Recycling the Lifedrive

iphone_lifedrive

After getting the iPhone, my wife and I had some toys that went into obselescence.  One of them was my old Palm Lifedrive.  Although the touchscreen was getting a little worn out, it still has a lot of life in it.  It has a decent battery life, a bright 480X320 screen just like the iPhone, wifi, bluetooth, and a 4GB hard drive. 

I ran across an interesting program – TCPMP.  It has since been discontinued, but here’s a link to the Palm version: TCPMP

I loaded up the Palm with videos for my son, and bought a cheap $4 set of headphones for him.  I even have the car charger, so he can watch videos on long car rides. 

The only downside was that it can’t handle some files with high bitrates (above about 1000k/s).  I use Avidemux to transcode the files and resize them to the Palm’s native 480X320 resolution.

Camaro time bomb

My wife’s Camaro just went into self-destruct mode.  It seems like all at once, everything broke.  The thing is 8 years old but it has low miles, and we take good care of it.  The windshield cracked, the brakes warped, the differential’s making noise, the speakers blew, and the battery gave up the ghost. 

The most challenging repair was the speakers.  She has the premium Monsoon sound system, and it has some crazy components.  The front 6½” speakers have separate inputs for the woofer and tweeter, with the crossover in the head unit.  My first thought was to simply frankenstein together some aftermarket speakers by bypassing the crossover in the speaker, but I was horribly wrong.  It turns out that they used 2Ω woofers and 4Ω tweeters!  Most aftermarket speakers have 4Ω voice coils, which would mean crappy bass response.  I looked up the price of the factory replacement speakers, and they were $90 EACH! 

A quick internet search found that many people had suffered this situation and found a solution with Infinity’s Kappa speakers, which have 2Ω voice coils.  I picked up a pair of 60.9cs component speakers, and wired ’em up.  The main dilemma came when I read a little on impedence matching.  It turns out that most amps can easily drive speakers with higher impedence than rated, but using a lower impedence speaker can damage your amp.  I was worried that the 2Ω tweeters would cause problems.  The increased power would also mean overwhelming highs.  You could solve this by going to your local RadioShack and wiring a couple 1Ω – 10 watt resistors in series with the tweeter, but I chose to just hook up the included crossover to the tweeter and use the -6dB button to reduce the output (RadioShack was out of the resistors I needed). 

The Kappas sound awesome, and they’re loud enough to drown out the horrible noise coming from the rear end!  Let’s just hope nothing else breaks!

Linux

I’ve used Linux on my laptop for a while, now.  About a year and a half ago I installed Ubuntu dual-boot style with XP.  Unfortunately, I found that it was just too much work for something that felt half-baked.

Allow me to explain:  I am a user – I don’t like using a terminal.  When I found that my wireless card didn’t work (I have a Broadcom b43XX chipset), I had to do a lot of work to get it operational.  I had to download headers, compile source code, extract firmware, etc.  Let me say, though – the Ubuntu community is very helpful, and it wasn’t hard to find the advice I needed.  It just took a lot of typing.

When I was using Ubuntu 7, I felt like things lacked polish.  The screen fonts looked awful, I had trouble mounting my ntfs volume, NVIDIA drivers were a nightmare, beryl crashed my system, etc.

After a year away from my laptop, I recently dusted it off to do some studying in the guest room.  I figured I’d give Ubuntu another chance, and I downloaded the latest version and installed it.

I must say that the everything is a bit more polished now.  The install was a breeze – it took about 20 minutes.  My ntfs partition was easily mounted as /windows.  I didn’t have to screw around with multiple packages to get the good stuff – like TT fonts and DVD playback.  I just installed the restricted packages – ONE THING!  For some reason, screen fonts and fonts in Open Office look much better.  The hardware drivers dialog got my wireless working with a few mouse clicks, and my NVIDIA driver installed in a snap!  The desktop effects add a little wow factor, and everything just seems much nicer.

The things I love about Linux:

  • My hardware just works.  No searching for a scanner driver and then finding that the installer dumped a bunch of crapware onto my computer.  I just plug my scanner in and start scanning!
  • Installing applications is a breeze.  The Add/Remove programs feature is amazing!  Never again will I have to search for some freeware version of what I need – It’s ALL freeware, and it’s just a click away!

My big reservation before was all the great software I had – like Photoshop, Premiere, etc.  After working with GIMP and Kino for a while, I’m starting to get used to them now.

I have to admit – I haven’t wiped XP from the laptop yet, but I almost always boot into Ubuntu now when I have a choice.

Webhost Review

If you visited my site within the last few weeks you may have noticed it was down. I recently switched hosts. I took advantage of several hosts’ money-back guarantees to take them for a test-drive. I assumed that most of them would be good, and better than my old host. What’s interesting is that I ran into a lot of problems – even with the big-name hosts.

I took a few days to run some performance tests, and I uploaded all my content so that I could thoroughly evaluate all of them. I decided to publish my results because I had a hard time finding quality webhost reviews out there that compared hosts head-to-head.

I ended up being a little wordy (for the sake of complete disclosure). So if you just want to skip to the end – there’s some great performance graphs and comparison charts down there.