So far, I have owned and used iPads (first generation iPad, third generation iPad and a first generation iPad mini for work). I posted previously about my search for a usable stylus for iPad (Smartphones, tablets and styli). This was pretty much unsuccessful: iPad styli were always inadequately precise, either because they had a rubber blob of a tip that mimicked a fingertip, or because the bluetooth system used wasn’t precise enough.
A couple of years ago, I made my belated entry to the smartphone market, with a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (I recently updated to a Galaxy Note 4). This device comes with the S Pen, an interesting device that gives a really good screen response when writing. Coupled with excellent handwriting conversion, this meant that text entry by scribbling on the screen was a realistic proposition. Here’s a good description of how the S Pen works. Essentially, from that site:
An electromagnetic field is generated from a circuit behind the screen. The S Pen picks this up and uses it to power itself and figure out its position relative to the screen. It sends this, along with information from the S Pen button and the nib at the end, back to the Note.
At that point, it was abundantly clear that my next tablet purchase was likely to be a Samsung Note device. And on a recent visit to a department store I had a little play with a Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 tablet – and my partner bought one. After a weekend of seeing this device in action, I bought one too – reduced in price to £324. Anyway, for me (and the work I do) this is an iPad killer – for example:
Bigger screen, at a very decent resolution
Android 4.4.2 (this is like climbing over the wall of the Apple prison)
The S pen, which offers realistic sketch pad and handwriting recognition
Easier file transfer to and from the device than iTunes allows
Ability to add to the 32Gb onboard memory – I added a 64Gb card
Most of the apps I use on the iPad are also available on the Galaxy, and those that aren’t have perfectly good alternatives
You can run up to 4 apps simultaneously onscreen.
This is basically a power user’s tablet, and I really can’t fault it. But it’s the S Pen that really sells it to me. Here’s a very detailed review dating from March last year, when the beast retailed at about £649. I think it’s a pretty accurate review. I doubt I’d have been keen to cough up £649, but at £324 this seemed a great deal – I presume the discounted price means it’s either discontinued or a new model is due shortly.
After Apple replaced my 2 gigabyte first generation iPod Nano with a nifty little 8Gb sixth generation model (due to a product recall), I found myself using that in preference to my Cowon X7, even though the latter has 160Gb storage. The consequence of this is that I allowed the X7 to completely discharge.
No problem, I thought, just charge it up again. But no! Things are not that simple. It transpires that the Cowon firmware doesn’t take kindly to a fully discharged battery, and won’t let it charge. I did a spot of Googling, and discovered a suggested solution – to connect it to the charger for a long period – 100h was mentioned.
Well, I tried that, to no avail.
A second suggestion was to open up the case, and briefly short out two wires that connect the main circuit board to the battery. This then resets the system so it can charge the battery. Opening the device was quite tricky. It’s held together by four tiny T6 torx screws. A visit to the workshop, and the screws were out. The two halves of the case are clicked together, and took a bit of leverage to separate. This done, the innards are exposed – everything remains attached to the front of the case.
This is what’s revealed when the back of the unit is removed. Most of the space is occupied by the hard drive and the battery. The PCBs on the left are partly covered by a thin blue film of insulator.
Here’s a close-up showing the connections that need to be shorted. You need to gently peel back the blue film, then use a paperclip or similar to short out the two soldered joints (black and red wires) at bottom right.
After that, the device starts accepting charge again. A couple of hours later, the battery was fully charged and I was ready to go.
This problem seems quite widespread and I saw several instances in discussion forums around the web. It does appear to be a significantly bonkers design flaw. Still, now I know what to do!
Fortunately, the icy conditions we’d seen since Christmas had warmed a bit, so there wasn’t any danger of slipping on ice. But on the other hand, the roads were distinctly damp and there was a very strong and blustery wind from the south. As Steve Abraham was calling in on the time trial (and riding it) as part of the first day of his attempt to beat Tommy Godwin’s mileage record (follow his progress here), we had the presence of CNN and BBC Local News together with a large number of cyclists, many of whom decided to take part in the race. Continue reading →
I’m always interested in tinkering with alternative audio usage of my Raspberry Pi devices. As standard, I’m using them as Squeezebox substitutes, running the minimalist OS piCorePlayer, though I’ve also tried Squeezeplug and Raspbian for this. Rune Audio, which I think is derived from RaspyFi as a fork at the time RaspyFi became Volumio (though I may have that the wrong way round), recently released a version 0.3 beta for the Raspberry Pi, so (being naturally curious) I decided to try it out.
