Thursday, May 27, 2010

Replacing a GPS : New maps or new GPS?

I have a Garmin Nuvi 200W which I like, but I'm finding more and more mistakes in the maps. Turns out map updates are $69. A newer model, the Nuvi 255W is available for $99. It has a faster processor and locks onto satellites faster. The old Nuvi 200w becomes the backup GPS/photo frame and the 255W takes its' place.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Keeping visitors away from the beach

Found this blog post in my Drafts. This happened about 3 years ago, but it really happened. The parking pass system rebooted while I was trying to buy a pass. The clock was 30 minutes off. I saw a car being towed through gridlocked traffic.

Here goes ......

Just came back from a whirlwind trip to the beach. My son Liam was having his pictures taken for promotional materials. I arrived the day before, and decided to spend some time at the beach. It didn't take long for things to go wrong. I appreciate their attention to safety. They just need to rethink customer relations.

Keeping Visitors Away From The Beach

- Establish onerous parking rates. At least $1.50/hour
- Don't maintain the machines that generate the parking receipts. Have them periodically reboot while the customer is attempting to purchase parking time.
- Set the clocks in the parking machines 30 minutes in the past. This way, you can sell 30 minutes of parking for the price of an hour of parking. This also creates a prime opportunity for towing cars in expired spaces.
- Configure the systems so that they only generate 1 hour parking passes, requiring the customer to return hourly to add more parking time.
- Tow the cars of violators during prime beach hours, causing traffic gridlock
- Establish rules for proper conduct at the beach, but don't post them anywhere
- If you choose to document rules, do so in an extremely cryptic manner. For example, to demark a zone in which swimmers should not enter the water, like near a pier, stick a red flag in the sand. Everyone knows people don't read signs with words :-)
- When the rules are transgressed, use a bullhorn to inform the offender, assuring public humiliation. Toss in phrases like "you need to watch your are not at Disney World"
- Don't enforce rules uniformly. This keep your visitors on their toes.

Saved from the dump - Dell Inspiron e1505

My sister gave me a Dell Inspiron e1505 that she found laying on the curb after the BGSU students moved out. Physically, it appeared to be in decent shape. I plugged it in and powered it on. I would get a one second visual of the Dell boot screen, then nothing. I plugged in an external monitor, and it appears to be working normally (other than the display). A little research indicates that screen failures were common on these laptops.

Otherwise, a decent laptop : Vista compatible, Express Card slot, SD card slot, 4 USB ports, external S-video/composite out.

As I recall, the LCD did not look so great, so "Off With Its' Head!" I removed the screen completely and powered it up again. System booted normally. Everything looks good. If I decide to add a touch screen to use with the virtual pipe organ project, I don't need to worry about integrating a touch panel onto the existing laptop LCD.

Just for grins, I started poking around on the laptop to see if it had any problems. It had 3 different anti-virus programs running simultaneously : Symantec, McAfee and AVG. Once I uninstalled those, performance improved dramatically.

Postscript : Finally figured out the part number of the inverter (note to manufacturers : don't use the letter I in part numbers). Ordered a unit from eBay for $9.

PostPostscript : Replacement inverter did not fix the problem. Found a $25 LCD display at the flea market. Using it headless. To get better wireless range, I pulled the antennas out of the lid and attached them to a wooden stand

I think I'll call him Mike :

Friday, May 14, 2010

New keyboard for organ project

I had been working on soldering the wires to the Schober 61 note keyboards, but was not happy with the wire management. I had been keeping my eye out for controllers and found an Edirol PC-50 keyboard controller for $10 on Craigslist. Only $10? It had a bad key which I fixed with a pencil eraser. Planning to work more on the software, foot pedals and expression pedals and save the bulk of the soldering work for later.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Learning economics on the long drive

Spent almost 12 hours yesterday getting home from Bowling Green, Ohio where I spent the weekend "junking" with my sister. Spent most of the trip home listening to the EconTalk podcast out of George Mason University.

Especially interesting were :

I always recommend Roberts' discussions with Nassim Nicholas Taleb :