Review of Henry Coe State Park

Recently, I took a daytrip to Henry W. Coe State Park, in California, and I just wanted to share my experience with all of you. Getting to the park was fairly straightforward, you can just follow E. Dunne Ave. until you get to the main visitor’s center. I believe the address is 8000 E. Dunne Ave. for the main entrance; however some GPS units like mine did not have that address. Still, finding the entrance to the park was fairly easy. The road winds and turns an awful lot, with numerous hairpin turns, so be sure to drive extra carefully. Google Streetview is available for this road, if you’re curious to see what it’s like before getting there.

For day hikes, the standard fee is 5 dollars per vehicle, and it’s worth every penny. You’ll get a double-sided map printed on a standard piece of paper. However, unlike many other state parks, the map is detailed and accurate. As long as you have the map, you should be able to get wherever you’re trying to go without getting lost. All the major trails, along with the distance of each trail are clearly printed on the map. I told the ranger that I was interested in walking about 6 or 7 miles, and he recommended a route for me to take.

Henry Coe State Park is massive, and provides a lot of different environments. When I first started, I found myself going into a forest. Unlike some parks like Castle Rock, there were not many bugs or flies at all. The forest sections of the trails were nice because of the shade, and the trail was well-kept. For parts of my day hike, I had to walk on a dirt road to get from one trail to the next, which was a little bit of a bummer. The only good news is that the traffic is extremely light. I probably spent a total of forty minutes walking on a dirt road, but I didn’t see one car driving on it the whole time. Other than the dirt road, I went on Springs Trail which went on went through a lot of wheatgrass. I also walked past several campgrounds, and a small pond called Bass Pond. The pond had fish and other natural wildlife in it. Another trail I went on was called China Hole, which was predominantly in the forest. However, as I approached Manzanita point, the trail opened up, and the view of all the other hills around me was just staggering. The view was excellent. The best part about this is that there are absolutely no signs of man-made structures in the view. Usually, there will be some road, or some buildings, but not in Henry Coe State Park. There’s just you and the wilderness, which I thought was great.

Overall, my day trip to Henry Coe State Park was excellent. I ended up walking about 7.9 miles, which is just about my personal limit for a day. I was able to see birds up close, far away, and even circling above me. I saw a deer, a couple wild Turkeys up close, many butterflies, and some fish, all in one day. The forests were nice and light, which meant that bugs aren’t going to eat you alive. All the trials I went on were fairly easy, (Corral Trail, Forest Trail, Springs Trail, Manzanita Point Road, and China Hole Trail) so this is a suitable place to bring the family, or even children for a short walk. This is a great place to visit if you want a casual day hike, or even to camp.

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This post was written by admin on June 9, 2009

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Mozy is a waste of money

You’ve probably seen commercials for Mozy.com, and wondered if it’s worth it. Mozy.com is an online business that allows you to back up your data online for free. The idea is very straightforward, and protects you in case your hard drive fails, or your computer is stolen, or catches on fire, etc. But the real question is, is Mozy.com worth it?

The simple answer is no. It is simply not worth your money to use Mozy in order to back up your data, and here’s why.

  1. Free online backup exists from many different companies. For example, you can open a free Gmail account and store all of your documents online for free that way. Because Google owns and operates Gmail, you can bet that the data is backed up. Microsoft backs up all their source code in an old military bunker to protect their assets in case of nuclear war. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google took similar measures.
  2. Mozy will cost you $4.95 a month. This is a whopping $59.4 a year! Much cheaper alternatives exist, and will be discussed shortly.
  3. Mozy uses fear tactics in order to take your money away from you. It’s not worth doing business with any such company.

Cheap or free alternatives to Mozy

  1. If you only have a bunch of small word documents to back up, just upload them to Gmail. Simple, quick, free, and safe.
  2. If you have a few gigabytes of data that needs to be backed up, get a 4GB USB key for $20 dollars. If you go this approach, be sure to store the USB key somewhere safe, preferably in a different building from your computer in case of fire, earthquake, etc.
  3. If you have many gigabytes of data that needs to be backed up, chances are they will take forever and a half to upload online. It might be worth it to get a cheap, $50 external USB hard drive and use that to back up your data. Remember, that will cost less than Mozy does in one year. Some hard drives even come with software for automatic backup. I have an external Seagate hard drive where I can simply push a button on the hard drive to initiate backup. This is appropriate if you want to update and backup files frequently.
  4. Mozy can actually help you find your laptop in case someone steals it. Well, there are free alternatives for this as well. http://adeona.cs.washington.edu/ The idea is that if someone steals your laptop and is stupid enough to connect if to the internet, you can get their IP address and ask the police to retrieve your laptop at said address.

What not to do

However you choose to back up your data, do not burn CDs, DVDs, or blu-ray discs. These methods are not reliable as all of these recordable mediums degrade over time. I’m not kidding. If you’d like, burn a CD or DVD, leave the disc in the sun for a couple days, and then try to use the disc in your computer. USB keys are the absolute most reliable solution. I’ve never seen, or even heard about USB keys that stopped working. Hard drives are also very reliable. And again, using Gmail to store a handful of documents online is also extremely reliable.

Posted under Saving Money, Shopping, Technology

This post was written by admin on February 21, 2009

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Roland HP-207 review

Roland is known for making high quality digital pianos, and the Roland HP-207 is certainly no exception. The Roland HP-207 is one of the most realistic digital pianos out there, with a price tag of about $3,600 -> $4,500 depending on where you buy it.