This was my second trip over to Normandy in 2014. Along with my Team Grumpy team-mate Gerry, I had a long weekend away to make another assault on the Corporatif category of the Duo Normand.
As something of a prologue to this year’s event, I’d decided to modify my P3’s set up. For the last few years, I’d had flat handlebar extensions fitted to the USE Tula bars, but since getting a Cervelo P5, I’d decided that returning to extensions with upturned ends would be beneficial. I ordered the required replacement parts and set about fitting them. It was soon apparent that I had a problem on my hands – I just couldn’t persuade the left hand extension to go through the base bar. After several days effort, I gave up and reverted to Plan B: to buy a new base bar and use some old Deda GCB extensions I had previously used on a fixed wheel TT bike.
A few days later I was the proud owner of a Zipp Vukabull base bar, and I excitedly set the bike up. The Deda extensions have a weird fitting system with a single bolt holding each extension in place. A spot of hefty heaving and pushing convinced me I had tightened them up properly. Unfortunately, a mixture of work commitments and shortened daylength meant I didn’t have an opportunity to road test the bike…
Fast forward to the Wednesday before the Duo Normand. Gerry arrived and after loading the car and having a quick dinner, we set off for the ferry. As an insurance against there being some problems with the Deda tribar setup (and I was thinking mostly of whether the bike fit would be correct), I slung the Tulas into the car at pretty much the last minutes.
Despite the hold up at the M25-M3 junction, we made it to the ferry on time. Gerry had what appeared to be a mild cold at this point, so after a quick beer, we retired to our cabin and each had a somewhat fitful sleep before being woken at 4.45am (UK time) with our breakfast. Somewhat groggily, we rolled off the ferry at about 7am on the Thursday morning and set off for the accommodation we’d booked near Cerisy La Salle. While we wouldn’t get to move in until 4pm, Gerry had arranged that we could leave most of our kit there while we went off to ride round the Duo Normand course and go to the supermarket. So off we went…having noted but ignored Team Grumpy Rule #2…
Team Grumpy Rule #2: Don’t tinker with your bike the evening before the event. It will break, either then or, worse still, during the event.
After about 6km, I realised that I had a problem. The left hand Deda extension had come loose. We stopped to tighten it up, and proceeded round the course. Sadly, the extension just would not stay put, and squirmed off its mounting repeatedly, even when not being used. We took a long time over this ride, due to three or four stops to tighten the extensions, and one stop at a cafe in Feugeres. By the time we rode back into Marigny, the left hand extension had come completely out, much to the concern of one of the race organisers, who was setting out barriers on the roadside (probably not helped by my pidgin French explaining that my handlebars were broken).
Somewhat dispirited, we returned to the car, and while doing a spot of shopping for supplies, decided what to do next. The decision was quite easy: there was no way I could be confident about the Deda bars, so the plan was to sort out the Tulas. With the combined brute force of Team Grumpy, the errant handlebar extension was put in place. Sighs of relief all round. We then decided that the extensions needed to be trimmed for a better gear cable routing. So out came my trusty pipe cutter.
Here events took a further turn for the worse – the pipe cutter broke, leaving itself locked to my handlebars. By this time, the public and repeated quoting of Team Grumpy Rule #2 was becoming slightly grating. The judicious use of a mole wrench removed the offending pipe cutter, which was then consigned to the French rubbish disposal system. With a half-cut tribar extension, we pondered what to do next (sadly we weren’t ourselves half cut at this time), and formed a plan of action – we’d visit a big supermarket for an appropriate tool and spend Friday morning refitting everything to the bike.
Bike Maintenance Friday
On Friday morning, and armed with a newly purchased (and frankly rather flimsy) hacksaw, we set about trimming the tribar extensions. This was relatively easy for the first one, which had been partially cut by the pipe cutter, but a bit more hassle for the second. Still, with a bit of elbow grease, the job was done, and the bike could be assembled. This is a bit fiddly for a P3, due to the complicated gear cable runs, but it was quite a pleasant job out in the autumn sunshine.
