Interim Update: Upgrade, not replace

Three-year old computer, meet new technology. Isn’t that grand?

[Editor’s Note: I promise to you, the home reader, that there will be a very substantial update next week surrounding quite a few new projects that are happening in this New Year 2014. In the meantime, here’s a quick dispatch.]

In the final days of December, I wrote an essay on the greenest computer, noting that the greenest computer is the one that can have its parts be easily replaced or upgraded. I replaced the original hard disk with a solid-state disk (the machine can go from being completely off to completely running in about 10 seconds…eeeeEEEEE!) and that I was about to replace the battery on the machine. With the new disk and the new battery, I am getting about 7-8 hours per charge with wireless on.

IMG_1112As the machine is three years old, it isn’t graced with the low-power Bluetooth 4.0 chip that all new computers, smartphones, and tablets have. Until last night! I purchased a $12 USB Bluetooth 4.0 dongle that enables low-power Bluetooth connections. The OS recognizes the chip; now, I’m trying to find a way to use the Bluetooth menu bar icon to control the USB adapter instead of the internal card.

The practical side of this is that my MacBook Pro and my iPhone can communicate using the Authy app. What is Authy, you ask? Authy is a second-factor authentication device that is compatible with the Google Authenticator system of two-factor authentication. (I hate passwords, remember? See number 6.) Authy, using Bluetooth 4.0, has a companion app for the Mac that securely transfers that six-digit code to your Mac’s clipboard. It only works on pre-approved and pre-paired computers and that authorization can be rescinded at any time.

I’m sure that I’ll discover more things for which having a Bluetooth 4.0 chip will be useful. in 2014

What does 2014 have in store on Writing. Lots of writing.

One of the things that I discovered in 2013 as something I like to do is write.  With that in mind, I’ve decided that I’m going to try to write 1-2 essays a month that will be on this website.  There’s something very pleasing in writing, I’ve discovered, and it’s a great way to begin conversation on issues that are near and dear to our hearts.

What are the topics of these essays, you ask?  Naturally, they’ll relate to issues of urbanism, urban policy in downtown Phoenix, technology, and how all three of these intersect in the wild.  I’ll write on the arts, especially if there’s a concert of the Phoenix Symphony or the Arizona Opera that I attend that’s worth sharing.  And, perhaps, I’ll write one or two personal posts as a means for you to get to know me a little better — the first essay I’m working on for this New Year 2014 is five things I’m going to try do in the next twelve months.

With open arms, let’s welcome 2014.  Happy New Year!

Marching To 2014: 15 Posts in 15 Days

As 2013 winds down, it’s time to look ahead to 2014 and how this year will set the stage for what’s to come.

marching toward 2014As a year winds down, it’s become custom to look back and look forward simultaneously. So this blog in this year will be no exception to that: over the course of the next fifteen days, I’m going to look back at the 2013 that was and how that will shape the core of 2014. I call this “Marching to 2014.”

The posts over the next 15 days will be replays of popular posts from 2013, two series of “year-in-review” posts me and our community, and a couple posts related to Christmastide. 2013 was an interesting year with lots of changes and it’s good to know how that will shape the 2014 that will be.

Join me as we all march into 2014. Let’s see what we’ll find!

Summer Reading 2013: Downtown Phoenix

My summer reading: the history of downtown Phoenix plus the wider contexts of urbanism post-World War II.


Summer Reading 2013: The History of Downtown Phoenix and the Context of Urbanism post-WW2

The books (so far, there’ll be more):

  • The Emerging Metropolis: Phoenix 1945-1973, William Collins (2005)
  • Urban Theory and the Urban Experience: Encountering the City, Simon Parker (2004)
  • Urban Policy Reconsidered: Dialogues on the Problems and Prospects of American Cities, Charles Euchner and Stephen McGovern (2003)
  • Metropolitan Phoenix: Place Making and Community Building in the Desert, Patricia Gober (2006)
  • Growth in Arizona: The Machine in the Garden, Morrison Institute at Arizona State University (1998)
  • Desert Visions and the Making of Phoenix: 1860-2009, Philip VanderMeer (2010)
  • Urban Theory: A Critical Assessment, John Rennie Short (2006)
  • Images of America: Downtown Phoenix, J Seth Anderson, Suad Mahmuljin, and Jim McPherson (2011)
  • Megapolitan: Arizona’s Sun Corridor, Morrison Institute (2008)

More will be added, I’m sure…

Linux Chronicles: Dell Latitude XT2

It might seem difficult getting your new Dell Latitude XT2 to work with Ubuntu; however, taken one step at a time, it’s pretty easy.

Editor’s comment, June 2020: This post seems to be, by far, the most popular page on this website, and still averages a few dozen visits each week. The solutions proposed on this page have neither been reviewed nor updated since 2013. We take no responsibility for any problems that may arise.

My Dell Latitude XT2I got a new computer the other day. Well, that’s a partial truth — it’s a machine that’s new to me. (The machine was shipped to its original customer in February 2010.) It’s a Dell Latitude XT2, a notebook computer that converts into a tablet PC with a resistive touchscreen. It came with a neat little stylus that works quite well for being a pressure-activated screen!

