Route map and elevation profile for Hike Posts

Hike Profiles and Map

I have just updated my blog with two new features for hike posts.

The route is now shown in an embedded Google map. The map has a pin for the start of the hike (and for any geolocated photos included with the post) and a red line for the GPS track. Don't use this for following the route - better to download the KML file and have an offline map - but it's great for getting a sense of the hike.

Below the map is a new hike profile that plots elevation against distance together with estimated total distance and elevation gain. This is fairly tricky as my phone GPS isn't the best and altitude in particular jumps around a fair bit. To make this reasonably stable I take trackpoints every 60th of a mile and I only count elevation gain when it has gone up more than 100 feet. This probably errs on the side of underestimating unless the signal is really bad. The overall shape is a pretty good guide but please don't depend on the distance and elevation gain.

(Hike Map)

Links for June 2021

Catfood Earth

Catfood Earth

Catfood Earth uses satellite imagery and data feeds to create live wallpaper for Windows and Android. Earth shows you the current extent of day and night combined with global cloud cover (clouds updated every hour). You can also choose to display time zones, places, earthquakes, volcanoes and weather radar. The Windows version includes a screen saver. Catfood Earth was first released in 2003. Version 4 was fully remastered to support 4K resolution on both platforms.

Catfood Earth Themes

Catfood Earth can be quickly configured with three different themes. After installing, run Catfood Earth Settings and click one of the buttons to activate a theme. If you want to customize further then visit the layers and advanced tabs of the settings app, described in detail below. The themes are:

Natural Theme

Natural is the default theme. This combines day, night and cloud cover. The day image uses NASA's blue marble next generation monthly global composite. combined daily so you can see changes in snow, ice and even vegetation throughout the year. Next, global cloud cover is blended on top of the day image (updated hourly). Finally Catfood Earth computes the extent of day and night and blends in NASA's city lights image. You can update the image as frequently as every minute and watch the terminator between day and night move across the planet and change shape with the passing seasons. The video below shows how all three components of the natural theme change over the course of a year:

Time Zones Theme

The time zones theme shows the current time zone in each country and optionally international zones as well. This theme is highly configurable, you can choose to show borders, pick colors, show hours or hours and minutes and control transparency. Catfood Earth can also show the local time for anywhere on Earth, see the places layer for more details. The video below shows how the time zones change by country from May 2021 to June 2022:

Earthquakes Theme

The final theme, earthquakes, uses a different daytime map with a more geological look and adds earthquakes for the past 24 hours. Size is proportional to magnitude and the quakes fade out over 24 hours so the most recent are highly visible. Again it's possible to customize extensively via layers. You can show active volcanoes and control the colors used, transparency and which magnitudes to plot. The video below shows a month of earthquakes as seen in Catfood Earth:

Catfood Earth Layers

The layers tab is where you can fully customize Catfood Earth. Use the checkboxes to activate layers and then click each layer to access detailed settings. Layers are listed in the order that they are drawn (i.e. clouds are drawn on top of the day map, and then night is drawn on top of the clouds and so on).

Day Map

The first layer is the daytime map. Catfood Earth ships with two defaults. The first uses NASA's blue marble 2 monthly images, merged with a more attractive ocean image. Catfood Earth interpolates these images daily so the extent of snow/ice and vegetation will change in a subtle way throughout the year. The other default is a less colorful map that I feel works well with earthquakes and volcanoes. You can also browse to and select a different image if you don't like the defaults.

All the images and data layers in Catfood Earth use an equirectangular projection so if you are using custom images you should make sure that they use the expected projection.

Clouds

Clouds come from the Space Science and Engineering Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. These images are web mercator by default, my website downloads the global composite every hour and transforms the image to equirectangular for Catfood Earth. If you have a different source for clouds you can enter a custom URL. You can also set the color and transparency of the clouds layer. The defaults are designed to make the clouds fairly subtle.

Night Map

The last natural layer is the nighttime map. Catfood Earth ships with NASA's 2016 update to city lights. This layer is drawn on top of daytime and clouds where it is currently nighttime (updated as often as every minute, see advanced options below). You can set the transparency of the layer and also the width used to blend the terminator between day and night (in degrees). It's also possible to select a different nighttime image if you prefer.

Time Zones

The time zones layer is based on the IANA time zone database. You can change the colors used to show the time zones and control the transparency of national and international zones. You can also choose if minutes are displayed with the time zone legends at the top of the screen. This is a good layer to use in combination with the Places layer and the Political Borders layer (both described below).

