Posts Tagged ‘gadget’

Four Hundred Miles

29 June 2010

Dear J-

It’s funny (not in a ha-ha way) what I decide I’d need for a given trip; when I was little those decisions were pretty necessarily limited to a particular flavor of chips to bring along and maybe to pick out a restaurant along the way. Of course, back then you could take a roadtrip in a sedan (the canonical example I like to point out is the one we took with four adults and four kids piled into a red Ford Fairmont rental to the Canadian Rockies (Banff/Jasper); hopefully my uncle has forgiven us by now) and not worry about the child-rearing paraphenalia that accompanies even the shortest trip now.

Back to gadgets, though; before if you were lucky you had a tape deck and you’d maybe make up a mix tape or two whereas nowadays the iPod is almost an unremarkable extra. You would have to listen to obscure radio stations and local deejays if you wanted a relief from the same sequence of songs (even more so if you had an eight-track or an autoreversing unit, endlessly looping back and forth). And that was okay. You’d take a break every so often to stretch your legs (running around rest areas set in the middle of nowhere, voice raised in howling chorus with the wind) and check your course against a paper map, cross-referencing road signs and towns passed. Now if it wasn’t for biological breaks (and I had friends whose dad made a solution for that involving a rubber tube and various cappable containers) we’d never get out of our cars, drive-thru dining and GPS keeping us steady and level.

I’ve long suspected that cars are sized for roughly four hundred miles on the freeway — by which I mean that even if you get fifty miles to the gallon, your tank is small and you’ll have to stop for more gas; likewise the ten MPG tanks out there have correspondingly huge tanks. It’s a reminder that for all we do, comfort-wise (when was the last time you had to actually crank a window or live without air conditioning?) we are the weak link in the movement of people on the highway. Four hundred miles is a reminder that there’s a world outside our glass and metal beetles, and we’ve got something to explore beyond those confines we limit ourselves to.



Mobile Type 2.0

16 March 2010

Dear J-

Call it the need to needlessly complicate: instead of just getting something that would work without a lot of fuss, I’m going to try a GPS solution employing a secondary receiver and an existing device, namely the Nokia N800 I’ve been writing this blog on for the last few months. The N800 is as from from the iPhone/iPod Touch as you can imagine two different touch-driven handhelds; whereas the iPhone exists in its own bubble, with focussed applications that work and work well, its potential hasn’t been truly unlocked: Bluetooth, but no HID stack that would let you type on an external keyboard; no camera on the Touch, no GPS without stepping up to the IPhone. With that said, it addresses 90% of what I need and I use it accordingly.

The N800 has a relatively byzantine method of turning on Bluetooth, but it works reasonably well (there is the occasional extra letter or long repeat, but compared to the laggy mess that I dealt with on the Treo, light-years better with a keyboard). Options are buried in menus; there is a full-blown console if you want or need and yet bugs persist. Turn off the Bluetooth keyboard and the on-screen keyboard refuses to return; sometimes the devices won’t pair or, despite pairing, no keys are read. For me, it’s annoying to go through three windows to connect; there should be a dedicated button, or at least a toolbar option list.

All in all, though, I think this is pretty reasonable; card slots mean that it’s entirely possible to use a real camera if I go on the road, and the machine is able to multitask, even if my poor brain is only able to take care of one thing at a time. Maemo WordPy is a better solution than anything that was on Palm OS5, and the lack of a hardware keyboard is outweighed by the ability to take full-size SD cards, instead of the goofy miniSDs of the N810. It’s still smaller than a netbook, if necessarily more limited, but I can cruise through a week of writing without having to recharge, and that counts for the most in my book.