August 20, 2017

Initial Impressions of the iPad 2

I finally received my iPad 2 a couple of days ago. I had ordered it back on March 11, 2011, the first day it was available. I had initially tried to pick one up at an Apple store, and after waiting in line almost two hours, they ran out of the model I wanted. So I went home to order it online. But by that point, there was already a two to three week wait! Mine came almost three weeks to the day after I ordered it. 

I’ve had an original model iPad since June of last year, right after they came out. So this is an upgrade for me. In addition to the iPad 2, I also bought the black leather Smart Cover. 

The original iPad was—and still is—amazing. Magical, as Apple likes to put it. For Apple to improve the iPad so dramatically over last year’s model is quite a feat. The iPad 2 is about one third thinner, several ounces lighter, and nearly twice as fast for most operations. Graphics can be as much as nine times faster. Then there are the additions of both front- and rear-facing cameras, FaceTime, and other features and software additions. 

While some of the reviews have indicated the iPad 2 is an evolutionary upgrade rather than a revolutionary upgrade (I would tend to agree), the improvements are still very significant, and I think make it worth upgrading if you’re a daily iPad user. 

The biggest improvement is the form factor. While the original iPad was relatively thin and portable, the iPad 2 is even more so, and you can readily tell the difference as soon as you pick it up. Thinness counts. Less weight means it’s easier to hold for longer periods without your hands tiring so quickly. The display, which is the same resolution as the original iPad, is even brighter and easier to use outdoors or other bright lighting conditions. 

Of course, the improved speed is a major benefit, too. You’ll notice the difference as soon as you open an app you’ve used regularly before. Browsing the Web with Safari is better than ever. Sites load more quickly, and the new iPad has enough memory to remember sites you’ve visited recently. I’m not a game player, but if you are, you’ll see some dramatic improvements in speed, especially related to game graphics. 

The cameras are a bit of a disappointment. They are relatively low resolution, not very good for still photography. My iPhone has a much better camera. They are very adequate, though, for video and FaceTime, for which they were primarily intended. 

The Smart Cover is more useful and practical than I expected. Even though it covers just the front of the iPad, it folds open in several different ways to hold the iPad at an angle, for easier typing or viewing, or removes completely with an easy pull. It fastens magnetically along the one side of the iPad, clicking perfectly into position as soon as the edges get close to each other. When the cover is closed, the iPad automatically turns off. Remove the cover, and the iPad is instantly on. Brilliant design. 

The iPad is one of the most valuable tools a motorcoach driver can use. I’ll be posting another article shortly on how I’m using the iPad, updated from my earlier article with apps I think are most helpful to a driver. 

(Written and posted from my iPad 2)

Williamsburg Grand Illumination Video

I’m back in Williamsburg, Virginia today finishing up a three day tour to Colonial Williamsburg, featuring the Grand Illumination held at the beginning of each December to kick off the Christmas season celebrations here. I’ve seen the Grand Illumination fireworks before, but this year’s seemed better than ever.

Santa came to my house earlier than usual, this year, and left me my requested present — a new video camera — just in time to bring along on this Williamsburg trip! Nice of him, wasn’t it? Anyway, thanks to the new camera, I was inspired to video some of the fireworks. Here is my very first video posted on YouTube — edited down to about 5 minutes of the nearly 30 minute show. Hope you enjoy it!

Apple to Release iOS 4.2.1 Today

Apple has announced they’re releasing iOS 4.2 today at 1 PM EDT. It will finally bring multi-tasking and folders to the iPad, as well as a few new features to the iPhone and iPod Touch. All three devices will finally be running the same version of the operating system.

I’ve been using beta versions of iOS 4.2 on my iPad for the last several weeks. While the first few betas were somewhat buggy (surprise, surprise), the final Gold Master iOS 4.2.1 that I’ve been running the last few days has been perfect so far. I expect to upgrade to the final release version later this afternoon (conveniently, I’m off work today). Highly recommended.

Boston Marathon 2010 Photos Posted

Boston Marathon Runners on my coach

Boston Marathon Runners on my coach

I’m back from Boston, and got a few photos posted from the trip. This was my sixth trip to the most famous of marathons, but I’ve yet to actually see the runners run. There is nowhere to park my motorcoach within walking distance on race day. But it’s still a fun trip, one I look forward to every year, especially as I’ve gotten to know my passengers on this trip.

