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Google Maps API

This last week I was putting the final touches on a web project at work involving an embedded google map with custom markers.

While using just the api’s from google, I had intermittent time outs and the map only loaded 50% of the time. Using firebug and firefox, I could not see any issues, the request would just stop.

I dug a little deeper into the theme that we were using and noticed it was using a Jquery plug in called gmap. As I converted my code to use the plugin, my loading issues went away.

The only thing that I can see that caused my time outs was the amount of scripts loading in the theme. I will dig deeper to see how, but gmap apparently has some logic to make sure it all gets downloaded. It even handles setting the info window html when you click on the markers. All in all, I recommend using it to make your map implementation easier.


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LG Optimus T review

I finally picked up a smart phone – the LG Optimus T. It is an entry level Android phone that packs a lot of functionality into a little package.

First off, I did some research and found out that I can order this phone as an upgrade and not be forced into a data plan. There aren’t too many sites that will tell you it is possible. You have to go online to www.t-mobile.com and order it through the online store. It will tell you that you should come back to their website and order a data plan, but you will not be forced into one and you will not have one automatically added to your bill. You will have to go into the settings and disable the option to enable data access over mobile networks. This is the key to not getting a surprise bill for data usage.

If you do not get the data plan, you may not be eligible for all of the rebates that are offered. You must weigh how important that rebate is against the monthly data plan cost. The most basic data plan that was offered to me was $15 per month. The rebate was $40 or $50. In a few months, I would actually be saving money because I am not paying out for a data plan, and instead opting for a higher initial cost.

The screen is a little bit smaller than other Android phones, but the quality and color are great. I am sure most people will say this about a phone, but it is not the best way to view the internet. Apps that let me check facebook, gmail, and yahoo are nice, but any in depth replies or reading is not very easy on this phone. It is great for weeding out the spam and identifying those emails that I will want to read at a later time on a laptop or desktop computer.

The battery lasts a good day and a half. I do have to qualify this, because I don’t have a data plan and turn the wifi off unless I specifically want to go online or sync the calendar. If I have not been playing a game or finding some setting on my phone, I could probably get two days out of a charge. I have heard that Android phones are terrible battery hogs, but as I said, if I keep the wifi off, the battery lasts longer.

It is almost overwhelming how many apps are out there in the Android market. Those apps have little bearing as to the quality of the phone, but you will find that the slower processor ( 600 mhz ) can make the UI a little sluggish. I think I notice it only when an application is connecting online to sync or load something, and I already have something running in the foreground. Otherwise, it is quite responsive. I cannot attest to how it would perform if you are using the Mobile Network to get your data.

All in all, this phone fits my needs. I wanted something that would allow me to sync my google calendar as well as view it offline when needed. The apps and the Android operating system are all an added bonus. If you don’t already have a data plan, and are not interested in adding one to your phone, order your upgrade online and just don’t go back for the data plan.

Those are my late night thoughts about my new phone. I am glad I chose the LG Optimus T!

B :)


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Tis the season to go shopping…

The other day I was trying to print to my laserjet, and suddenly my printer spool wasn’t working. Both printers just disappeared. I thought maybe my motherboard was going south. Turns out it was probably something with the laser-jet, and, after a system restore and unplugging it, I can now print to my crippled inkjet. Crippled is the word I use because it cannot pull just one paper through at a time, and if it does do its job of pulling the right amount of paper through, it typically crumples the paper. Oh, and the ink cartridges don’t always work.

The ink-jet has done it’s fair share of work though. Wendy bought it in 2002, the year we were married, and gave it to me as a surprise present. It has faxed, scanned, and printed for eight years now. Well, almost eight years.

Four years ago we were in charge of printing the ward announcement page every Sunday. One Sunday the printer started sucking in multiple pages and having other issues. I got fed up with it because I couldn’t always make it to the library early enough to copy it because I was also teaching Elders Quorum almost every Sunday and had to prepare a lesson. Enter the laser-jet.

It is a handy little printer. Does 20 pages per minute, and doesn’t require a ton of toner. It has had its ups and downs, mostly when Windows 7 decided it could not share the printer with others, even though Windows XP would. It sometimes jams, but not nearly as often as the ink-jet crumples paper. But this time is different…

I can’t get any thing to come up, and there is no way to update the firmware. Sounds like Santa is going to bring a new set of printing tools to the Petersen household… Stay tuned!


