My Apps – Chapter 1
PhotoWise & FP Express

PhotoWise and FrontPage ExpressIn Chapter 1 of the My Gear series of articles, I mentioned the PhotoWise software that came with an Agfa camera. I didn’t offer much of a description and subsequent My Gear posts have rarely even mentioned software. But I’ve got it. I need it. It’s often more important than the hardware.

So I’m starting up a My Apps series. I’ve a feeling that it won’t be as well behaved, with nice edges, as My Gear and, as if to prove that, I’m starting off with an article on two different pieces of software. One reason for the lack of neat edges is that software isn’t always acquired intentionally but because it was bundled with something else. Another reason is that there is a high probability of overlap between the old and the new. You get something better or at least newer and it takes awhile to master it. You need to keep functioning until that happens and you do that with the old and familiar. Unlike hardware, I don’t always have good dates for when I acquired something and I rarely have a date for when I really started using it. The two are almost never the same.

These two applications were in my hands when I set off on the first documented trip on Route 66. Both were there because of bundling. As already stated, PhotoWise came with the camera I bought in July of 1999. FrontPage Express was a stripped down version of Microsoft’s FrontPage website builder that once came bundled with Internet Explorer. The practice seems to have stopped after IE 5 and the product vanished. Neither was “best of breed” but both were quite capable and rather easy to use. With my 1999 budget it would have taken some really shiny bells and some finely tuned whistles to compete with free.

FrontPage ExpressLike its big brother, FrontPage Express was a WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor that allowed you to lay out a web page and position various elements on it without knowing HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). It differed from full blown FrontPage in the type and number of elements supported and some other capabilities which, for the most part, were beyond me anyway. As with most editors of this sort, it also allowed access to the HTML behind the page.

A popular method of learning what was behind a webpage you liked was simply looking. Virtually every web browser supports display of a page’s source code and I did plenty of that. My programming background allowed me to deal with the HTML to some degree but I’ve never approached the proficiency I once had with ancient languages like C and C++. Advances in tools and techniques have made calling up a single page of source code a lot less useful than it once was but I got some serious mileage from it a bit over a decade back. Most of the work and all of the playing occurred at home. On the road, what I had to do each day was flesh out a page that, in form and function, was pretty much like the one for the day before. I’ve improved on this over the years but, even in the beginning, I was really doing a form of “fill in the blanks” as I traveled.

Would I do it that way again? Probably not. Actually, if I was setting out on that first trip today, I might not do it at all. Today there is readily available blog software that has made doing daily trip reports fairly easy so maybe it wouldn’t even look like fun to me. On the other hand, if my first trip started today and doing a daily trip report did appeal to me, I’d almost certainly take advantage of the software-that-has-made-doing-daily-trip-reports-fairly-easy. I’m using it for this blog. But that software did not exist when I hit the road in August of 1999. It’s more or less accepted that the word “blog” first appeared on a website in April or May of 1999. I hadn’t yet heard the word when my first “practice” pages went on line in July of that year. Movable Type was first released in September 2001. Cafelog, the predecessor of WordPress, also appeared sometime in 2001. WordPress itself was launched in 2003.

PhotoWise screenshotPhotoWise seemed to be exactly the program I needed to prepare pictures for the web. I could crop, resize, and rotate and there were adjustments for many image attributes including color and hue and saturation. About the only things I ever played with were contrast and brightness. Apparently I decided to post 512×384 pixel pictures for that first trip. That was half the resolution of the Agfa camera which meant I could trim away a fair amount of garbage if necessary. Pictures could be saved in four different quality levels. I used Medium (which was probably better than the pictures deserved) rather than High for smaller files. Once the full size picture was ready, I did some more cropping and shrinking to make thumbnails.

Using thumbnails and keeping file sizes down had been preached to me by a real web designer who took the time to look at my early pre-trip efforts and make suggestions. The reason, of course, was to minimize page download time. At least that was my reason when I first started out. After a few nights on the road, it became quite obvious that page upload time was pretty danged important, too. I’m still concerned with file sizes and download speeds but sometimes think I’m the only one who is. That’s unfortunate. Broadband merely conceals bad practices; It doesn’t convert them.

