Spatially and Technically Inclinedhttp://www.quartex.co.zaumbracoSpatially and Technically InclinedenGoogle and Offline map datahttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2010/9/2/google-and-offline-map-data.aspxThu, 02 Sep 2010 00:00:00 GMThttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2010/9/2/google-and-offline-map-data.aspxHad a chuckle today as I was searching for navigation options for my Galaxy S Android phone. While searching I cam across this thread dedicated to the availability of offline maps for the google navigation software - http://www.google.co.za/support/forum/p/Google+Mobile/thread?tid=3634773013544912&hl=en

Dave874 asked:

Are there any plans to make Android Google Maps/Navigation available offline, when internet connection is not available?

I love Android Google Maps, but I'm frustrated that it always requires an internet connection on my phone. I travel through rural areas quite often where no cell/internet service is available. Its in areas like these that I rely on maps and navigation the most. But I have to rely on paper maps or an expensive GPS to help get me to where I need to go because my Android phone can't get the job done in these areas.
Are there any plans to allow Android users to download offline maps to their phone and use them for navigation when no cell/internet service is available? A stripped-down version (e.g., enter address manually, no POI searches) would be better than nothing. Please tell us this feature is in the works? This is the only feature that is preventing me from using my Android phone full-time for navigation

to which Thom (Google Employee) responded a couple of months later after a multitude of responses:

Hi all,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. The reason I haven't replied directly to this thread is that I and my forum colleagues don't comment on the future availability or functionality for any Google products, including Navigation. That said, the development team and I are very, very aware of the desire to have an "offline" mode for Google Maps Navigation. We're currently exploring options about how to provide a better experience when in limited or no data coverage areas, so please look for changes to Navigation in the future. Thanks for understanding.

Best,

Tom

On the last page Downmarket responded with:

This is amazing. I just google-translated Thom's reply into japanese and back into english again. Here's what came out:
Hello valued person,
you may not be aware, but at Google, people are forced to vacuum clean the server complex if they give away company secrets, so if you've stumbled upon the japanese translation trick, please don't post it, I have a dust allergy.
We are VERY aware (as in: we read your g-mail) that people are terrified of using existing technology ("asking for directions","reading road signs") or cannot afford data prices in rural areas. We have our top brainiacs working around the clock to fix the problem of pre-caching gigabytes of location-based advertisements, but as you can (or probably can't) imagine, this is not so easy. Also, the advertisement-based routing algorithm doesn't quite work perfectly yet (our goal is to make you zig-zag past every existing revenue generator), so our energy is also focussed on this at the moment..
Let me cut to the point. Expect a beta release of offline functionality in Q4. But don't expect a "free" experience. You know why, and we know you know why.
Cheers
Tom

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Samsung Galaxy S (GT i9000)http://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2010/8/30/samsung-galaxy-s-(gt-i9000).aspxMon, 30 Aug 2010 00:00:00 GMThttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2010/8/30/samsung-galaxy-s-(gt-i9000).aspxI have just ownership of the new Samsung Galaxy S, and have to say I am impressed. I was due for an upgrade in April, but the HTC Desire just didn't seem to gel with me, particularly because I knew that the Samsung was due. I was very happy with my previous (then current) Samsung SG-i780, so I decided to wait.

First impression were fantastic. The phone i packaged in a sexy black box with silver embossed writing.

2010-08-30 21.12.44 2010-08-30 21.12.33

As for the phone - thats even sexier, nevermind the 1Ghz processor, the 512Mb Ram or the super amoled crystal clear screen!

image

These type marketing images dont really do the phone justice as you can only get a real grip of what it has to offer by actually using it.

So what's good about it?

1. Android - A fantastic well structured and visually appealing operating system. I have owned 3 windows mobile phones previously, and i am afraid to say that they have missed the curve. By the time that winmo 7 comes out, I reckon close to 50% of the faithful winmo users will have switched to android by then.

But android i just like the iphone? sure it is, except the os is open source, the battery and sd are replaceable, its faster and its not an apple

With Eclair 2.1 also comes a fantastic Home screen. 7 different customisable screen that are clear and easy to customise with all options that you need. Some nice widgets available by default. Normally, I need to download customisations, edit config and XML files and do all sorts of tricks to get my phone how i want it. With this, everything i needed was available out of the box except for  a few minor easily available downloads.

2. Applications - There are a plethora of applications that make your job that much easier. I have already needed to use an RDP app to reboot a server on the weekend when my electricity was off. I was easily able to browse the computer through RDP at a usable resolution of 1280 x 780 with full mouse support.  I was able to easily replace all my regular apps from my i780 with better more functional ones.

3. The screen - the screen is crystal clear and super responsive.

4. the Hardware - yep..its fast.

5. The Phone - lets not forget the phone. It irritates me when you see ads that describe all the functionality of the phone except the actual phone. The phone is clear with big digits. Contacts are easy to find through 3 different mechanisms:

  • Google search bar on the home page - just start typing the contacts name
  • The phone numbers - start typing the number or the associated letter for the name and it will search a combination of number or firstname or lastname
  • The Contacts tab - search or quick access to the alphabet letters to position the contact list at the appropriate letter

Not sure if i like the swipe to answer function though...

