Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2005-08-23
  Where's my money.

Track Your Rebate Results

Offer Information for: 74259071
Offer: $150.00 Check
Date Received: 04-24-2005
Status: In Process
And when exactly am I supposed to get this thing? After the Zip drive fiasco of 1995 (and subsequent class action lawsuit) I go as far out of my way as possible to avoid the scam known as mail-in rebates. Unfortunately in this case it was unavoidable. Maybe I can use the check to help pay for my kids college as Max is just starting Kindergarten this week. Better not get my hope up.
 
2005-08-15
  Letting kids play
As the kids are getting bigger, they're able to run around outdoors more and play on their own; so for this summer we did a couple projects around the house to make the outdoors more usable. One was to rent a tractor and mow down all the larger brush near the house and use the bucket to level larger bumps out a bit. That was quite a bit of fun (for the kids and papa) as you can do some serious rearranging of dirt and rocks in little time. Max had a blast sitting on my knee doing the bucket controls while Zak sat on my other knee and hung on for dear life.

Besides removing large bushes the kids could hide behind, we created two play areas, though here my wife and I went in opposite directions. While her style is more towards structure and organization, my style is more towards deconstruction and imagination. So her project involved lots of lumber, bolts, brackets plastic pieces and gravel. Mine involved dirt and water.

Of course I have the advantage of being a boy (still), and have a long and rich lifetime of memories to draw upon. From pulling apart a neighbor's brick patio and creating a series of canals across the entire back yard, to scavenging large pieces of styrofoam and going floating out in the San Francisco bay (much to the horror of the school field trip supervisors); I just know that water and dirt are a hard combination to beat.

Heck, even just dirt is pretty irresistible, but when you add something to splash and make mud with, then you're talking hours and hours of fun. Not just that, but there's lessons to be learned (like what floats and what sinks, how to skip rocks, and many other interesting things), and playing with the water provides all kinds of opportunities for imagination. When Max wasn't crossing the ocean in his amphibious monster truck (which floats thanks to the large tires), he was diving for buried treasure (provided by his brother who had sunk every toy that didn't float). He even got out his Max sized shovel and helped me build up the dirt on the backside where it was a little low.

Another advantage water and dirt has over other kinds of toys is that there really isn't any shortage of it or anything special about one bit of dirt over another. It gets to be rather a pain sometimes when we'll get some other toy for one, and within two minutes the two of them are fighting over it. Tomorrow that same toy is going to be languishing under the coffee table from inattention, but at this moment its the new thing and they're in a struggle to the death over it. It gets bad enough at times that we've ended up with two of every significant Thomas train, two sets of the major Hot Wheels Acceleracers and many more items, all the way down to matching flashlights. Even that doesn't always help as somehow they can tell the difference between two identical objects and start fighting over which one the other one has. Luckily Oscar is still too little to get in on the action and I've told my wife that I am not buying three of everything.

So the mud is a great equalizer. There's enough dirt for everyone. And after the kids have had enough for one day (and have been thrown in the tub to get clean) even the wildlife gets in on the action...

 
2005-08-09
  Treo 650 skin case smackdown : Boxwave vs JAVOedge
When I first got my Treo 650, I immediately noticed one big problem with it: the shiny slippery metallic finish. Not only was I dropping it and having it slip out of my pockets, but when my kids would get ahold of the phone (and every three year old loves to play with papa's new gadgets) and then proceed to run around the house, or the store, or some other location teetering across polished granite surfaces holding the $600 device in one hand.

On the outside I was smiling and watching patiently, but on the inside I was screaming: "DON'T DROP IT!!!!" I'm surprised I even lived through those first couple weeks. Besides the necessity of screen protectors, which I learned about after letting them destroy the screens on my first two units (Max is a terror with that little stylus thing, even when he's using the right end of it to draw with); I knew I was going to need a case. Being in Flagstaff, that meant I was going to have to experiment.

At first, all that was available was the very high end Vaja case and while I tried to talk myself into the pricetag of about $129, I didn't manage to do it. So I waited and I watched.

Actually I didn't just watch. I went out to all the websites that made cases for the Treo 600 and I send them emails and filled out request forms and told them in no uncertain terms that they just had to make a case for the Treo 650. Amazingly enough, they did. And as an added bonus, they emailed me back to tell me so (since they happened to have my email address).

First up was the FlexiSkin from Boxwave ($29.95 on the web). Now available in a multitude of colors, at first my choices were smoke or aluminum grey. I picked grey and recieved my case about a week later (along with some screen protectors and a USB charging cable).

