Posts Tagged ‘technology’

Recently, listening to someone that I thought I respected, I was told that I shouldn’t use “Rube Goldberg” methods in trying to solve problems. The person in question had seen how over the years, I would use any means at hand, complicated or simple, to accomplish the goals set before me. This often resolved into not pursuing the goals any further because this person couldn’t understand how I got there.


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Lots of folks that are running or cycling have used GPS watches (is that the right term?) to record their routes, pace, training, etc.  For a few years, I also used a Garmin 305 that I was given at Christmas.  It is the one piece of gear that is hard to give up.  We runners especially often want to know our pace and distance.  I have seen that quite a few folks have switched to using their smartphones for the same purpose.  I also tried to use mine in place of my Garmin, but wasnt’ very satisfied.  That was until a friend suggested I use Strava.

In early September, my faithful Garmin gave up the ghost.  Since they are kind of pricy, I couldn’t just go out and replace it.  I needed another option to carry me through marathon training.  Yes, in keeping with Murphy’s Law, it chose to die right when it’s really needed.  I had used another app, which shall remain nameless, when I first got my smartphone.  However, it was kind of a memory and power hog on my phone.  It required access to the GPS and the 3G at the same time.  Therefore it was not a good option.

I spent a good deal of the Fall just using a stopwatch app and running already well tracked routes.  I could probably write a whole post on low-tech running, though I think there are many other proponents already.  It was enjoyable.  I had to run just on my own pace monitoring my breath and body to do things correctly.  For the most part, it did work, but that’s another story.  I missed my Garmin, but I needed a quicker, cheaper alternative.

Then, a friend told me I should try Strava’s app.  Strava.com is one of the newer on-line ride/run loggers.  I had looked at them briefly, once, but didn’t think about trying them further.  When my friend gave them a good mark, I thought I’d try them out.  Now, I see why.

Rather than a large unwieldy app, Strava breaks theirs into two apps, one for cycling and one for running.  Their basic screen isn’t any harder to use than a Garmin or a watch.  What sold it to me was it’s ability to run in airplane mode.  On smartphones, there should be an “airplane” mode where you can kill all of the radios for wi-fi and 3G/4G (whatever they’re calling it today).  However, since GPS doesn’t usually transmit, it’s still on during airplane mode. Getting to use Strava during airplane mode means a great power savings during my runs and rides.

The app is alright to be disconnected during airplane mode and when I press pause on the screen, it doesn’t automatically try to upload the data.  Instead, there is a separate button to do so.  Therefore, I have time to put my phone back into regular transmission modes and then allow Strava to finish the run/ride and upload.  You can view all your routes and workouts on the smartphone or on the web.

The second feature that I like is that on the phone, it provides splits and speeds.  Since I use Linux and Garmin does not have a Linux version of Garmin Connect, I cannot view my splits across my runs.  I don’t have to worry with that now since I can see mile splits on the phone as soon as I’m through running.  In addition, on the cycling app, I can view a graph of the instantaneous speeds and see if I’m travelling well.    With the speed graph, I can see where my speed is peaking during the ride. This is kind of important since I’m an urban rider and getting your average speed which includes all your traffic stops is misleading.

The only problem I have run into with Strava, and it is a small thing, is that it counts movement time.  I would prefer a setting that allows me to deselect that feature.  I like to measure myself the same as it would be during a run or ride where all the time counts.

I’ve used the Strava app for both running and cycling for a few weeks.  It has been as easy to use as my Garmin was.  Since I carry my phone with me, it might as well be doing something useful.  Strava works simply and without drawing on as many resources as some other apps do.  I think I’ll keep using it.  Merry Christmas to all and happy running!

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With only two weeks until the MetroPCS Dallas Marathon, I had my second to last long run this morning.  I think that my timing was perfect.  I elected to begin a half hour later knowing I would have to deal with traffic on a Saturday morning, but the extra sleep would be nice.  However, to my surprise, it seems that Black Friday shopping turned into my blessing.  The roads were pretty sparce.

My goal today was just 12 miles.  It seems odd to be using the word ‘just’ along with ’12 miles’, but it’s true.  Four years ago, I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) have said something that sounds so weird.  In any case, rather than running my regular 12-miles-at-a-go route, I thought I’d just run my 6 mile loop twice.  That shouldn’t be hard since I’ve been doing loops all Fall for my long runs.

