In Gadget-Man Heaven


Well I might be a little behind the times here but after a shaky start I’ve finally caught up with the smart phone revolution and I’m loving it.

It’s not that this is the first gadget like this I’ve owned, its just the first one that’s this good! A few years back I had a Palm Tungsten E. It was a brilliant little PDA. By today standards it had very few features and functions. However what it did do – it did extremely well. The interface was intuitive and easy to use, it was fast and reliable. I found I was using it more and more in day to day life: scribbling notes, storing contacts, scheduling events etc. Best of all the information was easy to organise and retrieve. I guess you could say it was a mature product or technology.

Eventually I wore it out the much loved Tungsten E and it required replacement. I was lured to the dark side (Windows Mobile) in the guise of an iPaq 212. On paper it was so much better than my humble Palm. It had a bigger screen that was higher resolution, had built in WiFi and Bluetooth which meant I could even make it talk to a gps if I so desired. Oh the possibilities! But I’m afraid to say that’s all it was – possibilities. The interface was far too clumsy to be of any use for quick data entry or retrieval. It was unstable and buggy. After the hefty purchase price (compared to the Palm) I ended up shelling out more for a third party calendar app in the hope of getting something as powerful yet simple as the Palm had. With the Palm I could easily tell what I had planned in which categories with just a glance at the month view. Something I never truly achieved with the iPaq. Nowadays it lives next to the bed and gets used for watching YouTube videos of good English comedies before going to sleep.

I also made a dud purchasing decision when we got our Samsung F480’s. The whole touch screen phone thing was taking off and I wanted in on the action. All I can say is I don’t think the technology had matured enough yet. Or at least the software hadn’t anyway. Most of all the keyboard was sooo painful. Texting was an exercise in patience and extreme accuracy.

I wanted the simplicity and ease of use of the Palm, the features of the iPaq and a phone that I didn’t want to use as a hammer or wheel chock instead. I knew that the PDA category had all but been swallowed up by the Smartphone category so I suppose that’s where I should be looking. The iPhone seemed to be well liked and it seems the touch screen had developed to the point of being fast and easy to use – without a stylus too. I liked the idea of the Android OS and after a quick play on someone’s HTC Legend I was  sold.

After a lot of screwing around with Tel$tra (the staff were brilliant as always but their ‘system’ is a crock of s#!t) I had secured two new HTC Desires. This thing is awesome, the more I use it the better it gets. The option to use WiFi or mobile data, built in GPS, ability to browse our LAN for files (eg MP3’s from the Ubuntu media centre), seamless integration with Google’s services (which I already use), an interface that is clean and intuitive, a wide range of apps that are easily accessible and all in a package that has been stable and reliable thus far, the list just keeps going. I use my HTC Desire for emails and social networking, taking happy snaps, GPS navigation (including Geocaching), playing silly games, browsing the ‘net and texting. I’m back to having a calendar that is quick and easy to use. Best of all I can share calendars (through Google) with my bride so we can easily see everything we’ve each got planned. No more “I told you about such and such last week” from either of us! I even found an app that integrates / syncs with my blog and allows me to write posts about my phone, from my phone at 1am (that last coffee wasn’t clever). Finally a device with technology that has matured like the Palm’s had years ago. As an example: I’ve miss-hit at least one letter in almost every word in this post – but I’m not frustrated, ninety something percent of the time it knows what I really wanted to type.

Oh and it makes phone calls too.


[singlepic id=241 w=320 h=240 float=left]Had myself a prang recently 🙁 I overcooked it in the wet on my way to work and locked up the rear wheel approaching a corner. I had the presence of mind to come off the back brake to get it back together. Problem is I was then even closer to the corner and no slower, so I was just as enthusiastic on the brake again. This time the rear slid out so far I was afraid to let go of the brake incase it gripped suddenly and highsided. The bloody thing did it anyway and threw me off! Luckily there was no oncoming traffic and I went splat on my face followed by a penguin slide (on my belly) down the road.

The nice police lady didn’t charge me and the ambo’s took me to Royal Perth because they ‘were going that way anyway!’ After relaying the story again to the ED staff they had me laying down and immobilised with sandbags in the blink of an eye. Heaps of X-rays and 5 hours later I was given the all clear and allowed to move.

Apart from lots of bruising and some muscle damage, I didn’t have a scratch on me! All thanks to my gear. My Dririder jacket, full face helmet and leather gloves all paid for themselves. Most of all the helmet though, I hate to imagine what I’d look like right now if I’d had an open face helmet. My yellow vest and raincoat were torn up badly enough.

