using imagemagick to strip out colors for .png

It took me a while to figure this out but I was happy with the results and figured this might help someone else.  I had about 100 two color .png files that I wanted to change the color on.  I didn’t feel like editing each one by hand in an image editor so I stumbled on imagemagick.

I am on a Mac (OSX) so I installed it via brew:

➜  ~  brew install imagemagick
Warning: imagemagick-6.9.2-4 already installed
➜  ~

As you can see, I had already installed it. It was obvious, but here’s the command I eventually came up with:

convert filename.png -fuzz 25% -fill "#000000" -opaque "#4e9db3" filename_new.png

The infile is obvious. The “-fuzz 25%” seemed to make the entire replacement more thorough. If I went above 25% I found all the colors were replaced. The “-fill” tells imagemagick what you want to use as the replacement color. The “-opaque” is what you are replacing. To make it easier for me, I also outputted my altered file into a sub folder. Here’s how I looped through all the files:

for i in *.png : do
convert $i -fuzz 25% -fill "#000000" -opaque "#4e9db3" done/$i
done

And off it went. I was very happy with this result. You can read more about it here: Replacing Colors in an Image

SEO and Social Media for Non-Profits

seo and social media for non-profits

This year, I’ve been fortunate to be involved with a non-profit organization here in Atlanta, called Vision Rehabilitation Services of Georgia.  My wife is a member of their staff and I have volunteered to help with promote their upcoming fundraising event via SEO and Social Media.  It’s been a great learning experience and I am proud of the results that have been produced so far.

Screen shot from Google Analytics showing improvment

Thankfully, my wife is often my sounding board and she will be the first person to remind me I am talking over people’s heads.  I love technology and all things internet related. Once I get excited about something, I tend to take off or (incorrectly) assume everyone knows what I’m talking about.

consider your audience

Alas, such is not the case.  The good people at VRS are not technical in nature and I’ve done everything from explaining what Twitter is to how to edit the title of a page in HTML.  They certainly haven’t had much exposure to SEO and Social Media. This, I have found, is great since it helps me stay grounded, slow down, take a breath, and really make a difference in helping achieve results.

 

I have found that I learn best when I have a goal in hand and the can put whatever I’m doing to practice.  This is how I learn and improve.

 

I’m no stranger to Social Media and I consider myself more of a rabid enthusiast as opposed to an expert. I was already somewhat familiar with SEO and the over all concepts, but putting it all together for a good cause really helped me grow and be effective.

 

I’ve bought books, signed up for mailing lists, practiced and experimented.

Rinse, Lather, Repeat for success!

(If you read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, you know about opportunity and experience so I think that’s very apropos in this case.)

Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers

finishing touches

I’ve been using an example to illustrate how I feel. The example I’ve been using is that the Internet is a car; I know how to work on the engine, transmission and brakes, and with what I’m learning now I’m learning how to put on the custom, hand-painted pin striping.

I’m not going to go into specifically into SEO or Social Media tips for non-profits because that stuff is already plastered all over the web and can be found in books, but I have really enjoyed my experience and am glad I’m helping a great cause.

 

But is has become clear to me that you have to use both, or that is to say, you should use bothThe sum is greater than the parts and with the various tools available, you can see the results, (whether positive or negative) pretty quickly.

goals

I guess the one piece of advice I can give, is to have a goal.  Whether it is something like “getting people to sign up for the fundraiser,” or “move up in search engine results,” or simply create awareness, you got to have identified what you are trying to do.   SEO and Social Media just for the heck of it, will not work.

 

Oh, and if you are interested in helping our cause and seeing how SEO and Social Media can help a non-profit, check out the Spooktacular Chase, 5k Race in Symrna GA.

 

I’d love to hear any suggestions or questions you have.

 

 

 

 

usb 2.0 not working in windows 7?

Man, I wished I saved some screenshots.

I wasn’t sure when it happened, but I was getting a pop-up whenever I plugged my USB devices in that said, “This Device may be able to perform faster…” and then it said I had no USB 2.0 or Hi-Speed USB connections installed on my system.

