Sunday, November 12, 2017


Many cyclists have a love-hate relationship with their Garmin GPS navigation devices. Love, because they allow them to ride complex routes in unknown territory while collecting data about distance and speed, plus geekier pro metrics such as cadence and power with accessories. The hate sets in when they don’t behave as they’re supposed to.

I think I’ve sworn at my Garmin far more than any other device, which considering the relatively small amount of time I spend using it compared to a smartphone or laptop makes it an impressive obscenity magnet.

They are prone to freezing mid-ride, failing to collect your ride data and in general doing all sorts of random things. Some of these issues can be put down to user error or loading buggy routes, but when you’re 50 miles from home, up a mountain and/or the rain is biblical the Garmin takes the blame.

So when Garmin announces a new model, cyclists vacuum up the reviews hoping to find out that this could be The One, the Garmin to end all Garmins, the Garmin that never crashes and doesn’t send you five miles up 7% gradient only to beep and instruct you to “Make a U-turn”. Could its latest model the Edge 820 be that elusive Garmin?

After owning the 810 for a couple of years, it has liberated my road cycling. With the help of Strava you can plan routes and ride solo for 100km or more without recourse to check your phone or paper map and without making a wrong turning.

Routes planned directly on the 810 and 820 are another story, sending you down unpaved roads, rocky bridlepaths and midnight canal paths.
Is it faulty, or just terrible?

Sadly my high expectations for the 820 were immediately dashed. The first 820 I tried performed so erratically that I returned it because I thought it was a faulty unit. The touchscreen was so sensitive that it was possible to activate it without touching it at all, which meant judging the right amount of touch required to get it to do what you wanted was tricky and often required several attempted touches to achieve the most mundane of actions.

Moreover, the battery level indicator on the unit was unreliable, claiming 100% battery after a 160 km ride. And then there was the pre-planned route navigation that would only give text-based prompts. When approaching a junction the 810, by contrast, displays a map showing the route through it – this is particularly useful at anything more complex than a crossroads.

I quickly discovered I wasn’t alone in having issues with the 820. A colleague who’d bought one described himself as wanting to throw it from the side of a mountain on more than one occasion.


He said: “Trying to use it while moving is almost impossible with gloves on, due to the poor touchscreen and multiple stab attempts at the screen required. It’s utterly useless when the screen is wet, irrespective of touchscreen sensitivity. It changes data fields with rain droplets (or sweat when on the turbo).”

At this point I looked at some of the other reviews online. If the screen was thatbad surely the cycling press would written about it. Velonews said “The touchscreen worked flawlessly, even coated in rainwater” and said it used special touchscreen gloves in order to operate it but didn’t seem to think this inconvenient.

The grandaddy for reviewing fitness tracking devices (yes, there is one) is called DC Rainmaker. At present Mr Rainmaker has only published a “Hands on” reviewwhich contains his “preliminary thoughts” after using the 820 for a “short bit”. Nevertheless, “in case you were wondering about that touchscreen – it works just fine in rain or with gloves” he writes.

However, a number of commenters on DC’s piece had a different experience of the screen. Changren Y said “I can activate the touchscreen on mine without physically touching it”, while JZ said that they experienced “a serious sensitivity issue with the screen”, and Jeremy said he “found the touch interface frustrating and inaccurate some (not all) of the time”.

User reviews on popular online cycle store Wiggle make similar points. Currently there are 12 reviews, three of which are five star verdicts – however one is written by a Wiggle staff member.
Big step back

While I was waiting for a replacement 820, I discovered that the map prompts feature had been dropped from the 820, which is bit like a car satnav only displaying text instructions – would you consider that an improvement?

The text instructions are OK when you know roughly where you going already – maybe when you’re re-tracing a familiar route – but when riding a new course they are often not reliable enough.

This is because many roads have two names – such as “High Street” and something less generic; many roundabouts have phantom exits; main roads sometimes have a number not a name; many junctions aren’t neat right angles, they are more slalom-like – all these situations can confuse text-driven instructions.