I don’t really know when I stopped using these two programs. I do know that I continued to keep PhotoWise in place even after I switched to something else for the picture editing. PhotoWise had an “album” feature, seen in the screenshot above, that provided thumbnail views of all pictures in a directory. The new program eventually added a similar feature then Microsoft Windows finally provided it directly. Until that happened, PhotoWise was my photo browser.

Those “practice” pages I mentioned are still there but hidden. I first tried a page with scanned images taken earlier in the year with a film camera. Next was a page with images from the digital camera as a test run for the whole process. To reach them, head to the 1999 Route 66 trip, select day ‘0’, then click “prev”. That brings up day -33 with the digital pictures. Click “prev” again to reach the scanned pictures of Day -202.

The textured beige background that appears on the majority of pages in the trip report section of this site, was one of the built-in choices for FrontPage Express. Initially, when this was a one trip site, it was on every page. I liked it and have kept it for the trip cover pages and for most daily pages. I believe the only exceptions are for Christmas Day.

My Gear – Chapter 10
Toshiba Satellite A105

Toshiba Satellite My HP Pavilion was misbehaving by September of 2005 but I somehow put off buying a replacement until April of 2006. The problem was a motherboard crack that affected the power. I could minimize its surprise shut-downs by keeping it stationary so I nursed it through the winter by doing just that and using the aged but trusty Toshiba Portege from time to time. Because both the Portege and the Libretto had served me well, when I finally I went shopping it was specifically for a Toshiba. For $850 I got a Satellite A105 with an 80 GB hard drive and a 1.7 GHz Intel Celeron processor running Windows XP. I believe it might have come home with 512 MB RAM but I soon brought that up to the maximum 2 GB. This was a pretty nice machine.

I suspect this was about the time laptops were really hitting their stride in terms of popularity. In the world of consumer electronics, popularity often leads to economies of scale (once the leading edge gouging is over) and competition also drives prices down. Just two years before, I’d paid close to $1400 for a comparable laptop and that wasn’t particularly expensive. Nor was the $850 price of the Satellite particularly cheap. By 2006, laptops were well on their way to becoming a commodity just as desktop computers had before them.

I believe my faith in Toshiba was justified. Although the HP Pavilion was a little more than two years old when I replaced it, it was really limping for the final six months. The Satellite was still working when I retired it after nearly three years. It made me nervous though. It had taken to overheating unless given lots of open space. The teeth or bars had long since broken out of the cooling vent on the side and there were a couple of real cracks elsewhere in the plastic case. Wiggling the power cable could interrupt the flow of electricity and I feared this indicated a broken connection at the computer end. The Portege had once shown similar symptoms. That problem had clearly originated with cracks in the case and had required some bartered for expert repair.

I’m quite happy with the Satellite’s successor but I may have, in hindsight, retired the Satellite prematurely. I imagine the cooling issues could have been solved with a good cleaning and I’ve become convinced that the power problems came from a break in the cable and not a break inside the computer. The case continued to disintegrate making it likely that continued living on the road would have eventually broke something of importance but it still boots up and could possibly still perform in a pinch.

My Gear – Chapter 9 — Nikon Coolpix 3200

Sixty-Six the Hard Way

66 the Hard WayThis trip has been a tough one to get started. It has its roots in some decade old thoughts about driving US-22 end to end that morphed into plans for combining that with a drive of US-44, the only other surviving twin-digit even-numbered US highway. I’ve had it penciled in a couple of times then had it all down in ink at the end of last summer. The route was plotted and motels booked for some of the key dates. I had my voucher for a one day dash-in dash-out tour of Boston to separate the eastbound staging from the westbound drive. The ink, however, was not waterproof. At least not waterproof enough for a hurricane. When it became apparent that Hurricane Irene and I were headed for the same spot at the same time, I played the gentleman and let the lady have it all to herself.

