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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Intel Compute Stick and Ubuntu review - the new wave in computing systems? 

My brother recently sent over an Intel Compute Stick - model STK1A32SC as a birthday gift.

http://www.intel.com/content/dam/support/us/en/documents/boardsandkits/computestick/STK1AW32SC_STK1A32SC_TechProdSpec.pdf
Of course this is somewhat a geek toy, especially the bare stick without the OS installed.

You will need a bootable USB flash drive with the Ubuntu image installed - and the Atom CPU version. Full instructions and download are here. ARMed (geek joke) with this - you are ready to install and enjoy Ubuntu 64bit on this system. I installed a 128Gb MicroSD card into the Compute Stick also. Along with plugging in an old USB keyboard to do the initial install. Then once Ubuntu was running, I plugged in a Logitech USB with wireless keyboard and mouse. 

Everything then works wonderfully, LibreOffice 5, Skype, NetFlix (install Chrome browser) and YouTube along with Pandora. Plus Microsoft Office365 and Outlook works perfectly in FireFox. Along with my own Java based Eclipsed XML editor project (http://www.cameditor.org) Ubuntu 64bit distribution.

For Skype I setup the Logitech C320 Web Cam. There's Ubuntu community help for this, it is a little fiddly to get Skype using the microphone and video but it does and the quality to amazing (apt-get install pavucontrol and use that resolve).  One caveat, the WiFi adapter is not the most powerful (although Intel improved this), so you do need a strong WiFi signal near by at home or office (it did work perfectly with my Sony Xperia phone running as a HotSpot with T-Mobile however).  Also I bought a 3 foot HDMI cable so signal is not blocked by the Stick sitting behind the screen display.

Next I used the Bluetooth to connect to my Sony DR-BT50 high fidelity headphones and played Pandora - this is like having satellite XM radio for free.

I'm using a Vizio HD 19" display with HDMI port to round out the system.

Here is what the Compute Stick looks like (with mouse for size comparison), with the HDMI short cord plugged into the TV monitor. From left to right on the Compute Stick edge are USB3 with Web cam, the USB2 with Logitech micro USB wireless keyboard/mouse dome and then the micro USB power cord plug.


And then below is the complete system, with the monitor display, full size keyboard, Web cam and Bluetooth headphones. And best of all I had all these items already, so nothing to purchase.
When you look at this you realize that a system like this would have cost double a few years ago. The processing power in the quad core Atom CPU combined with the 2Gb of main memory is impressive. The boot up speed from the MicroSD card is a few seconds and the shutdown is instantaneous. 
 
I am writing this blog now on the system and this has now replaced my old Dell E6410 laptop as my main daily solution and so far the performance is very comparable for daily tasks.  I am adding a USB3 1TB external drive next, so I can synchronize my work Home folders, and also have movies to play, and my whole archive of work materials.

The portability is impressive. Compared to lugging around the laptop. What I like though is that this is a componentized computing solution.

When Intel come out with the next Compute Stick I can simply install the latest Ubuntu OS and plug that system into the same set of peripherals and roll forward.  Or if one component fails, I simply replace that.

The folks at Intel need to do more marketing around this flexibility and power that they are enabling. Here is the system monitor showing the analytics when running FireFox browser with multiple sites open, include OutLook365, along with using the OxygenXML development IDE, a Java application, along with an open spreadsheet in Libre Office 5.


Business is also paying attention; at work they realize this is a serious option compared to giving new employees laptops. And even more so for travelling and flying around.  Just plug into the business center display or room TV at the hotel, or to present to a client, their A/V system HDMI port. Then secretarial staff, e.g. in hospitals and nursing homes, this is a cheap and effective option compared to desktop computers, or even for patients rooms, the ability to stream NetFlix, Pandora and TV and Radio stations. 

Plus of course for remote monitoring device systems, where you can use Ubuntu to connect to devices around the home or facility. 

All around this is superb functionality; like having a Raspberry Pi on steroids.


Addendum:

The USB ports are slightly wider, probably a design decision by Intel to avoid stress on the connectors on the board inside the Stick. This does make the connections looser than desirable so to solve this I install a shim snipped off the edge of a store keyring customer loyalty card as it is the right thickness. With this in the USB connection for the USB hub is tight and solid, I just leave the hub connected permanently.

Here is what the shim looks like on the USB connector.










Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Quick review of Schwalbe One 451 road tires 

The Schwalbe One are the replacement for the Ultremo ZX which I've ridden for 4,000+ miles and over a year now.

So how do the One tires compare? First impressions very good, very equal on weight and feel in your hand, and depth of rubber around the heel of the tire where you need it most.

The ZX side wall had a tendency to shred strands of cotton, but the new One shows no signs of that.

