Satellite Imagery/Video of the USA from space

Satellite Image

What would you think if the government was recording live satellite video imagery of the entire USA, up close? What if a crime was committed but wasn’t discovered till later on? The government could literally rewind time and track the entire path of the escape vehicle, leading to the arrest of the perpetrator.

According to the wikipedia, the USA is approximately 3,718,711 square miles in size.

Using these numbers, if you were to take the USA and squeeze it into a flat, square shape,it would be approximately 1,928 miles in width and 1,928 miles in length.

If you were to photograph the USA at 431,309,824 pixels per square mile (approximately three times higher resolution than current internet satellite/aerial imagery gives you), then you would use 1,603,257,976,815,616 pixels to photograph the entire USA.

If we saved this image off without compression as a 2 bytes per pixel image, then the file size would be 3,206,515,953,631,232 bytes, or around 2,917 terabytes in size.

With a typical compression algorithm, you could theoretically get it down to around a third of that size… probably around 960 terabytes.

Now, let’s theoretically record this area at 30 frames per second. At first glance, you’re probably thinking, “whoa! 28,878 terabytes a second???”. But you have to remember that this would be video you’re dealing with. A good video compression algorithm would only record the differences between frames. And trust me, a TON of those pixels aren’t going to change noticeably in that small space of time. Pretty much all you’d be recording would be people and vehicles moving across the face of an otherwise static and unchanging image. So let’s just say that less than 1% of that square mileage would appear to have moved at all.

Which means you’d probably have less than 5 terabytes worth of image differences per frame. At this estimate, 1 second of video would only take up around 150 terabytes (not 28,878). This means that we could record the USA at 540,000 terabytes per hour. Assuming that we took a complete snapshot of the entire USA every single hour (960 terabytes), then 24 hours of the USA would take up around 12,678 petabytes.

This may sound like a completely absurd size, but it’s not so mind-numbing when you think about the new holographic data storage technologies that are being developed right now. Terabytes will be cheaper than megabytes are now.

What if they only recorded major cities for now, and they were to do it at only, say, 5 frames per second? Or even just one frame per second for starters? They could still track vehicles and do basic surveillance.

In the mean time, check out this massive 18,000×18,000 pixel image that was taken by the Hubble telescope!

Boot up Windows before you even log in

If you don’t use any Windows XP login security, then you can skip this article. Otherwise, if you are like many Windows XP users who have to enter a password every time their computer sluggishly boots up, then read this!

Ok. Here’s the scenario:

You have to wait 2 minutes while your computer turns on. You have to sit in front of your computer during this whole time because once it finally gets to the login screen, you have to type in the password. The computer then crunches numbers for another 2 minutes while it loads a wide variety of programs (MSN messenger, your Norton Antivirus, your Microsoft Office shortcut bar, etc…). Finally, after like 5 minutes, you have access to your desktop.

How would you like your computer to load all those programs *before* you ever have to enter your password? You could press the button to power up your system and go get a cup of coffee. Five minutes later, you come to your desk and type in your password. BAM! Instantly dropped to the desktop! Your programs are already running and all systems are a go!

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Download Microsoft’s free TweakUI tool and install it.
  2. Click your Start button, go to your Programs menu, and select Tweak UI from the “Powertoys for Windows XP” folder.
  3. In the TweakUI window, double-click the “Logon” item in the left-hand column to expand it.
  4. Click on the “Autologon” item underneath the “Logon” section.
  5. Check the box that says “Log on automatically at system startup”
  6. Click the “Set Password” button and enter in your windows login password
  7. Click OK and close Tweak UI.
  8. Download this .reg file and run it. When it asks you if you want to merge it with your registry, choose “Yes”.NOTE: If you feel queasy about merging a reg file with your registry, you can also add it by hand. Go to Start > Run and type in “regedit” and press OK. Browse to [HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionRun] and create a new String Value. Name it “Lock Computer on Startup“, and set the value to “rundll32.exe user32.dll, LockWorkStation

Presto! You’re done!

Now, when you boot up your computer, it will automatically log you in to your desktop and start up your programs. However, it will still secure your system, requiring you to enter your password to access it.