Funniest thing, the bike got a few scratches – but check out the indicator. Completely busted off but the globe is fine, still working too! The silver lining to this cloud – a new Shoei TZR 🙂

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The World's Best Hot Chocolate

[singlepic id=237 w=320 h=240 float=right]Tonight I had the World’s best cup of hot chocolate! The explanation is going to seem a little strange but stay with me here. Nowadays I barely get to touch anything technical, so when something breaks around the house I’m almost singing for joy. Lately I’ve saved our Dyson from a violent death when I replaced the ‘lifetime’ filters which had become permanently blocked. Then it was time to solder up a new Sub C NiCd pack for the Dustbuster.

Most recently, I’ve been having an argument with an almost new microwave (read ‘just out of warranty’) that developed a penchant for consuming high voltage fuses (at about $10 ea). I was a little silly and assumed the magnetron was to blame so waited ’till a bargain popped up on eBay. New magnetron and new $10 fuse fitted and time for a test run. HUMMMMMMMMM – POP. Bugger this is getting expensive.

So time for more homework and I found this site which is a wealth of information for appliance repairs. Be sure to read the disclaimer though, there’s a capacitor in there that can kill you even when unplugged from the mains. After checking the cap’ was properly discharged I set about molesting everything with my multimeter. Aaargh, the diode had gone open circuit in both directions. Back to google and then eBay we go.

A parcel was waiting for me today with a new diode and (another) new fuse. 10 min work and it was all back together. This time a gentle hummmmmm and my sample water was getting hot. Success!

So dear reader, that’s why a cup of hot full cream milk in my trusty BP thermo mug with a few spoons of fancy pants chocolate makes the best hot chocolate in the world. And nobody’s going to tell me otherwise 😉

Don’t suppose anyone wants an as new, slightly used LG Magnetron?

Windrush 14

[singlepic id=234 w=320 h=240 float=left]I had the best time on Saturday morning when Dad and I finally sailed our new(?) catamaran. There’s no room for the cat at our house so Mum & Dad have kindly agreed to keep it at their place. I arrived at their’s bright and early to load up, followed by a great omelette (thanks Mum) before Dad and I set off for the river. I chose to try Perth Water for her maiden voyage since we’d sailed the hire cats there before and it was fairly familiar.

I should have taken the Kestrel with me, but a mix of the BOM site and experience says that we had between 5 and 10 knots wind, gusting to 15 or so. Direction was between E and ENE. Temp was a toasty 18 degrees C.

After some noob mistakes rigging, we set sail. Yeehah it floats and it sails 🙂 The water was a little chilly but that didn’t matter. Not to me anyway since Dad was handling the jib and protecting me from the spray! Initially we had some problems maintaining headway when going about but got the sequence right after a few tries. It didn’t help that we seemed to be getting a wind shadow off Heirisson Island. By the end we were really grooving along. On the second last tack we were getting close to the island where the wind shadow was worse. So we chose to jibe instead. Rather nervously we pulled the sheets in, pulled the tiller and called ‘Jibe Ho’. Thank goodness it was a non event; we didn’t capsize, none of us got hit in the head by the boom and the sail didn’t even go bang. Perhaps in that wind we should have been jibing the whole time?

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Slope Soaring Mullaloo

[singlepic id=231 w=320 h=240 float=right]It appears I’m in slope heaven at the moment 🙂 Westerlies had been predicted for today and a group of guys on RC Groups have been watching the forecasts keenly for a few days. They allowed me to crash the party so the car was packed this morning so I could go straight from work. Thanks guys, it was great to meet you all. It’s always so much fun sharing a hobby with like minded individuals.

The wind was westerly alright, but very weak by the time I arrived. Some of the guys had been there most of the afternoon and I believe conditions been better earlier. When I turned up there was one Alula airborne and I think a Weasel. There was an assortment of flying wings and conventional ‘tailed’ gliders stuck into the bushes waiting for the wind to pick up. I was chomping at the bit to fly so after initial introductions I assembled the Alula and launched rather nervously – Adam, that video had better be flattering!

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Slope soaring Cott's

[singlepic id=228 w=320 h=240 float=right]Had a great afternoon today. On an impulse we decided a trip to the beach was in order. said the wind was going to be rubbish (wrong direction) but I packed the Swift II and the Duck just incase.

I know some people have soared Cottesloe beach so we headed there. After some exploring, some procrastinating and eventually more exploring I worked up the courage to pull the Duck out. According to the Kestrel the wind was SSW, averaging 11kts with gusts to 16kts. There was a short section of coast, just south of the groyne and near the carpark that faces SSW, it’s really rocky and necessitates flying over the water. I would love to have used the Swift as a sniffer but I knew that it’s too draggy and lightly loaded for a wind like that. So, the Duck it would have to be.