Schwalbe claim the rolling resistance is lower on the One tires.  Certainly these One's are just as fast as the ZX, maybe a tad faster.  I rode them for the first time in Richmond for the UCI event and did the Cary Street bikes group ride for 40 miles on my Bike Friday, averaging just over 20mph and several segments we were averaging in the high 25+ mph. So I am convinced there - these tires are blazing quick.

Durability seems to be improved also, I have ridden close to 350 miles now on the tires, variety of road quality and trails and they are holding up well.

I keep them at around 110psi inflation with regular 451 inner tubes and that provides a excellent ride quality.

Overall I would give these new Schwalbe One tires a firm and positive recommend.  Worth the asking price, and looking forward to another 4,000 miles ridden on these tires and my Bike Friday.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Using OpenShot with Instagram - Guide for Loading Pre-Recorded Video to Instagram 

While uploading still pictures to Instagram from your DSLR is a straightforward process, doing the same with video clips is entirely another matter.

Video has a whole raft of parameters associated with it, and Instagram is rather picky on what it will accept. In fact it has to be precisely formatted for Instagram use.

This is a quick guide to explain how to use the OpenShot video editor to achieve reliable uploads. 

You can download and install OpenShot here. You can also find a wealth of tutorials and how to videos.  My focus here is just on using OpenShot for Instagram.

First thing is to open your video clip in OpenShot and then trim the length to be 15 seconds or less.  I also add a Fade of Fast In and Fast Out - so views smoothly.

Then you are ready to Export your video.  Before selecting the Export menu option however the first step is to go to "Edit / Preferences" and select the "Profiles" tab, then "Manage" and click the "+" to Add a new Profile.

Here is a screen shot of what you need to complete there:



Notice the format is 640 x 640, 1 : 1 aspect ratio.  Don't worry if your original video is not in that format, OpenShot will handle all the export formatting for you.

Next "Save" the new template, and proceed to the "File / Export" option.

Now you need to pick these options for the Video and Audio formatting:






Every single setting is crucial. The only one I have found is flexible is the number of audio channels. 2 appears to work, although Instagram themselves recommend just 1 channel.

Complete the settings; save your video clip.  Then you need to transfer the clip to your mobile device so you can use the Instagram App to publish it.  The clips are less than 10Mb is size so I simply email it to my mobile device email account, download it there, and then open Instagram.

Then once there, click the Camera button to take a picture, switch to video mode, and then click the GRID BOX of dots to the right. This will allow you to browse and select your downloaded video.  Then proceed as normal to publish to Instagram.






Monday, October 06, 2014

Understanding the Two Halves of America 

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/10/02/magazine/mag-oil-lawsuit.html - and seeing how the wheels of government are manipulated and twisted and turned. All the various interests that are conflicted.

The article is long, but very well written. Portraits of the characters are delightfully drawn. Behind it all is the reality but beyond that is the sense that changing all this is desperately difficult, and that the lessons are now learned. History is repeating itself already with the frightening tar sands escapades.

The love affair and addiction to oil and everything it brings is too alluring.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Trek Cronus CX Pro Gary Fisher 2013 (and Ultimate) Bike Review 

Sharing my initial thoughts here on the Trek Cronus CX Pro 2013 (Gary Fisher) bike that I recently acquired through eBay. I have been doing CX racing now for two years, initially racing my own custom build bike using a cheap Nashbar frame and carbon forks along with parts from my garage and from eBay that works surprisingly well.  The Stan's NoTubes wheels with tubeless Clement tires are an essential component, however the Cronus CX is obviously in a whole another league.

Buying from eBay is clearly dependent on your knowledge of the current bike scene and confidence in using eBay.  More reputable dealers and sellers provide lots of detailed pictures in high resolution and good lighting of the bike, plus history and trim of the bike.  And you can gauge prices from sites like the Bicycle Blue Book.  The listing for the Trek Gary Fisher Cronus CX Pro 2013 is reflective of the current market on eBay.

So now to the bike itself.  The one I have is significantly upgraded from the base CX Pro model to equivalent with the Ultimate trim.  Including the Ultegra CX70 crankset, Ultegra shifters, TRP CX9 brakes and Look carbon pedals along with the Stan's NoTubes 340 wheelset and Clement tires.  Then I also found a second set of NoTube 340's with DT Swiss hubs and tubeless Hutchinson 700x23 road race tires on eBay.  Equipped with these wheels the Trek Cronus CX Pro weighs exactly 17 lbs kerb weight ready to ride.  If you wanted sub-17lb bragging rights then swap the stock Bontrager stem with something 30 grams lighter. I am 6' 2" and the 56cm frame fits perfectly with the saddle height and angle extremely comfortable - almost embarrassingly nice - along with the reach onto the hoods and bars and cockpit overall.  Note that I put the stock Bontrager wheelset and QR levers and CX0 tires back on my old Nashbar ride.  The CX0 tires are actually very good, but the stock wheels are well, stock wheels, heavy and average, pushing the total kerb weight up to 18.7 lbs with the CX0 tires and tubes.

