Pinewood Derby

Even though I’ve added some content, I haven’t actually “posted” to this site since 2011. In the past I created a static “page” for anything interesting I put here, then a simple “post” to draw attention to it. A “post” has a date associated, and is the basis for a “blog”, which this site really isn’t anymore.

Anyway, since I’ve been adding stuff, I might as well create a post to lead you to it. Cub scout pinewood derby time is upon us again, so I’ve put up some information about the cars my kids and I have made. Take a look at the project page!

Bad Piggies pinewood derby car

Archived Geocaches in Central IL

One thing Geocaching.com doesn’t make easy is finding the location of archived caches. I grabbed my whole history of pocket query files (back to April 2004) and built a GPX file containing all archive caches I could get my hands on. The map below shows up to 50 miles from Peoria, but my data is most complete within 30 miles of Peoria.

Click here for a larger map. You can also view this query in GPS Visualizer. If you want to download the GPX file to fool with yourself, go ahead.

Take a look if you’re interested. There have been quite a few times when I’ve wanted to know “what was that cache that used to be here?”, and this map has helped provide answers.

Tasker for Android

Earlier this year I got an Android phone (the Droid Incredible), a purchase I’m quite happy with. One thing I really like about the Android platform is it’s open nature. I know that’s become a trite sentiment, but compared to my iPod Touch, there are very few limits on my ability to tinker with the phone. Now that I’m fairly comfortable with the phone and the O/S, tinkering is exactly what has been on my mind!

An application I recently discovered is Tasker. It’s an amazing application that can be used for automating and customizing many of the features of an Android device. In short, you set up rules (called “contexts”) that, when triggered, cause different actions to occur.

Here are a few of the things I’m doing with Tasker:

  • At home, school, work, and church, set the ringer volume appropriately.
  • Turn on wi-fi only when I’m at home.
  • Announce the time every half-hour (when I’ve got the headphones plugged in).
  • When I receive a phone call or email, speak the name of the caller/sender.
  • When my geocaching app is running, don’t let the display time out and shut off.
  • When I plug in my headphones, launch the podcast app.
  • A couple of minutes after I connect to my home network, update and download my RSS feeds and podcasts.
  • If I’m someplace where the ringer needs to be off, ignore the volume buttons and keep quiet.
  • If I can’t find my phone, I can send a special text message to it to cause it to ring as loudly as possible.
  • If I think my phone is stolen, I can send a different text message to it. The phone will then find its location using GPS and reply with a message telling where it’s located, how fast it’s moving and how much battery life is remaining. I can also have it take a picture or record audio.

Initially, I was going to post my scripts here, but I realized there’s not realy any further contribution I can make, other than just casting my vote for this app. The Tasker Wiki has a good set of example profiles that you can use to create your own, and it covers most common topics fairly well.

Tasker is available in the Android Market using the QR code above. It’s only a few bucks, and in my opinion it’s money well spent. Tasker might be a little daunting at first, but once you get past the steep part of the learning curve, there’s a lot of functionality!

Password-protected podcasts on Android

One of the first things I wanted to do when I got my Android phone was get my podcasts available to me without having to sync with my computer (as was basically required on my iPod Touch). There are a number of choices for “podcatchers” on Android, but many of them don’t handle password-protected podcasts.

One of my favorite podcasts is the Bob and Tom podcast, which has a small subscription fee, and therefore requires authentication. Originally, the need to provide a password limited my choice in podcatchers. One of the most popular (and free) choices is Google Listen, which does not support authentication. Thankfully, I found a workaround.

Yahoo Pipes is a tool for manipulating RSS feeds and other web content. Since a podcast is basically just an RSS feed, Yahoo Pipes can solve this problem. All I did was create a new pipe and have it import the Bob and Tom feed. When I specified the feed URL for the original podcast, I put the username and password into the URL as follows:

http://username:password@rss.premiereradio.net/bobntom/podcast.xml

Then, instead of pointing Google Listen at the original podcast feed URL, I pointed it at the feed for my new pipe. Since my Yahoo pipe isn’t password-protected, Google Listen has no problem with it. Note: don’t “publish” your pipe; keep it private. It has your username and password for the authenticated podcast associated with it.

Using this trick, basically any podcatcher available for Android should be able to handle a password-protected podcast. If this workaround is not your cup of tea, there are a few apps I’ve found that are capable of handling authenticated podcasts natively. Here, in brief, are the results of my tests.

  • DoggCatcher – a very attractive app, but it’s having problems with redownloading episodes every day due to the way this podcast is structured. It will get the job done.
  • ACast (free) – works just fine, but its interface is a bit confusing.
  • BeyondPodpowerful but simple, and is working great so far. In the past I had problems with duplicate episodes being downloaded, but the problem hasn’t reoccurred. This one is currently my favorite.

Any other good choices? Let me know in the comments!