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

cycles of improvements

A good friend of mine shared something with me that was really cool.  Surely, you’ve heard to TED Talks. In case you didn’t here’s a brief description:

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and Open TV Project, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.

And that’s taken right from their website.

I honestly don’t watch enough of them.  Some of videos I seen are “knock-yer-socks-off” type of good.  Most everything I’ve seen so far has been really inspiration.

So, my friend shared with me, TED Curator Chris Anderson on Crowd Accelerated Innovation, which was featured in Wired. I’ll embed the accompanying video here. I think both the article and the video have profound impact. Anderson’s video focuses on videos, but I feel the same sentiment can be applied towards Twitter and Facebook, and other social media outlets.

What I find interesting, is the concept of people who have passion and are self-taught, can raise the bar on those classically trained.

Innovation is hard work; it based on 100’s of hours of research, practice… abscense of desire… it’s not going to happen…

– Chris Anderson

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… 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.

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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.

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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.

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:


//
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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

non-traditional resume help

Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of proofreading of resumes from people who are close to me.  I really love helping people I care about since there are only a few things someone can do to really make their resume stand out among the sea you get, especially in this economy.

I’ve been a hiring manager for many years and since I was laid off in 2007 I had the pleasure of going through the interview process many, many times. I would be hard pressed to call myself an expert, but I am surprised at how much people don’t generally know.

When I got laid off, I had been at the same company for more than 12 years, and I didn’t have much of a network, social or otherwise, to speak of.  As I’ve said before, before it was called social networking, it was called, “managing your online presence.”  Social Networking sounds a little cooler, but the premise is the same.

A couple of things became really clear to me when I was laid off.  First, I was way off on how much I thought people were connected or dependent on the Internet.   I assumed,  incorrectly, that everyone was “connected” and “online.”   There are a ton of people who don’t have broadband internet, who don’t use email for business, etc.  It was a real eye opener.  Second, not everyone is ready or wants to be connected. Who wouldn’t want to drink from this magical fountain, I thought?  Hmm, not everyone, that’s for sure.

Don’t get me wrong, this IS changing as broadband gets cheaper and more accessible, (yes, not everyone can get broadband believe it or not).

I was talking about resumes, wasn’t I?

Okay, let me get back to my point bout being a hiring manager.  Listen to this very carefully.  You’ve heard it before, but hear me now:

Your resume is your first and sometimes only impression you have to make on the hiring manager.

Especially, in this economy, there are many many qualified, top quality candidates out there.   The problem is, most of them have sucky resumes. Yup, I mean it.  For every open position I post, I might get close to 100 resumes to review.  As a hiring manager, I might want to do phone interviews with 10 of them, and bring in maybe four or five for actual face-to-face interviews.  How am I supposed to weed through the stack? Believe me, I have my methods;  I can smell a baked resume, (recruiters love to bake resumes), and as hiring manager I alway try to see life from the candidate’s point of view.  I’m often willing to overlook some of the minor glitches in a sucky resume if I can find some way to relate, but if I can’t… I’m on to review the next one.

Now, in this post, I’m not going to tell you the do’s and don’t of the resume.  There are plenty of resources out there so I’m going to give you the highlights as I call ’em.

  • If you got laid off, and some sort of engagement with an outplacement agency is part of your severance package.. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT!!! It will be extremely valuable.  They might have a resume workshop, give you a chance to network, etc. You never know.  I took advantage of it.  I have talked to many people who decided to blow it off.  I think that was short sighted.  It helped me tons and my I think my resume is pretty good and truthful.
  • You got to be truthful.  Find some examples online of resumes that match what you do.  You’d be surprised what you can find. Personally, I don’t think there is ANY shame in finding a resume example you like and cut and pasting your info into it. Make sure it is YOUR info in the example’s format.
  • Make a text version of your resume.  Be it Notepad on Windows or Textmate on Mac, copy n’ paste your resume into your favorite text editor and make sure it formats well.  Many sites and recruiters require this.  Have it ready beforehand.
  • Keep your resume on Google Docs so you can get a copy anytime, anywhere you can get a Internet connection.  You never know when a lead might come through.
  • Consider having a chronological (traditional) resume and a functional one.  Google the difference.
  • Consider non-traditional places to look.  When I was looking for a job, Craigslist was pretty active.  They say 80% of the jobs are “hidden” and you have to network your way into them.
  • Go to networking events.
  • This was actually pretty cool and I still use it.  Print up some business cards with your personal info on it.  Consider these your “Calling Cards” and carry them with you.  Link to your website, provide your email address, phone number, and an elevator pitch.  Give them out to anyone who might remotely seem like they might be able to help you find a job.

I also got a slew of interviewing tips I might share in the next post.

What other tips do you have? Please share them!

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!

Windows 7 is pretty slick…

Nothing fancy to see here, but I’ve been getting a lot of questions around Windows 7. I figured I’d answer them. I recently attended a Microsoft event here in Atlanta where they handed out full copies of Windows 7 Ultimate. They handed out the 32bit version but I can verify that the same key will work on the 64bit version.

Q. Do you like Windows 7?

A. I love it.  I can honestly say that “it just works!”

Q. Why do you like it?

A. Well, at work I use a Mac, and I know it sounds cliche to say that Windows 7 is very Mac-like, but it is.

Q. Will it work with my system?

A. My PC is best a “franken-puter” that I’ve rebuilt and upgraded parts of it over the years.  Not only do I see a impressive performance improvement, I have yet to manually install any drivers.  Win7 found ’em all. So yeah, I’m willing to bet it will certainly work with your system.

Q. Can you get me a copy?

A. Alas, no.  But if I get some more Google wave invites, I might be able to hook you up with that.

Q. Are you using Antivirus? If so, what do you use?

A. Yes, I am using Anti-virus. You’d be nuts not to.  I am personally using Avast.

Q. Are you aware of anything that doesn’t work with Win7?

A. Yes, I know of a few things that don’t work.  Mainly the only thing I really want to use is VMWare’s VI client.  It will not run under Windows 7, or at least the version I’m using.  I’ll check for an update after I finish this post.

Q. I heard you have to format and reinstall if you are upgrading from WinXP? Is that true?

A. Yes, it is, and you know what? I am SO glad I decided to take the plunge.  I backed up all my users Documents and Settings using the WinXP back up utility and was able to restore them and I am so glad I did. Remember, I said my computer have been rebuilt and upgraded many times. Starting “fresh” allowed me to eliminate a bunch of crap and set some things right.  No regrets! Just plan for it and you’ll be in good shape.

Q. What else have you installed on your “new” system?

A. Since I started fresh, I have installed only stuff that I need. I’ll continue to install stuff as I need ’em, but here’s what I installed so far:

If you got other questions, please let me know! I’m sorry I didn’t have a more catchy post title.

HP iPAQ 310 Personal Navigator

Hoo-boy! I was lucky enough to become an owner of an HP iPAQ310 GPS unit. It’s WinCE based and seems pretty robust with bluetooth and a fair amount of customization available for it. You know I love GPS’s and have had the famous Mio C310x so I am looking forward to playing with this “old friend.”

I kind of feel like my Mio c310x was “Gandalf the Grey” and is long gone, and this HP iPAQ310 comes back to me as the “White Wizard.” Kind of like an old friend, but different, more powerful.

More to come, for sure.