan on attending their next organizing event. The next VPSN Billboard project meeting from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the MOSAIC Community Meeting Room, located at 1720 Grant St. in Vancouver [event listing]. Just for fun, that previous sentence is marked up in the hcalendar event listing microformat.

Hollyburn Snowshoeing 2008

Blue Hollyburn

Karen and I went up to Hollyburn Mountain in Cypress Bowl to snowshoe on the free trail with the hiking club this past Sunday. This time, instead of taking with me the old Olympus, and instead of limited visibility, we took along the DSLR, wrapped it up in the protective tarp that came with the carrying case, and set out to clear views of British Columbia's Lower Mainland. At the top of the cross-country ski run, just before the steep parts of the mountain, while fumbling with the camera to get a good close-up of the cute little birdies, one of said cute little birdies snatched the remains of my turkey and cheese sandwich. Other adventures on Sunday included falling and slipping down the mountain face not once but twice, then on the time I intended to slide on my butt, hurtling down at 12 km/hour (if my GPS logger is to be believed), an orange marker pole came out of nowhere and bit me on the face. I subdued it, but there was some bleeding.

Somehow I managed to take the above masterpiece, which Sameer generously described in the comments of the photo on Flickr as <q cite=">like something out of a fairy tale. This one gets the large and above-the-text treatment, unlike my usual adorned-inline-with-the-text job. There's no advice I can give about how to duplicate it, other take three shots, fiddle with the settings between each shot, and keep the best one. As with last time, I took along the GPS logger and got the locations of the January 20th photos mapped [January 5th trip map]. Earlier today I also added all my geotagged photos into one set, itself having a map.

After this and the previous trip, we've decided that we have had our fill of Hollyburn, and are turning our sights to Mount Seymour. Count me out if it rains, but the trip I took there before exposed me to some pretty intense snowboarder dudes (the ones who carry shovels with them as they go down what look to this untrained eye as 90 degree inclines) and lots of slope variation. This weekend I'm going with some work friends, so this will be a different—which is to say familiar—crowd, since the hiking group is almost always comprised of strangers. I'm bringing the good camera, weather permitting.

GPS Logger Tomfoolery: Getting the GlobalSat DG-100 Working On a Mac (Successfully!)

One of my intentions this year is to track more of my movements and document them in photographic form. One of the downsides of the GlobalSat DG-100 GPS logger is that there is no support, at least not officially, for Mac users to retrieve tracking information, necessitating a trip to Windows and then back to get the photos matched up with the coordinates at which they were taken. Many have tried, and failed, to hack it in, and after spending a couple of hours today, I can now declare myself as part of those who have failed. But I came oh so close.

GlobalSat DG-100 GPS On WestJet

Spurred by Richard Akerman's writeup and screenshots of HoudahGeo for the Mac, and especially his sidebar comment about support for the GPS logger we both own, mixing metaphors like few have mixed before me, I dove into the swamp of programs and yak shaved until the cows came home. Or, rather, until an error message that I couldn't debug appeared on my Terminal screen. Cough. Here are the steps I took to get where I got to before giving up.

First, I downloaded the GPSBabel command line program and graphical interface, but not before spending a few minutes looking at the documentation. It's not clear from their downloads page, but you have to click through another link to get through to the SourceForge project page. SourceForge, despite improvements in their interface, is still not easy enough to use, and not easy enough to get a direct download link for a package (which I often need when at the command line using wget). That's another story. After downloading the Mac OS X package, and hopelessly futzing around with the command line supplied for the DG-100, I searched around a bit and found someone who had also tried GPSBabel with the DG-100 and found out that indeed DG-100 support wasn't built into the 1.3.4 release. They suggested checking out the HEAD version from the SourceForge CVS repository. If none of that previous sentence made any sense to you, consider yourself part of the blissful majority.

That of course meant compiling software. And what do you need when you compile software? A compiler! The compiler I needed was gcc, and seemingly the only way to get gcc is to install it from the DVD that comes with your Mac. People like me lose stuff like that. Not yet, in my case, as my DVDs are in a cabinet at my apartment, but having done most of the work at the office, they needed to be at the office. Good thing I work with Mac users.

After a couple of tries at installing gcc (I needed the SDK for Mac OS 10.4), I was able to compile a developmental version of GPSBabel. Somewhere along the line, it occurred to me that I didn't know how to access the USB port via the command line, that is, which argument to use. The command line suggested at recommended /dev/ttyUSB0, but there was no such 'device' on my Mac. I came across a forum post about DG-100 support for the Mac, which tipped me off to an open source driver, which has something to do with a Prolific PL-2303X USB-serial adapter on the DG-100. That got me closer.

(We break into regular programming to note that a "Jaako" posting in the forum was able to get the DG-100 working with his PowerBook, but that all the dates of the readings were from the fist day of 1970. Is that the same Jaako that went driving around Taiwan and reported it on Good Fishies, the blog of his and his incomparable girlfriend Cathy Wang's trip to Japan and China? If so, he got closer than I did. Now back to the thrilling conclusion.)

