Mobile computing on the Treo

Treo 650 with Keyboard

Originally uploaded by eidolon.

This past weekend while at the National Cohousing Conference, Cat and I shared a bit of geekery and picked up a palmOne IR Wireless keyboard so that we could take notes in various panels right into our Treos. After installing the .PRC file into both units, the keyboard worked great, unfolding like some new-age Transformer into a nice perhaps 3/4 size keyboard, with a prop for the phone. Reassembling it was somewhat Rubiks-cube like, but it did fold down to a very comfortable package not much larger than the Treo itself.

We found it very useful to take fast notes into the Palm Memos function, and then upload them into email and other programs.

At one point I sat down at one of the tables, fired up upIRC, a very good IRC program for the Palm, and sat happily chatting with friends online over Verizon’s 1xRTT network. As a mobile IRC platform, with the addition of the keyboard, I find the whole setup pretty useable. It does get you some odd looks from passers by though. “He’s typing, but… he’s got a phone propped up. Suppose he’s typing on thephone? nahhhh.”

Moonlight Sonata goes Jazz!

At one point this weekend I wandered through the lobby and past a room that just had a single baby grand piano in it. I had an urge to just go in and -play-. Just to work some rhythms out, quiet music for myself and if someone wanted to listen, that would be okay. I don’t have that skill on a piano, but I sure had a longing for it…
This morning I found on a video on YouTube of a Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata done in Jazz form. It ends abruptly at about 2 minutes, but talk about a fascinating arrangement of what is (in my opinion) one of the finest pieces of music ever written.
Of course it’s making me think about the lovely Roland electric piano sitting not 15′ away from me, and not on the work I need to do. Ah distraction.

I Am Returned!

Back from phase 2 of my whirlwind tour of east coast points of interest. Zach and I just got in from attending the National Cohousing Conference in Chapel Hill, NC. Cat is staying an additional day to attend the board meeting on Monday, then returns tomorrow night.
We had a great time, flying down Thursday morning into SUMMER IN NORTH CAROLINA. Man we thought Boston knew how to whip up humidity. This stuff was like walking through tapioca. Fortunately, all the areas were air conditioned, so we only needed to get drenched when walking to or from the dorms. Or out for a meal. So, a mere 4-5 times a day.
Zach thoroughly enjoyed the plane and bus rides, and met up with some great kids at the conference, so for the most part we just saw him as an occasionaly blur zipping by while we were doing sessions or socializing. I of course helped run registration using CONGO, which would have gone better if, er, I had not left the server in Logan Airport while boarding the plane on Thursday. The Logan police have recovered it and it’s enjoying a vacation in their offices, but it sure did result in a scramble at the event on Thursday afternoon. Much of the hardware I brought with me wasn’t used (like the printers), but all in all we got most of the system running on my laptop.
Unfortunately, all of the UNC Chapel Hill campus (where the event was held) was without wireless access, so we were unable to get any laptops online. They did have ‘public access’ terminals in the student union we could do webmail on, but it was hardly convenient for blogging and socializing online. Guess that was sort of the point, huh?
I have many pictures and other bits to share, and in 5 days we all leave again for a reunion at Simons Rock in Great Barrington, MA. Should be a nice weekend of music and socializing. Then I get a break for 2 weeks, and head down to Tampa for another convention. Summer 2006 is turning into quite the busy schedule.

Pittsburgh Road Trip, days 4 and 5.

