The Real Missing Chromebook

ComputerWorld has this excellent article (via /r/chromeos) about the missing piece of the Chromebook puzzle. The short answer in that article is that Chrome OS is missing an iPad Mini competitor: a small (less than 8″) tablet that can function as something as lightweight and simple as an e-reader but because of the way Chrome OS works could also be hooked up to a keyboard, mouse, and even a larger screen and function as a full desktop computer.

That device would certainly be interesting, even attractive. But I think a different one is needed for Chrome OS to take a major leap in terms of mainstream acceptance. The problem with small tablets is that they struggle in a world of large phones. Sure, there might not be many 7-8″ quality Android tablets, but there are plenty of quality Android phones pushing 6″. I also question the ability of Chrome OS devices to get all the way down to Amazon Fire tablet prices while still maintaining acceptable quality.

What I think would make a bigger splash is more a device between the Acer Chromebook Tab 10 and the Pixel Slate. Start with a Full HD display in the 10.5-11″ range. The entry level internals should be a Core m3 processor, 4 GB of RAM (although 8 GB would be better), and 32 GB of storage. It should have 2 USB-C ports and a micro-SD card slot. A “pogo pin” style connector could be included, but isn’t necessary especially if a company like Brydge will produce a nice “first party” Bluetooth keyboard/trackpad for $99. And use an EMR stylus that is $50 extra. If you can throw a kickstand in, all the better.

What I’m describing here is basically the Chromebook answer to the iPad Air or Surface Go. A small, lightweight device which is great for content consumption but also powerful enough to get quite a bit of work done. A device that if you really want to can be your only or primary computer, but which is sized and priced such that it doesn’t have to be your primary computer.

Price though is the key. The Acer Chromebook Tab 10 currently has an MSRP of $329. The entry level Pixel Slate (the Celeron one which you don’t want and which has been unavailable from Google for a while now) is $599. The Surface Go also starts at $399 and the new iPad Air at $499.

I think this theoretical “Chromebook Air” or “Chromebook Go” needs to land at about $400-$450. If we assume we can do a keyboard/trackpad and pen for $150 total, that gives you a whole package where the Pixel Slate starts at $600. It also puts you at the same MSRP as the HP Chromebook x2.

The x2 is probably the best indication that this device could exist. Take all the same internals (Core m3, 4 GB RAM, 32 GB storage), make the device smaller and thinner, cut back a bit on the resolution of the display, and unbundle the keyboard and pen. Now you have a device that can be a premium tablet but which can also be paired with some nice accessories to be a great secondary or travel device, or even a primary computer when paired with an external display.

How I Chose My Beginner Climbing Equipment

Over the holidays I decided to take up rock climbing (well, more like gym climbing since I don’t plan to go outside on actual rocks for a while). After a short class and a trial membership at a local gym, I decided it was worth investing in a set of climbing equipment for the gym. I spent about a week researching the recommended beginner gear before nailing down what I wanted to buy. Note that as of right now, this is not a review or recommendation. Maybe I screwed up. But I thought with all the recommendations out there, it would be good to put down my perspective about why I chose a particular piece of gear over another.

Should You Buy Your Own Gear Yet?

When I started to do my research on climbing gear, I learned pretty quickly that climbing is not an inexpensive sport to get into, but not as expensive as you might think. I think for gym climbing you can get a set of quality equipment for bouldering and top rope climbing that you won’t grow out of immediately for around $200, maybe less if you’re scouring sales and have a couple different items in each category you’re willing to pull the trigger on. But to climb in the gym requires you to get into the gym. Climbing gym day passes are not cheap ($15-20 seems to be standard) and once you’re going at least once a week, a membership makes sense (often in the $70-80 per month range, plus possible start-up fees).

If you don’t have your own equipment, then you’ll be renting. Where I am, to rent a full set of equipment for top roping (shoes, harness, belay device, locking carabiner, chalk bag with chalk) costs about $10 most place. So pretty much once you think to yourself “I’m pretty sure I’m going to do this 20 more times” then it makes sense to just buy the whole set of gear because you’re coming out at least even (and you still have the gear). If you want to space it out, 99Boulders has a really good breakdown of what order to buy equipment in and what can wait.

Shoes – La Sportiva Tarantulace

I went back and forth on shoes between lace-ups and velcros quite a few times. I was ultimately looking at one shoe in each category: the La Sportiva Tarantulace and the Black Diamond Momentum. What I liked about the Momentum was the knit upper, which is said to be more breathable and comfortable. I was also attracted by the Momentum’s sizing, since Black Diamond says to simply get your street shoe size, and with the materials used the shoe is unlikely to stretch.

