Making .pano files the hard way

I was surprised (but also pleased!) that other people were interested in my other blog article about Microsoft’s .pano file format, and in hindsight I was a little miserly keeping all the real code and knowledge to myself.

If you just want my version, skip to the end of this post.

Since I wrote that blog there’s now an ‘official’ way to get .pano files of arbitrary panoramas:

Continue reading Making .pano files the hard way

Making unnecessarily long sums with Roman numerals

Update November 2016: I recently tried to remake this more rigorously, and discovered I made at least one incorrect assumption in the details below (i.e. I’m pretty sure I got the carryover rules wrong). I’m not going to rewrite this, but just know that it’s not necessarily right – and, in what should have been my very first step anyway, the brute-force version is fast enough for this scale of numbers anyway and much easier to trust.

If you ignore less-common variations of particular digits (such as writing 4 as IIII instead of IV), there’s only one way to write any individual number* as a Roman numeral. And despite usually needing more than one ‘character’ per digit, unlike our current Arabic numeral system, it’s still base 10 and each magnitude of 10 is similarly self-contained. For example, 1776:

1776 = 1000 + 700 + 70 + 6

Recently I was wondering about Roman numerals. There’s only one way to write any individual number, so the question of “what is the longest Roman numeral?” is trivial, and usually contains a lot of 8s (88 is the longest under 100, 888 is the longest under 1000, 3888 is the longest under 5000, and so on). But there’s an easy way to introduce variation, which is the question I ended up looking at:

For a given number A, what are the two numbers B and C such that A = B + C, and the number of characters in B and C when expressed in Roman numerals is greatest?


What’s the longest way to write a number as the sum of two Roman numerals? Continue reading Making unnecessarily long sums with Roman numerals

Laser GPS Converter V2 update

Update 2015-10-5: I should have added this some time ago, but I suggest using Thom-x’s improved version now. His program supports devices that include heartrate and elevation data, and has a bunch of other useful changes. You can find it here or in the comments.

Original Post: A while back I wrote a program for my own use to extract recorded gps tracks from a program called ‘Laser GPS’, published by Navigator/Navig[8]r/etc for use with their gps watches, bike computers and so on. The program allows getting the tracks out as GPX files, which is a little more useful than the alternatives that Laser GPS offers. After finding a few problems with the original version I decided I was too lazy to fix them and instead just created a new version. It’s an all-round better one since I’ve learnt a bit more C# since writing the first. Notable changes:

  • Now produces actually-valid GPX files for all 12 months of the year!*
  • No longer has permanently disabled metadata fields, or metadata fields at all
  • Allows exporting multiple tracks to a single GPX file
  • Includes a hastily-written readme file

You can download it here See the note at the beginning about Thom-x’s version. Alternatively, get the code here.

*I made a really stupid mistake where a zero would be left out of the date for some of the first nine months of the year, e.g. 2014-9-23 vs 2014-09-23. Other programs I used the resulting files in didn’t complain about it, and had no problems reading the dates, but it was still technically incorrect.

Which Australian newspaper was the first to publish a crossword?

A few days ago, while exploring Trove, and in particular their online newspaper archives, I found myself curious about crosswords, and how long it took for them to cross the Pacific and start appearing here. I’ll leave the answer until the end of this post (scrolling isn’t exactly difficult if you’re really impatient), but it was interesting to read just how excited people were about the crossword “craze” as it happened. Since a quick search didn’t find anybody else who had bothered to find out I thought I’d share a few other articles I found on my journey.

This isn't it.
This isn’t it.

Continue reading Which Australian newspaper was the first to publish a crossword?

Early impressions of the Mycestro 3D mouse

A long time ago, I decided to take a chance on an interesting Kickstarter about a rather unique mouse called the Mycestro. (Technically, I forgot about it for a while and by the time I checked back the crowd-funding period was over. Some time later I pre-ordered directly from the website they eventually set up, in time for some kind of discount. But that’s not very important here.) After a number of delays and problems – relatively well communicated, but still unfortunate – I eventually got a small and surprisingly light package a few days ago. I’ve used it for a few hours now, and while I’m sure my opinions will change as time goes on it seems worthwhile to set down my original thoughts on the device, partly in chronological order. Continue reading Early impressions of the Mycestro 3D mouse

Creating GPX files from a Navig[8]r GPS device

Update: You can find the latest version here.

I own a Navig[8]r Bike GPS (with a model descriptor of ‘NAVBIKE-GPS’). My primary use for it is recording tracks for OpenStreetMap, and it works well enough for my needs: small, fairly accurate, decent battery when recording and a seemingly infinite battery when left in a drawer and forgotten about. It has two problems: first, it doesn’t record altitude on the GPS tracks, which isn’t a big deal for me, and second, you can’t directly save tracks from the “Laser GPS” program bundled with it.

A side note: I lost the original disc, and there was no download listed on my particular product page, but the other sports products seem to use exactly the same software, so you can just download a replacement from, for example, here. (The Navig[8]r products are just barely-rebranded LaserCo ones, and there aren’t any downloads at all on the original site.)

Writing a wholesale replacement or driver seemed overkill, since the software could already access and save the gps tracks on my computer – just not in a useable format. A bit of hunting with Process Monitor and some peeking inside files found them in a file called ‘BridgeMin.dll’ in the install directory. I still don’t know what the name refers to, but it’s actually a password-protected Jet database, which would easily be opened by Access if I knew the password. Continue reading Creating GPX files from a Navig[8]r GPS device

Windows 8.1 Panorama Files

Windows 8.1 has a level of panorama creation and viewing built into it, in the (Metro Modern Windows Store App) Camera and Photos apps. Making a panorama on a suitable device – in my case, a Surface with its frankly awful camera – produces a .pano file, which can be viewed in the Photos app, and nothing else. It also can’t be edited. (The files do at least pretend to be a normal picture, displaying a flattened partial view as a thumbnail.) Viewing it on a suitable device – again, for my purposes, the Surface suffices – also permits an ‘augmented reality’ mode where yawing and pitching the device changes the view as if it were a window. Hardly a unique feature, I’m sure, but it’s still neat.

On one hand, this made sense – presumably the file was in a new, essentially incompatible format. On the other hand… the only way to make panoramas is with the camera on the device, it’s apparently not possible to view normal photos in the panorama mode, and I wanted to be able to display panoramas I’d already created with real cameras in the Surface’s AR mode. And so, time to investigate!

Continue reading Windows 8.1 Panorama Files