Monday, December 31, 2007
Today also marks the last day of C/S in SkyCable's cable channel. But luckily, Solar (the company broadcasting C/S, Jack TV, etc.) will be moving C/S to the slot of RPN 9 on free tv. So I will still get to watch the rest of the episodes. I just don't know where I can still watch WWE Raw with Jack TV gone from Sky's lineup.
We had our New Year's Eve dinner at Legend Seafood near World Trade Center. Auntie Betty (Nikki's mother-in-law) joined us, along with the rest of the family -- Grandpa, Grandma, Tito Ben, Tita Car, Tito Bert & family. From there, we passed by Shella's place at North Greenhills to settle a debt before the turn of the year. Then it was time to go back to Valle for the annual Chiang "tradition" of blowing fireworks (with mom doing her usual antics) and the media noche. The kids stayed at Valle while only Cols and I went back to Rockwell with a maid at around 2am.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
I didn't bring a digital camera for this trip. So I just took some shots of the Christmas Party at Tandem building rooftop with my Nokia 6680 and its built-in LED flash. The image quality really sucks.
Monday, December 24, 2007
It would probably be a lot of fun to discuss these things with her when she grows up way, way much older. Maybe we can discuss how heaven is not really "up there" and hell is not really "down there". Maybe there are parallel universes and she can read about the other scientific theories from the likes of Stephen Hawking. Or we can discuss it more philosophically and logically from the works of known atheist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins' recent work (and bestseller) The God Delusion will shake the faith of most people with its cold and brilliant logic. It attempts to answer very common questions about the existence (or, rather, non-existence) of a supreme being and Creator-of-all-things, and how Darwin's evolution by natural selection may be the best sounding theory of how everything began. The book is available at myBookstore for those interested.
Friday, December 21, 2007
In the event that I first saw this setup, I took a peek inside the contraption and saw a Canon EOS 20D. Aha! There must be a way to programmatically control a camera from a PC; retrieve the still images that it captures; lay it out in a memory bitmap; then dump it out to a photo printer. Sounds like an interesting project!
So I Googled around to know what tools are out there. First, I found an open-source project in Sourceforge under the GNU General Public License (GPL):
It seems to be a bunch of command-line utilities which can control a Canon digital camera. However, in order to use it, one has to have the Canon RC SDK. Hmm.... what could that be? Doing more Google searches, I found out that Canon offers the SDK to allow application developers to talk to their camera. Best of all, its for free! One just has to go through the application process:
So I diligently filled up the forms. I figure I would need the standard Canon Digital Camera Software Development Kit (CD-SDK 7.3.0) to support the older Powershot and IXUS lines, and the newer Canon EOS Digital Software Development Kit (ED-SDK 2.1) for the digital SLR lines. My old IXUS 400 (aka Powershot SD400) is supported by the older CD-SDK, while my EOS 400D (aka Digital Rebel XTi) would be supported by the newer ED-SDK.
Based on the website, the libraries are written in Windows C. But some guys seem to have made a C# wrapper around it.
- Elias Torres made a C# wrapper around the CD-SDK. But it seems very dated. And for sure, it does not support the newer ED-SDK.
- Christian Graus and Benjamin Liedblad came out with a unified version for the CDSDK and PRSDK (a newer version of the CDSDK), but also no mention of the ED-SDK.
Well, my CD from Canon Singapore arrived the other day (after about a 3-week wait). I tried plugging in my old IXUS 400 to my PC. Couldn't seem to get the CD-SDK sample programs to detect it. I wonder if its because I did not really install the entire drivers CD of the IXUS 400. My PC only has the drivers/programs installed from my EOS 400D camera. This will take some more tests.
On the bright side, I found out that the EDSDK came shipped with a C# class file! There's no documentation whatsoever, but it doesn't seem too difficult to figure out since its basically just a class that defines entry points to the EDSDK.DLL. I think I'll focus my development on the EDSDK and forget about the older CDSDK. Of course, this means that whatever application I develop will have to use an EOS Digital Camera and not a lower-end IXUS. Will update this blog more as I find out more also about the EDSDK.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
One of the SEO "tips" sites I came across talked about syndicating your articles or news to third party services like FeedBurner. These services take care of passing your feeds further to other sites who also use feeds published there. Very popular sites that publishes feed by other people is Technorati. So by publishing your feed to FeedBurner, you can indirectly get articles or mentions in high profile websites like Technorati. Marshall Kirkpatrick gives some general idea as to why you would want to use FeedBurner.
