Ham Radio Update

Baofeng UV-5R Handheld Radio

My new radio

After a certain harrowing experience (which I’ll discuss in a future post), and the urging of some fellow co-workers, I studied and took the amateur radio exam at BYU.

I passed with a 34/35 and got my technician level license. I made my first contact the next day. It’s been three weeks since and I’ve had a blast. I bought a Baofeng UV-5R dual band radio from Amazon and it’s made for a capable first radio.

I’ve been going all over trying to hit repeaters and getting on nets. My goal is to have the capability to communicate with somebody regardless of where I am. The radio lets me do this, even in places where I don’t get cell phone reception.

I’ve also found that its fun to get on and just talk to people from all over. I’ve joined the UARC and have been lurking on the 147.76 repeater out on west mountain.

I’m hoping to test and get my general license next week. Then I can start looking at a good base and talk to people all over the country.

UPDATE: I was granted my General license on 12/13/12. My call sign has stayed the same.  Now I just need an HF radio.

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A 2012 iPad Owner Buys an Android Tablet…

The day has finally come. I think I’ve messed with my Galaxy tab to talk about what I like about each, and what I don’t like.

This is what I use my tablets for – just so that you know if anything I say below is a waste of time for you or if its actually useful.

  • Browsing the web
  • Sifting through my email
  • Taking notes
  • Another screen – with a web page or something for reference
  • Social Networking
  • Listening to Music

iPad Is Missing Apps

The iPad is missing a bunch of apps that I use on a regular basis. A lot of these apps are unsurprisingly from rival Google. The apps that Google does provide tend to suck. If I could glare at apps, I’d be glaring at the lame excuse for an app that Google Voice and Plus are. This isn’t Apple’s fault though, but the Android tablets have decent versions of these apps. Just sayin’.

The Galaxy Tab Keyboard(s) Are Lame

Every tablet keyboard I’ve tried on Android has been a painful experience. They all use some kind of gimmick, but none of them actually work.

Apple’s keyboard, when I first started using it came off as annoying, because I was stuck with it. I wanted the option to choose a lame keyboard if I wanted. I soon found that I could type 60-70 wpm on it though!

I haven’t been able to get anywhere near that with Android keyboards because none of them shape the on screen keyboard to match a real keyboard. Probably because they’re trying to build one app that fits all the various Android tablet form factors.

The iPad Doesn’t Look As Cool As the Androids

I really like having a launcher, widgets, and animated backgrounds. The purpose of a widget is to allow you to do something simple without actually opening an app. Something quick.

The animated backgrounds look sweet. This one is my favorite.

There are lots of different app launchers that all offer various features like customizing the background color, hiding built in, uninstallable apps that I never use, etc. When Tron had come out, I had a Tron theme for ADWLauncher, with Tron icons and wallpaper.

The iPad Is Far Better With Touch

Man, where to start. Gestures.

The iPad uses gestures like crazy. To switch apps, I take four fingers and swipe the screen left or right. None of this “hold down the home button for a second, then choose my app” waiting crap. If I want to leave an app, I take my four fingers and collapse them. If I want a mini launcher to show up at the bottom with music controls and apps, I use four fingers to “pull” it up.

The screen is much better with my Wacom stylus as well. Using the Autodesk Sketchbook app, I’ve found the iPad is far better at dealing with input from the stylus. My lines are smooth and more accurate. There is still a long ways to go in this department for Apple, but I think they do it best.

Conclusion

Apple wins. The keyboard by itself is probably what pushed things over the edge for me. The high-res screen is awesome, but its not as big of a deal for me as the keyboard. I’ve managed to work around the lack of apps by using apps on my phone or finding 3rd party apps that don’t make me want to scream (but cost money).

Am I way off? Start a flame war in the comments. I’m ready for you. With my iPad. And 60-70 wpm…

Here is my advice to Google for a tablet that I would buy:

  • Make it so I can type on your keyboard. Seriously. This is a big deal. The “buy a bluetooth keyboard” response is lame. I might as well haul a laptop around at that point that does more.
  • Take more advantage of gestures. Make up your own. If patents are in the way, find a new way to control things or fight the patents in court. You’re not using touch very well to control a touch device.
  • Improve the screen. Higher resolutions, better touch sensitivity. Samsung is kind of doing this with the Note. Keep going in this direction. If it was just this and the keyboard, I’d use the Galaxy tab for everything. (I’d miss gestures still, but I’d live).

My advice to Apple:

  • Make it possible for developers to customize their tablets. If I’m in your Developer Program, I’m obviously more technical than Grandma and could really take advantage of more options.
  • DO THIS: Swipe Selection
  • Loosen the controls on your App Store. I could write an entire post on this. To sum up, Safari is not a very good browser. Its barely above Internet Explorer in my book. I’d rather use Firefox or Chrome, (or possibly Opera even). Websites render correctly in those. Especially the annoying websites at work.
  • Put a GPS in the WiFi version. Seriously. I’m taking my Galaxy Tab backpacking because of this. Its really annoying.

Restless

For the last couple of days I’ve been feeling really restless. I don’t want to focus on anything, but instead want to basically do anything besides the thing I’m currently doing.

Part of me wonders if it’s related to me drinking tons of soda over the last week, or if it’s because I feel like I need to be doing something more significant with my life than I am currently. It’s probably a good mix of both.

I have a lot of projects all going on at once, very slowly. I’m trying to do some work on my Pathfinder, I’m trying to write mobile apps, and learn tons of stuff related to my job. I’m making slow progress on everything but that’s what it is. Slow.

If I focus on one thing for a while though, I get bored. For example, tonight, I’m working on my mobile app. I keep distracting myself to get out of it. As a result, I’ve made barely any progress on it. Stupid soda.