You can flip to map view manually, but taking a hand off the bars at speed, trying to brake and/or when approaching other traffic is dangerous and, as we’ve established, the 820’s touchscreen is well, touchy, so this action might not perform as expected.

So on a 160km ride around Kent I found leaving the unit on map view the entire time was the only way to avoid missing a turning. You can customise the map screen to include two or three bits of additional data, such as speed, distance or time of day – but if you are hungry for metrics such as your heart rate, power or estimated time of arrival, you’ll have to swipe the unpredictable screen.
Finger-licking bad

A replacement 820 with updated software promised to fix the issues, but I quickly found stroking or dabbing at the screen with a covered digit had no effect whatsoever. It meant the screen was stuck on map view until I bothered to stop and remove my gloves. After I while I found that if I licked my gloved finger the moisture was enough to fool the screen into responding.

Although it has issues with some of the basics of navigation and recording, the 820 does include some fancy new features. The main one is the ability to Group Track: if you are with other riders with compatible Garmin devices it enables you to see their position on your screen using your phone as a data connection.

While this is interesting if you’re riding in a group, it’s a bit overkill and is limited to the 820, so everyone else is out of luck. You’re probably better off swapping phone numbers or setting up a WhatsApp group before a ride.

The 820 also features Incident Detection. Meaning that if it feels you have been involved in a crash it will automatically text a mobile number of your choice.
Unreliable at best

Fancy features just can’t override the fact that the 820 is poor at navigating. About 10% of the time, the 820 just failed to offer a prompt, meaning that you sailed straight past a turning until the unit beeped “Off course” – whereupon you’d have to guess which exit you’d missed.

The battery life of the GARMIN 820 is an improvement over the 810 though. Despite displaying the map page for most of the ride, I finished the 160km Kent expedition with 23% battery to spare, albeit without any ANT+ accessories such as heart monitors hooked up. I feel confident it would make a 200km route even connected to a smartphone via Bluetooth.

The Garmin Edge 820 costs £369. For comparison, the Wahoo Elemt costs £250 and the Garmin Edge 1000 costs under £400.

I’ve been using the 820 for around five months. When I’ve been riding in a group its been fine, it always records, the battery life is good and it only crashes occasionally. However, when leading a group or riding solo its navigation skills waver between non-existent and sub-standard.

Would I upgrade to a 820? Definitely not. But if I were buying my first unit and I had the funds I’d buy the Edge 1000. Although its battery life isn’t as good as either the 810 or 820, it offers proper map-prompted guidance, a larger, properly performing touchscreen and superior on-board route-planning , especially in urban environments.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

New Solar Collector Tech Could Lower Costs for Concentrating Solar Power

A new solar collector is starting a trend when it comes to concentrating solar power (CSP) technology. For the first time ever, “ganged heliostats” could be a viable option for new CSP systems.

Skysun, a startup out of Bay Village, Ohio, developed the new design that could help cut the cost of a CSP system by more than 30 percent.
Ganged Heliostat Technology

CSP technologies use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto receivers that collect solar energy and convert it to heat. The mirrors, also known as heliostats, typically require their own base, foundation, and motor.

Skysun’s solar collector groups together heliostats through shared motors and support structures, which has the potential to cut the total installed cost of CSP systems in half. While other ganged heliostat concepts have previously been proposed, none of them have shown to be cost competitive or viable—until now.

SkySun partnered with Sandia National Laboratories through a $275,000 Small Business Vouchers project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative. Sandia reported that Skysun’s ganged heliostats can achieve an average price point around $80/m2. That’s 33 percent lower than the lowest average cost for today’s conventional heliostats ($120/m2) and close to the SunShot Initiative’s goal of lowering the cost of solar collectors to $75/m2.
Path to Market Adoption

Skysun’s biggest barrier was showing that the technology is not just comparable to current heliostats in terms of performance, but more affordable. They used a grant from Innovation Fund America to build their first lab-scale prototype, then worked with Sandia to model and optimize the system. Alongside Sandia, Skysun designed custom codes for mirror positioning to reduce shading from other mirrors within the system, making its peak efficiency comparable to those deployed today. So far, modeling on Skysun’s solar collectors (for example: GOAL ZERO NOMAD 7 )show that its mirrors achieve CSP industry accuracy standards with winds up to 15-20 miles per hour.

