Thursday, December 31, 2009

Free wifi on delta today

On my way back from Dallas...discovered that I can get a free wifi session on my Delta flight. Coupon code "deltatrygogo" expires today. Enjoy....tom

Thursday, December 17, 2009

C-64 Muse setback

I finished wiring the C-64 Muse keyboard, and it does not work. Actually, 5 of the keys work. I delved more deeply into the C-64 schematics and discovered that I can't piggyback a second keyboard matrix on top of the first.

What I'm planning now is to use the PC board from a C-64 keyboard and wire the matrix lines directly to the PC board. I'll remove the keyswitch tops for those keys that map to piano keys. I believe that I can still use one of the matrix axes to reduce the wire count. This will increase the wire count from 12 to (8+4) to 28 (24+4), which is not as bad as 48 (24x2). Just thinking it would be nice have this done by the time of my Dallas trip so that perhaps I can visit Paul Slocum while I am there.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bizarre "Mobile Computing News"

I'm not sure what to make of this "Mobile Computing News" site.

Mobile Computing News

Here are some review excerpts. Decide for yourself.

Sony Vaio VGN-P31ZK/Q (who thought up that name?) :
"For instance you can check out the all new Sony Vaio VGN-P31ZK/Q which has a unique rectangular shape which looks pretty cool."

Asus Eee PC MK90H Disney: Decorated Netbook for the Kids
"The processor is the soul of any computer that is why this netbook is installed with a very powerful Intel Atom N270 processor."

Sony Vaio VPCW12S1E/P: Definitely One of the Most Attractive and Suave Pink Netbooks Around
"The device is provided with a warranty which makes it a reliable product. The fantastic rechargeable battery installed in this netbook offers long battery back up as well.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Netbook operating systems - Back to Jolicloud

This past weekend I tried out some different Linux based operating systems for my Dell Mini 9. Going into the weekend, I was running the alpha of Jolicloud, which for the most part, I have been happy with.

First I tried Easy Peasy, which is a Ubuntu fork, originally developed for the Eee PC. Used Unetbootin to create a bootable USB key and installed. Discovered that wifi requires additional drivers to be loaded manually to support the Broadcom card in the Mini 9. Didn't notice a lot of difference from Jolicloud. Easy Peasy prompted me to upgrade to Ubuntu 9.1, which immediately failed due to lack of drive space. That's what I get for using a 4 GB SSD.

Next I tried Ubuntu Netbook Remix (UNR) 9.1. Install went fine, but upon rebooting, I was greeted with messages of imminent drive failure. Some quick online searches show that the S.M.A.R.T. disk monitoring routines in UNR falsely indicate drive failure on Solid State Disks (SSD). My Mini 9 is running a 4 GB SSD. Just like Easy Peasy, the wifi did not work.

So, I reinstalled Jolicloud. This time, I left the default keyring password blank. Otherwise, the keyring password is required when connecting to wireless access points that require login keys.

Trying these 2 other systems made me appreciate Jolicloud even more. It just works.

Why not Windows? My Mini 9 shipped with XP, and I don't use it. Everything I do on my Mini 9 is in a web browser (Google Docs, Reader,, so Windows is unnecessary. And slow. I've been quite impressed by Jolicloud on my Mini 9, and it runs on a 4GB SSD with almost 1G to spare. If your netbook is supported, I would try it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Recycling the Baldwin 172 - the keyboards

Got a non-working Baldwin 172 from Craigslist for free. Took it home, it made some sounds, but could never quite get it to behave. The next day, all I could get was a single droning note. So on to the parting. What is the value in a 1983 vintage organ with cheesy built in sound effects? Even with non-functioning tone generation, it is loaded with useful parts.

- Two 3.5 octave keyboards
- A 1 octave bass pedal assembly
- Lots of control switches
- Spring reverb
- Volume pedal
- amplifier w speaker
- Furniture grade sides and top

Primarily, I'm looking for piano keyboard assemblies, the rest is bonus.

I've been taking photos. I'll get those pictures up shortly.

