24 February, 2008

Bike accident

On January 18th at 14:30, I was riding my bike through Middlebury, VT on my way to work, and I glanced down for a second to look at my gears. When I looked up, the two cars ahead of me had stopped. I had almost no time to react, but was able to miss the first car, and then slid along the side of the second car, knocked off their mirror, and scraped the car's side, all without falling off my bike. I immediately pulled over, and went back to talk to the driver, who, I found out, worked at Middlebury College. She was incredibly helpful and kind, and walked me through everything I should do in a car accident (since it was my first one). We called the police, but because it was a small accident and no one was hurt (my arm was a little sore), they decided it made more sense to record the report and not to send anyone out. We traded insurance information, and I found out a couple of weeks later that she had a really nice heated, auto adjust mirror, and that to replace the mirror and fix the scrapes would cost $1400. I am now in the process of trying to get my family's insurance to pay for it, but I don't know how much luck I will have. I guess that I did learn my lesson though, and didn't get hurt, so that is something to be thankful for. Sadly, $1400 is one expensive lesson!

21 February, 2008

Spring Semester 2008

Finally, school is looking up again. I admit that last semester and winter term, I was having a really hard time getting excited about classes, homework, or anything except for racing my bike and going home to see my family, Victoria and New Mexico. I was getting excited about going abroad, but was having a hard time accepting that I still had a long time before it happened.
Now, I'm enjoying school. I'm taking CS102 (Mathematical Foundations of Computing), CS312 (Software Development), Japanese 103, and Documentary Film Production. I am enjoying all of my courses, except for CS102, but I'm trying to get excited about it to make it more bearable. CS312 is really cool, especially because we are doing software development on the web, which gives me a good excuse to spend time learning CSS, XHTML, XML, and web programming. I am also enjoying Documentary Film because I get to use a really nice video camera and learn to shoot documentary films. I am hoping to use what I learn from this course to create a documentary-style video about the Middlebury Cycling Race team to try to get more people excited about racing. Japanese is going well, but I'm having a hard time spending as much time as I should studying and doing the homework.
I am also excited about school because the Middlebury Cycling Race team is finally coming together. I held a meeting for those people who were interested in racing, and it sounds like we may have about 10 people who will be racing on a regular basis. This is a great improvement compared to the 1 (myself) who raced regularly during the mountain bike season, and the 2 (myself and Brett Dollar) who raced regularly during the Cyclocross season. I am also excited because about half of the people who plan to race have never raced before, and many have never ridden on a regular basis. They are also just really cool people who are a ton of fun to hang out with.
The last thing that I am quite excited about is the video work I will be doing for the school. I am working with Maggie Paine, and some other students on campus to create videos and think of other ways to get prospective students interested in coming to Middlebury College. We are hoping to create "MiddTube", which would be similar to YouTube, except that only Middlebury students would be able to add videos. I may play a significant role in the creation of MiddTube, and I am really excited about it.
That's all for now, and I'm working on getting better about blogging more often.

11 February, 2008


Vixy.net is a cool website that lets you convert FLV (flash) videos (for example, YouTube videos), to AVI, MOV, MP4, or 3GP formats, and then download the converted movie. This is very useful for getting videos in a format that can be easily played on your computer (ie. MOV files can be played by Quicktime) or for getting a video in an acceptable format for upload by video upload sites.
I recently used Vixy.net to convert a YouTube video that I had uploaded to MOV format so that I could upload it to another website to enter a contest to win free Oakley products. It worked quite well, and I highly recommend it.
Here's how to use Vixy.net:
1. Enter the URL of the video you wish to convert
2. Choose the output format of the video
3. Click "Start"
4. When Vixy.net has finished converting your video, it should automatically ask you what you if you want to open the file, or save it. If it doesn't ask you, click on the "download video" link
5. Click "save" and choose where to save it

09 February, 2008

GPS Babel

If you are interested in GPS or Google Earth, GPS Babel is a program that you should look into. It is compatible with Windows, OSX, and Linux operating systems and will download GPS data from Garmin and Magellan devices via serial port (COM3) or USB and will then save the data in any of 90 GPS formats (including Google Earth .kml, National Geographic .tpg, and many, many others). It will also translate from any of the 90 formats to any other of the 90 formats, and transfer data to Brauniger, Garmin, Magellan, or Wintec devices. Basically, this program eliminates the problem of the huge number of DIFFERENT GPS formats.

I also suggest downloading GPS Babel if you are a Google Earth user, because unless you have purchased a Google Earth Plus ($20 per year) or Google Earth Pro ($400 per year) license, both of which include the capability of downloading GPS data directly from a GPS device, it is the cheapest way to get GPS data from a GPS device and store it in a Google Earth compatible format.

Here is how to get your GPS data from your GPS device into Google Earth using GPS Babel:

1. Connect your device

2. Run GPSBabelGUI (it is easier to use than GPSBabel because it has a nice user interface)

3. Check the “[Device]” box under the “Input” section

4. Choose your device format (Garmin or Magellan) and the port type (USB or COM3)

5. Set the “Output” format to “Google Earth (Keyhole) Markup Language”

6. Choose where to save the new file and name it

7. Click “Let’s Go”

8. Open Google Earth and click “File” > “Open” and choose the newly created file


Launchy is a program launcher/file opener/website searcher for Windows. It is essentially Quicksilver for Windows operating systems, and was my favorite out of a few programs of its type that I researched.