Skysun founder Jim Clair believes he will be able to leverage the outcomes from Skysun’s collaboration with Sandia in his search for a strategic partnership to prepare this technology for market adoption. Describing Sandia as “the mecca for CSP,” Clair said Sandia’s support in demonstrating the ganged heliostat’s stability, performance, and cost will be instrumental in showing the technology’s viability to potential partners.

Monday, July 10, 2017

10 Ways You Can Use Solar Panels to Help You Save or Make Money

The federal government offers incentives that help offset the cost of installation, so that a consumer can realize energy savings more quickly. This means lower energy cost in a shorter time frame.
Solar panels (for example: RENOGY 100W )  can be used to generate a portion of your home’s power in order to reduce your dependency on traditional power sources. For instance, you can install panels to provide electricity just for appliances or lighting, to reduce your dependency on the utility company, as well as lower your bill.
With solar panels as an alternate power source, you can negotiate a more favorable rate with your local electric company in many cases. Since your consumption will be lower, and your home is more energy efficient, you may qualify for lower rates.
Feed-in tariffs, which are government-induced incentives for energy providers to switch to alternative, renewable energy sources. This can include homeowners, which means you can sell surplus energy generated by your solar panels back to the electric grid.
Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s) allow homeowners to lease equipment from a private company for use in generating electricity, and the company then sells surplus electricity to its customer at a lower price than the local utility. This also gives the homeowner an option that alleviates the expense of installing his own equipment.
Net Metering is another policy that works to the advantage of homeowners using solar power. Electric meters will measure your electricity production as well as your consumption, and calculate the difference. So as you generate electricity with you solar panels, you are in essence banking credit with you local electric company.
While not a direct savings on your electric bill, there is another financial benefit from solar powering your home. The resale value of your home will increase by as much as 20% with the installation of solar panels.
Heating bills can be reduced by using your solar panels to provide the power to your home heating system. Your savings on heating costs versus using conventional electricity can reap you substantial financial rewards.
Another option is to connect your water heater to the solar panel array you’ve installed. You’ll have the added benefit of knowing that you can still take a hot shower, in your comfortably warm home in the event of a winter power outage.
There are numerous DIY kits available to consumers which will guide you in building your own solar panels with surprisingly little effort or expense. This can greatly reduce your initial cost, which in turn brings you to profitability that much sooner.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Amish quilts serve as vibrant pieces of art and traditional country objects

The Scribbler watched in amazement as Amish-made quilts were auctioned rapidly at the Bart Township Mud Sale last month. He wondered why these often extraordinary quilt designs sold in the range of $300 and $400 each, when museum-quality Amish quilts are valued at many times that amount.

Janneken Smucker, a fifth-generation Mennonite quilt maker and author of “Amish Quilts: Crafting an American Icon,” addressed a related question Monday night during a lecture sponsored by the Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society at Ridgeview Mennonite Church near Intercourse.

A history professor at West Chester University, Smucker spent much of her time discussing the roots of Amish quilting. But she said her primary concern and the premise of her book is the paradox presented by two ways of looking at quilts.

“How can these objects — Amish quilts — simultaneously be viewed as works of modern art, as many art enthusiasts beginning in the early 1970s did, and as country objects, souvenirs from trips to visit the Amish?” she asked.

Smucker discussed four qualities common to both viewpoints: innovation, desirability, authenticity and simplicity.

The colorful quilt designs that appeal to museum curators and bedroom decorators come from the same source, Smucker said. A society thought of as “old-fashioned” has produced innovators who push the community “to adopt objects and practices outside the group’s range of conformity.”

No matter who makes quilts, she explained, “they were designed to be commodities, whether entrepreneurs appealed to niche markets or to a general consumer.”

Purchasers outside the Amish sect “have turned to quilts in search of authenticity,” she said. By purchasing Amish quilts, individual consumers and businesses “have tried to have some of the simplicity of Amish quilts rub off on them.”

Despite changes in pattern, style, fabric and color, she concluded, Amish quilts “remain objects that reflect the communities in which they are made, loved, used, cherished and neglected.”