The keyboards, unfortunately, do not have a separate switch/key, they are wired in a matrix. The C-64/Cynthcart project requires a different matrix encoding, so the existing switches are not usable.

Fortunately, the switch mechanism is not recessed like in the gutted Oxygen 8 keyboard I started with, so replacing the switches should not be too difficult.

Another lucky break...these keyboards were designed to be easily adapted to different lengths, so creating a mechanically sound 2 octave keyboard should be pretty easy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Music keyboards for the C-64 and Cynthcart

I've been playing with Paul Slocum's Cynthcart software for the C-64 :

The software is fun, but the interface leaves much to be desired. I would prefer a labeled control panel and a real piano keyboard. Of course, there are some complicating factors.

First, the switches on commercial music keyboards are matrixed completely differently than the C-64 keyboard.

See this diagram :

This requires a complete rewiring of the keyboard. I tried to rewire one of these by hand, and it was a disaster. Consumer grade circuit boards were not designed to be modified. They fall apart. PC traces come off the board, etc.

The plan now is to build a panel to hold 25 micro switches, and I will wire the switches by hand. If I wanted to build just one of these, I would hack it out, but this may be more universally useful, so I'm considering designing a panel that would be cut on a laser cutter, with holes for the switches. I can then wire the switches however I wish.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nokia 6350 for Mom

Mom prefers the old black and white Nokia phones, but they have started to become unreliable on the AT&T network. So yesterday, I got her a Nokia 6350 from the AT&T store. I wanted something that would be simple to use, and that would let me create a slide show for the wallpaper (for family pictures).

The slideshow feature I discovered by poking around in the phone. Google searches did not locate any mention of the feature.

I adjusted the fonts to the largest size, cleared out all the AT&T phone number cruft and added contact info for Kerry, Jennifer and myself.

I had purchased a 2GB SD card to hold pictures, but was unable to get the phone to properly recognize it. Instead, I configured the slide show to come from the "Recieved Items" folder. So all I have to do is send a picture over via Bluetooth and it automatically appears in the slide show. A more elegant solution anyway.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Big Junk Night : I'm 3 for 3

My sister lives in Bowling Green, Ohio, which is the home of Bowling Green State University. Every year, as the students are about to move out, they hold a "Big Junk Week" where residents load the curbs with unwanted "stuff" and turn the entire town into a week long free yard sale.

In past years, my sister scored replacement bathtubs and toilets for her early 20th century home. I've gotten functional music keyboards (some MIDI, some not). Last year, she brought me a first generation PS2, which required a laser adjustment.

This year's haul has been a fruitful one so far :

- Another 1st gen PS2 - disc detection on the PS2 uses the laser. If it gets dirty, no disc is detected. Fixed with a cotton ball and some alcohol

- PS2 Guitar Hero Guitar - Had a broken whammy bar. Fixed with 2 rubber bands.

- Wacom Tablet - not officially "big junk"...from my brother in law. Appears to work

- Micro USB cable - Generally not such a big deal, but we needed one at work to test a new SMS system, and no one else had one

It has also come with stuff that should have stayed "thrown away"

- A Sharper Image roll up piano - What a piece of junk. Totally unplayable.

I'm planning on making to trip to Bowling Green next year. Big fun.


Psychological Traffic Calming

I live on a street in old Cary which has turned into a speedway, especially near my house. I live at the end of a stretch of straight road that the leadfeet (leadfoots?) in my neighborhood can't resist. Here is a clever solution from a fellow in Hamburg : a Fake Traffic Camera.

Looks like a fun project. I have an official looking watertight box (thanks NCSU Surplus!) and stuff that looks like a lens (maybe even a lens...). Add a padlock to the box and I'm all set.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bought another SSD for Mini 9

Picked up a 4 GB SSD pulled from a Dell Mini 9 for $8.50 (shipped) on eBay. Now I will have boot drives for OS X, XP and Ubuntu. Not exactly triple boot, but the changeover only takes a few minutes.

