Ted Williams – the homeless man with the golden voice

, posted: 5-Jan-2011 18:30

I normally take little notice of viral videos, but this one is inspiring.

Ted Williams is homeless, and he stands on the side of Interstate 71 in Columbus, Ohio to beg for money, with a sign that reads:

I have a God given gift of voice, I'm an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times. Please! Any help will be gratefully appreciated. Thank you and God bless you. Happy Holidays.

Being in the right place at the right time, a video of him was posted on YouTube by a reporter for the Columbus Dispatch:

Offers for employment have flooded in, Ted now has a Twitter account (@GoldenVoice614), and is being featured on news sites all around the world (more at Google News).

The link on reddit has gone mad, with 576 comments from readers offering everything from job offers, money to pay his salary and used suits.

It seems the internet can be used for good, and to give Ted a second chance.

Visualising data on a map

, posted: 28-Dec-2010 18:34

Mapping data geospatially was the title I was going with originally - what I've gone with is the layman's way of describing this post.

It was at a training day for the Auckland SQL group (a group of SQL Server geeks) earlier this year that I realised how few developers knew what geospatial mapping was, meaning the decision makers in their businesses hadn't seen or didn't know about the vast benefits it can bring.  If you work with any data that involves addresses, you need to start mapping that data geospatially.

If you were given a list of addresses to visit, most people who pull out a map book to work out the best route; unless you were completely familiar with the addresses already, this is the easiest way to figure out a route.  Likewise, if you were trying to figure out the most central point to meet, a map would be very helpful.

Mapping data geospatially is taking addresses, converting them to their latitude/longitude, and then using them to achieve your outcome, whether it is putting them on a map, or calculating the distance between them (to name two very basic applications).

In June (yes I'm quick, I know), I posted a topic about the best places to eat, with the idea that this would give me data to help illustrate this post.  I took all the posts, geocoded the addresses (translated them into co-ordinates), and saved them to a database.  A screenshot of the list is below:

As a raw list, if you are looking for a place to eat, it's quite hard to determine anything.  If all these points are put on a map it becomes much easier (view live map):

Mapping provided by Geosmart (subsidiary of the AA), who also do maps for Navman and Tomtom GPS navigation units.

This is only a very basic application, to take this every further I could:

  • Allow you to enter an address and then show you the nearest food places and the distances to them (with driving directions).
  • List the food places based on the geographical location (rather than the random order they are currently in)
  • Give each different food place a different icon depending on it's type (so a coffee cup for cafes, a beer for pubs etc)
  • Figure out the most optimum way to visit a group of food places using Geosmart's clever routing engine (Route2GO optimisation).

Geospatially mapping makes visualising your geographical data much easier, and some of the savings that can be made, especially for delivery based industries (by using route optimisation) can be quite significant.

If you have any food places you want to add, please visit here and add your own.  Once I've checked it (and to prevent spam) it'll appear on the live list here.

My thanks to Geekzone users Antzzz, BurningBeard, coffeebaron, Ezzie, garvani, gehenna, jofizz, Lias, michaelmurfy, muppet, nickd, NonprayingMantis, oxnsox, rscole86, sarg, snonoz, timbosan, tomgeeknz, vinnieg, and xpd for their submissions.

Blatant self promotion: if you want to implement this or see what else is possible, contact 3Bit as we are certified Geosmart developers.

Give alittle to Starship with Giapo

, posted: 17-Dec-2010 15:47

giapo logo flat I'm a big fan of Giapo - it's an Italian gelato store based next to The Civic on Queen St in Auckland.  If you use Twitter, you'll see Gianpaolo, the owner and creator of Giapo, popping up all the time as @giapo.  He's a great person to sit and chat to as you devour an organic gelato.

Tis the season for giving, so Giapo is raising $4,000 for Starship, to buy them a new Mass Flow Respiratory Sensor:

The equipment that Starship would really like is Mass Flow Respiratory Sensor and so we've decided to raise the funds and give a smile to the kids at the hospital.

The Mass Flow Respiratory Sensor is a critical piece of equipment that is used in lung function testing. This kind of testing is used to diagnose and monitor children with severe and sometimes life threatening respiratory or lung disease.

Over one thousand of these tests are undertaken each year at Starship on children from all over New Zealand who have conditions such as severe asthma, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy.

The machines will cost $4000, but with your help we're sure that it's beatable (and in time for Christmas).

