Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

The Annoyed Hawk

An extra day in February. No different than any other day in February in central Florida. I had the E-P2 with M.Zuiko 40-150 'R' lens with me, just in case I came across the red hawks that were nesting near my office. Sure enough I found one of them in a pine, apparently gathering materials for a nest. I found it sitting up in the pine calling for its mate, a small oak branch in its claws. It saw me and began to get annoyed. As it started to turn in the tree to better keep an eye on me its oak branch fell to the ground.

Then it really started to yell at me.

As I said I took this, along with a lot of other photos, using the E-P2 and the 40-150mm. I am not a bird photographer by any stretch. Out of all the shots I took, this was the only one decently in focus and I had to crop this one extensively. Tomorrow when I go out I'm taking the E-3 with the EC-14 and the ZD 50-200mm. That combination will give me about 300mm on the long end, double the 40-150mm's long end. Not only do I want perching hawks, but I also want to try to photograph them on the wing. I know this can be done because I've seen others do it, and do it beautifully. This is getting me out of my comfort zone and forcing me to use the camera differently, and that's A Good Thing.

The Spare

While out getting a Mike's sub, I came across this H3 with a bike strapped to the front. I guess the bike is a spare when the H3 runs out of gas.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Fine Doobie Afternoon

Last year it was the "free" concerts at Universal. This year it was the "free" concerts at Sea World Orlando. I qualify the word "free" because in order to get in and see the acts you had to buy a year pass, both times at a discount. When the Universal discount passes expired, something funny happened; the prices went up significantly (not so funny) and the quality of the acts went down (still not so funny).

Then Sea World Orlando started advertising their Bands, Brew, and BBQ series, with park pass prices that were considerably less than what we would have had to pay to renew at Universal. We finally broke down and purchased them for the Doobie Brothers Saturday show. We signed up at the tail end of the promotion just to see the Doobies.

There aren't that many shows left, and I doubt we'll go and see them because we've got commitments on those weekends when the final acts come to Orlando. But at least we can go back to Sea World and enjoy the animal exhibits. We haven't been to Sea World since the mid-90s, when the girls were in middle school.

Doobie Brothers

There was a lot to like about the show. It was a two-hour show that started at 4pm. It's nice to enjoy a show when there's still enough good daylight. The show was well choreographed and highly polished and every member of that band worked their asses off for two hours. They played plenty of fan favorites. There were no gaps between songs and no goofing around. Every song was performed nearly flawlessly (there were some off-notes, but who really cares?). These guys were first-rate pros.

Doobie Brothers

Look! I Found My Pick! - Tom Johnston, Doobie Brothers
Look! I found my pick!
The band really worked with the audience. I've been to too many performances (many at Universal) where the audience and the performers were kept apart. Sea World's venue allowed the band to "walk out" into the front audience, and added a dimension of genuine warmth that I found missing at Universal.


This is just a minute out of two hours of high-intensity performing. If you're a Doobie fan, you've got to see and hear this tour.

Crowd - Doobie Brothers

There was quite a crowd at the performance. Sea World's venue allowed everyone to sit comfortably, and the amphitheater gave everyone a good view of the performers. Universal's concerts are all standing room only, enforced by rather terse, bordering on rude, security that are on duty all over the place. At the Sea World Doobie concert I saw nor heard any of that. Everybody was there to have a good time and enjoy a great show. If the Doobies come back to Orlando next year I hope they perform here. I know I'll come if they do.

Technical

I wanted to go to the concert and enjoy the music, so I took the E-P2 and the 40-150mm 'R' zoom. If we'd gotten there sooner we could have sat up front in handicap, but we didn't and we wound up in the middle section of the amphitheater. So I shot with the 40-150mm pretty much zoomed out to 150mm.

The video was taken with the E-P2 hand held, with me desperately trying to keep it as steady as possible. I'll be so glad when my E-M5 finally arrives with its in-body five-axis image stabilization. Neither LR3 nor LR4 can process video, so I took a walk on the wild side and downloaded a 30-day evaluation of Sony's Vegas Pro 11 64-bit. I thought about using the Adobe product, but it's too entangled with other Adobe products I neither need nor want. I tried to use Microsoft's Movie Maker, but it wanted to take over and do everything that LR was already doing for me quite well. In the end I used Vegas to produce the modest little video you see above.

My needs were simple: I wanted to add a fast fade-in and fade out at the ends and I wanted to trim the length of the video down a bit. And then I wanted to save the results and push it up to Flickr. In the end I figured all that out, rendering to Internet HD 720P (Quicktime Movie), producing a file about 72MB in size. This compared to the original AVI file size straight out of the camera of over 300MB.

I'm a rank amateur when it comes to video post processing, so I'm going to be working a bit with Sony Vegas for the next 30 days.

As for the video itself, I'm not all that thrilled. The sun was setting and shining onto the stage such that when Tom Johnston stepped out into the sunlight his guitar was completely washed out. I could compensate for that in a still image, but not having any experience with video, well, I need to learn if there's an equivalent video method for pulling detail out of blown highlights.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grow Up

Local Hess Regular Price 25 Feb 2012It's now open season on President Obama from every presidential candidate in the Republican party, along with his or her legislative lackeys. The rising cost of gasoline is one of a number of attack fronts that the GOP is concentrating on. The basic GOP pitch is it's all Obama's fault.

I certainly don't like the rising cost of gasoline, and neither does U.S. Rep. Allen West, the congressional republican representative for Florida's 22nd congressional district. Poor old representative West was so incensed that he had to spend $70 to fill up his 2008 Hummer 3 a few weeks back that he posted his displeasure on his Facebook page.

What kind of H3 model does the good Mr. West drive? The only clue we have is it's a 2008 model, so I'm going to make a few assumptions.

Guzzlers at the Intersection
Gas-guzzlers everywhere...
The H3 was originally released with an in-line 5 cylinder engine that was charitably described as anemic when attempting to haul the H3's 2.5 ton curb weight around. Gas mileage is a laughable 13mpg city/18mpg highway. Zero to 60 was an equally laughable 11 seconds; by comparison, my 2009 Prius does 0-60 in 12 seconds, and burns a hell of a lot less fuel doing it. But the H3 was built for off-road in-the-dirt transportation, where the H3 reigns supreme over my measly Prius. After all, Mr. West needs this mode of transportation so he can travel through the rugged undeveloped country in his district, especially around West Palm Beach.

2008 is a special year for two reasons. The first reason: in 2008 GM attempted to address the power problem by giving the H3 a 5.3 L, 300hp V8 engine. That dropped the 0-60 time down to around 8 seconds and dropped the H3's mpg to 13mpg city/16mpg highway. Oh, and the H3 has a 23 gallon tank, which doesn't really go very far with that thirsty V8.

So let's do a little math here. After all, regardless of the engine the tank is still the same size. Last week, gas in Orlando cost $3.66. If we were to fill a H3's tank with gas, it would've cost 23 gallons × $3.66 or $84.18. That's pretty close to West's $70 fill-up cost. Working back, that means he either didn't fill an empty tank (say, 19 gallons or so), or else the price the week before was cheaper still (a little over $3/gallon). Since we hit January with gas prices well above $3, I'm assuming he didn't fill a near-completely empty tank.