The MIOS studio software that is used to program the Midibox SID is unsupported on Mac OS X, but works under Linux, so this will provide me a way to reprogram my MidiBox SID after I upgrade the processor.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Saw III sampler figurines

These figurines are seriously creepy. First job was to remove and trash them. I'm thinking about recording scary sounds and have this activated by a motion sensor for a Halloween setup.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another Dell Mini in the family

When Aidan saw the Mini 9 I bought, he was immediately jealous. So, we got him one for his birthday. Bought this one at the Dell Outlet, just like mine. In this case, I bought him the Vostro A90, which is a Vostro branded Mini 9. Only difference is that the black A90 is all black, where mine is silver below the keyboard.

Since I was planning on eventually loading mac OS X on mine, I didnt want to purchase another copy of XP. It adds about $50 to the cost. Rather than getting the Mini 9 with an 8GB SSD XP, I got him a Vostro A90 with a 16GB SSD, Bluetooth and the webcam for $10 less than the Mini 9. I figured we would use my XP license after I loaded OS X.

We fired up his Vostro and got to see Ubuntu. Visually, it just looks better than XP on the Mini 9. They have really done a nice implementation. The only problem that we had was the wireless was unable to properly negotiate a connection with my new 2Wire AT&T router. I had to explicitly set the 2Wire to PKA2, then everything worked.

Turns out now that Aidan wants Mac OS X on his Vostro. He is more familiar with my iMac than Kerry's Dell. Looks like I'll be doing the install sometime this week. I have a 16GB SSD and 2 GB memory upgrade on order for mine.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Merrill Lynch account liquidated

Finally liquidated my Merrill Lynch account. A 27% loss from it's peak. Sigh. Time to implement the Black Swan portfolio...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

xpud - shortest path to the

Saw a forum reference to xPUD ( as a lightweight OS to run on my Mini 9. Downloaded and installed it to a bootable 64 MB flash drive.

I changed BIOS options on the Mini 9 to allow booting from USB. Then I deleted syslinux.cfg, and renamed isolinux.cfg to syslinux.cfg.

Moment of truth. The Mini booted in about 30 seconds (maybe less). The entire OS loads into RAM (not SSD, the RAM) and then boots from RAM. This setup is amazingly fast. I can leave the default boot setup as Win XP, and boot xPud whenever I want. I am impressed.

Chronulator circuit board done

Finished the Chronulator circuit board last night and hooked up some meters. I haven't decided which meters to use yet, so I wired in some old transistor sockets and plugged in the resistors that control the meter scaling. Used the big meter for minutes and the small one for hours.

My next one will probably run on a small off the shelf arduino/freeduino kit with built in USB. That will give me a solid power source and the ability to control the meters from the computer.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mini 9 is excellent

I've had a few days with the Mini 9, and I'm sorry I didn't get one sooner. Win XP runs faster on the Mini than on any other system I own. Excellent tool in the server room.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Refurb Vostro A90 available. Grrrrr.

Ordered my Dell Mini 9 from the Dell outlet earlier this week. Waited too long and all the Mini 9's with webcams were gone. Just discovered that the Dell Outlet Business section is selling the Vostro A90, which is the same as the Mini 9. With webcams. For exactly what I paid, $249. They even have units with 16 GB SSDs. Doh!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dell Mini 9 memory expansion options

While waiting for my Mini 9 to arrive, I'm looking at SSD expansion. It comes with an 8MB SSD, which is fine for Linux, but a stretch for Mac OS X. There are basically 2 brands of SSD expansion : Runcore and Super Talent (STEC).

The Runcore is slightly more expensive : 16GB $78, 32 GB $127
than the Super Talent : 16GB $63, 32GB $109

There is a slower (2X slower writes, almost 3X on reads)
Super Talent : 16GB $49, 32GB $89

The big advantage of the Runcore is that the module has an integrated USB port. This allows Mac OSX to be installed on a Mac while the Runcore is attached as an external drive. This makes the install go much faster, and is simpler.

If you look at the high end Runcore vs. the Super Talent, the ease of installation on the Runcore is a slam dunk. For the 16 GB, the Runcore is only $15 more, with the 32GB, it is $19 more.

Comparing to the slower Super Talent is a different story. For the 16 GB, the Runcore is $29 more, the 32GB is $38 more.

