Saturday, April 23, 2016

"On The Go" with Android

Because of gray clouds covering the sky and a 15% chance of precipitation I had thought about writing this post out on my own deck by the patio table, but considering that I'm wanting to showcase the OTG ("On The Go") functionality of my Android devices I decided that it would simply be stupid to write the post at home rather than "on the go."  I'm taking a decided risk here because I've been caught in "15% chance of precipitation" on the scooter in the past, and I can assure you that it's every bit as wet and cold as 100% chance of precipitation is.  My location of choice for this post, McDonald's, the first of the cheapo food places to offer free Wifi.  I can fill my belly with two sausage burritos and a senior soda for $3.17 so even though it's not my favorite restaurant, (and I call it a restaurant loosely, but that's a whole 'nother story), it suffices for a task such as the one I'm in the process of undertaking.  And, check out the amount of junk inside a single burrito.  Not bad for a buck!

I pause here to read over the preamble above and think about my honey telling me all the time that I'm too wordy. True, but as I often counter, "Would you want to buy a book about the sinking of the Titanic to read, 'Ship hits iceberg.  Lots of people drown.  THE END.'?"

 Everything I need to blog "On The Go" fits into this case, smaller than a McDonald's tray.

While the rest of my family members would be lost without their precious iPhones, my allegiances to companies are always far removed from the Apple empire.  So it is with my PC and Windows based netbook and laptop, and thus also with my mobile devices all running Google's Android operating systems.  I like the way all of Google's products tie together and if they're collecting data and using what they learn about me for whatever business purposes might suit them, God bless them.  It costs me nothing to use their services heavily and freely so I'm okay with that. 

The small cable immediately to the left of the red card reader is all it takes to attach a peripheral with a standard USB male plug to an Android device.

I would venture to bet that the vast majority of Android users have no idea what OTG is all about, but with a standard USB female to USB Mini male adapter, there seems to be no end to what peripherals you can plug into an Android device and use!  You’ll notice in the pictures accompanying this post that there are no wires between the keyboard and the mouse running into the tablet which is a Lenovo S8-50F.  They’re both connected to the tablet via Bluetooth.  

So, what’s the thrill about OTG?  For me it’s basically transferring data easily and conveniently when I’m “on the go.”  Unlike many folks I know I can’t stand letting pictures accumulate on my phone or camera card and I regularly download them as soon as I can after an event at which I might have taken many.  I am NOT like so many people, especially females, who’ll grab their phones to show you pictures of their kids (or worse, grand kids) that they might have taken three years ago.  The pictures I want the world to see go on Facebook or get e-mailed to whomever I’d like to see them.  The rest go into storage where, at the moment, I have 81,628 family pictures taken since 1986 when I got my mitts on my first digital camera.  I probably have more than that many in different directories showcasing various other times and events. 

The picture immediately above this one and the paragraph atop it was pulled from the camera's SD card using the card reader plugged into the tablet with the adapter cable
Here’s how the OTG works.  Let’s say I’m away for a four day vacation.  Each day I’ll take bunches of photos (after reminding myself that digital photos are essentially free and that I can shoot as many as I want).  Each evening with the small adapter cable, and a card reader, I’ll download all of the day’s pictures to the tablet.  But, I like redundant backups, so I’ll also use OTG to copy the pictures to an ingenious flash drive made by SanDisk so that there will be copies on the tablet and on the flash drive.  After that I can format the card, stick it back into the camera, and be ready for another day of photography.  And, I can enjoy looking at the day’s gatherings on the screen of the tablet which is much bigger and of a better resolution than the camera’s own stingy disply screen. 

Here’s the flash drive I’m referring to...   

 A button on the side slides one way to expose an mini USB male that plugs into the tablet or the phone to gather data, or to add it if so desired.  Slide the button to the opposite end of the little device, though, and it’s a full sized USB male read to interface with the netbook, laptop, or PC!  Here I am at McD’s with this post in progress.  I took a picture of myself with the camera and within a minute there it was on the screen of the laptop for me to insert right here within the post itself.  (Yes, the camera has built in Wifi and I can pull pictures from it straight to my tablet or phone, but it’s battery intensive so if I’m moving more than just a few files, I use the cable.)  It should be noted that any flash drive can be interfaced with an OTG adapter and used with a compatible Android device.

To be sure, without Bluetooth a full sized PC keyboard, a numeric keypad, and a wireless mouse dongle can be plugged into the Android devices and work automatically without one having to install any kinds of drivers.  If your device is OTG compatible it seems that somehow it just knows what you’ve plugged into it and away it goes with complete functionality.  You can even run, for example, a keyboard AND a mouse with a USB bus. I haven't tried attaching a printer, though, because I can't see a situation where it would be practical to take one with me to a remote location.

Perhaps the most exciting discovery to me is that a full external hard drive can be ported into an Android device.  My entire album of those 81K+ pictures that I’ve taken are on a terabyte drive that stores easily in the case I take with me when I’m in the mood for some OTG action.  That drive is my tertiary redundant backup of all the files I’ve accumulated since I’ve had a PC so with my tablet and its OTG capabilities, I can access anything I might ever need from my past computing history no matter where I go. 

One of my old blog headers from the terabyte hard drive on the right was pulled up within seconds of searching for it.  The tablet's own battery is sufficient to power the external hard drive.

