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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

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:

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

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.


Backup your public Flickr photo metadata to MongoDB using backupPublicPhotoMetadataByDateAndUser

Submitted by Roland on Mon, 2012-02-27 01:19

If you know how to run MongoDB and ruby on your computer or your server, then backupPublicPhotoMetadataByDateAndUser.rb is a simple Ruby script to backup your Flickr metadata for yours (or anybody else's) Flickr public photos for a given time period. Simple (it doesn't replicate flickr's richness nearly as comprehensively as Aaron's parallel flickr) but effective because then you can with very very simple programming use the MongoDB query language to do useful Flickr queries such as:

1. give me all the photos in gastown

2. give me the square 75x75url of all photos in Vancouver tagged "yellow"

3. give me all the photos geo-tagged in the city of Vancouver taken in 2011 during the morning rush hour (e.g. if you wanted to do Eric Fisher-like  maps)


  1. Start up MongoDB and create some indexes: /Applications/mongodb-osx-x86_64-2.0.2/bin/mongo
    1. >{id:1});
  2. Set Environment variables to point to your MongoDB and your flickr api key and the userid e.g.
    1. export MONGO_PORT=27017
    2. export MONGO_HOST=
    3. export FLICKR_DB=rtflickr # your flickr database name in Mongo DB
    4. export FLICKR_USER=yourfunnyFlickruserIdendinging@01
    5. create a flickr.conf file like this:
      1. Roland-Tanglaos-MacBook-Pro-2:mongoflickrbackup rolandtanglao$ cat flickr.conf
        api_key = a3b9eeatbeefdecafbad
  3. specify time and date to backup e.g. to backup your 2009 public photos:
    1. ./backupPublicPhotoMetadataByDateAndUser.rb 2009 1 1 2009 12 31  >backup.2009.stdout.txt 2>backup.2009.stderr.txt

Still don't have real time geotagged photo web in 2011! Proof: lack of geotagged Vancouver photos on flickr after Vancouver Canucks beat the San Jose Sharks

Submitted by Roland on Sun, 2011-05-29 22:20

We still don't have a real time geotagged photo web in 2011. Even in 2011, where there are many more geo capable cameras and cameraphones than ever, people still wait hours, days, weeks or hours to upload their photos to places like flickr as evidenced by my video of the 276 (as of this writing) photos geotagged in Vancouver on flickr taken on the day the Vancouver Canucks beat San Jose Sharks to make it into the 2011 Stanley Cup finals.

My prediction: after a couple of months, we'll have about 500 photos (up from the 276 currently posted) from this day geotagged in Vancouver and uploaded to flickr.

Video of HTML5 mashup of Vancouver Beats San Jose May 24, 2011 which is currently 271 geotagged flickr photos

Far less then the approximately 2500 geotagged photos taken during the 2010 Olympic Gold Men's Hockey day in 2010 when there were far less geo-capable phones and cameras.


Try it out yourself (you get to see my cool reverse fade :-) !)

Compare and Contrast with 2010 Olympics Men's Gold Medal Hockey Game

Das Blinkenlights - Vancouver and San Francisco Video Style!

Submitted by Roland on Wed, 2011-05-25 00:08

As promised, videos of my San Francisco and Vancouver real-time HTML5 geotagged photo mashups driven by the great flickr and CloudMadeAPIs (each time a geotagged photo to the city is uploaded to flickr, a dot is posted on the map; the dot does a reverse blue fade-in and then alternates between green and red and the map alternates between orange and pink). Next up, add music driven by the neighbourhood (i.e. a different tune for each woeid, which means 26 different tunes for Vancouver).