It was driving me nuts since I had a combo USB/Firewire PCI-E card installed and my Kindle, iPod, HTC phone, all complained and I was getting slow(er) USB transfer speeds.

I didn’t know what it could be!  I took out the card, blew the dust out, resat the card, etc, re-installed drivers, but nothing made a difference.

Then I read a forum post that said it might be related to the recent Service Pack for Windows 7.

In my device manager, I had three yellow exclamation points next to my USB devices.  The forum post said to delete them from your device manager, reboot, and then Windows 7 would reinstall the right driver.

Sure enough, it worked!

All my yellow "!" are gone!

In looking back through my Google Search History, I see that I saw an interesting thing in my Event Log:

The driver Driverusbehci failed to load for the device PCI

I work with a real sharp Microsoft Engineer and the first place he always looks is the Event Log.

Here’s the forum post that helped me solve this all:

http://www.sevenforums.com/hardware-devices/139441-standard-enhanced-pci-usb-host-controller-not-running.html

 

 

… to the cloud!!!

… to sound cliche.

boo-hoo’ing

So, my precious VMWare node, running on an old Dell 1850 died a couple weeks ago. I lost a drive. I had it set up with RAID0.  Yes, I’ll admit I was over confident. I was surprised how quickly that drive died, but I lost everything. I lost years of work: my SVN repositories, my Asterisk configs, my DNS records, the list goes on.

A good friend of mine said, “It’s time to go to the Cloud; It’s awesome.

He was right. In recent months, I’ve relied heavily on DropBox and more recently on Box.net, and even more recently on Microsoft’s Skydrive, but what was I going to do with my other services?

… back in my day…

It’s been so many years since I’ve run a server in my basement. Even before my kids were born.  I was one of the first people to get aDSL in Atlanta: this was when the phone company still did a truck roll to their customer’s house.  I ran a FreeBSD box, (I think 4.5), that did PPPoE with a really old 10Mbit switch.  Ever since then, I had a box in the basement doing things.  I used to run mail servers, web servers, media servers, network drive, internal DNS, and even an Asterisk PBX.

Continue reading

holding the spoon the right way

At work I’ve been doing some skunk works projects on Enterprise Collaboration, or Enterprise 2.0.  I enjoy setting up new things and seeing how they work and fit together. I also enjoy teaching new things to people and seeing them digest new ideas, so this has been something I’ve really enjoyed working on.

Cisco Networks released Cisco Quad, and I thought the best description I heard was, “When you are at home, you are addicted to Facebook… when you are work, you are addicted to this…”

That sums up my sentiment exactly.

There have been some well intentioned, yet primitive attempts at increasing collaboration across the company… wait… let me rephrase that.  People have been collaborating all long, via primate methods, at least by what has been available.

We have Microsoft’s Sharepoint 2007 in house, and I’ve become very knowledge about it in the last half of the year.  And I do see it as a potential enabler of virtual collaboration, but to me, it seems lacking in several areas.  Granted, our implementation has suffered from stability and usage issues, but it only recently began gaining any noticeable traction almost eight months after it’s initial implementation.

But, it hasn’t been good for sharing media, or spontaneous communication, and I certainly realize the potential is there.  I’ve seen Sharepoint 2010and it is an improvement, but unless it becomes part of our daily habits, or routine, Sharepoint 2010 could still languish.

Continue reading

Making Snow at home!

we had a white Christmas

Well, it is almost that time of year and since here in Georgia, we did get snow on Christmas Day, (the first time since 1882), I thought it might be cool to post my video of me and my brother-in-law making snow last year.   I was surprised at the amount of views this got on Youtube and I’ve been enjoying reading the comments.

I don’t know if we’ll try again this year, but I bet we will.

Enjoy!

winxp mode, virtualbox, and VMware Player

Man, I haven’t posted in a long dang time. I’ve been working on a lot of really different and cool things at work and at home.

backdoor man

The other day, I read a post about using split tunnel vpn on WinXP Mode on Windows 7. I like this idea. Essentially, it is simply setting up a virtual machine, installing VPN software on the virtual machine, and using the virtual machine to VPN into your destination network.

