At the Hadrian Hotel

At the Hadrian Hotel

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Palm Tungsten Case Mod

I have a Palm Tungsten E2, which comes with RealPlayer and an earphone jack. The jack works just fine until you put the Tungsten in a Palm hard case. An unmodified case will not close with a pair of earphones plugged into the Palm because there is no hole for the plug to pass through. This situation makes it a bit difficult to put the case in your pocket when your listening to tunes or a podcast.

Dremel to the rescue!

Looking at the case and the location of the jack on the Palm, I knew that it shouldn't be too difficult to modify the case for an earphone plug if I could get my hands on a Dremel. It turns out that my buddy Steve had one and was willing to lend it to me. Let the modding begin....

I started off by marking the location of the jack on the case with a Sharpie and then making an arc for the cut-out. I used the Sharpie cap to trace out the arc. Naturally, I did this without the benefit of a clamp of any kind, trying to hold the case and the cap with one hand without slipping. I removed the Palm from the case (!) and went to work with the Dremel.

Using a 7mm cutting bit, I roughed out the opening until the Sharpie lines were gone. I then switched to the 14mm sanding drum to gently smooth things out. On my case the base of the arc is roughly flush with the plastic of the case back. When I was using the drum, I angled it down slightly toward the outer edge to remove the lip. After the Dremel, I chipped off th melted plastic that had accumulated and used some 200 grit sandpaper to smooth things out. A little polishing with 000 steel wool and I was done! (mostly)

I cleaned all of the debris from the case and put in the Palm. I then attached some earphones and closed the case. It was almost perfect -- the top of the case hit the earphone plug. So I took out the Palm and grabbed the Dremel with the sanding drum. Very gently. I placed the spinning drum in the cut-out. Making sure to touch the bottom as little as possible and trying to keep the case from sliding side-to-side, I closed the lid slowly until the drum started cutting an arc. When I thought it was big enough, I opened the case, cleaned sanded and polished and tried fitting the Palm in the case again. This time it was perfect.

With a time investment of about 20 minutes, I now have a Palm Tungsten in a case that I can close while I listen to music. The case snaps shut so I don't have to worry about anything flopping around (try plugging earphones in with an unmodified case and you'll see exactly what I mean). All-in-all this was an easy project that will make my Palm a much better music player.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Ravenchase Adventures in Princeton

For Father's day this year, my wife and the boys took me on a little adventure in Princeton. Around noon, Randee said to me and the boys that we needed to be out of the house by 12:30 for a little Father's Day adventure. Of course, everybody but me knew where we were going and what was going to happen when we got there, but who am I to turn down an adventure?

We drove into town and went to the Fitzrandolph Gate in front of Nassau Hall. There we met Rob and Kristine Jenner from Ravenchase Adventures. When all 3 teams had arrived, Rob and Kristine went over the rules and the goals. We were given 4 clues to solve and given an "aged" map showing 5 locations on campus. We were to use our 4 clues to find the final clue that would lead us to a restaurant in Princeton where Rob and Kristine would be waiting for us to buy the first round of drinks and award tacky prizes.

Randee and I had a bit of an advantage as we both work on campus. However, that didn't help us in finding the actual clues once we found the right locations on campus. In fact, one set of (supposedly) required clues was completely missing when we got there. In the fountain behind Robertson Hall there is a fountain/pool. In the fountain there were placed 2006 pennies. The clue here was to find a "coppered Civil War power" which was meant to be the image of Abraham Lincoln on the pennies. However, there was a kids "pool party" going on there and it seems that one or more of the kids collected the coins before any of the teams got there.

We wondered around the fountain for a while trying to find anything copper and eventually gave up (we did not know until later about the pennies). We hit all the other locations on the clue sheets we were given and, at the stadium, found a scroll that took us to the last site. There we found a lock-box that we knew contained the cryptex. The clue on the scroll said to use "Lincoln's date" to open the lock. So, not knowing anything about the pennies, we tried 212 (Feb 12 - Lincoln's birthday). That didn't work, so I looked up the date Lincoln was assassinated on my Blackberry and tried that (I know, you might call that cheating). That didn't work either.

So, I decided to try the brute force method. I set all 3 wheels of the lock to "0" and put pressure on the thumb latch. I was hoping that as I set each wheel to the correct digit of the combination that I'd be able to fel a small movement in the latch. I tried 001, 002, 003, 004, and 005 without any movement of the latch button at all. However, when I got to 006, the box popped open, to the amazement of all 4 of us. We had no idea how "006" could be Lincoln's date, at that point.

I removed the cryptex and gave it to Mark, who had asked to try it first. He spun the wheels for a bit when Eric deciphered the key from the scroll. It was an abbreviation for the name of the race -- DADDY. Mark spun it in and opened the cryptex. I removed the scroll and found the final "clue" with the name of the restaurant. At about that time, my cell phone rang. It was Rob apologizing for the missing clue at the fountain. I told him that we had just opened the cryptex and would meet him at Sotto shortly. We got there and found, to our amazement, that we had won the race! The entire time, we had been joking and mis-quoting Rowan Atkinson in "Rat Race" saying ,"It's a race. We're losing!" Boy, were we surprised.

All-in-all, we had a really fun time wandering around the campus and attempting to solve the clues. I'd recommend this for anybody who likes puzzles and the outdoors. Just remember to wear comfortable walking shoes.