Plans for a spring time reschedule have been a little slippery but they’ve finally been tacked into place and I am now on the road. The cover page is still here where it’s been since last year’s.almost trip but now the first day is posted and there’s more on the way. A couple of days heading east, a day in Boston, and a couple on the cape. Then it will be back home on US-44 + US-22 — a.k.a, 66 the hard way.

This blog entry is to provide a landing spot for comments on the trip.

Seventy Years After

Doolittle Raiders Special DeliveryOn April 18, 1942, sixteen B-25s launched from carriers on a one way bombing raid over Japan. The physical damage it caused might not have been all that significant but it delivered a much needed lift to moral in the United States and prompted some rethinking and altering of plans by the Japanese commanders. Four of the surviving raiders continue their week long reunion today and tomorrow in Dayton, Ohio. On Tuesday and Wednesday, airplanes like the ones that made the raid were on hand at the reunion. I was there both days and have an Oddment entry here. Pointing to that entry and providing a place for comments are the primary reasons for this blog entry but…

…I also revisited a couple of interesting eating establisments.

Hasty TastyHasty TastyBreakfast was at the 60 year old Hasty-Tasty Pancake House just a couple of miles from the Air Force Museum. I’ve eaten here before but don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it in either a blog post of a trip journal. A wonderful Dayton eatery where the waitresses that don’t call you “Honey” call you “Sugar”.

Many of the B-25s headed back to Urbana after the flyover and so did I once the memorial service had concluded and traffic cleared a bit. Several of the planes are staying at Grimes Field for a day or two and there is a nice museum that includes a DC3 cargo plane you can climb inside. I took pictures there that could have been included in the Oddment page but I feared that would be overkill.

Crabill's Hamburgers

Crabill's HamburgersCrabill’s Hamburgers, at the west edge of Urbana, is even older than the Hasty Tasty although it has moved once. I did mention it when I stopped last summer and none other than David Crabill praised crisp hotdogs. I resolved to try one on my next visit and this was it. Andy cooked the ‘dog just right while I downed my dinner then the friendly but unnamed (Oops, sorry.) waitress obliged me by putting relish on just one half so I could taste it both ways without buying two. The Tootsie Roll is the reward everyone gets for cleaning their plate waxed paper .

Big Music in Small Places

Lisa Biales at MontageIt was double good news when I learned that Ronstadt Generations would be performing nearby. Not only was it a chance to see the talented guys from Tuscon, it was a chance to see a venue I’d only heard — and only heard good things — about. Then, when I began to make arrangements to attend,
I discovered that there was another show happening a couple of nights earlier that I was also interested in.

The Ronstadt Generations performance would be a “house concert” on a Saturday at the home of Marc & Lisa Biales. Lisa would be the opener and would almost certainly be joining RG for a few tunes. When I looked at Lisa’s online schedule, I spotted Greenville, Ohio, listed for the preceding Thursday. Greenville!?!? That’s the big city in my home county. I’m there every couple of weeks. This was big news. I have lots of family there and contacted an aunt who I knew would like Lisa’s music. We made plans to attend and my step-mother surprised me just a little by agreeing to go, too. We got there early and ate some rather tasty sandwiches as we watched a sound check and the arrival of other attendees. My aunt has been to several performances at Montage and told us that the acoustics weren’t great and that the place could get pretty noisy. Lisa and friends proceeded to prove her wrong for at least one night.

The music held everyone’s attention and everyone held their tongues. A friend who stopped by our table during intermission commented, “That’s a lot of talent to have in Greenville at one time.” The cellphone picture that leads off the post is from that show. Besides fulfilling the claim that “If you want a picture really bad, I’ve got a really bad picture”, it gives a little idea of the intimate setting and you can see all the players if you squint just right. From the left there’s the Lisa Biales Trio: Doug Hamilton, Lisa, and Michael G Ronstadt. Surprise bonus guests are on the right. The other two RG members, Petie and Michael J, (who Lisa settled on referring to as Poppa Ronstadt) came along and sat in for a few songs. A wonderfully unique and unforgettable evening.

