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Archive for the ‘technology’ Category

Around 7:30 pm, PDT on Friday night  (Aug. 5, 2011), we simultaneously lost our Internet connection, long-distance phone, and cell phone service.  Since these are provided by different companies, it surprising.

We turned on the radio and tried some of the local radio station.  They mentioned in passing that Internet was down as far as Garberville at least, and KMUD said they weren’t getting many calls from their listeners (but it might have been because their show really sucked.)  No big fuss and everybody just continuing with their regular music programmes, but then they might not have been able to get any info either.

By midnight we still saw no change, but this morning (Aug. 6) when I let the cats out just after 6 am, I noticed that the router was flashing normally again so I tried and found we had Internet again.  The cell phones are still telling us we’re roaming, though.  I looked online and found no mention on any of the local news sites or Google News.

We thought it might be related to the strong solar flares we were getting yesterday, but that’s just a WAG.  Anybody know anything?

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Eureka contaminated sites

Another useful Google Earth feature today: the Contaminated Sites layer from Terradex. This company compiled, and makes available free online, a list of USEPA Superfund and RCRA Cleanup sites, and state sites including California, Oregon, Washington and New Jersey.

The layer requires the use of Google Earth 4 or later. When you click on individual sites, the description includes links to websites and a comment box to provide feedback on the sites. There are 130,000 sites shown, and zooming into regions will reveal more sites.

It’s quite interesting if you like to find out what goes on in your community and know about the quality of your environment. Alas, I don’t think it’s been updated in a while; some of the site clean-ups marked as still open may have been completed by now.

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Here are some free online learning resources you can use to do some research, improve your skills, and share information.

I like using free e-books, slide presentations, images, and videos to find cool ideas, information, and resources.

  • Scribd — a place where you can store documents online and browse what others have uploaded. I’ve found many useful e-books there.
  • Free-eBooks.net — more e-books, with a dedicated and more organized browsing system.
  • Project Gutenberg — digital versions of public domain texts, which means most of the classics, among others. Project Gutenberg aims to make the contents of our libraries available for free to the widest number of people possible.
  • ManyBooks.net — an extension that builds on the Gutenberg Project and other sources to offer texts in many different formats.
  • The Best 6 Sites to Get Free Ebooks — on MakeUseOf.com
  • SlideShare — A place to store slide presentations, such as PowerPoint, Apple Keynote, iWork, Word, or Open Office documents. I’ve found many a useful and interesting presentation there. Slideshare also lets you share and embed slides into other sites.
  • Flickr — the well-known photo storage site not only lets your store, organize, and share your images; it also has a neat Creative Commons section you can search for images from others which you can legally reuse (read the specific conditions applicable to the images.)
  • YouTube — not just for stupid pet tricks and movie previews; under categories like Education or Science & Technology you can find very interesting material.

And tools to get more tools:

  • Feed43 — If you have a little familiarity with HTML and carefully read the instructions, you can create feeds from sites that don’t already provide them; then you can route the feeds to your favourite reader.
  • MakeUseOf.com — a blog dedicated to scouring the Web for more tools of all kinds. Every day you get links to new resources.
  • Free Download A Day — daily suggestions of freeware and shareware you can use.

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Google Earth iconI’ve mentioned several times things I love about Google Earth. I use it a lot for my work, but I also find it to be a lot of fun. Today, I’d like to share some interesting resources and tips on more geographic information about local features that can be explored in Google Earth. Google Earth is every Internet user’s gateway to geographic information system (GIS) information.

Topographic maps can be overlaid right on top of Google Earth so you can compare the aerial view and the map.  This layer was kindly reprojected, stitched,  and made available by3DSolar.

The National Wetland Inventory compiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is a key reference in conducting a lot of environmental studies, and is now available in a Google Earth projection.  Very handy for first-cut approach to a site, even though you still need field verification.

The Earthquake Hazards Program offered by the U.S. Geological Survey compiles several different and interesting links relevant to earthquake and geological hazards.

Air Quality Index maps from U.S. EPA AIRNow let you explore current, recent, and real-time air quality throughout the U.S.

MapCruizin is a local firm that gathers several free resources for Google Earth (and other geographic applications), including a map of California watersheds; a series of visualizations of U.S. EPA information on toxics and pollution; projections of the effects of global warming and climate change; and links to a collection of tools to do more with Google Earth, like use GIS data, draw new shapes, calculate areas, etc.

Another local initiative, Green Wheels, compiled a layer showing the Humboldt Bay trail network, both existing and planned.

Sea level rise scenarios from Mark Mulligan at the King’s College of London allow you to try various inundation scenarios based on the projected rise of sea level, and to compare the accuracy of the model for your area by checking it against current conditions.

