Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Semester Wrapup

Another semester at an end. Just have some final grading to do and that'll be another one for the books. This semester I taught 805 again (Advanced Computer Graphics) to a number of graduate students. We covered four major modeling approaches: ray tracing (modeling light transport), fractal terrain generation (procedural modeling), particle systems and the jello cube (physics-based animation modeling basically, including collision detection and response), and surface reconstruction (surface modeling, in a nutshell). The latter project is fairly involved, as it is based on the following paper: Hoppe, H., DeRose, T., Duchamp, T., McDonald, J., and Stuetzle, Werner, ``Surface Reconstruction from Unorganized Points'', in Computer Graphics (Proceedings of SIGGRAPH), 26, 2, July, 1992, ACM. The idea behind it is to figure out how to cover a bunch of points with a surface. The points might be what you'd get if you shone a laser scanning device on a simple object. You just get a bunch of points in space as your input data set (inset; you and I can see that the points make up the shape of a cat, but with just this information it's impossible for a computer to display it nicely with good lighting—for that you need surfaces that will reflect light; points generally do not). Obtaining the surface means calculating the triangles that would (more or less) drape over the set of points if you dropped them from above. It's not easy—Hoppe lays out the 4-step process in his PhD dissertation. Eventually you end up running the marching cubes algorithm to generate the triangles and you end up with a picture like the one at left (created by the program of one of the students in my class).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Cymbals and Snare Upgrade

The Hoodoo Hounds have three gigs coming up, starting with a private party this Saturday (Apr. 26). Our last rehearsal for this gig is tonight. We then play at 356 May 2 (semester end, yeah!) and then The Spot on May 16. With all this activity, and me joining a second band, Klaxon, a rock/metal band this time, I thought it a good time to consider upgrading a few items. I just ordered a set of Zildjian Custom A cymbals off ebay (20" ride, 16" crash, 14" hi-hats, an 18" fast crash). I saved about $130, shipping included, so not too bad. And I got this set for a lower price than what I was going to pay for a set of newer but lower-grade cymbals. I just found a really informative web page: DrumJunction.com where they rank the cymbal models made by the BIG 3 (Zildjian, Sabian, Paiste) that helped me decide. Currently on my road kit I use a set of Sabian B8s, pretty much the cheapest cymbals out there.

Some of my research dates back to the Hounds' time in the studio (see the "Sound Check" blog entry), where I played Zildjian A hats, a Zildjian K 16" fast crash, and an 8" Sabian AAX splash as well as a decent Pearl snare. I'd actually forgotten what type of snare it was, but as it happens I just got a very similar Pearl snare, again off ebay. You have to look closely at both pictures to see that they're both the free-floating 14×3.5" snare, but instead of the 6-ply maple floating shell in it, mine has a floating African mahogany stave shell. It sounds pretty good for a Pearl. Pearl isn't usually considered a great name in drums—kinda entry-level in my opinion—but this snare has a nice crack to it. It borders on being a bit too loud actually. The idea is to use this better Pearl snare to replace the crappy Pearl snare I have on my Pearly Rhythm Traveller kit—the practice kit I use with the Hounds. I've tried numerous things to get that snare to sound good (changed heads, tuned and re-tuned it), but it just won't. So my plan is to use it for parts, if possible. It's an odd-sized 13" snare so I won't be able to salvage too much. Meanwhile, once my new cymbals get here, I'll spread out my old cymbals around to the different kits I use: both the Klaxon and Hounds practice kits need more than just their single crappy crash cymbals.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

PC Fan

One of our home PC's fans is really noisy. It's squeaking and needs to be replaced. I tried spraying some WD-40 in there but it didn't help. So I found this place on the web—The Fan Van—that specializes in cooling solutions. It sounds like some college student that mails out PC fans when he gets a chance to get to the post office (twice a week or something like that). Anyway, he sells the fans cheap, the fan arrived as expected, so all that's good. I was all excited about swapping out the fan. Above you can see inside the PC, the shot on the right with the fan exposed at top. Replacing the fan is fairly simple, it just snaps in place and connects to the motherboard with one three-wire connection.

