If you weren’t already aware I bought a boat last month. It’s probably a large part of the reason I haven’t made many blog posts recently. It’s been great & even though I didn’t have the boat in the water & ready to sail until late July, I’ve still gotten in some great evenings & weekends. Now however we’re in hurricane season. Now I get nervous each time I see or hear the word “hurricane” on the news. It didn’t seem like we got this many hurricanes last year, (1 in fact, which ended up being a tropical Depression by the time it hit) but now that I bought a boat it’s like every weekend. In any event I thought I’d throw together a list of resources that help track hurricanes & predict their paths. I’m certainly hoping that this storm (Danny) goes out to sea!

Link: IbisEye – Atlantic Hurricane Tracking 1850 – Present.
Link: StormPulse – Tropical Storm tracking, including “”cone of uncertainty.”
Link: Tropical Atlantic – National Hurricane Center model data (“Spaghetti Plots.”)

I’ve just returned from The Alliance for Community Media North East Conference held this year at Champlain College in Burlington Vermont. I took the New Media track as I always do so most of the seminars I attended focused on the web 2.0 concept & social media specifically how they can be utilized in the access television realm. While in these seminars, we also had an opportunity to discuss some of these social media forms and debate their uses as well as their usefulness. To the passive observer it definitely seems that social media and social networking is the in thing for 2009, and that’s great, but why? Common Craft produced short explanatory video which explains that the amount of information on the web has reached a quantity that there needs to be some better way of organizing it and that’s precisely what social media provides. We’re able to get recommendations from our peers (whether we know them or not.) Social media can provide an engine to unite groups of otherwise unfamiliar people who share interest in some common item. Social media can also serve as a meeting area for people of a real world group to converge and share information in a virtual space. There’s lots of social networks out there, really too many to mention (see the graphic,) and most of them provide a slightly different service to their users. From connecting with colleagues, friends, & groups on Facebook, to sharing photos on Flikr, searching through the many blogs out there on Technorati, or sharing video on YouTube. Perhaps users are “tweeting” about the local news or where they’re going to eat lunch on Twitter. Maybe they’re sharing a great bookmark on Del.icio.us; no matter what the use, social media has quickly become an extremely valuable tool in navigating the internet.

While I’m not the biggest fan of the MBTA, I’m in the market to buy a house, and would like it to be near the train so that there is easy access to the city. Specifically I’m looking for somewhere that is walking distance from the train. Initially I was looking for somewhere near a subway station, but I’ve broadened my search to include houses near commuter rail stations. I get a number of email about houses which are for sale, but the first thing I want to look into is location. How far is this place from the nearest train station. Aside from knowing the area, there doesn’t seem to be any way to find this information.

Services like Netflix or Blockbuster Online have really made renting movies a lot easier, it seems like the hardest part is returning the DVDs to the warehouse. I mean DVDs arriving strait to your door is like the epitome of laziness, but it is also so great. I plan to post further about this in the future, but this is not the subject of this post. Today I am writing about a different convince. One which helps me to actually return my movies in a timely manor. I’m spoiled by email and delivering messages from either my desk or right from my phone on my hip. Finding a mail box on the route I’m already traveling is a huge help. I found myself wishing that there was some tool to help me find these road side mailboxes ahead of time rather then by combing the horizon with each turn I make on the way to work. Then I found Mailbox Map. It’s a mash up of Google maps and the United States Postal Service mailbox locations. just enter your address, or zip code, and you will instantly have a visual list of all the mail boxes on or near your location or planned route of travel. Here’s just another tool fueling my laziness and I love it!

Link: Mailbox Map

So I’m back from my trip to Wyoming catch the pictures if you haven’t yet. I really had a great trip, but as usual on trips to far away places the plane ride was extremely long and arduous. The flight took about 6 hours each way. While newer planes have a decent selection of movies, who wants to pay $2.00 for a headset, then $6.00 per movie? I had my own idea. I’ll catch up on some of the television shows I am behind on. So where do you find these episodes for download? Well you could go to iTunes and download each one, or search for a free alternative. Take a guess which I picked. If you haven’t already checked out Hulu.com you owe it to yourself to stop reading this, open a new browser tab, & go there. Hulu is great, there’s lots of content there and it’s all available 24/7/365. “But you can’t download from Hulu” you might say, & you’d be right, that is until Replay Media Catcher came along. Once you open RMC any flash video you are watching will be automatically downloaded to your computer. Once the download has finished, there is an option available to convert the file into a number of different formats for use on whatever portable device you so please. If importing to iTunes there’s even an easy check box to auto import to iTunes. The program sells for $40.00, and is a good deal for that price, but who pays for video ripping software these days? If you just can’t bring yourself to part with the cash, then check out the trial pay option.

