After serving faithfully for the past ~2.5 years, my Galaxy S2 is being replaced with a Google Nexus 5 (16GB version).

Although the S2 is still working pretty well (especially after the Cyanogenmod upgrade), it's starting to suffer from some hardware problems with the buttons. It's already been sent in for one repair and probably not worth the time or cost to send in again.

We're switching over to Ting mobile service (<- referral link), which was another reason for me to get the Nexus 5. Ting's pricing model is appealing, which is the main reason for switching. Based on current usage, the cell phone bill can be cut by about half with Ting's pricing.

There isn't much that comes in the Nexus 5 box. The phone itself, wall wart and USB cable. Since I got it from Google, the SIM card was a separate acquisition.

When I first got the S2, it was a humungous phone, especially compared to the Cliq the S2 was replacing. The Nexus 5 is even longer than the S2, although fortunately the width is about the same as the S2.

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The Nexus 5 is marginally thinner than the S2 and has a nice rubberized grippy back. I doubt I'll notice it much after I put it into whatever case I'll be getting for it.

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So far the only thing I don't like about the Nexus 5 is that the battery isn't replaceable, which is something I like. It's much easier to pop in a fresh battery than it is to find a place to plug in and wait for the phone to charge. Fortunately I have one of those big 15 Ah battery packs that I can use for charging USB devices. I'll probably be carrying that with me more often now.

I think I'll like this phone.

The workbench

Thought I'd show off some pictures of the current state of my workbench, now that I've started to build up some inventory. No current projects on it yet, but I'm planning on finally getting around to building the Softrock Ensemble RXTX kit.

Parts storage. Going to need more space soon. Up top are a couple of storage bins with wall warts and wires. I think I'll need another parts bin soon. Below that is the test gear: oscilloscope, Heathkit signal generator, DMM and some tools.

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The one bookcase on the right needs me to put in another shelf or two. More parts bins and stuff that needs to be put away properly.

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The workbench itself is starting to get a little cluttered.

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The Radio Shack soldering station has been working out pretty well, especially after I replaced the stock tip. It's not fancy, but it gets hot enough to melt solder, which is really what counts. I've found that yogurt cups make great containers for holding components while I'm working on a project. An old paint brush is very useful for sweeping up the dust, wire trimmings and little bits of solder that end up on the bench.

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The Astron RS-35A provides a nice source of 13.7V power for the bench, although I'd eventually like to get a variable power supply so that I don't have to keep rummaging through the wall warts to find something suitable.

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The only problem with having the workbench in the garage is that temperature control isn't that great. A little portable heater for the winter and a box fan for the summer come in pretty handy though.

Showing its age

The Camry is starting to show its age with parts giving out from old age and wear and tear. Had a big chunk of the driver's side door handle break off when I went to open it a couple weeks ago. Earlier this week it started to develop a bit of a rough idle so we took it in to the shop to have it looked at. After a big tune up and a new fuel filter, it's running a lot smoother now. While it was being checked out they also found a coolant leak in the radiator and possibly the thermostat. That's something else that will have to be fixed before I road trip to Charlotte for Southeast Linuxfest next weekend.

If you're looking for a place to take your car, the people at the Firestone on Savannah Highway in West Ashley, next to East Bay Deli, are phenomenal. Great customer service there.

Southeast Linuxfest 2014 soon!

Just a little over a week to go before the 6th annual Southeast Linuxfest kicks off. The final schedule is now out and I'm looking forward to catching a few of them as I roam around being the photographer.

New this year is the Craft Beer Bottle Share (not an official part of SELF though). Bring a bunch of your favourite craft beers along, share them with other craft beer afficionados, and try the brews other people bring.

Still time to register, and as usual SELF is free to attend.

