The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Nvidia, in the past of other companies such as Iagination Technologies, MIPS, Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

See http://docs.google.com/View?id=dcxddbtr_23cg5thdfj for photo credits.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Swimming Radio and Podcasts

Swimming is my favorite form of exercise (after rock climbing).

But, I find swimming lengths in pools boring. Therefore, I decided to try to get some entertainment, som redeeming value: a swim-water-proof radio or MP3 / podcast player, so that I can listen to radio and, ideally, books or Teaching Company (http://www.teach12.com/) lecture series on tape. (I am not much of a listener to music.)

Googling narrowed it down to

Swimp3 from Finis (http://www.finisinc.com/products-swimp3.shtml) - 150$. Bone conduction, v2-256 MB.

Speedo Aquabeat MP3, 1GB, 116-150$ - earplugs

Swimman (http://swimman.com/) waterproofed iPod shuffle (2nd genration) - 250$ - earplugs

Plus various other waterproofed cases,

Since I am not yet rich enough that 150$ is mad money, I decided to try the Swimmer's Choice Radio (http://www.gearedtobefit.com/pd_swimmers_choice_fm_radio.cfm) - 40$

The Swimmer'sChoice Radio worked well enough, I suppose. However, it failed the second day of use. I cannot recommend it.

Fortuitously, I encountered a friend at the pool who had the Swimp3. He let me try his. He recommended it highly. The results were good enough that I purchased my own, and have used it fr the second day today.

I quickly learned that, as I normally swim, the Swimp3 was audible when my ears were underwater, but not when they were above water. E.g. I could hear it throughout crawl / freestle, but not when I lifted my head to breath for breast stroke. My friend Mike had never observed this, saying he always used custom fit earplugs. A cheap pair of wax earplugs, and this problem was "solved".

However (1) wearing earplugs has disadvatages, e.g. when my daughter is calling for me, and (b) it is not clear to me that the bone conduction is of much value - my brief experiece with the SwimmersChoice radio indicated that earphones work as well as bone conduction.

Possibly better:

(a) the earphones can be used outside the pool. The bone conduction headset works a bit, in quiet places, but not where it is noisy. Unless, again, I use earplugs.

(b) I find it hard to hear talk on the Swimp3. I may be forced to fall back to music. It doesn't matter so much if you miss a few notes in a song; it matters a lot if you miss a few words in an audio book.

Nevertheless, I am reasonably happy with the Swimp3. I had a nice long practice today, and never got bored.

OLPC XO vs. ClassMate 2goPC


Last year's OLPC One Laptop per Child) XO PCs, running Linux, were one hell of a lot easier to get up and running than this year's Atom based Classmate 2goPC, running Windows XP.

The XO was up and running, and being played with by my daughter, in a few minutes.

The Classmate 2goPC has taken hours.

---+ DETAIL:

Last year I got my daughter an OLPC XO for Xmas. Actually, 2, or a total of 4 under the Buy 1 / Give 1 program. The XO was up and running within minutes.

However, the XO had some limitations:

a) My daughter has had problems using the Windows PCs at school, because the XO's user interface was so different.

b) The XO's Sugar interface is idiosyncratic, to say the least. No printing. No files. They say, essentially "Humans forget, therefore computers should too." Althouh my daughter has figured out how to deal with this, first, it is useless learning, and secondly she regularly loses data.

c) Because the XO is not a standard PC, it cannot run all web software E.g. my wife bought my daughter a "Webkinz" toy, whose tie-in website does not seem to run on the XO. ActiveX? Flash? I dunno.

Obviously, some of these problems can be solved by uninstalling the OLPC XO software, and/or running vanilla Linux software. But that somewhat defeats the point of the XO.

Therefore, I gave in and decided to buy my daughter a Windows PC. Fortunately, the Atom based Classmate 2goPC was available, under an Employee Purchase Plan. (Unfortunately, the plan did not include the Classmate Tablet 2goPC, which I would have bought instead if I had known it were available.)

I meant to purchase the 2goPC for Xmas, but website issues got in the way... ultimately I only gave the 2goPC to my daughter today, as a late Xmas present. She unwrapped it this morning circa 8am.

First delay: the instructions say to charge for 6 hours before using. I could probably have used it plugged in, but just in case...

At 3am my daughter came home, anxious to try her new PC. We power it up...

The usual delays, after asking for PC name, etc.

Next delay: Internet Explorer hangs configuring itselg. Like, a 45 minute long hang. So we reboot.

This time it comes up. OK, let's run Windows update... Microsoft Update... Much downloading and several reboots later...

Microsoft security Center is warning about no virus scanner. Fortunately, my employer has a homeware program, whose single license for use on an employee PC I am not using. So I install that... sevceral more reboots later, including rebooting the company PC that I was transferring from...

Upshot: my daughter's 2goPC seems to be working now. 6:19pm. More than 3 hours since we powered it on; almsot 10 hours since my daughter unwrapped the Classmate 2goPC.

This compares unfavorably with the several minutes required for the OLPC XO last year.

Worse: my daughrer was able to get the OLPC XO up. Daddy (I) had to sped several hours supervising the Classmate 2goPC. My daughter, quite understandably, lost interest.