Geeks in Phoenix

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Create and track short URL's with Google URL Shortener

In this article, I am going to talk about a new service from Google called Google URL Shortener. Actually, it's been around since December of 2009 as a feature of Feedburner and the Google Toolbar. Recently, Google has developed it into a stand alone website.

Google URL Shortener

I know what you're thinking, another web site that shortens URL's. Well, you would be right, except for the fact that Google has integrated analytics into the URL's it generates. All you need to have is a Google account (and who doesn't now a days) to access the analytic data. Here's a couple of quotes from the Google Social Web Blog:

There are many shorteners out there with great features, so some people may wonder whether the world really needs yet another. As we said late last year, we built goo.gl with a focus on quality. With goo.gl, every time you shorten a URL, you know it will work, it will work fast, and it will keep working. You also know that when you click a goo.gl shortened URL, you’re protected against malware, phishing and spam using the same industry-leading technology we use in search and other products. Since our initial release, we’ve continued to invest in the core quality of the service:

  • Stability: We’ve had near 100% uptime since our initial launch, and we’ve worked behind the scenes to make goo.gl even stabler and more robust.
  • Security: We’ve added automatic spam detection based on the same type of filtering technology we use in Gmail.
  • Speed: We’ve more than doubled our speed in just over nine months.

We’ve focused on making the service lean, but you will find some helpful features. If you sign-in to your Google Account, you’ll see a list of URLs you’ve shortened in the past. Click the “details” link next to any of shortened URL and you’ll find public, real-time analytics data, complete with traffic over time, top referrers, and visitor profiles. This can be a great way to better understand who’s interested in your links, how they’re finding them and when they’re reading.

If you are looking to track your short URL's, I encourage you to look into Google URL Shortener,
Scott

Android 2.2 (Froyo) OS Update

I got a notice on my Motorola Android phone the other day telling me that the Android OS 2.2 (Froyo) update was ready for download. I backed up my Android, disconnected the USB cord from my pc and started the update.

Android 2.2 OS Update
Home Screens for both Android 2.1 and Android 2.2

The first noticeable change is in the Home screen. The Home screen now has dedicated shortcuts for Phone, Launcher and Browser. On either side of the Shortcuts are Home Screen tabs, which make switching between the five different panels and knowing which one you're viewing a breeze.

The Browser has been enhanced using a new rendering engine, V8, which enables faster loading of JavaScript heavy pages. The ability to play Flash videos is apparently on it's way.

The Camera and Gallery got a make over too. There are now onscreen buttons for controlling zoom, flash, focus, exposure, white balance and geo-tagging. The Camcorder now uses the LED flash to record video in low light or at night.

A new feature is the ability to tether the 3G connection using the USB cable. On some Android models, like the Nexus One, you can also create a portable WlFi hotspot. There maybe additional fees for these services, so it's best to contact your service provider for more details.

The support for Exchange has also been upgraded. Remote wipe, Auto-discovery and improved security are just a few of the changes.

There are changes under the hood too. Using Dalvik JIT, performance has been increased up 2x-5x for CPU heavy code. And Kernel Memory Management Boost improved memory reclaim performance by 20% for faster switching between applications.

Note:
I did have a couple of issues with existing applications on my phone. One I had to remove completely. Another, DejaOffice, had to be reinstalled, as it had a updated version for this platform (Android 2.2).

From what I have seen, this update was well worth the wait.
Scott

Update 8/20/2010: I recently had my Bluetooth headset die and since writing this article have replaced it. I am happy to report that the voice-enabled dialing feature in this update does work.

Android Gallery 2.1 Force Close issue

I recently had an issue with the Gallery application on my Google Android 2.1. I would get an error message every time I started the Gallery app telling me "Sorry! The application Gallery (process com.collliris.media) has stopped unexpectedly. Please try again.". Selecting 'Force Close' just put it into a loop. The only way to get out was to press the 'Return' key as the Galley app restarted.