As I've written before, I drive a 2009 Prius. We got it when the price had dropped down a bit in early 2009 because of the bad economy. We also got it because it was the only car that approached anywhere near 40 mpg aggregate driving. As I later discovered, it could easily attain 55 mpg on the highway at driving speeds around 60mph, which was quite impressive. Three years on and the Prius, with nearly 65,000 miles on it, is still attaining about 52mpg. The mileage dropped when I put a different set of touring tires on the vehicle, choosing to "burn" some of that efficiency for a better gripping tire in wet weather (we have a lot of wet here in Florida during the rainy season).

The price you see above is what I paid after eight days of driving (last Friday to today, Saturday). With all my commuting between home and Research Park near UCF, I burn a little less than a gallon/day. Even if I were to completely fill the Prius (10 gallons), I'd still come out ahead of any Hummer.

The second reason 2008 is so special: What I find rather mind-boggling is West bought his H3 in 2008, the year when prices spiked incredibly high due to speculation in the commodities markets. By July 7th 2008, crude hit $147/barrel and gasoline hit $4.11/gallon. With all that pain at the pump, where the hell was West? With his brand-new Hummer he would have paid more then than now. And did he blame Obama for that spike then?

But I'm not above trying to help anyone, even a republican. So to help Mr. West find a better set of wheels, a more socially responsible set of wheels, I've copied this convenient chart, prepared by Consumer's Union, of current autos that achieve realistic highway mpg of 40 or greater. It's that third column that is interesting, because that's what Consumer's Report achieved driving the vehicles at 65mph. Four of them are domestic (I've highlighted them for you), made by Ford (sorry, no GM in the list). What's interesting by its absence are any Hyundai models, such as the Elantra and the Accent.

Make & ModelEPA Highway MPGCR Highway MPGDifference (mpg)
Honda Civic LX39478
Honda Civic EX39434
Ford Fiesta SE sedan39456
Ford Focus SE38435
Toyota Camry Hybrid XLE38435
Fiat 500 Sport (manual)38424
Fiat 500C Pop (manual)38424
Nissan Versa SV sedan38402
Honda CR-Z EX (manual)37458
Ford Fiesta SES hatchback (manual)38424
Mini Cooper (manual)37414
BMW 335d (diesel)36404
Ford Fusion Hybrid36404
Toyota Camry LE35416
Mazda2 Sport (manual)35405
Toyota Corolla LE34406
Scion xD (manual)33407

So why have gasoline prices risen this time? In a word, markets. Gas has been so high for so long that we've been buying more fuel efficient cars and trucks (see chart above) to avoid spending so much money at the pump. The transition isn't complete (see all those Hummers, Suburbans, etc still on the roads), but it's getting there. Our demand for gasoline is at a 15-year low. Who was in office 15 years ago? That would be 1997, and Bill Clinton, another Democrat.

Because we're buying less and less gasoline, and certain inefficient refineries on the east and west coast can only process the very expensive Brent crude, the operators are caught in a financial squeeze: unable to pass prices along to customers, they've been forced to shut these inefficient refineries down. Which, ironically, forces up the price of gasoline even further because the only refineries left in business are those in the mid-west refining cheaper but dirtier West Texas Intermediate, primarily from oil shales, the Gulf, and North Dakota (North Dakota???), which just passed Ecuador in its output.

When you cut refinery output wipe out any savings from an over-supply. When your refineries in the mid-west are a good thousand miles from your markets on both coasts transportation costs add to final price at the pump.

What's even more interesting is that we actually exporting quite a bit of refined gasoline out of the country to markets that pay as much or more than we do for gas. All because we're producing more than we use, and so the markets (South America, China, etc) are soaking it all up. And that adds to U.S. pricing pressure as well. The U.S. isn't independent in the oil market, we're a part of it.

All of this is due to unfettered market forces. Don't you love it when the marketplace works the way it does? You should be if you're a republican.

As true now in 2012 as it was in 2005 when this was drawn

Can't Tell The Players Without A Scorecard: Florida Politics 2012 - UPDATED

I decided to go back and tweak my Florida congressional table today after reading about the latest idiocy of U.S. Representative Allen West, republican representing the 22nd district. That's because in my original table I had Allen West in Orlando, which mortified me no end. But then I noticed I had three representatives in Orlando, which made no sense, so I started to visit every representative's website as well as look for an overall Florida congressional district map. And I'm glad I found the overall map, because I was able to finally determine, once and for all, that I live in the 8th congressional district. You'd have thought I'd have figured that out after living here since 1984, but apparently not.

The original table was built from what is now a single questionable source, especially the city they representatives are supposed to live in. I've adjusted the table by going to each representative's website to verify and adding their district and closest representative city in that district. My district is distinctively marked (Daniel Webster, 8th). By the way, click on the link to the Florida congressional district map. You talk about gerrymandering. Orlando is split up between four districts (3, 7, 8, and 24). But for sheer shenanigans I don't think you can find anything more convoluted and complicated than West Palm down to Miami.

Florida Representation as of February 2012
Governor, Federal Senators and Representatives Only
NameElected OfficeParty Affiliation
Rick ScottGovernorRepublican
Jennifer CarrollLieutenant GovernorRepublican
Bill Nelson Sr.SenateDemocrat
Marco RubioSenateRepublican
Sandy AdamsHouse (24th/Oviedo)Republican
Gus BilirakisHouse (9th/Palm Harbor)Republican
Corrine BrownHouse (3rd/Jacksonville)Democrat
Vern BuchananHouse (13th/Sarasota)Republican
Kathy CastorHouse (11th/Tampa)Democrat
Ander CrenshawHouse (4th/Jacksonville)Republican
Ted DeutchHouse (19th/Boca Raton)Democrat
Mario Diaz-BalartHouse (21st/Hialeah)Republican
Alcee Hastings Sr.House (23rd/Ft. Lauderdale)Democrat
Connie Mach IVHouse (14th/Ft. Myers)Republican
John MicaHouse (7th/Maitland)Republican
Jeff MillerHouse (1st/Pensacola)Republican
Richard NugentHouse (5th/Brooksville)Republican
Bill PoseyHouse (15th/Rockledge)Republican
David RiveraHouse (25th/Miami)Republican
Thomas J. RooneyHouse (16th/Tequesta)Republican
Ileana Ros-LehtinenHouse (18th/Miami)Republican
Dennis RossHouse (12th/Lakeland)Republican
Steve SoutherlandHouse (2nd/Panama City)Republican
Cliff StearnsHouse (6th/Ocala)Republican
Debbie Wasserman SchultzHouse (20th/Weston)Democrat
Daniel WebsterHouse (8th/Winter Garden)Republican
Allen WestHouse (22nd/Fort Lauderdale)Republican
Frederica WilsonHouse (17th/Miami)Democrat
C. W. Bill YoungHouse (10th/Indian Rocks Beach)Republican

Friday, February 24, 2012

More at the Citrus Bowl

DCorners

I went back again to the Citrus Bowl and Tinker Field for another afternoon session. This time I concentrated on the southwest corner of the Citrus Bowl where Tinker Field is located, and arrived a good hour earlier than the previous evening. The light was more neutral.