Messaging is also easy and SMS messages are presented in a conversation as opposed to a listing of messages - nice concept and easy to follow

6. Synchronisation - As expected, calendar and contacts sync easily and seamlessly with my Outlook. I can also access my email. I would be interested to see if it syncs with 64-bit outlook (although not even winmo phones can sync with 64-bit outlook!)

7. Swype - Typing with Swype is possibly the greatest invention since predictive test. You cannot explain it unless you experience it. Just used it again and typing is fast

8. The Rest - Battery is not terrible if you do the necessary tweaks. Wifi is good. There was a reported wifi problem, but it looks as if 2.1 has sorted that out. GPS works well in what i have tested - although for navigation we dont get voice directions in South Africa (Still need to verify this)

All in all, I am very pleased!

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Microsoft fails me againhttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2010/7/19/microsoft-fails-me-again.aspxMon, 19 Jul 2010 00:00:00 GMThttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2010/7/19/microsoft-fails-me-again.aspxLast month, I wrote about my problems with syncing my windows mobile phone with Outlook 2010 64-bit. I tolerated this, on the hope that it will be corrected/remedied at some point. Added to that it did not directly affect my ability to get my work done. The second issue is a lot more troublesome as it is effecting my ability to get a job done. For some reason, when shipping the 64-bit office, Microsoft decided to not upgrade their common controls to 64-bit (MSCOMCTL.OCX). As a result of this all our access applications that make use of this suddenly do not work, and there is no workaround that i can find quickly. Anyway, since I needed to get something done, and a case of 2 strikes, 64-bit office has now been replaced to 32-bit office. Not ideal, but I have no choice. Microsoft, in future, please make sure you are ready to release software!

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Windows Mobile Device Centre (WMDC) and Outlook 2010 64-bithttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2010/6/4/windows-mobile-device-centre-(wmdc)-and-outlook-2010-64-bit.aspxFri, 04 Jun 2010 00:00:00 GMThttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2010/6/4/windows-mobile-device-centre-(wmdc)-and-outlook-2010-64-bit.aspxRecently, after upgrading my Office to Outlook 2010 64-bit, I plugged my phone in to my standard weekly sync with my Outlook, and up popped a message along the lines of "wrong outlook client". At the same time the sync (or lack thereof) process deleted all my contacts from my phone. After a very quick search I soon dscovered that this is a known problem between WMDC and Outlook 2010 64-bit. The official statement from Microsoft is this:

Question/Issue
"Windows Mobile Device Center (WMDC) no longer syncs with Outlook when 64-bit Outlook 2010 is installed on 64-bit Windows.WMDC also no longer syncs with Outlook if you are using a Click-to-Run installation of Outlook.Upgrading 32-bit Outlook 2007 to 64-bit Outlook 2010 could also result in data loss during first sync with WMDC.

The WMDC will not be upgraded to work with 64-bit Outlook 2010 or Outlook Click-to-Run.

Workaround
"If you need the functionality of WMDC and you have already installed 64-bit Outlook 2010 or Click-to-Run, uninstall Office 2010 and install the standard installation of 32-bit Office 2010.

Otherwise, install the standard installation of 32-bit Office 2010 if you want to continue to use WMDC."

Basically, they released a 64-bit version of outlook and then tell everyone not to install it! and the answer is..wait for Windows Phone 7 that will sync fine. So what do we do in the interim?? I have been forced to now use a 3rd party outlook to Gmail sync, and then sync my phone with gmail, but that is not really a solution.

While they say they are not bringing out a solution, I certainly hope they do, as there are a lot of angry users on the forums currently discussing this very issue!

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Android: MTN 4 Vodacom 0http://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2010/6/2/android-mtn-4-vodacom-0.aspxWed, 02 Jun 2010 00:00:00 GMThttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2010/6/2/android-mtn-4-vodacom-0.aspxMy Vodacom contract has recently come up for renewal, and as usual I started the process of searching for a new phone. My current phone is a Samsung i780, which has served me extremely well over the past two years. As I have been very happy with Samsung, I first looked at what new Samsung had to offer me. Their smartphone replacement on the Windows side is not bad, but with no touch screen, is not really useful (why they did this is beyond me). I was initially focusing my attention on phones with a bar form factor and QWERTY keyboard, but soon realised I needed to broaden my search.

First thing that I did was look and see what else Samsung had to offer, and came across the Android based Galaxy Spica. I have always had Android at the back of my mind, but whilst I was running with my windows based device, I did not look at it in detail. Coming across the Spica really opened my eyes up to Android, and so I went on fact finding mission to identify what phones are available. This led me to fond out the following phones that are available:

  • Samsung Galaxy Spica
  • HTC Magic
  • HTC Tattoo
  • HTC Hero
  • HTC Desire
  • HTC Legend
  • Sony Erricson Xperia X10 (still coming)
  • Motorola Milestone (still coming)
  • Samsung S (still coming)

 

Samsung i5700 Galaxy Spica HTC Desire Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10

The next step was obviously, to see what is available on my service providor, Vodacom. At the time on initial investigation, they were waiting for release of the Desire and Legend, and they had the Magic,Tattoo and Hero range. They did not offer the Samsung and I am not really interested on the Xperia (because of poor reviews). The Magic,Tatto and Hero range are now old phones, so i decided to eliminate them from my shortlist, and rather get a current phone ( I am not sure if you can get them now anyway). Further investigation ensued.