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Good looking hardware for a small HTPC.

Zotac has some pretty impressive motherboards out there. Combining the Intel Atom processors with just the right amount of graphics power to play high definition content is where Zotac seems to have seen the most success. Recently I was surfing the web looking at hardware, and came across a small platform that Zotac has put together. Logic Supply has the Zotac Mag HD-ND01 listed for $299, which, considering it has the cpu, motherboard, ram, 160gb hard drive, and case all in one package, makes this an attractive offering. With a little more searching, I found Newegg offering the same box for $279.99, plus some for shipping.

The draw for me is the really small form factor. I had built a second HTPC using the m350 case and another Zotac board that has a slot for Core 2 Duo processors, but this one looks better and uses less energy than what I could have built. You do have to be careful though. If you are looking to play back flash content, you may have to go with a different solution. The Atom processors do not have enough on their own to play back flash, and, while there are currently versions of Flash Player that do GPU acceleration, you may find that your mileage may vary. I really don’t do too much in the way of Flash, so I think this would fit well in my living room.

Just in the last two days, an announcement on Anandtech.com (catch it here :) shows an updated version of the small PC. Enter the Zbox HD-ID11. With lower power consumption than the already low HD-ND01, it promises to save money while performing nearly identically to the previous version thanks to an updated chipset. Now all I need is a bunch of cash to buy the new machine plus a TV capable to watch it on!

-B


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Testing new HTPC case – M350 Universal Mini-ITX enclosure

I found a new case that I wanted to try out, the M350 Universal Mini-ITX enclosure. I paired it up with the Zotac 9300 wifi mini-itx board, and an intel E5200 pentium dual core processor. I want to hide away the media center, as now the wow factor has gone away, and smaller is easier to stash. The Zotac board has an e-sata port so I can put my 1TB drive in my e-sata enclosure and still have all the recording space.

Update:

After having tested it for a few months now, the only downside I can see is the fan noise from the stock intel processor. I have not looked into other cooling solutions yet, or somehow trying to slow the fan down with either a control that goes between the motherboard and fan, or control it with software. The package is small, which is good, I just can’t handle the fan noise. I know I am picky, and I can’t hear it when the music is up or a movie is playing. Silence is golden, though, and I enjoy it as much as my digital entertainment.


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Project Completed, HDHomerun pair moved

I finished moving my pair of HDHomerun TV Tuners to the main computing center, and left just one network line from the main center to the entertainment center. I realized that I had put the link from the entertainment center into the main router, which is not gigabit lan. I fixed that, and realized I should have made a diagram when I put it together the first time to show what went where. Now I will have another weekend project…

I also have reinstalled a licensed version of Windows 7 on the main HTPC. I backed up the scheduled shows, which did not get done last time I installed the OS again, and all of my scheduled seasons were there. I do have to watch the dates of what I have previously recorded and delete them when the new shows come, or I may run out of room. When you move the tv files, or install a new OS, they do not have ownership of the files and won’t delete them according to the rules you have set in your season preferences.

With that out of the way, I can now look into writing that scheduling app that I have wanted to write, and set up a media center recording server to do all the recording and serve up entertainment. :)


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Plans for a Windows Media Center app

One thing I am VERY frustrated about is finding a way to schedule recordings on a “server” Windows media center PC from another windows media center pc. I realize that media extenders can do this, but I have heard so many problems with them that I have not wanted to sink the money into something that may not do what I want it to.

