Hello my dear friend! I’m a pure student…

This cracks me up.  I have been getting a ton of spam comments from the .ru TLD, and it always begins with either:

Hello my dear friend! I’m a pure student…

Or

Interesting CMS. What software do you use?

Or some variant of the above.  C’mon, guys, if you are going to try and trick me, you got to do better than that. At this point, I am almost insulted at this feeble attempt.  But that’s not really what I wanted to write about.

Tonight I’m sort of reflective. So much as happened since I last posted. Certainly some of it is good, some of it is exciting, and some of it has certainly been a challenge.  I spent the last 30 minutes trying to find a Youtube vid that represents my mood, but unfortunately, I think the risk of misunderstanding is too high, so therefore, I refrain.

I usually post about technology or funny things, but so much has been queuing up, it’s hard for me to decide where to begin.

  • I am still madly in love with my T-Mobile G1, the Google/Android based phone.  I saw that Google had an Éclair delivered to their office: Each release of the Android OS has been named after pastries: Cupcake, Donut… Éclair is rumored to be Android 2.0…
  • I actually had my first Corny Keg experience with my homebrew in anticipation of our neighborhood Oktoberfest.  Pics and vids to follow, (it’s this weekend).
  • I’ve been rehabbing a rental house in my spare (but limited) time.
  • I’ve been learning Python, (but had to use Perl in a recent pinch).
  • More and more people are asking me for help with Trixbox and Cisco SIP phones.
  • I’ve been to HP HQ in Houston, TX for an executive briefing; I was blown away and met some really cool people.
  • I am meeting with Cisco regarding their UCS offering.
  • I’ve been meeting with Microsoft (and attend the ‘Technical Decision Makers Launch’ of Window 7, Server 2008, and Exchange 2008.
  • I am planning on attending the VMWare Users group event in Atlanta on November 5th, 2009.  Maybe I’ll see ya, there?
  • I’ve been enjoying Google Wave! (Sorry, I haven’t been able to send out invites, yet… so don’t ask!)
  • I have a new WinCE based GPS that I am hacking, (oh yeah, I forgot about this, but it’s a big ‘un!).

So I’ve been busy, but it’s been good. Any of the above items could be a separate blog post.

I’ve been really impressed with Google Wave.  It ain’t perfect yet, but I see the potential of it.  I might even go as far to say that it could be Email 2.0 but I probably need to elaborate on that.  Along the same note, I wonder if Twitter is the new USENET.  <- If you don’t get that, don’t worry about it. But if you want my highly entertaining, hand waving monologue on this, let’s meet for a beer!

G1 Update – training

A couple of things I love about my G1 is that I have been using it as a training aid.  It’s really great.

  • I use it as a stop watch.
  • I use it to map my runs and my rides
  • I use it to listen to streaming audio when I’m outside
  • I use it to collect stats about my routes

The two apps I use the most for training are CardioTrainer and StreamFurious.

CardioTrainer is really slick.  You can choose your various types of workouts, have it report back to you your intervals and pace.  It will overlay your route on Google Maps and when done give you stats like elevation, overall pace, etc.   Then it will upload your route to their website and if you were so inclined, it will put it on your Facebook profile.

Now, while I am running, I could be listening to my mp3’s but what I love to listen to is streaming audio from the web.   Specifically, I enjoy listening to Radio Paradise via Stream Furious.

You can listen to RP using just about any computer audio player, and on a wide variety of other devices, including iPhones, Blackberrys and Windows smartphones. You don’t need to register with us in order to listen, and we don’t charge subscription fees — even for our highest-fidelity streams.Speaking of high fidelity, we pride ourselves on providing some of the best-sounding audio you’ll hear anywhere. Try one of our high quality streams (192k MP3 or 128k AAC) on a good pair of headphones or a decent audio system. We think you’ll be impressed. Several of the world’s most respected audio engineers and producers have given RP’s audio quality an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

How do we do all of this without charging subscription fees or inflicting advertising on you? The key is in those two words underneath our name at the top of the page. We do our very best to keep you entertained, and if we succeed we ask you to send a little support our way. Click theSupport RP link for more information on how that works. You can also send support our way by shopping at our Affiliate Merchants (Amazon, iTunes, and many more) or by buying some of our Shirts & Stuff . Thanks a bunch.

