Archive for January, 2007

Arapahoe Basin

Monika, Samuel and I went up to A-Basin yesterday to get a bit of skiing in. Samuel complained a lot, but he learned how to turn and follow me down the run fairly well. I think if I try to make up some games for him he’ll do better with his endurance. He only took 2 runs, but they were pretty long since he isn’t too fast. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and even though the temps were in the 20s it felt warm. I snapped a few pictures at the top of the first lift and stitched them together to get this panorama.

Arapahoe Basin

Handheld Video

For the past few years I’ve been using a video player for my Palm Tungsten T5 called TCPMP. This video player allows me to play video files on my mobile device from a SD card or internal memory. This is a great feature of my T5 because now I can watch my own movies when flying on an airplane, entertain my son when we are at a restaruant, or show a home movie to someone on my handheld. I can fit most movies that I watch between 256M and 512M, so I can get at least 2-3 on one 1G SD card.

TCPMP on Palm

To rip DVDs to files that you can load using TCPMP, you can use the free software Fair Use Wizard. This software will convert straight from a DVD to a file that the handheld can handle. I set the resolution to the native resolution of my Palm, which is 480×320. Two pass video encoding will take longer than a quicker setting, but you will get a better quality movie. Fair Use Wizard also works well for me in Ubuntu Linux using Wine, although it is slower than running it in Windows. A fast processor with a lot of memory will help in the conversion process.

I use TCPMP on the Palm platform, but this software is also available for Windows Mobile. The files that are generated from Fair Use Wizard will work on either platform. For my Palm, I use a clear protective case from Proporta that keeps fingers and other objects from smearing the screen and buttons.

Ice Climbing

My friend Jason Deugan and I went up to Rocky Mountain National Park yesterday to get in a bit of ice climbing. This was my first time climbing ice, and I wanted to try out my new ice tools and crampons. We hiked up to Loch Vale and found an easy toprope to climb, called Mo’ Flo’ Than Go. I climbed an easy ice/snow gully to the left of the climb to set up the toprope, then Jason and I took turns climbing the WI3 route. I had a great time, both on the hike in and climbing. We did learn several things yesterday that I’ll have to keep in mind in the future.

Rule 1: Always bring tools for your gear. We needed to adjust Jason’s crampons and didn’t have a screwdriver, so we had to improvise a screwdriver using the points of his crampons. I also bashed the freshly-sharpened pick of my ice tool on some rock and seriously dulled it. If I had a flat file I would have been able to sharpen it.
Rule 2: Bring along a thermos to keep your hot drinks hot. A Nalgene with an insulating cover doesn’t keep liquids warm when it’s 10 degrees out. We brought a stove, but it was quicker to just start hiking out and warm up that way. A thermos of coffee would have really hit the spot.
Rule 3: Remember clear-lens eyewear. I had to borrow Jason’s yellow-lens sunglasses when I was climbing, you’ll get a lot of ice in your face when setting your tools in the ice. Eye protection is always wise. Keep your helmet down over your eyebrows, too.

Both Jason and I had a great time. We hiked about 5 miles overall on a packed snow trail, postholed up 200′ to the climbs from the packed trail, and glissaded down around 100′ from the climb. On the way out we met some other climbers heading back to the trailhead who gave us some good beta on other ice areas and also showed us a shortcut back to the car. I think I’m hooked.

Remote Controls

Monika and I like to watch a lot of movies, and I’ve always wanted a decent home theater setup to make it more enjoyable. When we moved, we bought a 42″ High Definition plasma and an upconverting DVD player to watch our DVD collection with. We use the Comcast HD DVR to record shows for Samuel and ourselves in HD. Recently I bought an XBox (to play Amped 2) and the component cables that allow HD gaming. All these components are either HDMI or component cables, so to switch between the different component inputs a component switch is required. Controlling all of these systems together to watch a DVD or watch TV can be annoying. In order to watch a TV show, the TV, DVR, Component Switch and AV Reciever must all be turned on and tuned to the correct inputs. To watch a DVD, a different set of inputs on each device must be selected.

Harmony Remote

This is where my remote control comes in. The Logitech Harmony 880 is one of the nicest tech purchases I’ve made in a while. It is a multi-function programmable remote control that does complex actions without the complex programming steps. The remote has a USB port to allow it to be programmed by your computer – just plug it into your PC and answer a few questions about your home theater setup and it will learn all the IR codes from it’s online database. The remote then presents you with “Actions” you can take on it’s LCD screen, like “Watch TV” or “Play Video Game”. Pressing one of these action buttons will turn on all the components you need and tune them to the correct inputs. If it is not working correctly, press the “Help” button and the remote will ask you a series of yes/no questions that will help correct the problem. has the Harmony 880 on sale right now for $150, and you can often find them new on eBay for the same price.