Eventually, the job was done, and after a spot of lunch we set out on a quick ride round our favoured training circuit. We had both decided to ride our disc wheels (Gerry with a Pro disc, and me with my Hed Powertap disc). We were feeling a little under the weather, so we kept the pace quite easy for most of this ride. Annoyingly, my Garmin Edge 500 wasn’t playing ball, and just wouldn’t go beyond an irritating message of “Working”. This was particularly irritating, since it clearly wasn’t actually “working”!We stopped for a coffee at a cafe in Cerisy, where the stupid Garmin decided to work. I punished it by promptly switching it off. Still, at least the bike was behaving itself. Happy with the setup, I taped the extensions.
Signing on for the Duo
The Saturday before Duo day is always a pain – the queues for signing on are invariably lengthy, so we decided not to go to Marigny until later in the afternoon. In the meantime, we had another spin round the training circuit. This time I had my Powertap Hed Disc wheel speaking to the Garmin, and all was fully functional. We had a nice easy leg-easer of a ride, and stopped off to pick up bread and pastries en route. At this point, Gerry decided to undertake his own infraction of Rule #2 by switching cassettes so he had a wider gear range on his disc wheel. A brief test ride later, and he reported all was well. So at this point, we had two fully functional bikes.
We trailed over to Marigny at around 3pm, hoping to find a short queue for signing on. Unfortunately, the was a big queue, so we wandered off to sit in the park and consult the startsheet/programme. A bit later, we returned to find the queue just as long. We decided we’d best join it, and eventually signed on. But not before a bit of hassle about registration payments, and a claim that the cheque Gerry had sent had not been received.
Signing on complete, we returned to our accommodation to feast on four cheese ravioli in a roasted vegetable sauce of our own devising. And no beer. None at all. Not a smidge.
Race Day – The Duo Normand
On race day, we rose early to have breakfast and mosey on over to Marigny in time to see the first riders in the Unlicenced category start at around 8am. It was misty and cold. We wandered about then returned to the car, which was at least warm. After a bit we got the bikes out, pumped the tyres up and set up the turbo trainers. This year’s warm up would be a bit more controlled than in previous years, partly to avoid the breathing problem that has afflicted Gerry in recent years during the starting effort.
Unfortunately, all I could see was stupidly high power levels, and a huge effort turning the pedals in my bottom gear on my el cheapo portable turbo trainer. Still, I quickly did several brisk intervals which raised a sweat and pushed my heart rate up. In contrast, Gerry’s warmup seemed particularly professional and effective.
Once off the turbos, we made final checks to our bikes by riding up the road and back, before moving down towards the start ramp. There, we found that team 274 had missed their start (we were 272), and were frantically trying to be allowed to start even as our countdown started. Off down the start ramp, and up the lane we went. As per the usual plan, I moved to the lead just as the gradient began to level out, only to find first one and then the second member of team 274 come past. I put on the pressure a bit to get in front of them, but had to ease back (this was a prior tactic to try and prevent a recurrence of Gerry’s exercise-related breathing difficulties). At this point, team 274 came past again, with the their supporting car pushing through.
This set the pattern for the next 30 or so kilometres. I was taking extended spells on the front, as I seemed to the the stronger team member this year, and every so often when our pace slowed, the 274 guys would come through – sometimes with, sometimes without their car. To be fair, while this was annoying, it did seem that they weren’t taking pace from us. Mostly I was cross that the organisers had set these guys off so close behind us that this kind of problem was obviously going to happen.
For the most part, the other riders we encountered were those we were catching. We kept up a cracking pace through to Feugeres, where the route starts getting a bit lumpy. At this point, our progress was enlivened by my bellowing and shouting at another team’s support vehicle to get out of our way. From here back to Marigny, Team Grumpy struggled on the hills, with gaps opening up, but partly recouping some of the time on the descents. We did pretty well on the major descents, including the infamous ‘ghoul corner’ where one year several riders came a cropper.
Coming through Marigny, Gerry waved me through to take the lead out of town for the hairpin section. I pressed on, defying the sensations of imminent cramp in my legs, and forcing our way past support cars and other riders, up the incline until we reached the descent to the hairpin turn. Here Team Grumpy found something of a return of organisation, with both riders doing well. At the turn, Gerry had trouble negotiating the turn – I heard a very Anglo-Saxon expletive from behind me, waited a bit and then set off for the finish. On this final climb, Gerry again seemed a bit out of sorts, but we both bashed out a fine turn of speed for the final few kilometres to the finish line, which we crossed in good style.