My excitement was short-lived, however. Turns out I ordered the wrong fan. The one I got is an 80 mm fan, 10 mm too small. That 10 mm makes a huge difference since the fan attaches to four little posts at the fan corners. I'm not quite sure what to do now...The Fan Van doesn't have the exact fan model number that I need and I don't know where else to look. This PC happens to be fairly old now, maybe that's part of the problem. Anyway, I emailed The Fan Van guy; hopefully he might be able to suggest something. Meanwhile, for the moment I'm stuck with a fan that I can't really use. For reference, here are the specs of the machine/fan in question:

Dell Precision 420 (service tag: GFQ2K01)
JMC/DA-TECH fan model 0925-12HBTA (12V, 0.6A), 90mm (Dell part no. 6985R)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dishrack Guide Rail Stop – gray

Another piece busted on one of our kitchen appliances. This time it's a little plastic thingy that sits at the end of this rail that the top shelf of the dishwasher rides on. Last time (after thunderstorm-related brownouts) it was the refrigerator ice maker's little water pump. Both relatively small, inexpensive, and easily replaced pieces, but where to get them? (Incidentally, that water pump was a guess on my part: several attempts at dismantling of the ice maker led to this little piece which sits near the floor on the back part of the fridge—it was a more difficult troubleshooting problem than the current problem.) Web search to the rescue! And in particular Partselect.com. I just love this web site. You go there and they provide an excellent mechanism for locating the thing that you want. You find your appliance make and model, and then check a couple of radio buttons to help identify what this thing is. It feels sorta like charades: it's about 1-2 inches, it's plastic, it's not electrical, it's got something to do with a rail and shelf...the web returns a list of pictures with labels. You scroll through this list and presto! It's a dishrack guide rail top—gray! I'll take one! The only downside is that shipping costs more than the part. I should have ordered a dozen or so...next time.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hey La Hey La, My Beamer's Back!

Just picked up the beamer from the body shop. The final repairs involved replacing the shock absorber and spring strut, replacing the entire front bumper & grille, and two all-wheel alignments (the first to discover the problem the second after repairs). I handed the insurance company's check over to the body shop and drove off. What a relief...

Warsaw Vedutismo Gallery

After reading my earlier blog on Canaletto and the Venutian Vedutisti and his paintings hanging at the Ufizzi, my Mom noted that Canaletto also painted views of Warsaw. It looks as if there may have been two Canalettos: Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto) and Bernardo Bellotto, who used the name Canaletto professionally, as it says on the Info Poland page at the State University of New York (SUNY) Buffalo:

Bernardo Bellotto, born in Venice in 1722, became the court painter of Poland's last King, Stanislaw August Poniatowski in 1768. As a young man, he had been an apprentice of his uncle Giovanni Antonio Canal, and, like his uncle, used professionally the name Caneletto; for many years this was the name by which he remained known in Poland. Canvases with views of Warsaw, which he was commissioned to paint by the King, were used to decorate a room in the Royal Castle, in the process the chamber becoming known as the Canaletto Room. His renderings of Warsaw view were so extremely accurate that in 1946-47 paintings were used as blueprints in the reconstruction of edifices that were destroyed during the WWII conflict.

The book I have on Canaletto may have more info on the name, I'll have to read up on who Bellotto was. It may also have pictures of these paintings as well, I'll have to check. I vaguely remember the Canaletto Room in the Royal Castle; Corey might have taken some pictures but I now don't recall. Some of them can be found on the web, e.g., on the Wikimedia Commons, an excellent resource for images and artwork. Below is a gallery of four such images that I found this morning and I present them here as a mini gallery of Warsaw Vedutismo.

Bernardo Bellotto, View of Warsaw from Praga, 1770, Warsaw, Royal Castle.
Bernardo Bellotto, View of Warsaw from the Terrace of the Royal Castle, 1773, Warsaw, The National Museum.
Bernardo Bellotto, Miodowa Street in Warsaw, 1777, Warsaw, Royal Castle.

