Archive for category Gadgets

Garmin GPSmap 62s NEMA Serial Port

It has one, it’s just well hidden!

The GPSMap 62s can be paired with an appropriate amateur radio for full APRS functionality.

Some brief history before I begin…

Most modern GPS devices have dropped their old fashioned RS-232 serial ports in favor of the much more user friendly USB port. This makes interfacing them to amateur radio projects much harder, bordering on impossible. While standard serial ports could be thought of as a peer to peer system, USB was designed to work as a client server model with the “server” requiring much more intelligence than we generally have available in our projects. To make matters worse, despite it’s name “Universal Serial Bus” the creators didn’t impose any universal “driver” for serial communications the way they did with mice, keyboards, audio devices, etc. These factors all combine to make USB very unfriendly for us hams.

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Proporta iPod Touch Case

Cases are finally starting to come out for the new 4th generation iPod touch.

There were practically no options when I purchased iTouch about 2 weeks after they came out so I was limited to a silicon skin that wrapped around the back. These are nice, but they’re not suitable for pocket carry and I spent a lot of time being careful of exactly where my iTouch was and what was near it. Cases are pretty personal items, and everyone has different tastes in what they want. I like the “old school” leather PDA flip cases where the screen cover flips over the top and onto the back giving you access to the device.

I found what I was looking for in the Proporta Aluminum Lined Leather Case. It took a while to get here from the UK, but the wait was worth it. This is a very nice quality case with good leather, excellent and precise cutouts for the screen and controls, a nice lining, excellent stitching and a weak magnetic closure that’s just enough to do the job without getting in the way of anything. Oh, and it has an aluminum plate stitched into the lid so I can keep it in my pocket and not worry about any blunt objects beating against the screen. To make it even better, the case is only $39.00. More expensive than eBay to be sure, but much cheaper than similar offerings from EBCases or Vaja.

After I started using the case I quickly found a problem with it. I couldn’t see my screen anymore. It seems Proporta (and a quick Google search will tell you pretty much every other case company) forgot a cutout for the automatic brightness sensor on the 4G iPod Touch. The easy solution is to turn off automatic brightness. I like the automatic brightness feature.

The sensor is very difficult to see on the face of the iTouch, only under extremely bright circumstances can you just barely make out a red dot about 5/8 of an inch to the right of the camera. I had an old leather punch in the garage, I knew roughly where it was so after a quick search it was thawing out inside the house. It was more rusted than I remember it, probably due to it’s origins as a Harbor Freight special.

I really didn’t want to deface my new case, I do think it’s one of the better ones I’ve had. I measured the location of the sensor, then I measured it on the case. I did both again just to be sure and I marked the spot and punched a new hole.

Now it’s perfect.

PDA Evolution: iPod Touch

It’s been a while since I last commented on the iPhone 3GS. So long that I actually no longer have the 3GS.

Due to an unfortunate circumstance involving my cat, my old faithful iPod video, and insufficient cleanup work I found myself needing a new iPod. I thought about the direct replacement, the iPod classic, but then the shiny new iPod touch 4G caught my attention. Since 64GB is enough to hold my entire library (with about 30GB left for the future) it seemed just about perfect. I recycled the 3GS via CraigsList, added a bit too much extra, and presto it morphed into a great new iPod Touch 4.

Read on for more ramblings about the iPod Touch 4…

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2010 Mitchellville Corn Maze

I’m horrible about updating my blog…

We once again went to the Mitchellville Corn Maze and as usual we had a great time. This year’s weather was exceptional, and although the corn crop isn’t considered the best much of the maze was over 11′ tall. The maze seemed a lot shorter this year, but was still great fun. I think the perception of it being shorter was caused by the much nicer weather.

Last year I made mention that I wanted to try a UV light to easily identify the chads from punches made at the various stations in the maze. I did try that this year, but it turned out to be a waste of time. Any UV light powerful enough to make them noticeable at a distance would be, imo, too dangerous to use without eye protection.