Saturday finally saw us have a break in the heat, and we had a very comfortable, sunny day. The temperatures were down around normal, and the humidity had slacked off a fair amount. I took my shift checking folks in down at the front gate, which was a good opportunity to get some quiet time. Barb came down to keep me company, but mostly we just sat and read or took it easy.
A revelation did come to me on Saturday though. I hadnt’ been drinking soda for the whole trip. I’m an admitted soda junkie – love the stuff, but sheesh, it’s calorie-riffic. I don’t particularly like the diet arrangements, but somewhere on this trip I made the conscious switch to water or flavored water of some sort. One of the factors in this was Barb had brought one of those little polycarbonate bottles that are becoming so common, primarily in the form of Nalgene products. I had sort of dismissed these, saying “They’re just plastic bottles, just like the ones I keep in my cabinet.” But what I hadn’t realized is that these things ARE in fact great for long term holding of drinks. They don’t stain, they don’t smell, they’re trivial to clean, and they’re very hard to break. Over the weekend, the small 500ml bottle was kept topped off with cold water and a dash of lemonade mix, and kept me quite happy. I also was comfortable with “cold water with just a touch of lemon” – we kept diluting the bottle with more cold water, and it was still fine. Compare that with the heavy-syrupy tast of a ‘normal’ mix of lemonade or iced tea mix – I didn’t feel ill or over-sugared after downing an entire bottle. (Did use the woods a lot though 🙂
P7170080.JPGOne other incident of note. I had made a chainmail necklace for Barb out of small black anodized rings – and folks seemed to like it a lot. So on Saturday afternoon I pulled out my tools and rings and sat down to socialize and work on some other patterns. Eventually others came over and were chatting with us, and looked at my work. “Hey, can you make one of those for me?” “Uhh, sure. How long, what pattern?” An hour later I had 6 commissions for chainmail jewelry, of which about half could be completed that evening. I finished off the work, collected fees for pieces, and went “Well, huh. That just paid for the event fee and part of the cost of gas.” Much thought has gone into this through the rest of the event and during the drive home. I don’t think I want to open up a little chainmail shop (I certainly don’t have the time for it), but as a side hobby, something that doesn’t involve computers, it seems profitable and pleasant. I’ll be taking my tools with me this coming weekend down to North Carolina to work on some of the commission pieces during quiet times at the cohousing conference.
Sunday it was time to come home. This was going to be a longer trip than going out – I’d be driving from the campsite in Waynesburg all the way back to Natick (note – that’s not the route I took, because I had to go through Pittsburgh, but you get the idea). The day was much hotter than Saturday, and I wasn’t looking forward to the 11+ hour drive.
P7170095.JPGAll in all, it went okay, if slower than I’d like. We left the campsite around 11am, but I didn’t actually get into Natick until 1am Monday morning. Factors included construction slowdowns on Rt 80, and a desperately needed rest break somewhere in eastern PA where I took a nap in a rest stop for about 1/2 an hour. The views and scenery for the drive were, as always, wonderful. I took a stop near the border of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and took some pictures across the valleys west and north. This is south of Binghamton.
I think if I’m going to do these long trips regularly, I have to make sure I have enough sleep and food for the drive, and no time pressure. A second driver would have helped a lot as well, just to be able to take a nap, but then I’d miss the grand opportunity of being alone to my thoughts, music, and XM stations for hours on end, something I truly value.

Pittsburgh Road Trip, Day 2

(Written saturday on the Treo – typos may abound…)
All set up! If I had my druthers I think i’d have preferred something less than 85+ degrees and 90% humidity with occasional rain squalls for setup day, but ya takes what yas can git.
Parking last night in town was tricky. Where do you park 30′ of vehicle+trailer in a small city? We managed to find a sidestreet and with a silent hope the house we parked in front of didn’t contain the type of family that lay claim to the strip of concrete that happens to be in front of their house, we trooped back to blk’s place. I remembered to bring the battery pack in for the night and, making sure all my gadgets were plugged in and recharging, we turned in for the night.
Thurs morning found the van and trailer untouched and we hauled it around to the house to load up. The event site wasn’t open for setup until noon, so we lounged about until it was time to go. Driving time was about an hour and a half, so, after picking up lunch, we hit the road.
P7170070.JPGThe site is sort of rolling hills. Going by what blk has said I was expecting to be the only non-tent but we ended up flanked by a pair of land zeppelins to one side (one of which ran a generator all night) and another popup on the other. Several small tent pavilions were set up as well.
We got the trailer situated back in the trees and unhitched just in time for the next rainshower. There are few greater joys than setting up a camper trailer during rain (note sarcasm). It actually went fine… The trick was not dumping water on the beds as the ‘wings’ were opened. Success on that front. After the trailer was set up I installed the battery into the trailer power system and lo! We had lights! Our domicile was complete.
A lot of my fears about noise and heat and neighbors et al remained mercifully unfulfilled. A couple key points do come up though…
Camping with 100 folks mostly falling into the 40-60 yr old crew is vastly different than camping with the 20-40 crew. The most noticeable metric is come 1am? Everyone is in bed asleep. Compared with my other group camping experience, this is unheard of. Far be it for me to complain.
P7170067.JPGWe’re almost in West Virginia, which means the area is very urban and doesn’t suffer from the ‘there are pockets of wilderness’ problem common to New England. Here you can drive for hours and see only hills and forests and valleys with occasional farms.
The drawback with being in the ‘country’, or at least this crew here, is the food tends to the basics of ‘hearty, heavy, and plentiful’. On the one hand, its food I like so I’m certainly not starving. On the other, I feel like I should go jogging for an hour after each meal. Maybe I’m just not made out to be a glutton.
The privately owned campsite has been built up through several years of events and now sports several fixed buildings and a very well designed shower / water system – a large shower area with several garden hose type hand sprays, hooked up to 2000 gallons of trucked in water and a gas on demand water heater, all on a poured concrete floor. For camping showers, it doesn’t get much better 🙂
All in all things have been good, modulo the normal bits regarding camping in July. Thursday was quite humid, but got down to tolerable at night, thankfully. No wet clothes, no searing heat, insects at tolerable levels (apparently due to a fairly aggressive spraydown the site gets a week before the event).
More posts as time permits 🙂

Pittsburgh Road Trip, Day 1


Originally uploaded by eidolon.