Instead of using the phone’s headset, I use iPod headphones so I don’t have to have the Lose Weight Exercise of the mic bouncing around.

It’s neat to realize that I have this going on my phone while I am out running.

I also started using DailyMile.  I used to use Gyminee, but since I started doing Crossfit, I didn’t have a great way to record my workouts in Gyminee.  So now that I am running regurlary again, I plan on using DailyMile.

Fitness Training Log

So couple my phone with my HRM, (heart rate monitor), I got some really powerful training tools.

Theremin

Holy geez, I wan to build a theremin something fierce.   I have ALWAYS been fascinated by this.  I also want to build my own RDS-TMC traffic receiver.  It can’t be that hard.  Probably the hardest part is finding the right parts.

Leon Theremin playing one.

Leon Theremin playing one.

R.I.P Mio, Hello TomTom

First off, let me first apologize for not posting more frequently.  I’m sorry.  I’ve been really busy with my not-so-new job, (which I love and am thankful for), but the our son is already back in school and I’ve been wrapping up some consulting gigs that I had lingering.

Having said that, you might remember that I posted that my Mio c310x died.  The touch screen stopped working.  Mio said it would cost $100 for repairs.  Honestly, that’s a tough pill to swallow so I decided that I will sell my old Mio on Ebay for parts.  I got a bunch of Mio-specific accessories.

So I was in the market for a new GPS.  My Dad had a Garmin, which was okay.  I still like the MioMap software better, so I was still looking at my options.  I didn’t really care for Bluetooth, or even Text To Speech (TTS), so I settled on the TomTom XL 330 that was on sale at Fry’s.

I’ll do a full blown review later, but the one thing that I think is really neat, is that there is both Mac and Windows TomTom software.  I have died and gone to heaven!  The first night I got my TomTom, I really messed it up.  I had to go in and delete files and restore the core OS on it, (it runs linux) and other than that, I am really happy with it.  My only beef with it, is that there is no SD slot and I am wondering what will happen when I want to install European maps on it.

I would also like to try to make my own RDS-TMC receiver for it.  I don’t think it would be too hard to make since it sounds like a slightly more complex crystal radio.

I’ll post here when I list my Mio on Ebay.  I also want to thank all of you who come here looking for Mio hacking tips and other GPS related info.  I am glad you have all found it useful.

Don’t get me wrong, if Mio had fixed my c310 I’d still be using it, but $100 is alot when I can get newer technology for just a little more and there seems to be some thing afoot that may prevent any updates to MioMap.

Thanks everyone for being patient with me.

a kiss of death for Mio?

Notice, I said “a kiss of death,” not “the kiss of death.”

Mio really screwed up. They made enemies for life.

If you’ve been coming here to learn about my Mio c310x and hacking it, you’ve probably either seen here or on some of the forums that Mio has been promising a map update for some time. First Mio said it would be Q1, then spring, then June, then July.

People were speculating the updates should be free or minimal in cost. Other’s said, “Hey, you got a great GPS unit for ~$150 – $200; why would you expect an update for free?” Either way, they release the map update on July 16th, I think. You had two options to get the update:

  • Find a copy at your local Circuit City for $14.95 + tax
  • Buy directly from Mio for $14.95 + $9.95 shipping and handling.

Both options are reasonable. But I’m a cheap sonuvabitch and would have gladly waited until I could find a copy locally. Many people, however, gladly ordered directly from Mio and paid the $9.95 shipping and handling fee.

Then, everything starts going downhill.

If you view the last 20 pages or so from this thread you can see what happened and continues to happen:

This reads a lesson in “How to turn off customers for life.” I’ll save you from reading the entire thread and give you the highlights:

  • Order page had many problems:
    • couldn’t handle the initial load
    • one of the domain names referred to in the “order confirmation” letter hadn’t even been registered yet; people were worried they were being phished.
    • emails to Mio bounced, again inflaming security concerns
  • Customer service is giving conflicting answers (if you can get through). Many reported getting busy signals when trying to call in, (seriously what company gives busies in this day and age?).
  • Of those folks that ordered early most got their order after four weeks, many still haven’t gotten it despite paying almost $10 for shipping.
  • Email inquiries go unanswered.

