Tools for stitching, tiling, panning, and zooming

Update: The URL is now http://www.seadragon.com/.

Update: Changes in the Microsoft services have hbroken Photozoom and Seadragon working together. The map, however, is still available at DeepZoomPix (Photozoom's new name and site). Microsoft's Silverlight is needed.

Today I wanted to take the USGS 7.5 Minute Series map of the Kingston, RI quadrangle images and allow the user to pan and zoom on the web. Within a few minutes I discovered Microsoft's Image Composite Editor, Photozoom, and Seadragon. These tools worked quickly, without error, and at almost no effort on my part. I am very impressed. I am also humbled. My industry is full of REALLY smart people.

FireFox and Flash dance the "CPU lock" dance!

I am NOT a happy web application user. My main computer is a Windows XP box with a Pentium 4, 2GHz CPU, and 1.5G RAM and yet I still get multiple second response times from FireFox. And, God forbid, that I should watch a video via Flash because then I get no f'n response for several minutes as FireFox and Flash dance the "CPU lock" dance!

Newspaper adventures online

This is a very interesting posting regards how poorly newspapers have adventured online.

"In essence to secure the advertising for the print edition, they have in the past completely undermined the business they need to survive in the future. They have told every one of their advertisers that online adverts are not worth paying for."

Not new news but a good recap.

Electric car and the grid rant

Whenever I hear someone say that the electric car is the future of the automobile I never hear that followed up with a statement about how we can trust the grid to be there to power it. Because we can't trust it! If we have brown-outs and black-outs across the USA during late afternoon and early evening because the grid can't currently support the draw needed to support all the commercial, industrial, and residential need that coincides at that time then how the hell can we support plugging-in the cars? I am reminded of the horrible sound on the work-floor of a software development department when the background noise of hundreds of hard-disks and cooling fans decays as they all stop spinning. You know viscerally that your productive day has ended. What is your neighborhood or town going to sound like when we all arrive home at 5:30 PM and "top up" the car?

Rant sparked by Wired's article Power to the People: 7 Ways to Fix the Grid, Now.

Blogger and Blueprint CSS

There are lots of blogging platforms available to use. But there is something about Blogger that I really like. If you are writing an online diary then all blogging tools are about the same. If you want to create an online presence for yourself or for an organization then I think Blogger has much to offer. For example, you can readily combine Blueprint CSS framework (see also grid generator) and Blogger's tools to create sophisticated magazine layouts (aka grid page layouts) and yet continue to enable the author to use the "Add and Arrange Page Elements" interface to add content via the rich collection of Google gadgets.



One of the problems with Blogger is that its potential to build sophisticated web sites is lost by the horrible documentation and its organization. This situatiuon is further compounded by Blogger having a long internet history and so online searches for help return outdated and/or misdirecting information. (It is amazing how much information on the web has no date or other version related data associated with it!)

The layout used in the picture uses this HTML coding.

Looking through a key hole at a magnificent vista

The April 2009 issue of Popular Science contains a very fine information visualization of internet traffic flows (as part of its Who Protects The Internet? story). The diagram is the work of the research and consulting firm TeleGeography. They have a printed version of the diagram for sale but, sadly, its price is too steep for me. Popular Science's Flash-based online version of the diagram is a vivid example of being restricted to looking through a key hole at a magnificent vista. The diagram was meant to be printed large so you can take in its meaning. The diagram needed to be re-visualized for the web.

Does anyone know if the visualization was done at TeleGeography or somewhere else?
On a more positive and non-sarcastic note NPR's Morning Edition spoke with Juan Cole about his new book Engaging the Muslim World and the BBC's Newshour aired an interview with a Muslim cleric who's UK-based organization is teaching new Muslim clerics how to harmonize their conservative teachings and previous life with the reality of UK's social and legal landscape. (The BBC does not, unexpectedly, have links to individual Newshour stories.)
I wonder if anyone is working on a Digg for Fatwas?

A working example of using Sinatra with Thin

I have a need to prototype a high performing web-based event logging service and so picked Sinatra and Thin. (High performing within a scripting environment is, perhaps, an oxymoron.) I found lots of help with this effort on the web but nothing quite worked as documented. So, thin-simple-setup.tar.gz is a working example for Ruby 1.8.7, Sinatra 0.9.1.1, and Thin 1.0.0.