Since, I have been happy with Samsung, I first contacted Samsung and asked when it would be available on the Vodacom Network - April/May I was told. I also followed up with regards to the HTC legend and desire, and according to the folks at AndroidZA website, those would be available mid May.  I must point ot that at that point in my investigation (late April), the Samsung Galaxy Spica and the HTC Desire and Legend were all available on MTN. Goal 1 for MTN. The Samsung had been available a lot earlier. Despite all that, I forgot about it for a couple of weeks and waited for the respective phones to arrive.

When the HTC legend and Desire arrived, they arrived with a hefty  handset price, even on the upper contracts (Talk 500). As we speak (end of May) the pay in for the desire is R1600 on a Talk 500. I prefer not to pay money for my handset over and above the R800 odd that is spent monthly on the contract alone, so this is not an option. At this time I also confirmed that the Samsung Galaxy Spica is not going to be released on Vodacom. Goal 2 for MTN. Around this time AndroidZA published a blog comparing the different prices for Android based phones and the figures were quite alarming. MTN offer the top of the range desire and legend for no pay in fee right down to their Talk 200 equivalent package, while Vodacom is asking anything up to R4000. Goal 3 to MTN.  In fact users on a Talk 200 even have to Pay in R700 for the old and poorly rated HTC Tattoo.

So, right now, if I want a Android based phone on the Vodacom network, I must be prepared to either pay in R1600, or get an old outdated phone. It is only correct of me to mention that Vodacom SP did offer me a R500 discount on the pay in fee (like that is meant to mean something!). The real annoying thing is that if they offered the Samsung, I would take it today!

So now my options are, pay in, wait until the pay in drops to maybe something reasonable like R500, wait for the new Samsung S, or wait for the Xperia X10 (but that has no multi-touch), or go with an old outdated phone!. Gola 4 and match to MTN. Come on Vodacom, get with it!

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Maps on my Bikehttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2010/4/5/maps-on-my-bike.aspxMon, 05 Apr 2010 00:00:00 GMThttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2010/4/5/maps-on-my-bike.aspxThe idea of carrying a GPS with me to record the Mountain bike routes that I ride and would like to ride has, remained just that until recently. There are some excellent web sites www.mtbiker.co.za from which one can download GPX files for upload and use whilst riding. This adds a new dimension to the weekend ride as it gives those that have restricted riding time, the knowledge of where they are and what remains of the days riding. My sometimes riding partner has tried with limited success to carry his EtrexYellow in his hydration pack, but gave up as it lost signal and was difficult to access.

I acquired a Garmin EtrexLegend and after much procrastination decided that it was time to produce a handlebar mount. I found  a very useful  instructable www.instructables.com/id/yet-another-gps-handlebar-mount/ which gave me a good idea on how to start. I was however not happy with the mounting arrangement or the way in which the IMG_6413 [320x200]GPS is held secure. I started with a piece of scrap aluminium plate which I had in my Pandora's box. I measured the width of the Garmin and then using a vernier I measured the thickness of the device. I allowed for a 5mm IMG_6414 [320x200]overlap at each end (to grip the Garmin in the vertical) and  using the thickness and the length of the Garmin, marked out the dimensions on the aluminium plate.  I Used a newly acquired and very useful 1.0mm thick steel cutting wheel on an angle grinder to cut out the required shape.  These discs do however require a bit more respect than their thicker cousins, as they catch very easily. The edges where smoothed on the grind stone and with a file.

The next step was to bend the plate into the required shape. This a little tricky as the end result precluded the use of the bench vice for the entire process. I also made use of a piece of scrap timber to assist in the bending process. The aluminium bends reasonably easily, and all it requires is that the plate is held true to the drawn lines in the vice. If this is not done, the end result may be un-useable as the ends will be skew and the GPS will not be held securely.  The final bends had to be made using the scrap wood and a G-clamp.  The bent ends were clamped to the workbench, and the lip formed lifting the end with a screwdriver and then tapping the lip into shape with a hammer and a piece of scrap wood.

IMG_6419 [320x200] IMG_6421 [320x200]

IMG_6424 [320x200]

All that remained was to drill appropriate holes and then secure into the handlebar stem using cable ties. The configuration of the stem allowed for a very secure fit.  Single fixer stems would not be suitable.

IMG_6440 [320x200]

IMG_6438 [320x200]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The GPS slides into the mount from the side and is held in place with a slice from a  motorcycle inner tube. The inner tube allows access to all of the controls in the side of the GPS.

IMG_6442 [320x200] I have given the setup a couple of tests, and it works very well. It has not been in the way, and has added a new dimension to the rides, as the trip computer is far more comprehensive than the Cateye. Although I have not yet tried to upload a trail, it has come in very handy when slightly disoriented in the Hilton plantations. It was however only of use after the fact when a dog attacked and tried to make a meal of my left calf!! The site is now marked and we will avoid it in future. The next step will be to decide on a new route and then see if I can upload and follow it without disrupting the riding too much.