After installing that, and restarting my MacBook (along with the customary baby feline sacrifice), satisfied that my yak had been sufficiently shaved, I modified the command line slightly to look like the following: gpsbabel -t -i dg-100 -o gpx /dev/cu.PL2303-0000103D outputfile.gpx I get the following response: dg100_recv_byte(): read timeout

And that's where I'm left. Looking at the C code that does the work for the DG-100 with PHP-coder eyes, it's not clear what could be changed to make it work. Searching for the error message or the function name only gets me the C code or forum posts I've already looked at. Any ideas?

Time passes and Jaako reports in the comments on how he got the GlobalSat DG-100 working on a Mac. You'll need gcc to compile the C file, in which I've changed 3B1 to 0000103D. The software is GPL, so I distribute it under the same terms. Thanks Jaako for the pointer, and thanks to Mirko Parthey for the original work.

2008 New Year's Intentions

Three years ago, I posted my resolutions for New Years 2005, and updated two months in with my progress. This year, instead of resolving to do something, that is, committing to a change or continuation of something, I'll simply declare my intentions. That way I can be honest and won't feel bad about breaking a promise to myself. Regrettably, this isn't as clever as I thought it was before looking up the phrase 'new years intentions' in Google.

  • Start a savings and/or investment account and make regular deposits. Unexpected income used to go to debt. Now it will go to savings. I took a step towards this in December, and now with a real job, I can think more clearly about my retirement.
  • Fix Urban Vancouver.
  • Go on a real vacation where I don't check work email. At all. I even intend to write one of those very boring "I'm on vacation" autoresponder that everybody hates. I'm thinking a few days in Portland, then a few days on the Oregon Coast, with a day or two to document my adventure when I get back. I haven't decided when, but May or July look right.
  • Continue bookshelf sustainability. So far so good, though with Christmas came 4 books, meaning I must now give 4 away.
  • As a belated yet environmentally-friendly protest of TransLink's fare increase, I intend to bike to and from work each weekday for a month. I would buy a one zone pack of tickets and a two zone pack of tickets for trips elsewhere. How does buying fare tickets send a message to TransLink that fares are too high? It would save me—i.e. they would forgo—$50 (which would go straight to my savings account), and make me more fit. And I would save the tickets for later if I don't use them during the month. I'm thinking of doing this in March, and maybe make a meme out of it, that is, see how many people I can get joining me.
  • Take a full weekend and get rid of stuff in my closets. Spring cleaning, hoorah!
  • Write Christmas cards to my friends. I've set a reminder in November to do this.
  • Rediscover my sense of wonder.
  • More GlobalSat GPS logger tomfoolery. Richard Akerman reminded me in a comment to a photo of mine about his article GPS on a Plane and his subsequent article GPS on a Plane II. Transferring position data from the GlobalSat DG-100 unit is still more cumbersome than it needs to, involving a trip to Windows.
  • Dance again.
  • Learn to sing, mostly to harmonize with Radiohead songs. The only karaoke song I'll sing, however, is Eurythmics "Here Comes the Rain Again". Any others and you'll have to get me even more drunk.
  • "Accidentally" break the kit lens on my camera and replace it with something decent. Also: power through my frustration with this expensive hobby of mine, photography.

That's not an exhaustive list. Lists are rarely exhaustive. What do you intend to do in 2008?

Patterson Explorer

Yesterday afternoon, needing some exercise and fresh air having spent Saturday indoors, I walked around the neighbourhood surrounding Patterson Station in Burnaby as part of the recommended walks in SkyTrain Explorer by John Atkin. Getting there by bike instead of SkyTrain was the main difference from the others I've taken, cycling down Gilmore, the Sea-to-River Bikeway leading along Patterson, it turns out, right to my destination. I locked my bike up at the station and proceeded on foot, with my GlobalSat DG-100 GPS logger in hand, taking photos with my RebelXTi. You can see the set in Flickr, as well as the map made out in Yahoo! Maps (zoom in a couple of times to see in more detail where I took the photos). I also mapped the walk out in Google Maps, since Atkin's directions were a little confusing initially.


A couple of other notes: the switch to daylight savings time made for some mislocated photos. I'm not sure if it was the camera or the GPS unit which had the hour ahead, and luckily GPSPhotoLinker has a button to view where individual photos fit on the map, aiding in discovering this fact. God may strike me down for this, but I manually edited the GPX file that the DG-100 exports via its Windows-only utility, moving all the hours (all in GMT) back one hour. The map on Flickr is a fairly good representation of the houses in the neighbourhood appear.

Some discoveries: Patterson has two entrances, which I didn't know until visiting it. One closer to Burnaby's Central Park, and one above the bus loop. Also, I'm pretty sure that the house 5575 Jersey I photographed is not the same 5575 Jersey that Atkin mentions in his book. He says it's “a fabulous house which is almost lost from view because of the overgrowth of vegetation around it.” Either someone removed the vegetation or someone removed the house.

