Friday, November 30, 2007



PocketFinder is a small device that uses GPS to locate itself and provide updates to the registered user of that device. The device seems to use cell phone networks to send the updates and registered users can track it online.

The obvious use of such a product is to track children and pets. From the website and product packaging - that looks like the segment the product is currently being aimed at. Obviously one could place the device in a vehicle for vehicle tracking, which would make it useful as a business application of the device.

One thing that I am not sure of is as to what the device will do indoors or in GPS shadow regions. It would be cool if it could use the cell-phone networks to get an approximate location (just like the new Google Maps Mobile does - using the strength of signals coming from the cell phone towers). That would be an extremely important feature when it comes to parents who are buying the product to track their kids.


The idea of the PocketFinder itself is not new. If you look at my previous post Open Source GPS Tracking Solution, you will see that there exists an open source project that would enable just such GPS application. PocketFinder just like the GumStix project is not a completely new idea, but both projects show one thing that is important - Marketing. Both these products have a good name, good packaging, an excellent web-site and are slowly creating brand and product awareness.


No word on when the device will be available for purchase right now. (The retail locator currently doesn't return any results). One thing I am sure about, is that they will probably have a subscription model as they will have to pay for the access to the cell phone networks for the purpose of transmitting the location data.

Going forward into the future, I do wonder how much of a demand will there be for such a product, as most cell phones will be location aware via Assisted GPS and so the concept could be implemented as a software solution. It will definitely have a market for tracking very young children, the elderly, pets as well as vehicles.

Also for future features - these devices could transmit small snippets of sound, environment readings (heat, humidity, etc) - which would be useful for vehicle or shipment tracking. It would be cool if these features could be added as add on modules to a basic device. That way depending on the application one could pick and choose the features that they need.

The PocketFinder is being developed by a company called Location Based Technologies.

A Ray Tracer in C#3.0

Here is a sample ray tracer written in about 400 lines of code using features of C#3.0. A great way to immerse into the new features of the language.

In addition the code has been used to show-case the Parallel Extensions for .NET 3.5 by Microsoft. (The converted sample and description is available at  MSDN Magazine Article: Parallel Performance: Optimize Managed Code for Multi-Core Machines)

LukeH's WebLog : A Ray Tracer in C#3.0

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Open Source GPS Tracking Solution

Came across two open source projects that can provide a solution for GPS Tracking.

OpenDMTP (Device Monitoring and Tracking Protocol/Program) provides the framework that allows bi-directional data communications between servers and devices (clients) over any type of network (GPRS, Internet, etc.).

Where OpenDMTP provides the framework for communication between a server and a client device, the project OpenGTS (GPS Tracking Solution) provides the server side web-platform that can be used to display the information obtained via OpenDMTP (The device (client) uses OpenDMTP to send messages to the website implemented with OpenGTS - which then could display the information on any web-based mapping solution).


One of the features claimed by the authors of OpenDMTP is that it has been built to keep the amount of network traffic used low. This is extremely important when it comes to communicating over GPRS (cell phone) networks - where bandwidth is expensive and charged by the kiloByte.

OpenDMTP has reference implementations in both C and Java. (The C implementation runs on LINUX and can be run via CygWin in Windows).

OpenGTS has been implemented using Java and uses MySQL as the database. A demo project can be seen at (click on Demo to see it in action)


Source code: OpenDMTP and OpenGTS

Article on getting OpenDMTP running on a laptop:

GumStix: the littlest computer

If you haven't heard of GumStix before, these guys make very small computers - literally the  size of gum sticks. The company used to mainly manufacture boards that ran the Linux operating system. From the talk given at the university of Washington, it looks like they have started looking at embedded Windows, which is what got me interested in them.

The computers that these guys make are highly configurable and they have embraced open source and the developer community to a high degree. So you can get pretty much any information you want from their website (  as well as their wikis (


Because the computers are configurable and expandable - you can add on WiFi boards, blue tooth adapters and even a different OS (like WinCE). The following lecture was given by the companies marketing VP Don Anderson. He talks about the WindowsCE that is available for GumStix via the community WE-Dig (Windows Embedded Developers' Interest Group )


Another interesting thing about the lecture is the way in which the video and the slides are synchronized together. Makes it so much easier to follow along with the talk.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Möbius transformations revealed

An interesting way to look at Mobius transformations.....