One grand painting I do remember from our visit to Warsaw last year that I would say is done in a similar realist painting style is of course Matejko's Battle of Gurnwald. I don't think my gallery would be complete without this addition, so here it is, for "completeness". This painting, btw, is simply massive (something like 32′×13′): if you ever get a chance to see it in person, it should make a lasting impression.

Jan Matejko, Battle of Grunwald, 1878, Warsaw, The National Museum.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Canaletto (and the Venetian Vedutisti)

After having glimpsed fine works of art at several (national and smaller) galleries (Florence, Italy; Warsaw, Poland; Washington, DC, Sarasota, FL, USA), my favorite artist has got to be Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal, Venezia 1697-1768). Above are two (postcards of two) pieces hanging in the Ufizzi, in Florence: Veduta del Palazzo Ducale di Venezia, 1755 (left) and Veduta del Canal Grande, 1730 (right). Veduta translates to View, as in "Veduta del" meaning "View of". The pictures are scans of a couple of postcards I bought at the Ufizzi, but they don't do the originals justice. Perhaps experiencing artwork is similar to music. In my opinion there are three levels: reproduction (e.g., viewing a picture, listening to a recording), live (e.g., viewing the original, listening to a live band), and creation (e.g., performing the work, be it painting or music). I've been fortunate to have seen several of Canaletto's paintings in person. I think they're a real feast for the eyes.

Canaletto was born October 28 in the Venetian parish of San Lio, and is one of the painters of the Vedutisti, who defined the vedutismo art genre. Other artists include Luca Carlevarijs, Bernardo Bellotto, Michele Marieschi, Francesco Albotto, and Francesco Guardi, among others. I'm reading about these painters in a book I also bought at the Ufizzi, "Canaletto and the Venetian Vedutisti", by Filippo Pedrocco, 1991, SCALA Group S.p.A., Antella (Florence). According to this book,

The Venetian vedute ... are distinguished by their accuracy in the depiction of details, their topological precision, the crystalline quality of their color, and the exactness of their proportions.
The above passage refers to the works of Gaspar van Wittel who is often cited as the forerunner of eighteenth-century Venetian vedutismo, but the characteristics are clearly common to most works attributed to this style of painting.

Art, Science, Balance

CHI's theme for 2008 was "Art, Science, Balance". To balance the art we'd already seen (and had yet to see), I wanted to find some of the more scientific exhibits after visiting the Galleria dell Accademia. "The Academy" is where Michelangelo's David stands in all his glory. (The one in the Piazza della Signoria outside the Ufizzi is a copy.) And indeed this statue is quite impressive. The Academy also houses Michelangelo's four sculptures of captives, unfinished works of art, as well as numerous works in plaster in the Sala dell Ottocento (this hall included several sculptures commissioned by Poles who'd moved to Florence, as far as I remember what was written on the placards). Yet another hall featured the Medici's musical instruments including various violins, basses, flutes and things resembling early clarinets.

After the Academy we went to the Museo di Storia Naturale, the Natural History Museum, which was pretty much right next door to the Academy, just up the road on Via G. La Pira, extending Via Ricasoli to the north. The Natural History Museum included the Orto Botanico where Corey looked at Florence's flora while I rested on a bench. We then saw glimpses of Florence's fauna in the Museo di Geologia e Paleontologia housed within the Universita di Firenze. Above you see skeletons of prehistoric beasts as well as Ursus Spelaeus, a bear native to Tuscany.

To balance art and natural history I also wanted to see something of science, having read that the Musei Scientifici housed various physics experiments. Unfortunately we never did find these; I think they were either inaccessible at the time or maybe open only during the summer. However, I think that my city map and/or the guide I read confused the issue somewhat by stating that all these things would be found at the Musei Scientifici. In reality, this entry on my map really pointed to the natural history showpieces I described above. It seemed that maybe we'd miss out on the science. Fortunately, when we asked about this, the fellow at the natural history museum exclaimed "Ah, Galileo!" and told us to go down to the Museo di Storia Scienza which happened to be next door to the Ufizzi. Indeed, this is where we found Galileo Galilei and his telescopes, among other items mainly related to astronomy, or perhaps today more likely to be associated with astrophysics.