Back to the bricks

 Lancastrian Bob Ibold read the March 25 column about the old Lancaster Brick Co. and the Franklin & Marshall College-owned tract sometimes called the Baker Woodlands, or the Brickyards, that now occupies that site. He thinks access should be increased.

The F&M tract in Manheim Township is bordered on its west by the Little Conestoga Creek. To the west of the creek is Noel Dorwart Memorial Park in East Hempfield Township. Trails thread both properties.

Ibold has heard about the possibility of a bridge being built over the Little Conestoga to connect the two woodlands.

“One of the advantages is that the Noel Dorwart Park is sort of for beginners,” he said. “If you could attach the Brickyards, you would have a series of trails that more serious hikers would enjoy. I want to use both parts together. To me it looks like a no-brainer.”

Ibold said he understands that the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority, one of the developers of Dorwart Park, offered to build a bridge.

“While there was some informal dialogue from LCSWMA on the opportunity,” said LCSWMA spokeswoman Kathryn Sandoe, “we can’t speak for F&M as to where they stand.”

“The college has no plans now,” responded F&M spokesman Peter Durantine. “It may be considered in the future.”

In other words, don’t hold your breath while hiking.

On this subject, retired F&M administrator David Stameshkin notes that the college website said F&M acquired the Baker Campus and the Baker Woodlands at different times.

F&M purchased what it named the Charles G. and Miriam R. Baker Memorial Campus in 1963. The college purchased the wooded acreage from the Lancaster Brick Co. in 1981.

In addition, the college in 2013 named the woodland the Spalding Conservancy for former F&M President Keith Spalding and his wife, Dot Spalding.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Roof Repair Bronx NY

Gone are the days when getting a damaged roof repaired was a Herculean task, and was sure to give people many a sleep less night. These days however, instead of having to worry about getting the roof repaired, most people find themselves spending many a sleep less night finding the 'right roof repair Bronx NY contractor' for doing the job.

Now, one may wonder, what makes appointing a roof repair contractor such a serious job. Well the answer is simple. Each roof repair contractor has his own skill and style of repairing the roof that sets him apart from the rest. In fact you may say that the number of choices you have while selecting a roof repair contractor, are as varied as the number of choices you have while selecting a roof for you house. Also, since your choice depends much on the nature of the roof that you need to get repaired, selecting an ideal roof repair Bronx NY contractor for yourself can be a Herculean task.

This is particularly true if you need to get your roof repaired immediately. If the damage caused to the roof is an extreme one, for instance a leak, and you wish to get it repaired as soon as possible, then you may have a rather tough time getting your roof repaired. However, in case your roof is not very seriously damaged, you can afford to spend some time doing your research and checking on the potential contractors.

In case your roof needs to be repaired immediately, you better be prepared to find your roof repair Bronx NY contractor charging you a premium for the job. This is understandable, because just like getting any job done quickly, even getting a roof repaired quickly is sure to cost you more. Therefore, it is essential for you to weigh all the pros and cons before hand, and judge carefully if you need to get your roof repaired at an urgent notice, or if you can do without one. Managing your demands with your contractor's schedule can often reduce your costs.

When you are looking for a roof repair contractor, try to find yourself one who has enough experience working with the same material as the material used in the roof that you wish to get repaired. This is because different kinds of roofing material need to be repaired and dealt with differently. In fact it is not uncommon to see a roof repair contractors refusing to repair a particular kind of roof, because he is used to repairing a particular type of roof only. For instance, for a roof repair contractor who deals with the repairing of roofs of composite shingles, repairing a roof of tiles or wood shingles can be quite difficult a task. We must remember that different kinds of roofing materials need to be dealt with differently, and they often require different adhesives or in fact even a different variety of tools when they are to be installed or repaired.