There were some people who had reported problems with the actual upgrade, but you are always going to have some hardware issues. And thankfully these people that have had problems are getting more help from the forums than the actual company.

Most people are pissed off since they feel like they paid a premium for shipping at a steep $10 when USPS Priority mail is around $4 and would have been delivered in three days. However, Mio in its wisdom shipping these DVD’s via Media Mail (from USPS):

Media Mail® service is a cost efficient way to mail books, sound recordings, recorded video tapes, printed music, and recorded computer-readable media (such as CDs, DVDs, and diskettes). Media Mail can not contain advertising except for incidental announcements of books. The maximum Lose Weight Exercise for Media Mail is 70 lbs.

The USPS website doesn’t say how long shipping something Media Mail will take. But I will say I have had books shipped this method. It’s really, really, cheap and the book took about three weeks coming from California. So the perception from the customer is “Hey, I spent $10 extra to receive my update, yet Mio sent it the cheapest, longest way possible.”

In my line of work, I’ve learned long ago that honesty is the best policy when dealing with customers. So when people call into Mio to get an update, cancel their order (since they can get it at Circuit City now), they get the run around, different answers depending on whom they talk to. They feel like they are being lied to.

The problem with the website flaking out lends the impression that Mio just doesn’t have their act together.

Now, I think the old saying, “You can have it cheap, good, or fast but not all three” is applicable here. At least the update is cheap, but it certainly wasn’t fast and seeing how Mio is treating the customers over this, I wouldn’t say it was good, either.

I can see how something like this happened. Someone there thought all of this sounded good to ship the DVD’s via Media Mail, saying the company money but not realizing how long it would take to get them in peoples hands. The customer service reps are more or less left holding the bag and are having to deal with angry customers and they might be trying to do their best in trying to appease them, but it isn’t a coordinated effort and not all the reps are telling the same story. So you got angry customers, public forums on the Internet, folks screaming to the BBB and it begins to all slide downhill.

One time, something similar happened at work. There was a major mailing that was going out to a specific group of customers. It was some software and manuals. The list of contcts was in an Excel spreadsheet and was >5,000. The spreadsheet had columns for name, house number, street, city, state, zip, etc., Someone tried to sort the column for house number, but DID NOT expand the sort to include the street name. So the house numbers got sorts but not the street name so ALL the addresses got horribly borked. The mailing went out USPS Priority and ALL came back. There were mail bins upon mail bins of return packages. And these were printed materials with a custom letter for each recipient. It all had to be redone. What a mess. That’s the sort of mistake you never make twice, (unless you are truly a dumbass), and since I just heard about it, I am always careful when I sort my spreadsheets.

So, what does this mean for Mio? Because they haven’t come out and addressed or even acknowledged the customers’ frustration, they’ve made enemies for life. Or at least people who will never ever buy another Mio product again. I can’t say I blame them. Mio has some really slick GPS products but people would rather buy from a company that they feel like supports them. They had a golden opportunity to turn these customers into die-hard fans. The promise was good; a reasonably priced upgrade and everyone was willing to pay for it. They were even excited about it and were willing to forget about the long delays. Now they feel like they’ve been kicked in the teeth and some of those folks that were willing to pay for a legitimate upgrade will upgrade their units by “other means” without paying for it. They’ll be force underground.

What Mio should have done? They should have came out and said they made a mistake. They should have refunded everyone who paid the extra money for shipping or at least offered to credit anyone who called in. The call center reps should have been prepared with an official statement from the management saying yeah, they made a mistake and for your trouble we’ll refund your shipping costs. They should stop sending upgrade DVD’s via bulk Media Mail and either send it via normal or Priority USPS.