I’ve posted a few photos from the trip here: http://www.bobbergey.com/p41009462. Although I don’t see the race itself (except on TV from my hotel room), I do shuttle the runners to the starting line in Hopkinton. That’s where many of these photos were taken, just before the race started. You’ll see the group of 30 runners I took this year (and in the photo above). The hotel we stay at is also very nice, photogenic even, and I have a couple of shots there that I took just for me — including my coach, of course.

Eight of My Favorite iPhone Apps

WeatherBug Elite iPhone App

It’s been nearly a year since I last wrote about the iPhone. After almost 15 months of daily use, it’s become an indispensable part of my life. Here are just a few of the apps, a couple of which I’ve just come across recently, that I use nearly every day and would hate to ever again be without.

WeatherBug Elite — 99¢ (weather reports)
Simply the best weather app I’ve found — and there are lots of them. It has a really nice interface, very easy to read and understand, and all the important info you’ll likely need right on the opening screen. It’s shown in the photo above.

WorkLog — $4.99 (personal time clock)
Great app for tracking your work hours if you get paid by the hour and want to keep your own records. It has nice reporting and makes it easy to check that you’re getting paid for hours actually worked (or not overpaid, LOL).

Qik Video — $1.99 (video camera for older iPhones)
If you have the latest iPhone 3GS, you won’t need this … but if you have an older model, such as my iPhone 3G, this app gives you a pretty decent video camera for just two bucks! This is a relatively new app and works much better than I would have expected. Worth checking out.

Flashlight — FREE (turn your iPhone into a flashlight)
I’m amazed how often I use this. It’s one of the first apps I ever downloaded, it’s still regularly updated (although most of the newer features are of little or no use to me), and I still use this nearly every day! It’s great to find your way around a dark hotel room at night or look for something you dropped under a seat in a dark bus.

FlickTunes — 99¢ (iPod music controller)
I use my iPhone for its iPod features almost every day on my motorcoach to play background music. FlickTunes makes it easy to control the music while you’re driving without taking your eyes off the road; a simple finger swipe lets you pause or play the music or adjust the volume. Before I start the trip, I select what play list I want in the iPod settings, then after it begins playing, switch to FlickTunes, and I’m set for the trip.

AOL Radio — FREE (listen to radio stations across the country)
Part of my daily morning routine is listening to KYW1060, the local all-news station, for the latest news, weather and traffic reports for the day. This app lets me listen anywhere, anytime, as long as I have a cell phone signal!

Kindle — FREE (Amazon’s ebook reader for iPhone)
Before I had my Amazon Kindle (which I got this past Christmas), I had the Kindle app on my iPhone and began building my Kindle library. Now I use it mainly to read in bed at night; during the day I use the real Kindle. What’s cool, though, is how it keeps my reading synchronized, no matter which device I’m using — it goes to the last page read on whichever device was last used.

NoteMaster — $3.99 (note taking app)
I don’t take a lot of notes on my iPhone. But I do have some info I need readily available, and that may need updating occasionally. Apple includes a basic Notes app with the iPhone, but it’s a little too basic. NoteMaster syncs with Google Notes, so I can create notes either on my iPhone or my notebook computer and have them instantly available on the other — or any computer with online access. Some of my most used documents include a list of prescriptions for doctor visits, and a list of my hotel frequent-stay membership numbers. Lots of other uses, too.

Incidentally, I believe all of these also work on the iPod Touch, with the exception of Qik Video, since the iPod Touch has no camera.

Other apps I use nearly every day include many of those you probably already use, too: Clock, Calendar, Contacts, Messages, Calculator, Maps, Google, Voice Memos, and more …. I don’t know how I ever survived without my iPhone! If you’re not already an iPhone user, you might want to seriously consider it when it comes time for a new phone. Even though I had to jump ship from Verizon to AT&T, the iPhone made it more than worth my while.

Will the Apple iPad (available starting April 3rd, 2010) change things? You bet … but no one knows how just yet. I’ll likely replace my Amazon Kindle with an iPad in the near future, so stay tuned.

What are your favorite apps? Use the comments section below to respond to this article, or click the link to the forum discussion of this article.

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US DOT Bars Truck and Bus Drivers from Texting

Effective today (1-26-10), the US Department of Transportation has announced a ban on texting for commercial drivers. Below is the text of the news release.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Announces Federal Ban on Texting for Commercial Truck Drivers

U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced federal guidance to expressly prohibit texting by drivers of commercial vehicles such as large trucks and buses. The prohibition is effective immediately and is the latest in a series of actions taken by the Department to combat distracted driving since the Secretary convened a national summit on the issue last September.

