Sunday, May 20, 2007

Geo Workflow

Geo Workflow
Originally uploaded by sharkbait.
I used to have Aperture setup to import photos when my camera was plugged in, but now I have a GPS that I take on photo trips, I need a new workflow.

Sigurd Buchberger at makes two Automator plugins. One for importing data from a GPS unit or a GPSx file, the other for geo-tagging images with the GPS track data.

Here is a screen shot of my Automator Workflow. It gives you an idea of the kind of thing you can do.

The other option I am looking at is a Workflow that reads straight off the GPS and reads straight off the Camera, which would be triggered by plugging the camera in. I'd need to plug the GPS in first, and use two USB ports.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Credit Card Craziness

I have a credit card through my bank, Nationwide.
I recently forgot to make the monthly repayment on the card.

I started receiving phone calls from an automated IVR system, to my mobile and my home phone, every few hours, asking me to enter personal information. I declined to accept the opportunity to provide my details to a possible phishing scam.

I reported the issue to the bank, via their online secure message system. An hour later I logged in again to see if I had a reply. The original message had mysteriously been deleted.

Curiouser and curiouser.

I finally managed to get through to the Credit Card department and confirm that it was actually them calling me.

They really expected me to respond to a cold call from an automated system by typing sensitive account details into my mobile? This is such a bad idea !!!! It opens up a whole new phishing vector.

Nationwide 'lost' account details of 1000's of their customers recently, in the light of the current onslaught of bank phishing scams, whoever proposed contacting customers in this way must be mad!!

BTW. If you do manage to break into my bank account, could you pay off my overdraft please : )

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Getting there

It is great having access to more and more route planners. The free Google products, my new GPS with European road maps etc.

However, unless you live in an area covered by Google Transit, Google only helps with planning routes for car drivers. My last car was turned over in the Brixton riots in the 1980's and caught fire soon after while driving past Downing Street. So Google's planners are only useful to me on the rare occasions when I hire a car or get a lift.

My Garmin has a route planner that allows you to specify (from an inconveniently deep menu) Pedestrian, Cyclist etc. which is a bit more useful ..... at least I can plan a walking route that keeps me off main roads.

With private transport having such a high environmental and geo-political cost, the time has come for public transport route planners.

Take London for instance, Rail, Tube, Bus, Tram & Ferry all run under the auspices of Transport for London. Even bus stops have a display telling you which buses are on their way and how long they will take to arrive. TfL have a nice little planner online, but it could go much further.

If a combination of routes, timetables and live-tracking data could be made available to GPS-based devices, public transport route planing would become a reality.

Imagine your hand-held GPS being able to warn you : "If you don't leave home in 5 minutes you will miss your bus and be 15 minutes late for work". Or your in-car GPS on nearing a Tube station on your route, telling you how much money and carbon dioxide you'd save by parking here and taking public transport.

Why stop at London, I'd like to see this for the whole UK, or any region that has a reasonably well integrated public transport system.

If halting the effects of global warming requires concerted action from every individual, then we individuals need to tools to help us do that. Smart public transport route planning could be one of those tools.

Food for thought, Mr Livingstone ?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Where am I ?

I finally bit the bullet and bought a gadget I have been bursting for, for years, a hand-held GPS. I have little real need for one, but I am a map fetishist (you should see the maps on every wall of my flat!!).

Support for GPS on Macs has never been great, which is why I have held off so long, but Garmin is beginning to fix the situation by releasing the first of a few necessary applications (no map uploads yet).

I bought the Garmin GPSmap 60CSx, with a European streetmap on a Mini SD card. It uses USB, where there is even less support on the Mac, because Garmin never released a driver. However, surprisingly several shareware/freeware products (see below) can access it.

I am (mostly) very happy with the device ...... there are some problems though ...... doing postcode lookups is often not reliable, Garmin tech support say it is impossible to backup the expensive data on the Mini SD card etc. etc.

My main usage so far has been route navigation and geotagging photos.

Nick and I drove down to Cornwall for Easter, we used my GPS for navigation, it was impressive ..... smooth and intuitive. Nick said it worked a lot better than his older unit, specially inside houses and cars.

When I go out taking photographs, I take the GPS. I set it up to record my track. When I get home I can merge the GPS track and the photos, to add location info to the photos meta data. TIP: Take a photo of your GPS's time display before you start, so you know the time difference between them.

Here is some of the software I have been using :

The wonderful GoogleEarth Plus ($20 paid-for version). Adds a GPS Menu under Tools that reads tracks, waypoints and routes from your GPS and plots them in GE. Why on earth Google did not implement WRITING TO THE GPS I have no idea (hey guys please fix this!!).

I started adding my favourite restaurants around Brixton to the GE Community (I hope I can still get a table).

The venerable Swiss Army Knife of GPS, GPSBabel can read and write to the unit plus convert between file formats, it even has a half decent GUI wrapper.

There is a pretty looking geotagging tool called HoudahGeo, you can use it to merge GPS tracks with photos.

There are some Automator plugins for reading GPS data and geotagging photos, I have not tried them yet, but hopefully soon I can get around to making an application that will automatically download my photos and tracks, geotag and import the photos into Aperture.