However, there are times when people find it difficult to get roof repair contractors who could work as per the desired schedule, within a given time span. For example, in case there has been a severe storm or any such weather condition in a particular area that is capable of destroying the roofs of a number of houses, then the excessive demand for roof repair contractors at the same time, make finding a roof repair contractor difficult for a while. In such situations, it is advisable that you request the contractor to take out some time, and at least install tarps, or any make any such temporary repair so as to stop the leakage problems etc for a while till they are free to make do the permanent repair job.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Why Every Small Business Needs Online Strategy

Marketing is essential even for small local companies. In an increasingly competitive world you have to be able to replace departing customers with new ones. With more than 1.1 billion websites and growing every second, there is no better marketing channel than the internet.

Digital Resistance

Yet many business owners look upon it as providing little value. There are some common reasons that even long-established businesses give for this:

I don’t need it

If you have an established business with a strong customer base providing all the income you could ask for, congratulations. You’re one of the fortunate few. But are those customers always going to be there? Local demographics change over time. People tend to migrate to wherever job opportunities exist. And isn’t there a possibility that someone else might open up a strong rival operation in the next town, or across the street? How about online?

Why Are All the Roof Replacement Estimates Priced So Diversely?

Form of new roofing material

There are considerable contrasts in between different types of materials. The price of the roofing product being used has a plain role in the cosmetic design, weight, durability and the supreme lifetime of the new system.

For steep roofing products, asphalt composition shingles have a tendency to be your entry level product, with perspective lifetime shingle product possibilities requesting an increased cost. Concrete and clay tile usually be even more of a mid-range choice with synthetic, wood shake, metal and traditional slate being in the higher range roofing products.

For flat roofs, pricing options tend to begin with coatings, hot-mop built-up roofs, modified torches, TPO products and lastly single-ply PVC systems.

Roof pitch and/or slope

The roof's pitch is a crucial factor in determining the cost for two main reasons. First one, a very steep roof, commonly viewed as anything that's over 6:12 pitch, is for the most part regarded as not walkable and calls for far more safety, labor and staging to finish the roof correctly.

The second one, relying upon the type of roof being installed and the demanded fire rating, roof pitch determines the type of demanded underlayment system and throughout these line plays a vital part in estimating a roofing job appropriately.

A composition shingle roof that is somewhere around 2:12 and 4:12 pitch requires two layers of underlayment installed, while a flat roof that is between a 1/2:12 and 2:12 pitch might require certain underlayments to achieve a Class A fire rating.

Size of the roof

Roofing contractors will take an accurate roof measurement according to square footage and after that divide this number by 100, presenting them what is referred to as a roofing square. One roofing square equals 100 square feet. Most roofing materials are sold by the square, not the square foot.

Roofing components installed

The majority of the people consider their new roof essentially as the new tile or shingle which is being applied-- still and all, there is noticeably more to waterproofing your roof over the long run. The type of underlayment and decking materials utilized, the ventilation and insulation installed and even the types of fasteners applied all impart an alternate level of efficiency, life expectancy, producing expense, and thus price tag.

Sort of roof and amount of layers being removed

Typically, roof tear-offs are managed by the amount of time it takes to remove-- the labor-- and the landfill charges to dispose of the roofing material, which is normally determined by the weight of the material. The heavier the material or the more there is, the more it requires to remove the old roof and the more it costs to remove of correctly.

Type of roof warranty

There is a significant variance between a standard roofing warranty, where the professional roofers New York are standing behind the labor and workmanship of the project, as opposed to a no-dollar-limit or eveloped (NDL) guarantee backed by the manufacturer themselves. A maker's warranty on a regular basis calls for extra measures, products and examinations along with an expense that is billed by the manufacturer to back and bolster the roofing contractor's labor and handiwork.

A standard roofing warranty commonly does not require the additional steps; in any case, you pay for what you get and ought to consider this distinction when looking at offer comparisons. Manufacturer-warranted roof replacements normally emphasize quality craftsmanship, since they bring an extra set of eyes on the examination and ultimately more security and comfort to the client.

Accessibility to the roof

Access to the roof is a critical part in the standard pricing of the job. Troublesome access means additional equipment and labor are required to tear off the roof, load the roofing materials, stage the roof and complete the roof system. Since there is an immediate connection of labor and equipment costs to each and every roofing project, the simpler the access, the lesser time and material are necessary to finish the job.