The show was part of the Darke County Center for the Arts Coffee House Series. Although this was my first time at Montage, I have attended and enjoyed other DCCA events (e.g., Eric Bibb, Riders in the Sky). They do good stuff.

Big Song Music HouseThis is Marc & Lisa’s Big Song Music House. In quiet times, the curved array of tall windows on the left provides a relaxing view of the Oxford, Ohio, countryside. Close the big curtain, however, and the view is replaced by the perfect backdrop for performing musicians. Lisa talks glowingly of the land on which the house sits. There are trails, small critters, and two Lovers Leaps (both regular and “Luke-Warm”). I hope to see some of that on a future visit.

Lisa Biales & Michael G RonstadtLisa BialesLisa stepped to the mic at almost exactly 8:00 to get things rolling. One member of the Lisa Biales Trio, Doug Hamilton, was missing tonight so Lisa and Michael G Ronstadt just delivered a great set as a duo. Knowing Lisa would return now and then to sing with the Ronstadts made letting her go after just three songs at least acceptable.

Ronstadt GenerationsThe music was barely paused as Ronstadt Generations took the stage. Not only does Michael G get to sit while everyone else stands (a major cello plus he likes to point out) but he often gets to sit while groups of musicians form around him. Oddly enough, this was the first time I’d seen the official Ronstadt Generations live and in person. I did see them in 2010 but without Michael G. Of course, musicians of this caliber make great music whether they’re in their “official” grouping or not.

Lisa Biales & Ronstadt GenerationsRonstadt GenerationsSure, there was some overlap between Saturday’s show and what
I heard on Thursday but there were plenty of differences, too. Thursday was Lisa’s gig and the Ronstadts, other than Michael G, were featured guests. The situation was basically reversed on Saturday. But the guests got ample stage time in both concerts. The picture with all four musicians was chosen to give some hint of how much fun the performers were having and of how intimate the setting was. The heads in the front row (where I sat, on the right, for the first half of the evening) show that the audience gets quite close but the room, though fairly full, never felt crowded.

It’s impossible to pick a favorite. Lisa Biales with special guests Ronstadt Generations or Ronstadt Generations with special guest Lisa Biales. Thank goodness those two lineups will never be playing across town from each other on the same night.

Gary Sugarman at Essencha Tea HouseThis is Gary Sugarman, a neighbor of mine who likes to play guitar and sing. A few years ago, he hooked up with a couple of friends who liked doing that, too, and they had a good time playing and singing and occasionally entertaining small groups. Things changed a little when they added a drummer but they were still having fun. Next came a bassist and that “we’re a band” moment. It was still fun but not quite as much and the fun was sometimes offset with something that felt a little like work. Gary is still part of that band, the Creekyknees, but decided to try performing solo for the first time. He’s approaching it cautiously and debuted today in the small Essencha Tea House. It holds about twenty and was seeded by a half dozen friends. I made it for his second set and liked what I heard. So did his other friends plus some ten or so people who didn’t know him at all. Will Gary be soloing more in the future? Don’t know. Did he have fun? Absolutely.

East, Easter, Eastest

Easter RabbitYes I am one of the sabbath slighting sots of Cincinnati mentioned in the previous post but I don’t slight holidays.
I may not be entirely sold on the religious significance of some of them but days that appear in red on the calendar and give humankind a reason to do something different are OK by me.

May you find all your eggs without stepping on them, your chocolate bunnies before someone else bites the ears off, and your Peeps before they reach the hardness of granite.

Happy Opening Day

Cincinnati 2012 Opening Day ParadeCincinnati did it again. As they have seven times previously, the fine folks in Cincinnati threw a parade for my birthday. They almost didn’t get it done this year. You see, they don’t have a parade on my birthday every year but they do have a parade on Reds’ opening day every year.