First launch – I tried the nose first method and promptly gouged the underside on the rocks 1m in front of me. Second launch (gulp) I used the two fingers on the trailing edge method and she was off. The lift was smooth and constant, though I didn’t find it really strong and there was definite variations along the ridge due to the topography. I spent a good 15 or 20 min just leisurely beating up and down the short ridge. I found it fascinating that I was getting passable lift off the ‘main’ westerly facing stretch of coast, even though the wind seemed to be running almost parallel with it. I only explored this for 2 or 3 runs though because it meant flying almost straight out away from me.

On my final run I pushed just a little too far out to the west and the lift died. I turned back and was low on the slope. I think I could have scraped over the top by almost turning into wind and allowing it to blow back and over the lip.  Trouble is there was a couple watching me fly and they were between me and the Duck. So all I could do was deliberately slow it up and let it blow onto the rocks. A few frantic moments followed because I didn’t know if it was stuck on the rocks or in the drink. Fortunately she avoided a swim and some careful climbing had the Duck safe and sound.

It was so peaceful and soothing watching her gracefully soar the ridge, almost spiritual or hypnotic. We finished the day sitting on the beach, daring the waves to come the extra 5cm required to wet our feet. Served us right because one big ‘un came along that nearly wet our everything. I can see these slope / beach trips are going to become quite addictive 🙂 Photo credit to Kristy who took this from the groyne, looking ESE.

EVA Sport Video

This has been a long time coming but I’ve finally got  around to editing a video of my Mountain Models EVA Sport that Ben shot for me some time back. Check the 2min mark for some special commentary from Ben!

Make your own bomb!

‘Nuff said.

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Terrestrial Photography

[singlepic id=215 w=320 h=240 float=left]Not really warranting a category of it’s own, but I think deserving of a place on here, is some photos I’ve taken of flowers. I’m no pro by any stretch of the imagination, but today’s digital cameras allow you to experiment until some impressive shot’s are achieved.

The frangipani is growing in the garden at our new house. I wish all the stalks had flowered because the colours are so bright and vivid.

The gallery (below) is some photo’s I’d taken some time back. When we lived in Corrigin I’d enjoy riding the bike out on the gravel tracks through the bush, either following the railway & watching the scenery slide by or doing the wildflower loop. This particular day I’d packed the good camera and set out to get some shots on the wildflower loop. I was on the way home thinking I’d got as many good photos as I was going to get, when something caught my eye (at 40kph). I stopped and sure enough, the only orchid I saw for the day was growing at the base of a shrub. I have no idea exactly what it is, but the photos tell the story.

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Aerial Photography

[singlepic id=203 w=320 h=240 mode=watermark float=right]For quite a long time now I’ve been keen to try my hand at some R/C Aerial Photography. As a way to get started, I purchased a FlycamOne 2 some time ago as a way to get started. I’m well aware that this camera, though versatile, is fairly low performance. I’ve owned it for some months now so this post comes very late, but the b*#%@y thing just won’t work properly.

The first one released the magic smoke and I was out of smoke injection kits so I sent it back to Hobbycity. Either they were out of kits too or they just couldn’t get the smoke back in there because a new one was dispatched my way. The new one worked OK initially on the ground. It’s first aerial video was for the EVA Sport’s maiden flight. For that I got the first 5 sec of video playing frame by frame over approx 10 min, mixed with recorded sound in real time. Aaaargh. So the latest flight was with the ‘still photo every 4 seconds’ mode. Even then it didn’t work properly because when I landed it had stopped shooting (battery still OK and SD card not full). I would not recommend this camera to anyone, though some say they’re good – I think it’s a quality control issue.

*EDIT 11th Jan 2010* A formatted SD card, updated firmware and charged battery seems to have solved things. It seems the battery indicator may be unreliable and I might have had a low battery on previous flights.

Anyway, here’s 4 semi-acceptable shots from Sunday’s flights. It’s the second time I’ve flown at this new location and there seems to be much less turbulence rolling off the nearby trees. The EVA Sport flew beautifully with 1/2 flap and the motor shut off. Nice lazy circuits, she floated like a 2m glider and seemed to take a long time to come down.

The EVA won’t be able to lift my Sony 10MP pocket camera, but I’ve got grand plans for an old set of 2m Glider wings…… There is a dedicated forum for  all things R/C Aerial Photography at RC Groups. It’s a wealth of information, hopefully I’ll pick up some tips when it comes time to design my new bird.