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Hardware project: FlickrBicyclePi

Submitted by Roland on Sun, 2014-08-31 22:27

Somehow Element 14's UK PR found me and asked me about doing a hardware project with their hardware which they would send me in return for blogging about it. So here's my project:

FlickrBicyclePi! What is it? It's custom device that is mounted on my Bicycle and takes photos every minute while the bicycle is in motion and geoetags them and posts them to flickr.

What hardware will I use (Bold stuff is supplied by Element 14 UK thanks, rest is on my dime)?

  1. Raspberry PI
  2. Raspbery PI Camera Module
  3. GPS
  4. WiFi
  5. Accelerometer to detect when the bicycle is in motion
  6. some sort of case TBD
  7. SD Card
  8. Battery
  9. Power Supply to handle the Battery
  10. a small matter of programming in Python :-)

Wish me luck. This will take lots of help from cool folks like Kip. Want to help? Twitter me. @rtanglao or email roland at

How to debug video playback issues on Firefox for Android

Submitted by Roland on Thu, 2014-08-14 15:14

Colophon: Create your own personal Map tiles (from July 2013)

Submitted by Roland on Sat, 2014-04-12 08:16

If you want to make your own map tile out of many (100s or 1000s) of latitude longitude pairs e.g. from Vancouver flickr photos taken 2007-2011 during commuter hours (7-10am., 3-6p.m), here's how:

  • Create a file, let's call it "latlong.text" in the format "lat, long" e.g. remove the square brackets from my vancouver 2007-11 flickr commuter file
  • encode it

    • cat latlong.txt | ./encode -o vancouver2007-2011 -z 16
  • render it

    • ./render -A -- vancouver2007-2011/ 16 49.25706 -123.070538525034 49.29808542 -123.159733 > vancouver-2007-2011.try21.png

    • (you will have to play around with the lat and long to make sure they cover the area you want e.g. in the above example I made it so that bounderies were: clark park to the south and east, connaught park to the west and stanley park to the north)

  • And here's the resulting PNG map tile on flickr
  • encode and render come from @enf on twitter, the amazing Eric Fischer:

Reading the web in your way is the future even if RSS readers fail

Submitted by Roland on Tue, 2013-06-25 21:45

You ain't seen nothing yet. Low tech small "a" AI, blah blah there is so much we could do to improve our personal Internet reading experience that hasn't been done *yet* by Google Reader or Flipboard or anybody else.

QUOTE from an amazing article that brings up almost everything that you'd want to consider if you read the internet: "Feeding our Reading Habits"

"Don't feel guilty about not reading the millions of pieces of information that pile up on your door everyday. Just don't. Half the battle in this modern era of information overload is learning how to not care about all the information. We call them feeds, or streams for a reason: they never end. Your only goal should be to build a better net. It's not to worry about unread counts or friend requests, or virtual corn fields.

Take your net, dip it into the stream, and see what comes out."


Sick and tired of the whole Google Reader extended good-bye "intellectual masturbation" :-) ! Let's move on and build something better that makes Internet reading more awesome for those who care about it and ignore those who don't care!!!! Good-bye and good riddance Google Reader, I won't miss you!!!!!!!!!!

Always available Personal Algorithms + Personal Data = Programs that matter

Submitted by Roland on Thu, 2013-03-07 18:17

Always available Personal Data + Personal Algorithms = Programs that matter. Inspired by David Ascher's Personal computing in a decentralized world: a hopeful direction. What if you could keep all of your personal data and personal algorithms in two places so that you always had a backup?

  1. In your home on something cheap and cheerful like a Raspberry Pi AND
  2. With you at all times in your pocket or on your wrist with a portable use anywhere computer like the StormFly.

What if programming wasn't so hard that you had to learn something so rigid like Pascal (the language of Algorithms + Data Structures = Programs) or C++ or even JavaScript but something approachable and more flexible (e.g. IFTTT, scratch, heck even a more accessible version of R). I predict that would allow people to use their personal data in all sorts of "helpful in real life" ways we can't even imagine!

And I don't see why this won't be possible in less than 10 years if not sooner.

Email will inevitably fail so if you foolishly depend on it, learn to back it up and restore it

Submitted by Roland on Tue, 2013-02-19 01:17

If you insist on using email as a file management system, archive system, CRM, database, contact system, knowledge management system , etc then learn how to backup your email and practise restoring your email because it will inevitably fail no matter how reliable your email server and client are. If you don't have time, then pay somebody or do the right thing and move stuff out of email to CRM, blogs, wikis, to-do systems, etc!

