Saturday, September 4, 2010

Gadget Gripes

Yesterday gadget gadget grumbles. I do love the's the iTunes Software that gives me fits!

Back in February, I finally got my new laptop. The old one was just past six years old and counting. I was holding my breath for the last six months there...I even ponied up the $55/yr for Carbonite the online backup service. I had too much irreplaceable stuff on the Hard Drive to lose.

The new Dell laptop is a wonder, as is the Windows 7 operating system. This machine is so fast, so powerful, it's almost impossible to slow it down.

It was just a coincidence that Apple released their latest iTunes Update just as I finished unboxing the Dell. After I downloaded the new printer drivers, I downloaded and installed Apple's latest and greatest...

...and that's when my grumbles began. I won't go into the long blow-by-blow. Bottom line? iTunes 9.0.3 crashed my iPod Touch, period. I couldn't download to iTunes either. I couldn't synch the iPod to my computer...I couldn't do anything, except search for a work-around. Unfortunately, I then installed the thing on my old laptop with the same outcome! Fortunately, I could keep the Touch in service by manually downloading my podcasts every night via my WiFi Network, when I got up to get ready for work. So, instead of having iTunes handle all my content gathering automatically, I would spend a half an hour or so every evening getting enough podcasts together to listen to at work later that night.

I look at the iPod exactly the same way I look at all the tools I employ. If a tool does the job, and helps me do my job, I'm on it. A tool that makes work for me? Nope, I've got a job...I'm not spending any of my hard-earned cash to buy another job!

Back to my story...I dutifully performed the podcatching task every evening all the way to the end of the season. Once I was "at liberty", I went to war with my body clock to reset it to the "daytime awake/nightime asleep" setting. Once I won the reset war, I focused once again on ironing out the iTunes problem, and some other tech dilemmas...some from the move to the new laptop, some with other new high tech gadgets.

Now at leisure, I was free to do my research into my troubles. I spent a few days looking through Apple's Support Forums, where users with iTunes troubles help each other online. I found a website posted to the Apple Support Forums that offers older versions of iTunes for free download. (iTunes from Apple is free) Thanks to a How-To posted on the forum, I was able to uninstall all the myriad Apple programs that loaded in the background when I installed iTunes, download and install the older version, and finally, synch the iPod to my old laptop. All in all it's 8 hours of my life that I'd like back! I even blogged about it!

I've got the old iTunes working on my old laptop...I'm waiting 'till the bugs are eradicated from iTunes 10 before I install it on the new machine.

I will start getting my 8 hours back once ski season begins again...I'm thinking I'll be banking 25-35 minutes every worknight. I should be even by the end of this coming season.

OK...there's a couple of new software products from Apple that I'm coveting today...When Apple released the new iPhone4, they also debuted the latest operating system software, iOS4 for download. iOS4 will run on my Gen3 iPod Touch. I'm hot to get the newest iTunes software running on my new laptop, as well.

So, having learned my lesson back in February, I went straight to Apple's Support Forums when iOS4 came out, so I could avoid making more work for myself.

Sure enough, the new OS was giving upgraders fits worse than the iTunes 9.0.3 debacle that ensnared me in February! It's three months since the release of iOS4, and I'm still on the fence, though there's hope. Wednesday, Apple updated to iOS4.1, and it looks like most of the bugs have been addressed...I've moved on to the new iTunes 10 circus...There's still trouble in Paradise apparently...I'll give it a look after Daylight Savings Time ends this fall.

By then, the torches and pitchforks should be back in the shed, and the natives will be rested up...not restless. I'm guessing that by then, iTunes 10.1 will be available. 10.1 could be the solution I'm dreaming of...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Gadget Guru?

Well, Apple's done it to me again. Yesterday Jobs and Co. showed off their revamped line of iPods, their new iTunes, now featuring "Ping" musical social networking, and their updated video/internet streaming box, AppleTV.

Typical...I grabbed my iPod touch back on Black Friday 2009.  I wrote about my search for internet in my Groomer last fall. after considerable research and soothsaying, I chose the iPod Touch because it was the best handheld solution for my needs, hands down...until yesterday...

Apple's added a new, more beautiful touchscreen, iOS4 multitasking, a faster processor from the new iPhone4, a built in microphone and finally, a pair of cameras. A 3 megapixel still camera on the back, and a frontside videocam for video chat. Like Steve Jobs says: "It's an iPhone without the phone" The microphone makes it a phone, as long as you're within range of a WiFi Access Point and have a Skype Account!

Prices went up about 10%

It looks like my ideal handheld device...damnit!

