2011 Des Moines Renaissance Faire on your iDevice

Yes, I’m still here, just not much to publicly say in the last few months.

This weekend is the first of 2011 the Des Moines Renaissance Faire, and Mary and I are planning attendance for at least one day of each weekend. I decided to program schedule into Google calendar so I could have a handy reference as to what was going on, where it was and when.

I thought someone else might be interested, so I made the calendar public.

The easiest way is to email this link to an account you can access on your iDevice and then tap on the link in that email:


After you tap it, it will prompt you to install it as a new calendar, just say yes. I recommend viewing it in list view on a small screen.

Android and other device users should be able to use it too, but I can’t guide you with instructions. It’s probably pretty similar to iOS.

I plan to add the events on the Friday before the weekend so it’s as current as possible. I think they will automatically update since it is a subscribed calendar.

You can also download the schedule in iCal format by clicking here.

Standard disclaimers apply, I have no affiliation with the festival, etc.


A Tale of Two Service Calls

Sometimes you just have a bad day, or a run of them. Last Sunday, my Dell laptop died, Tuesday night, my Apple iPad died.

These were two totally unrelated problems, and thankfully both were covered under warranty. The iPad has the standard Apple 1 year warranty, my Dell had 2 year Complete Care. I thought it had 3 years, but evidently I only ordered 2. Both the iPad and the Dell warranties expire before mid-June. I’m pretty happy they both died this month and not next.

Now, keep in mind I’m a pretty big Dell fan. I generally recommend their laptops to people, and the Complete Care warranty they offer is no small part of that recommendation. Computers all break eventually but desktops much easier to fix, laptops break more often,and are a lot harder to fix. With Complete Care it doesn’t matter who’s fault it is, Dell will fix it. It’s as much an insurance policy as it is a warranty. Dog eats it, 2yr old jumps on it, lightning strikes it, it’s covered. You get the idea.

This provides me with a great opportunity to compare support side by side.


Here’s how each service call went.

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Heil Traveler

I’m a big fan of Heil products, they make excellent and (up until recently) custom tailored headsets for amateur radio.

Their smaller Traveler series headset is designed for use with HT’s and mobile radios, and just like their larger cousins you can purchase one generic headset and separate coiled cord adapters for each ht you intend to use it with.

This is a great system. My traveler has been in use for many years, way longer than my average HT. The problem is with many modern HT’s no longer use the standardized connectors that their predecessors used for so many generations. Some manufacturers use new ones that can be sourced from standard component houses, some opt to supply pigtails for the amateur homebrewer. Most provide short pigtails so you can use your older accessories or interface them for packet radio.

More commentary as well as Heil Traveler Pin Out information after the break…

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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.