Political Borders

This layer displays political borders in a configurable color.

Places

The places layer shows a list of places optionally combined with the local time for each place. I've used this to show office locations around the world (handy to know if it's a good time to call someone) and also to track my geographically dispersed family. Catfood Earth ships with a default list of major cities. You can add to this, or remove everything and start from scratch. You can even export and import the list to make it easy to share between different devices. For each place you just need to provide the latitude, longitude and time zone (from the same source as the time zones layer).

Earthquakes

Earthquake data is downloaded from the USGS feed and can show global quakes from magnitude 2.5 up. There is a lot you can fine tune for this layer - The fill and accent colors, number of past hours to show (up to 24), the transparency range (older earthquakes are more transparent) and the minimum magnitude to plot. You can also choose whether to show descriptions or not and the order in which to plot the quakes (time based, or size based which makes it easier to see what's going on when a lot of quakes hit a small area).

Volcanoes

Volcano data comes from the Smithsonian Institution's Global Volcanism Program. This shows currently active volcanoes around the world. You can set the fill and accent colors, the transparency to use and whether to show descriptions or not.

Weather Radar

The final layer shows weather radar from the National Weather Service. This layer is US only. Enter a list of one or more radar stations to display, separated by commas. You can find your local station(s) at the NWS web site.

Catfood Earth Advanced

The advanced tab of Catfood Earth Settings controls how the final image is displayed and also allows you to render sequences of images (this is how I made most of the videos above).

Set how often the image is updated in minutes, as frequently as every minute which is handy if you're displaying the local time for places. You can also skip the first update when Catfood Earth loads (potentially useful at boot time when Windows is starting a lot of programs).

There are some settings relating to text display: a global font size and an option to use drop shadows.

Earth can be centered to a specific longitude (default 0) or to a specific time. If you choose a time then the image will rotate throughout the day to keep that local time at the center of the screen.

It is also possible to set a specific output size and location for the wallpaper. The default is to fill the screen.

Click Render Images to output a sequence of images. If you use a proxy server click Proxy Settings to configure.

Finally there are some troubleshooting options that you might be asked to use if you need help with the product.

Render Images

Render Images allows you to create frames from Catfood Earth based on current settings. This is useful for making animations based on how the Earth image changes over time. Set a start date/time (UTC), how to increment time between frames, the number of frames to generate, the size and an output folder. Earth will then create a sequence of JPEGs. This works well with computed layers like day/night and time zones. It will not work well with live data like clouds and earthquakes. I have made videos from live data as well, but this involves storing many images and/or data points and is not currently supported in Catfood Earth.

Catfood Earth for Android

Catfood Earth is a little different on Android. Because phones are mostly used in a portrait orientation the wallpaper shows the full range of latitude but only a segment of longitude depending on the screen size of the device. The wallpaper is the same as the natural theme in Catfood Earth for Windows (blue marble 2 day map, clouds, city lights night map) with the optional addition of earthquakes.

Run Catfood Earth and click Settings to configure. The slice of Earth displayed is based on a central longitude. By default this will update to your phone's current location. You can also set a manual location. -90 degrees works well to center North America. In addition to the central longitude you can opt to show recent earthquakes, control cloud and night transparency and the width of the terminator between day and night. There are advanced options to ignore screen size changes and reuse the most recent image, and to paint black under the menu bar which is useful on some devices.

After configuring Catood Earth just select it as your current wallpaper. You can do this from device settings or tap the Set Wallpaper button in the Catfood Earth app.

Catfood Earth for Android is optimized for battery life. It will update around every ten minutes and so it might take that long to see any changes to settings. Clouds are downloaded every hour. If using your phone location it accesses the last location fix established by other apps.

Installation and Support for Catfood Earth

Catfood Earth for Windows requires version 3.5 of the .NET Framework. On Windows 10 you need to go to Programs and Features and then Turn Windows features on or off, find .NET 3.5 and enable it. The installer for Catfood Earth is not currently digitally signed. You may get a warning when downloading and again when installing which you will need to ignore to proceed. I plan to fix both of these installation limitations at some point in the future.

For support please visit this post, check to see if your issue has already been addressed and if not leave a new comment.

Updates

Catfood Earth 4.10

Catfood Earth 4.10

Catfood Earth 4.10 is available for download.

The National Weather Service updated their weather radar API. The weather radar layer has changed a bit, you can enter one or more (comma separated) weather station IDs and Earth will show one hour precipitation for all of them. You used to be limited to a single station but with more options for the rader layer to display. Let me know if you love or hate the new version.