I like it for a couple of reasons:

  • My host OS (Windows 7) continues to do whatever it was doing, (bitorrent, IM, etc).
  • My WinXP virtual machine can be 100% dedicated to work stuff

Don’t get me wrong. For work, I have a really nice Macbook Pro. And in the office, I have all the accessories set up so I can just “plug in” and be productive. But at home, I have a pretty beefy Win7 machine and I like using the big monitor and ergo keyboard.

keep moving forward

I was using LogMeIn to access my Mac from my Win7 desktop, but it wasn’t great. I use Virtualbox on my Win7 desktop with Ubuntu Linux and love it, but the VPN doesn’t work great, so and I really need some of the Microsoft functionality.

So, I tried to get it set up with WinXP Mode and it worked pretty well. I installed Office 2007 and use Ninite to install my typical Windows apps. It worked great.  I used WinXP Mode for a couple of days with work and it was okay; I’ve got no major complaints… except I don’t care for the Virtual PC interface and graphic performance stinks.

At first I ran the VMWare converter utility and I created a Physical to Virtual machine and stored the .vmdk on a different harddrive.  Then I installed the VMWare Player and discovered it had an option already to “import Win XP Mode Virtual Machine.” How cool, I thought!

… and so it begins

Computers sometimes suck.

Computers sometimes suck.

After a few minutes, the import completed and I tried to fire it up.  I got an error message that said, “Unable to connect to this virtual machine. Make sure you have proper permissions…. etc” or something along those lines. Uh-oh, I thought.

So then I went to open the converted image I created and got the same error.  Boo!  At that point, I tried to start Virtualbox and I got an even more cryptic error about some kernel.dll not being able to load.  I assumed it was a conflict between VMWare Player and Virtualbox.  So I uninstalled the VMWare Player.

After a reboot, (to complete the de-installation), Virtualbox started up fine, I opened the .vmdk I created and it did open!  I thought I was making progress.  Then, as I read elsewhere, WinXP Mode wants to reactivate itself under Virtualbox.  I couldn’t even get logged in. Upon attempting to activate, it said my product code was invalid.

success!

Still, I was very intriqued about the VMWare Player’s WinXP import utility so I decided to reinstall it and try again.  This time, after I installed it, I did not reboot my system as the installation process requested.  Instead I tried the import again… and it worked!

It installed VMWare Tools… the only drawback was that it was the original WinXP VM so none of my installed apps or settings were there.  That’s cool, I thought since you always can do something better the second time around!

So right now, I just finished installing my favorite free apps using NiNite, and am installing Office, Communicator, and my companies VPN software.

So far, I can say the experience with VMWare Player is much better than the original WinXP Mode.  The VM is noticably faster and the graphics is very much improved.  My host system is pretty beefy, so YMMV, but here’s my settings for my WinXP VM:

  • Memory: 768MB
  • CPU’s: 2
  • Network Adapter: Bridged
  • Sound Card and Display: Autodetect

Great Success!

You can find the links to all the software I used if you want to play along.

the htpc revisted

Back in the day, a long long time ago, I really got my original Xbox to hack it. Not to play “back up games” but to share and stream media. That’s right, I really wanted to use XBox Media Center to take the content on the Internet out of the computer room, and into my living space.

… and it was good.

I helped others get an original Xbox for streaming media. Most notably, I helped my German brother-in-law get his set up, so his kids could watch German TV and Movies off of the PC.  He subscribed to a German TV service that would allow him to download German TV to his PC. His Xbox and XMBC would allow his family to watch the shows in the living room.

… and he was happy.

Later, I got a Roku M500, and if you had given me a chance to talk about it, I would have told you that it was the coolest thing I had ever bought in my life. I loved this thing.

… and it was great.

