Blog: November 2015

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Software reuse has its limits

Today my phone buzzed with an emergency notification. The icon resembled the hurricane symbol used by weather alerts. The text said "shelter in place". I looked out the window at the clear blue sky.

I opened the notification and got a slightly longer notice (maybe this was a Google Card?) saying something like "sent on behalf of the emergency something-or-other, Allegheny County, shelter in place". Still confused, I opened that to get the full notification...which said people in such-and-such township are to shelter in place because of a fire at the site of a chemical spill.

Needing to get an alert out and using a system already in place for that (the weather service) makes sense. And, of course, you'll have to use their icons, and of the weather symbols on tap, a hurricane is probably reasonable.

Sending alerts based on current location is a well-understood problem. My provider -- or rather, whatever computer at my provider pushes these notifications -- knew that I was, in fact, in Allegheny County.

But didn't that same system also know that I was nowhere near such-and-such township? And would it have been too hard to put that very important location information into an earlier phase of the alert, instead of waiting for people to click through twice?

I sure hope nobody in such-and-such township got the alert, looked at his phone, looked out the window, said "hurricane? are you nuts?", and went out to rake his leaves.

Solartab first look: disappointing

About a year and a half ago, I backed a Kickstarter campaign for Solartab, a heavy-duty solar charger that can power, as the name implies, tablets. Delivery was expected before Pennsic in 2014. Well, that was super-ambitious, so I wasn't surprised that that didn't happen. I was disappointed to not have it in time for Pennsic 2015 either, but I borrowed a battery charger and carried on. Yesterday, finally, my Solartab arrived.

I haven't had a chance to test its solar capabilities yet (it's November in Pittsburgh...), but last night I used its wall charger to charge its battery so that today I could try using it to charge my tablet. (The Amazon product page, by the way, makes an even bolder claim than "tablet": it says "Charge your phone, tablet and all other USB powered devices anywhere and anytime!". We'll come back to that.)

I plugged my Asus Transformer Infinity into the Solartab using the Asus's USB cable and got nothing. No charging light on the tablet, no "dispensing power" light on the Solartab. I plugged the cable into the wall adapter instead and the tablet started charging. I plugged my phone into the Solartab and it started charging. Off to Google.

Ok, according to the Internet Collective, you can't charge the Asus's keyboard, to which I usually leave the tablet connected, from anything but wall current. (I think I charged it via a heavy-duty jump-start battery at Pennsic, but maybe I'm misremembering.) So I disconnected the keyboard and connected the tablet directly to the Solartab.

After about a 30-second delay, the Solartab indicator lit. But the tablet reported that it was not charging. Off to Google again.

I found a thread about a different charger that somebody was having trouble getting to work with an Asus tablet, and the verdict there was that charger would charge it very slowly (like 3% an hour), and only if the tablet was turned off. So I noted the current battery level and turned the tablet off, and I'll see where it is tomorrow.

I get that tablets are thirsty and maybe Asus is especially thirsty (beats me; it's the only tablet I've ever had), but I bought the Solartab to charge my tablet, and according to the specs it ought to be able to supply enough power to do so. I'll be disappointed if it can't do that.

Ginger cheesecake

Once a year the local SCA group has an informal gathering that includes a pie competition. "Pie" is pretty loosely defined. For today's I set out to make a ginger cheese pie, extrapolated from the cheesecake recipes in Digby and Platina. Basically, I used Digby's proportions for cheese, butter, and eggs, but replaced his cinnamon and nutmeg with Platina's ginger. I didn't just start with Platina because he uses lard. (In the filling! Ick!)

I wanted to make a ginger-lover's pie, though, and the small amount of fresh-grated ginger called for in Platina just would not do. So I expanded on that, but it still wasn't ginger-y enough, so I'll keep tweaking. Mind, it was still good; it was just...understated.

Here's what I did:

First, turn a pound of fresh ginger into crystallized ginger. Read moreā€¦