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Greater productivity with the Pomodoro Techniquehttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2009/10/16/greater-productivity-with-the-pomodoro-technique.aspxFri, 16 Oct 2009 00:00:00 GMThttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2009/10/16/greater-productivity-with-the-pomodoro-technique.aspxTomatoWhile glancing through LifeHacker feeds some time last week, my eye was caught by the headline "The pomodoro technique fights deadline anxiety with a timer". Not having heard of the technique before (although for all I know it may be old hat by now), and wondering how tomatoes fight anxiety, I read further. If you have not heard of the "Pomodoro Technique" before, I suggest you look at the Pomodoro technique site which gives a full explanation of what it is all about, and provides an e-book download (by the developer of the technique - Francesco Cirillo) which explains how to apply the it. So, last week I downloaded the booklet, and the Focus Booster timer from the LifeHacker blog, and never gave it another thought - until this week.  I read through the booklet in an idle hour, and my interest was piqued. Basically, the technique is a method of increasing focus and productivity through well planned, prioritised tasks which one works through in bursts of twenty five minutes with a short break at the end of each burst - a unit of measure referred to as a Pomodoro. (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato and was coined because the original technique was developed using a mechanical kitchen timer shaped like a tomato.)  Interrruptions, internal and external, are managed so that focus is not lost in these work periods.

I thought I would give it a try and got underway three days ago. In these three days, I am astounded by my increased productivity! The differences between the way I usually worked, and the way I work with this technique are not great, but the subtle shifts mean that I have accomplished tasks that I have been putting off because they did not seem important or they were boring, I have done the work better and faster than I might have done otherwise, and the LifeHacker article was right - the timer really does decrease deadline anxiety - mostly I guess because the deadlines are met. The main differences are:

Pre-Pomodoro Post-Pomodoro
I always kept a list of tasks to be doneand the deadlines scribbled in a pad. Then, during the day, I would pick and chose what I would do next based on whim. Invariably, this meant that the interesting or easy tasks got completed, but the boring ones did not. Tasks are prioritised and a time-table is set. As long as there is discipline in sticking to the time-table, all the tasks get done and none keep rolling over.
I usually allowed myself to be interrupted by phone calls and e-mail. Hence every task took longer than it should of because of the interruptions, the switching between tasks and the loss of concentration. Ignoring phone calls and e-mails until the time allotted to deal with them means that tasks are completed rigorously and in a shorter time period.
I tended to procrastinate and get sidetracked with uninteresting tasks. Interesting or uninteresting - all tasks are treated the same way - put them on the time-table and deal with them.  Everything gets done.
I used to take a lot of breaks which I told myself I was using to think - I wasn't - I was using them to break the tedium and smoke. The technique requires that you take frequent breaks. However, rather than thinking about what you are working on, you clear your mind. Much to my surprise, this has led to better concentration, not worse.

The periods and breaks are timed with a countdown clock and for best results Cirillo suggests that the clock be audibly ticking. Fortunately, I work on my own but I can see this might be irritating to co-workers. As far as I can see that is the only drawback for now, and I am going to keep going with this for a while.

This blog took two pomodoros to write.

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Windows 7 is here…officiallyhttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2009/9/29/windows-7-is-here…officially.aspxTue, 29 Sep 2009 00:00:00 GMThttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2009/9/29/windows-7-is-here…officially.aspxOver the past couple of months, I have painstakingly avoided any articles related to Windows 7. My daily RSS feed, lifehacker, seemed to be particularly enthralled with all the new features. I did not have the time to "play" on a virtual server, and not wanting to install a beta or pre-release software as my primary operating system I simply ignored all of these articles.

The other day, however, we acquired some new laptops and I found myself in a bit of a quandary with regard to my OS. Windows 7 was officially on being released at the end of October, so I was faced with the choice of installing Vista 64-bit, or Windows 7 RTM. Considering that the RTM version is the same as the official release version, I decided to take the "7" plunge and downloaded the 64-bit version from the partner website..and BOY, am i glad i did that!

I am normally quite reluctant to install first releases and usually wait for the SP1 release before installing a new OS, but I figured Vista represented a SP1 and SP2 release and windows 7 should be quite stable. I have also not felt this hype for an OS since 95 or Windows 2000 were first released, and I really think it is worth it. I also think that for the first time, Windows 7 really competes with the likes of Ubuntu on stability, performance and usability. Of course Linux will always be faster, but I can notice a significant improvement on speed when compared to our Vista 64-bit machine.