We went hardware lite this year, mostly using Quark “warm” LED lights from Warm LEDs are still difficult to find, but 4Sevens does limited production runs of his lights with them from time to time. They really make the corn maze jump to life. Typical LED lights are heavily weighted towards the blue end of the spectrum and there is not much blue in a corn maze, or in nature in general. The yellow-weighted Warm LEDs really make the browns and reds pop and provide what I feel is a much more pleasing rendition of nature.

I recently traded my 2 GPSMap 60cs’ for Garmin’s latest GPSMap 62s model. I skipped the interm 60CSx model due to lack of useful new features but that was certainly fixed with the 62.

The 62 brings some great things to the table, map layering, multiple map support, aerial imagery and of course, improved accuracy. Unfortunately it also brings with it several 1.0ish build quality issues. It makes horrible creaking noises when you grasp it as the sides “cave” inward under the slightest pressure, and my power button is unreliable due to what I believe is the same flex issue. This is the first Garmin anything I have ever owned that disappoints me in the build quality. It’s my plan to return it to Garmin for repair in the next couple months; Garmin’s service has never disappointed me, so lets hope that continues to be the case. Electronically the 62s works great and it’s software is an upgrade to the 60cs in every way. It made a great drawing of the maze for us. Next year we’ve decided to mark way points for each located punch.

Garmin MapSource’s new exporting features support Google Earth for that added visual WOW factor. I have to admit the track log looks pretty nice superimposed on Google’s satellite imagery.

As you can see from the tracklog, it is much less of a Maze and much more of a scavenger hunt. One of the reasons we go only after dark is to make it more fun on both counts. We missed 2 punches this year, and after spending some time searching eventually went and looked up their locations. We had walked past both of them and just missed seeing them. We’d still like to try a larger maze, but even this one took us two sessions to finish due to our desire to only do it after dark. The walking distance was about 8 miles over the two evenings we spent there.

iPhone 3GS

I’ve always had a PDA. My first PDA was a credit-card sized “databank” made by Rolodex with a 1 line segmented LCD. Since then I’ve had Newtons, Zoomers, HP 200’s, and more varieties of “Windows” powered devices than I can count. Oh yeah, did I mention I had a few Palms too? Just a few (hundred).

Even though I resisted, eventually I migrated from a separate PDA to a SmartPhone, of course a Treo running PalmOS. I was never blind, PalmOS was old. It wasn’t pretty or sexy but it’s breadth of applications combined with the openness of the platform brought unheard of power to an extremely mature platform. Currently I use a Pre, which from my point of view followed Apple down all the wrong roads. It’s a very nice device, but in creating that device they lost the power that made the Palm platform great: Developers.

I just wrote 4 paragraphs on the history of why the iPhone deserved to die but didn’t. That’s not what this post is about so I deleted them. I’ll just sum it up really quickly:

  • AT&T’s network is a joke.
  • Apple has draconian, unevenly applied, and poorly understood application store submission policies.
  • Apple has destroyed the market for truly high quality supported apps by encouraging $2 apps that contain mostly pretty fluff, but some how adjusted user’s expectations to be happy with the fluff.
  • The iApps DRM is restrictive and really accomplishes nothing other than locking you to Apple’s monopolistic distribution channel.

I bought an iPhone last week.

A local Ham was getting a iPhone4 and I picked up his “old” 3GS. There are a few Ham radio applications on the platform that I wanted to run and this was a great opportunity to check it out. I have no plans to ever activate it, I’ll be using it as a WiFi only device. I wanted the GPS though, and the iPod Touch doesn’t have that feature. The camera is pretty nice as well.

Everything I stated above is still true. Finding a decent quality app in the store is difficult, but I was surprised to see that after a few years there are more than a few decent applications to be found.

The 3GS is FAST. Seriously fast. There is no waiting. I thought my Pre was fast, and it was about equal to the 3G iPhone, but the S does make a huge difference.

I never did truly replace my Centro with my Pre. There were too many applications for PalmOS that just have no WebOS equivalent. I’m seriously considering going back to a 2 device model for a while where I have a phone, and a PDA. If I can just separate the decent applications from the crap in Apple’s app store a deactivated iPhone might work quite well.