I took off just after 6 AM.  The streets were still dark for about a half hour.  I expected the traffic to be low at that time.  What I didn’t expect was that after running for more than an hour, the streets were still empty.  Even down near the finish of the run at close to 9AM, traffic was still very light.  So, I suppose that since so many folks must have worn themselves out shopping on Black Friday, today should have been a boon to most runners.  I wonder if any other runners also had a great run with little traffic today?

Also, I thought I’d throw in an update on the BikeIrving.org website.  It is getting closer to reality.  I have worked with owner’s domain and been able to point it to my server to see how it works.  I’ve also gotten WordPress loaded and set up for the pages that won’t have something to do with mapping.  It is looking a lot more like a web site now.  I’m also down to the last real mapping task and that is to be able to save and recall routes.  I have a plan on how to do so and now just need to implement it and make it work.

I guess there are folks out in the real world that can probably put sites out like this in a heartbeat.  I would probably be further along as well, but my full time job right now is finding a job.  Probably the other slowness is the way that I work.  I’m a hacker.  No, not the kind that tries to break into the CIA, or the DOD.  A hacker is a coder; a programmer.  I just really enjoy writing code and seeing it work.  I like even more seeing my code do things for people.  There are probably lots of faster ways to make web sites, but I still like mine.  Except for what I do with WordPress, I use a text editor for the special stuff.  Yep, that’s right; a plain old text editor–no drag and drop, no point and click.

But enough about such foolish things.  You didn’t stop by here to debate the pros and cons of text editors.  Thanksgiving is a great time of year.  It is time to be thankful for all the things we have.  I am thankful that I have my family.  I am thankful that I am blessed by God with so many things.  I am thankful that I get to get up in the morning and run or ride or whatever.  There are so many in our world with so much less and they are still thankful for what they have.  We are blessed beyond measure for things we probably don’t deserve.  So I am glad that on this Saturday, I get to get out and run and do some work that will help others.  Happy running!

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It seems that this new cold front is getting here just in time.  Tomorrow is the Cool Run 10K/5K in my town.  It’s held each year at the end of October by a local foundation to help raise money to fight cancer.  It was the first race I ran four years ago in 2008.  I have run the 10K each time and have improved each year.  Last year was my best at 1:06:10.  I’m still looking for that 1 hour or less 10K.

It’s a really fun race and the organizers put on a good one for the runners.  It’s local, but it does bring out some of the better runners from around the area as well as a good showing from the high school cross country teams.  I run it with a group of runners called Jo’s Team which honors a person we all knew that we lost because of cancer.  In addition to good running, it’s got the best food I’ve been to for any race of this size.  A local pizzeria named I Fratelli’s is right next door to the race and always brings out some of their great pies.

I’ve been fond of this race for a number of reasons.  It was my first and that is special.  It is also a good benchmark for where I am at in just running improvement.  I’ve been able to observe that I have gone from someone just barely able to finish the 10K to actually thinking I can compete, sort of.  Finally, it is also a good warmup for whatever I’m doing in December, whether it be a half or the full as I’m doing this year.

bikeirving screenshot

Test Site for the new BikeIrving.Org web site showing first tests of Google Maps API

However, I want to take a little while today to talk about a large (I mean really) project I am working on with a friend.  We are trying to build a web site for our city that will help us provide road and path data to the city on where cyclists are riding and commuting.  With this data we can help inform the city on where infrastructure and enhancements are needed because of known traffic patterns.  It will be a little similar to a site like mapmyride.com except that it will focus just on our city and we’ll be able to pull reports out of the database for presentation work (we hope).

To do this site, I had to start learning some new skills.  I had to begin learning the Google Maps Javascript API.  It is a geomapping extension born out of Google’s work on it’s maps.google.com site.  Though it’s free; easy it isn’t.  I’ve had to really extend my knowledge of Javascript in order to just make this small test work. And, I’ve still got a lot to do.

Currently, the only thing you can do at the site, which you can access here, is to select a starting address, plot a route on the map, and you can print out a list of the latitudes and longitudes from your route.  Probably none of this will be quite the same in the final version.  But, I am interested in getting folks’ reactions to it.

Though there are still many things to do just on this portion of the mapping, I will have to turn it aside for a bit to start working on the database portion.  The concept is that cyclists will be able to come to the site, register and provide a little bit of demographic data, then map the routes they often use for commuting or other reasons.  Then, on the back end, we can pull up common maps showing multiple routes and where these intersect with roads.  To do that, I will have to build a database of users and a database of routes, plus a content manager to help us use the site.  It will also be a place to post events about and for cycling in our city.  Because it’s a public site, we’ll also need to put a privacy notice in place and establish means to keep folks information private.