But ultimately I decided on the Tarantulace for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t think I’m going to be someone who takes their climbing shoes off all the time at the gym unless I get to the point where I’m buying more aggressive shoes that simply aren’t comfortable on flat ground. So the advantages of velcro are minimal for me. Second, while the Momentums are generally well reviewed, the one caveat is that Black Diamond is still new to the climbing shoe business, and there’s just not a whole lot of long-term data on how the shoes perform.

So I ultimately decided on the Tarantulaces because they were widely considered to be one of if not the most comfortable climbing shoes. I also felt the advantage of getting a precise fit with laces was a bigger deal than the disadvantage (more complicated on and off) since I expect to be putting them on, doing my climbing, then taking them off rather than constantly taking them on and off.

Harness – Petzl Corax

When looking at beginner harnesses, three tend to pop up repeatedly as recommendations:

  • Black Diamond Momentum/Primrose
  • Mammut Ophir 3 Slide
  • Edelrid Jay II/Jayne II

The common traits of these three are ease of use, comfort, and adjustability. But I decided to go in a different direction with the Corax for one specific and maybe odd reason.

The knock on the Corax is that it’s bulky and heavy due to its double waist buckle, which also gets criticism for being fiddly. The major benefit of the Corax is its adjustability and versatility (can be used for basically any type of climbing except ice and alpine climbing). I’m not going to be taking advantage of the versatility for a while, and the Jay/Jayne II has a lot of the same adjustability benefits without the double buckles, so why did I choose the Corax? Confidence.

I am currently afraid of heights. Not like a true phobia but enough that it’s uncomfortable to be up near the top of a step ladder. One reason I want to start climbing is to try and get over this fear. To me the specific benefits of the adjustability on the Corax, keeping everything centered and snug exactly how I want it with two waist buckles to work with will make me feel more secure and confident when top roping. To put it another way, after looking at all the beginner harnesses, I felt like I could trust the Corax the most and trust myself to use it properly the most.

Belay Device – Black Diamond ATC-Guide

This one is pretty simple. Pretty much every beginner gear guide recommended the Black Diamond ATC-XP for your first belay device, since it is the best to learn on. Simple, direct, no moving parts. Assisted braking devices like the Petzl GirGri line might seem “safer” but the consensus was they are more difficult to use and might teach beginner belayers bad habits (not to mention they are much more expensive.

So I would have gotten the ATC-XP except it just so happened that REI was selling the Guide version for the same price. If in the foreseeable future I find myself top belaying or need an emergency ascender, I already have one piece of equipment.

Locking Carabiner – Petzl Attache

I looked at anti-side loading carabiners like the Edelrid Bulletproof ones that I think are the rental carabiners my gym uses. Eventually I decided that it wasn’t worth it for my first carabiner. A simple, easy to use carabiner would be best to learn to belay and so I chose the top pick in this guide, the Petzl Attache, mostly for it’s light weight and very simple UI (“see red, you’re dead”).

Chalk Bag – Black Diamond Mojo

Chalk bag is mostly aesthetics and size. I considered getting one of the Prana bags, as they look less structured, but I do enough bouldering at the gym that I want a bag that stands up a bit when you set it down. My gym had the Mojo in a color that matches my harness well.

Chalk – Metolius Super Chalk

Here I just went with some cheap chalk in a relatively small pouch so I could try it out. I’m not actually super pleased so far, the chalk doesn’t feel fine enough now in the bag, so I think I’m actually going to go for a chalk ball or chalk sock, probably filled with Metolius chalk since that’s what seems to be available around here, and then maybe Black Diamond White Gold if that doesn’t feel better.

Hand Balm – ClimbOn Bar, Original

Everyone told me not to bother, but I still want to protect my skin a little bit, and the ClimbOn bar fit the bill while still claiming to allow calluses to develop.

NCAA Adds Common Sense and Inconsistency to Transfer Waivers

Michigan’s statement that QB Shea Patterson would be eligible this year following his transfer from Mississippi included a pretty vague tidbit about how it happened:

The NCAA Division I Council recently approved an amendment to transfer waiver guidelines for student-athletes seeking immediate eligibility following a transfer. This amendment was effective April 18, for transferring student-athletes who are seeking immediate eligibility for the 2018-19 academic year.