So what is it that makes Windows 7 a worthwhile experience:

  1. They have taken Vista and basically overhauled it and taken all the bad things away and replaced them with more usability
  2. Windows explorer/My computer has improved and is customisable (although not as easy to use as good old XP explorer)
  3. The new taskbar with Aero peek is very nice - especially the ability to right click and access recent documents/websites etc.
  4. the searching/indexing functionality just works! This also makes running apps a real breeze as you just start typing the name and there it is. SQL server is there after "SQ"
  5. I have had no problems with drivers or software and I am running the 64-bit version. Even Arcmap works!
  6. From a development perspective, we get IIS7 and the ability to have multiple sites - a big plus in my books

Obviously with all the aero etc  functionality you need a bit of extra hardware to handle the additional RAM requirement. That said I am running Core 2 Duo 2.4Ghz and 4Gb Ram and it runs very smoothly. Also, your C partition needs to be reasonably big as after all my software has been installed (office, SQL server, Visual Studio, GIS programs etc) I have used 35Gb of my C drive. But we were expecting that.

My one gripe is that we still have these stupid placeholder folders for those of us that show all system folders etc etc. why show us a "Documents and Settings" folder if we cant click on it is above me. It takes us all of about a couple of days to be trained into the new location of our "appdata" folder or our "temp" folder.

All in all, so far a really good experience and I hope it continues that way. For the first time in about 10 years...well done Microsoft - you have done something right.

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Backup your Network with BackupPChttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2009/8/31/backup-your-network-with-backuppc.aspxMon, 31 Aug 2009 00:00:00 GMThttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2009/8/31/backup-your-network-with-backuppc.aspxWith the price of terabyte level storage media coming down significantly in the past few years, we decided it was high time that we setup a network backup server. In reality, the price of a computer and storage is marginal in relation to the cost of losing the data that i am rather embarrassed we have not done it sooner.

Not wanting to invest in software, and also wanting to keep OS size down to a minimum, we decided on Linux as an OS. Since we had a copy of Ubuntu 9.04 on disk, we installed that and then started the search for some software. A quick search on Google immediately started to bring up some links to the open source backuppc software. After reading some articles and browsing the website, we decided that this would do the job for us. Basically our requirements were:

  1. Automatic scheduled backups
  2. Cutomisable schedules per client
  3. Connectivity to Windows and Linux clients
  4. Historic backups with incremental updates
  5. Compression

Needless to say, backuppc offered all of this and more. In fact each client backup can be setup with separate configurations. The basic info as stipulated on their website (as at August 2009) lists as follows:

  • A clever pooling scheme minimizes disk storage and disk I/O. Identical files across multiple backups of the same or different PCs are stored only once resulting in substantial savings in disk storage and disk I/O.
  • One example of disk use: 95 latops with each full backup averaging 3.6GB each, and each incremental averaging about 0.3GB. Storing three weekly full backups and six incremental backups per laptop is around 1200GB of raw data, but because of pooling and compression only 150GB is needed.
  • Optional compression support further reducing disk storage. Since only new files (not already pooled) need to be compressed, there is only a modest impact on CPU time.
  • No client-side software is needed. The standard smb protocol is used to extract backup data on WinXX clients. On linux clients, tar over ssh/rsh/nfs is used to backup the data. With version 2.0.0, rsync is also supported on any client that has rsync or rysncd.
  • A powerful web (http/cgi) user interface allows administrators to view log files, configuration, current status and allows users to initiate and cancel backups and browse and restore files from backups.
  • A full set of restore options is supported, including direct restore (via smbclient, tar, or rsync/rsyncd) or downloading a zip or tar file.
  • Supports mobile environments where laptops are only intermittently connected to the network and have dynamic IP addresses (DHCP).
  • Flexible configuration parameters allow multiple backups to be performed in parallel, specification of which shares to backup, which directories to backup or not backup, various schedules for full and incremental backups, schedules for email reminders to users and so on. Configuration parameters can be set system-wide or also on a per-PC basis.
  • Users are sent periodic email reminders if their PC has not recently been backed up. Email content, timing and policies are configurable.
  • Tested on Linux, Freenix and Solaris hosts, and Linux, Win95, Win98, Win2000 and WinXP clients.
  • Detailed documentation.
  • Open Source hosted by SourceForge and freely availble under GPL.

We really liked their first point. As a GIS organisation we inadvertently have multiple copies of our basedata directories on different desktop and laptop machines. The result of this is wasted storage. Knowing that identical files will only be referenced once is a huge plus in my books!

After deciding that this what we were after, I started the install process - which was REALLY easy. I fired up Synaptic Packet Manager, choose backuppc, and chose install. As part of the install it asked me I wanted to install apache (webserver), as well as samba(windows filesharing), which I did. At the end of the install I was given a link to the configuration webpage (http://localhost/backuppc) and a username and password, with instructions on how to change the password.

I then logged into the website and very quickly worked out how to add some hosts, and configure those hosts. I wont go into the detail of that, but it is very well documented on the web. With the windows computers I was able to add backup shares to full drives such as d$ or c$ and specify a authorised username and password to allow this. I am also able to add file/directory inclusions and exclusions (as would be expected).

The main configuration file allows me to setup blackout periods (i.e. when backups must not happen) and wakeup hours (when to wakeup network computers and start backups or check the status of the backup.

So far I have been extremely impressed with ts speed and the ease at which it connects to both our windows and linux servers and PC's. The only faults I may have are:

  1. The fact that network credentials are stored unencrypted
  2. Laptop PC's that are on and off the networks battle to get an initial backup set, and the software keeps resetting and starting from new. To get this right I had to leave the laptops unattended for an evening while it completed a full backup.

