Thursday, July 5, 2012

Never Thought I'd Have A Sidekick

We finally decided on a set of folding bikes to take with us on the truck. Per my previous post about folding bikes, we were looking for bikes that fell within our price range (cough), were compact enough to go on the truck securely, larger/sturdier than the Brompton and didn't have a greasy chain to tear and stain our clothes.

We decided on the Sidekick 8 by Dynamic Bicycles. It's got the larger 20" wheels, half the weight as the similar sized folding bikes at Camping world, compact enough to fit into the allotted space on the truck, and they have NO chain. That's right, no chain. Instead, they use a Sussex shaft drive system paired with a Shimano Nexus 8-speed internal hub (range of 21 gears). It's all geared specifically for use with 20" tires, so the pedaling and effort required is the same as on a larger bike. The only thing you have to get used to is the steering differences those 20" wheels make.

Fortunately for us, we were on the waiting list before the pricing went up. We also got the new Slidepad brake system upgrade free. Slidepad is a great new system which eliminates the front wheel brake handle and "end over end" crashes when the front brake is applied more than the rear. Check out their demo video on their website... so simple - why didn't I think of that? :)

We setup a compartment with bracing to hold the bikes securely in place and prevent them from rubbing on anything as the truck rumbled down the highway. So far it's worked well. The bikes didn't fold up as small as they said they would, so I have to remove the seat post each time we store them - not a big issue though. Here's a pic of them stored (we've since tweaked it more and added our helmets, etc., but you get the idea):

We've already had them out several times during time off at parks and campgrounds, but this recent heat has kind of put a damper on things.  It's still nice to know we have the means to get places (that perhaps would be to far to walk) when we need to...and besides, they're fun!!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hooked on Chrome!!

No, I'm not referring to the chrome on a truck (although that *is* pretty too). I'm referring to ChromeOS (Google's Linux based, Chrome browser centered, 95% cloud only OS). See my previous blog entry for more on my reasoning behind getting this unit, and my overall goals toward Cloud Computing.

We received our Samsung Series 3 ChromeBox today. Well, not "ours", it's more like our parents' :) but I got to play with it and set it up for them. AWEsome when used with a HD wide screen TV as your monitor :) No issues seeing what's on the screen anymore. If pop can't see things now, he'll just have to forget computing. (see pic of it with FB up).

 I've been working on it all morning and I have to admit I love this thing. I wish we had a setup like this! iTunes is the only thing I don't have an "out of the box / stick with original" solution for... but that music can be uploaded to Google Play and streamed to this unit - so it's not a huge issue. In the end though, you still need one PC/Mac somewhere that houses your iTunes library. While it's true they (Apple) have a cloud setup where you can re-download your music, they don't have an actual online / streaming solution.

In addition to the unit cost, you'll have to spring for a keyboard and mouse (if you don't already have one). If you opt for bluetooth, beware that not all devices work with this thing. You'll also have to spring for a cord to get your video to a monitor/TV. We opted for a higher quality DVI-D to HDMI cable ($60).

I did notice that it updated itself upon first boot. All options weren't there until I had restarted it. I've been through several boot-ups since then (not necessary, but I like watching it boot that fast - lol) and all seems stable.

In all, color me impressed. Tiny, works right out of the box, responsive, quiet, low cost, no viruses to worry about, no update prompts, 7 second bootup, only the stuff you need, easily remove things you don't want... just amazing. I think Google is on the right track on this one.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Got my head in the Clouds

I have some involuntary time off this week. Yes, I've got a long list of things to do, but I'm "making time" to move (about 95%) to Cloud Computing.

Here are my goals:

  • All Pics/Videos stored online [Picasa Web Albums], where they are backed up, easy to share (without creating more space hogging copies) and accessible across all our connected devices.
  • All Docs stored online [Google Drive], where they are backed up, easy to share (without creating more space hogging copies) and accessible across all our connected devices.
  • Printers online [Google Cloud Print] (printable from everywhere independently of Operating System or location - have a web browser, can print), and accessible from our iOS devices as well.
  • Home PC - Google ChromeOS based "cloud only" Samsung Series 3 ChromeBox (the first ChromeOS based desktop).
  • Move our domains to one location and host their email accounts on Gmail (Google Apps for Business is free to users with less than 10 email accounts). Enable Google Drive and other Google services/apps for those same accounts.
  • Use one of my domains as a "custom domain" for a Blogger based blog (which I hope to use to show tutorials, share experiences, etc.)

The end result should be that folks, like my parents, should be able to use their email account (which will actually be a Google Account with Gmail based email) to do the following via ONE login:

  • Log in to their ChromeBox PC and access anything online
  • Access, create, edit, print, share their Docs via Google Drive
  • Check, send, create their email via Gmail
  • Print to any of their printers via Google Cloud Print
  • Blog (if they wish) via Blogger (owned by Google)
  • Share and view pictures via Picasa (owned by Google)
  • Play music (yes, even iTunes stuff) via Google Play

It's a tall order, and due to a small uninformed blooper I made late last night testing all of this, I won't be able to complete this "deployment" until this coming weekend... but I'm excited about it!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

In the beginning...

I'm finally restarting a blog and renewing my efforts to post regularly (once a week or so?). Our line of work doesn't allow me to discuss much detail about our "week", but I think I have valuable things to share... at least I hope someone finds them helpful - that's the point of the blog.

So, most of my old posts are gone, and I'm in the middle of changing to a new registrar so that I can take advantage of GMail hosting for email, etc. (aka Google Business Apps). Between Picassa for my pics, Google Drive for my docs, and Blogger for this blog, I think Google has me covered.

More to come :)