Old gadgets. I still have 3 generations of previous cell phones. They’re good for sooooomething, right?
Not only am I neck deep in this new half-marathon running clinic — things are going well, I’ve signed up for a race, I’ve been keeping up with all the runs — but now I’ve gone and volunteered myself as a guest speaker. It’s not that Heather was in a bind, or was short on a topic or anything, but she mentioned offhand a while back that “oh, wouldn’t it be neat if…” and I promptly stuck my hand in the air (metaphorically speaking) and offered my insight.
The topic, inasmuch would please H2G2 fans, is digital watches. Well, specifically digital GPS watches and how to use the watches and the data in a meaningful way to improve one’s running. Now that the price of the gadgets have dropped significantly in the past couple years — a couple hundred bucks will get you a wrist-mounted GPS unit — everyone seems to rush out an buy one as soon as they get themselves a pair of running shoes. It’s good for Garmin, I suppose, but half these people can barely turn them on, let alone use them to track their running and — I’m assuming — download the data for later analysis.
So, Heather casually suggested: “oh, wouldn’t it be neat if we could find someone who actually knows how to use these things to talk about them” temporarily forgetting she had a gadget-slash-information-management guru (self-proclaimed) in her midst. As a consequence, about a week and a half from now I’ll be up in front of the group explaining the nuances of using the watch — in a very general way since there are a half-dozen models now — and more importantly, what to do with the information later.
Actually, I’m kinda excited.
gadget (gÃ„Æ’j’Ã„Ât) (1) noun. A small specialized mechanical or electronic device; a contrivance. (2) noun. Slang for any hardware device, typically small. Synonymous with “gizmo.”
Mine? (And I don’t count computers or cameras as gadgets…)
10. Zircon StudSensor You may find it curious that on a gadget top ten list a stud sensor creeps into the rankings. However, if you are a homeowner and have not made use of this cheap little gadget, time to visit the local hardware store. Easily one of the most useful home tools (I mean, gadgets) I own.
9. Binary Clock Perched on my desk at work stands a little silver box fronted with a careful array of twenty blue LEDs. In cryptic fashion it tells the time, and anyone who has ever come into my office in the last ten months has asked as simple “what?” This may annoy some people, but it serves nicely to reinforce my image as office tech guy.
8. Digital Thermometer A gift for the holidays about a year ago, this has become an indispensable tool in our kitchen. And as we love to cook, this makes the list. Want to broil the perfect piece of tenderloin? Stick a sensitive probe in the middle and wait until the alarm beeps at you to take it out. Let’s see your finger do that.
7. eTrex Legend GPS Admittedly, this is something that got much more use when I had actual time to wander the trails around our neighborhood hunting for geocaches, but I still pull this out quite often to navigate or track photos by matching the tracking data with the timestamp in the photo’s meta data. It sounds way more complex than it really is. The end result it photos with location tags embedded.
6. Solar Calculator Anyone who manages large sums of money would be amiss if they lacked a solid, quick, basic calculator on their desk. It may seem less exciting than some of the other ranking choices, but without it I would be fairly lost. And no, the calculator built into Windows doesn’t count.
5. PSP Silver Slim Yet again, when on the rare occasions when I find time amongst my insanely busy schedule to pull out my portable gaming system, it’s nice to have. It’s also an emulator for old PSOne games — so talk about University years nostalgia.
4. ForeRunner 305 Karin bought me this as a gift over the last holidays and it has already tracked about thirty kilometers of runs. Basically think of it like the ultimate sports watch (timing, training functions, heart rate monitors) coupled with a basic-functionality GPS unit, all strapped to your arm.
3. Blackberry Curve Technically this belongs to work, but it’s mine until I’m done there. I didn’t think I’d find much use for a smart phone, but between mobile email, a crappy little camera with unlimited upload capability, and all the other nifty features, it has become another extension of my body.