“They” are the folks over at Findlay Market. The market is even more of a Cincinnati institution than the Reds. It opened in 1855 and is the oldest continuously operated public market in the state of Ohio. The Findlay Market website contains some great reading on the history of Findlay and several other Cincinnati markets, too. Merchants from the market have been participating in the parade since 1920 and long ago became its organizers. They are, however, merchants first and paraders second and the original date for this year’s opener presented a problem. The original date was April 6 which is also Good Friday which is also one of the Market’s biggest days. They couldn’t afford to shut down for the day but it was unthinkable to scrap the parade. Fortunately Major League Baseball and everyone else involved agreed and the game was moved to the 5th and I get a birthday parade. There’s a good story about the date move here.

Even when it’s not on my birthday, Opening Day in Cincinnati is something special. The Reds are the only major league baseball team that starts each season at home. With one exception, they always have. The fact that Cincinnati is the birthplace of professional baseball surely has something to do with that but there were also practical reasons involved in the early days when many of the other teams were in cities even further north with even colder and muddier springtimes than Cincinnati.

I suppose I’ve been a Reds fan from the day I was born but my early exposure came from the newspaper and radio with a little TV thrown in as I got older. My first memory of being in Cincinnati for Opening Day was 1967 when I was co-oping with the Cincinnati Water Works. An unwritten rule was that any city employee who proved they were going to the game by showing a ticket could take all or half the day off without pay and without repercussions. I know that wasn’t absolute and that there were many exceptions but I do recall the office being rather sparsely populated that day.

The parade now has its own website separate from the one for the Market. It’s here. Click on that “History of Opening Day” link near the top of the page for some excellent reading. Highlights include the fact that the Reds (known then as the Red Stockings) held their first opening day parade in 1890 which was also the first year the current franchise played in the National League. Another Cincinnati Red Stockings team had been a founding member of the league in 1876 but that club was expelled in 1880 for ignoring a couple of league rules. The NL decreed that games should not be played on Sunday and that no alcohol should be available when they were played. A lot of beer drinkers in Cincinnati thought otherwise. Apparently that original franchise got moved to Detroit where, as the Wolverines, it folded in 1888. The sabbath slighting sots in Cincinnati formed a new team and helped form a new league. The new team reused the Red Stockings name and the new league was officially named the American Association. One unofficial name was the “Beer League”. It was during their time in the AA that the team played that lone opener on the road. In 1888, they traveled a hundred miles down river to play the Louisville Colonels. Financial problems ended the AA in 1891 after just ten seasons. The Cincinnati club had jumped to the NL two years before the end. On April 19, 1890, they promoted their first NL game with their first opening day parade. That inaugural parade consisted of one streetcar for a band, another for the home team, and a third for the visitors, the Chicago Colts (formerly White Stockings, eventually Cubs).

Grand Marshall Aaron BooneAt two and a half hours, today’s parade was significantly longer. Former Red Aaron Boone was the parade’s Grand Marshall. Aaron had a pretty cushy ride compared to Bobby Ball Walker and Ronnie Ring Roller. If these guys walked and rolled their way through the mile plus parade route, they certainly deserved all the Cincinnati beer and chili they could eat — if any. The weather was great, the parade was great, and the Reds finished off a perfect day with a 4-0 win.

That’s not exactly typical. There is a list of all Reds opening day games here. The record isn’t glorious. The tally currently stands at 63-67-1. They last stood even in 1993 and the last time they could boast of a winning opening day record was in 1928 after they beat those Chicago Cubs to bring the record to 24-23.

Opening on my birthday hasn’t helped. Prior to 1961 the shorter season kept the two events from getting close and even after coinciding becoming a possibility it didn’t actually happen until 1971 with the Reds first opening day in Riverfront Stadium. Since then it has occurred in 1973, 1982, 1993, 1999, 2004, 2010, and 2012. The 1993 game was extra special. Prior to today, that was the only birthday on which I could celebrate a Reds win.