Vancouver real-time flickr cloudmade html5 mashup:


Try it out yourself! (may take some time for photos to appear since dots are only added when photos are uploaded to flickr geotagged in the city of vancouver):

San Francisco real-time flickr cloudmade html5 mashup:


Try it out yourself (may take some time for photos to appear since dots are only added when photos are uploaded to flickr geotagged in the city of san francisco):

Das Blinkenlights w/CloudMade APIs of Vancouver & San Francisco real-time geotagged flickr photos: use map.removeOverlay()

Submitted by Roland on Fri, 2011-05-20 00:35

To the three :-) people in the world who care about blinking lights on a CloudMade Map : Evidently CloudMade and the web browsers can't handle  large amount of overlays i.e. 1000s of them :-). So the solution is to map.removeOverlay() before map.addOverlay(). If you don't remove the overlay before you addOverlay() then the browser slows down and leaks a large amount of memory.

I'll post a video later of the incredible Das Blinkenlights :-) but you can try it yourself. Just click on one of the following URLs to try it yourself (the map will be all black until somebody uploads some geotagged photos which could be anywhere from 1 second from now until an hour from now):


N8 video & flickr not working - symptomatic of both Flickr & Nokia irrelevance?

Submitted by Roland on Tue, 2011-05-03 08:09

5 months later and Nokia N8 video still doesn't work on flickr. Interestingly, N8 video works fine on YouTube. I think this is symptomatic of both the decline and irrelevance of both flickr and Nokia that they can't get video working with Nokia's flagship phone.

Oh well ! Onwards! I have 200 N8 videos that I'd like to batch re-encode so that they *do* work on flickr. what's the best way to do this on Mac OS X. FFMpeg?

p.s. Nokia N8 and flickr: I still love you both :-) Luckily I can handle this video issue; I couldn't handle it if there was a similar issue with photos!

shades of darkness barcode

Submitted by Roland on Wed, 2011-04-27 09:02

On the weekend I created the following black and white barcode for Michael Kalus, which I call "shades of darkness":

shades of darkness

all of michael kalus's black and white photos >= 720 px high as of April 20, 2011 tagged "blackwhite" in ascending chronological order and then squished to 2px wide * 720 px high and then concatenated together. The image should be 990 pictures * 2 px wide = 1980 pixels wide but it is only 1974 pixels wide due to either a programming error or the photo missing from flickr (or my script couldn't download it from flickr)

partial colophon:

penmachine dodging buses barcode video & HTML5 Web App

Submitted by Roland on Mon, 2011-04-25 00:54

in response to air's comment, here's a video version (select the HD version if your screen is big enough!) of the penmachine barcode which hopefully is more fun and more self-explanatory:

If you can't play the above YouTube video e.g. perhaps because your platform doesn't support flash, try the original quicktime version of the penmachine dodging buses barcode video

What the video displays

Boring tech stuff:

  1. In the middle, 4616 of derek's photos (75x75 pixel thumbnails of all photos >= 720 pixels high from flickr) are displayed
  2. while at the bottom their 1 pixel wide by 720 pixel high "barcode slice" is displayed.
  3. Finally at the top, a red dot shows where the latest 1 pixel slice is being displayed.

 All three lines wrap-around after 900 pixels.

Cool People in the video:

  • miller family-o-sphere
  • vancouver tech-o-sphere (if you are in Vancouver and you are in tech, you probably are in the video!)
  • gnomedex-o-sphere (chris, ponzi, etc)
  • northernvoice-o-sphere

Their is also a webapp version but due the network not being infinitely fast and zero latency it falls behind and out of sync

Here's the webapp version:

It's a pity zero latency and infinite bandwidth networks don't exist :-)

In order to create the video, I ran the webapp on my localhost to eliminate bandwith and latency problems!


photos by derek k miller:
music "dodging buses by derek k miller:
4616 barcode images of derek's flickr photos generated by:
html5 web app code to generate the video :

video made using: Snapz Pro X from ambrosia software

Known Bugs:

(tested on Mac OS X Safari,  Chrome 12 and Firefox Aurora and Firefox Mobile on Nexus S)

  1. the white space on the right side of the video
  2. The red dot should skip by 75pixels instead of 1pixel or perhaps we need a separate indicator pointing from the slice to the 75x75 thumbnail
  3. The red dot should be erased when it wraps around

Lessons Learned

I need to work more with cool music from people like Derek. Music + code indeed music + anything is fantastic

