Friday, June 28, 2013

Casual Fridays: Justified Ignorance

I recently read a few things that got me thinking and, as a result, may get into some deeper thought on this Casual Friday.

The first was a black picture that read "I can explain it to you but I can't understand it for you." 

The second was George Takei's op-ed piece in the Washington Post about the recent DOMA ruling by the supreme court. Without getting into the politics of the issue (this is Casual Friday after all), he described the "ick" factor as being a strong motivation for people's thoughts and opinions.

The irony is how indirectly relatable I find these two pieces to be. This relation is what I call the "uhh" factor. This is where I will explain a concept to someone, and rather than indicate that they do not understand, they nod and smile and pretend the conversation never took place or - worse yet - construct a fantasy land that puts them in the moral high ground when the things they do not understand do not come together as they intended despite cautions to the contrary.

My job - by definition - is to help you understand technology. This means explaining very technical things in a way you can understand and use them. I will sit and explain something in simpler and simpler terms until you un-scrunch your forehead to indicate your understanding.

There can be no communication without understanding. Without an honest attempt to understand, there can be no communication. 

The bottom line is that when dealing with concepts that you do not understand, don't let the "uhh" factor stand in the way of your understanding. Actively listen, actively ask questions, and if a concept goes over your head, indicate that you do not get it.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

PC or PoC: Update - Toshiba L505

This update is kind of a good news / bad news sort of thing.

First, the good news: the wireless is working again. The original card I might add. Turns out it was a carbon unit error. The wireless password is apparently now case sensitive in Linux. Good to know.

The bad news is that one of the USB ports is not working. I am currently looking into it.

Worse news: It might be replaced soon. I have recently acquired 2 laptops that are candidates to replace this laptop. I am not sure which one - if any - will replace this laptop. We will feature both in future editions of PC or PoC.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Gigastrand: Captures a Vandal

I have lived in many places in my life and have had things happen to me that I REALLY wish I had a camera recording the event. I am sure many reading this have known such situations.

Because of this, when I bought my house, I always intended to install cameras to keep an eye on the place. So I did. Outside, inside, wherever I could. I have never regretted the decision.

Anyone who has ever had a parked car vandalized knows how frustrating it is to come out in the morning and see the damage. Without witnesses there is precious little the police can do.

With the camera system I designed and built, we caught the person who threw a rock through the window of our van. He has been arrested and will be charged with (among other things) vandalism of private property. 

Without the cameras, we could never have proven he did it and would not have a shot at restitution (not that we are holding our breath for it).

It is no coincidence that I am a big proponent of video home surveillance. The things that I have caught with my system make for interesting stories.

I may tell you those some other time.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Casual Fridays: The Star Trek Timeline

I have heard many disparagements about the new Star Trek movies. People don't like anything about them. I am trying to figure out why.

I like these movies. Not just because they are well-done but because I am allowed to like these movies. I am allowed to like these movies because I understand the Star Trek timeline is not linear.

This is where I show my true Trekkie here. Do you remember the episode of Voyager where the time cop tried to erase Voyager from history and they ended up back in the 90's only to discover that the time cop landed back in the 60's, had his ship's technology stolen by an entrepreneur and that started the digital age which pushed the eugenics wars into the future? (Future's End; Season 3, Ep. 8&9)

If you don't know what I am talking about you have no right not to like the new Star Trek movies because you are not a true fan. That's right. I went there. Look it up and redeem yourself. 

That one episode allows this reboot to happen. It also allows Enterprise to happen with all of it's new technology without having to explain it away as some sort of "fashion thing". It creates an alternate timeline with way better technology.

Allow me to illustrate this:

Thus, not ruining Star Trek. This is the key to liking the new stuff without upsetting your stomach. Works for me.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

PC or PoC: Spaghetti Bike

This next bike is what my father called a "spaghetti bike".

A spaghetti bike is your typical, mass-produced, made in China sort of crap I try to avoid when selecting bikes. I will pay more for a better bike than to cop out on a department store special. 

This point was driven home when I tried to purchase a decent bike for my then wife at Wally World. I aired up the tires of her new Roadmaster, fitted her, then she tried to ride it and both tires exploded.

After a few choice expletives, I investigated. When the bike rim is created, the manufacturer curves a channel made from either steel or aluminum and welds the seam. Not only was this bike's wheels so poorly welded it created slag inside the wheel, but the seam itself was not ground down inside the rim and had a slag spike inside the rim that burst the tires.

That is how this bike came to be. It was a freebie given to my then wife who really didn't want it and would have thrown it out. I took a look at it and all the complicated stuff (shifters, brakes, frame, handlebars) were in good shape (for a spaghetti bike) or only needed minor repairs. The tires were shot, the rims were bent, and the pedals broken. Someone had, apparently, tried a trick this bike was not designed for and perhaps wound up in a bad way.

For less than the cost of the department store special, I bought new rims, Bontrager tires, tubes, seat, pedals and brake pads. I spent 2 nights with basic hand tools and no bike stand fixing this bike up.

The result is something I would be happy to ride. I bought my bike a new Trek computer and transferred the Bell computer to the spaghetti bike. 

This bike exemplifies why I like fixing bikes. For less than $50 you can pick up a decent bike. Then, you can spend a little more and fix it up into something better - even if it is a crappy spaghetti bike.

Recent Fixes
I needed this bike to be tougher and my Trek to be easier to ride so, I swapped the tires. The Bontrager tires I used on this bike were to reduce rolling resistance so they were more of a road tire. Swapping the tires made the Trek more of a crossbike - a hybrid of mountain bike and road bike. This bike is now tougher with the beefier wheels.

