Garmin Quarter Turn Bike Mount

Edge 800 Mounting BracketOn my cross country bicycle ride I used a Garmin Edge 800, which worked very well regardless of the weather conditions. Unfortunately, the Garmin Quarter Turn Bike Mount did not prove was so durable.

The quarter turn mounting unit is retained on the bicycle by 2 rubber O rings . I am not sure if the ones that came with my Edge unit were defective, or they typically deteriorate due to exposure to the elements. The instructions with the mounting unit does state: To avoid damage to the device, use EDPM (Ethylene Polypropylene Diene Monomer) replacement bands only.

I used the Garmin for 6 months before the trip and replaced the O rings, with Garmin supplied rings, after several months due to some cracks appearing in one ring. Before the trip I replaced both rings, again using Garmin products, just for preventive measures. Three weeks into the cross country trip I went to remove my Edge 800 and realized that one of the O rings had broken.

Garmin Mount With String 1Rather than use more O rings I used a length of nylon string wrapped around the mount and handlebar, in a crisscross pattern, to make my own attachment system. It might seem somewhat crude, but seven months later the quarter turn mounting unit is still firmly attached.

In the future I plan to ‘tie’ all of my Garmin mounts to the handlebars rather than rely on the O rings.

Garmin String Mount

 

Kindle Book Reader

Kindle Book ReaderI read 6 books on my recent 9 week bicycle trip; that was a lot of weight and space to pack away and peddle uphill, plus finding more books along the way was a problem.

This summer (2013) there is another trip in the offing, and I needed a different option for carrying reading material. In the past, I read two books on my smartphone & tablet, but was not overly thrilled by the experience so continued to read hardcover and paperback books. I am 67 years old so have many years of ‘holding a physical book’ in my background; enter the Kindle Paperwhite into my life.

The Kindle weighs 7.3 ounces: it weighs a little less than one normal size paperback book. The Kindle is 4.5″ x 6.63″ x 0.25″; it takes up significantly less space than one paperback book. The battery charges with a mini-USB cable which is the same as my smartphone; multiple charging systems are not required. The Paperwhite version has a self contained light; a separate book light is not required. The Paperwhite version has an extended battery life; minimal charging is required. Other than the on/off button all controls come from a touch screen. On the surface, the Kindle Paperwhite seems to fit my needs very well.

Reading: I have enjoyed reading the Kindle Paperwhite more than I thought I would; there was less transition from physical book to Kindle than I anticipated. The screen is plenty bright and easily adjustable from high to low; I keep it set in the middle. The non-glare screen makes reading pleasant and easy on the eye regardless of the reading screen angle. The font size is easily adjustable; larger sizes for those needing it and smaller sizes for less page turning. There is an easily accessible dictionary for those ‘unknown’ words you run across. The Kindle has a ‘Goto’ function that easily allows me to find any chapter, section, or page. Holding it at the correct distance for reading is easy, and pages are turned forward/backward by touching my thumbs to lightly on either side of the screen.

Pictures: Obviously, the pictures that come with a Kindle book are shown in black and white. The picture quality seems to rival those in most good paperback books which is generally less than the larger hardcover editions. For me, this is good enough; if I were purchasing a book for the pictures then I would probably buy the hardcover book, rather than a Kindle or paperback version.

Handling: I tend to hold the Kindle with my fingers on the back and my thumb resting along the sides of the front. Fortunately, there is a 0.5″ bezel on the sides of the reading screen which provides sufficient space for my thumbs so that they do not obscure the screen. The back of the Kindle has a slightly rubberized feeling to help with grip, but in my case, I would have preferred more. It is a lot easier holding the Kindle at the correct reading position because there is no need to physically hold the book open.

Extras: The Kindle comes with WiFi for connection to Amazon, vocabulary builder for helping to improve word and spelling understanding, highlighting special passages and sharing them on social networks, parental controls for those with children, passcodes to control usage, airplane mode to turn off the WiFi network. Books can be read directly off the Kindle or from the Amazon Cloud. There are other items contained in the Kindle that can be accessed when the top tool bar is activated.

Battery Life: I have been reading 1-2 hours per day, and the battery in mine lasts a little over a week. This is sufficient for my purposes.

Charging: The Kindle comes with a USB to mini-USB charging cable, but no charger. In my case, I have a pile of USB chargers left over from all sorts of devices and have been using a 2 amp charger from a Samsung tablet which works very well.

