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I did my first Hacker Public Radio episode this week. It is episode 249 and was posted on Friday December 12th. The topic is Puppy Linux 4.1.1 and has about 30 minutes runtime. I talk about Joe’s Window Manager, compiling in Puppy, building Puppy .pet packages, Puppy Puplets and other things in this episode. I did a review of Puppy 4 a few months ago on my blog. I used Audacity under Puppy Linux for the HPR recording. No, I did not use Windows to podcast about Linux! The mic was a Plantronics DSP-500 USB headset. Hopefully, quality and content will be considered decent. The topic was not a stage one Gentoo installation at 75mph (lottalinuxlinks) , but I got to start somewhere. ;-)

I listen to a lot of podcasts while I am driving. Since I am on the road all the time I use Wi-Fi to download them, sometimes this does not work so well if I can’t get a decent signal and/or the network is congested. Fortunately, there are a number of sites out there that will send you a podcast over your mobile phone. I have been using a free site called Podlinez that is really simple to use. All you have to do is enter the HTTP RSS address of the podcast feed and click get number, wait a couple seconds and you have a dial in number that will play your podcast.

Obviously you want to use this during your unlimited talk time hours on your phone, lest you get a monster cell phone bill from using thousands of extra minutes. On my Verizon phone I have unlimited time on Saturdays and Sundays with 9pm-6am Monday thru Friday being free.

The sound quality of the service is pretty good too, I really did not notice much of a difference from listening to an mp3 or ogg version versus the cell phone. You might start hearing ads in the near future on these services, as they are going to need to make money from it somehow and I can’t see them charging money for it. Hopefully the ad to content ratio won’t get out whack as it has in conventional AM radio. This is a really great tool if you know someone who does not have and/or want a computer. A lot of the content in podcasting is non geeky stuff that is aimed at people who may or may not have a computer. All you would need to do is set up the phone number and they would be set to get their shows.

As many of you know, the price of GPS units have come way down in price. I found a great deal for a Garmin C230 at Fry’s for just over $200 last month. I work as an over the road truck driver so I thought is was about time to buy my first GPS.

The Garmin C230 GPS has a very nice 3.5 inch 16 bit color touch screen to work with. The screen is very vibrant and easy to read even in sunny conditions. The C230 chooses different colors and contrasts based on whether you are driving in the day or night. The light sensor on the unit detects the amount of sunlight there is and switches from daytime to nighttime mode automatically. I thought this feature was very nice considering how inexpensively they priced the C230.

Garmin includes a 128 megabyte SD flash card with the unit for storing maps. Make sure that if you buy this unit that you get a 1 gigabyte SD flash card with it. SD flash is now very cheap, you can get a 1 gig for around 10 dollars if you search around. With a gigabyte to work with you can store all of the maps for the United States.

The steps to get the unit running are pretty simple. You will need to install the Garmin software to your computer, hook up the USB cable to your GPS unit, and then download the maps to your GPS unit. Garmin’s software is very intuitive to use and installing the maps to from my computer to the GPS unit was fairly easy.

They include a heavy duty suction cup to mount the Garmin to your winshield. I don’t completely trust the suction cup method to support the weight of these GPS units so I placed mine at the bottom of the winshield. I have the unit mounted to the winshield but the bottom of the unit is supported by the dashboard. This way if the suction cup gives way (it has not yet) then the GPS will not fall. They also have a sticky pad if you want to have the unit glued to your dashboard. If you are worried about the theft, you can easily unhook the unit from the suction cup stand very easily.

Getting a signal on the GPS was very quick. When I powered on the unit it took about 45 seconds to see enough GPS satellites to get a fix on my location. I never lost a signal on the unit unless I was driving though a tunnel. Even driving through rain and snow the unit managed to maintain it’s signal.

I drive between 2500-3000 miles a week as a truck driver so I gave this GPS a pretty thorough road test. I was really impressed with the detail and accuracy of the maps of the C230. The voice commands are very easy to hear on the unit. I have a loud diesel engine and I can hear the directions even without turning the volume all the way up. As you approach your exit off the highway, the maps automatically zoom in to give you a street level view of that area. They have a detour feature which seems to work very well if there is a traffic jam or road closure that you want to avoid. You hit the detour button and within a few seconds you have a new route.

As a truck driver there is one major problem I have with the Garmin GPS. It gives you a truck routing choice in the menu. I have not figured out exactly what this does to your routing. There are many roads that trucks are not allowed to use for various reasons. Low bridges, weight restrictions, narrow roads, neighborhood hates trucks, etc. The Garmin’s truck routing did nothing to avoid any of these obstacles. I knew I had a problem with the routing when it told me to go drive my truck straight though Atlanta on I-85. No commercial trucks are allowed inside the I-285 beltway unless they are delivering in Atlanta. The fine is pretty high if you are caught so I hope this flaw in the routing does not get a newer driver in trouble. I really think Garmin should take the truck routing option off the menu until they have improved it.

Pros:

Priced very well
Touchscreen is vivid and easy to see
Software is intuitive
Maps are accurate
Voice directions are audible

Cons:

Needs bigger SD card
Don’t ever trust the truck routing

Many colleges and universities are putting their lectures on the Internet for download. You can go to Open Culture’s site to see a list of what is available. I found one that is really good. The Harvard Extension School has a course called Understanding Computers and the Internet. They have 14 lectures in the course, each lasting about 2 hours each. The lectures are available in both video and audio format. They cover a lot of material in the course, all the way from hardware to website development.

I was really impressed with a new programming language they covered called Scratch. Scratch was written by the Lifelong Kindergarden Group at the MIT Media Lab. It is a language where everything is programmed using drag and drop puzzle pieces rather than typing code. The simple GUI interface is aimed at teaching programming to new users. What impressed me about this program is the quality of games that new users have designed with it. You can control multiple spites and it handles collison detection so they can interact. They have had such success with the program that people with no coding experience are coming up with decent games in just a few hours.

If you would like to check the lectures out they are available for direct download in Flash, MP3, and Quicktime. You can also subscribe to their RSS feed if you want to download the lectures though your podcast aggregator. Here is a link to the course’s web site.

I found an interesting site that tracks the market shares of operating systems, search engines and browsers. The site is put out by a company called Net Applications. They offer a number of software tools to help website administators. The stats they have for Linux usage are pretty amazing to me. They have Linux usage at 0.37% for the month of December 2006. This is not even up to the level of the notorious Windows Me, which they have listed as 0.89% market share. These stats seem on the low side to me, especially after having read an interview with Mark Shuttleworth at Red Herring. During the interview he states that Ubuntu now has at least 8 million users worldwide. I don’t know how many Linux computers are running in the world, but if Ubuntu has 8 million alone, all of Linux distributions combined must be more than 0.37% of the total worldwide market.

I was consoled a bit to see Mozilla’s Firefox has been gaining ground fast. According to the site, they have managed to increase market share almost 50% this year, going from 9.5% to 14% between January to December 2006. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, with all it’s well publicized security problems, still has about 80% market share. Here is a link to the site if you would like to check out the statistics for yourself.

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