Yelp, Gowalla, foursquare, Urban Spoon etc. are walled garden data silos of Doom that don't provide useful recommendations

Submitted by Roland on Sat, 2011-04-16 21:05

Part 1 of Rant - Recommendations from Yelp, foursquare, etc  are useless because there's no way to validate expertise and no identity

social+local+expert data = relevant recommendations aka Yelp, Foursquare, urban spoon, etc are walled garden data silos of doom NOT destiny and they don't really help you find the awesome restaurant  or espresso g*d shot you are looking for despite Fred Wilson's experience (an exception that proves the rule)

Part 2 of Rant - Don't trust your review data not to be compromised and not to be deleted when using a service like Yelp, foursquare, etc

You may be elite-2011-taster-273487 on yelp or urban spoon but or other such location based or recommendation based service, but:

  1. you don't own your data e.g. your reviews
  2. you can't export your data
  3. why should anybody believe that it's you or trust your reviews when it's impossible to figure out who you are e.g. who is JudyS_240394 ?
  4. your data will be sold (only Apple seems to have the guts not to sell user data)
  5. what happens when the wonderful service goes out of business or "pivots"? 

Part 3 of Rant - Solutions - for now: copy to your site, future: open formats are the only long term way to get out of the silo

It's unfortunate that in 2011 that the best way to build up a consistent reputable, verifiable, track record for reviews or anything else that's structured beyond mere text is still to to have your own site e.g. a blog .

The best pragmatic compromise is to somehow copy the data you post in walled garden data silos of doom back to a site you control on your domain (unfortunately most walled garden sites don't allow you to get your data out without compromise; exceptions that prove the rule: flickr and

Or flip it around: Make your site the master and copy the data out to walled gardens like twitter, yelp, facebook etc is probably a better short term pragmatic solution. Not surprisingly the usual suspects :-) like Dave Winer and Tantek are pioneering this (check out Tantek's falcon system).

And in the long term, a "beyond unstructured blog of text" open API or data format for things like reviews which we have been discussing since 2004 (e.g. microformats) will actually happen. I remain optimistic about that :-) !

Northern Voice 2011 Lightning Talk - Why and how anybody can use flickr + HTML5 to quickly and easily write compelling mashups

Submitted by Roland on Wed, 2011-04-13 11:32

HTML+CSS+JavaScript+flickr=awesome mashups for everyone aka it's the golden age of computing for everybody not just computer science majors so let's go for it!

Got ideas on a Northern Voice related flickr mashup I can do as part of my NV 2011 Moosecamp lightning talk (or in general, love to collaborate HTML5ish and flickrish for good  on something during the conference and after the conference as well) ? Leave 'em here as a comment or tweet @rtanglao or send me smoke signals :-). See you at Northern Voice 2011 in May!

The Revolution is not YET geo-tagged camera blogged aka In search of Das Blinkenlights

Submitted by Roland on Wed, 2010-11-03 00:49

tl;dr: Surprised by the paucity of real-time geotagged photos on flickr. People seem to upload in batches many hours after the fact. Still looking for a cool real-time geotagged picture feed so I can do some Blinkenlights info visualizations in a web browser near you!

Real Time Average Colour of Geotagged photos of 18 cities after a few minutes

12:43am 27Oct2010 Snapshot of 18 Cities Real Time Average Color of Geotagged flickr

Real Time Average Colour Geotagged photos of 18 cities after a few hours

8:16am 27Oct2010 Snapshot of 18 Cities Real Time Average Color of Geotagged flickr

Since 2007, I have over 50000 21000 (29000 non geotagged) geotagged photos uploaded on flickr from cameras most in real-time or near real time (a few minutes to a few hours after they were taken). I expected in 2010 that there would be many real-time geo tagged obsessive :-) photo uploaders like me. Enough to power a cool Blinkenlights info visualization.