Tinker Field

I used two cameras this time, an E-1 with the ZD 50mm and the E-P2 with the Panasonic 20mm. Both were used at base ISO; 100 for the E-1 and 200 for the E-P2. Because the light was bright the lenses were both stopped down at least three stops from wide open. Oddly enough, the 50mm was stopped down to f/5.6 (E-1, ISO 100) while the 20mm was stopped down to f/4 (E-P2, ISO 200). you would have thought it would have been the other way around, but I believe it was my subconscious training taking effect; I have gotten into the habit of closing the 50mm down as much as possible because I want maximum depth of field, especially in macro mode, while for the 20mm I've gotten into the habit of opening it up as much as possible and shooting wide open in low light. It's a wonder both lenses were as close as they were in their aperture settings.

I've been digging a bit deeper into post processing with LR4, using the shadows, whites, and highlight sliders to pull detail from the shadows, unblock highlights, and in general shift the overall tonal range of a photograph more towards the middle. There are some photos that don't benefit from this, but right now it's a big interesting laboratory of experimentation. I'm after detail and texture in the concrete structure, and as much detail as possible throughout the photo.

One interesting annoyance is the blue sky. The photo top left was taken with the E-P2, while the photo top right was taken with the E-1. Both taken raw. Same color temperature and tint. Pretty much the same brightness levels. But the color cast in the blue sky in both are notably different. The only difference between the two is I saturated the orange channel a bit on the left photo. I went back into LR4 and set it back to neutral, but it did nothing to really change the sky color. If I were truly persnickety I'd drag the right one into PS5, create a layer for the sky, and match the colors up. But I'm too lazy. Instead I'll just note this and move on.

I've also learned I didn't know what I was talking about all this time while complaining about a lack of "dynamic range" in the Olympus sensor. LR4's re-arranged controls have allowed me to recover detail from so-called blown highlights as well as the so-called blocked shadows. And I've been able to shift the center of the histogram with the whites slider. This has turned out to be a lot more enlightening than screwing around with the histogram on the back of the camera. I can study these simple but important changes at my leisure, and then take any lessons learned back out into the field when I photograph again. Whether it's right for everyone isn't the point; it's a process that seems to work for me.

Now that the days are lengthening my wife is encouraging me to stop on the way home and use the camera. Her attitude is if I'm going to spend all this money on camera equipment then I'm going to use it, even if she has to drive me around to places. Which, of course, is a way for her to get out and enjoy the weather as well. And she gets to pick anything I take and use as wallpaper on her Mac, and her Nook Tablet, and her Android phone. And she's starting to mumble about prints. Until I mention the price of the $1,000 Canon printer, and then the mumbling dies down. I really need to get out and find a good local printer. It's been a long while since I used Colonial, and that was back in the days when I shot film. It may be time to try their digital processing...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Downtown Detour

Orange Bowl 2

Late afternoon drive home. I-4 is tied up west-bound, so I stay on the 408 because the traffic is much clearer. As soon as I pass over I-4 I see the Citrus Bowl off to my right. The setting sun lights the big hulking structure rather dramatically, so I exited the 408 at John Young and looped back east towards the bowl.

I parked in a sand lot next to Lake Lorna Doone, grabbed an E-1, and just started walking towards the north end of the bowl next to Church Street. It was very late, the sun was almost set, and the rich gold light bathed everything with a warm radiance. I thought about trying to compensate in post but decided to just let it stay the way the E-1 essentially recorded it.

Orange Bowl 1

Anole

On the way back to the car I walked along the edge of Lake Lorna Doone. It's a sink-hole lake, used as a drainage basin for that part of Orlando. The water's edge is filled with rushes, and cypress trees grow right on the shoreline. I parked next to a huge spreading live oak. When I came back a decidedly fearless anole had taken up residence on the trunk and was giving me the challenging eye the whole time I was standing next to him. Kept an eye on me, but didn't move off the way most would have.

Marching Cypris

Need to stop by again tomorrow, sun permitting. Tinker Field is right next to the Citrus Bowl, and it looks interesting in the late afternoon light.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

More Observations

More Development

The Rich Earth

Another day and more construction done. This is the larger plot of land being worked across the street from the smaller I photographed yesterday. Notice all that rich dark soil? That soil is dark and rich because that land was wetlands before they tore down all the small cypress and willow trees that grew there and dug it all up. All that lighter soil was hauled in to be spread over the darker. By the time it's all done there'll be more buildings and parking lots over another piece of Florida paradise.

Cemetery of Innocence

Once again the First Baptist Church of Orlando has put up their "Cemetery of Innocence" in the big field that sits between the church and L.B. McLeod. They've put this up in time for yet another pre-Easter first amendment expression of their disapproval of abortion. According to the sign out in front this year, 4,000 babies are being aborted "daily."

Since I'm a raging liberal, I immediately felt the number was suspect. So I went out and used the evil Google to look for statistics I felt were more believable, and found the CDC's "Abortion Surveillance --- United States, 2008" report. According to the CDC's report the total number of U.S. abortions reported in 2008 were 825,564, or 2,262 abortions/day, a little more than half the 4,000 painted on the sign. I doubt that that abortion rate has doubled over the last four years.

But let's not quibble over the numbers. The fact that there are this many abortions points to a lack of accessible birth control, especially for young teenage women. If you read the report you'll find that the greatest majority of abortions occurred with women 19 years or younger. Young women who's lives and the lives of any children they would carry to term would be ruined because they've got no good financial backing for either themselves or their unborn children. You can't abort them, but once they're all here, well, that's not the right's concern any more. After all, if they grow up and become a problem, well, that's what prisons are for, isn't it?

When I see crosses like that, especially on a day like today, I think instead of all the Syrians that have died at the hand of Bashar al-Assad, who has been widening and intensifying his deadly assault on Syrian citizens who are against his rule, especially in Homs. I've been listening and reading about the death of journalist Marie Colvin, who died exposing the horrors of that particular war. She was reporting on the death of one child (of many) when she died during a shell attack on Homs by Syrian government forces. These are the innocents who have also died, young men with their hands tied and bullet wounds to their heads and chests, lying in the streets, women, and children as well. Where are the local signs expressing outrage and grief over their deaths?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mixed Blessings

Devastation
The Devastation Tool

It becomes more difficult for me as I grow older to ignore the destruction of green habitat in the name of economic progress, and to quietly accept it. The developers have "opened up" another heavily wooded tract by knocking down all the trees growing in the area. You get a pretty good idea of what used to grow over the denuded land at the far edge of the plot.

And yet, this is a sign of economic recovery in the area. Pretty soon a new store or office complex will rise on this land, supporting more businesses that employ more people. Or so we all hope. But there's still a lot of empty buildings in Research Park or large empty sections of half-filled buildings along Corporate Blvd, which is where this "prime" piece of property is close to.

If there's any beauty, it was the blooming azaleas that stood on the edge of the road next to where they'd cleared the land. Azaleas that have bloomed very early this year, even for Florida.

