12.20.2010

I'll be Mac

I'm now a month or so into the iMac experience. The OS has been upgraded to 10.5 Leopard (top version for a G5 PPC), 50% of my images have been transferred from the WinPC, iPhoto and Mail have taken over from Image Browser and Thunderbird, while Time Machine chugs away in the background managing past configurations. Both mail and primary picture archives remain on the WinPC for the moment.

The WinPC isn't seeing a lot of use except for image edits and CAD, as I don't have comparable image manipulation software on the iMac (yet). Not a problem except for some shared directory issues still to be resolved to simplify transfers between machines. Not entirely happy with the still camera sync to iPhoto; it wants to download all images in the camera - even those that have been already transferred in previous sessions.

Oddly enough, the USB teleconferencing camera from the WinPC, which was a bit of a pain to set up under XP, worked flawlessly when plugged into the iMac. As a bonus the iPod, which has been reformatted and reloaded, no longer hangs up when finishing its sync process.

Plans are to replace the generic USB mouse, add a powered USB hub to expand connectivity, and pick up a general text with a decent 10.5 overview (likely "the Missing Manual" for Leopard).

12.19.2010

casting about

The final podcast of Model Rail Radio for 2010 is done. N scale was the primary thread of conversation, and several guests stopped in to chat about both model and prototype topics. The long format conversation lends itself to exploring many facets of each discussion point.

The Model Railway Show now has 4 episodes posted for your listening pleasure. Be sure to drop in to hear from some of the leading lights in the hobby. These are short and to-the-point interviews with publishers, manufacturers, and authors.

pole position



Bachmann's On30 trolley is a decent little model. It runs well and is reasonably priced. With a little redecoration, it will serve admirably on small a display layout.

I found that (as purchased) the pickup pole itself did not go high enough to contact the overhead wire at the recommended height (20' = 5"). It was a simple matter to remove the two springs, push out the pivot pin, and file a little off the foot of the pole to allow more vertical travel. This increased the angle of elevation from about 25 to 40 degrees.

But, in the end, there may be no easy way to make the factory pole to collect power from the overhead wire...

11.27.2010

aftermath

The Christmas Train Show is now over and there has been time for some reflection.

1) If our group ends up in front of the 18' high roll-up door again next year, I'll simply turn around and head home. I have no desire to stand in near-freezing wind for 4+ hours trying to set up the modules for a third show in a row. Someone else can have their turn, or the organisers can re-arrange the entry and exit of vehicles from the exhibition space.

2) Attendance this year and last seemed less and, in fact, it was. Turns out that another 2-day train show at the other end of the city has been scheduled for the same weekend as the TCTS two years in a row. This splits the attendance of vendors, layouts, and the public. Oh, and a number of other, 1-day shows in the general area were held on either the Saturday or Sunday. Having the show on the same weekend as the Santa Claus Parade smacks of poor scheduling as well.

3) Other than the presence of the various club displays, there is very little to draw a crowd of enthusiasts. Certainly the general public comes by to bring children to see the trains, but very few modellers outside of the exhibitors themselves seem to attend. Very few 'show specials' from vendors, no large manufacturers, no flea-market tables.

Without serious changes in the approach of the organisers, the show will continue to decline to the point where none of the vendors or exhibitors will attend.

cutting the cords

Just transferring all of the iPod content from the PC to the iMac via my LAN. This will be the ideal chance to organise the many "miscellaneous" files into a better structure.

My address book has already been transferred from the PC (Thunderbird LDIF export & import). iCal is being filled with dates & times for various events. I'll finally be able to sync those important details to the iPod; no straightforward way to do that on the PC.

*EDIT* The transfer took much longer than expected. Cleaned up many duplicate files and shuffled appropriate collections into folders. Added a pile of missing album art (more still to do) and restored the iPod to factory defaults before the resync. Just under 3800 items to copy over at USB2.0 speeds. I'll find something else to do for a couple of hours. *EDIT*

11.26.2010

service survives

Again, I've had two excellent customer service experiences...

1) Broadcast Systems & Equipment - John Waling of BSE took the time to understand the type of hardware I needed to add extra functionality to an audio mixer. He deals with much bigger customers all the time, but he still made the effort to locate, hook-up, test, and allow me to hear for myself the hardware in question. Brilliant.

2) Long & McQuade - the staff at the shop helped me to quickly locate the cables I needed to hook up the new piece of hardware (BSE makes cables to order on a per-project basis) and had me on my way in minutes. No wasted time, no blank stares in response to my questions.

11.19.2010

finally fun

After the demise of the Commodore Amiga, there remained only two real choices of computing platform. The Intel-based, so-called "IBM compatible" personal computer, and the underdog Apple Macintosh. At the time of the Amiga's passing, monetary restrictions prevented the exploration of the latter path. Experience with the Mac OS (5 or 6) via a hardware emulation board on the Amiga gave a sketchy impression at best. Pending employment in a DOS/Win environment equipped with x86 hardware cinched the decision. The MS route was followed, and computing operations proceeded in a predictable fashion thereafter.

At last, however, the situation has righted itself. Thanks to a combination of good fortune and excellent timing, a G5 iMac has been obtained. Many of the hardware related frustrations associated with the MS OS and firmware tomfoolery has vanished overnight. Every peripheral transfer (often without any drivers or software) to the new machine has taken less time than its initial installation with accompanying discs and documentation on the 'PC'.