Well I was wrong :-) Based on the info viz (geoTaggedAvg18.html ; github source - tested Firefox 4, Chrome, iPhone 4, Android 2.1 - each dot is the average colour of a geotagged photo uploaded to 1 of 18 cities, there are 24 dots per row and then it wraps around after over 24) that I did in Javascript and HTML5 even in geo-tagging mad cities like New York and San Francisco and Vancouver, people don't upload geotagged photos in real-time to flickr (and I doubt elsewhere but love to be proven wrong, if anybody has a real-time updated photo stream with lat/long and an API that has more photos than flickr, please let me know:roland AT twitter:@rtanglao). They do it after the fact and they don't do many.

Probably because:

  • people are concerned about loss of privacy
  • uploading with GPS coordinates is too hard
  • GPSes are unreliable but getting more reliable every day
  • most people upload to social media ghettos like Facebook and Twitpic where most of their metadata including latitude and longitude is lost and/or not available via API instead of "full photos as social object with full-meta-data-preservation-and-APIs-to-get-the-meta-data" services like flickr

HD size with Street Chrome Version of 2010 Men's Gold Medal Hockey Day Geotagged Pics from Flickr

Submitted by Roland on Sun, 2010-10-17 17:12

HD size with Street Chrome Version of 2010 Men's Gold Medal Hockey Day Geotagged Pics from Flickr

Each red, yellow or orange dot represents 1 geotagged cameraphone photo from folks on Flickr taken between 00:00 Feb 28 2010 PST to 11:59PM Feb 28 2010 PST. Over 2000 photos! generated by: 

(Works on Firefox 4, Safari 5, Chrome, Safari iOS 4 but not Firefox 3., github source)


  1. Granville and Robson truly were the epicentre of action that day!
  2. No photos uploaded from Granville Island
  3. No photos uploaded from The Drive - East Van was almost totally unaffected by the Olympics which corresponds with my experience. East of Gastown there was no Olympic visitors and not nearly as much buzz.

Does N900 Pixelpipe support flickr uploads that are visible only to your contacts who are "family" on flickr like ShoZu does?

Submitted by Roland on Mon, 2010-09-06 21:55

Does Pixelpipe support flickr uploads that are visible only to family like ShoZu does? Does Pixelpipe on the N900 support flickr uploads that are visible only to your contacts who are "family" on flickr like ShoZu does? It doesn't appear to. My observations (check out my previous post on Pixelpipe with the N900):

  1. PixelPipe doesn't appear to support flickr's privacy level of "family". It does support totally private and totaly public which map to the equivalent in flickr but that's not what I want.
  2. Luckily the built-in  N900 Share Online does support family on flickr. So that's what I am using.
  3. My theory: PixelPipe on Symbian and other operating systems supports Flickr's "family. Just didn't bother to implement it on N900
  4. With the number of people who use the N900 being low, I can see why such a decision would have been made. So no harsh feelings Pixelpipe :-)

Nokia could win big with a social camera

Submitted by Roland on Wed, 2010-06-30 07:36

Dave Winer has been writing for many years about a social camera. I have been writing for years about how ShoZu + Nokia Cameraphones are killer apps and built-in ShoZu would be a killer app (e.g. Nokia should buy ShoZu).

My current thinking is:

Canon or Nikon's sensors and lens +  Nokia phone with "comes with world wide connectivity and built-in easy to use app for uploading photos and HD video to all popular social sites e.g. flickr, facebook, picasa" + sideload to your Computer and OVI files (i.e. Eye-fi done right, not as an aftermarket kludge - don't get me wrong, unlike Dave I love my Eye-Fi card; it's done well but at the end of the day it's a hack!) for backup in real time using ShoZu-like technology to do it in the background and auto-resume if connectivity lost  =

an awesome social camera that would sell well

The current Nokia solution is Share Online which is:

  • a) hard to use 
  • b) hard to configure 
  • c) doesn't work in the  background and auto-resume like ShoZu  
  • d) requires folks to figure out the whole "3G/WiFi don't automatically switch to 3G when I am roaming" dance

As Dave points out if Nokia doesn't do it (and Nokia is the only company with all the pieces including camera hardware and software, ShoZu-like tech, etc) and the biz dev clout to do something like a "Comes with bandwidth" partnership like Amazon did for the Kindle), somebody else will do it e.g. Apple or Google or some social camera upstart.