Early Azalea

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Local Photo Shop

Colonial Photo and Hobby

There's a camera store on Mills, on the south side of the intersection of Mills and Colonial in Orlando. Colonial Photo and Hobby has been in business at that spot since 1954.

Colonial Photo was one of the first stores I learned about (after groceries and gas, so you know where my priorities were) when I moved down to Orlando in 1984. At that time I was shooting film with my OM-4 and I went to Colonial to buy film and get it processed and printed. Over the years I found other spots to get my film processed, but I always went to Colonial to "do it right", and to pick up the odd but always important accessory that nobody else in town seems to have.

It was at Colonial that I purchased my Nikon N90, and it was Colonial where I took it to get it repaired when I fell into a North Carolina river with the camera around my neck one summer while on vacation. I had no intention that day of tripping over a tree root, rolling down the bank with $2,000 worth of camera and lens dearly clutched to my chest to protect it from damage, over the bank and into the water. But shit, as they say, happens. And the idea I should buy a "baggie" to cover the camera for those wet moments I need to use it means I'd have to keep the damn camera wrapped 24/7. I already look goofy enough as it is. That's the act that planted the seed in my mind to buy a waterproof camera, and why I eventually purchased the E-3 and later, the three E-1s I have lying about. And why I'll get the E-M5. So laugh all you want about my insistence on water and dust resistant bodies and lenses, but I've got a few real-world stories that illustrate my reasons why.

Photobooks

While I was there to pick up a Skooba camera strap I rounded a corner and into an isle filled with camera books. And what should I see but at least three titles from a certain Austin author who occasionally does a bit of professional work. I was glad to see his work there (at least three of his titles are showing), but it was also a sobering reminder that he faces some pretty stiff competition in this area from other writers.

The No. 3 Olympus E-1

I got my third E-1 from the same author sometime back in August of last year, and he warned me it had an odd little quirk. Turn it on, take a photo with it, and it would lock up. Pull the battery (the BLL1 out of the grip), put the battery back, and then start shooting again and the quirk magically corrected itself. The quirk was intermittent, in that sometimes it would show up, and sometimes it wouldn't. So after it started to show up repeatedly I packed the body up and sent it into Olympus service up in Hauppauge, NY. It took about three weeks (I was in no hurry with all my other bodies lying about), but when it finally came back it had a brand new shutter with zero actuations and a new main board. It's got the Skooba strap on it and the Zuiko Digital 50mm, ready to head out tomorrow for some test exposures.

It cost a total of $254 to get it serviced, but I am a techie, and I will not let an instrument sit around in a malfunctioning state. Besides, if somebody gives you something like an E-1, the least you can do is take good care of it. The only camera in this house I won't fix is my 40 year old Minolta XE-7 because I can't get parts for it any more. It managed to work long enough for my youngest daughter to use in a film photography class in 2007, but after she finished the class the XE-7 finally gave up the ghost. That's when I gave her the Nikon. And then later an E-300 and one of the E-1s.

Lightroom 4

I have a confession to make. I've been using LR4 beta. And I love it. I've gotten much better results out of all my cameras with LR4 than with LR3. I don't know what it is, but I don't think I'll ever go back to just JPEG. I'm now completely and totally a post-processing raw file junkie, all thanks to LR4. I just hope that Adobe finishes LR4 so that it's at least as good as it is right now.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. The post processing software keeps advancing, producing better and better results from the same (current) sensors out in the world. I'm curious to see how LR4 processes raw images from the E-1. We'll find out tomorrow.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Day of Restful Work

Good News For Once

Sunday might be a day of rest for some, but for me it's just another day of work at home. Weekends are never long enough to do work around the house. These past few weekends have been taken up with raking all the oak leaves from all the oaks around the house. It's my third time raking around the yard this season, starting back in late December. Right now I've got a dozen 44 gallon bags full of leaves for Wednesday pickup, and if I have time after work this next Monday and Tuesday, I'll probably fill another half dozen or so.

There were other little chores to do around the house that meant a trip to a local Home Depot to pick up spare parts to fix those things that needed fixing. As I walked in the main entrance I saw this large sign hanging over the front, a sign I haven't seen for quite some time: "Now Hiring." It seems to fit in with a general pickup in people's fortunes around the area. All those hoses in my neighborhood that've been up for sale or rent are suddenly all filled. So if the local housing market is ticking up then I can see support businesses, like Home Depot, ticking up as well.

19-fifty-something Olds 98

After picking up my parts I spied this nineteen fifty-something Olds 98 parked at the edge of the lot. Since I've been photographing 2012 model cars for the past couple of weekends I thought it would be a nice change take a few quick photos of a model built in the mid-twentieth century, when Detroit reigned supreme. This particular car is in need of some serious love, with pronounced rust over the chrome. The left front quarter panel has been replaced and/or repainted, as you can see by the sheen of the paint compared to the hood.

19-fifty-something Olds 98 Hood Ornaments

It's always interesting to look at the hood ornaments of cars from that period. The car designers in this instance were trying to invoke speed and power via the simplified jet with matching contrails molded into the metal hood as it flew over the simplified world on the front of the hood.

Parts is Parts

I needed parts from Home Depot to fix an open clothes cart that we use to move dirty clothes from one end of the house out to the washer/dryer. We've had those carts for years now. This past week a cotter pin just fell out of one end of one of the axles causing the front wheels to came off. I picked up a new set of cotter pins and a complete set of 3/8" washers and rebuilt that whole front end. I was surprised how cheap the original washers and cotter pins were, so it looks like I'll be rebuilding both carts with new washers and cotter pins all over.

In other news I'm close to finishing reading a book and preparing to write a review of it. This is a book about LED lighting written by a photographer out in Austin Texas. I was supposed to be well finished by now, but I like to read a good book slowly, savoring it and re-reading sections just to make sure I fully understand the material. This book has the added benefit of excellent photography. I love to look at good photography. But I will be finished Real Soon Now.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Second Car Shopping Weekend

Gas Prices Friday 17 February 2012
Hess regular gas price as of  Friday 17 February 2012, Orlando, FL

The price of gas this past Friday says it all. This is as high as it was last summer before the price started to drop. The lowest 2011 price was in December at around $3.15. There's a lot of factors to the current price rise, such as the commodities markets driving up the price of oil due to the saber rattling between Iran and Washington, with Iran threatening to stop the shipping of oil through the Straits of Hormuz. There also seem to be issues with lowered U.S. refinery capacity and the irony that gasoline refineries are suffering from profitability because of reduced demand for gas in the U.S. because of higher gas prices, forcing some refineries to be shut down by their owners, which in turn... raises the price of gasoline even further. Very high and continually rising gasoline prices, combined with the 11 year old age of the Kia Sedona van, are why we're out looking for an affordable non-hybrid vehicle that gets 40 MPG on the highway.

When we looked at high MPG cars in 2009, nothing approached the Prius. But three years later and the advanced state of automotive technology, combined with even more brutal market realities, has produced a whole series of low cost higher MPG gasoline-only vehicles. And at a much lower price compared to hybrids. I had expected hybrid prices to come down over a three year period, not stay jacked up the way they have. I'm very pleased with the Prius, but not so pleased as to buy another one over $7,000 more expensive than the one we currently have.