Finally, yes there are other ways to accomplish data transfer from mobile devices to and from each other and with full sized computers, but there are times when circumstances and the unavailability of Wifi connectivity make them less practical than using a physical device to do it.  Besides, I just think that OTG is cool!  If you found this article enlightening and you’d like to give OTG a shot, do be aware that OTG adapter prices vary greatly from place to place.  I think I saw one at Best Buy for over $30 that you can get online for about a buck and a quarter.  Also, it needs to be noted that since Lollipop came out, Android devices can’t write directly to OTG peripherals without a little research and adaptation, but everything one might need to know is out there on Google.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Peculiar Freedom

Before I left the hospital in September, the cardiologist who placed my stents ordered me gently to walk daily.  “Walk out your front door, pick a direction, and walk for 15 minutes; then turn around and go back.”  Thirty minutes a day was mandated, and although it’s difficult to complete some days because of the bad knee which seems to be getting worse, maybe because of the walking, I do it faithfully.

When I started the daily walks I was using a cane and they weren’t easy.  I teeter when I walk, like a penguin waddling on its short little feet.  The prescription of a walker with wheels and a built-in seat was a godsend and while it doesn’t make the knee hurt any less, it stabilizes my gait so at least I don’t look like I had half a bottle of vodka before leaving the house. 

My neighborhood isn’t one to walk in.  Through just my adult lifetime we’ve watched the area go to pot with the influx of many unsavory looking characters with whom I’d prefer not to interact so when I first started walking I went to residential areas nearby that have yet to become blighted by people who I will kindly say just don’t happen to share the same core values as I.  Over time I graduated to walking outdoors atop the levees that form the walls beside the Susquehanna River as it courses through Wilkes-Barre and surrounding communities.  They’re paved, smooth, and without the clickety-clunk of the walker’s wheels that was constant when I was walking over sidewalks.  And they’re more open to the enjoyment of the fresh air and sunshine than the areas below where each house is built nearly on top of the one next to it, so densely were they packed when they were built, many of them in the early 1900s.

When I started using the walker, there was one huge thing about it that was far from ideal.  I couldn’t ride the scooter to where I was going to walk as I’d been doing when I was walking with only a cane.  When winter came and I was grounded by the weather I started walking in various large stores nearby, using a shopping cart to ease the legs rather than the walker.  Then spring arrived and I found myself walking indoors on way too many beautiful days simply because I could take the scooter, park near a cart corral, and use that to do my walking.

I built onto the back of the Piaggio the first summer that I had it a very sturdy aluminum frame to use for carting things and with strategically placed eye hooks I could attach nearly anything to it with bungee cords.  Eventually I came to add what used to be a little metal shelf, but mounted to the scooter vertically to serve as an anchor for the crate that I usually carry because it’s so convenient for picking up groceries and the like.  I’d suspected for a while that somehow I’d be able to hang the walker from the frame, using the shelf thing to keep it upright during the ride to where I’d be taking it.  My suspicions were confirmed yesterday when I actually gave it a try and discovered that I couldn’t have made the dimensions of the frame so near to the leg span of the walker if I’d actually tried building it for the role reason of transporting the walker.  I enjoyed my first walk outdoors just a little later, taking the walker for its inaugural ride on the scooter.  It worked like a charm!

Even though I’d always considered riding a scooter to be a unique form of freedom (All the fun of a motorcycle without the hassle of shifting through gears.) now, I’ll be enjoying the peculiar freedom of being able to take the scooter to where I’d like to walk on a given day, but with the support of the walker to help me on my way.  I’ll venture to bet that there won’t be too many scooters on the road with handicap license plates and walkers hung on the backs of them, nor all that many riders feeling uniquely blessed with the ability to keep on doing what they love to do, but in a unique way.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Tee Shirt, Shorts, and Sandals Season is Here!

I mentioned recently that last year on the first day of spring on which it was warm enough to celebrate being able to take the scooter out clad in only a tee shirt, short pants, and sandals, I posted a picture of myself wearing the light stuff with the good news on Facebook in one of the scooter forums.  Almost immediately the ATGATT (All the gear, all the time.) legion was all over me, chastising me as if I were a public sinner of some kind.

I felt like a transgender person trying to use the legally forbidden bathroom in a southern state or an adulteress in the 1600s.

Today was the first day of 2016 suitable for my preferred mode of summer riding dress and I'm celebrating it.  (It's also the 40th anniversary of the day on which I lost my virginity, but who's counting?)  

I don’t think I ever experienced what it was like to be on the “wrong side” among warring factions in the same way before that.  I’m generally an easy going, average, run of the mill Joe who doesn’t try to make waves and to be perfectly honest I didn’t realize that the ATGATTers were such proselytizers until then, hell bent on converting the rest of us to their way of paranoid thinking.  I certainly didn’t set out to offend anyone’s good sensibilities when I posted that picture and its celebratory caption, but that was because I didn’t know I was crossing a line of near religious belief rather than just into a different opinion as to what constitutes “proper” cycle riding dress.

 I do believe I’ll be posting such a picture again today on a similar if not the same Facebook scooter page, but this year I’ll be prepared to handle the flak rather than to shrink from it as I did last year when I pulled the post over the rebellious reactions to it.  I certainly have the right to my opinion and to my own degree of calculated risk when I ride, and I sure as hell don’t need strangers who dress like clams on their bikes to tell me what I should or shouldn’t be wearing when I’m just riding around town.

We could all quote statistics to back up whatever we happen to believe in, but what’s the point?  It’s nobody else’s job to try to dictate what I should do for my own good.  I still rebel in principle against mandates like wearing safety belts in cars.  When I vote, I choose someone to represent MY interests, or at least the majority’s and not to be my big brother looking after me as if I don’t have the ability to do it myself as I choose.  Likewise, I salute my brothers and sisters on two wheels, until they start telling me what I should be wearing when I’m out on the road.  That salute, unfortunately, turns into a pumped fist awfully fast, and not with a supportive downward pull of the arm, but with a firm upward thrust.