Nearly a year ago I signed up for a beta of a new web browser for my phone. Everyone makes a really big deal about the iPhone’s browser, but this application looked to me like it could potentially be as good or better. Recently I finally got the text message I had been waiting for. It was an official invitation to download the Skyfire beta. I was psyched! So I download Skyfire & let the beta testing begin. On first loading I remember one of the reasons I was so excited about this browser; it’s fast! It actually runs the website content through an off sight server and sends a “down res’d” (squeezed) version to your phone. That’s great, this allows your phone to give a full web experience while leaving the “heavy lifting” to be done by a more powerful computer. I suppose this brings up concerns of who else is seeing what you are, but as long as you’re at least aware of this you can use the program accordingly.

One of the main features which brought me to find this program was it’s native flash support. Once I had downloaded and installed the program I headed over to YouTube and was greeted with the full web version including videos that played right from the website without using any sort of external playe. There’s still lots more testing to be done, but this is quite a nice program. If you have a Windows Mobile phone I would highly recommend checking out this great piece of software.

Link: Check out Skyfire

For about 4 years now I’ve been posting images onto my website. It’s really not that hard to do, and I really love having access to photos anywhere in the world! It’s really pretty easy to set up too so here’s some tips on how to get started.

Personally, I’d recommend checking out Google’s Picasa. It’s really easy to use program for simple photo editing such as red eye, contrast, or brightness adjustments. It’s also the easiest way I’ve found to manages my albums, & it can export smaller versions of photos. When necessary I use Photoshop to make more complex image edits. Once the images have been shrunk, I run them trough jAlbum to create the web album. (It’s not as hard as it all might sound.) I just tell jAlbum where my photos are located and where I want the finished product to go. I specify what skin I want to use, hit go. Then I get up and go make a sandwich. By the time I get back to the computer, everything’s done. I may actually over-complicate the process, because jAlbum might actually have a feature to automatically shrink your images down, I’ve just never looked.

Once everything is created it is all output into a new directory on your computer. You can simply take the contents of that folder and upload them to your website. Most web space providers will tell your ftp address, but it usually “ftp://www.YourDaminName.com”. Input your ftp address into the destination and set the source as your newly created album folder, and start the transfer. There’s tons of free ftp programs out there to make this easy. If you can’t find one you can even use internet explorer. just navigate to “ftp://www.YourDaminName.com”, and drag the files from your new album folder to the internet explorer window.

Here’s how it all looks when your done. I’ve used an XP theme so it looks like you’re browsing through a folder on a Windows PC. I know It’s not the most visually appealing look, but it accomplishes what I want it to. jAlbum does have a number of skins available to customize how it looks of your website.

I’ve been wanting to integrate a video player into my website for a while now. I have a number of shows that I produced while at WETC and would like to try and post more of them on my website once I find a good codec that squeezes them down to a reasonable size and preserves some of the quality I worked so hard to create in my shots. About a year ago I went to a seminar about an emerging technology and company called Brightcove. It’s a lot like YouTube, but you can create your own channel and manage the content displayed there. For example just because I post a video about rock climbing on my player, you wont see a video on my player that someone else made a bout rock climbing. You will only see content that I post there. Like I said the task of capturing, converting, posting, and managing all of those shows is quite daunting, but I have wanted to experiment for a while now. Recently I finally found some media that I could post to experiment with this.

For Christmas my father gave me a helmet cam. It’s great, I have shot a lot of great short video clips, and I started posting them onto my player as a way to share them with the people who I took video of. It’s pretty cool, so I thought I’d post it here and create a link to that player so more people can find and enjoy it. The player is pretty stripped down at the moment, and is very utilitarian, simply accomplishing the goal of sharing the videos, not really making them look too pretty, perhaps eventually I will find a chance to make this player a little nicer looking. In the meantime check it out.

Link: Brightcove
Link: SkiCam

Over the last few weeks gmail has randomly deleted 3 weeks of emails from my system. I think gmail is a wonderful thing as it allows me to take my inbox wherever I go and feel at home and ready to work from where ever I am. Gmail is now my primary email account. It’s the place where I communicate with not only my friends and family but also where a lot of my business is done as well. This makes it especially important to keep a back up of your email. Now that all this email is stored off your computer, it is a little more complex to make a back up of the data. I have recently completed my back up & what a reliefe. There’s quite a few steps, but I found a great article detailing how to back up your gmail through Outlook.

Link: Check it out!