Between 12noon-2pm tomorrow (Saturday 18th December), Giapo is giving 100% of his revenue to Starship, served up by various NZ celebrities, including former Breakfast show gadget guy Ben Gracewood (who has a flavour in his honour since he's a fruit cake he likes fruit mince pies):



If you're not lucky enough to live in Auckland, donate online instead. I'm heading to Giapo around lunch time, DM me on Twitter if you want to chit chat over some yummy Giapo.

Stalking with Google Latitude

, posted: 6-Dec-2010 21:11

Google Latitude is a fantastic product - it's supported by a variety of mobile operating systems (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, Symbian, Windows Mobile) and once installed, it sends regular GPS co-ordinates to Google.  Once you friend someone, they can see your exact location (like foursquare) so if you are close to someone, you could catch-up for a coffee, and back-stab your best friend, I don't know...

You can manually set your location to any random place if you really want to mess with your friends, and in case you want the world to know exactly where you are, you can also publish a badge on your website, like the example one below:
latitude-badgeImage courtesy of Rick Klau's blog. I'm not using the live badge from my Latitude account as I don't want sbiddle turning up at my house.
You may wonder why I'm blogging about Latitude when it's not a new product.  It was from seeing the badge that I wondered if Google exposed your positioning data, so you could use it in anyway you please, and it seems they do, but with a weird quirk.
If you request the data in JSON format, you get:
If you request the data in ATOM format, you get:
Everything looks fine, until you get to the last updated date.  I've just updated Google Latitude on my Nokia E71, and the two different formats return different things, despite using the same data!
JSON: 1291615096 (Unix timestamp), which works out to Mon 6 Dec, 5:58 am (GMT)
ATOM: 2010-12-05T21:58:16Z, which is Sun 5 Dec, 9:58pm (GMT)
I've also noticed recently that Latitude only shows the city - about a month ago it would give you the exact address.
Not sure why Latitude reports two different things, however, their API provides a really good way to expose where you are right now, in the format that you want, to build the stalking app of your dreams.

Should we get into cloud computing?

, posted: 22-Nov-2010 07:00

The last week has seen a strange coincidence of me being asked numerous times from friends and clients, "we've heard of cloud computing, is it the future, and should we get into it now?"  It seems a good proportion of IT providers are pushing this into market at the moment, with clients who don't really understand what it is, or why they need it.  Gotta love buzzwords to sell more product and maintenance plans.

So what is cloud computing? The "cloud" is being able to access servers that are hosted for you by a third-party, allowing you to utilise them without the traditional downsides of heavily initial capital outlay for new equipment, having to replace equipment in 3-5 years, and being restricted as your business grows while your limited hardware is stretched.  Cloud computing means you purchase the capacity you require now, with the ability to quickly and easily add more space and power without having to upgrade hardware.  A simple analogy is outsourcing your servers (as opposed to just outsourcing your IT support).

Sitting on top of the cloud platform, is SaaS (Software-as-a-Service).  Instead of purchasing a license for software which is yours forever (and is a one-off), you pay a monthly, on-going fee to utilise software, usually through your standard web browser.  The benefits include access from anywhere, upgrades are handled for you, and extra users and capacity are easy to add on.  The poster child for SaaS in New Zealand is Xero (they can be compared to the incumbent MYOB).

What's my recommendation?

Cloud computing is a great idea, especially for new businesses.  Start up costs can be hefty, and by using the cloud more, you can concentrate on your core business, rather than having to purchase a HP or IBM server, with Windows Small Business Server, paying an IT company to setup, then monitoring it as your business grows: now it's much easy - just get BPOS (Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, or Microsoft Exchange online) or Google Hosted Apps.

Downsides? I would shy away from any online backup solutions for now as broadband caps aren't high enough, and if a computer does fail, it will take a good amount of time to bring your data back to do a restore.  It'll get better, but too cost prohibitive for now.

I would also recommend that should your IT provider toss buzz words around, ask them to explain them in layman terms.  A lot of the trends happening at the moment are quite simple when broken down to their fundamental parts.

Any queries or comments, please add them below in the comments section.

nate's profile

New Zealand

I'm Nate Dunn, and I work for 3Bit, and am a moderator here at Geekzone.

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The views and opinions represented on this blog are personal and belong solely to the blogger and do not represent in anyway those of 3Bit Solutions Limited or any other company.

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