Archive for the 'Miscellaneous' Category

Google map with Utah Repeaters

I thought it would be helpful to visualize where all the radio repeaters are in my area. I found a lack of map information available for this sort of thing but I found readily available CSV data with the information. Google Fusion Tables to the rescue!

I tried to embed the map in this post but for some reason the google map terrain data wasn't showing up when I combined everything with the template. For the time being, just access the separate page.

Utah Repeater Map


A review of sponsoredreviews

I've terminated my account. It was a fun experiment, and I did indeed receive some cash on the side, but it's just not worth the time I guess. I don't think any readers of this site are actually are interested in the reviews anyway. I tried to write them in a way that was at least somewhat educational, or pointed out how I thought the service could be useful. It seemed to me however that the only people ever purchasing reviews on the site were ISPs or email hosting services. I think readers are advanced enough to find an email provider that works for them and are also probably happy enough with their ISP. On occasion, I would see something I thought actually applied to the community and bid on it. None of those advertisers ever accepted though. Recently, SR raised the amount they take from the advertisers. I figured it was good enough time toss in the hat and focus my energy elsewhere.

Pardon my dust…

Switching hosting providers this weekend. I'm hoping to have a little bit more uptime than my old server was providing.

Let me know if you see any 404 errors or stuff that I haven't transferred over from the old server.


Handbrake can convert MTS files for Mac

So a while back we purchased a JVC Everio HD camcorder. I'll skip the commentary on whether or not that is a good idea. For me, the relevant issue is: how am I supposed to copy the MTS (AVCHD H.264) encoded files to my mac and get them in a format that I can import into iMovie and edit.

Here are a few things I discovered on my journey the last few months:

  1. VLC can play MTS files. I wasn't able to get the stream converter to export them properly to mov files though. Perhaps there is some setting I missed somewhere, but the formats I tried either had messed up audio or Quicktime couldn't open them.
  2. ffmpeg is probably a good option. I couldn't get it to work though. I had the same problems with it that I had with VLC. I couldn't seem to pick correct encodings to get the audio/video to stay in sync.
  3. iMovie can import video directly from the camera. If you plug the camera in and import the movies directly into iMovie, that works but you end up with mov files that are larger on your hard drive. Also, if you copy the camera drive in it's entirety to a dmg image, and then mount the dmg file, iMovie can pretend like that is a camera too, and still import the files. I didn't want this though since I didn't want to make dmg files every time I want to import and I didn't want to store mov files.
  4. Handbrake does the job nicely. You can queue up a bunch of files and choose a format to convert them too. I found converting to the preset Apple TV settings works pretty well for importing into iMovie.

Hope this helps someone. Skip all those ffmpeg front-end rip off programs that want to charge you money. They are GPL violating programs whose owners are attempting to make a quick buck off something you can (and should be able to) do for free.

GnuCash Budget Followup

Here is a followup to a few questions that have come up since my GnuCash Budget post.

  1. How much did I spend for this month?

    I find the Cash Flow report useful for this question. (Reports->Income & Expense->Cash Flow). You need to customize the report a bit before you get the information you need though. 1st, change the date range to the period of time you're interested in. 2nd, select any additional accounts you want included. By default, the report only includes expenses and asset (cash) accounts. You need to select any liability accounts (like credit cards) that you spend money from.

    When you've set up the report, you get Money In and Money Out sections. The Money Out shows you not only how much each budget account spent, but also you can see which expense accounts you spent the money in.

    This is a particular subtlety of this budget system that I really like. You don't have to spend budget money from the same account as the expense. Example: I have my own personal budget but I use it to by items in many different expense accounts, e.g., movies, games, food, computers, etc. The report might look like this:
    Budget: My budget: 100
    Expense: Food 25
    Expense: Movies 25
    Expense: Computer 50

    I do that exact thing all the time. We might buy a particular expense item but choose to take it out of our savings budget for instance.

  2. Did I go over the budget this month?

    This one is easy. There is not "this month" or "last month" in this budget system. You can choose to think of your budget that way, but I like to think of it as a continuous budget amount. Budgets increase when you increase them and decrease when you spend from them. For me, my budget increases when I earn income. That might be monthly, bi-weekly, and it may have occasional spikes. (Like we got our tax refund back, so I added the money from that to our budgets).

  3. How much did I spend on food and transportation this month?

    Just look at the Cash Flow report and find the category you're interested in. Note that you can look at both the Expense (how much you spend on a certain thing.) and the Budget (how much you used from the budget.) They may be the same or they may be different depending on how you choose to record transactions.

  4. How much was my net-income for the last quarter?

    Since the budget balances to 0, it doesn't affect your balance sheet. You can use the standard GnuCash balance sheet and asset reporting to figure out your income etc. One note though, I try to remember that my budget money will need to be spent at some point in the future.

  5. Which area can I spend less and save more?

    This one is pretty easy. Just look at your budget accounts in the main GnuCash window. Since you always see the current balance of your budget account, just look at which ones are positive and which ones are approaching zero (or heaven forbid you didn't go negative did you?).

    We transfer money between budgets too. Say I built up over a few months a few hundred extra dollars in my Auto:Fuel budget since gas prices have been low. I can decide to make a transfer from that budget to another one that perhaps we had some extra expense from.

Since writing my original post, I've only grown to like this system more and more. Feel free to post more questions/comments and I'll do my best to answer.

The further declining value of Turbotax and Quicken

Last year I posted a rant on the declining value of Turbotax and Quicken. I just finished filing my taxes for the 2008 tax year and thought I'd write a quick follow up after sticking to my guns for the 2008 year.


  • I dropped Quicken altogether. I switched to an Open Source Free program called GnuCash. This might not be for everyone, but for me personally, I love it. You can review yourself some of the GnuCash features if you like. I personally switched because of the way I was able to do Budgeting with GnuCash.
  • I dropped Turbotax this year too. A quick Google search before I started doing my taxes yielded a number of online tax services. The highest rated were Taxact and TurboTax. Because I had my previous years data in TurboTax, I went ahead and entered this year's data. Then, I entered all my information into Taxact. I was pleasantly surprised that the numbers came out exactly the same. (They should, the forms are standard and it's all just math basically.)

    So Taxact costs $16.95 for Federal + State and TurboTax costs ~$64.50. I will admit that some of the interface issues that TurboTax offers are a little nicer than Taxact, but for me, I'll use the extra ~$50 somewhere else.