“We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe,” said Secretary LaHood. “This is an important safety step and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving.”

The action is the result of the Department’s interpretation of standing rules. Truck and bus drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.

“Our regulations will help prevent unsafe activity within the cab,” said Anne Ferro, Administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). “We want to make it crystal clear to operators and their employers that texting while driving is the type of unsafe activity that these regulations are intended to prohibit.”

FMCSA research shows that drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting. At 55 miles per hour, this means that the driver is traveling the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road. Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers. Because of the safety risks associated with the use of electronic devices while driving, FMCSA is also working on additional regulatory measures that will be announced in the coming months.

During the September 2009 Distracted Driving Summit, the Secretary announced the Department’s plan to pursue this regulatory action, as well as rulemakings to reduce the risks posed by distracted driving. President Obama also signed an Executive Order directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging while driving government- owned vehicles or with government-owned equipment. Federal employees were required to comply with the ban starting on December 30, 2009.

The above release is available online at:
http://www.distraction.gov/files/dot/MotorCarrierPressRelease.pdf.

For more information on distracted driving, visit: http://www.distraction.gov/.

For a list of cell phone and texting bans on a state-by-state basis, go to:
http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html.

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Happy Holidays

Holiday Lights at the Mormon Temple's Visitors' Center near Washington, DC The busy fall season is behind us now, and I can finally catch my breath. I’m fortunate that our company has been very busy, and I’ve had lots of work. Now it’s time to do some catching up here over the next few weeks.

A couple of days ago I updated the software that runs the forum here on EightWheels.com, as well as the blogging software itself (WordPress). The last couple of days I’ve added several new photo galleries from recent trips; I still have quite a few more to add, but I’m making progress and they’ll get posted shortly. And I’ve got several articles half written, including one on the challenges of driving and parking in New York City this month. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Christmas is nearly here, so it’s time to wish all of you who celebrate, a very Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year!

Eight Tips for Using Your Cell Phone on the Bus

Summary:

  1. Turn phone off or put it on vibrate.
  2. Make/receive essential calls only.
  3. Keep it short and speak softly.

A survey back in 2004 revealed the cell phone was both the most loved and most hated technological device of our time. I don’t think much has changed in the last five years, except many feel even more strongly now, one way or the other. It’s a love-hate relationship.

Cell phones on the bus can be a real advantage — students calling parents, for example, to notify them of a pick-up time on the way back from a trip, have made life easier for teachers and chaperones. On the other hand, ringing cell phones and loud conversations have become a thorn in the side to other passengers and even the motorcoach driver on bus trips.

Here are eight guidelines, expanded from the summary above, for using your cell phone on your next bus trip.

  1. Turn the ringer off when you board the motorcoach.

    No one wants to hear your phone ring. So if you can’t turn your phone off altogether, at least put it on vibrate. And if you’ve forgotten to do that and your phone starts ringing, be sure you know how to silence it instantly without answering it — usually pressing one of the side buttons will silence a ringing cell phone without hanging up on the caller.

  2. Answer the phone only if you recognize the caller and it’s an essential call.

    Let the call go to voicemail and check your messages later when you won’t disturb other passengers.

  3. Wait to make calls until you get to the next rest stop or arrive at your destination.

    Then you can walk away from the group and talk in privacy.

  4. If you must talk on the phone while you’re on the motorcoach, keep it short, speak softly, and avoid personal conversations.

    Cell phones have very sensitive microphones, so there’s no need to shout into your phone. Loud conversations, especially about personal issues, are probably the single most annoying use of cell phones on the bus — or just about anywhere else!

  5. Make sure the speakerphone is turned off.

    Worse than hearing your side of the conversation is hearing both sides! Be sure you know how your cell phone operates and do not use it as a speakerphone on the bus.

  6. Sending/receiving text messages is fine, as long as notification sounds are turned off or on vibrate.

    And as long as your seat mate isn’t offended that you’re ignoring them.

  7. When the driver announces an ETA (estimated time of arrival) on your return home, it’s okay to notify those waiting or expecting you by cell phone of your ETA.

    Just keep the above guidelines in mind — short, quiet conversations are still in order.

  8. Last, but not least, keep this basic rule of cell phone etiquette in mind, so when you “break the rules,” you do it respectfully of those around you: Keep a 10-foot (3 meter) distance between you and anyone else whenever you talk on your phone. And never talk in enclosed spaces.

