Google Maps ads Bike Directions

scariest-bike-pathThis is very nice to have: Google Maps with bike-friendly directions. Up until now, I’ve used their walking directions for lengthy bike rides, and carefully evaulated and revised the provided route for potential pit falls. When you’re doing, say, the 115 mile ride from Salem, MA to Norwich, VT, that’s a pretty tedious and time consuming challenge.

Now, it’s not immediately clear to me if I’d always want to go the route suggested — as a road biker, it’d be a real bummer to suddenly find myself on 10 miles of rail trail w/ coarse gravel. But fundamentally, it’s great to see Google acknowledge the fact that bikers are a unique category of travelers with some particular needs and vulnerabilities.

(Photo frrom here)

SmugMug Totally Rocks!

smugmug_logoOkay, I just spent a few minutes dissing Google for their lame implementation of a Calendar App. Now to something that doesn’t suck: SmugMug‘s incredible photo sharing site. For years, I’ve been trying to find a way to take my pro and not-so-pro images from my own archive to a more publicly accessible format. Mostly, I’ve cranked out slideshows or galleries with tools like Slideshow Pro for Joomla or from within Lightroom with various 3rd party widgets. And while it worked, it didn’t work well at all. it was cumbersome and gave very mixed results, particularly when it came time to disseminate images widely.

So I finally decided that the way to go might be one of the online outfits. Yes, I’ve known about Picassa and Flikr and all the others for years, but the one that leapt out at me early on was SmugMug. It seemed really friendly, somehow, professional yet unpretentious, efficient yet fun. After a recent trip to Europe, I opened up an account and starting playing around. I was blown away by the whole thing — it’s by far the best application I’ve seen in a long, long time. Add to that Jeffrey Friedl’s totally amazing Adobe Lightroom plugin that makes it ridiculously easy to move images from your archive to the web with granular control, and you’ve got a winning package. No, SmugMug is not free. Nor is Jeff’s widget. But, really. They are *so* worth the price of admission if you do anything even remotely serious with images. If you’ve just got a couple of snaps to drop on friends now and then? Don’t bother, obviously. Go with Facebook or one of the big freebie sites. But for the real deal, SmugMug is the best deal. Thanks, guys.

Google Calendar — feh…

Wrong_CalendarSo, I’ve been migrating to Google Calendar over the course of the past couple of months, particularly for use in connection with my work running part of the Ford Sayre Nordic Racing program here in my neck of the woods. Now, I’ve been a Google fan since waay back when, but lately I’ve been less than impressed. First of all, their disaster of a login system is putting me off big time (I’ve got a domain account, a separate gmail account, a regular google apps account — and no way of consolidating them, so I spend forever logging in and out and up and down in order to get anything done. It’s ridiculous that Google can’t find a way to help user consolidate this stuff, so we have one master login with access to all our Google toys).

And then there are the quirks within apps like the calendar. Hey, it’s a great tool — and it’s free, so you can’t really knock it. But, seriously. I enter an event and fill in the description field — and then I discover that there’s absolutely no way in hell of displaying the info in the description field anywhere? I mean, WTF? Apparently, that field can only be printed out on an agenda or something irrelevant like that. But, c’mon, this is pathetic, Google. And what’s really pathetic is the fact that users have been begging for this obvious feature for well over a year now, with no — absolutely no — response from the Google developers. Posting after posting on the official Google calendar help forum with no response at all.

At this point, I’m tempted to find a workaround, but it’s really irritating — and a discredit to the Google reputation as a provider of near flawless services — that the calendar app is out there with such an obvious shortcoming. At very best a C+ for this effort, Google. Next time, show your work and do it right.

Damn Fine Parenting

bildeYou’re looking at this week’s winner of the Parent Prize: Todd Marcum from Salem, Oregon thought terrorizing his four kids with an electric dog collar was the way to go. Really makes you wonder: if your idea of parenting is repeatedly driving a three year old to tears, maybe you should have stuck to jerking off instead of four repeats of that whole “hey-honey-let’s-get-pregnant-that’ll-be-fun” thing?

(Satesmanjournal.com via Gizmodo)

Moving from Joomla to WordPress

A client of mine wants to set up a blog on the joomla 1.5 site I recently built for them. They would like this, that, and the other feature that are precisely the reasons why a lot of people over the past years have slammed Joomla as a bad blogging platform. I blog on Joomla, but I don’t need all the bells and whistles, so up until now I’ve been fine with the limitations. It’s easy enough to run WordPress on Joomla — the guys over at corePHP make a highly acclaimed (pay-to-play) widget that’ll do just that, and since my client’s blog is brand new, there’s no existing content to worry about.