Syndication is mostly done through one of two formats: RSS and ATOM. Both are based on the XML specification, with ATOM being the newer standard and seems to be the more preferred one as of late. RSS is simpler so I decided to take a stab on it. Since I regularly maintain a news page for our online photo printing service, Picatoo, I decided to automatedly make an RSS feed out of it. The resulting feed can be found here. The Feed.aspx code basically reads the HTML output of News.aspx; extracts the relevant line items; and reformats them to RSS/XML. Then I created a FeedBurner account and linked the feed to it. So hopefully soon, our Picatoo news details will be syndicated by other sites like Technorati!
Incidentally, Google's Blogger (which is what I'm using) has excellent integraton with FeedBurner. This comes perhaps as to no surprise as Google recently bought FeedBurner for a rumored amount of US$100M. So if you want to subscribe to my blog's feeds via email, just fill-up the form on the right-hand side of this blog with your email address, or click on this link.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
The DVDR3455H is a personal video recorder (PVR) just like the TiVo (which I think pretty much created and defined the category). While it can do things like pause live tv; or even rewind or forward it; I personally use it mainly as a glorified Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) -- minus the cassette, of course. It stores the video it records onto its internal hard disk. We had a 160Gb HDD installed in ours. Depending on the recording mode, it can store hundreds of hours of video. The recorder allows you to specify the level of resolution/quality you want. Of course, the lower the quality, the more video you can store. Its similar in concept to JPEG compression -- the more lossy the compression, the smaller the image. I use the "standard" mode, which is good for recording 30+ movies from HBO, I think.
So anyway, I would just program the recorder to record all the shows I normally watch. You can tell it to record once or weekly at a specified time. Watching recorded shows is also great -- you can skip all the commercials! For example, the regular 2-hr WWE Raw episode I get to watch in less than an hour after skipping commercials and fast-forwarding through matches that I don't find interesting. Saves me a lot of time and I don't have to contend with Cols' Pinoy Big Brother.
I have been recording the episodes of Heroes 2 from Crime/Suspense (C/S) since it started. I still haven't watched a single episode. Its just accumulating in the hard drive. I will do a Heroes 2 marathon one of these days to catch up quickly on what's happening. The only problem, of course, is -- C/S will also be gone come Jan 1, 2008 thanks to the hare-brained people at Skycable!!!
You can transfer the shows you record on the HDD onto DVD (hence the "DVDR" in its name). The reverse is not true though -- you cannot "rip" a DVD onto HDD. I guess they didn't allow that on purpose to protect themselves against anti-piracy advocates. The device also comes with a USB port which you can plug a flash drive to in order to do a photo slide show (assuming your flash drive contains JPG images). It also has support for standard RCA inputs jacks -- great for migrating all VHS/beta/camcorder tapes from its original player and burn onto a DVD. Heck, there are businesses offering such service for like PHP400 per tape-to-DVD transfer.
Incidentally, I recently saw an ad for a Samsung(?) tv which has PVR functionality built-in. Kinda interesting. I wonder if it will fly or whether people would still rather have this function in a separate box.
Strangely though, Philips seem to have stopped selling the device here in the Philippines shortly after we purchased it. That would be a shame since I think its really a good consumer electronic equipment. Would be nice to sell at our online Mozcom Store.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Picture Books (or Photo Books) present a new way of looking at your photos. Instead of having one pose per print, Picture Books can collage or layout multiple photos onto a single print. The prints are then compiled and bound into a book format. Captions can also be added to the photos, and backgrounds can be embellished. In the case of J&J, they wanted a scrapbook-like feel. So we used textured background templates to give them a scrapbook look-and-feel.