So the idea is with the way I have the Cronus CX Pro setup this is a "do it all" bike - cyclocross for three months of the year, some single trail off road riding in the winter months, and then swap the wheelsets and switch to a mean quick road machine for shorter summer rides and training runs.  I've tried it on my indoor training rollers too and 80rpm and 27mph on zero resistance were effortless to spin (riding is not supposed to be this easy).  Also because you can fit fenders and bottle cages, this would make an ideal commuter bike too. I have on order a 50T front chain ring also, as the stock CX70 crankset is a 46T x 36T ratio, so the 50T will give some more cruising and top speed on the road. One other thing I notice with the wide frame and clearances, this bike is super easy to wipe down and keep nicely clean from normal road use.

The most important aspect of course is how does the Cronus CX ride? This is my first Trek bike and I must say I am very impressed.  I have a stable of other bikes but equipped with the tubeless Hutchinson tires this Cronus CX rides smoother than any other, including my steel framed touring bikes.The acceleration and cornering are phenomenal, this bike flat out responds and flies.  Rock solid at speed in and through corners.  If you are into logging rides on Strava this road setup has serious KOM potential on shorter hilly and stop go sections with turns.  Plus the CX frame smooths out those rough road sections taking the jarring and bumping out. I already set one new KOM on my first ride on the Cronus where the road rattled the heck out of you on my trusty Kestrel carbon road racer but the Cronus took it in stride.  Now overall of course it is a cyclocross frame and geometry so I'm not expecting to push 50 mile and 100 mile rides, but 20 to 30 miles seems very doable.

I think Trek and Gary Fisher have this spot on.  If you drop this much on a bike you want to use it way more than just a few races in the fall during cyclocross season.  I'm planning to put some serious miles on this bike and it definitely gets you excited to get out there on the road and see what it can do and rewards with great road feel, cornering and ability to sprint and go under power and also mix it up on varied terrain.

I will provide more updates here as time progresses and I get more experience. Overall though if you are looking at the Cronus CX as a possibility then I don't have anything bad to say at this point; put the Cronus on your check list.  Here is what the BikeRadar Cronus CX Pro 2012 review had to say too, and then this review from the UK of the Cronus CX Pro 2013 model (and nice picture gallery views/details), but the most comprehensive review is here from Road.cc magazine on Cronus CX Pro 2012.

Addendum

I just did my New Years 2014 ride with the local bike fraternity and get back home to find that Trek has released the new Boone CX as the top dog badass CX race machine. See the CX magazine Boone news splash.

Ah well, there is always the newer model out there; however looks like they are continuing the Cronus CX as it fills a more all-round space than the Boone, and priced and equipped accordingly. 

Further Thoughts

Spent last two days charging around throwing Cronus at local ride courses and the more I spend time on this bike, the more I'm impressed. Today I rode through our local park on rough wooden bridges and trestles - usually this is a bone and teeth jarring past time on my Kestrel carbon road bike with 120psi slick tires - but the Cronus glides over these with barely a rumble - tubeless 90psi rubber and OCLV frame and consequently averages 3 mph faster with no effort. Crazy impressive. Then a couple of tough hill sections - Cat 4 romps on Strava and I better both my best times and set one KOM.  The Cronus just invites you to throw the power down and then get out the saddle and crank and rewards that effort accordingly. But what about the raw sprint speed? Well I put on a 50T crank ring and so top speed is only a whisker under my Kestrel, but the overall speed is better as the climbing is so much improved and of course cornering and descending is rock solid. Quicker, smoother, more agile. Not bad at all for what is billed as a CX bike.

If the new Trek Boone is better than this then that has to be one heck of a ride.

For comparison of the bike specifications see this page on the Boone. Interestingly "Compared to Cronus, Boone has a lower head tube, longer top tube, steeper seat angle, lower BB, and shortened chainstays. This makes for a more forward, race-oriented riding position."  Probably means the Cronus is easier on the body when riding on road instead.  The road.cc review link above has a good assessment of the Cronus cockpit configuration and ride setup.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Biking YouTube video channel - 20,000 views and counting 

The rise of modern biking continues driven by technology changes and the level of the machines now available at reasonable price points.

