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Year’s End 2012

19 December 2012

As I will be on vacation beginning tomorrow evening, this will most likely be my last post to the blog for 2012. I do not expect to post here again until the week of January 9, 2013.

So, allow me to wish you the best of the holiday appropriate to your beliefs and also my best wishes for the coming new year.

I have no New Year’s Resolutions. I tried once to set and follow a New Year’s Resolution but failed miserably…I simply forgot about it until September of that year and by then it was too late for that particular Resolution. So, I simply take the time around January first to evaluate my regular goals and see how I might want to adjust or update or discard or add to them for the year. That way, I seem more able to meet those goals I set. Why that works and a New Year’s Resolution doesn’t I have no idea, but there it is.

Over vacation I plan to concentrate mostly on three things: family, writing, and reading. I have a series or two that I’d like to get into, and that will take a few days. As a Tolkien fan, I want to go see The Hobbit but will do so only if the theater has the closed captioning glasses. If not, I’ll have to bide my time and wait for the BR release to get the captions. I know the story well enough to enjoy it on the big screen but being able to read what they say contributes to the experience. And anyway, I’ve got some other movies I want to watch.

My granddaughter and I have been building a Theremin-like instrument driven by an Arduino. When it didn’t work properly, the first thing I discovered was that she’d put one of the jumper wires into the wrong pinhole. Other than that she did a perfect job wiring it up. However, I found that there was an error in the schematic provided online – one of the connections went to an unused pin on the amplifier chip. On top of that, it turned out that the replacement amplifier chip I used wasn’t really a pin-for-pin replacement so I’ll have to re-do that part of the schematic from scratch. Once that’s done it should work and we’ll just need to box it up for her.

I also want to take care of some ham radio stuff. There are a few antennae I “need” to order for both mobile and home (QTH) antenna systems. QTH wise, I’m currently set up for 40m and 20m receiving but the transmitting side leaves something (a lot!) to be desired. I’d like to fix that and provide discrete 40m and 20m capacity. For both 40m and 20m I plan to use two HF Sticks as center-fed shortened dipoles for the QTH system. I also want to add a 20m HF Stick to my Geo Tracker for mobile ops as that frequency seems more active during the times I’m mobile. I haven’t decided if the 20m will replace the 40m already on the vehicle or will be in addition. With all the reading, writing, and other stuff I have in mind, actually putting up the antennae will probably have to wait until spring, at least.

I also want to monitor the PSK bands for a while, see what I can pick up. I tried that during Field Day and at that time I had a good range of signals from around the world, including Russia, Japan, Florida, New England, Caledonia, California, Canada (Ontario and BC), New Mexico, and a few other states. The next time I tried I didn’t seem to be able to find anything at all. So, I want to play around with this over vacation.

As you can see, I’ve got more plans than time, as usual. It’ll be interesting to see just what of all this stuff gets done.

The Apocalypse is scheduled for the 21st but I have a strong feeling it “aint gonna happen”. (See my last blog post.) But it does give me the opportunity to close this post with…

See you on the other side…

…of the New Year!

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Apocalypse 2012

12 December 2012

Apocalypse 2012

Well, it seems an appropriate topic.

Depending on who you side with, next Friday December 21st is Apocalypse Day. Or not.

Personally, I see the Apocalypse timeline running like this:

  • December 20:  People settle down for their final meal. Perhaps enjoy their final pleasures that night.
  • December 21:  People wonder just when the Apocalypse will happen. Maybe just a few minutes/hours more. Be patient.
  • December 22:  Doomsayers start saying they must have screwed up the math somewhere. People begin wanting their stuff back and trying to negotiate about debt they let lapse.
  • December 23:  Doomsayers announce they found a nearly invisible glyph on one of the really old pictures of the Mayan Calendar. It changes when the date is, obviously, but until they can properly decipher this new glyph they can’t say exactly when.

Better luck next time, Doomsayers. On second thought, never mind…hope you have the same luck next time!

What gets me about all this right now are two things. Neither is overly based in research, but it just seems worth thinking about….