FaceTime the iPod Touch Video Chat App
You may remember the last Apple Big Show back in June. The iPhone4 was introduced to wide acclaim. Tech junkies lined up around the block at every Apple Store in the country to get the new device. It was another fairly large step forward, and almost as if on cue, AT&T's cell phone data networks groaned under the strain of all the newbies surfing the net everywhere. (In America, the iPhone is still exclusive to AT&T's cell network) Within weeks, major carriers announced the end of their "All You Can Eat" Data Plans, and the coming of Tiered Data Service. I was a little troubled, I hadn't forseen the end of "Unlimited" Data fact, I was waiting for aggressive bundling to drive pricing down before I took the Smartphone leap.

All the furor over data plan billing quickly took a backseat to widespread reports of iPhone4 antenna design problems that threatened to take the shine off the to speak, and the whole wireless sector faded away from the spotlight.

Never out of the limelight for long, Apple's Jobs, debuted the new music and media gadgets in time for Holiday Shopping Season again, Wednesday.

Not to be outdone, Verizon announced Thursday that they will offer Pre-Paid Data Plans on all their Smartphones starting in late September, including an "Unlimited Plan" at $30/month on top of your voice plan, and a 25Mb plan for $10/month. Back in November, I decided to wait on a Smartphone, and go with the iPod Touch. I opined that the price of the Data Plans would come to me. Nine months later, I'm looking like a swami...or semi-swami.

As with all things tech, there are tradeoffs to consider. Smartphones cost an arm and a leg. You can spread the misery a little when you sign on to a Data Plan. Buy a rich enough Voice/Data Package, and the carrier will "subsidise" your new phone, usually knocking about $300 off.

The Pre-Paid Data Plans don't subsidise your phone, so you pay full pop, or buy a used device...perhaps you've noticed, I'm the King of waiting out a bargain!

So, I'll still be biding my time...the newest whiz-bang tech will come to me in time...and at my price.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Privacy On the Slopes?

I'm sorry, Dave...
I'm taking a break from working in the Diggins to watch the Noon News. I multitask, so I took a look at my Twitter feed. KFBK, Sacramento's blowtorch AM News/Talk Station has a story that I find a little disturbing. 

Now, I do love me some gadgets, and I do play Social Networks online, but I draw the line at these Position Reporting Apps. I know it's not as fun, but just leave the front door wide open when you're out and about, or out of the country on vacation, or even out for some first tracks on a Powder Day. Give the burglars a leg up and broadcast your security vulnerabilities without bogging down your handheld devices!

I listened to the report (it's available at the link), skiers can have the tracking info sent to their Facebook page, or Tweet it to their Twitter Followers. The data is posted to the App's website in real time. When did "Look at me!" become the leading motivator in our society? I think this is just vanity wrapped in unrealistic desires to "be famous"...must we all live on stage at Andy Warhol's 15 Minute Theater? I wonder how many kids on the net even give any thought to their privacy, let alone their physical security!

Now, I may be dating myself, or worse...outing myself as a grownup teenaged SciFi Nerd, but I read enough sci fi novels set in the dystopian future where your every move is watched, cataloged, and entered into Big Brother's mighty all-seeing computer network database, to know that avoiding that possible future is one of my Prime Directives.

That being said, I'm not a bookish paranoid who sees Stanley Kubrick's evil HAL9000 hiding behind every potted ficus, but given any chance to play into the clutches of the nebulous "Evil Overlords" as feared by basement-dwelling Boomerang 30-Somethings, I don't plan on buying in...ever.

I certainly am not a humorless scold, but I do understand the Slippery Slope Theory, and it's way more than just a theory. It's bad enough that our government has mandated that all our cell phones be "GPS Enabled". This little bit of tech makes it possible to track the cell phone user to be tracked in real time, ala the Will Smith movie, "Enemy of the State".

We can't opt out of these regulations our bureaucrats have enacted "for our protection" but we can opt not to fly mothlike into the flame of these privacy killing Apps.

I for one don't want to be famous...even for all of "my" 15 minutes. I want to be left alone to live my life freely, and without me Al Nonamus. Someone more interesting and attractive is welcome to have my 15 minutes...I don't plan on using 'em.

Mr DeVille, find someone else for my closeup!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Snowcats: It's What's On TV

I stayed up way too late Saturday late that I almost stayed awake to watch the Belgian Grand Prix live at 0430! I did make it through the Pre-Race, but finally closed my eyes just before the green flag. I captured the race on my DVR, but watched the delayed replay at 0930 in HDTV. A great race from the historic Spa/Francorchamps circuit in Belgium's Ardennes Forest. It's Formula One's fastest track and the longest at over four miles. Oh, it was raining on and off at different parts of the track...pretty darn exciting on slick tires!