I am researching how to write a program that will give a similar Guide and search experience as in Media Center, yet from a different PC than the one used to record on.  It will have two parts: a backend to install on the server, and the front end that communicates with the backend. The recording magic happens through XML files stored on the recording computer, and I will send data to the server and the backend will append or write the data in the XML format that media center uses. I will keep you updated on the progress. :)


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New Year, New Networking Ideas

As the free trial period expires within two weeks on my two installations of Windows 7 Ultimate RTM, I have been starting to backup data that I want to keep that should not be wiped out when I re-install a full version of Windows 7. I have had problems in the past trying to stream hi-def content like a blu-ray ISO from my file server to my HTPC. My initial response was to change my switches out for two Gigabit switches, which would allow more bandwidth to be sent across my Cat5e compliant wiring. That did not pan out, and I ended up storing the hi-def content directly on the HTPC.
As I am now transferring that data back to the file server, I started getting really slow transfer speeds. I mean 11mb/s, which is more like 10/100 speeds (theoretical) instead of Gigabit speed (1000mb/s theoretical). Looking at the indicators on my HP Procurve switches, everything should be moving faster, like 40 – 50 mb/s, as all the lights show 1000 mb/s speeds possible, starting with the HTPC to the Procurve switch #1, Procurve switch #1 to Procurve switch #2, and finally from Procurve switch #2 to the file server. I do realize that portions of that bandwidth may have been eaten up with shows being recorded on the two HD Homeruns (each is a dual tuner that transmits its data over the network to the recording computer), but each HD Homerun is only 10/100 capable, and should therefore only take up a maximum of 20% of the bandwidth of a 1000 mb/s switch.
What I am now contemplating would not be very hard to implement. There are two routes to choose from:

  1. Take out Procurve switch #1, run a second and third network cable from Procurve switch #2, where the main router is located along with file server, to the two HD Homeruns, and use the existing stub for the HTPC
  2. Or

  3. Run an antenna cable (RG6 or better) to the area where Procurve swtich #2 is located and relocate the HD Homeruns, eliminating the extra cost of Cat5e or Cat6 wire, and further simplifying my entertainment center wiring. The main computing area will pick up the extra mess, but I can probably hide it without too much trouble.

Maybe option #2 will work best, both from a cost standpoint and a labor standpoint. I will report my progress later. All this has to get scheduled in to my massive homework, midterms, and the task of re-installing Windows 7 on my HTPC before it starts shutting down every two hours! Wish me luck! :)


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Christmas break, time to wrap up projects

School is out until January, and I have a little more time to put towards my different projects. One that I have been spending the most time on is a website for a local group. Check out Layton Utah Music Workshop to see what I have been up to.

Some other projects I have before me are to paint the sitting room, make an educational plan to list out the classes I plan to take in the coming year, and clean the garage. (Not so coincidentally, these are also on my honey-do list.) :)

I have been playing with my mini htpc box, and it works quite well. I will post the specs, as I think it is a very viable solution for replacing the large box I currently have in the living room. The cost is not any less, unfortunately, as getting the same power in smaller packages comes at a small premium. The only thing I wish were different were better integration for blu-ray playback, as well as more control in setting up a default player for DVD’s and Blu-rays. More on that soon… :)


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My first custom map for a video game

I have finished my first custom map for Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, hoping to submit it for the Intel contest. You can find it here:http://rumblegate.com/files/ofdr/Intel_OFPDR_Mission.zip. I still have some alerts that I need to remove, and I have yet to actually play it with anyone else online, but playing through the mission by my lonesome with my AI team, everything seems to work. Let me know how it goes, if you try it. I would love to hear feedback!


next page

Google Maps API

This last week I was putting the final touches on a web project at work involving an...
article post

LG Optimus T review

I finally picked up a smart phone – the LG Optimus T. It is an entry level Android...
article post

Tis the season to go shopping…

The other day I was trying to print to my laserjet, and suddenly my printer spool...
article post

Good looking hardware for a small HTPC.

Zotac has some pretty impressive motherboards out there. Combining the Intel Atom...
article post

Testing new HTPC case – M350 Universal Mini-ITX enclosure

I found a new case that I wanted to try out, the M350 Universal Mini-ITX enclosure. I...
article post

Project Completed, HDHomerun pair moved

I finished moving my pair of HDHomerun TV Tuners to the main computing center, and left...
article post

Plans for a Windows Media Center app

One thing I am VERY frustrated about is finding a way to schedule recordings on a...
article post

New Year, New Networking Ideas

As the free trial period expires within two weeks on my two installations of Windows 7...
article post

Christmas break, time to wrap up projects

School is out until January, and I have a little more time to put towards my different...
article post

My first custom map for a video game

I have finished my first custom map for Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, hoping to...
article post