Something similar happened with TigerDirect a while ago. Tiger Direct did some sneaking things with customers long ago; if you ordered from them they also signed you for some long distance promotion, people have had problems with their rebates, etc. Personally, I have never ordered from them. But if you visit any of the “hot deal” forums, people are quick to turn away whenever a deal comes up from TigerDirect. They still have a damaged image from something that happened years ago. Based on their history and their perception, some people choose to stay away, even if it is a legitimate hot deal. I’m included in that boat. I simply choose not to do business with them.   I don’t have a particular axe to grind with TD, by the way.

  • Tiger Direct Sucks.org
  • RipOff Alert I
  • RipOff Alert II

Is this the fate of Mio? Potentially. I think they have a chance to pull it out, but that window of opportunity is getting smaller as time goes on. Will I still do business with Mio? Yeah, I probably would. I believe in their technology and being in an industry that deals with customers myself, I can sort of understand what happened. I hope they do what is right.

This really won’t kill the company as I said they have great products.  But they blew a chance to develop die hard fanatics who would always talk up their products and claim to be loyal customers.

wordpress upgrade and other things

So, with the release of WordPress 2.2, I took the leap and updated tonight. It went really smooth and I seem to think there might be a performance gain, but it could be the vodka. You might have noticed that I am using the K2 theme, which has a slight issue with WP 2.2. You can get the fix here. It worked as advertised. If you are using WP-Cache you probably need to delete your root out of the cache to see the change.

Today, I was really glad I had my GPS unit, the Mio c310x. Twice today, I had to get somewhere fast and having the GPS let me bypass traffic and cut through other neighborhoods. It was cool saying, “hey, this is a load of crap… I’ll turn here…” and get me around the BS. Today in Atlanta, there was really heavy rain around the very beginning of rush hour and that set traffic home off to a terrible start. If only we had TMC like Europe has then is would trump Google! Maps on my Treo. I don’t think the c310x has the support for TMC, but that might be something to consider in my next GPS purchase.

BTW- I’ve done a considerable amount of stuff to my Mio over the last few weeks. Unfortunately, I don’t feel comfortable talking about them here. Let’s just say I am ready for a trip to Europe…

With regards to the Cheap-o HTPC, I’ve come to the conclusion and recommended to my brother-in-law, that an original XBOX is the way to go. For roughly under $100US you can find one on Craigslist, Ebay, or at a local pawn shop and easily hack it and put XBMC on it. He’s not a big game player, so he’s really only interested in the media capabilities. I’ve suggested a couple of places for him to find one and offered to hack it for him, so I’ll update as time goes on.

I also noticed that Trixbox 2.2 is out now. My Trixbox server is 2.1. I honestly don’t know if I’ll upgrade since it’s one of those things; if it ain’t broke… don’t fix it! If you read the thread over in the Trixbox forums, there is a way to upgrade despite what the first post says. We’ll see.

I’ve also been learning a lot about the business side of this. More on that, too.

Finally, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about innovation and technology and how it affects my and my family’s life. I’ve started writing up a doc highlighting some of the key points, but I am not sure what I plan to do with it when I’m done. Maybe I’ll post it here… but I wouldn’t count on it.

foobarred POI’s on my Mio c310x

Man, I really messed it up. Hopefully, by reading this you’ll avoid the problems I had. First a little background. I am drinking wine from Aldi’s and have been messing with this darn GPS unit for some time. Wait, before you go further, you should be aware of my other posts regarding POI’s on the Mio c310x:

Now, I should point out that I just heard a song from Ian Brown and now Cat Power is playing. She’s awesome. (a little known fact amongst Comcast HSI users is that you get a free subscription to Rhapsody. If you ain’t using it, you deserve a punch in the stomach.)

So, back to my problems with the POI’s… I tried installing ALL of the Starbucks in the US and it caused me to exceed the available space I had on my unit (internal memory, not the SD card). The file was truncated and several of my POI’s had zeroed out coordinates. For awhile there, every time I tried exporting / importing the iGO database, I was getting errors from IGO POI Explorer. I was just about to do a hard reset when I had a thought..

Via ActiveSync, I renamed the existing iGO.db to iGO_old.db and I copied over a db from yesterday. I then restarted the unit and it saw the db just fine. When I started up iGO POI Explorer, it imported / exported the db just fine. I must of had some corrupt data in the existing db.