Other than that - I will give BackupPC an 8/10. Great software that does what it says, and very easy to setup.

It is very difficult to describe all the options or show everything available through screenshots - but I have included some screenshots from the project website.

image

image

image

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South African Geographic Names Council in Disarrayhttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2009/8/7/south-african-geographic-names-council-in-disarray.aspxFri, 07 Aug 2009 00:00:00 GMThttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2009/8/7/south-african-geographic-names-council-in-disarray.aspxEDIT: I see SAGNS has updated and improved their website since this article (edited: 15 September 2009)

A while back, while working on a rural settlements database, we were asked to consider the SAGNS database as a reference for settlement names. The data that we received was, to put it mildly, very poor. Locations were in the sea, in the northern hemisphere, in South America and for 50% of the database - nowhere at all. added to that, the alphanumeric data was full of mistakes and errors.

it therefore came as no surprise, when we were asked recently to check a name with the same database. I decided to go to their website to request the latest database (in the vain hope that they had done some updating and error-checking) when I was presented with:

image

Thanks for the warning Google!

image

Seems to be a trend as the the ANC website was recently hacked, offering, amongst other things "free porn"

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Site Upgraded to Umbraco 4.1.2http://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2009/6/17/site-upgraded-to-umbraco-412.aspxWed, 17 Jun 2009 00:00:00 GMThttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2009/6/17/site-upgraded-to-umbraco-412.aspxWe have just finished a successful upgrade from Umbraco V3.0 beta to Umbraco V4.1.2 and all went well. It was not an upgrade in the sense of applying updates patches, instead, more of a case of redesigning the entire site on a seperate URL and transferring existing content across.

V3.0 beta has served us very well for the past 2.5 years, however, we decided it was time to upgrade not only to stay current, but also to have our blog integrated into our website. We were previously using dasBlog, which as a stand-alone blog is excellent. The only problem is that it was not integrated into our site and thus got neglected. This is evident in the lack of entries of late. We have also done a lot of work "packaging"certain plugins into Umbraco V3 final and now V4 and therefore wanted to make use of these ourselves.

As i said the transfer went without problems except for two things:

  1. Existing virtual application under the root stopped working
  2. Links from dasBlog and the existing website would need to be re-directed to the updated URL

The first problem was easy to fix as we have implemented the location web.config setting to handle this. For those who are not aware of how to allow your site to have virtual directories underneath, you just need to add the wrap your <system.web> in a location setting - i.e:

<location path="." inheritInChildApplications="false">
      <system.web>
      </system.web>
</location>

We did have one issue with existing application that were DotNet 3.5. For some reason we needed to comment out the following in the web.config. still not sure of the exact reason why.

<sectionGroup name="scripting" type="System.Web.Configuration.ScriptingSectionGroup, System.Web.Extensions, Version=1.0.61025.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35">
<section name="jsonSerialization" type="System.Web.Configuration.ScriptingJsonSerializationSection, System.Web.Extensions, Version=1.0.61025.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35" requirePermission="false" allowDefinition="Everywhere" />
<section name="profileService" type="System.Web.Configuration.ScriptingProfileServiceSection, System.Web.Extensions, Version=1.0.61025.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35" requirePermission="false" allowDefinition="MachineToApplication" />
<section name="authenticationService" type="System.Web.Configuration.ScriptingAuthenticationServiceSection, System.Web.Extensions, Version=1.0.61025.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=31bf3856ad364e35" requirePermission="false" allowDefinition="MachineToApplication" />

The handling of broken URL's was fixed very easily with Casey Neehouse's 404 Redirect Control. It is not readily available for download, but if you get hold of him on his website or on the umbraco forum he will send it onto you. Easy to implement and does what its meant to do!

So, there we have, a brand new theme and an up to date umbraco installation!

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Asp.Net in Apache 2.2http://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2009/6/17/aspnet-in-apache-22.aspxWed, 17 Jun 2009 00:00:00 GMThttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2009/6/17/aspnet-in-apache-22.aspxWe are busy on a project that requires the application to be run on a windows 2003 server running Apache 2.2 as the primary internet server. Since IIS can run PHP applications, I figured that Apache would run dotnet without any problems. As it turns out there is a module for running dotnet application. It is however not very well supported and you have to make sure you get the Apache 2.2 version, which can be found here http://sourceforge.net/project/platformdownload.php?group_id=175077.