Once recorded, I edit the race video on the DVR, removing the commercials, and burn the race to DVD to send to a friend. I also capture a library of interesting TV Shows to watch later. These are mostly History Channel Shows, with a dose of PBS "GeeWhiz Shows" on history, science, travel and cuisine, thrown in for good measure.

While editing away Sunday night, I noticed that the SPEED channel was showing a program featuring a Snowcat!

The show is called Intersections. Sunday's episode told the story of two Search and Rescue Teams. A Coast Guard team on Long Island, NY with their big helicopter and rescue swimmers, and the Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue Team with their LMC 1500 snowcat.

SPEED TV's Intersections episode "Extreme Rescues" gave the thumbnail story of each outfit and their operations. In a half an hour, they didn't get into the real minutia of the respective machinery, but I always get a charge when I see snowcats on the tube! It looked like most of the Tahoe Nordic footage was made in springtime...they were running around on some pretty springlike snow, though they did catch some snowfall at night footage too.

SPEED airs their original shows several times, and "Extreme Rescues" airs Wednesday 9/1 at 7:30PM PDT and 10:30PM PDT

I'll never forget the first time I saw groomers on TV. I'd just woke up to get ready to go to work at my mountain. The television was tuned into KCRA3's 11 O'clock News coverage of the 1982 Alpine Meadows Avalanche. The footage showed LMC 3700s pushing avalanche debris away from structures behind an interview with an Alpine Spokesman...someone I knew. The slide happened that morning, but these images were the first time I'd heard about it. I went from sleepily awakening, to sitting bolt-upright, to intensely engaged in a nanosecond.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


La Niña clearly chilling the equatorial Pacific
I heard from a friend in the Foothills this morning. she said: "It was 108° on Thursday, this morning I had to light a fire in the woodstove, it is 58°...what????????????" I replied: "Say hello to La Niña!" A fifty degree swing qualifies as dramatic, no? Truckee's low Thursday was 33°, the State Low for California.

It was downright chilly in the Inland Valley this morning, and it cooled right off this evening.My SF Giants have cooled off too. Their starting pitchers have suddenly lost their magic. This weekend's Home Stand against the Diamondbacks has been real David vs Goliath...where the Giants are David, and can't find their stones! (Yes...pun intended, sorry!) Giants' starters got shelled early and hard, and the Giants offense couldn't bridge the big gaps...ouch!

There's a chance of snowfall  overnight Saturday in the Tahoe Sierra and North, and some flurries down to 7500ft were reported in Lassen County Saturday afternoon. The Reno AFD says the snowlevel will rise to 9500ft after the cold front moves through. The NWS forecasters attribute the low snowlevel to the extremely dry air mass in place now. The passing of the front will mix the atmosphere enough to raise the freezing level. Some rainfall was recorded Saturday in Lassen, Sierra and Washoe Counties.

Things do seem to be cooling off all across our world. I see there was a huge late season blizzard in Australia's Snowy Mountains that forced the cancellation of a big four-day snowboard event. The hosting resort,  Falls Creek Resort reported the storm as "their biggest dump since 1992".

Over the past week or so, I've seen news of early snow in Colorado, Montana, Russia, and Greenland...and the Russian snow was actual accumulation...measurable accumulation that hung around for a day or two!

In the Southern Hemisphere, a record cold snap in July dropped the mercury so low that millions of fish, reptiles, river dolphins, thousands of cattle, and even penguins perished along with many people.

Ocean temperatures continue their downward slide across the planet, though there's sill a warm pool of water off the Cape Verde Islands spawning some Tropical Storms in the Atlantic. Hurricane Danielle is still working her way NW in the Mid-Atlantic, and forecasts have Tropical Storm Earl becoming a hurricane before skirting the Caribbean Sea and heading North. If Earl runs the forecast track, the Carolinas and Virginia are going to get deluged next week. Earl could just as likely follow Danielle's track and never make landfall anywhere.

Meteorology aside, Summer is coming to an end soon. I haven't seen the change in the light yet, though it's just three weeks until the Reno National Championship Air Races,  where I traditionally do see my first Autumnal Light. Labor Day and the taking stock of my Summer are a week away. I feel like I should get ready for Winter earlier than I have these past few years. With cold temps almost guaranteed by La Niña, Winter 10/11 has half the recipe for heavy snows and a bountiful Water Year already in hand. California needs heavy winters for a few more least until the Sacramento Pols don't have "The Drought" to beat the Peripheral Canal drums with. A few more wet years will go the extra mile to help Salmon and Striped Bass, and all of California's parched Central Valley Farmers.