I think Corey was a bit disappointed in Galileo's telescopes, thinking that they'd be these massive things that are more common today. Their size and use is suggested in the above sketching depicting the use of the helioscope (a device incorporating a telescope used to study the sun). Overall I think we agreed that these exhibits, like CHI's theme, rounded out our sightseeing experience rather nicely. To top it all off, on the way down Via Ricasoli to the science museum I happened to find a leather jacket I liked at Gabi Leather Works. They're custom tailoring it for me to take in the sleeves and to put in an additional pocket. I hope to take delivery within a week or two. It should make a stylish reminder of our trip where we managed to balance art and science along with gastronomy and shopping. We ended Friday night by returning to the restaurant we visited first: Giannino in San Florenzo, on Borgo San Lorezno, just up from the Duomo towards our hotel. This ended up being our favorite restaurant with good food and good service. We were treated to after-dinner drinks of Limoncello for Corey and Vino Santo for me (a very tasty sweet dessert wine). An excellent way to end the day and week in Italy. Arrivederci Florence!

Shopping and Such

Thursday morning I went back to CHI and attended a couple of paper sessions including one on Fitts' Law. This is a basic logarithmic relation modeling human movement (e.g., arm movement as registered by mouse coordinates) stating that time to movement (T) is proportional to the distance to target (D, sometimes also given as A, the amplitude of the required movement) and target width (W).

There seems to be some debate on whether Fitts' Law can be used to predict eye movement. Some say yes from empirical observations. Others say no from (I think) what we know from saccadic programming: the brain programs the eye with faster rotations (larger amplitude) when covering larger distances making movement time constant. If that's so, I don't see how that relates to target size...indeed, even though Fitts' Law has been discussed by CHI researchers for 25+ years (and Fitts himself had done some eye tracking), I suppose one would really need to examine eye position accuracy to somehow relate eye targetting error to eye rotation speed to target distance. I'm really not sure whether anyone's done so...at this year's CHI paper session on Fitts' Law, prediction error had just been introduced—apparently it's not been considered before in this context.

After that thought-provoking paper session, we went walking around Florence, with the intent on spending the afternoon shopping (well, that was my intention, anyway). I basically picked a city square we hadn't been to before, Piazza Santa Croce as it happened, and off we went. Turns out there wasn't much there in this piazza. I think we eventually headed back through the Ufizzi to the Piazza della Repubblica. I think we may have had a snack there since that seemed to one of our preferred places for lunch. There are several good outside cafes there, including Cafe Concerto Paszkowski, Cafe Giubbe Rosse, and Cafe Gilli. Although we went in to a couple of leather places, and looked at some of the things offered by the street vendors ("Rrrrrolex"!), we found nothing, and eventually went for dinner to a restaurant right by The Michael Collins where we ended up for a couple of Guinnesses once again.

Google Party

Wednesday night after my CHI course we went out in search of the Google party. The party announcement handed out at CHI gave the wrong hotel (Hotel Grande, but the wrong one; there were to Hotel Grandes). To correct the misdirection, a Student Volunteer (SV) was posted outside the wrong hotel with directions to the right one. This particular SV was holding a half-finished pint of beer, which I hope he got gratis, courtesy of CHI (or Google). SVs are an invaluable convention resource as they perform a large number of indispensable duties. I know, since I was a SIGGRAPH SV for a couple of years back in the early 90s. As an SV you try to "live off the land" as my graduate advisor advised me to do, hence you try to grab as many freebies as you can find, including beer :)

Eventually we found the right hotel and both the Google and Microsoft parties (colocated at the same hotel). Unfortunately by the time we got there no more beer was to be found. All the food plates were also empty. So it was either stay and mingle or head out in search of dinner. Conference parties and receptions are hard to live off (you have to be quick), so we went off in search of a nice restaurant.