The first thing I noticed (well, ok my wife did), was that the nav keys are basically covered up. You can't see the lights through this worth a darn, and while I already had memorized what all the buttons did, others had a hard time using it when they couldn't see what they were pressing. Also the sides of the case come a little close to the keyboard area, so typing Q A P <backspace> or <enter> was somewhat difficult and slowed me down. The material itself was very durable, thick and as an added benefit: very graspable. This thing never slipped out of my fingers (or my pockets) and I felt much more secure using it. It did also manage to attract and hold onto every bit of dirt, dust and fuzz in my pocket; but it washed up good as new in the sink and slipped right back on after drying off. I ended up with a version with a belt-clip, which I don't use, so I was going to get another one without, but there were a couple minor problems and one larger one that I just couldn't get past.

This case really has no style. It has all the sharp edges of a banana or chocolate dipped icecream cone. It just looks kind of melted on there, with the openings hand cut. There was no real precision crafting and while in most instances this wasn't a big deal, at the nav bar it was a disaster. The nav buttons already form a set of protruding tiers out beyond the phone, and the boxwave case just stacks the same detail in rubber above the existing buttons, creating a fairly thick protrusion. That section was always getting caught when pulling the phone out of my pocket, and the detents never sat over their buttons exactly right, so it was sort of like operating the buttons through a padded glove--trial and error. It bugged me that it wasn't done right.

As things were really starting to get to me, I got another email from JAVOedge that they had the JavoSkin in stock ($28.95). So, figuring I could give the boxwave away to my friend Craig (or to one of the guys at work); I ordered the only color available at the time: clear. (Its now available in white, bronze , blue and dreamy purple as well.)

This case has a slightly different feel to it. The case is not as thick as the Boxwave (probably 1.5mm vs 2.0mm) but is firmer which seems like it makes up for it. (would take the shock out of the impact just as well I would guess.) There's more clearance around the keyboard on the sides, and the clear makes the nav buttons easier to read. It also has lots of styling, from the thin rectangular edge on the back (making it easier to grip with one hand while pressing buttons with your thumb), to the individual cutouts for each slot in the speaker grill. At the bottom, the opening is built up so that it will stand up vertically on a level surface (see top picture next to product shot)

As the coup-de-gra, the inside of the case is also finely sculpted and the case fits precisely around the navigation buttons so that each raised area on the outside is always positioned over its button below, and the case does not catch there in the middle coming out of a pocket. Its a very fine case (except for collecting dust and dirt like its sibling), and has protected my phone ever since. Definitely my recommendation if you're looking for a skincase.

update
Sorry for the original mixup, mistaking the JAVOedge for a Smartphone Experts S650. While the S650 is cheaper ($19.95), it seems to have all the personality of Boxwave case. You can see more pictures of it here though I don't know if it fits over the nav buttons properly or not.

 
2005-08-05
  A few minor changes
Dinner last night was going to be hamburgers. Except that it was going to be turkey based. So turkey burgers. My brain was already aligning itself with that eventuality.

burger

Except that the turkey meat had been in the freezer more than a year, and so after thawing it would not form up into patties. (Even fresh turkey doesn't stick together very well, probably a lack of fat.) So JM stuck the bits in a pan and just cooked it as is. No longer a burger, and probably not best contained by a bun (or in our case, slices of bread). A wrap might have been an option, but we were out of tortillas. What did we have? How about taco shells.

So I was willing to switch gears and go taco, but we were missing some crucial ingredients. No sour cream, and the diced onions had expired weeks ago. We had taco sause but unfortunately I'm allergic to anything spicier than mayonaise.

Instead of eating plain tacos, I decided to mix things up and revert back to the original plan: hamburgers. Ok, so the bun wasn't there, but I could go with the rest of it. No mustard, but we did have catsup and pickles. After the initial shock, it turned out to be pretty good. We ended up devouring the whole box of taco shells, half a block of cheese and the whole pan of turkey bits. A success, despite the faces our kids made.

 
Life in the middle of nowhere, remote programming to try and support it, startups, children, and some tinkering when I get a chance.

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Blogroll
Paul Graham's Essays
You may not want to write in Lisp, but his advise on software, life and business is always worth listening to.
How to save the world
Dave Pollard working on changing the world .. one partially baked idea at a time.
SnowDeal
Eric Snowdeal IV - born 15 weeks too soon, now living a normal baby life.
Land and Hold Short
The life of a pilot.

The best of?
Jan '04
The second best villain of all times.

Feb '04
Oops I dropped by satellite.
New Jets create excitement in the air.
The audience is not listening.

Mar '04
Neat chemicals you don't want to mess with.
The Lack of Practise Effect

Apr '04
Scramjets take to the air
Doing dangerous things in the fire.
The Real Way to get a job

May '04
Checking out cool tools (with the kids)
A master geek (Ink Tank flashback)
How to play with your kids

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