The Touch

The first thing I’m going to talk about is how the keys feel. First of all, the keys on the Roland HP-207 are textured to simulate ivory. Some people like it, other people don’t. Frankly, I’d prefer the keys to be smoothly textured. I just assumed the HP-207 I was playing in the store had dirty keys! But don’t worry, even if you don’t like it at first, you’ll get used to it.

An important feature of the HP-207 is the escapement feel of the keys. You know when you press a piano key down slowly; you feel a little notch toward the bottom? Well, apparently that’s called the escapement. The HP-207 is one of the extremely few pianos which have this, and it really adds to the realism. The escapement feel is one of the reasons I choose the HP-207, just because it makes playing the keyboard more realistic.

The last thing I’ll mention about the feel of the keys is the weight. All the keys are weighted appropriately, so the keys to the right weight more than the keys to the left. Few other keyboards do this, and it really makes a difference. The only problem I have with it is that the keys are all a bit too heavy. As a kid, I spent two months every summer, for seven summers at Intelochen, a camp for the fine arts. I can honestly tell you I’ve played more than two hours on over a hundred different pianos. Almost all of the pianos I have ever played take less effort to push the keys down. This isn’t a major problem, but it would certainly be nice if the keys were just a little lighter.

Sound Quality

On the first page, I talked about the quality of how the keyboard feels. Now it’s time to talk about how the keyboard actually sounds. The Roland HP-207 is equipped with stereo speakers, which are of decent quality. If you play high pitched sounds, you can expect to hear them more from the right side as you would on a real piano, which is nice. Before, when I said that the speakers are decent, that’s exactly what I meant. If you play the HP-207 with a good set of professional headphones, you can expect the sound quality to be *much* better. I almost always use headphones with my Roland HP-207 for that reason alone.

The Roland HP-207 comes with every instrument imaginable, but I’m going to focus on the three ones you want to hear about; the grand pianos. Roland sampled sounds from three different pianos, and that is what you get. The first piano sounds like a Steinway, and it’s definitely my favorite. You can configure how far up you want the lid of the virtual piano to be, you can configure the 3d effects, damper resonance, the sound of the hammer, and any other aspect of the piano you can think of. In short, you can effectively duplicate any piano you want to by tinkering around with all the settings. Frankly, the Grand Piano 1 sounds great in its default setting.

One last thing I’d like to mention is how they sampled the instruments. Roland did a really great job with sampling the pianos. If you press a key down very hard and very fast, the sound is much different than if you were to press a key with medium speed and force. Many digital pianos simply base the volume off of how fast the key is pressed down, but Roland uses a more sophisticated sampling technique for the HP-207.

Features

Aside from being able to configure the piano to sound any way you want, the Roland HP-207 is loaded with features. For example, you can plug a standard USB key into the keyboard, and record music and store it on the USB key, which is awesome. A lot of pianos still use floppy disks, which are old. Roland only guarantees that the piano will work with a special Roland USB key which is overpriced. I tried it with a normal, 4GB USB key, and it worked just fine. I would recommend you save a little money by NOT buying a Roland USB key. A cool thing about recording music is that you can play it back at a faster tempo, which I like a lot. Of course, the Roland can play MIDI files from the USB key as well. There are many features to split the keyboard into two if you want to have different instruments assigned to each half of the keyboard, or other similar situations like that. There is a metronome, but unfortunately I can’t find a way to turn the volume of the metronome down without turning the volume of the piano down. It’s not a major problem, but I’d love it if the metronome were quieter. Honestly, there are so many features on this piano I can’t name them all, nor do I even know them all. There aren’t very many buttons on the HP-207, but it almost certainly has all the features you need.

Other Details for the Roland HP-207

There are a couple improvements which could’ve been made. For example, the music stand is fairly flimsy. Normally, I’m used to breaking a music books back on the music stand of my old grand piano. The music stand on the Roland HP-207 is much too flimsy for this, and may actually break. The music stand is also not as tall as one might expect. If you want to use loose leaf sheets of music, you will probably have to put another book on the Roland to support the loose leaf sheet.

The piano comes with a music books with some surprisingly good classical and romantic masterpieces in it. So if you bought the piano but forgot your music, you’re sure to find something great in the Roland’s book. My only complaint is that the book is small, and uses very small notes. It’s difficult to read it!

The bench is typical of digital pianos, and that’s not a good thing. The height is not adjustable, and I’d love it if the bench were an inch shorter. Since almost all digital keyboards come with these types of benches, it’s perfectly normal, but very annoying.

As you can see in the photo above, the HP-207 is ideal if you don’t have a lot of spare space to place a piano. Like most other digital keyboards, the HP-207 is smaller than an upright piano.

Conclusion

Overall, the Roland HP-207 is an excellent digital piano. The piano is loaded with any features you can imagine, with special attention paid to the three main piano instruments. The sound quality is excellent with good headphones, and good with the built-in speakers. The keys feel much more realistic than many other digital pianos, which is one of this keyboard’s best strengths. If you are serious about playing piano, then the HP-207 may be the right piano for you. This piano and the price tag are clearly aimed towards people who are more serious about playing piano, so if you’re just planning on playing once in a while, you might want to consider a cheaper Roland model.

Posted under Shopping, Technology

This post was written by admin on December 16, 2008

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