Cons: You might develop sticker shock if you typically purchase physical books from a used bookstore or participate in a book exchange program. There are a lot of free books through Amazon and Amazon Prime and some very low cost books, unfortunately, not one the books on my ‘list’ has fallen into those categories. Also, you will not end up with a physical book to pass along to friends. Electronics can, and do, fail due to a number of factors: manufacturing defects, rough handling, and age, just to mention a few. Theft results in the loss of a $100+ device versus a $10 paperback. Charging requires electricity: physical books last forever.

Overall: I am excited about the Kindle and have enjoyed using it; hopefully my opinion will not change after the bicycle trip. Trying it out at home has convinced me that I will take it along on my trip barring something going amiss in the next few months.

Samsung Chromebook

Samsung ChromebookWhy, you might ask, is a review of the Samsung Chromebook on my bike blog.  I needed some way to update my blog, as well as provide informtion to several other sites tracking my trip.  The Chromebook is lightweight, last a long time on one battery charge, and will interface with the internet.  As a reference, my Chromebook is a non-3G model manufactured in Feb. 2013.

The Samsung Google Chromebook is not a laptop or desktop PC.  If you are looking for a new PC then
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look somewhere else.  The Chromebook is primarily a duplicate of the Chrome browser window that you use on your PC.  It has limited internal memory capabilities (16gb + SH card port), no options for downloading software, and no CD/DVD drive.  It can perform some Google processes offline: gmail, docs, sheets, and slides to name a few.

Chromebook runs on the Google Chrome operating system which is not the same thing as the Google Android operating system used on cell phones and tablets.  As a result, there are applications that will run on Android that will not run on the Chromebook.  Also, the Chromebook does not have a touch screen.

When considering a Chromebook you should ask yourself: how much of what you do on your PC comes from internal programs.  The next question is: can internet programs be used instead of the internal programs.  For example:

  • Do you have WiFi instead of a cable internet connection?
  • Can Google Docs/Sheets/Slides be substituted for Microsoft Word/Exel/PowerPoint?
  • Can Google Hangout be used instead of Skype?
  • Can Pixlr Editor be used instead of Photoshop?
  • Can Mint.com replace Quicken?
  • Can Drive or Skydrive take the place of internal data storage?
  • Do you have a wireless printer that works with Cloud Print?

Initial impressions:

  • The supplied power cord has a very (read really) small pin that plugs into the Chromebook.  The pin just plain looks like it and/or the Chromebook could be easily damage.  Also, as a proprietary pin size, a replacement could be difficult to find.
  • The keypad has good tactile feel, individual keys seem to be the same size as my full size PC, and there is adequate support under the keys when typing with a heavy hand.
  • There are no ‘F’ keys along the top, no ‘Home or End’ cursor position keys, no ‘Delete’ key, and no ‘Caps Lock’ key (see note below on Caps Lock).  To delete information the cursor must be put at the end of the text and then ‘Backspaced’ away or the texted hilited and the ‘Backspace’ key pressed.  In contrast, there is a ‘Search’ key, ‘Forward & Backward’ browser keys, and ‘Refresh’ key.
  • The touchpad seems to work very well, and there is a crisp tactile feedback when pressing down to complete an action.  Note: pressing one finger down equates to the left mouse button, pressing two fingers down equates to the right mouse button, and stroking the touchpad with 2 fingers equates to rolling the mouse wheel up or down.  In my case I don’t particularly enjoy using touchpads so I am using a Logitech wireless mouse with a nano USB2.0 connection.  The mouse synced and began working as soon as the USB2.0 receiver was plugged in and the mouse turned on.
  • The unit appears to pick up my wireless modem signal very well; I carried the Chromebook outside the house, on the other side of the garage, about 100 feet about from the modem and still had a very good WiFi signal.  I am using a Linksys Wireless N Gigabit router.
  • I fully charged the battery, then put the unit away; the battery showed 80% capacity after 3 days.
  • From a full shutdown condition the unit was up and running, including adding the password, in 18.5 seconds.  If the cover was closed the unit restarted in 5.4 seconds after the cover was opened.
  • My unit, with charger, weighs 3.01 pounds, and a rough ‘home’ test showed the battery lasting just over 6 hours while doing browsing and updating internet files.  At the five hour mark the bottom of the unit was barely warm.
  • Opening the closed unit is not necessarily easy.  The case is ‘slick’, and the narrow opening slot makes it difficult to get a good grip.  Granted, this is a minor thing, but make sure to have good control over the unit so it is not dropped.  Perhaps a 1” lip on the right of the bottom and a 1” lip on the left of the top instead of a lip completely across the slot would have simplified things.
  • There is one USB2.0 & one USB3.0 port; the USB3.0 port is backwards compatible to USB2.0.  I have tried various 2.0 and 3.0 devices in each port and all seem to function properly.
  • I haven’t tried the HDMI slot, and according to posted information the USIM slot is non functional since my unit is not a 3G model.
  • I found the overall appearance to be nice and clean looking.  Sure, the exterior is made from silver colored plastic which will probably wear and scratch with use, but overall I felt it was substantial enough for my use.  Again, keep in mind that this is a $250 internet browser tool, not a $1,500 PC or high end netbook.