The Old Reader is where I am sharing RSS items; also on tumblr via IFTTT

Submitted by Roland on Sun, 2013-02-03 16:00

For the 3 people who care :-)

  1. Instead of Google Reader I am using The Old Reader; except for having no business model that I can detect :-) (where do I pay?!?) But it has the all "Old Pre Google+" Google Reader features such as sharing items. If you are a "The Old Reader" user you can follow me directly like in the good 'ole Google Reader days:
  2. If you prefer to follow my shares on Google Reader you can do it here:

Email is not an archival system, file system, knowledge management system or a to-do system

Submitted by Roland on Sun, 2013-01-27 17:52

Email is not an archival system, file system, knowledge management system or a to-do system. If you think it's anything but a dumb temporary message store, you are "doing it wrong" :-) as the kids say. Email is where knowledge goes to die as I blogged about (AFAIK Bill French coined this phrase back in 2003)

Anything valuable in email should be gardened immediately into a blog, wiki, etc. Don't expect to keep every email and don't try; it's futile and not worthy of your attention. Instead mine the knowledge in your email and keep that!

Stop whingeing about how you used to take great photos w/your DSLR but are now mired in a morass of bad cameraphone photos - get a cheap point & shoot and an Eye-Fi card & you will have great photos again w/out the DSLR weight

Submitted by Roland on Sun, 2012-12-23 22:51

There are countless geeky, nerdy, folks in late 2012 "whingeing" :-) about

  1. how they used to take great DSLR photos but  it was too heavy & inconvenient to post photos,
  2. so they switched to a cameraphone
  3. but are tired of its bad photos.

Simple solution:

  1. buy a $150 dollar point and shoot like the Canon Powershot A2400 which you can get for $70 (or a $200 Olympus E-PL1 or EPM-1 with the  Olympus bodycap lens for $59 if you want something even more awesome for $260 instead of $150 or less),
  2. a $99 Eye-Fi card.
  3. Carry the camera in your pocket at all times.
  4. Post photos from the Eye-Fi via your cameraphone's WIFI access point

This makes it convenient and quick like your cameraphone but gives you much better image quality that doesn't require filters of doom to make the photos "interesting"!

Nikon V1 might as well be free at $299 w/lens aka redonkulous price cuts mean desperate camera makers! One or more of Sony, Olympus, Ricoh, Pentax, or Samsung will exit the camera business in the next ten years

Submitted by Roland on Tue, 2012-12-04 17:11

Nikon V1 with kit zoom for $299 might as well be free (excellent deal for a mirrorless camera w/EVF, great auto-focus; only problem is the lens line up is not yet anywhere near complete). Points out how desperate the camera manufacturers are and how much camera oversupply there is.

I really think that one or more of Sony, Olympus, Ricoh, Pentax, or Samsung will exit the camera business in the next ten years (my prediction would be Olympus even though I love their cameras and Ricoh and perhaps Sony).

Two reasons:

  1. Too many me too cameras that aren't social cameras, and
  2. competition from cameraphones which is the only camera that most people will ever buy and use in the near future and cameraphones won't be made by "traditional camera makers"

Change your life light your bike - My CBC interview on bicycle lights

Submitted by Roland on Wed, 2012-11-21 23:41


tl;dr: I ride with far too many bicycle lights: 4 front facing, 3 rear facing 5 side facing. To be seen, you only need 2 lights if you ride in the city of Vancouver, but if you want to see, you also need a helmet mounted light and if you want bike light overkill :-) you can add a fancy hub dynamo and spoke persistence of vision lights.

Yesterday I was interviewed by CBC's Margaret Gallagher about bicycle lighting. Here's a blog post with the missing details since my interview will probably be edited and quite short since it will be part of a piece with other people such as a police officer and somebody from MEC (to be aired tomorrow 22 November 2012 at 7:40a.m. on CBC Radio 1 88.1 FM in Vancouver)

If Lighting for bicycles had an Olympics, here's how it would be for those riding in the city of Vancouver

(assuming you bicycle on lit streets in the city of Vancouver and not in the forest or other unlit space; I know nothing about bicycling in Burnaby, Richmond and the rest of the suburbs; if your lights are blinking please don't point them in pedestrians' eyes!)

Bronze Medal

MEC quattro on front, plasma on back, $30 (These lights are purely to be seen; they won't help you see!)

Silver Medal

Bronze plus front, rear and side helmet mounted headlamp e.g. Light and Motion Visibility 360, $190 (this is great solution to see where your head is pointing)

Gold Medal

Bronze and silver plus a dynamo hub with front and rear lights available from The World Cycles, Kissing Crows Cyclery, Dream Cycle, Bikes for All,etc.
hub dynamo info: (Shimano makes them too but the Sturmey archer design dates back to 1936 in England! it was just made lighter and better when the Taiwanese company Sun Race bought Sturmey Archer in the 2000s). These hub dynamos unlike the awkward bottle dynamos you grew up don't rub on the wheel and are very efficient and have a "stand light" feature so they stay on for a few minutes after you stop! All powered by your bicycling so no batteries required and quite powerful with the latest LED lights like the ones from Lumotec and E3.