Here’s how it works: Launchy runs continuously in the background while you are working, and can be brought forward by pressing Alt + Space. Once it appears, you start typing the name of the program, file, folder, or website that you would like to open, and Launchy searches through its database looking for anything that matches your search. Launchy then displays what it guesses you are looking for, at which point you can hit Enter to open that file, folder, or program, or you can wait for a second and Launchy will show you a list of other close matches. You can then use the Up and Down arrow keys to cycle through the matches, and press Enter to open the one you want. Once you hit enter, Launchy hides in the background again, and you can go about your business. If you decide that you do not want to open anything once you have started Launchy, press Alt + Space again, and it will hide again.

Another useful aspect of Launchy was the built-in calculator, and the ability to search the web simply by typing in a URL and pressing Enter.

Initially, Launchy did not help me very much, because by default, it only adds the programs from your start menu, and for some reason, I found that quite a few of my programs were not being found. Launchy also would not open anything but programs, which was unfortunate, because I frequently wanted to open folders quickly. The solution was to run Launchy (Alt + Space), right click, and choose “options”. I then added folders to the “Catalog” tab and added types of files for Launchy to index. Now, Launchy will run programs, open folders, and search the web for me. It speeds things up quite a bit for me, because I never have to take my hands off the keyboard to get to the files I need.

07 February, 2008

Adobe Photoshop CS2 Help

While I was in Salt Lake City visiting Victoria, I had quite a bit of time to kill while she was in her classes, so I decided to use it to improve my knowledge of Adobe Photoshop CS2 on my Dell Inspiron 1300. I found that the standard Adobe Photoshop Help that is part of the Photoshop program is quite an extensive resource and quite helpful. To access Photoshop Help, click File > Photoshop Help, or press F1. You can then search for any Photoshop topic that you can think of, or simply move from topic to topic from top to bottom (like I did). You can also click File and choose any of the options at the bottom of the drop-down menu if you know what you are looking for (ie. How to Create Web Images > To create a rollover button).The one thing that really showed me how impressive of a program this was, was the "Shadow/Highlight" command. I took a picture of a bike ride that I had taken that was so shadowed that it appeared silhouetted, and used the "Shadow/Highlight" command (Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlight) and it went from being silhouetted to being completely visible.
Another great place for Photoshop tutorials is the internet. Here are a few of the places that I found that I liked: PSDTuts (my favorite), Photoshopcafe, Entheos Web, Adobe Tutorialz, Photoshop Talent, and Graphics.com. You can also find just about anything by Googling "Photoshop (your version) (what you want to learn)".

03 February, 2008

Garmin Edge 305

Last year, my big birthday present was a Garmin Edge 305 with heart rate monitor and cadence sensor. Since July, I have logged 2294 miles with it and have loved it.
Basically, the 305 is a cycle computer that measures speed, distance, and elevation by using GPS. It also records your rides as GPS tracks that can then be uploaded to Google Earth (see Google Earth and GPS Babel posts). If you purchase the optional heart rate monitor and cadence sensor (like I did), you can also measure heart rate, cadence, and continue to get accurate speed and distance readings if you lose GPS reception (ie. during indoor training).
When you return from your ride, you can upload the ride data to Garmin Training Center, using a standard mini-USB cable, and get the full statistics of your ride including: GPS map, distance, time, speed (ave, max, instantaneous), ascent, descent, laps, pace, calories, heart rate, and cadence, as well as weekly totals, and overall totals.
The 305 will also let you save rides as "courses". Once you have saved the ride as a course, you can then race your previous time (with instantaneous information as to how far ahead or behind you are) or e-mail it to a friend and let them race it.
Another thing that the 305 will do, which I have not tried so far, is creating workouts and letting the 305 walk you through them (with set heart rate ranges, times, alarms, etc).
I have only had one difficulty with the 305, and that was that it would not power on once, but I called Garmin (they are really helpful), and then showed me how to soft reset it (press and hold "lap" and "mode" for 5 seconds).
The only thing that the 305 lacks is the ability to measure power, which was recently remedied by the release of the Garmin Edge 705. The 705 includes all of the functionality of the 305 and adds a color screen, wireless power option (purchased separately), and the ability to get turn-by-turn directions (with optional maps). I want one!
My suggestion for buying a Garmin Edge is Amazon (I was able to get mine with heart rate and cadence for $275 instead of the suggested $433).

01 February, 2008


Recently, during my computer wanderings, I came across a site that I had never heard of: twitter.com. Here is its basic premise: You create a membership, get a URL, and update your status. People who are interested in knowing your status can subscribe to your twitter and will be updated through e-mail, text message, or online whenever your status changes. It is an interesting idea, so I promptly joined (see twitter.com/uncoiled), but have realized since that I am not online enough to really learn anything interesting from following anyone's status. Also, I do not think that anyone I know is a twitterer, and there is really no reason for me to stay up-to-date on the status of people I do not know. I do understand how twitter would be useful though if your group of friends all used it and if you had unlimited texting capabilities on your phone (which I do not) because it is quick and easy to update your twitter status from your cell phone and get updates on all of the people you are following. If that is the case for you, go check it out. Maybe I'll become a regular twitterer when I get unlimited texting, and then I'll try to convince everyone I know to use it too.