Mar 272010

For the purpose of my thesis, all I need is a simple Java program to listen to a serial port (comm port). It doesn’t even have to send data to the serial port – it just has to listen, as the GPS device I have just continually echos its current location to anyone listening.

Failed Attempt 1 (~3 hrs)

So I found some Java code which appears to connect to a serial port. I haven’t been able to test it fully, but the code seems like it will work (I can see the GPS data coming in from the Garmin 18X GPS device). It’s a fairly small amount of code as well. This very old program is available at

It also requires the “javax.comm.*” library which was hard to find, but I eventually found it by searching and following the download link at For whatever reason, Oracle makes you register to be able to download it.

After further inspection, comm.jar does not have Windows support.

After further testing, this program doesn’t seem to work correctly – it only hears one echo from the GPS device and not an echo every second. I’ll now look at

Failed Attempt 2 (~ 30 minutes)

I looked at It looks complicated. I kept looking.

Success (~30 minutes)

SerTerm is a very simple terminal program written in Java. It does nothing extra, it isn’t fancy, and it’s just what I need.

Mar 242010

As of iDVD version 7.0.4 (June 4, 2009), there is no subtitle support for iDVD. So to add them to a movie you want to burn, basically you have to merge the movie with subtitles so that the movie image includes the subtitles. This also means the subtitles can’t be turned off.

There are a few different programs for merging subtitles and the one I like is called Submerge. So the only issue I’ve run into is that if you choose the “Flatten movie (keeps current format)” option, then when iDVD burns the movie the subtitles create a black line at the bottom of the screen. This isn’t the typical black line that appears only when the subtitles are there – it actually cuts off part of the movie permanently from a little above the subtitles all the way to the bottom of the screen. Obviously this is fairly annoying.

To resolve this issue I’ve found that you can export the movie to mp4 format. Just go to Export -> Custom then choose MPEG-4. If you’ll be watching the movie on an actual TV you’ll want to choose “setup” next and change the image size to something like “1920 x 1080 HD” and the data rate to 256 kbps so the quality will be acceptable. Exporting the movie in this way renders the subtitles normally with the transparent background they’re supposed to have. Happy DVD authoring!

Mar 172010

Live Mocha Learn a language, teach a language. This looks like a pretty useful tool. I’ve always thought that language lessons should give “points” for completing lessons, like a game. People need some extra motivation to learn languages…

Goal For It Create and track life goals. You can’t reach your goals unless you write them down – this is where you can write them.

 Posted by at 9:50 pm  Tagged with:
Mar 122010

Today I filled out the form to enroll for thesis credit this summer and emailed the content to my adviser so he can approve or disapprove of it. I need his signature to be able to enroll in the course. Here is what I suggested to him.

1. Briefly describe the project:
Read map data from an ESRI shape file, coupled with GPS and camera data to overlay road data onto the camera image of the road or highlight the road. This is similar to a consumer-level GPS device.

2. What performance/accomplishments will be expected of the student?
The student is expected to work diligently towards the goals outlined for completion of the Thesis. These include: 1) read location data from a GPS device, 2) read map data from an ESRI shape file, 3) read road data from camera data, and 4) enhance the camera image with road data.

3. How many hours per week do you expect the student to devote to the project?
5 hours per week

4. How many hours per week/month will the student and faculty meet?
3 hours per month

Update Match 14th, 2010 at 7:55pm:
Approved! With 8 hours of work / week instead of 5, since it’s a summer semester.