When we purchased the 2009 Prius in 2009 it was marked down a good $5,000 from it's "standard" price, which was cheaper than today's prices to start with. Looking at 2011 and 2012 Prius, the prices are in the $26K to $28K range, where are $3,000 to $5,000 higher than those "standard" 2009 prices. Which pushes it right out of our upper budget limit.

That's why we're looking at the current crop of high-mileage, standard internal combustion cars around $15K, or a good $11K to $13K lower than the 2012 Prius.

2012 Hyundai Accent GS
2012 Hyundai Accent GS
2012 Hyundai Accent GS Engine
Accent GS engine
2012 Hyundai Accent GS Driver Side
Accent GS driver side
2012 Hyundai Accent GS Hatchback Up
Accent GS with hatch open.
Tonneau is removable, one 60/40 seat is down.

The first dealership we stopped at was Hyundai on West Colonial. I don't like shopping there because every vehicle is maxed out with unneeded accessories that raises the price from the base vehicle cost some $3,000 to $4,000 dollars. The price of this red Accent GS was pushing $19K, which is a good $6,000 more than the official starting price of $12,545 [LINK]. The advertised mileage was 30MPG city, 40MPG highway.

One key feature we want in any car we purchase is a hatchback/fifth "door". It makes it very easy getting Labs and other cargo into and out of the vehicle. The hatch has an added benefit of acting as an effective, if temporary "umbrella", for keeping out most of the rain. And it does rain here in Florida.

2012 Hyundai Elantra Limited
2012 Hyundai Elantra Limited

Sitting right behind the Accent was this Elantra, again maxed out and over $25K. This pushed it up into Prius range, and to add insult to injury it was a regular sedan. What was very interesting was the mileage; 29 MPG city, 40 MPG highway. Yes, the Elantra's highway mileage matched the Accent's, or at least that's what the sticker claimed.

2012 Hyundai Accent GS Mileage
Accent mileage estimates
2012 Hyundai Elantra Limited Mileage
Elantra mileage estimates

Both vehicles were well made, and the front seats (driver and front passenger) both had good to excellent lower back support, something my wife needs. We didn't drive the vehicle, we just sat in them (we've yet to drive any of them, we're just looking and gather facts).

Both vehicles were well made and showed high quality materials all around. But then so did the Fiat 500C and Ford Focus. In fact the Ford Focus and the Fiat were highly competitive with regards to overall quality with the Hyundai.

Gunmetal Gray 2012 Yaris
2012 Toyota Yaris 3-door hatchback
Powder Blue 2012 Yaris
2012 Toyota Yaris 5-door hatchback
Blue 2012 Yaris Interior Driver Side
2012 Toyota Yaris driver-side interior

The Toyota Yaris was a better fit with our budget, with two hatchback models falling to either side of our $15,000 budget's set-point. The seats fit us well, and there was plenty of room on both sides of the vehicle for me to sit. Mileage was interesting, in that the 3-door was 30 MPG city and 38 MPG highway, while the 5-door was 30MPG city and 35 MPG highway. What makes the 5-door more enticing is the larger cargo capacity in the back with the seats down. My wife needs something she can take the Labs in when she goes to the vet, and we need something we can travel in around Florida. The Prius has great cargo capacity with the seats down and we've used it for quite a few state trips. It's now gotten to where we take the Prius where we just to load up the van. The van now stays in the driveway except for local trips around town, and even then I insist we use the Prius, which puts a lot of mileage on the Prius.

Preliminary Results

Right now we think the Ford and Toyota are the two best cars for the money. My wife is particularly impressed with the quality of the Ford Focus. I liked the Yaris 5-door personally, especially the cast alloy wheels and fog lights. The $17,595 price was pretty decent as well. Both cars hit all the right features, especially the ability to fit my 6'4" frame into both sides without me needing a crowbar to fit into or climb out. As much as I liked the Fiat, my head was literally touching the roof interior of the car. And that's a real shame because we both liked the styling of the Fiat and liked the overall quality of that car.

We're not going to look at Honda. We had a really bad experience in 2009 trying to buy the Insight, which is what drove us down the block to Toyota and the Prius. The only Honda we feel worth looking at would be the Fit, and based on preliminary research the 27 MPG city, 33 MPG highway is just a little too low. And Honda dealerships seem to want to lard the Fit down with unneeded accessories, pushing the price well above $20K and dropping the mileage even further. We don't have time nor patience to put up with that, so we're staying completely away from Honda.

As for Kia, we're tired of Kia. We waited and waited for Kia to produce a high MPG compact, and they never did. Hyundai, the sister company, was always a better deal in that regard.

That leaves General Motors and Chevy. We're ambivalent about a Chevy, but based on preliminary research we might just go look at the Chevy Sonic. The price is there, but not so much the mileage.

A Comment About the Yaris

We looked at the Yaris in 2009 when we looked at the Prius. If the 2009 Yaris had been as good looking and had the same gas mileage as the 2012 version, I'd be driving the Yaris right now instead of the Prius. The Yaris has improved tremendously over the last three years.

Update 19 February

We got a rather rude call from Gladys at Toyota of Orlando, the dealership where we'd purchased our Prius and where I take it religiously to get it serviced. It's also the same dealership where we looked at the 2012 Yaris.

Of all the dealerships we've visited so far, only Toyota of Orlando has been as annoyingly aggressive to try and sell us a car. When we went to look at the Yaris all we did was open up the vehicle to look it over. We never drove it off the lot. But before we could do that we had to give the salesman a drivers license. Nobody else made such a demand.

When Gladys called today she strongly implied that because we'd "seen the car" we must be ready to close a deal for the vehicle. All I have to say is, if looking at a vehicle on their lot obligates us to buy said vehicle, then I need to stay away from them. We're still in our due-diligence phase of looking and comparing to whittle the field down to just two prime possibilities. We then intend to find a place that will rent us a vehicle for a day so that we can see how it drives with the two of us, the two Labs, and my wife's wheel chair. Once that's done we'll make a final decision, line up our own line of credit at the best possible rate and begin the final negotiations for the purchase. That's our process and we're sticking to it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Delving Deeper into Android: Building Ice Cream Sandwich for the Nook Color

It was only a matter of time before the siren's call lured me to install the source for Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS, Android 4) and attempt to create my own version for my Nook Color. There are two links I've been following to install ICS from its git repository and then building from the repository. I need to list several caveats before we go much futher;
  1. I am a complete novice (otherwise known as "a noob") when it comes to the use of git[1] and building Android. So I'm depending on a lot of hand-holding at this point in time, meaning reading lots of xda forum threads and wiki pages to piece together a process that works with my Fedora setup.
  2. My Dell Latitude D630 isn't some awesome build machine. It's now considered a modest little notebook powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo T7700 processor running at 2.4GHz. It took a long time to pull the git repository, and it's going to take a long time to build the project. Right now as I type this the system load is about 2.5 and both cores are running at 100%. Half of the 4GB of system memory is in use (the rest taken up by cache), with about 5MB on swap.
Building Android 4.0.3

