ugly tower and Rockbox
Wednesday, August 13 2014
I completed the structural work on my new five foot wooden tower this afternoon. Though it didn't really seem to need them, I added a single diagonal to each of the four sides and horizontal pieces at regular intervals on the two sides with the greatest slope. These could be used like rungs on a ladder, allowing me to easily climb to the top of the tower and stand there with a commanding view of everything below. There's not much room to walk around up there, but the tower is nice and stable and, if I never end up using it as a water tower, I could use it as a platform for painting, roofing, or gutter work.
Indeed, the tower is a bit more of an orphan than I expected it to be; when I was showing it off to Gretchen, she naturally asked where I intended to put it. When I indicated the spot (just south of the southmost garage door, pretty much directly in front of the house), she thought that would be ugly. I'd been trying to make this tower prettier than the other transportable wooden towers I've built, but I guess it still wasn't pretty enough. That'll teach me to go and build something without first clearing my plan with Gretchen (though usually it's not a problem; she's much more indulgent of my household tinkering than the female halves of other house-owning couples we know).
I've been very happy with the SansaClip+ that has been my main MP3 player for the past few months. It's like a cheap Chinese MP3 player, except that it's about twice the price and completely reliable. It's also tiny and clips to my WorkTunes headphones to supply me cordless audio entertainment when I'm walking in the forest or puttering around the house. Recently (while searching for an open source MP3 player application for a Windows desktop), I discovered that most of the Sansa line of MP3 players are compatible with an open source MP3 player firmware called Rockbox (which works with a wide range of MP3 players). I didn't want to mess with the success of my existing Sansa device, so today I took delivery of yet another Sansa MP3 player, this one a Clip Zip (the same model that Gretchen now uses) with the intention of installing Rockbox on it and using it as the Subaru's MP3 player. Once Rockbox was on it, the device behaved more like a PDA, featuring a large number of apps and games in addition to a greatly-expanded ability to play music files. In terms of potential as a computing device, the main things lacking in a Sansa Clip Zip are a keyboard and network connectivity. But with the navigation buttons it's possible to interact with a virtual keyboard, allowing (for example) a calculator app and even (though I couldn't figure out how it worked) a text editor. Rockbox is actually a full-on multipurpose operating system, though it's a lot simpler than the multitasking OSes we're now used to. This subsection of develoment took me completely by surprise; just when I thought I had a good sense of what was being done out there in the open source world, it turns out that some of its developers have found a way to turn single-use hardware like MP3 players into tiny general-purpose devices.
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