To track down that change, I went to the NCAA’s website and looked for the most recent report from the meetings of the Division I Council. Lo and behold, there it was (Key Item #5):

Specifically, immediate eligibility may be provided to a transfer
student-athlete, provided: (Fairness/Well-Being/Operational)

  1. The transfer is due to documented mitigating circumstances that are outside the student-athlete’s control and directly impact the health, safety and well-being of the student-athlete;
  2. At the time of transfer to the certifying institution, the student-athlete would have been athletically and academically eligible and in good standing on the team had he or she remained at the previous institution;
  3. The certifying institution must certify that the student-athlete meets percentage-of degree requirements; and
  4. The previous institution’s athletics administration does not oppose the transfer.

That matches with the rest of Michigan’s statement, which said it dropped the existing waiver application in favor of this “cooperative approach”; note that the waiver guidelines include that the previous institution must not object to the transfer.

But the highlighted part of the guidelines is the meat of the change. It’s almost a throwback to the old days of transfer waivers in sports like football or men’s basketball where any athlete that was moving any closer to an ailing relative, however distant in relation or actual distance, would ask for a waiver to play immediately. That lead to claims of inconsistent decisions and unfair treatment, so the NCAA introduced stricter guidelines, eventually requiring the family member to basically be an immediate family member and the student-athlete demonstrate they would be heavily involved in their care.

The reason for this change seems obvious against the background of the work being done by the Transfer Working Group. It’s probable that within a year or two, all or at least many football and basketball players will be able to transfer and play immediately. In the meantime, situations will arise that will look extra unfair when the athlete would have been able to transfer just a year or two later. So the NCAA has created a waiver that can sweep up just about any case that would result in negative media attention. “Health” and “safety” would have been fairly limiting, but “well-being” opens up the possibilities of how this waiver could be used drastically.

For those who constantly suggest the NCAA appoint a “VP of Common Sense” to fix things like obviously unfair situations created by the transfer rules, this waiver is right along those lines. But what it also does it create more apparent inconsistency in who gets a waiver to play right away and who doesn’t. That circumstances must be outside the student-athlete’s control and that the circumstances be documented will trip up some waiver applications. We can also expect that since the guidelines are new and may not have even been noticed by coaches and compliance professionals until now, there may be a glut of waiver applications coming for any transfer athlete this summer who can put together even a remotely plausible case for a waiver.

If this situation exists for a summer or two before new transfer legislation makes this waiver obsolete, it won’t be a huge problem. But if changes to the transfer residency requirement don’t come into effect before August 1, 2020 or the legislation goes in the direction of removing the one-time transfer exception from the sports that have it rather than extending it to the sports that don’t in some form, these guidelines will have to updated or the NCAA will be back in the position of having to defend or modify a process that the public can’t help but see as inconsistent, even arbitrary.

The Immediate Benefit of Sleep Training

We started sleep training Bean this week, and so far things are going well. It has not gone quite as smoothly as the early progression seems like it would, but it seems to have worked well at overcoming the four month sleep regression. She went from sleeping two hours max at a time to now mostly waking up only twice a night for feeding, with maybe one additional wake-up that we give her a chance to self-soothe.

But even if it had been more of a struggle, there’s one major benefit that has shown itself almost immediately. Bedtime is now a defined and limited time.

When you are putting a baby fully to sleep before putting them down for the night (if you can), bedtime is an undefined and potentially unlimited amount of time. Hit the wrong side of the “just tired enough” window and you could be in the room or back and forth for hours to get even a decent sleeper down for the night. Now though we have a set bedtime and routine that starts at 6:15 and goes like this:

  1. Turn on white noise machine
  2. Check/change diaper
  3. Change into pajamas
  4. Get into swaddle sleep sack with arms out
  5. Bedtime bottle
  6. Book (currently “Goodnight Moon”)
  7. Song (currently “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”)
  8. In crib, lights out, say goodnight, leave

The only real variable in time here is how long it takes Bean to finish her bottle. Otherwise everything takes basically the same amount of time each night and everything moves along rather smoothly so far.

What this means is that when it’s time for bed, it’s no longer a question of whether I or my wife will get a chance to shower, a chance to unwind, or a chance to spend time together. That makes bedtime much less stressful because there’s no longer a chance that one of us will be stuck in there for hours trying to get her to fall asleep enough to set down or heading back in the room for another 30 minute session of rocking and/or nursing to get her to fall back asleep again. Sure, one of us might be in there every 10 minutes, but it’s only for a minute or two to calm and reassure her, and then it’s another 10 minutes minimum before we open the door again.

Maybe I would look at bedtime differently if my half-hour maximum routine was followed by hours of crying. But even if it was (maybe especially if it was), I think you can look on the bright side of even those struggles and realize that after a few months of needing to block out the whole night once it’s time to put the baby to bed, you can get a little bit of your life back, even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time and has the soundtrack of crying.