First of all, isn’t it curious that of all the shapes possible, the Mayan calendar is on one of the few instances of a wheel? Think wheel of time here. What’s a wheel but a circle? What’s a circle do but go around and around? What’s the smaller cycles do, but repeat?

Not only that, the Maya built their famous calendar upon the work of previous civilizations. So, the observational base has been around for a long time prior to the Maya “publishing” their own, more refined calendar.

If the Maya were intelligent enough to observe over hundreds of years and develop a calendar that tracks the progression of the earth from one point in the sky back to that one point so accurately, don’t you think they would also be smart enough to know that if all went well, i.e. we managed to survive that long, the next b’ak’tun Cycle would simply start over again? Isn’t that why the calendar is on a circular shape and not a square one? To signify the CYCLE of years? Isn’t that why there are already 12 previous Long Counts? After all, the next b’ak’tun starts on 13.0.0.0.0 in the Mayan calendar, so there must have been 12 already and none of them ended in an Apocalypse. Why should this one?

Although it is kind of intriguing how they managed to synch with the Gregorian Calendar such that December 21, 2012, falls on a Friday. Does that make it a Long Count Friday the 13th?

Second, Naysayers are saying there is no planetary alignment. Really? You sure? There’s ALWAYS some kind of planetary alignment in this solar system. The only way you won’t have any planetary alignment would be if this blue marble of a world of ours were floating in the void absolutely all alone. If that were the case, we wouldn’t be here, either because we need the sun to survive and there would be a planetary alignment between the Earth and Sun.

I know, that’s not what they mean by “no planetary alignment”. But if that’s all they say then I’ll shrug and play with the words like anyone else with any remote interest in this Apocalypse.

For sure, my interest is mostly in what the Doomsayers will say the day after. Or will they just quietly slink away back into the woodwork?

For those of you that might need it…I’m watching this entire Apocalypse event with amusement and this post is in that vein.

Phone crashes and Life

9 August 2012

Well, my venerable HTC Droid Incredible, which I’d had for a little more than three years now (rooted for 2 1/2 of those years), finally gave up the ghost. Last Saturday afternoon I felt it vibrate for an incoming text and hit the power button to view the message. Unlike earlier in the day, the screen never came on. I tried everything I could think of: pulled the battery, turned it on with the down volume and power button, put it on the charger…everything I could find online, too, for this problem.

When nothing worked, I figured que sera, sera. I pulled the battery out one more time and set it aside. Sunday was fine, and so was Monday morning. Being without the phone didn’t bother me, I don’t get that much in the way of texts anyway. At least not on the weekends.

At work Monday, I really missed my phone. I didn’t realize just how much I actually used it until then. I had no way to contact my family or friends. I wanted to ask my wife something but had no way until I remembered emailing her text messages. Found the information and sent her a text and that worked.

Ok, that works, I can do that.

Then I had a meeting. Getting to the meeting site and not being able to locate the person I was meeting, I had no way to check and see if anyone else was supposed to be coming or just the two of us. I’d have to go all the way back to my building and my laptop and check there. Fortune smiled and I linked up with one of the other participants. We sorted out the meeting and agreed to meet again later, setting this one up via email.

Once again in another building, I needed to check my schedule. I was so used to using my smartphone for meeting notes and such like that I’d not even brought my laptop with me, despite this morning’s clear indication of what I needed to be doing now. Arrrrgh!

Later that afternoon I wanted to chat with my daughter about some stuff, and check in with my wife about dinner. UGH. It was so much easier texting than emailing, though to all intents and purposes both handle the messaging nearly the same way, it’s just a matter of tools used. Plus, I was expecting an email at home and realized I was relying on my missing phone to alert me when it arrived.