These are not difficult to find, and we happened across Baccus, just another of the countless small but very good establishments in Florence. I can't remember what I had now (Corey might post it as she took photos of the menus and plates) but I do remember it being very good. We also saw what is a famous dish in Florence, the Florentine steak. This is usually served for two as it is huge and very thick (looked like about 2-4 inches in thickness). After dinner we just walked around by the Ufizzi, meandering through small streets, looking for a nightcap (Guinness).

We had found an Irish pub (every city in the world seems to have at least one) close to our hotel, but it was small, and a bit of a hole. Luckily we found something a bit better right by the Ufizzi, The Miachael Collins. I think we ended up going there a couple more times. They not only had Guinness, but they took US dollars on par with the Euro from 6-10pm every night. Which meant we paid US $6 per pint instead of €6 = $9–10.50, depending on the current exchange rate (ouch!). One night we happened to catch a football match between Fiorentina (a local club I think) and PSV, a Dutch club I believe. It ended up being PSV 0:2 Fiorentina, much to the delight of the locals.

Friday, April 11, 2008

CHI 2008

Wednesday was all business for me as I co-taught a CHI 2008 full-day course (from 09:00 till 18:00 with setup at 07:30). The pic above is of the morning setup: Tobii brought in 10 eye trackers for a hands-on session that the three of us would teach. The idea was to show students how to track eye movements over various kinds of stimuli such as images, video, web pages, and Windows applications. I handled (or rather mis-handled) the first two and my co-presenters did the other two. In my typical overcomplicated approach I made my example much too complex. I managed to get through it but we decided to skip the video section altogether. Which was wise I believe as my co-presenters did a super job and made the course enjoyable after I had confused things a bit. It's good to have good collaborators :) I get a second chance to redeem myself when I present the material again later this summer in Tampere, Finland.

The Ufizzi and the Boboli Gardens

Art tradition has it that museums should be closed on Mondays. Apparently this might be a tradition upheld just about everywhere as both the Ufizzi and Boboli Gardens were closed on our first full day in Florence, a Monday. So on Monday just about the only natural thing we saw was this glimpse of a small garden in some building (a hotel maybe) that we happened to peek through, after having approached its locked gate. So our first day's walk was more like a reconnaissance city walk rather than actual sightseeing. The piazza by the Ufizzi has some statues outside (including David, a replica) as well as several restaurants to sit in and watch the crowds walk through the Piazza della Signoria.

So it was back to the Duomo and its piazza. On one of the streets just off the piazza was this restaurant, Giannino in San Lorenzo. It was the first place we ate in and it was quite good. As it would repeat just about every day later in the week, we would enter a place that only had a few people in it, and just after we sat down, a crowd of people would come in slamming the place. Either we attract crowds or something, or we happen to eat early and the locals (and tourists) eat late (not till 8pm or so or later). Giannino had the typical two-course meal choices that seem to be popular here. I had a penne dish followed by stewed beef, the latter similar to Polish zrazy but with a tomato-based sauce. Very good. A half-bottle of vino followed by coffee and dessert rounded out the meal. I remember that choosing this restaurant was made difficult by the number of other alternative: lots of them. Which is quite the conundrum for us folk from the sticks where we only have one good restaurant. Here, it seems there's a really good gourmet place on every street.