But my Roku 500 rolled off the entertainment center and broke. My Xbox got long it the tooth, and our DVD player gave up the ghost and all of a sudden were faced with an opportunity to upgrade to a Blu-Ray.  My wife didn’t want another gaming console, (to which I am referring to the PS3 before you suggest it), and I really couldn’t argue against it. We had heard good things about Samsung Blu-Ray players, but we ultimately had a bad experience with a Samsung BD-P1590. But I had a taste. Streaming Netflix, Pandora, Blu-ray…  If a Blu-Ray player didn’t have Streaming Netflix, I’m not interested.

… and so it began.

So, most everyone will tell you the PS3 is the way to go, and for the most part I would agree.  However, I had a taste of something else.

Since we are down a DVD player, I’ve been hooking my laptop up to the TV via S-Video and RCA jacks into the audio. My laptop is nothing special. It’s running Windows 7. But what is special, is the choice apps I have been running on it:

Boxee

And not to mention, Windows Media Center, (which is also VERY cool!).

After playing with Boxee, XMBC, and Hulu Desktop, Windows Media Center, (part of Win7), on this laptop, I was thinking I wanted more than what the PS3 has to offer for an HTPC. I was floored! They make PC cases that look like audio equipment, so this merits further investigation.

I figure my shopping list would consist of the following, and would consider my current situation and future growth:

  • HTPC Case
  • Multi-core CPU + motherboard
  • Digital audio out, (either on-board or PCI card)
  • Component (w/ HDMI) video output
  • Descent OS: Currently thinking about Win7 but open to other options
  • Wireless keyboard
  • Multimedia PC remote

This set up would totally get me started and be ready for future upgrades, (We still have a really nice rear CRT projection TV with only component-in).  I’d love to hear any other tips or suggestions anyone has. Please let me know your thoughts!

Windows 7 motherboard swap

This is really cool.  If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me rejoicing over my new purchase of a motherboard and AMD CPU at Fry’s this last weekend.

I’ve been upgrading parts of our home Windows desktop and handing down parts to my FreeBSD server and my (now retired) Asterisk server. (The physical hardware has been retired, but the server image lives on my VMWare ESXi server in my basement).   For the longest time, I would have considered myself an Intel man, but honestly I don’t have fanboy tendencies either way.

But I saw my deal at Fry’s this past weekend, I asked my wife if could get executive approval for the upgrade purchase, and she said yes!  Here’s what I got for $149 (plus tax) after rebate:


//
//

Now, I had a rather old Asus Socket 775 Intel based, Via chipset motherboard and a Pentium D 820. That was a dual core CPU and I wasn’t really too happy about the Asus motherboard. I mean, it was okay, but wasn’t great.

In preparation of my upgrade I began researching on what would be the best way to handle replacing the motherboard from under my Windows 7 installation.  In the past, I would try to get a new motherboard as close to as what I was replacing, and then make the swap, and do a repair installation of WinXP.

I cruised around a couple of the more popular Windows 7 forums and the consensus I was getting was that I should do a “new installation.” The installation process would create a Windows.old and I would have to reinstall and restore my files, (yes, I do have backups).  Then I saw something that blew my mind…

One forum poster claimed that he swapped motherboard and Windows 7 impressively detected the changes and proactively installed the necessary drivers for the new motherboard and after a reboot, he was as good as new.

It’s true.

I decided to try this. With the expectation that at the worst, I would do a “new install” of Windows 7.  I made my swap of the motherboards, plugged everything in, hooked up the bare minimum, (keyboard, mouse, network, monitor), powered it on, went into the BIOS and set my C: drive to the first boot device and let it rip!

It worked.

As proof, here’s a video of my upgrade. I took the chance that it would work, and recorded it with my Flip HD.  The whole thing took 16 minutes from start to finish, but I edited my video down to six minutes.

As you can see, after the reboot I was back in business with quad-core goodness! And here’s a video of me updating my Windows 7 User Experience Index:

Notice my CPU index went from 2.2 to 7.2! Now to be clear, I did have some minor clean up issues:

  • I had to uninstall my ATI Radeon drivers since I wasn’t using that card any more.
  • I did have to install some drivers from the included CD
  • I did have to flash the BIOS to the latest
  • I did have to use the automated Microsoft Activation via the phone, but it was painless.

