Nick MacKechnie
#8 wire kinda guy.....

DIY Digital Photo Frame–Reborn!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012 22:18 by Nick MacKechnie

The 4th of September 2010 will be remembered by us all here in Christchurch for many reasons.  I was away in Queenstown and missed the whole thing, however my cell phone made short work of that with a flurry of calls and text during the coming hours and days. One of the victims of the earthquake was the Photo frame I made out of an old laptop. I was gutted - the unit fell and the mainboard needed replacing.

Good news - It’s taken me over a year to source a replacement, and I’m stoked to say I’m back up and running again.  A few things have changed, Microsoft no longer supports Mesh on XP, so I’ve replaced that with Drop box and away I go. I can update photos on the frame from the web, phone, PC, Ipad etc. – excellent stuff!

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10 Years Service at Microsoft

Thursday, 2 February 2012 06:38 by Nick MacKechnie

Hi All,

My 10 year award arrived today on the courier! On the 4th of February 2012 I celebrate 10 years of working for Microsoft New Zealand. So many things have changed, yet many things remain the same. Microsoft has been a large part of my professional and personal life and I’m very happy and proud to have achieved this milestone.

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(Blue – 5 Year award, Green – 10 Year award)

There should always be checkpoints in your career where you should sit back and consider where to from here. It’s become a yearly pilgrimage for me where I look back on the year that was, consider the year ahead, the great people I work with, our customers and partners and decide on my direction. I consider myself very fortunate to work at Microsoft – I feel privileged to work with a large group of people who genuinely care about customer & partner outcomes, who are passionate about technology and our ability to make a difference. For me it’s a large draw card and the main reason I enjoy working here.

The constant in our industry is change. Change, mixed with competition, innovation, acquisitions, growth, market share, people, process, changing needs/wants/desires and  consumerization makes for not only a very challenging environment but equally a very rewarding one.  You don’t always get things right, but the opportunity to learn from the good and not so good is always there.

There have been many highlights on this journey so far – I’ve been lucky and fortunate to travel to the US, Singapore and Australia many times for training, I have a heap of local and international personal friends. The support from the organisation through the Christchurch Earthquakes to me personally has been excellent. I work with many smart, intelligent, driven and focused people and I work for a company that can, has, will and will continue to make an impact on each and everyone’s lives on this planet, whether that be directly or indirectly by the products and services we sell or deliver.

So good shit, great achievement, and good to be here! Smile

Nick.

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The New Adventure – Update 05 #EQC #CHCH

Monday, 29 August 2011 01:35 by Nick MacKechnie

Hi All,

It’s been a challenging year for us all in Canterbury! The anniversary of the 4th of September 2010 earthquake is only a few days away, and it’s the eve of moving back into my house ~15 weeks after repairs commenced. Over the past few weeks the house has been fully painted inside and out, carpet and pvc planks are down, kitchen, bathroom and toilet are in and driveway has been poured.

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There is still some touch up work to be done, clean up outside/gardens and my office in the garage needs to be gib stopped and painted.

There are a heap of people to thank for making this process and situation easier to deal with and work through - Many thanks to:

Falcon Construction (Project Managers and Builders – No job was too small or a hassle, Great builders on the ground and many laughs), Lumley Insurance (My Insurers – Rachel!), Mainland Claims Management (Lost Adjusters – James!),  Ireland Group,
Westpac (My Bank – Andrea!), Campbell Electric (Fully re-writing the house - Keith and Jason), Laser Plumbing (Fully re-plumbing the house - Drainage, Plumbing),  Simple Solutions – (Painting inside and out), Faulks Investments (Concrete Removal, new driveway etc), 
Placemakers (Supplying all the bits and Ben for his help with the kitchen design), Carpet Plus (Carpet and PVC Planks), Heritage House
Re-levellers (Re-piling the house, safely lifting it up an down Smile), My personal interior
design co-ordinator Smile, Murray Cameron (Cabling advice, your patience and a heap of termination Smile) and the Earthquake
Commission (Kimberley in Wellington, you rock!)

So I guess this brings my commentary to a conclusion. For me the purpose of documenting was to help others and hopefully put minds at ease – There are so many people in the Christchurch area who will venture down a similar path to restoration – It’s the friends and family around you that get you through this, offering places of refuge, a coffee and a laugh. I also must thank the many friends online who have followed the progress and of course the outstanding support from employer and work colleagues.

 

The New Adventure – Update 04 #EQC #CHCH

The New Adventure – Update 03 #EQC #CHCH

The New Adventure – Update 02 #EQC #CHCH

Video - Lowering house onto the new ring foundation and piles

The New Adventure – Update 01

Fight or flight – Christchurch #eqnz

More photos are available here.

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The New Adventure

Thursday, 26 May 2011 08:06 by Nick MacKechnie

So… it’s the first chapter of a new book! Liam, Lachlan and I spent our last weekend together at my place before repairs began from the September the 4th Christchurch earthquake. It’s somewhat of a surreal experience moving out of your own house, having your things packed up, possessions taken away and stored, then having your ‘home’ pulled to pieces. Smile It’s been a challenging road working through the minefield of talking to and dealing with the Earthquake Commission (EQC), Insurance Companies, Loss Adjustor, Construction companies etc., however the persistence has paid off.

