My new toy: Pivot

The joy of coding kicked in again the other night after a colleague mentioned Pivot, a tool made by MS. Part of my organisations work involves ingesting and understanding massive datasets. My colleague was interested in using Pivot to help display information to the business users. What is Pivot? Watch this TED Talk for a quick run-down:

After hearing my colleague talk about it and seeing the aforementioned TED Talk my coding juices started flowing. It was as if Pivot was my hammer. So many things at work could be displayed so efficiently via Pivot.  Not having coded in a while I had to reinstall Visual Studio. (I downloaded the Express version as I suspect my MSDN licence will soon be given away to another employee…)

After playing with PhotoPivot and grabbing the source I thought I’d have a go at creating some pivot data files that let me browser my music collection in Pivot. I figured that as I’ve got the album art for most of the albums it would look pretty good. Plus I can pull out metadata like Artist, Release Year, Album Name, Genre, File Type, Bit Rate, Beats Per Minute, Track Count, Album Size, Album Duration straight from either the audio files or from their directories.

I bashed out some code late at night the last two evenings after the family had gone to bed. Very happy with the outcome so far, but the size of the collection smashed Pivot. I have not optimised the images at all – not using DeepZoom yet. Trying to view the entire collection caused Pivot to hang 4 out of 5 times.

Progress so far is good. I’ve whipped up a shoddy Visual Studio (Express) solution that creates the cxml file, based only on facets like Artist, Release Year and Album Name. So far so good. Tonight I’ll be working on implementing DeepZoom. That should free up a lot of RAM on my poor box – it only has 4GB RAM and Pivot seems to use every bit of it. That being said the memory requirements of my collection should drop by a large degree when I properly implement DeepZoom. I found a little discussion regarding how to implement DeepZoom using the pAuthor libraries so I will probably implement the same thing in my code.

I have found a few implementations of Pivot libraries online. I am using them as a reference of things I can do…

Acer ePowerManagement run as service

I have a super cheap laptop that serves the family as DVD player and web browser. The only drama I have is that the standard windows power management has been overrun by Acer’s version – known as ePower Management. Unfortunately, ePower Management does not function properly if you are not logged in as an Administrator. All the accounts on the laptop are standard users for security purposes.

This blogger has some good notes on how to fix this problem here and here – run the Acer power mgmt software as a service

Photostitch software

Several minutes ago I discovered autostitch. It is seriously awesome. It’s a 1MB download. I used it today to stitch together some shots of my sons room. It took four shots through a doorway to capture the entirety of his narrow room.

Autostitch is great. You don’t have to tell the application where your pics are in relation to one another – it figures it out for you. It also adjusts the brightness of pics to blend in with the others when it creates the panoramic shot.

Here is an example, using our new shed…

Three pictures:
shed1 shed2 shed3

Autostitched and cropped:
stitched shed

What to install on XP to make it fully functional?

  1. MS Office 2003 (or Open as office suite
  2. NotePad++ (with the Vibrant Ink style) for text file editing
  3. Thunderbird for my email
    1. English Australian spell check anddictionary
  4. FireFox for my web browsing, and some extensions:
    1. Adblock Plus blocks web adverts
    2. English Australian spell check and dictionary
    3. Bug Me Not bypasses compulsory web registration
    4. IE Tab renders web pages with IE in Firefox tabs. You’ll have to use an older version if you aren’t using Firefox 3 – beta versions available here
    5. Adobe Flash Player
    6. Java Runtime Environment
    7. Add to Search Bar to allow any pages’ search functionality from the Search Bar
  5. DVD Shrink for backing up DVD’s
  6. Royale Noir XP Theme
  7. XP Service Pack 3
  8. Set up auto logon via Start -> Run -> control userpasswords2
  9. Nvidia Forceware v93.71 video card driver
  10. WinRAR compress and decompress files
  11. Adobe Acrobat 7
  12. ScanGear driver for my Canon scanner
  13. Hamrick VueScan a great scanner tool
  14. Canon S800 printer drivers
  15. MySQL on my Ubuntu server to host my wiki
  16. Mediwiki on my Ubuntu server
  17. Slysoft’s Virtual Clone Drive for mounting disc images
  18. UIF to ISO converter
  19. FileZilla FTP client
  20. MS IIS 5.1 web server
  21. Change background colour from blue to dark dark grey (16 26 38)
  22. PokerStars client. I am “jasomenaso”
  23. Tortoise SVN (Subversion) version control client
  24. Nero 7 Essentials
    • Disable ‘Nero Scout’ to avoid “WMS Idle” errors on shut down
    • Disable ‘InCD’ crapware
  25. AVG Anti-virus tool
  26. Picassa for basic image management
  27. Fireworks, Illustrator or Inkscape for vector image creation/editing
  28. MusicBrainz Picard for tagging music files
  29. Skype for VOIP
  30. MediaCoder for easy transcoding of media file formats. (ie wma to mp3)

Use a sandbox environment to test install your new applications

At work I’ve been involved with software download management. I work in *what should be* a safe environment, but the download policy for the devs has been historically, erm, non-existent.

One of the areas we had to look at was how to judge the footprint of a new tool that one may want to use.

Sandboxie to the rescue. “Sandboxie intercepts changes to both your files and registry settings, making it virtually impossible for any software to reach outside the sandbox. Sandboxie traps cached browser items into the sandbox as a by-product of normal operation, so when you throw away the sandbox, all the history records and other side-effects of your browsing disappear as well.”

The bonus is that it can also enumerate the changes that an applicationhas attempted to make – in the registry and on the file system.

It’s currently shareware, but I am pretty sure we’ll be ponying up some cash to show the developer we appreciate his work.