It’s frustrating because I feel like I’m busy all the time but never actually accomplishing anything. Eventually, as I have multiple projects going on at once, they all eventually die uneventful, slow deaths. And I feel like I didn’t accomplish anything.

Well, over the next weekend, I’m going to focus on my app. Let’s see if I can get a release out that doesn’t completely suck. Then I’ll accomplish something and feel better about doing the other things. Woot.

iPad Returned?

The new iPad

Nope. I kept it. Here’s why:

  • I found some apps to replace the Android counterparts
  • I found some iOS only apps that rock (Tapose for example)
  • The on screen keyboard
  • Its fast and smooth
  • Mirroring with Apple TV
  • SCREEN. SCREEN. SCREEN.

I have to admit, the first week I was ready to take it back. I probably would have if the Apple Store was closer. I figured I’d at least use it until my 2-week return window was up and then return it. On Friday,

March 30th, I found myself at the Apple Store again — to buy an Apple TV.

Missing Apps

My biggest complaint was not being able to find apps that I use in Android. The killer ones? A functioning Google+ app, (sorry, the one in the app store sucks), Google Music, and Chrome.

To get around these problems, I started using the Google+ site instead of the app. It works better, but isn’t as good as its Android counterpart. Hopefully Google fixes this.

To replace/supplement Google+, I started using iTunes. When I rip CDs, or buy music from Amazon, I just put it in my Music folder. iTunes imports it, Google Music Manager finds it and syncs with the cloud and my phone and iPad sync. Everybody is happy. 😀

Chrome is still a little tough. There isn’t an app to replace it right now. I primarily miss the syncing functionality though – and Apple has promised this is coming in OSX 10.8 in Safari.

New Apps

Aside from the iOS apps I started using, there are some new ones I really like.

Tapose is a note taking/scrapbooking app that is in version 1. I’d call it beta, but whatever. It is one person’s realization of the Microsoft Courier and it seems to work alright. It is version 1 though, so they are working a lot of kinks out. It’s a pretty sweet app though and only $3.

FlickStackr is the app I started using to organize my photos on Flickr. It works a lot better than the official Flickr app in the Android store. Its nearly fully featured and runs really fast.

On Screen Keyboard

This has been a big deal for me. At first I was missing Swype and Swiftkey. After using the keyboard though for two weeks though, I’ve grown to love it. Its fast and fairly accurate. I wish I could long press certain things and get numbers and symbols still, but everything else is very nice.

Smooth. Like butter. On pancakes.

The iPad is smooth. Everything just runs fast. I’m never stuck waiting for an app to launch, or my app drawer to open, or watching stuttering transition animations. It hauls.

Going between my iPad and my Nexus S makes me want an iPhone or Galaxy S II.

Mirror, mirror…

This is the coolest thing ever. I never imagined that there would be enough bandwidth over WiFi to pull this off, but Apple did. Watching YouTube or anything else is super easy to do. If I wanted, I could open the WordPress app and type this up on my TV.

The killer app here is just being able to show people stuff. Web pages. Music. Videos. Pictures. Anything I want. Its all there. Plus I feel like I’m in the future controlling stuff on the TV with a touch screen. So cool.

2048xWHAT?!

That was my thought when I first read the rumors about the new screen. 🙂 I wanted to end on my favorite feature.

Pictures look good, but text is awesome. I’ve always liked sans-serif fonts because they’re easier to read and seem more sophisticated. It turns out, I liked them because serif fonts look like crap on the low DPI screens that I use.

When I read books in Kindle, or the news on CNN, or anything else, I like to have serif fonts. They look nicer, and I think they are even easier to read now.

Three weeks ago, I never thought I’d be raving about fonts. :p

Conclusion

There are some Android tablets coming out *hopefully* in June that I would be tempted to buy had I not bought an iPad. The Transformer Infinity 700 is my favorite so far. The screen isn’t as good though, it likely will cost more, and I’d have to wait. Do I love Android that much? I thought I did, but after living with the “The new iPad” for a week, I’ve changed my mind. I wish I could buy another one.

Ham Radio License

I’ve been thinking about getting a HAM radio license for a while now. My last backpacking adventure has really pushed me over edge though on this decision.

If I ever get stuck again on a mountain somewhere, I’d really like to be able to call for help.
If there is ever a disaster, I’d also like to be involved in communicating stuff going on in my area.
Lastly, and more importantly, it sounds like it would be fun to mess with.

I’ve always been interested in radios. One of the best things my parents bought when I was a kid was a pair of walkie talkies. We barely had enough range to talk to each other from opposite ends of the house but we had a good deal of fun with them.

I’ve had a basic understanding of radio, but I’d like to learn more about the physics involved as well as the electrical (read as practical) side of things as well.

So, I looked up what I need to pass the test for a technician license as well as a testing center. The next test is in Salt Lake County this coming Saturday. The next test is in June. 😦

I figure I’ll email the administrator of the test and see if I can get on his list of test takers. I’m going to have to study hard this week if I plan to pass the test. It should be interesting.

Apple TV Initial impressions

I just picked up the new Apple TV last night at the somewhat local Apple Store. I’ve been messing with it for a few hours and figured I’d take some notes on my initial thoughts.

  • It’s small
  • It does NetFlix
  • No recurring fees (like XBox 360 for example)
  • iPad mirroring is awesome
  • Streams music/videos from my iMac without hassle
  • YouTube+Mirroring = Win

Setting it up was kind of a pain. The UI has lots of nested elements. Setting it up to pull pictures from my flickr account was confusing. The keyboard is missing some things that most people have come to expect.