Yesterday (the 12th) I set out on a somewhat ambitious journey. A driving trip from Boston to Pittsburgh for a 4 day camping excursion with blk. The occasion is a private party held out in the hills outside Pittsburgh.

After much hemming and hawing, and taking into account my general dislike of sleeping in tents in rainy conditions if I can avoid it, I decided to haul our Jayco camper trailer out, instead of flying there and tenting it.

I had never driven the van this far before, and certainly not hauling a 2700lb trailer. I had camped with the trailer before, so knowing what was needed for that was pretty easy. Bedding, flashlights, etc etc. No problem. But the 10-11 hours in the car was another matter.

I loaded up the iPod with a bunch of new tracks, and also spent some time rejeuvenating my XM Radio. The main problem was that I was getting a constant whine in the speakers. Fiddling around it turned out the whine was only happening when jacked into either of the 12v outlets in the van. This wouldn’t do. I rattled this around for a while and noticed this problem merged with another problem I was wrestling with. How to power the trailer while camping. The trailer can take a 12v power lead (as well as 110v ‘shore’ power), but the small lead acid batteries I had been using (scavenged from UPSes) are not ‘deep cycle’, and once fully discharged tend to really lose it.

The answer came after I remembered seeing these Black and Decker Jumpstarter / Power supply thingies at a Sears local service center. A quick trip to AutoZone and lo, there one was. 400amp, has a 12v socket on it, charges from 12v or from 110v, has a compressor, and says it has no problems cycling from fully charged to low charge, just don’t do it constantly. Perfect. $79 later, and it was mine.

At a previous campout, we had used a similar hookup (loaned to us by another camper), but it was much smaller (maybe 100amp?), and really didn’t hold up for a whole weekend. I think it started out low charge too.

I charged up the battery, and installed it into the footwell on the passenger side of the van. Using the 12v connection from my XM receiver, I jacked it into the battery, and lo! No whining! A totally isolated power source.

It turns out the power held up beautifully, powering first my XM receiver, then my ipod, and back again, for the entire trip, without losing more than a quarter of its charge. Excellent. I’ll be able to power my toys on the trip, then move it to the trailer for powering lights and other accessories while we’re camped.

The drive out in an of itself wasn’t particularly eventful. I went over several sets of “mountains” (the quotes there for Rosa’s benefit – being from Wyoming, hearing easterners refer to our little lumps as ‘mountains’ gives her a chuckle) – regardless, they were a lot of work to get over. The van held up great, though I certainly did spend time in the 40mph lane going over some hills.

Pennsylvania is HUGE, and has some absolutely gorgeous countryside. I had forgotten how empty the middle of the state is. Even within 30miles of Pittsburgh, it’s wide open rural.

P7130023.JPGIt rained occasionally, but mostly was overcast and just humid.

Today we pack up and head off to the campsite. The forecast for the weekend is occasional thunderstorms (which are wonderful when the trailer is all set up and comfy), but a little tricky for getting around and socializing. We’ll see!

Say it ain’t so! U-Bet not in glass anymore?

From Foxs Syrups Website (Granted, the website is 4 years out of date, but still!) :

U-bet Plastic Bottle at November 01, 2002
We are pleased to announce that we are changing our packaging to a NEW plastic squeeze bottle.
After 75+ years in glass, we have decided that in order to better serve you, our customers, we must change our packaging. Be assured that our product has not nor will ever change at all. We are committed to the same standards of excellence that we have always strove to achieve.

A certain someone once got me an entire case of u-bet chocolate syrup in the 32oz glass jars. They lasted almost a year. I’d be mighty sad if the wonderful glass jars are no more!

Jesusland grows bold

Obscene Liberty

Originally uploaded by Lightning Rose.

This statue is real. This is not photoshopped. This horror is a 75′ tall product of the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church. They have a website about the ”Status of Liberation Through Christ”. They have erected this obscenity in Memphis, TN, against the objections of people in the town who have to see this thing every day.

From the FAQ:

The message is: America (represented by the Statue of Liberty) belongs to God. It proclaims that Christ is the true source of liberty: spiritually, emotionally, physically, relationally, financially, and intellectually. The Statue reminds this nation that it was founded on Judeo-Christian values and urges America to return to them. It says: America, bless God if you want God to bless America.

Flag burning is nothing compared to this travesty.