Still, if this is something that you will use extensively, it's worth paying the extra $40 one time cost.

I'll probably upgrade the RAM to 2GB right away, install Linux and do the 32 GB upgrade down the road. It's somewhat hard to justify an immediate $130 expense to upgrade a $250 computer. Perhaps I can pick up a used 16GB from an upgrader.

This posthas a good rundown of Runcore vs. STEC

Monday, July 13, 2009


The mini 9's on Dell Outlet sold faster than I thought. By the time I checked yesterday, all that was left were Mini 9's without webcams. Ordered a 1GB, 8GB SSD, Bluetooth configuration. I could have gotten a 10, but I wanted small.

Friday, July 10, 2009

the evolution/devolution of netbooks

Our 21st anniversary was today; Kerry asked what I wanted. I think I'm going to get a Dell Mini 9 netbook.

As part of my job, I'm in the server room copying data onto printed spreadsheets. When back at my desk, I type in the numbers. It would be great to capture that data as it is generated and avoid double entries. It would also avoid repeated reprinting of my server data spreadsheets.

I like the Dell Mini 9 because it's small and light. The keyboard is a little small, but for my purposes OK. I'm really looking for small, goes everywhere. I don't want to think about whether I should carry it with me.

They discontinued the Mini 9 last month. Dell has stopped using the SSD, which I want for the durability and battery life.

They have black ones with 1GB of RAM, an 8 GB SSD and a .3mp webcam for $239. They have 512MB models for $10 cheaper without the webcam. The webcam would be worth $10 to me, so go with the 1GB.

I can always swap the SSD for a hard drive to run OS X. The Mini 9 is the only 100% OS X compatible netbook according to this chart :

At best, the others have broken audio (HP) or broken ethernet (MSI Wind).

Had a discussion with someone at work today about netbooks. He talked about how he would need a hard drive so it could be loaded with Microsoft Office. This totally misses the point.

The netbook is the perfect interface to it comes..."cloud". All your apps and data reside on the internet; the netbook is just a smart conduit. Local word processing is probably necessary, but bloatware like Word is just overkill.

The vendors (at least Dell) are missing it too. The netbook is evolving by losing its' SSD for a hard drive (bye bye battery life) and growing bigger screens (bye bye portability). Pretty soon netbooks will become ....laptops.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

iPod Touch strangeness

I've been having problems with podcast listings on my iPod Touch where the podcast appears on the iPod Touch, but does not show up in iTunes. I could delete these podcasts on the Touch, but they would never go away. After reading about auto purging of listened podcasts, I played the podcasts in question, oldest to newest. The "phantom" podcasts were essentially empty (1 or 2 seconds long) and they all "played" in a second or so.

Once they were played, I could delete them on the iPod Touch, and after syncing with iTunes, they were still gone. Yay.

My remaining problems appear to be podcasts with improper metadata in specific podcast episodes. The July 8 edition of "On The Media" copies to the iPod and is visible on the iPod, but does not appear in iTunes on my Mac. No content is apparently copied as the podcast plays for a second then stops.

My workaround to make these broken podcasts playable :
- Convert podcast to AAC (from right-click menu)
- Copy podcast to iTunes
- Set Genre to "Podcast-Other"
- Create smart playlist on iPod to show these podcasts

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Bjork, Volta, Voltaic, gestural controllers

I was listening to Bjork as the guest DJ on All Songs Considered. She has an esthetic I can appreciate ... blending electronic and natural sounds in her music. She is using a gestural control instrument from Reactable on her Voltaic tour that can be seen in this video from "Later with Jools Holland".

To get a feel for the Voltaic live show, here is a video of "Pluto" from the Paris show.

Just ordered a copy of Volta...looking forward to the listen.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Costa Rica Diary : Day 5

Today was pretty lazy. Woke up early -- 0630 -- even though I went to bed past 2230. Kerry and I went for a walk on the road leading to the villa. Saw some birds and of course lots of crabs. Nearly missed breakfast while reading on the patio, which would have been unfortunate as it was excellent. French toast, sausage, eggs, toast, pineapple and mango. Finished "The Black Swan", went swimming in the infinity pool.