4.10 also includes the latest 2021a time zone database.

(I'm sure there are great reasons for it, but the 'new' NWS API is an XML document per station that links to a HTML folder listing of images where you can enjoy parsing out the latest only to download a TINY GZIPPED TIFF file FFS).

Catfood Earth 4.01

Catfood Earth 4.01 is available for download.

The timezone database has been updated to 2020a. There is also a small fix to a problem with screensaver installation on recent versions of Windows 10.

Catfood Earth for Android 4.00

Catfood Earth for Android 4.00

Catfood Earth for Android 4.00 is available for download and is updating through the Google Play Store.

As with the 4.00 update for Windows all images have been remastered to 4K resolution. Earth for Android has also been updated to better support Android 10 (updates are faster and the settings layout looks much better). You'll need to grant location permission in settings to have Earth automatically center on your current location. It's also possible to set a center longitude manually (I find -90 works well for centering most of the Americas).

Catfood Earth 4.00

Image from Catfood Earth 4.00

Catfood Earth 4.00 is available for download.

The main change is that all of the images shipped with Catfood Earth have been remastered to 4K resolution. This includes NASA Blue Marble 2 monthly images (which Catfood Earth interpolates daily) and the 2016 version of Black Marble (city lights at night). The Catfood Earth clouds service has been updated to full 4K resolution as well.

Earth 4.00 also includes an update to the 2019c version of the Time Zone Database.

As well as providing desktop wallpaper and a screensaver, Catfood Earth can render frames for any time and date. To celebrate the release of 4.00 I created the 4K video below which shows all of 2019, 45 minutes per frame, 9,855 frames. You'll see the shape of the terminator change over the course of the year (I always post the seasonal changes here: Spring Equinox, Summer SolsticeAutumnal Equinox, and Winter Solstice). If you watch closely you'll also see changes in snow and ice cover and even vegetation over the course of the year.

Catfood Earth 3.46

Improved clouds in Catfood Earth

Catfood Earth 3.46 is now available for download. Catfood Earth for Android 1.70 is available in the Google Play Store and will update automatically if you already have it installed.

This follows hot on the heels of the last release as the new clouds layer service running on this blog can update far more frequently than the source used prior to 3.45. You will now get a fresh helping of clouds every hour! Unrelated to this release I've improved the quality of the clouds image as well. If you're interested you can read about this in exhaustive detail here.

Catfood Earth 3.45

New cloud layer image in Catfood Earth

Catfood Earth 3.45 is now available to download. Catfood Earth for Android 1.60 is available on Google Play and will update automatically if you have it installed.

I only just released 3.44 with some timezone updates but in the past week the location I had been using for global cloud cover abruptly shut down. If you like up to date clouds you'll want to install the new versions as soon as possible. With this update I'm building a cloud image every three hours and serving through this blog (and thankfully CloudFlare) so any further changes should not require a code release.

Catfood Earth 3.44

Updated timezones in Catfood Earth 3.44

Catfood Earth 3.44 is now available to download.

The timezone database has been updated to 2018i.

Eric Muller's shapefile map of timezones is no longer maintained and so Catfood Earth has switched to Evan Siroky's timezone boundary builder version.

A bug that could cause all volcanoes to be plotted at 0,0 depending on your system locale has been fixed.

Download Catfood Earth.

(Previously)

Catfood Earth 3.43

North Korea moves back to UTC +09 on May 5, 2018

Catfood Earth 3.43 updates the timezone database to 2018e. The big change is that North Korea is moving back to UTC +09 today (May 5, 2018). The time zones layer in Catfood Earth shows the current time in each zone at the top of your screen and color codes each country and region. You can also display a list of specific places (either an included list of major cities or your own custom locations).

Catfood Earth is dynamic desktop wallpaper for Windows that includes day and night time satellite imagery, the terminator between daytime and nighttime, global cloud cover, time zones, political borders, places, earthquakes, volcanoes and weather radar. You can choose which layers to display an how often the wallpaper updates.

Download Catfood Earth.

(Previously, Previously)

Catfood Earth 3.42

Catfood Earth 3.42

Catfood Earth 3.42 is a small update to the latest (2016d) timezone database and the latest timezone world and countries maps from Eric Muller. If you use the political borders, places or time zones layers in Catfood Earth then you'll want to install this version.

Download the latest Catfood Earth.