Thoughts When Using:

  • When I initially set the Chromebook up for WiFi I was asked to input my router access password.  The unit always asks for a router access password whenever it is powered back up.  If the lid is closed while the unit is on no password is required when the lid is opened up.
  • Chromebook has certain Apps (Google Chrome, Gmail, Google Search, YouTube, and a Tic-Tac-Toe App box) featured on the bottom left of the screen when first started up.  You can ‘right click’ on any App and ‘pin’ it or ‘unpin’ to the bar.  Any App not ‘pinned’ to the bar must be accessed through the App box.  The good news is you can arrange the Apps in the App box by clicking and moving them from screen to screen or within an individual screen.
  • The bottom right side of the screen features the time, WiFi signal strength, and battery capacity.  Clicking in this area brings up additional status items.  If you need a ‘Caps Lock’ key go into ‘settings/keyboard settings’ and change ‘Search’ to ‘Caps Lock’.
  • I was able to read a 64GB SHXC SanDisk memory card and a 16GB SanDisk USB3.0 flash drive without any problems.  Chromebook will save information on the card/drive if the program/App you are using has a ‘Save’ feature.
  • Chromebook reads fairly large .mp4 video file and .mp3 music files from memory cards/3.0 drives very quickly and calls up the appropriate player automatically.
  • Files can be moved from the internal storage to the memory card or flash drive using ‘Drag & Drop’ or ‘Copy & Paste’.  Files moved from memory cards/3.0 drives to Chromebook go pretty quickly; files moved to memory cards/3.0 drives from Chromebook can be somewhat slow.
  • All information saved to the card/drive was readable from a USB2.0 port on my PC.  The SHXC card sticks out the side of the case about ⅜” so some care is required when handling/storing the Chromebook.
  • The processor speed is more than acceptable for my purposes, and I have had 3-4 browser windows open at one time with all appearing to work just fine.  YouTube seems to function well and so does  Google ‘My Music’  & ‘My Movie’ Players.  The speakers work well and have adequate volume and sound quality; a earphone plug in is available for privacy.  Keep in mind, this is a $250 browsing machine, not a $1,500 PC with a professional audio system.
  • All but one browser based program/application that I typically use works on the Chromebook (including Netflix after the most recent update).  The one app that I do miss is called ‘Safe In Cloud’ but am able to use my Android phone as a substitute.  According to reports, a lot of the Android apps available through Google Play are not available on the Chromebook.  In general, I have managed to find replacement apps that will work.

I have only had my Chromebook for two weeks so I have very little information regarding long term product reliability.  I use the Chromebook daily for browsing, updating blogs & Facebook, working/altering various websites, and keeping my financial information up to date.  In the past few weeks I have not used my laptop PC at all, and I have now put it away.  I do have a desktop PC for doing the heavy lifting, but even that PC has not been used much lately.

My wife has begun using my Chromebook because of its size/weight and portability and now wants one of her own.  I may end up purchasing a second one so I can have mine back.

Update 2/16/2014: My Chromebook has held up very well, and a year has gone by. Matter of fact, it has worked so well that my wife now has one of her own. We probably use our Chromebook 70-80% of the time. We do have a desktop PC for any heavy work, but more and more of our ‘stuff’ is done on the internet with cloud storage.

On the 68 day bicycle trip across the US & Canada the Chromebook did everything I had hope for and more. It appears to be reliable, I was able to log onto the internet frequently enough during the trip to provide blog updates, I was able to edit pictures for posting, and the battery would last several days depending on my usage.

I am currently planning an 11 week bicycle trip this summer (Montana – Alaska), and my Chromebook is definitely on the ‘items to take’ list.