Get rid of those pesky Windows XP temp files

I just recently stumbled upon a nifty way to make my windows xp machine run a little bit faster. Check it out.

If you search your entire computer for temp files, you may be surprised to find hundreds of megabytes worth of data that has been sitting around since God knows when. Windows is supposed to automatically delete these, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Now… supposedly when you boot up your computer or internet explorer, Windows will scan through your temp files (looking for recently viewed web pages, etc). So if everything is cluttered up, things might run a little bit slow.

So the goal here is to delete all temp files before we shut down the system at the end of the day. This way, everything is fresh and clean, come next morning!

  1. Open up a copy of notepad and paste in the following chunk of text:

    @echo off
    taskkill /F /FI “USERNAME ne SYSTEM” /FI “USERNAME ne LOCAL SERVICE” /FI “USERNAME ne NETWORK SERVICE” /FI “IMAGENAME ne explorer.exe” /FI “IMAGENAME ne cmd.exe” /FI “IMAGENAME ne taskkill.exe”
    RD /S /q “%HOMEPATH%Local SettingsHistory”
    RD /S /q “%HOMEPATH%Local SettingsTemp”
    RD /S /q “C:temp”
    RD /S /q “C:WindowsTemp”
    SHUTDOWN -s -t 01

  2. Save the file off as “C:shutdown.bat” (make sure you set the file type as “All Files”, *not* “Text Documents”)
  3. Browse to your C: drive using windows explorer and right-click on the shutdown.bat file. Select the “Create Shortcut” option in the context menu.
  4. Rename the shortcut file to “Clear Temp Files & Shut Down”.
  5. Right-click on the shortcut and select “Properties” from the context menu.
  6. When the properties window pops up, make sure you are on the “Shortcut” tab and click on the “Change Icon” button. If it gives you some kind of error about the file not containing any icons, ignore it and just click OK.
  7. Where it says “Look for icons in this file:”, make sure that it says, “%SystemRoot%system32SHELL32.dll”.
  8. Select the red, square icon with the circle and a vertical line in the middle. This is the shutdown icon that you see when you click on your start button and select “Turn off your computer”.
  9. Ok your way out of there back to your explorer window.
  10. Drag the shortcut to your desktop.

Now, whenever you want to shut down your computer, just double-click the icon on your desktop!
Windows will clear your temp files after killing all your programs (it can’t clear temp files if programs are currently using them), and then it will proceed to shut down.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are using Windows XP Home, you may not have the taskkill.exe file, as it only comes with Windows XP Pro by default. Click here to download it and extract it to your C:WindowsSystem32 folder.

Successful Invention #1

One of the things that I always aspired to be when I “grew up” was an inventor. As a child, I would take apart toasters, pencil sharpeners, lawn mowers, and generally anything I could get my hands on that was broken and had some sort of intriguing moving parts. However, while I have come up with a number of concepts of my own over the years, until now there was never any actual follow-through.

Scenario: I have a thermostat in my apartment that I want to control with a schedule. I want to be able to cool down the house at night, but warm it up in the morning so I don’t have such a hard time waking up and getting out of bed. In previous apartment complexes, I was able to use a standard 7 day, programmable thermostat (available from Walmart, Lowes, or your favorite home supply store for around $30-$75). However, the heating system in my apartment complex here in Phoenix uses an old system and is incompatible with virtually all the programmable thermostats out there. I was only able to find one programmable thermostat out there that would work with my apartment’s heating/cooling system, but it didn’t have some of the capabilities that I was looking for. So I am basically limited to manually moving the needle on my thermostat by hand if I want to change the temperature. No programmable scheduling allowed!

Solution: Using a small servo, a mini SSC II controller, and a serial interface to connect it all to my computer, I built a remote controlled thermostat module. The servo is mounted on the wall above the thermostat and a string is connected to the needle. Once I figured out how to send commands to the servo using my computer’s com port, I interfaced it with PHP page on my local web server. I then built a flash-based interface with a draggable temperature slider that would send the proper positioning values to the PHP page. The end result… a thermostat in my living room that can be physically controlled from anywhere in the world over the internet.

Click here to watch a demonstration video clip!
(12 megs in size. Windows Media Player required.)