    That basic guideline would rule out talking on the bus altogether, but using the previous guidelines I’ve suggested above allows respectful use of your phone when you’re on a bus trip. Respect for your fellow passengers is the key.

I’ve seen signs posted inside some motorcoaches that forbid ALL cell phone use for any reason from the first three rows of seats in the coach, to avoid disturbing the driver. I don’t ask for that on my bus, but keep in mind, drivers aren’t interested in your phone conversations, and they can indeed be a distraction to the driver. If the bus isn’t full, sometimes you can move to the rear of the bus to make or take an urgent phone call. But always wait until a stop if at all possible.

For more on cell phone etiquette, including other tips for cell phone usage when traveling, check out http://www.nophones.com/.

Eight Tips to Help You Navigate the Interstate Highway System

On the Interstate

On the Interstate

The Interstate Highway System of limited access highways is one of our nation’s great assets, relied on every day by motorcoach, truck and automobile drivers across the US. Although its roots go back to planning in the 1920s and 1930s, it wasn’t funded and building wasn’t started until 1956, when Congress passed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, championed by then-president Dwight D. Eisenhower. It has grown into a network of nearly 50,000 miles, making it the largest highway system in the world and the largest public works project in history. It is a subset of the National Highway System. Here are eight tips for finding your way around the Interstates, some well known, others less so.

Now, before you email or comment, I know there are numerous exceptions to most of what I’ve listed below! But in general, these tips will be very useful in finding your way around the Interstate Highway System. It’s the government, you know … and they don’t always follow their own rules.

  1. It’s a big grid.

    Not a perfect grid, thanks to our geography, but a grid none-the-less. The grid consists of one- and two-digit even numbered highways running east and west, lowest numbers in the south and highest numbers in the north; and one- and two-digit odd numbered highways running north and south, lowest numbers in the west and highest numbers in the east.

  2. The grid is supplemented with loops, beltways, and spurs.

    Interstate loops, beltways, and spurs

    Interstate loops, beltways, and spurs

    Loops and beltways bypass or circle major metropolitan areas, often easing your drive around highly trafficked areas. They are numbered with three-digit numbers, the first number being an even number, and the last two reflecting the primary Interstate to which they connect at two different locations.

    Spurs, likewise, are also numbered with three digit numbers, the last two of which reflect the primary Interstate from which it’s a spur, and the first digit being an odd number.

    There are no duplicate three-digit Interstate numbers within one state, but the numbers are duplicated from state to state.

    Interstate Mile Marker

    Interstate Mile Marker

  3. Mile markers are your compass.

    The Interstates are indexed with small green or blue signs marking each mile of the highway — in most cases, marking each tenth of a mile. It’s a great way to know exactly where you are on the highway. Miles are numbered from the west to the east, and from the south to the north, always restarting from 0 at the border of each state. So … if you’re on I-80 (an even number so you know it’s an east-west route) and the mile markers are increasing, you know you’re going east! If you’re on I-95 and the mile markers are decreasing, you’re going south.

    If you’re traveling south or west, you know exactly how many miles it is to the state border (or the end of the Interstate, if it doesn’t reach the border). Traveling north or east, however, you need to know how long that section of the Interstate is to know how far it is to the border.

  4. In most states, exits are numbered by the mile marker.

    A few states still number Interstate exits in numerical order. But most states have followed newer federal guidelines and renumbered their exits according to the nearest mile marker, making exit numbers infinitely more useful. If you’re headed to exit 40, for instance, and you’re at mile marker 20, you know you have 20 miles to go to your exit. If the exits are numbered in consecutive order, you have no clue how far it is to the next exit based on the mile markers.

  5. Left exit or right exit? The clue is on the sign.

    The exit number flush left to indicate a left exit, flush right to indicate a right exit.

    The exit number flush left to indicate a left exit, flush right to indicate a right exit.

    Interstate exit signs usually mark the exits at one and two miles in advance. The exit number is at the top of the sign on a separate board. If that exit number board is flush with the left of the larger sign, it’s a left exit. If the exit number board is flush with the right side of the sign, it’s a right exit! See the photo at the right for an example of each.

    Left exits are much less common than right exits, and are often marked in a yellow section at the bottom of exit signs, also.

    There are a few states who have opted not to update their exit signs to this national standard — Connecticut, for example. They have exit numbers centered at the top of the sign, giving no clue to whether it’s a right or left exit. You’ll occasionally see other exceptions, too, even in states that largely follow the federal guidelines. But for the most part, you’ll find this tip very useful.