Monday night we went to the conference reception where I bumped in to a few of my colleagues. One of them told me that to get in to the Ufizzi we'd have to line up early (8:30am) in order to get in. We did this the next day on Tuesday and spent the morning looking at Renaissance art. I've no pictures as they're not allowed to be taken inside the Ufizzi. In the afternoon we went to the Boboli gardens, where I got a few snaps of the gardens and the views from the top (the gardens are on a hill which we climbed a couple of times). One viewpoint gave us a vista of this small valley with the yellow dwelling situated at left. The house reminded me of Robert Mondavi's wine labels. I guess that shouldn't be surprising as Mondavi is the son of Italian emigrants from the Marche region, just southeast of Tuscany (according to Wikipedia at least). The other side of the hill renders the view of Florence, with the Duomo again being quite prominant. I tried a panoramic shot of the city to stitch later, but being on auto, I got diferent shutter settings so that the software refused to stitch. Here at least is a zoomed in pic of the Duomo from the Boboli gardens.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Our typical route through Firenze

Walking out of the hotel, just down two streets we find the Basilica di San Lorenzo. We didn't go in there, but it seemed impressive, and that was just the first building we saw. Underneath are two streets lined with these shop vendors selling various leather goods, purses, and other assorted jewelery and knick knacks. This might be the famed leather market where you're supposed to haggle with the vendors and pick up cheap but nice Italian leather jackets. There's some interesting stuff, and the prices are sorta ok, and yeah, I was willing to haggle with them today if I had found a jacket I liked. I'm pretty picky about jackets, however, and I just didn't see anything that I liked (and that I'd still have to fork out at least $300 for). So, nah, I passed on the leather. Some of the market people are kinda pushy and there are a few shady characters whispering "Pssst, Rolex?" as you walk by. This unfortunately gives one the impression that all this stuff might just be just a bit fake. So another reason not to buy...

A little further down from our hotel is the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore on the Piazza del Duomo, or otherwise known simply as del Duomo for its imposing dome (just visible beyond the intricate marble in this pic; you'll see it in another pic of the city coming up later). Beyond the Duomo is the Piazza della Republica (which I don't have a picture of) and beyond that is the famed Galleria degli Uffizi ("the Offices"), where the famous artwork resides (e.g., Botticielli's Birth of Venus; personally, my favorite is Canoletti, but the Uffizi only had two of his paintings—staring at these in person is a real treat).

Still further south is the Ponte Vecchio, the bridge over the Arno that holds a number of shops (jewelery mainly) that have been there quite some time. Past the bridge one gets to the Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli gardens. That was our destination on the first day here (Monday) since it was supposed to be the only sunny day of our trip. More on that later...

Travel to Florence

We arrived in Charles De Gaule (CDG), Paris, Sunday morning. Flew in on an A330, with the 2×3×2 seat layout that I like; Corey and I sit by ourselves on port or starboard, I usually take the aisle. Personal DVD players, dinner, snooze, breakfast, and you're there. I wanted to try a new airport instead of flying through Schiphol all the time. Paris sounded glamorous, romantic, exciting. The city might be, but the airport ain't. What a zoo! Tons of people, construction, and just seemed like poor organization. We had to walk clear across I think two very long terminals.

CDG still used the old "big-butt" monitors; they look really ancient these days in comparison to the elongated (vertically mounted) flat screens you see just about everywhere else (yes, even at our dippy little GSP). Out of a bank of about 10 monitors listing flights the one on which our flight to FLR should have appeared was burnt out. So either wait for the flights to scroll off to the monitor above, or keep walking. We walked just a bit further to find out we had to walk back to find our gate. Usually once you go through security you should then enter a concourse with flight gates, with coffee shops, restrooms, etc. interspersed throughout. Except here at CDG. We were routed to this cowpen called a gate. Standing room only, sweating buckets. Slight delay, then on to a bus which took us clear across the airport, back from whence we came. Turns out they had to change planes, so the plane we ended up wasn't at the gate we had walked to. Needless to say we both passed out and slept through the snack they handed out on this last leg of the flight.