Kerry, the kids, Stephanie, Carly and Darby walked up to Lookout Point. When we got back, had fajitas for lunch, which were OK. The beef was a little tough.

More afternoon lazy time....went back over "The Black Swan" to find favorite quotes. Got on the internet and looked at SD card based disk drive replacements for the C64 -- not sure what led me there. Went back outside, watched the kids play in the surf.

Kerry, the kids and I went on an ATV ride down to the beach. Took some pictures...then it started thundering, so we headed back. After about 45 minutes, we had a shrimp dinner.

Costa Rica Diary : Day 4

Slowly, I am becoming used to the keyboard on this computer -- it was designed for the Spanish speaking market, and the country settings in Vista do not quite match. I still don't know how to type a colon.

I tried to fix this once, but since Vista requires a reboot after changing the keyboard language, I decided to live with it. I feel like I am only one reboot away from a re-configuration marathon.

Today we did zip line rides through the canopy in Montezuma. I was at first somewhat reluctant to go, but glad I went. The height did not really bother was so much higher than I normally deal with, that it did not really register that I should be afraid.

After that, a short ride into town and some shopping, then a ride back to the villa. Chicken quesadillas and fresh guacamole was served. I then went to the infinity pool to read some more of The Black Swan.

Costa Rica Diary : Day 3

Today we went ATV riding. Alan arranged it and all but Kerry and Stacy went on the trip. We cruised along the beach and through the forest adjacent to the beach. Crabs are everywhere. In some places it looked like the ground was moving.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Costa Rica Diary : Day 2

This was to be the day of the Internet Fixing.

Woke up around 0800. Had some breakfast, did some reading. Watched the ocean. I've always enjoyed the sights and sounds of the ocean more than swimming in the ocean.

So, I'm in Costa Rica, and I'm fixing problems. Can't get it out of my system.

I had been unable to get the wireless internet working yesterday.

Some additional complicating factors :

- The computer was running Windows Vista Home Premium
- Almost all the text is in Spanish
- The ISDN modem was a USB device

Normally, the USB network device would not such a big deal if we were connecting one computer. In our situation, the goal was to share the connection to the Linksys router, allowing wireless clilents to connect.

On Saturday, I had discovered and removed a redundant network cable from the router to the computer. I tried configuring the device for ICS, but could not get it to work. I spent my time on Saturday mostly trying to get the system back to English. Through some research with Mr. Google, I learned that this version of Vista did not support multiple language packs. We were stuck with Spanish.

I knew Alan would need the internet access, so when "Scruffy" arrived, I sat down with him to help him get it working. Scruffy arrived from the states 20 years ago on his sailboat, and never left. He is a good friend of the villa owner. He spoke Spanish and together we were able to move forward.

This was one of those situations where having two people working on a problem can be quite helpful. Especially since he could translate menus. We tried a number of configurations until we got it working. We also used Alan's laptop to help with the configuration of the router.

ICS - Internet Connection Sharing - wanted a dynamic IP address...and only the Linksys router could do that. If I set the range of DHCP addresses to start at, then the ICS connection would always get I wanted to set the IP address of the router statically, but it would not allow me to set the gateway address to the same as the internet address --, even though that appeared to be correct.

The implication of this was that wireless clients could never connect automatically, as DHCP was unable to deliver the proper gateway address. There was probably a way of fixing this, but I had reached the point where I just wanted it to work, and that any working repeatable procedure was acceptable.

Another complication we discovered -- the Acer PC had its' own wireless adapter, which would try to connect to the Linksys router. We turned it off to simplify matters.

After a couple of hours, we got it working -- with the caveat that IP, netmask and gateway had to be set manually on any wireless adapters that wanted to connect. It had not been working, and on a whim, I entered the IP address of, which loaded. The ISP DNS was sucky.

Just as we got it working, the PC spontaneously rebooted. Sigh. This computer BSOD a number of times, which seemed to be related to the flaky ISDN modem.

When it came back up, the Linksys Easy Configuration software loaded and somehow blocked the ICS connection. So we uninstalled the "helpful" Linksys software and rebooted again.