I have no idea how long it will take to finish such a site, but I am making progress.  I’m going to be getting some help on it soon, I think.  Currently, I have it hosted on my own server.  I don’t yet know where the final location will be, just yet.  In the meantime, I’m still job hunting.  Still trying to be patient and wait upon God‘s timing for how things will go.  I am encouraged by seeing where He is working in the process this week.  So, this afternoon, I’ll spend some more time on the web site and tomorrow, I’ll just go and have a Cool Run in the morning.  Happy Running (and Cycling)!

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It seems that my Fall training time for the Dallas Marathon may be fairly flexible.  I received recent notice that my job of the last four years is ending this month.  That happens, though I was still unprepared for it.  I was rather liking what I had been doing the past four years.  Now, I have to decide what is next, which is just not that easy to accomplish.

I will do alright for a while as I did receive a good severance deal from my employer.  So, I have a little time in which to formulate a good plan.  There are lots of choices but no clear direction or answers.  I am toying with the idea of doing some tech work on my own.  I’m not a web designer, but I do know a lot about setting up the systems and technologies so that companies can communicate with their clients and customers (I will not argue with folks on the most effective color of purple).  It doesn’t really take a designer to get an organization’s presence and message clearly out onto the Internet.  Yet, many don’t really know what to do with some of the newer things like social media.  To paraphrase what I read today in an article by Bob Sullivan of MSNBC, organizations are being told they need to be in social media, but they don’t know how to use it effectively.

I have taken a little time to finally get off my duff on one of my personal pet projects.  I now run my own Linux Server, with a real name.  I kept it kind of low key for a long time but I got a good deal on a domain name this week and decided it was time to push things out there.  My server can be reached at http://www.tardisgallifrey.com.  I’ve called it the T.A.R.D.I.S. Server Project II, after my favorite BBC character’s transportation device.  It is a big blue police box on the outside, but it is much bigger on the inside.  I kind of see servers in that same light, bigger on the inside than on the outside.  It doesn’t do a whole lot just yet, but the web site is functional and I can receive e-mail via the address I have posted there.

I missed my 8-miler on Wednesday because of thunderstorms.  I literally woke up at 4AM and before I left the bed it was FLASH, BOOM…and oh well, back to bed.  I got caught out once this Spring in a thunderstorm and they aren’t that nice for runs.  So, instead, tomorrow I will run a 9-miler on my “usual” long run day as the prequel to my marathon training, which will start in earnest the very last Saturday of August.  Additionally, a very hard project at work had me on my feet most of the week and I even missed running Thursday just for an extra rest day.

After the run, hopefully, I’ll get on the bike for my last training ride before Hotter-n-Hell 100 2012!  Probably no more than just an hour on the bike after the long run.  Yes, I believe I am ready for next Saturday’s ride.  Or, at least as ready as I can get.  It’s been four years since I made the hundred the last time.  It’s time to do so again, and this year, we get to do it on a different bike and a different route.  This year, all the riders will get to go through the Sheppard Air Force Base rest stop.  I understand it’s better than cool.

I’m going to take my 1986 Fuji to this ride.  After the work I did in the Spring, new wheels, beefing components up and putting on new brakes, it feels like a new bike.  I’ve ridden it the most often on training rides and I can hold a good pace without working too hard.  That will be key in the first 60 miles of the ride.  You really need to hit 60 miles feeling like you have another 40 in you.  You don’t really, but you need to feel like you do.

Changes are coming around my house.  Fall will approach soon and with it will be a whole host of new things and events.  I have already signed up for almost all my Fall races, so at least I do not have to decide on those.  I know I’ll be busy, but my training does not stop.  I have to do just what I’ll be doing for my marathon training, put a plan together and then follow it out to its conclusion.  Been there.  Done that already.  Happy Running!


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The Tale of the Treadmill…

We spent our Christmas Holidays with my wife’s parents in East Texas.  Since they had a pretty good treadmill and I didn’t prefer to fight 8 miles over the East Texas hills, I chose to do my long run of the week on their treadmill.  Though I knew it would be difficult, I was further surprised as I undertook one of my longest runs to date. (more…)

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