Our PictureBook business has been featured in Philippine Daily Inquirer before. We are also a partner of Picatoo, a joint project between Mozcom and Fuji YKL Color Lab. Picatoo provides everything from standard prints, to poster-sized prints and specialized items like mugs, buttons, mousepads, tumblers, pillowcases and more. Of course, they also offer picturebooks care of ThePictureShop.com.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
So for those of you with a soft spot in your hearts for kids-related causes, I hope you drop by the donation site and make a small contribution!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
The registration was simple and straightforward. What I found really interesting is the method by which it tries to establish your initial social community. It asks you to enter a POP3 account. I assume it goes through your email headers and try to see if the persons you email with have Facebook accounts. If they do, the system sends them a notice informthem them that you just joined, I suppose. I say "I suppose" because when I gave it my GMail POP3 credentials, it seemed to time out. Maybe I have too many mail in my GMail account for it to process.
Facebook allows you to create applications using their API. This was my main interest in signing up really. I wanted to find a way to integrate Facebook albums to Mozcom's online photo printing service called Picatoo. Their API documentation is ok. Getting an API license key is also very simple and straightforward. No need to send X.25 certificates to the administrator unlike Picasa. In a few hours, I was able to get my Facebook album to appear in Picatoo, and transfer photos for printing.
There is just one thing about the Facebook photo album system that I can't figure out. They don't seem to have a way to let the account owner upload photos at full, or original, size and resolution. The upload process seems to automatically perform re-sizing of the jpg image for the web. While the effect on screen is fine because of the screen's lower resolution (72 dpi), it does not look well when the photos are transferred to a service like Picatoo for photo printing which uses a higher resolution (250 dpi or better). They are only ok if the photos are to be arranged in a collage. But a single photo to be printed on 4R will be too grainy. Anyone out there have any idea on how to upload photos at their original size?
Sunday, December 9, 2007
That wasn't the end of the evening, of course. Dad dropped us back off at the Carnival parking lot where Cols and I picked up our CRV. Since I was still dizzy, Cols had to do the driving. On the way out, she took a turn on the unpaved open parking area and got our wheels stuck in mud. It took several minutes of pushing and gas to get us unstuck.
I guess the evening could have been worse just like for these poor guys at Enchanted Kingdom.
The exhibit is not necessarily for the religious. They do give the scientific explanations to both sides. Personally, I am leaning more towards the skeptic end. The strongest argument in favor of the skeptics is the radio carbon dating tests that have been done on the shroud samples to determine its age. Using standard Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) methods, several labs conducted the test on different samples and arrived to the same conclusion -- that the shroud only came about roughly during AD 1260 - 1390, so it couldn't have possibly been the burial cloth of Christ.
Several more counter-explanations were made after this landmark conclusion. The main argument of the "faithful" is that the radiocarbon sample that was used to date the Shroud has a very different composition and structure than the rest of the cloth and was not valid for dating the Shroud. In other words, the wrong sample was taken from the Shroud. The Shroud, having endured centuries of handling and transport (including a fire in one of the churches that housed it), has been patched several times by different people. And the "faithfuls" believe that the sample taken for carbon dating was one of the patches that was sewn later on. Couple with this the effect of bacterial decay, and that would set off the carbon dating readings by several hundreds of years. Read this for further details.
I think the solution to solve this impasse once and for all is to just do another radio carbon dating based on the parts that these "experts" believe should be the original. Wouldn't that make things a lot simpler? Unless the church is hiding something. Hmm... sounds like the premise for a future Dan Brown novel. Or maybe not. I read the 1st book of the Christ Clone Trilogy by James BeauSeigneur about 2 to 3 years ago. You can also order it from myBookstore.ph. The basic plot of the story is that these scientists who are studying the Shroud took blood samples from the cloth and cloned a human out of it. The man was aptly named "Christopher". Was he going to be messiah or the anti-Christ. The book was not that captivating, or at least, it did not really compel me to buy and read books 2 and 3. So I really don't know how it ended. If there is anyone out there who is willing to give me a 1 paragraph summary of how it ended, you are welcome to post here. :)
Anyway, the Shroud exhibit will be going around the Philippines up to 2008. So drop by to see it and decide for yourself. You can also purchase the tickets ahead of time and online using PayEasy.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Programming for Google's Data API is also quite fun. The developer support is excellent. I was able to easily integrate the Picasa/Google Photos API to Picatoo (http://www.picatoo.com), Mozcom's online photo printing service. This allows Picasa users to easily retrieve their photos for printing via Picatoo. Of course, we also support Flickr since its the most popular one around.