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Death Valley!

What a weekend!

Friday night was the typical Dinner with friends. We all met up at Jason’s house and he had Meatballs cooking. However, he was no where to be found! So we made the rest of the dinner and ate it without him. He showed up just as we were finishing dinner. Overall it was a great night. Jason got me a Gift card to Apple for my birthday!

Saturday morning Const and I got up and headed out to Death Valley. On the way there we stopped at Randsburg and Alotia mines. They are both abandoned mines/towns. Very cool. Alotia was the only one that was open for us to really run around in. It’s just amazing to me that RIGHT off the road way are these open pit mines with ladders and stuff still leading down them. We didn’t go down the mines because we didn’t have any safety gear. Perhaps on the next trip we can actually go down them.

From there we headed through some tiny little crazy towns and out to Death Valley. First thing we did was climb the sand dunes which was really cool. Then we headed out to the Badwater Salt flats which is exactly what I was expecting Death Valley to be like. They were sooo cool. We got there right at sunset, so it was really pretty to watch the sunset over the salt flats. I really want to go back there on a full moon night some summer to see how pretty it would be with all the stars and stuff. After that we headed back to the hotel, ate dinner and then went to bed.

Sunday we got up and had breakfast and then headed out to Zabriskie Point which was just a wonderful view of the valley in the early morning. We didn’t stay too long because the wind was CRAZY and it was freezing cold. We headed down the back road from there and stopped at some more abandoned mines. These were really cool and it was a HUGE complex of mines. We went into a few of them, but not very far because it’s very scary with only the two of us and we had very week flashlights. Perhaps when we go back with a bigger group we can do them again. I really enjoyed the mines.

From there we headed down to Dante’s View which was a really cool overlook of the Badwater salt flats we had been at the day before. We headed on down back into the valley and on our way out stopped at an old Borax mine which had been preserved by the park.

There are tons of other things I want to do while there, like Racing Rocks, Scotty’s Castle, and the Crater. But we didn’t have a 4 wheel drive vehicle to take off road. This really does suck with us both having new cars, we don’t want to take them off onto dirt/gravel roads! I was thinking that maybe I can find a truck that I like, or maybe just a cheap user explorer or something that we can take on trips like this.

On the way home I got a very upsetting phone call from my cousin. My grandma was on her way home from Des Moines when she got into some bad snow, lost control of her car and hit a semi head on. Thank god she’s ok. They took her to the hospital because she was sore and they kept her overnight. They were supposed to be doing another CAT scan today but I haven’t heard anything new. I’ve tried calling a few times to her cell phone, but no answer. I assume she’s probably pretty out of it. Just hearing the news made me cry a little, but since I was driving I had to really hold it back. I’m very interested to see pictures of the car though.

The drive home was pretty good though overall. We ran into some REALLY bad dust storms, it was nearly whiteout conditions. And then some rain, but no traffic which was really nice. Got back to my house and the power was out, so we had to make due for a few hours before that came back on.

Today I am working from home. My car is supposed to be done. I sure HOPE that it does get done. I want my car back!

Photos from the weekend are here.

I did the GeoTagging again on this trip and it turned out MUCH BETTER! Download the Google Earth file here, check out the Google Maps Version (without photos) here or check out all the different files here.

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Around The Globe My Life

Prague and Vienna Photo Tour Movies

Well I’ve been spending a lot of my free time arranging these and going through all 1,500 photos. But here’s a movie of my favorite sites in Prague and Vienna.

You can download the FULL movie here. (Please note, it’s 350megs, so it’ll take a while).

Or watch it individually in the following two youtube clips

Prague:

Vienna:

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Around The Globe My Life

Prague Wrap Up

Ok, So where to start with this trip! This is going to be one long as entry probably. Unless I get lazy!