Dr Google pointed me to a very good tutorial for setting this up here, but I needed to configure it slightly differently as I have a whole lot of different virtual hosts. So this is very basically how my http.conf is setup

First off, with all the other modules you need to:

LoadModule aspdotnet_module "modules/mod_aspdotnet.so"

You then need to add a pointer to the Asp.net Client files like this:

#AddHandler fro asp.net
 AddHandler asp.net asax ascx ashx asmx aspx axd config cs csproj licx rem resources resx soap vb vbproj vsdisco webinfo 
 
 AliasMatch /aspnet_client/system_web/(\d+)_(\d+)_(\d+)_(\d+)/(.*) "C:/Windows/Microsoft.NET/Framework/v$1.$2.$3/ASP.NETClientFiles/$4" 
  <Directory "C:/Windows/Microsoft.NET/Framework/v*/ASP.NETClientFiles"> 
    Options FollowSymlinks 
    Order allow,deny 
    Allow from all 
  </Directory>

And then finally, you configure your virtual host:

<VirtualHost 127.0.0.1>
    ServerName server.aspnetsite
    DocumentRoot "D:/httpd/aspnetsite"
   
   AspNetMount / "D:/httpd/aspnetsite" 
   #Alias / "D:/httpd/aspnetsite" 
   <Directory "D:/httpd/aspnetsite"> 
   Options FollowSymlinks ExecCGI 
   Order allow,deny 
   Allow from all 
   DirectoryIndex Default.htm Default.html Default.aspx default.aspx
</Directory> 

</VirtualHost>

As you can see, I have mounted using the root (/). This is because I want my site to run from the root of my virtual host. If I wanted it to run form a virtual directory, I would have had "/Virtual" and then I would need to uncomment the "Alias" and specift "/Virtual" for that as well.

Hope this helps out for those who need it!

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OpenLayers 2.8 Releasedhttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2009/6/23/openlayers-28-released.aspxWed, 17 Jun 2009 00:00:00 GMThttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2009/6/23/openlayers-28-released.aspxChristopher Schmidt announced yesterday on the OpenLayers mailing list, the final release of OpenLayers 2.8 The email follows.

The OpenLayers Development Team is proud to announce the release of OpenLayers 2.8, the latest stable release of OpenLayers.

The 2.8 release adds a number of important features, the full list of which can be found in the Release Notes, at http://trac.openlayers.org/wiki/Release/2.8/Notes. Some of the highlights include:

  • Support for multi-layer vector feature selection
  • Support for drawing text on vector layers
  • Several new controls
  • 5 new layer types, including OSM, ArcXML, and more.
  • The long-awaited WFS protocol support, and related improvements

... and many other new features and bug fixes that you can see detailed in the release notes linked above.

For information on possible changes that will need to be made between this version of OpenLayers and previous versions, please look at the Release notes, available at the Release Notes information:- http://trac.openlayers.org/wiki/Release/2.7/Notes#CompatibilityNotes

Looks like it is time to upgrade.

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FOSS4G 2008http://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2008/10/2/foss4g-2008.aspxThu, 02 Oct 2008 00:00:00 GMThttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2008/10/2/foss4g-2008.aspxThe 2008 FOSS4G conference has just officially closed today (well....apart from some workshops and code-sprints). On reflection, I personally found the conference extremely beneficial, both from communication and contacts, and learning what is new and great. So what did I learn?

  1. The developers of these FOSS products we are using are really clever!
  2. The OSGEO team is doing a fantastic job in the promotion of FOSS products
  3. Bearing in mind that this is a developer's conference, there was a lot of geek speak that went right over the head, but there was definitely some new technologies to look up
  4. Some very interesting comparisons of Mapserver vs Geoserver. This has prompted me to consider not relying entirely on Mapserver, but also using Geoserver.
  5. I learnt a bit about how to use tilecache properly!
  6. A product that I have overlooked, Sextante, is absolutely brilliant, and I am really looking forward to playing with it in combination with gvSIG.

And what did I think was lacking?

  1. I was disappointed to see no presentation on featureserver

And the South African perspective?

This I found the most interesting observation. There was a lot of talk about South Africa taking initiative in implementing FOSS solutions, but in reality this is going to take a VERY long time. Of Course it will be up to us to educate them. From what I could tell, the only national government representatives were the NSIF and DLA. NSIF seems to be taking some initiative with open source, but they really need to focus on their implementation model, or else all there effort will fail. For a national metadata collection framework to work, they need to hands on assist local and district municipalities over a 2 to 3 year timeframe. From what I could tell, that is not their plan. Of course they will do roadshows, but that will not publish the metadata.

I was pleased to see representatives from local and district municipalities and hopefully they will stand up and shout to national government. The real problem of course is that local government falls under DTLGA, and there was absolutely no representation from DTLGA (that I could see anyway). This is the department that is primarily responsible for GIS data management and implementation at a provincial level, and I am really disappointed that no-one was here to see the excitement, vigour and technical experience that is associated with FOSS GIS software.

We will of course using this fantastic software, and hopefully with some time, we will be able to readily implement in government...lets hope!

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Samsung i780http://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2008/7/30/samsung-i780.aspxWed, 30 Jul 2008 00:00:00 GMThttp://www.quartex.co.za/blog/2008/7/30/samsung-i780.aspxI have recently received my new Samsung i780, and have to say I am presently surprised. I have always felt that Samsung have tended towards a social phone, and was therefore very skeptical about purchasing a Samsung for business. But, then again, anything is better than that ghastly Nokia N70 I had before this. I will try and give a brief overview of what I like and hate about the the phone as well as a breakdown of some of its features.