I also replaced the seat with a more comfy seat as I took the one I originally fitted to this bike for the Dahon foldable. 

The bike is usable but could be better. The bike was abused and it still bears some scars. A repaint is called for. The brakes are working but decidedly pathetic as well. The shifter is indexed so that will require no upgrading. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Gigastrand on Privacy

With all the talk on privacy lately, I find myself going back to Gigastrand's privacy statement.

The problem is that I can't. It is not stated on the Gigastrand website. It has been stated in various forms on certain legal documents etc but has never been stated by itself on our website.

As this blog is on the website, I aim to correct that oversight.

Gigastrand's privacy policy is:

Gigastrand International will not willfully sell, disclose or distribute customer's personal information to any party not directly affiliated with Gigastrand International.

Your information is considered internal information and we take steps to guard that information closely. 

A more elaborate version of this privacy policy will soon be available on the About Us page of the website soon but it will be short and to the point. We don't need 64 pages of gobbledygook for our privacy policy. We just don't share your info with anyone. 'Nuff said.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

PC or PoC: Trek Jazz Latitude

During our break, I have been getting ready and going for progressively longer bike rides in an effort to get into shape. My ride of choice is my Trek Jazz Latitude.

I have owned this bicycle for about 20 years. I have added every accessory on this bike from the water bottle cages to the Interchange pack to the lock. Until this year, I have not replaced a single item on this bicycle. For 20 years this bike has been original.

I have also tried to remain faithful when it comes to choosing accessories. I have tried to choose Trek brand whenever possible. The bike rack, pack, and cycle computer are all Trek.

Until just a month ago, I hadn't changed tires on the bike. I swapped them with my wife's Roadmaster tires which I bought new when I repaired the bike. They are Bontrager road tires the same size as my mountain bike tires. These tires have less rolling friction allowing me to ride easier and with less effort. This also makes the bike a bit of a crossbike.

I have recently replaced the brake pads as the old ones were making a spectacular noise.

This bike has been getting less and less comfortable to ride as I have aged. In an attempt to make it more comfortable, I have adjusted the seat and put on a gel cushion. That all helped a little, but I have resigned myself to the fact that what would make this more comfortable is to be able to ride more upright. 

I haven't decided on a course of action at this point but it centers around either modifying the handlebars in some way or replacing them outright. I only need a few inches up and back to ride in comfort so we will see how this progresses.

In the way of upgrades - well not a lot, really. I plan to find a nice bright headlight to ride in the dark but apart from that, that is about it.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Casual Fridays: T-shirt

What goes better with reading Casual Fridays on casual Friday? A Casual Fridays T-shirt!

So if you are reading Casual Fridays on casual Friday wearing your Casual Fridays T-shirt, does it open a rift in time and space to another dimension where it is Friday every day?

I don't know. You will just have to try it and find out.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

PC or PoC: Dahon '88

This bike is a case of "Sure it is neat, but what can I do with it?"

This a a classic 1988 5 speed Dahon foldable bike. While some of these bikes are rare, this model is not. When I got it, the tires were original and falling apart. The drum brake on the back tire was crap - and still is. Some surface rust was present and the seat was intact but useless.

Despite these issues and in a search for a purpose for this unique bike, I did some basic maintenance on it and took it camping with me.

Yup. Camping. 

In a previous job, I traveled A LOT. We got a fixed amount for expenses (food, hotel and all). We also got to keep any surplus. I figured if I could pack a camping kit, I could save a lot of money.

I did and boy, was it a lot of fun. 

All of my tools and equipment were in that Focus including a 17' collapsible ladder that took up quite a lot of space. So I had to use a bike rack on the back of the Focus and leave the frame un-folded to mount it. I could, however, fold the handlebars and collapse the seat post into a tight package.

There were a lot of problems with the bike though. As I said before, the 18" tires were falling apart and they strained to keep me moving over slightly rough terrain. The brake was useless on hills and squeaked as the drum rubbed against the shoe. I bounced - yes, bounced - along like I was riding a hippety hop because of the bad seat.

Fixes to Date
When I got back, I poured a bit of money into it. I replaced the tubes and tires with knobby tires from a kids bike. When I did this, the fenders had to go and the clearances were still just barely sufficient. The bike rack is just a rack without a spring clamp so I picked up some bungees from the dollar store. I loosely mounted a water bottle cage so it can be moved and I replaced the seat with a comfy Bell seat from Wally World.

Recently, I moved the bike to my office to make short trips to local shops without having to drive the Giga-mobile. I bought a new bike pump for my Trek and will be mounting the old one to the Dahon soon.

Because my particular Dahon is not particularly valuable, I am planning a new paint job. Yellow is not really my color so I will be painting it a darker green. This is a bit of turnabout for me as I had a green dirt bike my dad pulled out of a junk pile and fixed up for me. I had my dad paint yellow because I was sick of green in for that week. I learned to ride on it and was stolen in the second grade.

I also plan to replace the brake with something more conventional. There are places on the bike to mount certain styles of rim brakes near the rear wheel. I may look into a disc brake as well but it will depend on whether or not the bike can accept those types of parts.

The shifter is a bit primitive but works. Still, it needs to be brought into the 21st century. An indexed shifter will be fitted at some point.

I will post updates as the project progresses.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Gigastrand OS: Back in 2 Weeks

Gigastrand OS has halted development for the time being to concentrate on other things like the Gigastrand ribbon cutting taking place this Wednesday and on a new fundraiser to be announced shortly.

So, for the next few weeks, there will be no posts as we take a short break. Our other semi-regular posts will continue as scheduled.