The Adventure Begins

The three links I've been referring to so far:
  1. CM9/ICS Nightly Builds http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1444943
  2. CM9 for NookColor Build Instructions https://docs.google.com/document/d/19f7Z1rxJHa5grNlNFSkh7hQ0LmDOuPdKMQUg8HFiyzs/edit?hl=en_US&pli=1
  3. [Wiki] Barnes & Noble Nook Color: Compile CyanogenMod (Linux) http://wiki.cyanogenmod.com/wiki/Barnes_%26_Noble_Nook_Color:_Compile_CyanogenMod_(Linux)
The instructions, both implicitly and explicitly, assume you're using Ubuntu. Since I'm using Fedora, I have to adjust accordingly. This is what I've done so far under Fedora 14.
  1. Read all three of the links listed above at least once and in the order given. Pay particular attention to the directions of link 2 as it makes heavy reference and some changes to the Wiki directions in link 3.
  2. Go back and re-read (or read again if you skipped step 0) what I just wrote in step 0.
Now that you're thoroughly familiar with the content of the three links, I will go through all the steps I performed.
  1. Start with the Wiki link above, step 3. Install the Android SDK if you haven't already. I've had it installed for so long now on my Dell that I'd have to go back to my Android posts (see android in the category cloud to the right) for general directions and any special tips.
  2. Wiki link step "Install the Build Packages" tells you to install a series of build packages. Fedora 14 installs with nearly everything the Wiki calls for out-of-the-ISO. The exception is schedtool, which you can install with a simple 'yum install schedtool' as root. I need to note that gcc on Fedora 14 is version 4.5.1. I download and install the Java RPM from the Oracle website. For the build I have Java 1.6.0 update 31 installed, the absolute latest and greatest at this time.
  3. Wiki link step "Create Directories" assumes you're going to create the 'bin' and 'android/system' directories in your home directory. I didn't and you don't have to either. I already have an ~/Android directory with the sdk and other Android content organized underneath. So I create a build subdirectory (~Android/build) and created my bin and android/system subdirectories inside build (~/Android/build/bin and ~/Android/build/android/system).
  4. Wiki link step "Install the Repository" is the step where you fetch the repo command. The assumption is it's done in your home directory. I did this in the build subdirectory. When you change the execute permissions on the file that is placed in the bin subdirectory, make sure you add a path to the bin subdirectory to execute repo. The simplest way to do this is to step into bin and type in your shell "export PATH=`pwd`:$PATH" or "export PATH=$PWD:$PATH", it's your call. If you haven't recognized the syntax, I'm in the bash shell. For permanence you need to add this to your .bashrc (something without pwd or $PWD, where you explicitly call out the path into bin).
  5. Step back into the build subdirectory and execute the command:

    repo init -u git://github.com/CyanogenMod/android.git -b ics

    This basically initializes the repository environment and executes pretty fast.
  6. The next step is to create an XML file that references the nook (encore) device folder and add it to the ICS build environment. The file is android/system/.repo/local_manifest.xml, and the contents of local_manifest.xml are
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
      <manifest>
     
      <!-- note:  no longer need to replace CM9 Trebuchet launcher with AOSP's Launcher 2 -->
     
        <remote name = "gh"
               fetch="git://github.com/" />
     
        <project path="device/bn/encore"
          name="fat-tire/android_device_bn_encore"
          remote="gh"
          revision="ics"/>
     
      </manifest>
    

    Cut and paste this XML snippet into the file.
  7. In the build directory perform a full synchronize of the repository with the command

    repo sync -j16

    This took a few hours to fully execute and download. When it was finished the downloaded repository files took up some 5.6GB of disk space.
  8. When the repository sync is finished, turn on your Nook Color with CM7 and plug it into the development system. I'm using the Nook Color with CM7 on the µSDHC card I created in the prior blog post. Move to android/system/device/bn/encore and execute ./extract-files.sh. This will download the Nook Color's proprietary binary blobs and place them in the ICS build environment for later use.
  9. Change directory to android/system/vendor/cm and execute get-prebuilts.
  10. Change directory back to android/system, and execute the following commands

    . build/envsetup.sh
    croot
    brunch encore


    And then prepare to wait a good three to four hours for everything to build. I didn't sit with a stopwatch or start a timer. All I know is that I started this around 3pm and it finished right before 7pm. By the time it was finished the Android footprint had grown to 21GB of disk space.
After all this I am now the proud owner of my very own Android ICS file: update-cm-9.0.0-RC0-NookColor-KANG-signed.zip

I'm not quite certain what to do with it at the moment. The next step for me is to learn how to create a new µSDHC with this running on my Nook Color. After all, just because it built is no guarantee it will execute properly.

I'd like to thank everyone who's worked on this so far, especially the XDA developers. Without all their heavy lifting to start with I'd have had one hell of a time just getting to this point.


[1] I am quite familiar with rcs, cvs, subversion, and ClearCase and know how to work with CM systems in a small to large development efforts. I just have no experience with git.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ten Years Ago

Looking at the Android devices that now litter my house (the Motorola Xoom, the Asus Transformer, my wife's and my Android smartphone, our Nook Tablets, and my latest, the re-purposed Nook Color), I'm reminded what I had 10 years ago.

I had one new computer. It was a Compaq Presario 5WV280 running Windows ME. It had a 900 MHz AMD 32-bit Athlon with 256MB of memory and a 20GB hard drive. It came complete with color CRT monitor and speakers, and set me back some $2,000. I'd purchased it at downtown Circuit City, a store that eventually died seven years later in 2009 along with the entire chain. It was the last major purchase I ever made at a Circuit City.

Circuit City Downtown Orlando 1
Where I purchased my Compaq in 2002

I really used that Presario. I quickly replaced Windows ME with Windows 2000. Soon after I added a second drive and started dual-booting Linux on it, starting with Redhat and later moving to Suse and then to Ubuntu. The other computer I had in the house was an ancient Compaq Presario with a 75MHz 486 and 64MB of memory that dual booted between Windows 95 and Suse. I moved all the pertinent files off of that machine and on to the new machine. I remember that as soon as the backups had been transferred the older 486 system literally shut down and wouldn't restart. Soon after it went to the curbside for garbage pickup.

When I look at what the Nook Color has vs the Compaq, I note the Compaq's AMD Athlon 32-bit processor running at 900MHz vs the Color Nook's ARM Cortex-A8 based 32-bit processor running at 1.1GHz, that the Nook Color has twice as much memory, and the 8GB memory card is the equivalent of an 8GB hard drive that was a tad expensive back in 2002. Hundreds of dollars expensive. I picked the 8GB card/disk for $14.88 at a local Walmart. The maximum screen resolution of the Presario was 2048 x 1536, but the monitor that came with the Presario was hard pressed to display at that resolution, so I kept it at 1600 x 1200. That's the only feature of the Presario that exceeds the Color Nook, the Color Nook's fixed display resolution of 1024 x 600.

