Bluetooth Model Train Control

OK train people, I haven’t written much about model trains recently, but this Kickstarter project is very interesting. Basically, this small board which would be added into the model locomotive would enable you to control your trains via a Bluetooth device such as an Apple or Android phone.

BlueTooth Control

As much as other hobbies have advanced over the years, model trains have gotten a bit stuck. Or maybe we should say “derailed”? Anyway, the trains are still, for the most part, controlled via power and signals over the track. This is often called driving the track instead of driving the train. While DCC helps with that, it still relies on the track for the power and the computer signal to reach the train. The goal everyone would like to get to would be for the track to be support only, as they are in real life, with power and controls coming from the locomotive itself.

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A Choice of Simple Tools

My primary requirement for a tool is that it stay out of my way. Ok, so maybe that is requirement number two, right after the requirement of the tool fulfilling its purpose. But honestly, if a tool can perform its required function then the next most important characteristic for me is that it be as non-obtrusive as possible. This applies to simple tools like screwdrivers and hammers as well as more complex tools such as computers and their software.

Simplicity ToolsWhen I pick up a hammer I expect it to be able to drive a nail into a board. I do not need it to have a compass to guide the way or a light to illuminate the path. Such things would only add needless complexity to the device and would thus get in my way. It is the simplicity of the device that makes it both useful and appropriate. The same goes for a screwdriver. Multiple attachments, lights in the body, and fancy sheathing may sound attractive at first, but when I am trying to get a job done those added complexities could actually make the job more difficult. The beauty of simplicity is that it represents just enough. Just enough to accomplish the work – not too little so that you require more time or tools, and not too much so that extra effort is expended.

This simplicity is also how I choose software. I am an Apple fan; there is no doubt about that. But I am an Apple fan for a reason. I will not deny, not in the least, that Windows and Linux may be immensely more configurable than Mac OSX. But that configurability adds a level of complexity that I find in no way necessary. That configurability actually gets in my way. I feel the same way about the Android mobile operating system versus IOS.

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Nexus 7 Tablet Six Month Review

I have had my Google Nexus 7 Android tablet for a little more than six months now. You can see my early impressions of it back when I talked about using it as a mobile computer. I feel that I have been using it long enough to take a good look at it and summarize my feelings. My summary – I really don’t like it. Sorry, I just don’t.

Google Nexus 7 TabletThe most obvious problem with the Nexus 7, and actually the problem that bothers me the least, is that it is just too small. This is really a personal preference. I know quite a few people who prefer the smaller seven inch form factor to the nine or ten inch tablets. I am not one of them. It is great that I can slip the tablet into my pants pocket or easily hold it without any arm fatigue, yes. On the other hand I find myself zooming in far too often. Often enough that I notice it; it interrupts my experience, and makes me switch over to my laptop. On quite a few occasions as I have been lying in bed using the Nexus 7 I have found myself setting it aside to get up and retrieve my laptop. That boils down to the tablet just not working for me. And when I have wanted to do simple book reading I still prefer the non-backlit basic Kindle or … horrors … a real book!

Ok, other than the size we could talk about apps. Google Play, the Android app store, has come a long way. I have to say that there is almost no app that I want that I can’t find. Play can be a bit cluttered and hard to pick through at times – kind of like searching for a gem in a flea market – but in the end I do find what I need. The good apps are free or reasonably priced, and I have never had any complaints with what I have found. I stopped using alternatives, like Amazon’s app store, simply because I didn’t need them and I didn’t like have to go to multiple sources for updates or searches. My summary of the app experience – great. Not an issue at all. Oh, and I love Chrome. Best mobile and desktop browser there is.

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