Thanksgiving in Chicago

For Thanksgiving this year we headed up to Chicago to visit family. We left early Thursday morning and got into Midway around 8:30am. My sister and her husband picked us up and we headed down town to take in the sights. It was cool and overcast but there were plenty of people out for the parade on State St.

We stopped at the Magnolia Bakery to get some coffee and cookies before stepping out to watch a bit of the parade. The Magnolia Bakery is a nice little shop with tasty treats, excellent drinks, and great people. Everyone had a smile on their face or a welcoming comment.

We then walked down to the river past the Trump Tower and on to Michigan Avenue. None of the shops were open, accept Starbucks and a few others. From there we headed back to Millennium Park and walked around the Ice Rink and “the Bean”. There were a lot of families out skating, kids taking pictures at the Bean and even a few workers cleaning up leaves.

It has been years since I’ve been on Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue and have never been to Millennium Park. Despite the weather it was a great few hours in a the windy city. The rest of the day we spent with family celebrating Thanksgiving. An excellent holiday.

Gnome3 and Fedora

Just before the latest version of Fedora (Verne) was released I was installing the beta on a laptop to take it for a spin. I’d been using LoveLock since beta and Gnome3 suited me well. There has been a lot of talk about it and the lack of customizable options for power users but that must not be me. For a week now Verne has not disappointed and I expect that to continue.

Here’s a pic of my desktop.

What I like most is the clean simple look and integration of the windows key to find applications and recent documents. I’ve never been a “put a shortcut on the desktop” kind of guy, to much clutter. So having nothing there is great and I don’t need/want to add anything. The online accounts integration is nice, the notification tray is there but not in the way and using Ctrl-Alt-UpArrow/DwnArrow to move between screens (vs Ctrl-Alt-Right/Left) is just fine too.

Another pic with apps open.
Desktop Pic

Can’t wait to see what’s coming next!

The Nexus One

Around this time last year I was happily using my G1 Dev Phone on AT&T, even though it was meant for T-Mobile, until the keyboard went bad. Not every key but a few, P, backspace and the back arrow. My replacement was the HTC Aria. An excellent phone, hackable, and served me well…. until the last week or two. Which was not expected. The touch sensor on the screen is messed up, keyboard recalibrating didn’t help and neither did switching ROM’s. No phone insurance and only a year into my contract getting a replacement from AT&T didn’t look that appealing. Time to go unlocked again!!

Nexus OneI enjoyed the physical keyboard of my G1 Dev Phone very much and was hoping to get something like that again. AT&T has a wide selection but not what I’m looking for, mainly because the hit on price if not committing to a longer contract. Going the unlocked route opens up options, but the latest and greatest will be even more pricey. I’d have to settle on something that’s 6 months or older. It didn’t take long to find the HTC Desire Z, it looked ideal. 3G or 4G data is not important but knowing was a version for AT&T’s GSM spectrum was a plus. Of course prices though were more than I wanted to pay so it was off the list.

Enter the Nexus One. I had almost forgotten about it until checking Newegg’s list of unlocked phones. No physical keyboard but that was more of a want than a need, a virtual alternative would be fine with the right package. I passed on it at the start of 2010 for a few reasons, the G1 was still working fine and the price was in laptop range. But that was a year and a half ago, a really long time in the world of mobile phones… crazy but true. With what Newegg was offering, and the need for a phone, it was a deal I couldn’t pass up.

It showed up a few days ago and came loaded with Android 2.2. A few hours after it was on I got a OTA notice for the 2.3.4 update to Gingerbread. The configuration options are less than what I’m use to with Cyanogenmod but that’s ok for now, I’ll root it later. My only hope is I can get more than a year out of this one.

The Harpeth River – Newsom’s Mill to Hwy 249

The first river trip of 2011 took us on part of the Harpeth River we haven’t been on before. We’d drive by this stretch a couple times a week on the way to Bellevue and it always looks interesting. So Sunday June 19 we set out with another couple to give it a try.

Launching at Newsom’s Mill is a breeze. It is a bit of a walk down to the water from the parking lot but you’re rewarded with an effortless put in and from there it only gets better. It’s about a 2.5 hour float down to McCory Lane with all kinds of interesting things in between. If there was a dull moment I don’t remember. You’ve got a number of sand bars twists and turns, the train bridge at River Walk subdivision and wildlife. A few Great Blue Herons where on this section of the river. You could get about 100 feet from them before they’d fly up ahead and eventually circle back.

From McCory Lane to Hwy 249 it’s much of the same many sand bars, a bridge for Interstate 40 (twice), and if you’re lucky you might even see a bald eagle. We were lucky enough to catch one just after passing under the bridge for Interstate 40 for the second time. No picture though, happened to quick. This section is almost 9 miles and took us 4 hours. We stopped just once for a few minutes and the water level was up a few inches with the rain from Saturday. It is not heavily marketed by the outfitters as it’s a bit of a drive for them but if you need a boat or shuttle Cliff at Adventures on the Harpeth will get you there, it is on his trip list. You can also see all access points on the Harpeth by visiting the Harpeth River Watershed Association.

It was a long day but a fun one. Next time could be the Piney, Buffalo, or Duck River we’re not sure but we are going to get out more than last year.

HP you surprised me

On May 25, 2011 FedEx delivered a new laptop, a HP ProBook 4430s. This is it’s my first purchase where Windows is not the OS from the manufacture. The last few years I’ve used a couple used IBM T42’s which are excellent machines, and the keyboard will spoil you. When it came time to find a replacement I wanted something that didn’t come with Windows, as I wouldn’t be using it, surprisingly the search led me to HP.

At the start of 2011 I did the same search and found Dell’s Vostro V13. I read Dell offered it with Ubuntu pre-loaded but was never able to find out how through their on line store. I did purchase one and it is a good package. Every thing worked out of the box with Fedora 15 and Gnome3 but there were two issues for me, the keyboard was too cramped and batter life was low. That was enough to send it off to mom, she needed something to replace the 7 year old Compaq, and I could search from something more suitable.

I’ve read good things about Zareason and System76, they both have a good selection and offer Ubuntu. The construction wasn’t what I was looking for and some of the other options out there were ThinkPads or Dells with Linux loaded. I wanted to find something with a metal chassis and not much plastic. To compare would be the construction of a MacBook Pro, but I wasn’t looking for a Mac. It took a few months until I came across the HP 4430s Notebook. This model, if you configure it, offers Suse Enterprise 11 installed. I haven’t used Suse for a number of years but the “flavor” of Linux wasn’t important. The fact the hardware fit my criteria and was available with Linux installed sealed the deal.

On first boot it took awhile as it uses KIWI to install the OEM image. A standard suite of applications is included, Gnome 2.82 as the window manager and all the hardware (wireless, camera, card reader, sound) worked… as one should expect. There are plenty of pics on the web, so I don’t need to put up much here but I will say if you like to “get under the hood” access has never been easier. Memory, drive, processor, etc is just pull the battery and slide the cover back after releasing two holding pins.

I’m enjoying it so far especially with an Intel SSD and Fedora 15 (Gnome3). I’d recommend the ProBook 4430s if your in the market for something non-Windows, 14′ wide screen, wireless, bluetooth, card reader, and ever thing working. If Suse is not your flavor pick another. I only had to load iwlwifi-6000g2b for wireless, every thing else worked out of the box. It’s great to see mainstream companies offering solutions like this. Thank you HP!