  6. The Interstate Highway number grid is a flip-flop of the US Highway numbering system.

    The US Highway system, around long before the Interstates, is also laid out in a nationwide grid. But it’s flip-flopped, north-south and east-west from the Interstate numbering scheme. Odd numbered highways still run north and south, but the lower numbers are in the east, higher numbers in the west; even numbered highways run east and west, with lower numbers in the north, higher numbers in the south.

    There are exceptions to both numbering grid systems, although more exceptions in the US Highway system.

    Because these numbering grids are flip-flopped, you’ll find no I-50 or I-60 route numbers; chances are they’d be in the same states with US Highways of the same route number, and would be very confusing for drivers.

  7. Interstate Design Standards: Roadway widths, bridge clearances and weight limits

    I-95 Shield

    I-95 Shield

    Interstate design standards include a minimum of four 12-foot wide travel lanes, a minimum shoulder width of 10 feet, full control of access, and design speeds of 50 to 70 miles per hour (depending on the type of terrain).

    Bridge clearances are specified to be at least 16 feet, including shoulder clearances. Although the maximum height of trucks in the US is 13′ 6″, the design standards were written to allow movement of military equipment, part of the missile defense system, now obsolete. Bridge weight limits accommodate at least maximum legal loads of 80,000 lb. (40 tons); in some states the limits are significantly higher — Michigan, for instance, with their super-heavy trucks.

    HOWEVER — it’s important to note that there are many exceptions to these numbers! While new construction meets these design standards nearly 100% of the time, many older Interstates do not, especially roads such as the Pennsylvania Turnpike that were not originally constructed as Interstates but became part of the Interstate system later. Motorcoaches should not generally have a problem on any of the Interstates, but trucks do have to be careful and watch for an occasional low clearance or underweight bridge limit even on the Interstates. Exceptions should be well marked in advance of the problem. Most problems will be limited to oversize loads, not a problem for tour buses.

  8. Interstate Highway Trivia

    The longest Interstate:
    I-90, 3,020.54 miles, from Seattle, Washington, to Boston, Massachusetts

    The shortest Interstate:
    I-97, 17.62 miles, Annapolis to Baltimore, Maryland

    The highest point on the Interstate system:
    I-70, in the Eisenhower Tunnel at the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rocky Mountains (11,158 ft.)

    The lowest point on the Interstate system:
    I-95, in the Fort McHenry Tunnel under the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland (107 ft. below sea level)

    Highest speed limit:
    80 mph (130 km/h): I-10 and I-20 in rural western Texas and I-15 in rural central Utah

    Lowest speed limit:
    40 mph (64 km/h): I-490 through Rochester, New York; I-68 through Cumberland, MD; and I-394 east of I-94 in Minneapolis, Minnesota

For references and more information, visit these sites:

Eight Ways to Annoy a Motorcoach Driver

I’m smiling as I write this, but these are annoying issues bus drivers face nearly every day. Have you ever been guilty of one of these? Here are eight ways to annoy a motorcoach driver:

As a motorcoach passenger ….

  • Have the ringer turned up on your cell phone, and take a call while the driver is making announcements to passengers. Be sure to speak loudly so your caller can hear you over the bus driver.
  • Be late returning to the bus, holding up the entire group. This is especially effective in places like New York City, where the driver can’t sit and wait for you but must drive around several blocks, hoping you’ll be there when he/she returns.
  • At the first stop on an overnight trip, tell the driver you forgot something in your suitcase, now buried in the luggage bays, that you must have right away.
  • Tell the driver at the end of the trip what a great job he/she did, and you can’t wait to ride with him/her again … but don’t give him/her a gratuity. (He/she does this just for fun.)

As an automobile driver on the road ….

  • Be a “lane camper”; drive slowly in the center lane of a three lane highway, ignorant of the fact that, on many highways throughout the US (northeastern US especially), buses and trucks are prohibited from using the far left lane, and you’re blocking them by not moving out of the center lane.
  • At a red traffic light, completely ignore that thick, heavy, white “stop” line — stop anywhere you like beyond the line, don’t worry about larger trucks and buses trying to make the turn from the cross street.
  • On the Interstate, vary your speed as much as you feel like. Pass the bus and then slow up, making the bus pass you again. Using cruise control is “dangerous,” anyway.
  • Park your car in bus parking areas (nice, roomy spaces!), or park illegally on a city street corner, making it nearly impossible for large vehicles (trucks and buses) to make the turn.