I added the various POI’s I wanted to and I tried something different:

  1. If you are using iGO POI Explorer (Beta) AND ActiveSync, I think this will make sure you have the latest file.
    1. File -> Export -> iGO Database to device (via ActiveSync)
    2. It should work.
    3. Restart MioMap (I realize now that it is NOT necessary to restart the whole device, rather just MioMap should be fine).

I was worried I would have to do a hard reset, but alas, all is well.

POI’s on the Mio c310x, part II

Just when you think you got it licked, someone builds a better mouse trap. Or at least another way to skin the cat. All snappy sayings aside, I came across this post over that the GPSPassion site:

In case you don’t feel like clicking over there, allow me to give you the reader’s digest version. OhMioMy came up with a way to quickly generate LAT and LONG from a .csv file, presumably from your contact database. Aside from that, it’s very similar to the directions I posted the other day:

He points out some different tools. I have to say, that I think it’s a good way to go about it, but I think I can simplify it even more.

A lot of this is from OhMioMy’s post so I am certainly not taking credit for his work but some of my steps are different.

First, check out this site, which uses Yahoo!’s GeoCoding API.

In step one, you can download an Excel template. Do that and you can see the format. Remember, that I was focusing on trying to help Realtors with the challenge of showing homes in an efficient manner. Here in Georgia, real estate professionas have access to either FMLS or Georgia MLS. Since I am a Realtor myself, I have access to FMLS. I checked and even though you can view available houses on a map, they don’t have any way to export addresses to a file. (If either MLS site would like my expert consulting advice on this, please let me know! lol) Therefore, I think the best you could do is to copy & paste the address info into this template found on batchgeocode.

So, let’s try this out and see if it will work as well as I think it would. In my previous post, I suggested you put your addresses in Google Earth. How about just putting your addresses in the Excel template. You can download the info I put in the sheet for this example here:

  • Excel Example Atlanta

So here’s what I did. I had the Excel file opened, selected my info and copy and pasted into the page on http://www.batchgeocode.com/. I did step three which is to validate my data, and it found what it was supposed to, (since it was “tab” delimited). I ran step 5, and the Geocoding magic happened and it looks good. I see my LAT and LONG fields. The map the site generated looks pretty good, too.
&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;br /&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; Sorry. If you’re seeing this, your browser doesn’t support IFRAMEs.&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;br /&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; You should upgrade to a more current browser.&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;br /&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt; Notice that you can save or export the file into a Google Earth kml file; do it! I picked “Save to Disk” so it wouldn’t open up Google Earth. Now, connect your unlocked Mio to your PC and let ActiveSync do it’s thing. At this point, you should now have IGO POI Explorer open. Then Import the “Google Earth KML file (*.kml; *.xml).” In my case, it downloaded to my default folder and was called “BatchGeocode.kml” so make sure you find it. No problem, POI Explorer imported it and it looks fine. The comments field are a little wonky, but I can live with that.Note; I had some problems when I fired up iGO POI explorer before ActiveSync. I was able to “restore” the database and finally import my POI’s… YMMV!
You should see something like the following:

At this point I’d rename “BatchGeocode” to something that makes sense. Sticking with the theme, I’ll pick “ATL Example.” Then, drag & drop into the “iGO POI Database” top level. At this point, I’d restart the c310x twice just to make sure the iGO.db syncs up. Keep the POI explorer open. Sure enough the POI’s were imported and now on my Mio:

 

POI import

POI import 2

So, I think this works well, and is perhaps easier and more light Lose Weight Exercise than using Google Earth. I hope this helps and comments are welcomed.

POI’s on my mio c310x

Update 240407: Be sure to check out some updated instructions in this earlier post: POI’s on the Mio c310x, part II! Both ways work, it’s up to you!

My sister-in-law recently bought a Mio c310x from Frys.com; they have them for $189 free shipping, (until supplies last). It’s different enough from her old(er) Garmin, there is a steep learning curve. I guess if you get used to one UI, then it might make it more challenging to learn a new one. I was over at her house tonight trying to show her how to input POI’s, Points of Interest, into her Mio via the PC. It was a little challenging since I began to forget how I set it up and by the time I got it going we had to leave. So I promised her I would write something up. This should help you get up and running for adding your POI’s quickly and painlessly. First, you need some things before you begin:

(Leah, if you are reading this, you are already past this point. You got everything you need!)