Then it was on to a city bus from the airport to the train station (Stazione di Santa Maria Novella), from where we walked to our hotel. I picked a conference hotel with a price in the middle of the range of hotels available. It ain't cheap, but it's not worth the price we're paying for the room. Really thin walls (loud plumbing), hot (no A/C), no view out the window, and the air outside smells like sewer. They've dug up the street two streets down so maybe that's what we're smelling. On the one hand you can't sleep with the window closed, but on the other if you open it, you have to put up with the stench. Oh well, I guess by now we're getting used to offensive smells on this journey: stinky rental car and stinky hotel room. It's Thursday now (catching up to the blog using Corey's machine; I brought my PC laptop here which isn't as pleasant to use for blog writing), so we've only got two more nights of the stink and then we're off back to GSP.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

New Wheels

Luggage wheels, that is. Early in 2007 my old rolling garment bag started falling apart so I splurged and bought myself a Victorinox wheeled garment bag (SKU 31771 I think is the closest model, but mine seems older). This bag was a bit roomier and seemed pretty sturdy. Last year in Finland one of the handle bolts popped off on me so with the help of my Finnish hosts we managed to replace the hardware with new nuts and bolts. However I also noticed that the wheels were starting to show the abuse they were getting and started deforming and cracking. I emailed the good people of Victorinox and they were happy to send me replacement wheels. They look a little sportier but I'm not sure if they are any stronger. But at least they're new so my bag now has "fresh legs". It's all packed up, weighing in at a svelt 36 pounds (the airlines now charge for bags in excess of their weight limits—these differ from airline to airline and can be as low as 40 lbs). Now it's a few more things to do around the house such as turn off various water taps, turn off a few computers, etc., and we're off!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Garmin Surgery

My Garmin PDA was starting to show signs of battery fatigue—it wouldn't hold its charge for very long. Eventually I'd only be able to use it with it sitting in its cradle. I knew that to revitalize I'd need to change its battery, but unlike more modern devices, its battery is not readily accessible (unlike my camera, where you can swap out the batteries quite easily). Fortunately, a google search turned up a Laptops for Less (l-f-l) web page with the correct Li-Ion 3.7 V, 900 mAh battery, complete with T-6 screwdriver (4-piece multi-tool in fact) and online instructions (ain't the web great?). I usually use the PDA for keeping my checkbook balanced as well as flight and hotel info when I'm out trekking. Since we're leaving tomorrow, I splurged a bit and got the battery via 2nd day air. Then it was time to operate.

I sat down in the study with camera handy, with the intent on taking step-by-step pictures just like the online instructions. However, while disassembly was easy, reassembly was much more problematic. Step 4 is the main problem since as you take the motherboard out, little bits and pieces starts falling off. The instructions do say to be careful and they specifically warn about that damn navigation wheel. First I thought they meant the large black rubber gasket at the bottom of the Garmin. It's kind of a navigation wheel as its topsides lets you go up, down, left, right. But what the web page was really referring to was the scroll wheel at the side of the Garmin. This thing popped out on me and fell apart. It has a little shiny metal housing that came off. Then the wheel with its little loop-de-loop spring flew out. Next, the spring bounced off and I'm sure would have flown across the room if it didn't happen to hit the palm of my hand. The spring is tiny so if it had flown off I bet I'd never have found it. Anyway, it took me a good long while to figure out how the spring sat in the wheel, how the wheel was meant to set in its housing to allow up/down rotation along with pushbutton action, and finally how the shiny metal piece fit over the entire thing. I had a small epiphany with the shiny thing: every time I'd get the wheel mounted, placement of the shiny cap would dislodge the wheel, which then promptly caused the spring to unhook itself in an attempt to escape. So finally I realized that I needed to pin the wheel down with the handy tool as I placed the cap on the wheel assembly. That finally did it. Once I got that taken care of, I then reassembled the little IR transmitter cover, the little rubber gasket, the power button cover, and another little rubber grommet, all the little tiny things that managed to free themselves while I was distracted by the wheel. By that time I was already slightly ticked at the whole thing and too busy to bother with step-by-step photography. I knew that the thing still had to be reset and resynched with the laptop before regaining full functionality (if the operation was successful that is). Then a minimum of 3 hrs charging.

This morning I'm happy to report that the operation was a success and that the Garmin is now removed from its ICU in the cradle, and appears to have regained full functionality. Not only that, it appears that after this open-heart surgery, it even seems to have gained a little spring in its step as it were, after having received its brand new ticker.