The best lights for hub dyamos are German:

This is what I have: (Lumotec IQ CYO front; and the matching rear light)
I dream of someday owing the even brighter ones from e3

But of course my setup has even more bicycle lights, in fact it's verging on overkill, but I am quite happy with the amount of light

  • In addition to the lights from the Gold Medal level, I also ride with lights on my spokes, so called persistence of vision lights. I ride with the Mini Monkey Light which displays 25 8 bit patterns including Space Invaders which I got from Kickstarter. But you can get them from good bike shops here in the city or directly from MonkeyLectric in Seattle
  • But wait there's more. I also ride with the 500 Lumen Front Light Urban 500 (the Urban 500 is no longer available but you can get the Urban 550 which emits 550 lumens)

In the future I will have turn signals and perhaps more!

Thom Hogan: the camera industry has started teaching customers that big discounts are the norm.

Submitted by Roland on Wed, 2012-11-21 00:03

Thom Hogan writes on ridiculous discounts on cameras from companies like Olympus and Panasonic, what he calls the JC Penney effect:


This is not just a Panasonic problem. Olympus has the same problem, so does Nikon, so does Canon, so does Sony, so does everyone. They all overproduced to demand, had lingering inventory when new products hit, and thus now have to discount the old product to get rid of it, eroding margins and teaching customers that the actual value of the product is far lower than the initial list price, which then devalues the new gear.


I'll repeat, the camera industry has started teaching customers that big discounts are the norm.


This is happening at every level of camera sales now, from lowest compact to FX DSLRs. We have a global oversupply of camera gear


Yet the Japanese companies still overproduce. Worse still, they overproduce when the yen is worth less against the dollar and Euro, then complain when they are still trying to sell those products at discounts later when the yen is worth more. 

From a customer standpoint, this is great (other than the fact that the gear you bought last year is worth less than 50% of its cost now, so you won't be getting much back on selling used gear). We're getting supremely good new gear at very low prices. But it's also bankrupting the camera manufacturing industry


I am loving my $200 Olympus E-PL ($250 included the kit zoom which although bulky is a decent lens; check out my E-PL1 pics on flickr!) and the VF-3 EVF and the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 prime lens. Still a great camera even though it's 2 years old and obsolete. I am buying into the Micro 4/3 eco-system not into the E-PL1 itself and I am banking on the price of what I really want, the weather sealed OM-D going down to $600 from $1300 in a couple of years!

Is this sustainable for the camera manufacturers? I guess not.

Does this leave them open to disruption from somebody who can produce a truly social camera with apps, sensors and connectivity? Definitely!

Best MongoDB to CSV tool to generate CSV files for graphing using a JS toolkit, Excel, etc?

Submitted by Roland on Thu, 2012-08-09 23:11

My previous post was unclear. I'll try again. It shouldn't take a 70 line Ruby script or indeed procedural programming to generate a CSV file from a MongoDB database. So Lazy web :-) what's the best Best MongoDB to CSV tool to generate CSV files  for graphing using one of the JS toolkits, Excel, etc so I don't have to write a 70 line Ruby script like getOneDayAnswerRate.rb?

Thunderbird - Get Satisfaction Answer Rate - A tale of tools; this shouldn't require programming

Submitted by Roland on Thu, 2012-07-26 18:06

Single Purpose Server Apps on multiple Raspberry Pis to overcome tyranny of the cloud & tyranny of hosted services

Submitted by Roland on Sun, 2012-06-03 10:13

Raphael's Raspberry Pi - raphaels-raspberry-pi-20120601-1.jpgThe Raspberry Pi was designed as a cheap low cost computer for education. Could it be also good as a low power server dedicated to one app (as Richard has it, a "thin cloud")? It's so cheap you could run two (one primary and one backup at different locations). No need for a datacenter, no need for a hosted service! Begone "tyranny of the cloud" and "tyranny of the hosted service" ?

My guess is the Raspberry Pi is too slow and my internet connection is too slow but it would work for a family webapp only used by two dozen folks! But in the future I don't see why it wouldn't be viable with a better internet connection and faster raspberry pis!

I am going to try this out when my Raspberry Pi arrves later this summer. I am thinking of running Open Photo (a private instance) for family stuff.

The other thing thing I am thinking of doing is using multiple Raspberry Pis to run cool server web app tech, e.g. 1 for clojure, 1 for node.js, 1 for haskell, 1 for racket, 1 for whatever is the common lisp flavour du jour :-) etc

And heck if i have spare time, I'll use multiple Raspberry Pis like D'Arcy, Dave Winer and Tantek; to reclaim my stuff and put it in my walled garden first :-) before I copy it to other walled gardens like Pinterest, twitter, flickr etc

Another reason to turn off the touchscreen on the N8: I have often switched WiFi & 3G off by accident

Submitted by Roland on Sun, 2012-06-03 09:49

subject says it all: Symbian is prone to accidental touch screen disabling of WiFi & 3G while moving. Touchscreen interfaces assume you will be using them while stationary. Not true :-) Especially for cameraphone picture taking you don't want inadvertent touch screen touches while moving!