LJ RSS Feeds suck it. New methodology ho!

Apparently LiveJournal / SixApart have collectively decided that external RSS feeds aren’t worth fixing. Rather that continue arguing against this idiocy, with help from Lisa and MTLJPost, I’ve set up Planet Geek to crosspost new entries both on the blog and directly into LJ.
How does that impact you, dear reader? Not in the slightest if you don’t use Livejournal. However, if you’re part of the teeming masses schizophrenically reloading your friends page, you can probably relegate the shayde_blog RSS feed to the back burner for now. From now on, anything posted to Planet Geek will automatically appear in my livejournal page in realtime.
Until I can figure out how to turn off comments in Livejournal, though, I ask that you please comment back on the blog, rather than in LJ, though it’s less of an issue now (under RSS feeds in LJ, comments were deleted after two weeks).
This ends this test of the Emergency Rant System. Had this been a real rant… well, it was actually. Deal.

From the wilds…

It’ll come as no surprise to anyone that I’m someone who enjoys alone-time. On that Myers-Briggs thing? The ‘I’ gets pegged and glows orange. Others may argue, and possibly rightfully so, that I’m one of the most extroverted introverts around, but when it comes to “What do I want really?” – frequently it’s “I want to be alone.”
This week, in a fit of randomized events, things came together that allowed me to head up to my favorite refuge for a few days of quiet alone-time. The practicals of this cosmic convergence aren’t all that interesting – a long holiday weekend approaching, Zach having an overnight sleepover at his camp, an infininately understanding partner who recognizes and supports my antosocialness, and the ever present job that doesn’t require me to be anyplace in -particular-, as long as I’m productive.
mainhouse-1So, off I went. Thursday saw me speeding north toward our refuge in the hills. The house has been in Cat’s family for about 50 years now, progressing from a small shack up to what some would call a compound. Regardless of the configuration, it had the things I find most soothing, most conducive to my away-ness. It was quiet. I was the only one there. It had a coffeemaker and a broadband wireless internet connection. It was my Utopia.
So the last 2 days have had me sitting quietly with my laptop, a tasty cup of coffee at hand, the local radio station playing classic rock on the kitchen stereo, and me being… productive.
The last bit came as a hoped for, but not necessarily expected, result. While I certainly like ‘getting away’ and being on my own, if I don’t actually produce anything, the afterglow fades quickly into the overwhelming list of things that STILL need to be done. And just being on my own with no distractions is no definitive recipe for productivity. I can easily manufacturer a thousand distractions on my own.
Not so this time. The combination of the space, the wide-open schedule, the laptop, and the amazingly cool, clear weather have all combined to let me get into my ‘groove’ – the term I use to mean “the brain is working, problems are being solved, the complexities of what the work at hand are meshing well, and I’m not getting distracted”. A fellow with an unpronounceable last name termed this mode “Flow”, and wrote a book about it.
But there’s more to it than that. Flow or groove or whatever you want to call it is great, but it needs a larger environment in which to thrive and return. In my office at home, I can groove along for a few hours, then need to go… somewhere. A walk, a bike ride, something, and hope that lets me slip back into Groove when I return, which doesn’t always work well. Here, however, I can step outside, and I’m on the shore of a mile long lake, with wind, trees, and the ever-present slap of water on the docks to remind me that the world is still fine, take a rest, you can go back when you’re ready.
Snapshots and images…

  • A storm moving along Thursday night. The clouds were perhaps 200′ up, but no rain. The lake angrily tossing up waves under the steady gusting wind. The clouds churning over my mainhouse-2head as the entire front slid by. The clouds had the look of a steady ocean wave, constantly collapsing on itself, leaving tendrils and whirls behind.
  • The quiet of Friday morning, the lake smooth as glass, dotted here and there with early morning fishermen. The sound of someone’s voice, realizing that it was one of the fellows in the boat, almost half a mile away, quietly talking to his fellow angler.
  • Hastily closing the windows as another storm came in last night, then standing on the dock as the gusts washed over me.
  • Waking in the morning to just the sound of wind, water, and trees rustling, making morning coffee, and sitting on the chairs out on the waterfront, watching as the boats on the lake slowly change from morning fishermen into jetboats and skiers, like a shift change at some loosely structured business. Later there will be sailboats and kids on innertubes, and as it gets dark tonight, with the inevitable quieting of the breezes, the deck boats will put in their appearance.

It has been a great few days, but I’m also looking forward to the arrival of the rest of the family, they should be here soon. Another 4 days here, socializing, playing, and with a little luck, sailing.
I feel a bit like Lazslo in Real Genius. I haven’t actually spoken to anyone in 2 days, I wonder if I’ll remember how.