The level of software sophistication inherent in Android was only dreamed of in Windows 2000 and equivalent Linux distributions of the time. That WiFi connection I take for granted on the Nook Color was an expensive add-on in 2002. The standards-compliant browser on Android runs rings around IE and Netscape, the two primary browsers I used at the time. And there are Android apps providing capabilities that were unavailable on the operating systems of the time, such as streaming movies and TV shows via Netflix.

But most significantly I can hold the entire computer (the Color Nook) in one hand and have it operate for six continuous hours on battery power alone. The Presario had to be plugged into the wall socket and sat on the floor, with all the cabling running from the back of the main unit up to the heavy CRT monitor and the speakers. And the cost: the Nook Color plus 8BG memory card, at a little less than $180, is an order of magnitude cheaper than the $2,000 Compaq.

Apple speaks of the post-PC era with its iPads and other iDevices. What they mean are a new generation of computers that are hand-holdable (in one hand), have multiple built-in wireless capabilities (cellular, WiFi, and Bluetooth just to name three), use a touch interface as the primary interface, have a display (primarily color) with resolution and color depth that nominally match a desktop system, and have enough computational capability to effectively execute non-trivial applications such as streaming video viewers (Netflix), web browsers, and other application that originally required a desktop or deskside computer.

When I think back 10 years, and even 5 years, ago I can see the increasing evolution of increasing computing capability into ever smaller form factors. The 10 year comparison between my Compaq and my Nook Color is shocking to me primarily because of the radical collapse in size. With all that's happened up until now, I wonder what it will all be like 10 years from now.

Delving Deeper into Android: Barnes & Noble's Nook Color

Executive Summary

In which I detail how I installed CyanogenMod 7 onto a Nook Color via an 8GB µSDHC card, added the modified Nook Color to my Android SDK development environment running under Fedora 14, and discovered that Foxconn was involved in the Nook Color's manufacture.

Installation of CyanogenMod 7

I have, since around the first of February, been hacking around with the Barnes & Noble Nook Color. This is the same Nook Color I rather reluctantly returned a little over a year ago, and wrote about it on Matthew's Reviews [LINK]. What changed my mind enough to re-purchase another Color?

Three events:
  1. Barnes & Noble released the Nook Tablet November 2011. I received a copy for Christmas and have been completely happy with it (a review is forthcoming on Matthew's Reviews). It cost $250. Which lead to the next event;
  2. When the Tablet was released, Barnes & Noble reduced the price of the Nook Color to $200. Which led finally to;
  3. In late January, Barnes & Noble sent out a $50 coupon for the Nook Color, further reducing the price to $150.
From my perspective Barnes & Noble had inadvertently released the perfect Android experimental device and it only cost $150. The Nook Color is missing a camera (or two), lacks cellular radios (no direct phone calls), and is missing a GPS. But it does come equipped with working WiFi, Bluetooth 2 and USB 2.0 as well as color touch screen, 786MB of memory, and an ability to add external flash drives. Whatever else is missing I can add/associate with the Color via one of those three channels.

When I talk about experimenting with the Nook Color I mean full-bore rooting with CyanogenMOD 7 (CM7, based on Android 2.3.7) complete with Google Market.

I started the process by researching via Google how to root it, and eventually picked up enough directions to successfully root the Nook Color.

The Nook Color is extremely easy to root (as compared to the Nook Tablet) because the embedded software that comes standard with the Nook Color (version 1.2.0) allows you to boot from a µSDHC configured with the proper file system and initial software load.

In my case I used my Dell notebook running Fedora 14 to configure the card. Once the µSDHC card was properly configured it was installed on the powered-off Nook Color. The Nook Color was then powered up at which point the Nook Color's embedded OS found and booted the modified µSDHC, eventually into full blown CM7.

Here are the steps I followed to install CM7 an an 8GB Sandisk µSDHC card under Fedora 14:
  1. Download the file system image from http://crimea.edu/~green/nook/generic-sdcard-v1.3.img.gz
  2. Unzip the 9MB file into a 130MB generic-sdcard-v1.3.img
  3. Using an adapter, physically attach the µSDHC to the computer. If automount is running, unmount the µSDHC card, noting the device (/dev) name.
  4. In a shell as root use dd to copy the img file to the µSDHC. On my Dell I used the command

    dd if=generic-sdcard-v1.3.img of=/dev/sdd

  5. Once dd is finished, physically remove and re-insert the µSDHC card. If automount is running Linux will mount the newly-minted filesystems in the image you just wrote to the card.
  6. Download a nightly CyanogenMOD build from http://download.cyanogenmod.com/?device=encore. I downloaded cm_encore_full-253.zip. Copy it to the µSDHC card and unmount the card when the copy is finished, then physically remove the card.
  7. With the Nook Color powered off insert the µSDHC into the Nook Color's µSDHC slot on the corner of the device. Power up the Nook Color. If all has gone well up to this point the Nook Color will boot from the µSDHC, unpacking and auto installing CM7. The installer treats the Nook Color screen as if it's in perpetual landscape mode. You'll see a Linux penguin in the upper left corner, with text (yes, text) log messages scrolling up the screen as CM7 is installed. Once everything is unpacked the installer will power the Nook Color off.
  8. Power the Nook Color on again, and the Nook Color should boot into CM7. You can, at this point, leave well enough alone. If you want or need Android Market, then you need to continue on with step 9.
  9. Make sure that you enable WiFi on the Nook Color via CM7. If for some reason you don't have WiFi capability as this point, then stop. You'll need working WiFi connectivity for complete installation of Android Market. Once you've enabled WiFi connectivity, power down the Nook Color.
  10. Re-insert the µSDHC back into your host computer (the Dell in my case). It will automount a number of file systems this time. We're interested in /boot on the µSDHC card.
  11. Go to http://wiki.cyanogenmod.com/index.php?title=Latest_Version. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and a table describing Google Apps versions (Market is a part of this package). Download the version for CM7, the first row in the table. The downloaded file name is gapps-gb-20110828-signed.zip
  12. Copy gapps-gb-20110828-signed.zip to /root. Unmount all the µSDHC card's file systems, then physically move it back to the powered off Nook Color. Power the Nook Color back on.
  13. When the Nook Color has finished booting, press the power button again until the powerdown menu appears. One of the options is Reboot. Select Reboot, and on the next menu select Recovery, then select OK. The Nook Color will reboot and then install Google Apps including Google Market. Once that occurs, you will then walk through Google Market's step-by-step process for setting up an account. You should at this point know how to respond to a Google Market initial account setup.
I will note at this point that I used my existing Google account, which is the one I use for my Android phone. I did not allow Google Market to sync with my Android phone or else I would have picked up everything installed on my phone. I want to keep the two devices as separate as possible.

SanDisk 8GB microSDHC
Recommended SDHC card for CyanogenMOD work, just $14.88 at a local Wal-Mart.

If this all sounds like a lot of trouble I suppose it is. But then, it took me less than 20 minutes to do all of this, including waiting for writes and reboots. It took far more time to research all the steps and then tailor them to my setup.