I used SyncToy and backed up the contents of my Android. I then I found several articles and tried a few of the suggestions. The following is the final process I went through to fix this issue:

  1. I mounted my Android to my PC via the USB cable, created a SyncToy backup and copied the folder to another drive (I am going to modify the backup before restoring it, so I want a copy of the original backup)
  2. I umounted my Android from the PC.
  3. On my Android, I went to Settings>SD card and phone storage> and selected 'Unmount SD card'
  4. I then selected 'Format SD card'. Once reformatted, you will want to remount the SD card (my Android remounted the SD card automatically)
  5. In the backup on my PC, I deleted the contents of the \Android\data\com.cooliris.media and \DCIM\.thumbnails directories
  6. I then mounted the Android to my PC, recreated the folder pairing in Synctoy and restored my data back to the Android

After syncing my applications a couple of times, all of my settings were back. And now the Gallery application works perfectly fine again.

Hopes this helps,
Scott

Stitching panoramic images with Microsoft's Image Composite Editor and Photosynth

I recently had the opportunity to go out and shoot some landscape photos in Vermont. I had wanted to try out Microsoft's Image Composite Editor. ICE (that's the acronym) is an advanced panoramic image stitcher that uses Photosynth technology. Here's a quote from the Photosynth site.

Using techniques from the field of computer vision, Photosynth examines images for similarities to each other and uses that information to estimate the shape of the subject and the vantage point each photo was taken from. With this information, we recreate the space and use it as a canvas to display and navigate through the photos.

One of the key features of Microsoft's ICE is the ability to drag and drop hundreds of photos taken in a rectangular grid of rows and columns. With that in mind, I set out to take some photos. I attached a wide angle lens on to my Nikon D40 and I was on my way.


Over two hundred images were used to create this composite

I decided to go all the way and also installed Microsoft Photosynth. I created an account on their site, so I could upload the the composite images from Microsoft ICE. This is one of two options for saving the final composite image. The other being an image format (.JPG, .PSD, etc.). Click here to see more of my photosynths.

Here's a list of features from the Microsoft ICE home page:

  • Accelerated stitching on multiple CPU cores
  • Ability to publish, view, and share panoramas on the Photosynth web site
  • Support for "structured panoramas" - panoramas consisting of hundreds of photos taken in a rectangular grid of rows and columns (usually by a robotic device like the GigaPan tripod heads)
  • No image size limitation - stitch gigapixel panoramas
  • Support for input images with 8 or 16 bits per component
  • Ability to read raw images using WIC codecs
  • Photoshop layer and large document support
  • State-of-the-art stitching engine
  • Automatic exposure blending
  • Choice of planar, cylindrical, or spherical projection
  • Orientation tool for adjusting panorama rotation
  • Automatic cropping to maximum image area
  • Native support for 64-bit operating systems
  • Wide range of output formats, including JPEG, TIFF, BMP, PNG, HD Photo, and Silverlight Deep Zoom

I am really satisfied with the output from Microsoft's ICE and Photosynth and encourage you to give it a try for yourself.

Enjoy,
Scott

Tether your Android's 3G to your pc with PdaNet

When I changed over to the Android, one of the functions I wanted was to use it's 3G data connection with my netbook. I found this great program from June Fabrics Technology called PdaNet. It allows you to tether your Android's 3G without having to do any hacking.

PDA.net

Once the installation is complete on both PC and Android, you will find connecting to be easy. Just connect the USB cable from the Android to the PC, start the PdaNet app on your Android and then use the tray icon in Windows to connect. Here's a quote from their web site:

PDA.net has been one of the most popular software for Windows Mobile phones, Palm OS phones and iPhones. It is now ported to the Android system! PdaNet provides you with FULL Internet access so all your email, instant message programs will work without any setting changes. Supports both USB Tether and Bluetooth DUN.

PdaNet does NOT require root access or hacking your phone's firmware in order to work. It is just a regular Android application that works on all Android phones as-is. Tethering is fast, secure and USB mode will also charge your phone at the same time. Your phone can either connect to 3G data, WiFi, or even through VPN and PdaNet will share the connection with your computer.

If you are looking to connect to the internet on your computer through your smart phone, I recommend you go over to June Fabrics site and take a look at their line of PdaNet products. BTW: If you use Windows 7, you can create a WiFi hot spot with PdaNet and Virtual Router.

Enjoy,
Scot

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