Wed Nov 14th we packed up and headed to the airport. Got there and got through security with no problems. We were extra early because of the shuttle bus thing, but it really wasn’t much of a problem. We got the inner row (no windows) of the plane, but one of us had the isle, so that was good. I was sitting next to this older lady who was pretty funny. The flight was 10 hours from LAX to Paris. The TV screens on our seats didn’t work and about half way through the flight my glasses broke. Thankfully the old woman next to us had a nail file, so Constantine was able to screw them back together. At one point the turbulence was soooo bad that the old woman was praying! So Cute! Landing was HORRIBLE! We bounced and on the second time hitting it felt like the plane was going to tip over! Like EVERYONE was suddenly jolted hard to the left!

Got to Paris and had to take a bus to our next plane. Got on that and that flight was pretty good. Got into Prague and our luggage was no where to be found! We filed a report and headed to the hostile. Since our luggage was missing, that basically killed our plans for going out. Thankfully our host at Shelter Pension was very nice and stayed around so that we could go out for a little bit. I didn’t have my jacket on me (it was in my luggage) so I borrowed Constantine’s light jacket and we explored a little. We were very close to everything so that was great. We could easily walk to Wenceslas Square which was just perfect!! Spent most of the night in our hostel room though.

The second day we got up and our luggage still wasn’t there. They said it might be delivered at night, so I hardly slept at all because every sound I heard I woke up thinking it was them. The hostle guy came again at 9:30 and said they called him last night saying they would deliver at 2am, I guess he told them not too and what not. He again agreeded to stay for a while and Constantine and I headed out in the opposite direction from our hostle. We found a neat park and some other cool stuff in our area. Came back to the hostel because the guy had to leave and we waited an hour or so for our luggage. I finilly just decided to go to one of the THREE H&M stores within walking distance of our Hostel and bought some warmed clothes. Of course, once I got back our luggage was there! That afternoon we headed out to the Dvorak Museum. We also got very lost, saw lots of interesting squares and other stuff in the city. Saw a wonderful sunset from the banks of the river.

The third day we headed out to Prague Castle, which was just amazing! We saw St. Vitus Cathedral, Dailbor Tower, Powder Tower, Golden Lane, the Old Royal Palace, and lots of other stuff in the area! The whole thing was just overwhelming! From there we headed over to the Loretto and some other churches in the area.

Day four was a good day, but a little light on things. We basically went to Little Quarter and saw some churches, Charles Bridge, the Kampa Museum of Modern Art, the Hunger Wall and the Memorial to the victims of Communism.

The last day we had to fit in both the Old town and the Jewish Quarter because of the luggage mishap. We started off with the Old town and the Powder Gate and then wondered around the old town square area while waiting for the Astronomical Clock to go. That was totally a waste of time, but I guess it was probably reall cool when it was built 1410! We also saw the Church of the Holy Ghost. The day was very clear, so we climbed the tower at Charles Bridge, headed over to the Jewish quarter and saw a few synagoges and the jewish cemetery. We walked from there over to Prague Castle again and this time walked up the steps from the Little Quarter and saw the Cathedral again. The inside was just AMAZING this time! We also climbed the tower and it was a wonderful view of the city. That was our last night out so we went to this really nice place to eat which was in a basement but it was done up really cool! I can’t remmeber the name of it right now, I have the card or something at home. On our way back to the hostel we stopped at this cute little street vendor who was selling Staroceske trdlo

I was a little sad that we didn’t get the 6 inches of snow they had forcasted, but on the third day it snowed a little bit in the morning. On the flight in and the trainride out, there was SNOW everywhere! Idon’t know why it wasn’t in Prague! :'(

If you want to see our tracks that we did here’s a few different ways:

1) Download the GPX file and load it into your favorite program.
2) Download a Google Maps static image.
3) Download the Google Earth KMZ file. Download Google Earth here.
4) Or view it directly in your browser on Google Maps.

You can see all 959 photos from our trip to Prague on the photodump.

Apartments in Prague
Provides a variety of cheap and luxury serviced apartments for short term rental in Prague.

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My Life

GeoTagging Photos on a Mac

UPDATED: 2008-01-22 (GPSPhotoLinker)
UPDATED: 2008-03-26 (iPhotoToGoogleEarth)

In short:

The Long Story

I’ve recently got very excited about Geotagging photos. I’m getting ready to head off to Europe for a couple weeks, visiting both Prague and Vienna. I wanted to be able to track where we go in the cities. My past couple trips, including Berlin and Paris, I always get back and start trying to comment on my photos and I no doubt have trouble remember where in the city they were taken!