2010 Social Media Predictions aka Know your rights, aggregate & own your stuff and back it up

Submitted by Roland on Sun, 2010-01-03 20:14

I have been blogging for 10 years, started Dec 1999 ( which sadly died a few years back due to my own negligence) so some  2010 social media long term predictions and gratuitous advice which again is worth what you paid for it

Social Media 2010 predictions and gratuitous advice:

  1. Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Tumblr and other walled gardens are over in the long term; an open solution will replace them in 5 years or less.
  2. Don't be afraid to use and experiment with the walled gardens but recognize that your stuff can be deleted at any time and unless you have backed it up to an open format like HTML, it won't last forever (most likely scenarios: service goes out of business or your account is deleted for an arbitrary reason). I wouldn't shed a tear if all my tweets were deleted, YMMV. If you have fun with the walled gardens, get your domain and start a blog, videoblog,podcast, etc., you won't regret having an online presence you own and control
  3. If you care about your closed garden stuff, back it up to an open format. If you aren't geeky enough to figure this out, ask a geek, there's lots of them, just don't ask me :-)
  4. Have a "hook" and nurture and grow it. Not good enough in 2010 to be a jack of all trades social media whatevah :-) You actually need to *know* something. Most people do (they just don't realize it!) so that's not a problem.
  5. Don't know why I have to write this in 2010 department: Don't trust reviews or content on Urban Spoon, Yelp (i like the idea of yelp & other aggregators  but in practise most of the reviews are shall we say not helpful), Gowalla, Facebook etc unless you know the person in real life or have read their stuff over a period of time. Most restaurant reviews like most content on the Internet are wildly biased but that's a good thing because objectivity in food reviews is ridiculous.
  6. Get your most valued content out of the walled gardens and your email (email rocks but it's not a place for long term knowledge storage and retrieval) and back it up. The best way to back up is to put the content in an open format like HTML on your own domain and backup all the stuff on your domain. Again, ask a geek. And really most people's stuff that is truly valuable is not a lot, myself included :-)  e.g. I bet my best emails, best photos, videos and blog posts for the last 5 years could fit on 1 DVD!

VIDEO CONTEST - What is one way that the Internet has changed my life? Possible Northern Voice 2009 Moosecamp Session

Submitted by Roland on Wed, 2009-02-18 21:12

It's hard to believe how time flies, but the 5th Northern Voice (for the 5th time I am one of the organizers) starts tomorrow with the Federico's dining and dancing opening party,(Scott Nelson with a bit of assistance from myself are providing the WiFi, thanks Scott!), Friday begins the conference proper with a fab social media 101 track organized by Rahel Anne Bailie and Anita Webster, a fantastic mobile track, the MooseCamp unconference and a Stewart Butterfield keynote and Saturday is the more traditional conference day.

So, I don't really have the time but since I love Mozilla, here's one of my Mossecamp ideas for Friday (if you like it, see you on Friday assuming it's accepted!):

In a nutshell:

  1. 10 people will signup up to have Roland tape 1-12 second videos of them live (i.e. no editing) on "One way the internet has changed their life."
  2. Roland will post them to flickr with a Creative Commons Attribution License to the Mozilla Net Effects Flickr Group
  3. The people in the session will watch them and vote on the "best" one (majority rules, my "best" definition: bonus points for fun, other languages, cool things but of course your definition is up to you!)
  4. Winner gets a prize. Prize will be a free 1:30 second video taped by Roland on his Nokia N82 on Friday at Moosecamp and edited on iMovie by Roland and submitted to flickr and possibly some Mozilla swag from Zak

More background from Zak:

  1. flickr group -
  2. Mozilla Net Effects page -
  3. Zak's blog post: explaining why videos and the idea behind this! -

Disclaimers and other Blah Blah

  1. Zak is an employee of the Mozilla Foundation
  2. Roland is Zak's friend, doesn't work for Mozilla but loves Firefox

Convinced? Sign up today only 10 spots available


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