I bought the machine from Dell Financial Services’ Direct Sales unit for cheap. With shipping and a one-year warranty, I only spent about $500. By comparison, when the machine was shipped new in 2010, the street retail price started just under $2,000! It was a good purchase for me because as I’m starting to run more and more errands for my consulting, sometimes schlepping around an iPad alone just doesn’t cut it. There are times when it’s important to have a full computer. As I do a lot of commuting by bicycle and public transportation, I also don’t want my MacBook Pro to suffer the wear and tear of my commute…or worse, get damaged or destroyed if I were to get in an accident. The XT2 was a small purchase that, although I’d be sad to destroy or damage this machine, I can afford to purchase a replacement should I need to.

Enough philosophy: let’s get to running Ubuntu on this machine. The machine came shipped with Windows Vista but that was the first thing to go. I replaced it with Ubuntu 12.04.2, codenamed Precise Pangolin within minutes of turning it on for the first time just to make sure that it worked well. I read through several online guides about how to make this machine work and although the steps seemed daunting, I found that they were largely unnecessary and not needed. In simple terms, my steps were this:

  1. Ensure that the system OS is up to date with the latest standard Ubuntu kernel
  2. Update the system’s BIOS to the latest version (at this writing, it’s version A12)
  3. Check the system BIOS to see what wireless cards are enabled or disabled
  4. Install the Magick Rotation utility
  5. Have a lot of fun!

If you’re interested in my steps that I took in greater detail, I’ll go through them. Do note that most all of this is done from the terminal so your typing accuracy has to be spot on. Your results, although they should be like mine, may vary: please make a backup of your data before embarking on this journey (and don’t blame me if anything bad happens!).

Continue reading “Linux Chronicles: Dell Latitude XT2”

Phoenix debates land use near light rail stations

The City of Phoenix is holding a forum to get citizen input on land use planning near light rail stations. For the Camelback/Central Ave light rail station, the forum is being held at the Days Inn at 502 W Camelback Rd on Thursday at 6:30pm.

[cross-posted from the Downtown Voices Coalition blog]

Camelback/Central LR station public artThe City of Phoenix is holding a forum to get citizen input on land use planning near light rail stations. For the Camelback/Central Ave light rail station, the forum is being held at the Days Inn at 502 W Camelback Rd on Thursday at 6:30pm.

State law requires cities, towns, and counties to update their general plan every 10 years and this is the first revision of Phoenix’s general plan after the development of METRO light rail.

Phoenix is amending the city’s general plan for land-use planning near light-rail stations and is asking residents for input.

A public meeting to discuss the station at Central Avenue and Camelback Road is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Days Inn, 502 W. Camelback Road.

The general plan is a blueprint that outlines land-use and policy guidelines on how the city should grow and redevelop for decades into the future.

State law requires cities, towns and counties to update the plan every 10 years but legislation the state passed last year extended the deadline to 2015 to give budget-constricted local governments short on planning staff more time to update their general plans.

Attendees will discuss a general range of appropriate building heights for future real-estate redevelopment.

By having stakeholders identify what they want to preserve, promote and will accept in advance, the general plan can better guide future real-estate development.

The meetings are not about property ownership, existing zoning or uses, city officials have said.

Properties along the light-rail route are in a transit-overlay district, which means less space is dedicated for parking due to the proximity to the train.

Read more here.

If you go, the nearest light rail station is 7th Ave/Camelback Road (Melrose District). For more information, call 602.256.5648.

Living carfree is living carefree

I’m not worrying about the upcoming “Carmageddon” in Los Angeles this weekend. But not for the obvious reason you might suspect.

The I-405 just north of Los Angeles. And one of many reasons why I'm happy not to have a car. [photo credit: Wikipedia]So much has been made in the news about the closure of I-405 in Los Angeles over this weekend. If you haven’t been paying attention:

They have a name for it: Carmageddon.

They have a plan: Stick close to home, if at all possible.

And they have this: no idea what really will transpire when a 10-mile stretch of Interstate 405 in Los Angeles is shut down for 53 hours starting tonight for a road-improvement project in the ultra-busy Sepulveda Pass in the heart of one of the most car-centric cultures in the world.

“Allow me to be blunt: It’s going to be a mess out there,” Los Angeles Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky posted on his City Hall website.

“For those of you who think you can outsmart this potential mother of all traffic jams,” he added, “my advice is simple: save your gas.”

[via the San Francisco Chronicle]

It’s reasons like this why I’m reminded why it’s so nice not to own a car. I don’t have to worry about massive traffic snarls like this. I can just hop on Phoenix’s light rail or bus and get to where I need to go with relative ease. And when I add a bicycle to my transportation arsenal, then that range is extended considerably.

And even if my commute could be shorter by taking a car, there’s one big benefit to not be driving: I don’t have to worry about the driving. I can do things that everyone who’s driving a car shouldn’t to: talk on the phone, text, read a book, listen to music, check email, post something to Twitter, and so on. It’s quality time.

Some thoughts on this from the Vancouver, B.C., blog Price Tags:

My travel time is far too valuable to waste actually driving. Talk about distracting. I don’t know about you, but I find when driving that I actually have to pay attention to stuff. Like other vehicles. And stop signs. And even cyclists.

Given a choice between a faster trip driving and a slower trip on transit, I’ll take the latter, so long as (a) it’s not too much slower; and (b) I can read or listen. If I can plan the length of my commute with accuracy and dependability, then time spent moving productively is more valuable than time spent moving quickly.

[read more]

So you’ll be catching me on the light rail or even the bus. And if I move to a different city, the big criterion for a good city is its mass transportation system. Because my time is valuable.