My little small corner and contribution to the biking world has now passed the 20,000 views milestone, something I never even thought about when I posted the first video on indoor roller riding made easier: http://www.youtube.com/user/MDBikerDude

A little tribute to sweat, toil and fun on wheels with cranks and gears.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sykesville CX 2013 Psycho Cyclocross race photos 

Finding pictures from the Sykesville cyclocross event for 2013 has proven to be a challenge - so I've blogged this here to help Google find these for everyone.

Collection #1: http://shaungalang.smugmug.com/Sports/Cyclocross/Psycho-Cross-2013

And then Youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laimmvhE0cQ

Enjoy!

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Nokon Brake Cabling and Bike Friday folding Crusoe 

I'm going to talk more about my Crusoe upgrade and more equipment recommends in another post, but for now wanted to share experiences and lessons from installing the Nokon cable set on my Bike Friday Crusoe, replacing the original brake cabling.

First important detail is that being an older build (circa 2006) the bike does not have the newer cable routing and ferrules, so this necessitated the use of a full Nokon kit and one extension kit to complete the brakes cabling.

With the Nokons the important gains are significantly better braking touch, feel and braking power; and then shedding at least three ounces in weight.  The older Bike Friday brake cabling is steel clad and unbelievably heavy.  Plus the stainless steel brake cable with the Nokon kit is super high quality and heavy duty; they look like they will last 100 years.

On the down side the Nokon housing casing beads do slide around in the old Bike Friday 5mm cable routing eyelets, but that is because the eyelets are really 6mm and designed to let the cable slip around when the bike is folded.  To solve this I used the clear plastic cable protectors that Nokon provide in the kit.  You can see this installed here (click on image to enlarge view).



Notice also two protectors, the second (far left) is for when the bike is folded (there is about 4" of cable length play needed to allow this movement during folding).  You can see an extra piece of protector behind the right cable eyelet, my attempt to prevent rattle and slap onto the frame on rough road sections.  Notice also that the entire cable run is using the casing beads.  Again because I do not have the newer cable ferrules I cannot leave the stainless steel cable run open for the section running along the frame; the whole thing has to be casing. What solved the rattling and looseness is to use two small pieces of sticky putty (the type used to put posters on walls), one on each cable eyelet.  With these in place everything is firm and totally quiet riding.

I would recommend installing the front brake cable first as it is much simpler to do and once you have mastered that, proceed to the rear one.  I of course did the reverse as the rear brake action was giving me issues and needed attention first.

Overall now I have it working I am pleased with the results.  Firmer braking is a major plus, and predictable brake operation.  I was able to leave good clearance on the Paul's brake pads on both front and back to avoid post-braking rub on wheel rims as the brake blocks settle back out and away from the rims.

The Nokon housing and cables feel and look excellent.  Others have mentioned quality issues, corrosion and squeaks.  I see none of that.

These two images show the front cable routing and then the full rear cable length routing.



The rear routing especially is much superior to the old Bike Friday provided cable.



Notice however that the gear shifters are using stock black Shimano shifter cables (which I replaced the old Friday cables with a couple of years ago).  I have found these to be excellent and have no reason to change these.  Also, having put the brake cabling on, I have my doubts that the Nokon would function with my bar end friction shifters given that I do not have the newer cable ferrules to lock the cable casing into.

Overall then I can recommend using the Nokon cabling to replace the brake cabling on your Bike Friday.  If you have the newer cable routing ferrules and indexed shifters then you could also contemplate the gear cables too.  The gear shifters will of course require a second Nokon kit to complete with so that adds some expense.  Hunt around to find the lowest prices available online.  What I paid I am happy with given the big improvement in braking performance and quality of this German solution; these should last now the lifetime of the bike.

I would have liked to have used an American made option here.  The only one that looked promising was the PowerCordz system.  They did not have the casing in green however, and also I was worried the casing is too stiff to use in folding along with being too thin to fit the Bike Friday old routing fittings.

Resources:

Product Reviews - Bike Test Review and Bike Habit Blog

How to example videos - Nokon with shifters; and Nokon with brakes.


Monday, August 13, 2012

See what America did not from London Olympics closing ceremony 

If you watched the closing ceremony on NBC in America then you were victim to censorship by omission.  Who chose what you saw and why?

Well you may be able to deduce that by seeing what you missed!

So Simon's Cowls "boy band" - IN - Kate Bush - OUT - go figure.

Freedom of artistic expression - what is that, who needs that?

Our advertisers and sponsors do not care for that idea at all.

Add to the list - The Who, Muse, Ray Davis and more segments.

You would not want American audiences being subjected to any liberal thinking and ideas from those troublesome Europeans, now would you?

Just pass out the medals, play the national anthems and we will see you in 4 years time in Rio.  Now those folks really know how to put on a Carnival and TV spectacular with zero overtones or hidden themes; we hope.

But then if you need a round up of how the French, Germans and Americans viewed the games differently, please see this report.



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