Despite virtually identical specifications of 2GHz CPU/2Gb SDRAM/250Gb HD, comparative functional testing of the two units (using identical applications) reveals a significant improvement in performance in favour of the Mac. Using the new machine is a real joy. Computers are finally fun again.

once more unto the breach

Another Christmas Train Show is once more upon us. As usual, the last-minute rush to complete outstanding work on the display elements threatens to deaden the mood. How events unfold over the next two days will dictate future participation.

There remains to emerge a truly great train show in this region. The last one of any magnitude or consequence was in 2003, and that one very nearly didn't happen at all due to politics and knee-jerk reflexes.

It is sad to realise that, in an urban locale with 8+ million souls within reasonable driving distance, we cannot collectively attract more than a few thousand largely passive attendees for an annual exhibition. Perhaps it is because the displays do not change appreciably from year to year, or that the vendors fail to offer any real bargains. Perhaps it is because the major manufacturers choose to regularly absent themselves from the event, and the minor ones cannot afford to attend.

Frankly, there are other annual activities occurring within this timeframe which are becoming more appealing...

10.19.2010

podcast premier pending

The Model Railway Show launches November 1st
Free podcast engages model railroading enthusiasts in thought-provoking, fun-filled journey

(Toronto, Canada) – November is National Model Railroad Month, and we’re celebrating with the launch of The Model Railway Show. The first episode will be available November 1, 2010.

This free podcast follows the classic radio newsmagazine format, featuring the hobby’s best-known enthusiasts, along with the hard workers and innovators that keep this exciting hobby moving ahead.

Each episode of The Model Railway Show will run approximately 20 minutes, with quick yet informative interviews with a pair of guests. Topics will cover the full spectrum of the model railroad hobby – ranging from interviews with authors, editors and publishers, to chats with officials at the various organizations that keep the hobby growing, in North America and around the globe.

The Model Railway Show will broadcast twice a month over the Internet as a podcast. Listeners can subscribe at no cost via iTunes and have shows automatically delivered for listening on their computer, iPod or other digital music device. Alternately, listeners can monitor the show’s web site and RSS feed for new episodes, which can be download directly from the show’s servers in mp3 or m4a/AAC formats.

Details on how to listen by either method are provided on The Model Railway Show web site:

www.themodelrailwayshow.com

The Model Railway Show is hosted by Trevor Marshall and Jim Martin. In addition to being lifelong model railway enthusiasts who have worked in a wide variety of scales and gauges, Trevor and Jim both bring professional journalism, writing and radio backgrounds to the show.

4.02.2010

yakkity yak



I've been very lucky to be able to participate in a great number of Model Rail Radio podcasts over the last couple of months. The audio police have yet to come banging on my door in the wee small hours demanding that I stop hemming & hawing while I talk.

Topics vary widely, from benchwork to DCC to planning to updates of various ongoing projects. Content is largely generated from listener feedback; I'm never quite sure what will be discussed.

light work

Imagine my horror when I took the module set to the most recent exhibition, only to discover that the scenic work I'd done was completely the wrong colour under proper lighting conditions. So much for 'making do' with what I had.

Installation of two single fluorescent fixtures, equipped with daylight tubes, over the modelling bench in the shop has revealed exactly what I suspected; namely, that it's a miserable dark pit. I'll need at least one more single fixture to provide ambient light just for the bench area.

The daylight tubes certainly render much better colour than the mishmash of incandescent bulbs which were in the track lighting that I tore out. In addition to the overheads, there are two daylight incandescent swing arm lamps pointed directly at the bench's work surface which are the all-important task lighting part of the equation. There's no sense in mixing colours from the various bulbs in the shop itself so I'm trying to install all 'daylight' sources regardless of fixture.

A tawdry chandelier (? = don't ask) still has to be removed, and three or four more fluorescent fixtures will have to be installed to provide ambient light the lathe & mill end of the shop. Proper task lighting will still have to be situated at each tool to brighten the jobs at hand.

It may seem like a lot of bother to swap out light fixtures and add a bunch of goose-neck or swing arm lamps but, in the end, if you can't see what you're doing the jobs will be that much harder to complete.

2.23.2010

absence

Not a lot of posts lately; too busy with a variety of domestic tasks.

The workshop has languished largely unused. Recreational project progress is virtually non-existent.

However, a certain amount of work was accomplished in preparation for the 2010 Copetown Train Show. The fact that the module carrier I had devised did not fit through the back door of the new house necessitated a rebuild of the unit to permit movement in to and out of safe storage. This was accomplished using scraps of material saved from other fabrication jobs. The three-section module is now handled in two carriers, each of which are manageable by a single person.

Also, in preparation for the show, a mock-up of the sugar beet loader was made using Mt. Albert strip wood and a slightly modified O scale "Red Devil" coal loader. A liberal amount of artistic license was exercised in the creation of the basic structure, primarily due to space restrictions on the module base.



In spite of a tight fit, the loader gives a suitable impression of the method of loading the rail cars for shipment to a processing facility. It is a shame that the local sugar beet industry essentially died out in the late 50's.