Most of the features on the Nook Table map transparently to CM7, with the notable exception of cellular telephony. Otherwise it operates rather well, far better than the stock software that ships with the Nook Color. I'd like to list some of the tablet tweaks I performed to further enhance performance. Under Settings, CyanogenMod settings, Performance, CPU settings;
  • Available governors is set to performance
  • Min CPU frequency is set to 600 MHz
  • Max CPU frequency is set to 1100 MHz
  • Set on boot is enabled
Back on Performance settings;
  • Use 16bit transparency should be enabled
With everything installed and configured, the single core Nook Color with CM7 performs as smoothly as my Android cellphone (the myTouch 4G) and the dual-core Nook Tablet with stock Barnes & Noble software, version 1.4.1. This speaks volumes about the power and  capabilities that lie dormant in the Nook Color.

Setup for Android Development

I wasn't going to stop there. I didn't go to all this trouble just to use it like a "normal" Android tablet. I wanted to use the Android SDK to develop applications for it. So I set about configuring my development environment on Fedora 14 x86-64.

First I added the following lines to my udev 51-android.rules file (for further information about udev and the rules file, check my Android category for details). Note that the first line is a comment:

# B&N Nook Color running CyanogenMOD7
SUBSYSTEM=="usb",ATTRS{idVendor}=="2080",SYMLINK+="android_adb",MODE="0666"

At this point I thought I was done. I plugged in the Nook Color with CM7 running, fired up ddms, and saw absolutely nothing. Typing 'adb devices' show nothing either. Yet udev found the Nook Color and lsusb showed it in the listing. I noticed the peculiarity that there was no textual name by the USB device listing. Regardless I hit the Google looking for advice about how to solve this problem and eventually found clues scattered all over. Here's what I did to get everything finally working.

With the Nook Color plugged in and powered on, at the shell prompt, type 'android update adb' to rebuild ~/.android/adb_usb.ini. This will add an entry to the ini file and allow adb to properly bridge to the Nook Color. Once that's done, you need to do an 'adb kill-server' followed by an 'adb start-server'. Once all that hand waving is finished you can use the bog-standard Android SDK to develop for the Nook Color running CM7.

Note: All of this is executing from the inserted card. I have yet to reprogram the Color's internal flash, and I may not. Performance is more than adequate running off the card.
Note: Power on the Nook Color before attaching it to the computer via USB. If you attach and then power on, the Nook Color behaves as if it won't turn on.



The Foxconn Connection

I have come to discover that a portion of the Nook Color is manufactured by Foxconn, at least the PCB if not the complete device. I say this because of yet another story out of China about Foxconn that paints an even bleaker picture about its unfair labor practices, this time about their use of unpaid student interns. The unpaid internship abuse hits a raw nerve with me because both my daughters have gotten involved with such here in the states while they were in college. Granted my children never experienced the level of abuse the Chinese students have, but still. When I attended college in the 1970s, interns were paid an entry-level wage and treated as entry level employees. They only worked for one term (usually during the summer) but an unpaid internship was unheard of. Now it's the norm complete with abuse.

I don't know what to recommend about the use of electronic devices made by Foxconn, especially the Nook Color. One of the reasons I've stayed away from Apple is because of Apple's heavy reliance on Chinese manufacturers, especially Foxconn. But it would appear that simply selecting an Android device won't let you avoid Foxconn, and there's no guarantee that any other manufacturer won't be as bad if not worse.

What this does is put a dark cloud over what should be a fun project. How can you enjoy experimenting with technology when the technology has such a bleak, dark price?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Weekend

My wife and I spent both days getting out a bit to head downtown and behave a bit like tourists. I wanted to check on the construction of the Dr. Phillips Center For The Performing Arts that's currently going on downtown between S. Orange and S. Rosalind along W. Anderson.

Across the Power Distribution Station 2

So we headed east on I-4 and took the fairly new S. Street Exit to the heart of downtown. I saw this view and embarrassed my poor wife by stopping off in the emergency lane on the exit and getting out with the E-3. I wasn't out in traffic, but my wife had flipped on the emergency flashers, so I made a quick trip out and carefully shot a few exposures. Considering the paranoia about photographers and photography, I had no desire for a visit from a representative of the local constabulary.

City Hall

We parked again in front of city hall. As I got out I was caught up in the light reflecting all around the plaza and between the buildings, not just the direct sunlight but the reflected light between multiple buildings multiple times. I stopped after a few shots, as I was going across Orange Avenue to look at the construction for the new art center.

Looking Downtown

Still and all, I couldn't help but look back and see this view, again with the direct and reflected light, the textures and colors of the building materials, and the detail in the shadows. The light today was something to behold.

Deep Construction

I finally reached the "deep end" of the construction area, except it was surrounded by chain link fencing that stood a good eight feet tall. I flipped out the E-3's articulated screen, then stretch my arms up as high as I could over the fence, using the screen as a general reference. I shot three exposures, of which this one was the one I chose. I just liked the general layout of the colors.

Walker-Hendry House

On the way back, driving around the base of the I-4/408 interchange, I came across this historical landmark and closed up house now known as the Walker-Hendry House. It sits empty and locked up and posted on every window not to be trespassed. I guess the gentrified area doesn't want any riff-raff about, like the three homeless men who sat next to the lake right across from the porch.

Solitary Time

I caught this gentleman along Lake Eola on Saturday, lost in his game of solitaire. He stood out amongst the young urban couples walking around the park with their pure-bread dogs and the small but formal wedding party that had come to watch the bridge and groom have their photograph taken with the lake in the background.

New Car Shopping

Beside driving around like tourists we were out looking at a replacement for my wife's 10-year-old Kia van. We've paid it off and taken good care of it, but the expenses are now beginning to add up to substantial amounts, and my wife want's something smaller that's inexpensive to buy and has much better gas mileage. We'd thought about another Prius, but the idea of spending $26K or more on another car has motivated us to look for a very efficient gasoline car.

Fiats All In A Row

On Saturday we drove down to Field's Fiat and just looked at the 500s. We sat in several just to see how small the interiors were. And the interiors are pretty small. I'm tall enough that the hear on my head (and yes, I still have some) was rubbing against the interior roof. Otherwise we thought the Fiat was really good looking (what my wife calls "cute"). They start at $16K and the basic vehicle gets 30 city/38 highway.

Fiat 500 Front Seats

Fiat 500 Interior Driver and Shotgun

Fiat 500 Left Front Wheel Detail

On Sunday we stopped by a local Ford dealership to look at the Fiesta. Nice looking cars, but mighty small interiors for me. I could barely fit in the passenger side, and I was really filling out the car on the driver's side.

Ford Focus 2012 Headon

So we went over and looked at the Ford Focus, which for 2012 looks really nice. We found three we liked color-wise, the yellow you see here, a bright McLaren red and a bright metal-flake blue. This yellow is also metal-flake. The prices hovered around $18K to $19K, but the salesman said we could negotiate that price down. I fit into the Focus just fine on both sides of the car. Mileage for those cars was a surprising 28 MPG city/38 MPG highway.

Ford Focus 2012 Right Rear Corner

Starting Monday another week of intense work, then next weekend another weekend of car shopping. We're not quite ready yet to get a new car; we need to get our taxes down and see where we are financially after that. But we need to get a van replacement, so we might as well start looking now.