2. eBook Reader I’ve stopped counting the number of books I’ve churned through on this thing. Has it paid for itself yet? If we’re just talking pure correlation between dead-tree-book costs and digital downloads, then no — but it’s getting there. If we’re talking entertainment value and my recent ability to access and absorb books I wouldn’t have otherwise, then yes — many times over.
1. iPod Classic A no-brainer at number one, from music to audiobooks to podcast to video, I don’t think a day goes by lately when the iPod is idle. It’s pretty much a media pump connected to my skull.
Your top gadget(s)? And why? Comment…
… but only if you don’t find yourself waiting in line at a store or mall.
10. Nurse your sugar-hangover from eating too many Christmas goodies.
9. Spend two hours hooking up various electronics and explaining to technologically illiterate relatives how to use the gadgets you or someone else gave them.
8. Sample from the variety of coffees and/or teas you found in your stocking the day before.
7. Hide from the rest of the family with a sympathetic brother-in-law to watch one of the numerous DVDs that showed up under the tree.
6. Download photographs for general family enjoyment.
5. Eat some more of the chocolates you found in your stocking, and then regret it a few minutes later.
4. Open one of the new board games you acquired for the holidays and attempt to decipher the rules and play at least one round.
3. Work on the obligatory jigsaw puzzle with some fruitless effort.
2. Hunt through dad’s liquor cabinet to see if he actually has something both festive and interesting to drink.
1. Remind yourself why you only do this once a year.
IANACS* but I do have the tinkering gene. Roughly defined a Tinkerer is one who makes unskilled or experimental efforts at repair; one who fiddles. Long ago, tinkerers built things like clocks, wind-up gadgets, or animated brass models of the solar system. You know: stuff with vaguely meandering or, at best, decorative function.
Today, we tinkerers have computers. And what does it mean to be a tinkerer when it comes to software development? Well, simply, it means that one takes code and experimentally “fiddles” with it until it does something — something interesting or something decorative — sometimes even something useful.
This is of course leading up to a real life example. Case-in-point: last night. Last night I was tinkerering with my meal planning software again. For those needing a recap: we (though don’t put too much blame on Karin for this one) built a piece of software (in the loosest defintion of the word) to manage our meal planning. You know: those elaborate dishes that we cook and eat on a somewhat daily basis — someone needs to plan those. The software uses recipes and ingredients for those recipes, in a small database to sort and arrange meal plans on a per-day basis, and also prints out shopping lists.
It’s, specifically, a tinkering-type project.
Thing is: I launched it last night, groovy and cool, and with pretty graphics and a user interface. It’s like my little baby now, sent out into the multiverse to grow and prosper. Sniff. I’m so proud. Someday I might even let others inside to have a peek.
* I Am Not A Computer Scientist
The next few sentences are going to sound very lame. If you are sensitive to this type of thing, then I suggest you jump ahead to the next paragraph. I just wanted to note that I recieved my new keyboard in the mail. In essence this means that the words you are now reading are in fact beginning their humble lives as data on my pda, rather than as a computer file. I don’t wish to belabour the point, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Now on to something interesting.
It is Saturday afternoon There was snow last night, so it’s a little bit cool outside. The snow is all gone, but there is still a crispness in the air. Not that there is any continuity in this: but I didn’t get to sleep in at all. I was up shortly after 7 am lurking about my apartment wondering what to do with myself besides watch the television, as comes so automatically. Its not that I was woken up, but I have come to the conclusion that – having not slept past about 7 am in a number of weeks – I must be almost completely conditioned to wake up at about that time, and fated to wake at that hour for all eternity. You would think with all this extra waking time I would do something productive: catch up on emails, read a book, or write something more interesting that this drivel… Rather, I started to clean. (As I was out camping with the cubs last weekend, I have not really had a chance to do a good once-over in a couple of weeks) It’s a pointless task all ’round. But now it is done, it looks nice, and I can play.
What a thrilling life I lead.