Overall, it was an exceptional experience!  I never thought I would have a quad-core CPU at home, and I certainly never thought Windows 7 would continue to be this awesome!

Finally, this worked wonderfully.  Here’s a comparison of what I went from and what I went to:

Old Setup New Setup
  • Intel Pentium Dual Core CPU
  • VIA Chipset
  • ATI Video Card
  • AMD Quad Core CPU
  • Nvidia nForce Chipset
  • Nvidia Onbard Video

the family wiki

I’m surprised about this. I’ve been posting on Twitter and Facebook how I was installing the Confluence at home and several people specifically asked me if I would blog about it. After running everything for a week, I’m finally ready to put it up.

So, what is a wiki (from wikipedia):

wiki (pronounced /ˈwɪki/ WIK-ee) is a website that allows the easy[1] creation and editing of any number of interlinked Web pages, using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor, within the browser.[2][3] Wikis are typically powered by wiki software. Wikis are often used to createcollaborative websites, to power community websites, for personal note taking, in corporate intranets, and in knowledge management systems.

We have used one at work for years and it’s an important tool for documentation and for keeping important things for a group out of someone’s email box. I’ve gotten to rely on it.  My wife has been working with a company and keeping notes on a running Word doc, and I’ve been really wanting to set up a wiki for at home.  The challenge was that I don’t think my wife is willing to learn wiki markup language while trying to work, so I needed something that was as easy to edit and create as Word is.  At work we’ve used Confluence, which is an enterprise class wiki.

What is Confluence?

Confluence is a simple, powerful wiki that lets you create and share pages, documents and rich content with your team.

If you’re looking for a better way to collaborate, Confluence has the essential enterprise features for your organisation.

But wait, you say… isn’t enterprise class software expensive?  Right, yes… you are correct.  But the company that makes Confluence offers a license that is palatable for the home users; they offer a 10 user license for $10 a year! You can’t beat that!

the setup

As you may or may not know from previous posts, I have an old FreeBSD box and a VMWare ESXi server on an old Dell 1850 in the basement. I created a new VM using CentOS 5.4.  I installed the latest JRE / Jaa from Sun on it and took off. It didn’t work out so smoothly. Here’s what I did to get everything working.

  • I had to upgrade MySQL on my FreeBSD host to the latest to match the version of the JDBC driver onon the VM/Confluence server.
  • I had to add an option to my MySQL startup so that I was able to update plugins.
    • mysql_args=”–max_allowed_packet=32M”
  • By default, Confluence comes with a version of Tomcat and runs by default on port 8080. I used my router to remap that to 8000 so I had a modicum of extra security. http://my.wiki.com:8000/ <- nope, that ain’t really it!

So if you come any errors with your Confluence plugins, check this option for you mysqld.

now we’re running

So now we are running. Here’s what I did:

  • Created a space for me, my wife, and our family.
  • Created a user group for our family, and a group for the people she’s working with so I can get granular with the permissions
  • Created a space for our family
    • Confluence has a plugin for Google Calendars. We have a family Google Calendar which now displays in the family space.
    • I also have an RSS feed for local weather and news

lessons learned

  • Make sure ALL your versions match up
  • If you are using IE8, to get the rich text editor, make sure you use Compatibly Mode.
  • Have patience with your users. It’s a different way to think about documentation and collaboration.
  • Be very helpful. Comment on the other spaces in positive ways.
  • Learn the macros!
  • Learrn about RSS
  • TAG/LABEL all your posts!
  • Every user must create “their personal space” for blog or news posts. <- allows quick-hit posts!

The performance on the VM is great. In fact it is better than I anticipated. If you were hard pressed you could probably run everything on a single host for just a family.  I love being able to display our Google Family calendar, (you can not edit it).

the result

We use it.  It is really handy and as long as we use it and it’s easy to edit and collaborate, we are in business. If you have questions, suggestions, or comments, let me know!