We stopped round the corner from the finish line, completely wasted. I estimated that we’d done a quicker time than in recent years – a 1h23m ride by my reckoning.But what would our placing be? Just then the hot favourites in our category finished – the Procycling RT pairing of Jamie Wilkins and Robin Coomber. They seemed pleased with their ride, as well they might have, since they took the Corpo category record with a superb ride of 1:12:52 (good enough for 13th place overall). We staggered back to the car feeling utterly spent.
Back at the car, we got changed and started putting the bikes back in the car. At this point, we discovered that Gerry’s back wheel had a very soft tyre, maybe 50 or 60psi, which we reckoned explained some of his issues out there (and particularly the weird handling of his bike, especially at the final turn). Somewhat grumpily we returned to the centre of town to watch the action. We chatted to some other riders, including a Mixte pair that had had a bit of an accident following a touch of wheels (Rimmington and Wilson of Team Swift – they still won their category with 1:16:31 for 29th place overall), and the Finsbury Park CC teams. After my traditional post-race snack of grilled sausage and chips, we picked up copies of photos of us on the start ramp and passing through Marigny (pasted above). The traditional hanging around impatiently for the results finished with the Corpo results being laid out – see the photos below. Despite doing 1:23:31, our best time for several years, we were placed only 6th.
It turns out there’s a proposal that the route might be changed, and the organisers were conducting a ballot on the subject, with one’s influence depending on the number of time one has competed. Sadly all the ballot papers had gone, but we were assured that voting would be possible online.
After returning to the house, we embarked on consuming the remaining Leffe, while figuring out what was wrong with Gerry’s wheel. We couldn’t see a convincing puncture, though we could see abrasions resulting from his locked wheel at the final turn. As it turned out, there wasn’t a puncture so much as a defective valve, which was slowly and periodically allowing small amounts of air out. With that solved, we set to making ourselves a vegetarian curry and finishing the Leffe. Oh how the years are affecting us – we didn’t even finish the Leffe. Two bottles remained to be added to Gerry’s beer stash back in Wales. And so to bed.
We got up early and cleared up. After a chat with the manager of the gite, we set off for Caen, pausing to refuel en route. At Ouistreham we stopped at a big Carrefour for a coffee, then some shopping for presents, and then lunch before driving to the ferry. The ferry had several car loads of Duo riders, including several from Wales. So at least the customary ferry queue was a bit more interesting than usual.
Actually, looking at our results over the 11 editions of the Duo Normand in which we’ve competed, this year’s time wasn’t bad at all, despite our 6th place in the Corpo category. You have to go back to 2008 for a better time.
The organiser of this event had a bit of a torrid time. The original course was an interesting one, seemingly two and a half laps of the Astwood circuit (as features frequently in this blog). Sadly, roadworks on that course necessitated a course switch to a course based on the Brogborough course*. There was also a second event, a 10 mile one. I had entered because the Astwood course would be good preparation for the upcoming Duo Normand, so I was disappointed in this turn of events. It also meant that the startsheet was the longest and most complicated I can recall, seeing as it was prepared with both courses in mind, and had to describe the route to and from each course from the HQ (Cranfield Village Hall). It ran to an alarming 15 pages!
The revised 25 mile course started at the usual 10 start at the top of Brogborough hill. It proceeded across the Marston Moretaine roundabout to the Wootton RAB (the 10 mile turn), then we were routed over the flyover to a loop running through Wootton to the Marston Moretaine RAB, back to the far turn, another loop through Wootton, back to the far turn, then returning via the Marston Moretaine RAB to finish down the quaintly named Sheeptick lane.
Actually, this was less complicated than it sounds, but I found the loop section quite tough due to a pretty rough and potholed surface. The second time round was a bit easier. Overall, the rising wind was a bit annoying, and only helped in the last 5 miles or so. Also there were about 15 roundabout passages, and on quite a few of these I got held up!
In the end, I finished in 1:00:15. Not too great, but still it was a race!
*Annoyingly, about an hour after we were notified of the course change, the lights were taken away!