Product Review – Dial2Text

Rotary Dial TelephoneBefore learning of this product, I hadn’t really thought about the fact that texting, something many people take for granted, is not universally available. Dial2Text doesn’t solve that completely but it does open the door to one previously ignored segment: rotary phone users. In 2006 it was estimated that as many as 14% of all phones in the US were rotary. The percentage has no doubt dropped but the folks behind Dial2Text believe the number is still significant. Dial2Text is being rolled out in the Cincinnati area beginning this month and, if all goes well, could be available nationwide by year’s end.

Dial2Text is marketed as a service much like cell phone texting. In fact, proposed rate plans are identical to those available to cell phone users: $0.20/message or $4.99/month for 500 messages. An unlimited plan could be added but Cincinnati Bell feels it is unlikely that many users will have the stamina to go above 500 messages per month.

No phone modifications or attachments are required meaning that, once a line is authorized for Dial2Text, all devices on that line can use it. Doing that may take a little practice, however. Most characters require two inputs. Exceptions are ‘0’ and ‘1’. Dial either of those numbers and you’re done. For any of the other eight, you need to dial a second digit to indicate which of four possible characters (the original number or one of three letters) is desired. For example, the sequence 3-1-4-1 would send my initials. The ‘3’ indicates the finger hole with the number ‘3’ and the letters ‘DEF’. The ‘1’ indicates the first of those letters, ‘D’. A ‘0’ (zero) would indicate the originally dialed number, ‘3’, and the numbers ‘2’ and ‘3’ would indicate the letters ‘E’ and ‘F’ respectively. Similarly, the number ‘4’ selects the ‘4GHI’ finger hole and the number ‘1’ indicates the letter ‘G’. The address of this website can be communicated with the sequence 3-1-3-2-6-2-6-2-9-3-4-1-4-3-2-2-7-3-6-3-6-2-2-3-6-3-6-1 although a dot must be manually inserted in front of ‘com’.

As you can see, it’s all very simple. Even so, it will undoubted take some concentration and there could be errors. Something like forgetting to dial that second digit or having your finger slip from the hole before you’ve made it all the way to the little hooky thing could seriously alter the message. The developers claim that this will simply provide Dial2Text users with some of the same fun and humor that auto-correct provides to cell phone users. In fact, anticipating something along the lines of DamnYouAutoCorrect, they have locked up the domain name for the next five years.

Developers similarly downplay the lack of lowercase letters and punctuation. Citing studies of random samples of real text messages that show senders rarely have any concept of either, they say the Dial2Text limitations are actually a boon. The typical rotary phone user might be inclined to use proper capitalization and punctuation and even correct spelling. As one Cincinnati Bell spokesman said, “That would make them stand out like a sore index finger”.

Receiving Dial2Text messages couldn’t be easier. Using the latest text to speech technology, Dial2Text simply calls the user and reads messages aloud. There is no queuing for multiple messages but, after announcing that a text message has been received, Dial2Text pauses for thirty seconds to allow the user to get pencil and paper. Users with answering machines who screen calls can get the messages recorded onto cassette tapes or other media by simply not picking up the receiver.

One member of the local Beta test group who used the answering machine trick is Joe Kerr. Joe really likes actually hearing from his grandchildren now and then. “They never call or visit”, he said, “but they will send a text message.” He smiled as he played back a recent message from a grandson in response to a birthday card. The message can be heard here. Joe admits he doesn’t understand even the tiniest part of the message but says it’s the thought that counts. He also shared a message from a long time friend alerting him to something on TV. That message is here. The heads-up would have been appreciated even more if the show hadn’t been over before the friend finished composing the message. “He’ll get better”, Joe says.

But, like many high tech breakthroughs, Dial2Text fails to impress everyone. Zachery Quinn, another Beta tester, wants nothing more to do with it. “Those greedy bleeping bleepers want twenty cents to send a message I can’t even sign with my initials? Bleep ’em.”