By the way, I should mention that as Realtors, I am keeping that sort of functionality in mind. The overall goal is to make a list of properties or addresses and visit each one in the most efficient manner. Oh, and this is all Windows based. So far, I haven’t seen any way to do this on a Mac.

I’m not going to get into the how-to’s to install ActiveSync or the rest of the software. Here’s what you need to do once you get all the mentioned software installed.

  1. If you haven’t already created and save a POI on the c310x itself. You need to do so. the iGo software looks for a specific database file that doesn’t exist until you do. Simply go into the “Map View” or similar (depends on what skin you are using), and find an address. If you are in the Map view, you should automatically get the bottom menu that pops up and says, “Save POI.” If you save it, you will have your iGo.db file that we need to have initially on your device.
  2. Fire up Google Earth. Select “My Places” and select “Add” and choose “Folder.” Name the folder something useful. In my example, I named my folder “List of POIs.” Next, in “Search” box, make sure the “Fly To” tab is selected. Enter your address here.
  3. As Google Earth zooms in, you should see your address in the lower pane in the “Search” box. You can click and drag that entry into the folder you made in step 2. Repeat for the other addresses you want.

  4. Next, you need to export the folder to a file you can read into the iGo POI Explorer.
    1. Right click on your folder from Step 2 above.
    2. Choose “Save As” and pick a place and a name where you can find it and remember what it was called.
    3. You are done with Google Earth… for now. Close it up.
  5. Next, connect your Mio and have it connect with ActiveSync. I would suggest have it connected for the next steps.
  6. Fire up the iGo POI explorer program. If you haven’t gotten it setup yet, go to Tools -> Options and make it look like the following:

  7. Next, import the file you made in Step 4.
    1. In iGo POI Explorer choose File -> Import -> POI’s from File. In the “Files of Types” menu from the Import window, choose “Google Earth KMZ file (*.kmz)”:

    2. The folder now should appear outside the “iGO POI Database.” Drap it into the top level “iGO POI Database so it appears with your other POI’s. After you do this, it should show up in the main tree and all of your addresses you entered are shown as coordinates. Pretty slick if you ask me:

  8. Now, I found I need to restart my Mio twice. How you restart it twice is up to you, but I don’t see the changes unless I do. So, after the second restart, fire up Mio Map. Choose your favorite method of looking at the Map or Cockpit and check out your POI’s:

    display_6.jpg

    display_7.jpg

  9. Notice how the address are ranking from closest to furthest. At this point you can just choose to “route to” the next closest POI. You can set up a “route” if you want. But this should get you going.

Perhaps in my next post, I’ll continue about setting up a route with the various POI’s. I hope you found this helpful.

geocaching and the mio c310x

I said in an earlier post I would write about what I thought was the sweet spot for using the c310x for Geocaching. I can’t believe how much faster and accurate it is than my older eTrex. Around my office I have several geocaches I can walk to in a matter of minutes. I now realize that you can optimize your settings and have a pretty good success rate.

You should know this screen well:

First, I recommend you put your mio into “pedestrian” mode.

Notice that when you select Pedestrian, everything that you’d need in a car is disabled. This is under the Route Options from the main settings menu.

Next, check out your advanced settings:

Pick Route Options. This threw me big time when I first tried to Geocache with this unit. Uncheck “Keep Position on Road.”

This will show your real position. Now, I have been Geocaching in downtown Atlanta, so this has worked well for me.

EDIT 090407: I remembered that the Advanced menu you see “out of the box” is NOT the same as I posted above. I had forgotten that I had installed “MoonBear’s” skin to get a faster fly-over. However, the “Keep Position on Road” option should be on the main advanced menu on a unhacked c310x. His skin is number 8 on the folllowing page:

Since I took these screenshots, I’ve skinned my Mio so my menus now look really different. Good luck!