Möbius transformations revealed

The site has a hi-res quick time version of the video.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Getting rid of the "Internet Explorer provided by...." in the title bar

When I got my new Vista laptop the first thing I did was to get rid of all the crapware that was installed on it. Having done that successfully I had to live with an annoying Internet Explorer title "Internet explorer provided by Dell".

Here is an easy way of removing that message.

Go to Start -> Run and paste the following text and hit enter. Restart IE and it should be gone.

"rundll32 iedkcs32.dll,Clear"

The above command clears out all the rebranding that might have been applied to your internet explorer.

(Another way to do the same thing is to edit the registy directly, though I like the above method better as it probably removes all other branding information that might be stored for IE - HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main,Window Title)

WIFI Antenna Hack! - WIFI Antenna Hack!

Here is an interesting video that shows you how to quickly hack your WiFi antenna so as to make it into one of those expensive WiFi extender antenna that BestBuy sells for 20 bucks or more.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Installing a networked printer in Windows Vista

I recently purchased a laptop which came with Windows Vista Home Premium. The server in my home is a Windows XP machine running a Epson Stylus CX4800 printer (which is connected to the server via a USB cable). There are two other XP machines that connect to that machine and installing the printer on those machines involved just browsing the network neighborhood, drilling down to the server and dragging the printer on to those machines.

Unfortunately, installing the printer onto my new Vista machine wasn't as straight forward.

Keep in mind that what I had to do was for an Epson Stylus CX4800 machine, but the solution should work on any network where you are able to browse to server that hosts the printer and you are able to see the printer in the network.

Here are the steps.

  1. I installed the printer locally.
    a. Go to Control Panel -> Printers
    b. Right click and choose "Run as Administrator->Add a Printer"
    c. Choose "Add a local printer"
    d. Choose "Create a new port" and set the type of port as "Local Port"
    e. When you hit next, you will see the Port Name dialog.
    f. Enter the name as \\ServerName\PrinterName\. In my case the name was like \\myServer\EpsonSty.
  2. Next you will have to select the printer driver
  3. Now make sure that the new network port you specified is being used:
    Right click on the printer and choose properties
    Make sure the network port is the one that is selected (notice that it is a Local Port, but points at a network printer)
  4. Once that was done, I was able print a test page and voila - it worked!
    Open up the properties for the printer and choose "Print Test Page"

I am not sure why installing the printer in the traditional manner does not work and after almost a day of trying various steps - I stumbled upon some tips that pointed me in this direction and it works great. So I am not complaining no more.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

9NEWS Parade of Lights | Event Details

Parade route

View Larger Map

9NEWS Parade of Lights | Event Details

Google Maps - New Feature - GoogleBar

Google unveiled a great new feature for Google Maps this week. Called "GoogleBar", it displays an embedded search box in your map and the results show up within your map window. Below is an example of the GoogleBar in action. Try and search for Starbuck's in downtown Denver. This is an awesome feature - especially for those who wish to embed a map on their website. Here are some of my thoughts about improvements to this feature: 1. The map owner should be able to constrain the search space to a specific area on the map, preferably the current view extent, or a user definable extent. 2. The search results should pop-up on a semi-transparent background. 3. As I move over the results the corresponding icons on the map should get highlighted. 4. One should be able to place the search bar in any corner of the map. (not just the bottom left). 5. The GoogleBar should automatically collapse to its minimized state when I click outside it. This map also brings up one of my biggest issues with GoogleMaps. Even though Google is the search leader - many a times its results for maps is not as good as that provided by Live Maps. For example try a search for Starbuck in the above map. The results include just one of the coffee shops, which is outside the original extents of the map. Instead if you search for Starbucks, all of the results include the coffee shops in downtown Denver. In Live Maps, whether you search for Starbuck or Starbucks, you get the same set of results. Obviously depending on what you are searching for, the results from Google might look more reasonable to you (that is if you are search for people with last names Starbuck). But in this case I would think that most people would be interested in the Starbuck's coffee chain. Google was one of the first to pioneer a search where the plural of a word wouldn't matter (try doing a normal web search using Starbuck and Starbucks - the first few results point to the coffee chain). So I have to wonder - why they don't use the same heuristics for the map search.