Where is my x-internet tool!

We are all in the middle of a dishearthening data and computing tools change. We moved from
  • terminal clients where the computation is remote and user experience is feeble, to
  • desktop clients where the computation is local and user experience is vivid and powerful, and now to
  • brower clients where the computation is remote and the user experience is in equal parts feeble, vivid, and underpowered.

Why have we ignored so much of the 30 years of user experience advancement? What has happened to the once common best-practices such as:

  1. Building on a small set of data visualization components.
  2. Building on a small set of interaction behaviors.
  3. Modeless interaction.
  4. Direct interaction
  5. Context and task-based help.
  6. Focus on the data and not the application.
  7. Ready transfer of skills and experience.
  8. ...

We have wasted 10 years of tool progress to the stupid wars between browser vendors (which continues today with Chrome, Safari, etc) and the wholecloth reinvention of user experience by a largely unhistorical crowd of web application practictioners.

In the early days of the internet, well before Web 1.0 (yes, ONE POINT ZERO) was even articulated, there was discussion of the "X Internet" or the "executable-internet". The expectation was that desktop clients would merge with the browser to create data-rich and community-aware tools built on the desktop platform with both local and remote data. We see some of this today in tools like Quicken, Google Earth, and many iPhone applications. What is disheartening is that the executable-internet was discussed over 10 years ago.

Mozilla was right with XUL. And Microsoft was right with COM (and its kin). And Sun was right with Java. I wish practictioners spent more time assembling powerful tools and spent less time reinventing feeble ones. The broad availability of web-services (RESTful or otherwise) and the rise of mobile platforms as the dominant platform are encouraging.

Reject your vendors next feeble browser only tool and say where is my x-internet tool!?

Minivan-plow advocacy


Why don't minivans have plows? A minivan has the weight, power, and truck-platform to handle this task. It would be a great savings for home owners that have long-ish driveways and need to pay several hundred dollars per winter to have the driveway plowed. Beat armaments into minivan plows!

Warning about "scan4home.com"

If you see web links for scan4home.com do not follow them. If you do follow the link then you will be presented with what looks like a virus scan operation followed by warnings and advice to make changes to your machine. This presentation is a remarkable forgery of a Microsoft Windows virus scanning tool. If you follow the advice I suspect you will end up infecting your machine. Don't do what it asks.

Scan4home.com make it nearly impossible to escape the web browser. The only way I know how to do it is to end the web browsing process. Ie, kill it. To do this you need to use the "Task Manager" tool that comes up with pressing Ctr-Alt-Del. In the list of processes presented find all Internet Explorer, Firefox, and/or Safari processes and end them. If you are unsure how to do this just restart your machine and stretch out while the machine is restarting.

The Cult of Done Manifesto

I admit it, I am drawn to the The Cult of Done Manifesto. For those that missed the meme -- 'cause it has been circulating for a whole 7 days now -- here are its 13 principles

1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.

2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.

3. There is no editing stage.

4. Pretending you know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you're doing even if you don't and do it.

5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.

6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.

7. Once you're done you can throw it away.

8. Laugh at perfection. It's boring and keeps you from being done.

9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.

10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.

11. Destruction is a variant of done.

12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.

13. Done is the engine of more.

First class reader tools

In Sara Nelson's presentation given at O'Reilly Media Tools of Change Conference she notes that Publishers Weekly is using the Kindle as part of the process of reviewing galleys. I am really interested in this idea of using the Kindle as a review and commentary tool. When I was at Mesa Systems Guild, helping to build process management tools, one of the company's founders measured observations of DoD contractors and medical device manufactures was that for every 1 creator of content there were 40 readers of it. So, why do we 1) spend so much money on giving readers the same tools as writers but for reading? and 2) why don't we have first class reader tools?

Looking for a better iPhone camera application

I am looking for a better iPhone (3G) camera application. Generally all I want to do is
  • take a photograph,
  • take several photographs within a short time span (think flip-book),
  • rotate image,
  • crop image,
  • adjust image's light levels, and
  • email more than one image at a time.
Can anyone recommend such a camera application?