On Tuesday this week I completed relocating to alternative living accommodation (thanks mum), moved the work/home office and Falcon Construction began work. The February quake rendered my work office inaccessible as it’s located in the CBD / No Access zone.

The construction work at home will take approximately 16 weeks and involves lifting the house up 1.5 metres in height, removing the old foundations and piles, replacing, before lowering the house back down and then the restoration starts. The house needs to be bought up to current building compliance/standards, which means removing all internal gib, relining, adding insulation where there isn’t etc. – Effectively gutting the place, and starting again.

The house was built in 1955, located rurally in the south west of Christchurch. I’m in the very fortunate position where I am one of the first cabs off the rank in terms of these types of repairs. I’m looking forward to adding things new front and back decking, new kitchen, new doors etc. as well as fully cabling the house for everything geeky Smile.

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Parking tickets at Malls - Priceless

Wednesday, 30 June 2010 02:42 by Nick MacKechnie

Hi All,

Malls in Christchurch over the past few months have started to impose time limits of parking at the mall e.g.: 120 minutes by means to deter people from using it as free parking spot for other activities. I’m not a big fan of going to the mall to look about, I typically research things to death online, then shoot in and out as quickly as possible. We’ve been caught a few times with $40 fines for exceeding the 2 hour limit (for legitimate shopping), and I was venting at a mate who told me this wonderful story.

A lady from NZ Bank shot into a Christchurch mall, and was greeted with a $40 fine upon returning to the vehicle for being there for 2.5 hours. Given the industry she worked in, she understood the costs incurred by businesses of depositing cheques, so rather than sending in a cheque for $40, decided to send in 40 x $1 cheques.

So here’s the maths:

Cost of parking fine for browsing and purchasing goods at the mall -$40

Cost to Mall Management of depositing a cheque0.65c (40 x 0.65)

$40 - $26 =$14

(fine) - (bank fees) = (satisfaction)

The individual received a letter with the 40 cheques in it stating that the fine was wiped – priceless.

Nick

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DIY Digital Photo Frame

Thursday, 25 March 2010 10:08 by Nick MacKechnie

HI All,

Over the past few months, I’ve searched about for a decent digital photo frame to display our photos on. In New Zealand we seem to be limited to frames that have photos stored on a USB Stick/Flash drive, and it’s difficult to find photo frames that can be connected to a network in order to pull photos from a chosen source. The issue with this can be the ease at updating photos, and regularity of doing so – So I wanted to automate this as much as possible, and remove the need to physically “plug” something in.

Below is an old Toshiba Tecra S1 which has become the ‘brains’ of my Digital Photo frame.

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I did a fair about of searching to see how others had converted laptops – Most had simply pulled the screen off the laptop, twisted the connecting cable between the laptop and the base, and then mounted it into some sort of case, typically a shadow box frame. I decided I wanted to completely remove the laptop from its casing make it look ‘pretty’ :-)

So with this in mind, I measured the full size of the main board, and screen area and depth of all the components, and visited a local framer – The Frame Workshop. He was very obliging, and did a stunning job for the modest sum of NZ$90.

Below is the view of the front of the frame – the black inlay is perspex, surrounded by wooden framing.

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View of the frame looking from the inside –> out.

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I lined the lcd screen up with the edges of the perspex, and then hot glue was applied in large quantities to hold it in place. I then cut some square timber to place at the top and bottom of the screen (and glued with wood glue), to enable me to screw the 4mm hard wood on top.

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The next job was to attach the main board to the hard wood - the more challenging aspect was to find 2.5mm x 20 mm nuts and bolts. I finally managed to track them down, and secured the main board.

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View from underneath.

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Main board now mounted securely into the frame.

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And finally attached the back to the frame.

DSCF8538External Power re-routed to the back, and holes drilled for power on/off and venting

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Back of frame completed

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And Test – Yes.. still works, phew :-)

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I'm using Windows XP to drive the photo frame, and using the default ‘my pictures’ screensaver. The machine boots up and automatically kicks off the screensaver which selects a new photo every few seconds to display.

Here’s the batch file I use in Startup to kick it off.

@Echo off
%systemroot%\system32\ssmypics.scr /s

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Now the useful part. As I mentioned in the beginning, one of the failings of most photo frames in my opinion, is the requirement to remember to grab the memory stick out of the side, and update the photos etc. What I wanted was the ability to update the photos from any machine I wanted, as well as while I travel via a mobile device (cellphone).  The frame has both a 10/100 network card and a wireless card and is always connected to the internet.

Enter Live Mesh. Mesh gives you the ability to add/remove photos (and files) from any Windows or Mac PC, as well as a Windows mobile cellphone.  So I simply created a mesh folder with my cellphone and a few of our machines and now when I add a new photo to one of the PC’s or my cellphone, it synchronised and updates the ‘photoframe’ – Job done!