This was the last time trial in the North Bucks TT series (the remaining event is the Hill Clib championship). Three North Bucks riders turned up, to be joined by three others, who must have detected our crestfallen faces! Still, there was a race to be ridden.
The Stagsden course is quite interesting, with significant undulations that can be quite disruptive to the riders’ rhythm variably depending on the wind direction. This morning, there was pretty much no wind, and the only issues were the drags up to Astwood and Chicheley, which affected both legs equally.
I just tried to buckle down and go as hard as I could. I finished in 23:17 to take second place behind Richard Wood. Mind you, the three non-NBRC riders were on road bikes!
.+ / -
As usual, we’re indebted to Steph, Tony and Bryan for ensuring the event could happen.
This event was a re-run of the VTTA men’s ’25’ championship originally run earlier in the season. the event had to be abandoned due to extraordinarily heavy rain mid-way through the event. Talking to riders, it sounds like conditions hd been truly foul with standing water many inches deep in places. For some reason, the rescheduled event was being held as a morning event – most E2/25 races are afternoon events. This brought with it transport issues. I travelled over with Katja, leaving at about 5am. I thought it prudent to set the alarm on my watch, but unfortunately messed up the watch’s setting, so I was woken at 4am, but French time. I found myself awake an hour earlier than I needed to be. Oh well.
It was a pretty cold morning, around 8 degrees when we started, and there was a rising wind from the west. Westerly winds aren’t usually the best thing for events on the E2/25, so while I remained a bit optimistic about the event, I wasn’t really sure how it would go. The E2/25 isn’t a course I ride terribly frequently. It uses major dual carriageways, the A14 and the A11, but actually feels pretty safe because there aren’t many slip roads, and the roads are pretty wide.
I confess to not warming up well – this was mostly due to the fact it was so cold. However, I shot down the slip road onto the A14 and find myself going well at about 29mph. Alas, this wasn’t to last as I soon found myself exposed to the breeze. I felt really pretty awful on the outward leg, with my speed dropping each time the road sloped gently up. Bearing in mind the undulations on the course are not exactly steep, this was rather disappointing, and I began to worry about the outcome. By the time I reached the turn, I was feeling quite despondent. I’d tried dropping my gears to find a higher cadence, but each time I did this, my speed fell further so I kept the gears high.
At the turn, I spotted Davey Jones out there photographing riders – I think he was sat in a position to grab photos as riders approached the slip road back down to the dual carriageway.
The return leg was (thankfully) quite a bit quicker, as the wind was assisting us. I found myself clocking along at more than 30mph at times. Sadly this didn’t compensate for the toughness of the outbound leg, and I finished with 56:40. This was good enough for 30th place out of 118 finishers on actual time, though as I’m not a VTTA member, no result on standard for me!
I think it says something about my late season build up of form that I was disappointed with 56:40, back in May this would have seemed an unlikely performance. Perhaps this is a good sign!
This was rather a cool evening, cooler than we’d experienced for a while now. Not bad conditions, with only a fairly light breeze. I was hoping for continued good form, though after a couple of hard days at work I wasn’t so sure things would pan out OK. We had a good turnout of 22 riders for this club event.Continue reading →
As the season moves on, we reached the penultimate evening event in the NBRC time trial series with another event on the Stoke Hammond bypass course. A field of 16 riders turned out on a slightly blustery evening of sunny spells and pleasant temperatures. Not too bad for the ride, though I expected a head wind up to the DC section (and I was concerned that my Hed Stinger 90 might be slightly twitchy).
The start was less affected by the windy conditions, at least until after the second roundabout, when the road rises towards the DC section. I kept the effort up, only to be forced to a sudden tub-scraping skid of a stop by a car overtaking me just before the roundabout and stopping! Up to speed again, on the DC, and I could see riders in front of me, getting closer. I was feeling pretty good. Couldn’t read my Garmin other than speed, so I had no idea what HR I was on, as as for recent events was riding mostly on feel.
Once round the turn, I could see a pall of very dark cloud ahead of me and I was getting increasingly concerned that I’d get soaked. Again. Fortunately, the raing didn’t approach very quickly, and I had the opportunity to storm down to the finish, with a wind-assisted run along the false flat to the line.
I can in with 22:54 for second place, which I was quite pleased with. I was also first on vet standard.
Sadly, the rainstorm got us just as Tony arrived with the results, and I had a very wet ride home!