(Previously)

Catfood Earth 3.41

Catfood Earth 3.41

Catfood Earth 3.41 fixes a problem that was preventing the weather radar layer from loading.

I've also updated to the latest (2015g) time zone database and the latest time zone map from Eric Muller.

Download the latest Catfood Earth.

(Previously)

Catfood Earth 3.40

Catfood Earth 3.40

I've just released Catfood Earth 3.40 for Windows and 1.50 for Android.

Both updates fix a problem with the clouds layer not updating. The Android update also adds compatibility for Android 5 / Lollipop.

Also, Catfood Earth for Android is now free. I had been charging $0.99 for the Android version but I've reached the conclusion that I'm never going to retire based on this (or even buy more than a couple of beers) so it's not worth the hassle. Catfood Earth for Windows has been free since 3.20.

Enjoy!

Volcanoes Back (Catfood Earth 3.30)

Volcanoes Back (Catfood Earth 3.30)

Catfood Earth fans will want to download Catfood Earth 3.30. This update fixes a problem where volcanoes were all plotted in the middle of the screen.

Catfood Earth for Android 1.40

Catfood Earth for Android 1.40

Catfood Earth for Android now includes the option to display earthquakes (magnitude 5.0 or higher) from the USGS feed.

Catfood Earth 3.20

Catfood Earth 3.20

Catfood Earth 3.20 for Windows is now available for download. This update fixes a change in the feed address for the earthquakes layer. I've also switched to using the new NASA Black Marble night-time image and 3.20 includes the latest time zone and political border data.

Earth for Android has been updated to 1.30. This includes the new Black Marble image.

Catfood Earth for Android 1.20

Catfood Earth for Android 1.20

I recently upgraded to the HTC One which has a transparent notification bar. This makes it hard to see notification icons when using Catfood Earth as your wallpaper, at least in the summer when it's always light at high latitudes and your white icons are displayed on top of polar ice and clouds.

Catfood Earth for Android 1.20 fixes this with an option to paint black under the notification bar. That's the only update other than the latest Xamarin runtime.

Catfood: Earth for Android 1.10

Catfood Earth for Android 1.10

I’ve just released Catfood Earth for Android 1.10. You can control the center of the screen manually (the most requested new feature) and also tweak the transparency of each layer and the width of the terminator between day and night. It also starts a lot faster and has fewer update glitches. Grab it from Google Play if this looks like your sort of live wallpaper.

Catfood: Earth for Android

EarthForAndroid

I’ve just released Catfood Earth for Android. It’s my second app created with Xamarin’s excellent toolkit. Being able to develop in C# allowed me to reuse a lot of code from the Windows version of Catfood Earth. The Android version doesn’t include all the same layers (yet) but it’s got the main ones – daytime (twelve different satellite images included, based on NASA’s Blue Marble Next Generation but with some special processing to make them look better), nighttime (city lights, shaded to show nighttime and the terminator between day and night) and a clouds layer that is downloaded every three hours.

My main worry had been that this would suck the phone battery dry, but after a fair amount of optimization it doesn’t even register on the battery consumption list. Grab it now from Google Play ($3.99, Android 2.2 or better).

(All Code Posts)

ITHCWY Newsletter for May 2021

Summer Solstice 2020

Timelapse of three trains of Starlink satellites. It's getting crowded up there. Another timelapse of the super flower blood moon eclipse which wasn't Musk's fault.

The Guardian's long read on free will is a disaster, but possibly not their fault. Also my tips on doing news right.

Photos from Marshall's Beach in San Francisco. And some fog. And sand.

Lastly, a nice hike near the Carquinez Strait.

Previously:

(All Etc Posts)

Book reviews for May 2021

Slough House (Slough House #7) by Mick Herron

Slough House (Slough House #7) by Mick Herron

4/5

 

Joe Country (Slough House #6) by Mick Herron

Joe Country (Slough House #6) by Mick Herron

4/5

 

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

5/5

 

London Rules (Slough House #5) by Mick Herron

London Rules (Slough House #5) by Mick Herron

4/5

 

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries, #6) by Martha Wells

Fugitive Telemetry (The Murderbot Diaries, #6) by Martha Wells

5/5

 

(All Book Reviews)

Bull Valley Trail to Port Costa

Bull Valley Trail to Port Costa

Bull Valley Trail to Port Costa

Bull Valley Trail to Port Costa

Bull Valley Trail to Port Costa

A five mile mostly out and back trail (one small loop element) near the Carquinez Strait.