Needing a short break biking back home, and to make it officially an exploration worthy of the book's name, I hopped on a SkyTrain for one stop from Gilmore Station to Brentwood Town Centre Station.

GlobalSat DG-100 GPS On WestJet

It took readings while I was on the plane, but evidently GPSPhotoLinker couldn't match up the photos with the locations it recorded.

tags: , , , ,
Flickr icon for rakerman
Submitted by rakerman on Wed 2007-12-19 16:46 #

It should work, did you get a position fix when you were in the plane on the ground first? Once it gets underway I think it's hard if it doesn't have a good initial fix. Did you get good altitude data? You should be able to plot it in Google Earth at least.

See GPS on a plane 2: San Francisco - Toronto - Ottawa

Flickr icon for sillygwailo
Submitted by sillygwailo on Wed 2007-12-19 18:10 #

I believe this was right around the time of daylight savings switch over, which my computer did but the GPS unit didn't. Also, on one of the flight's legs, I dropped it, and it lost the position fix. At least I know that it works, and nobody on WestJet either noticed that there was a black device with a blinking light, or they knew what it was and didn't care.

That was one of the articles I read that made me think it was okay to try it. Thanks for reminding me about it!

Flickr icon for rakerman
Submitted by rakerman on Sat 2007-12-22 16:36 #

Your GPS doesn't know anything about daylight savings time, it's always on GPS time. Talking about dropping it is funny - to get a fix at takeoff, since we can't have the trays down, I put it on my leg... but the DG-100 is smooth plastic and slides right off. This happened to me not once, but twice, on two different flights (you think I'd learn my lesson). Fell right down behind my seat. The guy behind me was like "what's this thing?" The Qstarz BT-Q1000 is much better for this since it has a rubberized bottom that doesn't slide like that.

The only time any of the flight staff have asked me about my little boxes with flashing lights is when I had the DG-100 plugged into my laptop to recharge it (ran out of battery power half-way over the Atlantic). I think they're trained to ask about anything plugged into a laptop as a peripheral. I told them it was a GPS and they came back later and told me it was fine.

Flickr icon for sillygwailo
Submitted by sillygwailo on Sat 2008-01-19 01:14 #

Thanks for the info, Richard. I did a similar thing on takeoff, except I held it up close to the window.

I used this photo to adorn my blog post on getting the DG-100 working on my Mac.

The above comments will not display in the recently updated section because they are syndicated directly from the Flickr photo.

group: WestJet - flight operations
My Bike Route Home (Sort Of)

Tracked with my DG-100 GPS logger, mapped on Google Earth. Missing the bit at the end, and there's about 0.8 KM that didn't get tracked? See my calculation based on Google Maps, also the map of photos taken on this particular trip.

tags: , , , , , ,
Flickr icon for roland
Submitted by roland on Fri 2007-10-12 23:46 #


Flickr icon for sillygwailo
Submitted by sillygwailo on Fri 2007-10-12 23:57 #

Thanks! Not going to take photos often on my bike route, though. Too tempting to pay attention to the photo I take, taking attention away from the road. I don't know how you do it!

I'm totally fine with logging my route and making fun Google Earth maps out of them though! :)

Flickr icon for roland
Submitted by roland on Sat 2007-10-13 12:07 #

all you need is a strap on your phone to take pics!
i have a strap if you need one!

Flickr icon for web-superhero
Submitted by web-superhero on Sun 2007-10-14 00:14 #

You would Roland :)
nice one on the google map

Flickr icon for rakerman
Submitted by rakerman on Wed 2007-12-19 16:44 #

Hi, it's weird how paths cross and recross across the blogosphere and the device-o-sphere. I seem to hit your blog or your photos every once in a while. I'm the admin for a group called Commute Maps, and I'd love to have your photo added to the group.

Flickr icon for sillygwailo
Submitted by sillygwailo on Wed 2007-12-19 18:10 #

A group for people mapping out their mundane routine? Count me in!

Flickr icon for COLIИ
Submitted by COLIИ on Wed 2008-04-09 14:25 #

This is fascinating; I've just ordered a DG-100 and can't wait to get this going. It's something I've often considered doing.

Is there a way to export the data to something such as Google Maps etc and make a publicly-viewable map of your route?

Flickr icon for sillygwailo
Submitted by sillygwailo on Wed 2008-04-09 17:18 #

Yes, the DG-100 comes with a CD-ROM that has a Windows application to export KML and other formats. If you have a Mac, you'll need to follow Jaako's slightly convoluted instructions to get it working (it's not his fault, it's not yet trivial to get the data when using a Mac).

The above comments will not display in the recently updated section because they are syndicated directly from the Flickr photo.

group: Commute Maps
GlobalSat GPS Innards (Yuasa Rechargeable Batteries)

- Taken at 6:54 PM on October 05, 2007 - cameraphone upload by ShoZu

tags: , , , , ,