Naturally, the Google Earth Gallery offers a multitude of other interesting or useful layers.

Links of interest:

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Back in January 2006, Jason Alba, a young IT professional and up-and-coming business manager was laid off from the software company he had helped develop. He says that although he was was sure he would find another job in a matter of weeks, he found himself months into his job search with no success.

But as part of his job search, he rapidly got tired of complex spreadsheets and sticky notes to keep track of his job search activities and contacts, so he started developing a little online database application he could use like a customer relationship management (CRM) system. He soon realized that others would find value in this tool, so he started his own company to make the new tool, which he called JibberJobber, available to the public.

Three years later, Jason Alba owns his own business, is a successful speaker, and has published books and instructional DVDs on using LinkedIn and Facebook, particularly for career management and job search.

This week, Jason is celebrating: it’s three years this week he started his own business — and his fifth child was born just days ago. So I thought I’d point people in his direction, for several good reasons.

  • Inspiration. Jason’s story makes a great narrative of the guy down on his luck who rebounds, the guy who rewrites the problem statement in order to solve it. Go read or view the story in some of the interviews .
  • Useful resource. Actually, multiple useful resources. I usually hesitate to write about commercial products, but I’ve already mentioned JibberJobber.com a few times in previous posts. When I was laid off a year ago, I was convinced that I was tracking job search information just fine. But I still gave JJ a whirl — and within days, it saved me from forgetting important details (contact info, follow-up letters, etc.) I’ve been employed for over eight months and I continue to use JJ as a contact management database and a job journal. On top of that, Jason posts tons of useful information on his site, and his books are also useful to me.
  • Job search ≠ career. In his blog, Jason often explores the distinction between career development and job search. It’s a fine point that is easy to miss while you’re searching because of the urgency of finding a job, and easy to forget when you’re employed because the sense of urgency is now missing. In other words, we tend to manage our careers in crisis mode — hardly a smart plan. I’ve drawn a lot from the JibberJobber blog in this respect.
  • Trifecta. How could I pass a chance to congratulate Jason for the triple shot of his new baby, his recently released DVD, and the third anniversary of his company?
  • Special. Yeah, JibberJobber has a special going on all week. You don’t actually need to pay to use JJ, only for the premium features, so this may or may not matter to you. But I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of it, myself.

Congratulation, Jason!

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The various stages of collapse of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in the Antarctica has been in the news over the past couple of weeks.  Now you can watch an animation of the process in Google Earth, as assembled by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

After downloading the file and opening it with Google Earth, I recommend first clicking the little clock icon to the left of the slider bar in the image, moving the animation speed slider so it is about 1/3 of the way from the left, and selecting “At end of time range, animation should stop.”  Then click “OK” and press the play button (arrow) at the right of the slider.  Repeat as needed.

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We’ve already established that I’m a nerd, so don’t be too alarmed when I tell you that today’s topic is snazzy periodic tables. I have three favourite sites I want to share, plus as a bonus, a fantastic chemistry database. If you’re not excited by the concept, maybe your high school-age kids will be!

You see, I have this theory that everything I do well — engineering studies, environmental impact assessment, business development, blogging, organizing events — is about 75% information management. I’m fascinated by clever uses of display and organization methods that make a lot of information available in a coherent fashion. The periodic table is a remarkable example because it organizes and presents tons of information in relatively little space.

Here are three versions that use hyperlinks and online capability to extend the power of the periodic table.

Ptable.com: Dynamic Periodic Table

Michael Dayah’s Ptable.com is the dedicated domain for an entirely HTML-based application (i.e., no Flash animation, no weird scripts) and resource that packs an amazing amount of useful information: properties, orbitals, isotopes, in glorious detail. It displays and prints well with most browsers. Mr. Dayah is constantly adding refinements and new features or information.

Los Alamos National Laboratory

The Periodic Table of the Elements on the Los Alamos National Laboratory site is less advanced in terms of both coding and information displayed, but is still a very nice resource. It too is HTML-based, so not prone to interference with other scripts and plug-ins.

Touchspin’s Interactive Periodic Table

Brian Adams’ (Touchspin’s) Interactive Periodic Table is Flash-based and provides less information than Ptable.com (about the same as LANL’s but somewhat different), but it displays very fast and cleanly. Like Ptable.com, it also links every element with its Wikipedia page. It also uses some nice colour-coding to convey additional information.

ChemIDplus Database

As our bonus chemistry site, we’re leaving the realm of the periodic table and simple elements to visit molecules. The National Institute of Health’s ChemIDplus is a searchable database of 360,000+ chemical substance records that provides tons of information on physical properties, structure, toxicity and even, if you add the plug-in, a representation of the molecules.

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