First I will give you a bit of background into my experiences with window powered phones. My first Microsoft phone was the big Qtek. All in all, my experience with this phone was not great, and I ditched it after a while - it was just too big and bulky to be used comfortably as a phone. great as a PDA, but not as a phone. In addition to this, it was notorious for poor radio software, so all I did really learn whilst using this phone was how to flash the ROM with updated radio and operating system software! I knew then, I needed the simplicity of a phone with a keyboard, but with the business power of what windows mobile had to offer. My next phone was the Motorola Mpx200. What a great phone. I loved every minute of my time with it! At the time of my next upgrade, my Motorola had a well documented hardware fault, where it could not charge, so I was forced to upgrade quickly, and because there was nothing available, I went for the Nokia N70. It is now boxed up!

Anyway, onto the Samsung. When choosing this phone, I looked at various other alternatives, but had some key requirements:

  1. It must have a keyboard
  2. It must be Windows Mobile 6
  3. It must have a GPS
  4. It must not be bulky

If price didn't come into it, I would probably have gone with the HTC Tytn II. But, price did come into it, and I dont have it!

The Samsung i780 has all of the above including:

  1. Wifi
  2. Bluetooth
  3. Camera
  4. Touch Screen
  5. HSDPA

The look

I am not going into too much detail on the looks, but it is slim and easily fits in my pocket. The keypad keys are small enough, but not too small that I press multiple keys (I have relatively small hands, so anyone with bear paws will have a problem). Some pics courtesy of GSMArena:

image

image

The phone is touch screen. So you can navigate using the keyboard, the stylus, with your finger, or with the unique touch pad/d pad. As far as I am concerned, the touch pad is great!. I have not tried the D pad functionality, as I have not needed to, and I hardly ever pull the stylus out. The best way to describe the touch pad, is exactly like a touch pad on a laptop. It is entirely driven by your thumb, and moves a little mouse around the screen. Great concept that works well!

The Camera

A Camera is not that important to me, but I have needed to use it, and on more than one occasion at night. Unfortunately, it does not have a flash, and this made these photo's impossible. The mouse pointer does not work very well with the camera, so you need to use the styles or your finger. the camera his is however not an important feature for me. If you plan to take lots of photo's with your phone, then perhaps look around other options.

The GPS

The phone comes with a built in GPS, and in South Africa is shipped with a 1Gb Micro SD card with Garmin Maps on it. Garmin Maps works exceptionally well, and I have been able to test it on a long journey in high traffic. Needless to say, it made my trip a lot easier, and I did not get lost at any point! On a negative side, I have tested the GPS with other GPS software, and it does not work "out of the box" with a number of products. That said I have been able to get it to work with some. If you are into geocaching "smache" does work. There are software products available to get it to work with other products, and I have tried these briefly, but have not succeeded. All in all, the GPs works for what I need.

WIFI, 3G, GPRS and HSDPA

These all work perfectly for me, although the traffic monitoring software I have tried does not work out the box. So if you need to monitor your traffic, then bear this in mind. I have not gone into a lot of effort to get them to work at this stage, so I am not sure if they will work with tweaking.

Connectivity

Using your phone as a modem is painless and easy to set up. A big negative is the phone is shipped with a non standard usb connection (i.e. not mini-usb). The connector fits into a slot on the side using a proprietary connector. The slot is exposed by opening a flimsy flap that will potentially snap off one day.

The Phone

The phone works well and I am glad to have the Microsoft predictive dialing back again. GSM arena can provide you with all the decibel specs, but I can hear perfectly, and people can hear me - that's all that matters!. The speaker-phone works well, and can be used painlessly for group discussions. Negatives are that there is no voice dialing option (very odd, as it is on all other WM 6 devices), and sometimes when in my car, I try to turn the hands free off, and it keeps on going back on. So if you are afraid of having some juicy conversation leaked to passengers in your car, bear this in mind.

The Screen

The screen is a non standard size, and there is a lot of talk on the net about application's not working properly for that size. The 3rd party applications I have installed are all usable, although for some I have to do a bit of scrolling (but not too a point that frustrates me). The screen is terrible in bright sunshine and I often find myself covering it with my other hand. The mouse pointer also does not work very well with the sun shining, and you also need to shield it from the sun to use it. If you spend more time outdoors than indoors, this may became a nuisance. This is not the case for me, so no big deterrent.

Battery

The unit ships with 2 batteries and a separate battery charger. While the battery life is not great, it is not a hindrance. I always have my second battery charged, so if I am running low on juice, I simply swap out the batteries, and recharge the spent one. With all WM devices, the usb connection also charges the phone. I actually cannot believe that all devices don't offfer this as a standard feature (the N70 definitely did not!).

Overall Assessment

I am pleased, and will recommend it to other techno-phobes, or similarly minded people. My non computer literate wife cant get her head around the keyboard, and says there are too many keys to easily dial numbers - but I don't get that. As I say, this is a power phone, and if you want a "social" phone, then this is not for you. All in all, i would probably give it a 8 out of 10. for one thing it has reminded me that as far as business phones go, I really believe Microsoft OS is leading the pack here. I used to reboot my Nokia more often, and had far more computer connectivity problems� than my Samsung. What are you waiting for - go and get it!

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