 

Aben Samuel tweeted this on FB, so I decided to get a t-shirt printed :-)

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8 Years down…and still loving it

Tuesday, 2 February 2010 04:25 by Nick MacKechnie

Hi All,

2010, Welcome! This Thursday marks my 8th year at Microsoft New Zealand (so I’ll be enjoying my day off!). I started back in 2002 in our old Auckland office on Fanshawe Street and remember my first day very well.

I turned up to work in a suit and tie and Warrick Smith (my manager at the time) politely suggested I take the jacket off, and offered me a few Microsoft branded polo’s to wear. For a young chap, walking into this new environment from the traditional corporate world was both an exciting and intimidating experience. I had dealt with many Microsoft people over the years, their knowledge was wide and deep on their technologies as well as their integration with other platforms. The silence of people beavering away was deafening and being surrounded by people who were enthusiastic, passionate and smart has become something I’m extremely thankful for and thrive on - I was handed my laptop and asked to set it up, which in a corporate environment seemed weird, but something I appreciate upon reflection. We operate in what I call an organised chaos desktop environment (OCDE – I think I’ll add that to Wikipedia.org J) – there’s the corporate computer image you can deploy (we didn’t really have one back in those days), or you can build your own machine as long as it has a few core applications deployed and it’s service packed/patched appropriately. This was a far cry from my previous roles at Fletchers, where we (IT) mandated the SOE and controlled the technology stack from top to bottom.

I remember Warrick handing me my login ID and temporary password, and seeing my email address... Wow, now that’s cool, a microsoft.com email address. As I look back over the years, I count myself as very fortunate and lucky to be working here. I’ve learnt so much, and continue to do so on a daily basis through my internal and external interactions and engagements.

Things have changed a lot in terms of our image, reputation, the way we interact with partners and customers, listen and take on feedback, our technologies and services we offer. We learn from our mistakes (sometimes not as quickly as we would like) and genuinely want to make a difference in our domestic and international markets.

I still enjoy coming to work every day with the hope and desire to make a difference, to learn new things and help people – We all have an opinion, view, and experience to guide us – we should challenge the decisions of yesterday and today to validate that we are doing things for the right reasons and working for the best possible outcome. Because we’ve been doing things this way for the last year/s, doesn’t ensure we will meet the needs of tomorrow and that we are aligned to business goals and strategy.

So thanks for the last 8 years, and I’m sure I’ll be here for another!

Nick.

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Pictionaire, a new Multitouch Table from Microsoft Research

Tuesday, 2 February 2010 01:14 by Nick MacKechnie

 

A joint project from Microsoft Research and the University of California brings us another touchscreen, mutitouch table-top computing experience. Like a larger version of Surface, the Pictionaire, as it’s called, is also operated via human touch using gestures made on the table’s surface. However, unlike Surface, the camera used features a higher resolution - and it’s positioned above the computer’s screen, via a mount on the ceiling. With this setup, the camera can “see” the items placed on the table and when the item is removed, it can be replaced with a digital version. For example, if you place a keyboard on the table, the Pictionaire will pull up a text-entry box. If you place a sketchbook on the table, a digital version of the page soon appears. You can even do this process in reverse – the Pictionaire can project a digitized image onto the real life object, like the digital sketchpad image projected onto a piece of paper so you can trace it back onto the physical page.

To see the Pictionaire in action, check out the videos posted over on Slashgear. The Pictionaire will be demonstrated at the Computer Supported Cooperative Work conference in Savannah, Georgia, this month.

(via New Scientist)

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Windows XP Mode for Windows 7 Goes RTM

Monday, 5 October 2009 09:57 by Nick MacKechnie

Hi All,

Windows XP Mode just hit RTM status this week and will be made available for download later this month in its final version. Once installed, this optional Windows 7 feature will let anyone run their XP-only applications which wouldn’t otherwise work on the new operating system. Designed primarily for small businesses who sometimes run mission-critical apps that are not updated to work with new versions of Windows, XP Mode adds a virtualization layer comprised of the Windows Virtual PC engine a licensed copy of Windows XP Service Pack 3 running as a virtual machine, both of which will be made available for download. Larger businesses will likely use MED-V which will offer XP Mode in its new version due to be released in beta 90 days after the Windows 7 public release.

Programs running in XP Mode will can be launched right from the Windows 7 desktop and even integrate with Windows 7 features like the Taskbar’s “jump lists” which show recently used files and common tasks.  In order for XP Mode to run, PCs are required to have at least 2 GB of memory and a system that has chip-level virtualization from either Intel or AMD.

Nick

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Photosynth’ing Liam’s School

Monday, 6 April 2009 03:24 by Nick MacKechnie

Hi All,

I’ve given myself a project of synth’ing Liam’s school (Halswell) for them – It’s a wicked technology from Microsoft Live Labs which has a whole heap of potential uses.. So if you’ve got some photos of Halswell School, ping me an email and i’ll happily add them in the collection as I progress...

NB: You can zoom in/out on the photos by using the + and – buttons as well as navigate around using the arrows.

Nick.

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