So this time, I want to be able to geotag them all. Needless to say, I don’t have the money to spend on a DSLR with built in GPS support, or even a DSLR that can support an external GPS unit. So I have to find a way to tag my photos from my trusty Canon Powershot SD630.

I started off with a Garmin Forerunner 201, which I borrowed from a guy here at the office. I used it for a few days of tracking my driving, it seemed to work pretty well, but it had trouble acquiring the satellites fast enough. It would take anywhere from 5-15 minutes, which just isn’t fast enough for me. Also, I was afraid that when in Europe it wouldn’t be able to hold a whole days worth of tracks.

There were a few other issues with the device as well. First, I could not find ANY software to work with it on my Mac. Even GPSBabel couldn’t seem to find it. Second was that the windows software only exported in Garmin Training Center (.TCX) file format. After some searching I was able to find a website that could convert the files to the correct GPX file format, but this would require that I have internet connection while in Europe. Which is not a guarantee.

So, this weekend I went out and bought a fairly cheap used Garmin eTrex Vista. I didn’t need or want anything too fancy. The maps, etc are unneeded. Plus I’m going to be attaching it to my backpack, so I don’t want anything expensive in case it gets stolen while in Europe.

The device so far seems to be working pretty well. It acquires signals in just a few minutes, and can hold 10,000 track points.

As for the Mac Software, I’ve found tons of software out there, however none of it seems to actually work!

For transferring the data points from the Garmin device to my Macbook Pro, I have found the best solution to be GPS Babel. It was able to easily and quickly find my GPS unit and then transfer the trackpoints off into the correct GPX file type data.

From there, I then was able to find Photo GPS Editor. It’s a pretty straight forward interface with a really nice wizard. It even gives you the ability to select a location on the map and set that as the starting point. It will then try and find the correct information for the pictures.

My major complain with this software is the “Offset”. Probably because I don’t understand what I’m supposed to be setting here. It seems that no matter what I put there, things are “close” to where they should be, but not quite correct. I know I’ll probably never get it EXACTLY on where the pic was taken. But still, I think they should be closer then where it’s being shown. IE. I have a picture of the “Fairfax Exit” on the I-10 freeway here in LA. The Photo GPS Editor is putting that picture as being taken about 2 miles past where it was actually taken at (2 miles north on Fairfax from the I-10).

I’m also very confused by the listing of the GPS unit’s data. It shows that there are 8 different track logs with many different points each. So I don’t quite understand what those all mean.

I’d been playing around with GPS PhotoLinker before I moved over to Leopard. However now it doesn’t seem to start (Something about a missing perl module). I have emailed the developer and he says it’s a known issue and should be fixed shortly. (UPDATE: The developer has been actively releasing beta versions that work on Leopard. Check out the site here.) UPDATE:// I have been using this software for a while now that it’s working on leopard and it works great! This is by far the best software to use!!!

Lastly, I tried out ImageIngester. At first the interface is very confusing and has way too much going on. It’s in some serious need of a redesign. However! I found at this software actually worked the best out of all of them!

Even though this software is very cumbersome in the design and not very intuitive (I’m not really going to go into what should be changed here), it was relatively easy to actually get the photos tagged with GPS data. The first thing I did was go to “ImageIngesterPro” and click “Switch Mode”. This disabled a lot of the advanced features which are useless for this experiment. Second, was to click the “Tools” option and select “GPS Input” to enable the use of GPS data.

Here the Offset stuff is much easier to change. I knew that my GPS and my camera were both set to Pacific time and I knew that my camera was an hour faster then my GPS. Under the option for “Camera Time Adjustment” I changed it to remove an Hour.

Next, click the “Choose” button to select your photos, then click “Start”. It was that easy! ImageIngester did all the rest.

