The Cartoon Me

I’ve been slumming around on lately. It’s a 3D virtual world kind of thing.

I read every day, and one of the editors, Cory Doctorow, frequently mentions the comings and goings in the online 3D world Second Life. I bought a $10 membership to the place about a year ago but never used it. A few weeks ago, after having upgraded the guts of my PC, I decided to check it out. Maybe I had totally missed out on the reason for its appeal.

Well, I didn’t. At least to me, the place just plain stinks. It’s a virtual world that takes from the worst elements of the real world–sex, vanity, gambling, materialism and consumerism–and lets people go completely out of control with them. Practically every other user-created building in Second Life is a store selling slutty fashion for women. The irony of spending real money on more virtual property than anyone could ever need is completely lost on these people. And all the cybersex that goes on, along with the necessary equipment and scripts to support it, had me scratching my head and wondering, “What is WRONG with these people?” The worst part is the 3D physics and graphics were state-of-the-art about eight years ago.

So I decided to give a try. Back in 2003, they blew through $30 million to develop their world and it shows. The landscape and professionally created structures are pure eye candy. The in-world vehicles are a blast to drive. It’s more difficult for users to make money as developers, so for the most part only the most skilled people can make a living at it, so the landscape isn’t so overrun with virtual crap.

What I like best about is that it’s rated PG-13. I can let my kids play in there–supervised, of course–and not worry about coming across a pair of bare naked avatars performing oral sex on each other. The three of us have spent the past two weekends barreling over the landscape in dune buggies and flying over it with a jet back strapped to our character’s back. I met some people from South America and I’ve been able to use my Spanish (my second language) for the first time in ages. I’m trying to convince my sister in the US to sign on so that her two girls and my two boys can play together.

Yeah, so anyway, I’m sure we’ll get bored with it eventually, but for now it’s pretty fun. For about $4 in accessories, I even got my avatar to look like me, right down to my shoes:

Is that a hoot or what?

My username there is “Pavster,” BTW.

A real Podcast/videocast coming soon

Last week I did a podcast/videocast at the new Apple Store in Shibuya. Had I not forgotten my iRiver at the office over the weekend, I would have put it up. I have the rest of this week off, so it’ll be up soon.

Two new and cool things to show ya’ll:

  • A Google Map mashup that shows who has visited my site lately.
  • The most awesome streaming video technology I have ever seen. Oh. My. God. Click that link, it’ll blow you away. I will play with VP7 as soon as I can. Like, as soon as I can park the kids in front of the PlayStation so I can shoot & encode some video. Unfortunately, it looks like you gotta pay to use Vividas’ Java applet that plays fullscreen video. Nevertheless, this is making my geek nipples so hard, they’re bleeding.

Public Service Announcement: iScoot extends Skype

It’s now possible to have incoming Skype calls forwarded to any phone, even your mobile phone. Holy-frikkin’-moley.

First, let’s assume that you use Skype on a PC and you already have purchased SkypeOut credit so that you can can make PC to phone calls. Next, download and install iScoot. Fire it up and enter your mobile phone’s number. Leave your PC connected to the net with Skype and iScoot running and go outside. (If you’re afraid to go outside, then just walk a few steps away from the computer. Don’t worry, your porn collection won’t evaporate.) When somebody Skypes you, iScoot will patch the incoming call to your phone via SkypeOut.

Now is that cool or what? I assume that if I use SkypeIn, someone could call my number in the US and it’ll be put through to my mobile.

Geoblogging: Mapping photos

I live for this stuff. Someone mashed together Google Maps, Flickr, Firefox, and Greasemonkey to make it incredibly easy to show exactly where a photo was taken.

Here’s an example. Click on the photo below to go to the photo’s page on On that page, click on the hyperlink “GeoTagged” below the photo. It’ll take you to the site and show you on a map the exact location where it was taken.

Shinjuku Station

If you’re willing to click one more time, click on the “satellite” link in the top right corner of the map to see the location on a satellite photo of Tokyo. Zoom all the way in and you’ll see Shinjuku Station.

This is so simple to do that I’ll definitely be tagging the photos that accompany soundseeing tours. If you have flickr account and are somewhat technically savvy, instructions are here.

Being attention deficient is a good personality trait for podcasters, isn’t it? (Except when having to edit hours and hours of audio.)

Apparently there’s also a way to import the data into Google Earth, but I’ll leave that for another day. It’s a great app to play with if you have a powerful enough PC and video card.

Here’s a fun activity: Learn how to zoom in on your house starting from all the way out in space. If you’re ever abducted and you manage to comandeer an alien dingy to make your escape, this skill surely will come in handy.

iTunes 4.9 is out!

Ladies and gentlemen, iTunes 4.9:

Currently, the podcast directory is hidden in the iTunes store. In the navigation bar on the left, select “Movie Trailers” then “Soundtracks.” On that page there’s a link to Podcasts.

Here are the technical details for making your podcast iTunes compatible:

HFJ isn’t available yet. There’s a way to submit a podcast’s RSS feed for consideration, but please don’t do it yet. I’m working on adding album art to all the previous episodes and moving them to another server so I don’t wake up one morning and discover I owe Dreamhost for excess bandwidth.

In the meantime, you can subscribe manually by pasting the RSS feed into iTunes. It’s under the “Advanced” menu.

More panoramas coming soon

The second I woke up this morning I had a blinding flash of inspiration. I created a makeshift monopod for my Sony Clie PEG-NX70V using a Swiss army knife, a long piece of dental floss and the clip from a broken Mickey Mouse keitai strap. (I really wanted to use duct tape to make it an official McGiver hack but couldn’t figure out how to fit it into the equation.)

Here’s the entire process. The clip attaches to the Clie right under the camera, the floss is tied to the clip and the Swiss army knife acts as a plumb bob so the Clie’s video camera stays relatively the same height and location. I shoot a video of everywhere from top to bottom, 360 degrees around, while trying to keep the camera’s lens rotating around the same point in space. The MPEG gets imported into the PC where I delete the crappy parts with QuickTime. Then I export one or two frames per second as JPEGs — about 150-400 images in all. Those get fed into AutoStitch, which theoretically should piece them all together into one image. When the image is viewed with the PTviewer Java applet, it should look fairly good, although relatively low res since the Clie’s video camera only does 160 X 120. Maybe I should try taking stills at 640 X 480.

There are lots of autostitched photos in flickr under the tags autostitch and composite. And beautiful QuickTime panoramas from around the world (along with the moon and Mars) at

Our House is a Very Very Very Fine House.

Click and drag on the image to scroll around. If you’re saying, “What image?” then you need to install Java. Go ahead. It’s good for you.

That’s the back of our house. The house on the other side of the “street” with all the shrubbery in front of it is my father in law’s house.

I made this with very little effort and no practice. That’s why it’s kinda crappy. I simply stood in one spot and “painted” the scene with my Sony Clie’s 160×120 pixel video camera; no tripod, no nuthin’, I simply filmed everywhere. I downloaded the MPEG-4 movie to my PC and exported about three frames a second to JPEG using QuickTime. Then I pointed AutoStitch at the directory full of images. It did the rest.

There are ways to create higher quality panoramas, but they take lots of time, effort and an investment in hardware. But for what I want to do–take a quick immersive snapshot so listeners can get a clearer image of what they’re hearing–I’m happy with it. Take a look here for some stunningly beautiful hi-res panoramas of Japan.

You can see most of the path I took on the walk from the door to the rice field full of frogs. The door’s in front of you. Pan left. I walked up the alley then turned right. The rice field is right behind the white truck parked in the driveway of grandpa’s house.