Here was the final configuration :
- Acer PC connected to the internet via the Intracom ISDN modem
- ICS used to bond the NIC in the ACER to the Intracom network
- ACER NIC cabled to LAN connection on Linksys router

On the Linksys router
-DHCP turned on
-gateway set to the base DHCP address plus 2

For any connecting wired or wireless hosts
- IP set manually to a 192.168.1.X address not already used
- Netmask set to
- Gateway set to
- DNS addresses set to the public addresses. The DNS servers of the ISP were unreliable.

I entered the configuration into Alan's laptop and gave it back to him.

He needed to download some software from to process his photos. At a maximum data rate of about 18 kbps, this took a couple of hours.

The download speed went up and down as the ISDN B channel kicked in and out. But it worked.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Costa Rica Diary : Day 1

Woke up at 0400 Saturday morning...made it to the airport by 0530. Flight left on time for Miami. So far, all uneventful. Met some nice folks in Miami that were scheduled to be on the same flight from San Jose to Tambor on which we were booked. She spoke Spanish and called Sansa to tell them that we would be a bit late. Missing the Tambor flight would put us on the bus to the coast, a long ferry ride and final drive to the villa.

The flight left Miami on time. We discovered that the crew had forgotten the immigration and customs paperwork. We would have to complete those forms when we arrived in San Jose. We arrived on time and madly filled out the handful of forms. Just as we were getting in the first line, our family was diverted to a shorter line since we had 2 kids. Immigration went relatively quickly and we rushed to the Sansa terminal. We arrived at 1330 for the 1400 flight and got checked in. Fortunately, the folks we met in Miami arrived shortly afterward and we all got on the flight.

The 25 minute flight to Tambor was remarkably smooth. Liam slept through the entire flight.

We were met at the Tambor aiport, which consists of a landing strip, a parking lot and a porta-potty. We paid our $1 per passenger airport tax and were on our way.

The drive from the Tambor airport to the villa was actually rougher than the commuter flight to Tambor. We arrived at the villa and met our host, Hansel. We settled in, and 4 hours later the others arrived. In the pouring rain.

I discovered that the internet service was not quite working. More on that tomorrow.

Dinner, then bed soon afterward. A long day.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

keeping us safe - The dangerous lithium battery

Our Sun servers have CR2032 lithium coin cell batteries. Thes batteries are obviously very dangerous, considering how replacements are shipped. When one goes bad, this is what you get from Sun : A large box with ominous stickers, which contains a smaller box protected by "packaged air". Inside the smaller box is an anti-static envelope (protected by foam). Inside the envelope is a single CR2032 lithium coin battery.

For what it cost them to send me one battery, they could have bought me 20 batteries.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Alien Autopsy : Wierd POS terminal

I found this item on a recent trip to the Raleigh Flea Market. It appeared to be some sort of custom point-of sale terminal. It had :

  • smart card slot
  • credit card scanner
  • PC card attachment
  • large rectangular touch screen
There were no external markings. It was only $1, so what the heck. As is usual with such items, I take them apart.

The internals are a spectacular mess. Wires go in every direction. Copious silicone caulk holds it together. The PC Card/flash connector on the back goes nowhere. Apparently a design change.

I am impressed at the volume of stuff they managed to jam in there :
  • smart card reader
  • credit card scanner
  • processor board
  • VGA PC Card
  • thermal printer
  • 2 rechargable batteries
  • 2 alkaline batteries, caulked in place
  • 4 AA battery holder
  • 2 AA battery holder
  • LCD touch screen
  • 2 pushbuttons
And of course the case, which is the best part. It will make a nice case for an upcoming project.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

King Charles Troupe : 44 years of unicycle basketball

On my ride into work today, a spoke with an ex-member of the King Charles Troupe, a unicycle basketball exhibition team founded in 1968. It's a small world.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

iPhone Repair : The New Frontier

My son's 1G iPhone has started misbehaving. Looks like the sleep/power button gets stuck down, which causes a reboot loop. Needless to say, he is not particularly enthusiastic about Dad taking his iPhone apart.