Out with the old wifi

Had to replace the wifi router (a D-Link DIR-655). It had been crashing intermittently for a while now. All of a sudden, the wifi would just disappear and the router was inaccessible even from the wired connection. Power cycling would bring it back to life though. Last night after the router dropped out several times in a 10 minute span, I decided it was time to replace it.

Fortunately we still had Connie's wifi router on hand (a D-Link DIR-615). A slight downgrade from the DIR-655, but it works and I didn't have to go out and buy a new one. The only significant things lost are the gigabit wired ports that the desktop is connected to, but that's not a huge deal. I can live without those for a while.

I noticed that when I was taking the old wifi router off the pegboard that it was feeling pretty warm, so I suspect that the crashing was due to overheating.

Now I have a wifi router to play with on the workbench... :)

The dedication ceremony for Theresa's hops tower happened this afternoon. I made sure to get there early before there were too many people around and got some more pictures. The hops vines grew even more over the weekend. Before the weekend (on June 4) some of the vines had reached the top.

IMG_20140604_080231.jpgToday, it looked like this

IMG_20140609_141657.jpgThe dedication ceremony was a very nice event with some words and memories shared by Theresa's family and some of the people she worked with and for. There was a pretty good crowd in attendance, a testament to the number of people Theresa touched and the people she inspired.

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The plaque at the base of the tower is fabulous.

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A very nice reception followed after the dedication ceremony and after that a nice gathering of family and friends at Tommy Condon's where I got to meet some more of Theresa's friends and shared some stories.

Everybody seemed to agree that this was a very fitting way to remember Theresa, and I'd have to agree.

Memorial Hops Tower

It's been a little over a year since my friend Theresa died.

A few months ago, one of the people she worked for at MUSC arranged to have a hops tower put up in the MUSC Porcher Medicinal Garden (if you're on campus, you'll find it located between the library, the Basic Science Building and the Drug Discovery Building).

The tower was installed in April, the hops planted and over the past few weeks they've been growing pretty quickly.

I took this one on April 21, shortly after the hops tower and hops were planted. The little bit of green vine-y type stuff directly below are the hops plants.

HopsTower01This was a couple weeks later, on May 5.

IMG_20140505_113843.jpgHere it is yesterday, May 26. The vines are climbing up pretty quickly to the top and every time I walk past it, they seem to have gone a little higher.

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There's even a little Carolina Anole that likes to hang out on the tower.

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On June 9 at 3PM, there will be a dedication ceremony for the tower with a reception afterwards. From Theresa's dad,

The Medical University of South Carolina will be dedicating the Hops Tower in the Medicinal garden on the campus of MUSC in memory of Theresa Peters on Mon 6/9 at 3:00PM. There will be a reception immediately following in Colcock Hall.
Thank you Bart Yancey, Marcia Higaki, Dr. Lanier and all at MUSC.

After much anticipation, registration for Southeast Linuxfest 2014 is now open!

As usual, SELF is free to attend (registration recommended). There's also the supporting attendee package for $65 which gets you lunch, a shirt, drink tickets for the parties and the undying gratitude of the organizers.

There will also be ARRL VEs administering the amateur radio license tests (I'll be one of them) so if you've been thinking about getting or upgrading your license, now's your chance. You still have a month to study!

This year's schedule includes Puppet training, an information security track put on by BSides Charlotte, BSDA and LPI certification exams in addition to the regular SELF tracks.

Book your hotel soon, because the $99/night SELF rate expires May 29.

Moar copper clad

An order of 20lb of copper clad PCB arrived, getting me closer to my goal of having the workshop stocked well enough so that I can build and experiment without triggering that "can't use it because I'm running low" instinct.

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This is my second order from Copper Clad Laminates on ebay, and so far I've been pretty pleased with the product. This was one of his bulk items containing boards that maybe aren't the right size, have some light scratches or other imperfections that wouldn't qualify them for a regular batch, but are more than suitable for my purposes. It's all double sided and there's a nice variety of sizes too. At $1.05/lb, it's a pretty good deal.