The point of all this is that while over the weekend it was no big deal, I was realizing just how much that little smartphone had invaded my working life. Beneficially and a very useful tool for me, but I had become addicted to also being able to chat with family and friends when and where I wanted. Now here I was, suddenly bereft of that ability unless I was at a computer connected to the internet. Until three years ago, I hadn’t been able to contact my wife from the store to see how many of something she wanted me to get or to text my granddaughter to see if she liked something I found, or find out where everyone else was in the store, or to arrange to meet for a spur of the moment lunch.

After three years of being able to do that from just about anywhere, I really missed that ability for quick communication without having to find someone to make a phone call for me.

End result? I found myself wanting to replace my phone as soon as possible. I had planned to look into retiring my Incredible around November/December but that wasn’t going to happen and I wasn’t going to wait. It was going to have to be replaced now, instead.

I wound up getting the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. It’s slightly larger than my old Incredible and there are some minor irritants I’m learning to work around, but on the whole I’m pretty happy with the new phone. My critical apps are back on it, I finally managed to get my schedule into place and my contacts (I’d been synching with the laptop and thus Outlook for this).

Right now, the only downsides I see are these:

1) My unlimited plan with Verizon was supposed to be grandfathered in but they refused to let me upgrade without removing the unlimited data. Their own web site still says it’s grandfathered in, but no, Verizon doesn’t support that any more so I could either buy the phone outright or upgrade with a new contract. At least when we got all this sorted out, our overall bill is cheaper on the new plan and there should be plenty of data access per month since we wasn’t using that much. This first month, getting all my apps back on the new phone, will probably be the highest data rate per month in years. After this month we’ll probably get back into the rhythm of sharing photos and stuff once in a while same as before. The new Android ICS allows me to set an alert related to how much data I’ve used so far so I’ve set the alerts on both our new phones well in advance of hitting our data limit. Not that I expect to hit it, but better safe than sorry.

2) Synching with GMail is smooth and painless. Synching with Lookout has been a pain. Just finding a synching tool that worked was difficult. I tried Kies and had more problems than success and that’s Samsung’s own program for this. Eventually I settled on MyPhoneExplorer. MyPhoneExplorer is supposed to synch with Outlook, but it’s not doing it and I have to do it in a somewhat manual manner for Contacts. Calendar seems to be working fine, though. I’m still looking for something better. The Bluetooth synch option in MyPhoneExplorer simply won’t work and I’m not sure why, though I think a major part of it is between keyboard and chair. Even so, I’m seriously thinking of moving my personal contact list to Gmail. I just don’t know if I like it out there like that.

3) Visual indicators. Not so valuable, perhaps, to most people, but I really miss the LED indicator on my Incredible. Plug it in to charge and it would light up to let you know it was charging and what the state was: orange for charging, green for charged. The Galaxy Nexus turns on when you plug it in to charge but once it goes to sleep there’s no indication anything is happening. Also, the Incredible LED was much more noticeable flashing to indicate a message than the dim light at the bottom of the Galaxy Nexus. I’m also used to the Incredible turning on when an IM arrives, the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t do that.

4) The vibration on the new phone is nowhere as aggressive/pronounced as on the Incredible. I can feel it on the table if I’m touching the table, but I’ve had problems feeling the Incredible every time when it goes off in my pocket. With the Galaxy Nexus, I don’t think I’ll ever feel the vibration unless it’s resting right there against my leg. Even when on the table right in front of me at work, I often miss it unless I just happen to glance at it the same time the dim light flashes.

There are plenty of upsides, though. The new interface is pretty nice once you get used to it, especially with the larger screen and the easy way of grouping apps together. The camera is much faster, almost as good as my DSLR. Only 5 MP but still quite decent in quality and speed. The panorama function is rather nice even though I’m already handy at creating panoramas after the fact. One thing I’m looking forward to playing with is the ability to just tap the screen for a full quality snapshot while doing a HD video. That should be fun. The ability to better organize my home page and other pages is really nice to have, though I realize that’s a function of ICS rather than the phone.

I still have to set up a few other things, but on the whole I’m satisfied. And I’ve found the files for rooting this one, too.

Like I said, all in all, I’m pretty happy with the new phone so far. And glad to have another phone after the demise of my Incredible.