But. Perhaps it’s time for me to move to WordPress — and I have a couple of clients with large existing blogs that might want to make the move as well. So I looked for a migration tool, and found very little until I came across this site, that seems to offer exactly what I’m after. I’ve got some old 1.0.15 sites to move, as well as some 1.5.9 sites, all of it into (preferably) WP 2.7.1 installs so I don’t have to futz with subsequent upgrades just to get current. Nice to see that the Open Source community still delivers — both Joomla and WordPress are phenomenal tools, and between them I believe they can cover pretty much any and all online communications needs.

Wild Business Plan

What a weird way to try to make a living. Some bozo called shawnwilson54[at]googlemail.com just emailed me:

Hi,

I wondered if you would be interested in buying the .COM version of your domain name willowschool.us for $195 ?

Let me know.

Shawn.

Now, here’s the thing. That domain name is publicly available. I just registered it thru my usual registrar for a whopping ten bucks. As I wrote to Shawn:

Hi Shawn,

The answer is “no”: I would not be interested in buying the name for $195. But thx so much for the reminder. I totally forgot to lock that domain down the last time I was out shopping. Just got it for $9.99 — almost 95 percent off the rather exorbitant “asking price”. Wat a bargain, and what a great and interesting service you offer!

How this pays his bills I have no idea. Reminds me of the Underpants Gnomes.

Stripping HTML in Joomla 1.5.8

Sigh.

I love Joomla. I live and breathe Joomla these days, and it’s a great tool for making great websites. But sometimes you have to wonder what the hell the amazing crowd of altruistic coders are thinking. In Joomla 1.5.8 (as a significant change from 1.5.7 and earlier) you’ll suddenly see embedded HTML tags be stripped with no warning from your content.

It’s no doubt a necessary security precaution, but it’d certainly be nice to at least receive a heads-up by the system: “thx for making that edit to the headline, but, uhm, I took the liberty to also screw up the entire page by ripping out that Flash video you’d painstakingly embedded a year ago. I hope you can figure out how to recreate the specs, ’cause it’s gone now. Kthxbai.”

Here’s the fix to the problem — not particularly intuitive by any stretch of the imagination, but at least there’s a fix.

Service — What a Concept!

big thumbs up for slim devices!I recently got a Slim Devices Duet/Squeezebox player to replace my aging and annoyingly incompetent Roku Soundbridge. The Duet is an awesome little toy with incredible potential — the ability to stream a Pandora station thru your regular speakers around the whole house is pretty cool. My little gadget had some startup trouble, however. While it would connect to my wifi router with security off, it did not want to play nice with my WPA encryption turned on. I fiddled and fuddled and searched the forums, but came up blank.

So, finally, I bit the bullet and figured I’d call SlimDevices’ tech support. An immediate answer — faster than most of my friends — had me on the line with a techie who was clearly based in the US and knew what he was talking about. We tried a few things to remedy the situation, but I ran out of time before we solved the problem, so I had to hang up.

Today I called back — again, immediate answer, new tech dude who found the notes from the previous call and started troubleshooting right away. Within five minutes we’d solved the problem (the Duet really only likes 802.g networks, not variable protocol 802.g/n) and I was up and running. Just phenomenal. I mean, it should be the standard, but most other outfits will spend the first 10 minutes showing their incompetence by asking irrelevant questions or trying to fill their direct mail database before they actually bother listening and solving the issue.

Huge props to SlimDevices and Logitech for this; it appears they’ve realized that they can win loyal customers by spending a bit extra on service — it’ll pay off in this instance: I’m a Duet evangelist now, and will probably have converted a couple of people before the new year. Amen to that.

Smut-free Internet… Why? How?

You read this story about outgoing FCC chairman (and GOP partisan hack supreme) Kevin Martin’s ludicrous plan to push a wireless internet option that would be free of porn, and the first thought that leaps to mind is of course: has that poor man *ever* been laid? Then you wonder what kind of thought-police would be employed to determine what is porn and what is not.

We’ve already seen how the zealous internet filters forced on schools and gullible parents don’t work: they filter out information on breast cancer (ew, it mentions boobs — away with it!) and information for teenagers on safe sex (ew, teenagers having sex — away with it!) and anything else the finger wagging wankers from the Holier-than-thou Church of self-righteousness deems repulsive. Mission creep sets in: suddenly it’s that other site critical of censorship, or the blog of the guy who said something nasty about the Preznit on TV. Not to mention that the whole filtering process slows things down tremendously. It can’t be done. Besides, we don’t need another internet — we’ve already got one, and last time I checked it was free.This article provides great analysis of the whole notion of Internet censorship and points out why that isn’t the solution to the underlying problem.

Now, if the FCC would just focus on keeping it that way and stop the big telecom players from forcing us to pay them for their lousy content, we’d be all set.