Start at the parking area close to Eckley Pier (worth a quick detour, be careful crossing the train tracks). Follow Bull Valley Trail up to Carquinez Overlook Loop Trail and down to Port Costa. Go through Port Costa (I'd download the route for this bit) and follow an unnamed (as far as I can tell) trail up to the top of Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline Park for dramatic views over to the Benicia-Martinez Bridge and Mt. Diablo. The whole hike is pretty exposed but very attractive with great views and a nice town in the middle. Highly recommended.

Hike starts at: 38.0524, -122.20119. View in Google Earth.

(Hike Map)

Super Flower Blood Moon Eclipse

Super Flower Blood Moon Eclipse

Timelapse video of the super flower blood moon lunar eclipse on May 26, 2021:

I left my GoPro Hero 8 out overnight in the hopes that the San Francisco fog would cooperate. It did, somewhat! There is some cloud cover scudding by but you can see the eclipse pretty clearly. The advantage of the GoPro is that it has a wide field of view to capture the entire eclipse and is water (fog) proof and so unconcerning to leave out all night. The disadvantage is that you can't really nail the exposure. In nightlapse mode the shortest shutter speed you can set is five seconds in raw mode - way too long. In regular timelapse mode you can't set the shutter speed at all. I dialed in 2 stops of exposure compensation but that wasn't really enough. Better than the last one I accidentally caught on a dropcam so progress at least.

(More Timelapses)

Sand on Great Highway

Sand covering the great highway in San Francisco

Google Pixel 4 XL 4mm f1.7 1/3,900s ISO55

There is some controversy at the moment over the great highway in San Francisco. Should it stay closed to traffic as the pandemic eases? I enjoy walking and cycling here without cars, but it must be a pain to live nearby with all that traffic shifted to residential streets. It might be moot if the sand keeps flowing inland...

(Recent Photos)

San Francisco from Twin Peaks

Downtown San Francisco from Twin Peaks

Google Pixel 4 XL 6mm f2.4 1/1,400s ISO40

Photo of downtown San Francisco including a view down Market Street to the ferry building shot from Twin Peaks.

(Recent Photos)

Doing news right with Feedly and Google News

Read all about it

Get rid of social

I want to be well informed and, to the greatest extent possible, free from any kind of filter bubble. Hard to do that on Facebook. So the first step is to delete Facebook and Twitter. Now you have some time to design your news consumption.

Feedly

To me the very best part of the web is RSS feeds so I can quickly skim through hundreds of sites with a consistent interface and no ads. I used to do this with Google Reader but since that was killed I've found Feedly to be an awesome tool and I happily pay for the Pro version. The Android app is great. The web version sometimes gets lost in the list but is fast to use with keyboard shortcuts for cruising through your list. I keep Feedly stocked with news sites, hobbies, work related niche publications and everything I know I want to keep an eye on. The only gap is those unknown unknowns.

Google News

Google News is my current fix for finding the stories and context that I don't get through RSS.

What works

As a learning system Google News pretty quickly figures out what you're interested in. It's not perfect so you have to spend some time training it. Once in a while it will decide you need every word written about Ina Garten, but you can easily tell it that it's wrong. A more subtle tip is to often click sources that you violently disagree with. Google News has some tendency to surface different angles but it definitely helps to signal that you are open to uncomfortable takes on a story. This is a powerful filter bubble burster.

Feed mechanics

Having escaped most social media (I still have LinkedIn which is the cockroach of platforms) I really hate the feed based approach that Google takes with News. I understand it but I hate it. Probably the worst usability crime is that it will often refresh without being asked. I'll be halfway down the list, spot an interesting article, get distracted, and then when I switch back I see that tempting story for a fraction of a second before the whole feed reloads. Often that story is then nowhere to be found. There is a feature to save for later, but I try to avoid this because future me isn't likely to have time either and it adds the burden of yet another to-do list to keep track of.

Don't make me read it twice

Related to the feed is the tendency to show me the same story again, and again, and again. Other than ignoring a topic or publication there is no mechanism to just dismiss a story. I know that the algorithm has worked really really hard to find it but I don't need to see it every day for a week or more. It's OK, in fact desirable, to be done with the news. As with the feed I know that it's someone's job at Google to work on engagement and my time is an externality to their optimization algorithm. It's a big irritation all the same.

Podcasts

Lastly for me I also get a lot of context from podcasts. I use Podkicker Pro on Android (also worth paying for). We live in peak podcast times and I don't have enough time to listen to everything that I want to.

(All Etc Posts)