Some of the other software I’ve tried has been:

  • GeoTag – This was a really nice software, however it only works on Windows because there is no Java 6 build for the Mac yet.
  • GeoTagger – This software wouldn’t even start on Leopard
  • HoudahGeo – This software seems nice, but it crashed my Mac every time I tried to export to Google Earth (which is something I really want to be able to do!). I’ve emailed the developer, but he’s been unable to resolve the issue at this point. (UPDATE: The developer has emailed me saying this will be fixed in 1.3, I have yet to try it out, but I am looking forward to giving it a shot tonight)

Now, as for getting things onto Google Earth. I was hoping for a quick and easy solution here. And Sure enough, there’s one available… That is, if you still have iPhoto 6. It’s called iPhotoToGoogleEarth. It’s supposed to export directly from iPhoto to a Google Earth KML file format. Of course, I no longer have iPhoto 6. Again, I emailed the developer and he is unsure when a new version will be available. So off I go to find a new solution.

UPDATE://iPhotoToGoogleEarth now works with iPhoto ’08! Great news and it appears to work great!!

The guy who wrote ImageIngester also wrote a nice blog entry about how to do this with some simple PHP. However, this is not exactly what I was hoping for. It’s a great way to do it, but I want people to download a KMZ format file and open it in Google Earth Locally. (And hopefully have a link back to the full size image online).

It seems that Picasa is the best solution, but last I checked it’s still only for Windows?

So far it looks as though I am out of luck on this issue. I’ve spent countless hours searching the web, perhaps I’m googling the wrong things, but I just have not been able to find anything! If you have any suggestions, let me know!

There’s a great article on GeoTagging on Wikipedia.

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create photo kmz on mac

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BBQ and Kings Canyon

Wow. What a GREAT weekend!!

So Friday night was my BBQ. James, Sirin, Constantine, Mok, Nick and Dustin all came. Quite the turn out. I was a bit annoyed that everyone was so late, but we all had a GREAT time. I made a flaming Astro Weenie Pineapple and some Wonderful Green Punch!

We had some great convo and what not. Can’t wait for next time!

Saturday morning Constantine and I got up and headed out to Fresno. Traffic was Nooooooo problem, so we got there in no time. We were checked into the hotel by 3, so headed out to Sequoia National Park and did a quick whirl wind tour of the park. Hit all the highlights and got up to the top of Morro just as the sun was starting to set. So that was pretty cool. There was probably another 45 minutes of light left, so we didn’t stay up there… Kinda funny though cause there was this asian guy in the parking lot waxing his car. Why would you WAX your car in the middle of a fucking national park? Crazy asians!

Headed back to the hotel after that, did a quick detour to a porn store where we picked up some massage oil and then did a stop at Denny’s for dinner. Got back to the hotel about 9:30 or 10ish. Did massages and then went to bed.

Got up Sunday morning at 8:30. Did breakfast at the hotel and then headed out to Kings Canyon. Got there with about 30 minutes to spare before our Horseback riding so we wondered around a bit…. 2 hour horseback riding which was fun, but I got yelled at for passing and then Constantine’s horse kept wanting to gallop! The woman kept yelling at him for that. lol.

After that we headed deep into the park. That place is sooo pretty. Again we just hit the highlights of the park, went all the way to the road’s end and then came back. Saw some cool waterfalls and what not. I think it’d be really fun to do a backpacking trip back into the park. We left the park about 4 or 5 and headed out. His GPS unit kept freaking out on us, so we got a bit lost. It was a nice detour of the back country though, so that was fun. Stopped at Marie Calendars for dinner and then headed on home.

Got back here and crashed in bed. Got up this morning and went to Ikea and did some shopping then to Target. Got home from that and it was just too damn hot to do anything so we watched a really random movie called Perfume. The lead boy was hot, but oh my god. What a freaking CREEPY movie!

After the movie we went for a nice walk on the beach and then came back to my place. He had to leave so I’ve just been lounging around the house.

The scale at Ikea said I’m up to 180 pounds now! :'( I’m gonna have to work out pretty damn hard this week. I can’t have this! I can’t get fat!

Heading home at the end of the week too. So that’s going to be FUN! 🙂

Photos from the weekend are here