(this blog post is aimed at the 3 people in the world who still use N8 as their main cameraphone :-))

Nokia NOT Apple set the mobile phone industry back by not shipping a mass market phone until the N8 w/enough RAM to multi-task ShoZu and other apps

Submitted by Roland on Sun, 2012-04-29 13:02

I disagree with Ewan :-) !

Nokia not Apple set the mobile phone industry back 10 years by not shipping a mass market phone until the N8 with enough RAM to multi-task ShoZu and other apps and to take full advantage of the great technical features of Symbian.

Prior to the N8 no mass market Nokias had enough RAM to run ShoZu in the background continously and upload dozens of photos per day. I know because I had an N95-1 (the N95 8GB had enough RAM but it didn't ship at iPhone scale), N82 and many other N series phones and only the N8 has enough RAM to multi-task. ShoZu  on the N95-1 and N82 regularly crashed (I worked around the problem by rebooting the phone every day something I don't have to do with my N8 or iPhone 4) and it crashed even more if I tried to run other apps simultaneously. Perhaps that was a ShoZu error but wouldn't have been awesome if Nokia had bought and bundled and made ShoZu bulletproof ? Much better than iCloud's rigid photo syncing solution!

Boy oh boy I loved ShoZu (I uploaded over 44000 photos using ShoZu) and used it until I got the N8. ShoZu doesn't work on the N8 :-( so I now use PixelPipe (which barely works because the developers have pivoted and the program is starting to bit rot and just barely works i.e. functionality that used to work no longer works: e.g. you can't enter tags from a list, you have to manually enter tags, you can't change which flickr account you are uploading to, etc)

Here's Ewan's argument in a nutshell

QUOTE (read the whole thing especially the comments)

Take yourself back to the days of the Nokia N95 8GB. It was a terrific handset: An excellent camera, super form factor, nice keypad — a true ‘Multimedia computer’.

Perhaps the best thing about those Symbian devices was that they could multitask properly. Hardcore Symbian developers could access almost every inch of the operating system’s plumbing to bring phenomenally useful services to users.

My most frequently used function on my Nokia Symbian devices was ShoZu. I wouldn’t shut up about it. This was (and still is!) a service that ran in the background on-demand. ShoZu would get your images off your Nokia really quickly. Many of my mobile friends had ShoZu doing an automatic upload. Snap a photo and boom, you’d see the little data indicator briefly switch on and off as the service sent your photo up to the ShoZu servers and then on to whatever services you’d configured (Flickr being a popular one). I opted for a little bit more control — so whenever I took a photo, ShoZu would immediately ask if I wanted the photo sent up to the internet. Again, if you pressed ‘yes’, that was it. Job done. Everything happened in the background.

You could get on with your day. I loved it.

Back at this point — 2005/2006, the mobile industry was looking incredibly exciting.



If it's about flipping the switch rather than quality of the product, you will lose; it's just a matter of time

Submitted by Roland on Sun, 2012-04-29 12:07

Glad this dude is no longer at Nokia; I hope the rest of the flip the switch folks have been fired or left.

QUOTE from a not too clueful Lee Williams

"When I was at Nokia and we shipped a Symbian product and it was bad, in its worst incarnation we knew that if we just flipped the switch, we could move 2.5 to three million units -- overnight, no matter how bad the product," he tells me. "That was Nokia. That was Nokia's brand, we knew we could count on that.

"And now look at it -- they flipped the switch and oh, 200,000 [Windows Phone] units out of the gate. Huh? Only selling in the US, under AT&T's moniker. If you can't flip the switch like that, Nokia's dead and devalued."


Bicycle Commuting Picture Workflow - N8 in lanyard around my neck, take a shot, drop the phone

Submitted by Roland on Sun, 2012-04-29 09:11

As a followup to WANTED: Two N8 Cameraphone apps with settings locked: default + hyperfocal street photography, here's my N8 cameraphone picture taking workflow (I have been doing this since 2008 and as a result have far over 50000 cameraphone pictures :-) !) while bicycling to work:

  1. N8 is on a lanyard around my neck
  2. I see something interesting
  3. I take the picture using the N8 built-in cameraphone app custom setting (my custom mode is the default settings with flash turned off)
  4. I drop the phone gently and it bounces harmlessly on my chest
  5. I continue bicycling
  6. Goto step 2

I would like an app with the touchscreen off because sometimes I accidentally trigger the photo editor.

I would like an app that locks out other apps because sometimes I accidentally quit out of the camera app. During my ride I don't use any other apps.



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