For now, I told him to not use the Sleep button...just allow the iPhone to power itself off.

Mr. Google was not particularly helpful. I did find a few people that have had this problem and fixed it by taking the iPhone apart.

I was thinking that it might be possible to use some alcohol on a swab or contact cleaner to free up the stuck button. I am seeing issues with the Home button also. Sigh.

I have ordered the official Apple Spudger Tool (Apple Part # 922-5065) in preparation for the inevitiable.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

iPod Touch : Apps that sync data locally

When I bought the iPod Touch, I realized that I would not have :
  • phone capability
  • GPS
  • camera
but I wasn't willing to spend the $1200 out of pocket expense ($199 + 24 mo * $40).

Most iPhone apps work on the iPod Touch, but data is only available within the range of a WiFi hotspot. So I concentrated on apps that can sync when the network is available, and still function offline.

The apps that I use that allow offline functionality :
  • Memengo Wallet - Secure document storage. Syncs to
  • Toodledo - GTD style to do lists. 2 way sync to
  • NY Times - free - Syncs NY Times content locally
  • BookshelfLT - free - book reader with access to downloadable content (it caches)
  • Stanza - free - Another book reader, access to more, different, content

Monday, January 12, 2009

favorite iPod Touch apps

A short list of my favorite iPod Touch apps so far (not pre-installed) :
  • AOL Radio (free) - Dozens of streaming radio channels, free from AOL. Personal favorites are "Video Game Scores" and "Anime Radio".
  • Google Earth (free) - Still useful even without the GPS. Can do simple location determination based on information gathered from Wi-Fi hotspots by Skyhook Wireless
  • Google (free) - GMail, Google Reader
  • Pandora (free) - streaming radio
  • BookshelfLT (free) - EReader with access to many public domain and free books
  • Memengo Wallet ($2.99) - encrypt private data, store encrypted copy on the web
  • Evernote (free) - Synchronized notes capability
  • Phanfare Photon (free) - Local access to photo albums
  • Toodledo ($3.99) - To do lists, synchronized and shareable

Friday, January 09, 2009

iPhone or iPod Touch ?

So, I've been watching Aidan use his iPhone, and have been impressed with what is available through the app store. I am still using my 5G iPod, but the screen is a bit small for watching video. So perhaps a new 3G iPhone?

Well, I have a work issued BlackBerry 8703e, and it's hard to justify paying for another phone. The BlackBerry has Internet service. I have a very nice Sony-Ericsson k790a Cyber Shot phone on a shared AT&T service plan as my personal phone. Up till about a week ago, I carried both.

Also, with the iPhone, I determined the actual cost of the iPhone to be about $1200 when the required data plan is factored in.

I looked at the iPod Touch, and decided that the feature set was right for my needs. With the help of a $100 BestBuy gift card, I bought a new 16GB iPod Touch. In order to pare back down to 2 devices, I've forwarded the calls from my personal phone to the Blackberry, and my k790a has become a very fancy camera. Once my new case arrives, the iPod touch will take the place of the k790a as the second device that I carry.

gadget update : Aidan's iPhone

So my son wanted an iPhone, but there was no way he could afford a $40/month service plan. Solution? Purchase a used 1G iPhone (thanks Hal) and activate it without a data plan. While the new 3G iPhones require a 2 year data plan, repurposed 1G iPhones do not. Big thanks to Esai at AT&T for making all the appropriate account settings to disable the data service on Aidan's iPhone. He wanted to be able to text message, but the iPhone data/SMS plan is a bundle. The only way to get just SMS is to purchase the Family SMS plan, which is $30/month.

I don't think he has really missed it. He usually has access to wi-fi, so he can watch his YouTube videos and download apps from the iTunes store.

Had to reset the iPhone this evening; it would not power on. Mr. Google filled me in on the details and all is well.

blog revival : work status

It's been a while since my last update. Many changes. We are into our second year as a merged IT organization at NCSU. I've been spending much of my work time deploying new equipment. There is something especially satisfying about starting with a box of parts and seeing the results shortly afterward. We will shortly be deploying our new VMWare ESX cluster. But enough about work.