Thursday, April 08, 2010

Minnesota River Valley Trail Recon

Now that I've set my mind to it, I'm making good progress on settling in. I've just found an apartment in the Highland neighborhood of St. Paul. It's a bit busier than I would have liked, and I'll miss having trees right off my balcony, but it's a great location.

It's 4.5 miles to work, straight down Highway 5. But even better, that neighborhood is right at a nexus of the major trail systems in the Twin Cities. I can take the River Road north on either side of the Mississippi, cross the river and take the Minnehaha Creek parkway west to the lakes, go east down Shepard road nearly all the way to my brother's place, or cross Highway 5 on the bridge and drop into the Minnesota River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Speaking of the rivers, I'm right over the confluence of the Mississipi and Minnesota rivers at Pike Island, so once I have a car that can haul my kayaks, I'll be heading down there as often as possible. I've found a place to store kayaks and bikes as well, just down 7th, so hopefully no more big drives to my parents place to pick up the boat before paddling expeditions.

Weather was pretty nice today, and the flood waters are down a bit, so I finally got myself motivated to get out for a recon expedition into the River Valley trails. The objective of this one was to find the link between the Wildlife Refuge that surrounds the building I work in, and Ft. Snelling State Park. I know from camping in Ft. Snelling for the Mississippi River Challenge that you can get onto the Highway 5 bridge footpath from the Fort. So if I could find a way into the park, I can run or bike from my new apartment to work using only trails. :-)

It turned out to be much much easier than I expected. I ran from Ceridian to the NWR Visitor Centre on the road, from there I followed the road to the western side of the 494 bridge over the Minnesota River. At that point there was a little path beaten down the hillside under the bridge. That was slightly dodgy . . . I had to laugh at the two taggers who suddenly decided to causally saunter away from their open cans of housepaint, rollers and spray cans in their hoodies and huge backpacks.

On the other side of the bridge there was a bit of trouble picking out trails to get around the fences of the Air Force target range bordering the park. Once the river's back down to lower levels it should be easy, but as it was, I was crossing what appeared to be mud covered gravel roads tracked only by water birds and river otters ahead of me. :-) On the way back, I discovered I can bypass that stretch via Post road along the top of the bluffs for now.

After about a half hour of half-assed running around, I found a way through to the edge of Ft. Snelling State Park. I could see the Mendota Bridge in the distance over Snelling Lake. So that was mission accomplished. I know there are trails from end to end that would bring me back up the bluffs and into the Fort. So discovering whether or not those are above water is another run, probably starting from the other direction.

Next trip I definitely need to remember to bring my little Fuji, I saw so many critters . . . flocks of wild turkeys, and hordes of scraggly looking deer. So next mission is linking my apartment to the north end of this run, and the trip after is linking the Wildlife Refuge trails to Ceridian's little walking path without using any roads. That may have to wait for the flood waters to drop.

iPhone Not Recognized as a Camera

It's not very often that I physically plug my iPhone into my computer. Mostly because when I plug it into my old laptop, it's a hassle to get it recognized, then it takes hours and hours to back up and synch. I've mostly got what I want on it, so I only plug it in if I really have to grab a firmware update, or really want some bit of new music or a large app update that won't come down over 3g.

But every now and then, I do use it as a camera, and there's something I really want from it. I'll dig out the white Apple proprietary USB cable and plug in. Usually I get the 'searching for driver' bit, then a fail. At work, I'd written it off as a big-brother firewall problem at first (blocked driver download). Then I discovered that my cube neighbor's iPhone worked on my machine, and my phone also failed on his machine . . . so much for a driver issue. I figured maybe a phone issue. Anyway, I can't be bothered with troubleshooting USB devices to get one photo, so I'd email it to myself. At home I'd just roll my eyes and fire up iTunes . . . after a few restarts of the Apple Mobile Device Service and a couple unplugs and replugs, maybe a reboot of the phone, it would be recognized as a device, and I could get the pictures out with Picasa.

But now I've got a new laptop. I really don't want to put iTunes on it until I'm ready to retire my old laptop, because I don't want to mess around with having to deauthorize all my former computers in order to authorize my new one (don't get me started on that, that's a whole other topic).

So when I plug the phone into my new laptop and it comes up as 'random usb thing which by the way failed to start' - it's on!

Google's taken all the fun out of low level troubleshooting, but there's no sense spending hours and hours on something that's common knowledge, so I did some searches. I turned up the usual crap from Apple and Apple cultist forums about updating to the latest firmware, rebooting your iPhone, rebooting your PC, updating to latest iTunes, reinstalling iTunes, blah blah blah.

Then I spotted something on a Microsoft site: 'Windows 7 will not recognize my iPhone as a Camera' [1] . That's promising, my exact symptoms, and a Microsoft forum, so it should (one would think) be free of Apple bullshit. So taking a look at it, the first response (which by the way is marked as 'the answer') links to some Apple KB article talking about USB drivers being 'out of date'. What an absolute load of crap, what kind of flakey garbage hanging on the end of the cable is going to have a problem with fresh out of the box Win7 USB drivers, or any drivers for that matter. You're doing something wrong if your hardware is worried about USB driver minor versions on various operating systems.

Just out of curiosity regarding peoples luck with this 'solution' I scrolled down the page . . . where I spotted this:

"There is something wrong with the firmware in the iphone. If you have any photos that are in your photo album within the phone that are there from any source except the phone itself such as an emailed photo or downloaded photo, PC's and Macs will not recognize your phone. You must delete the "foreign pictures" then the Mac or PC will recognize the phone."

Now that sounded more like the Apple crapware I know. I've always had 'foreign pictures' in my Camera Roll. And I know that was not always a problem, as I've used that space to move images from photo collection to photo collection at times. But annoying as it was, it had the sound of the sort of bug Apple would roll out, so I thought I'd give it a try. I did a quick run through and deleted every image that wasn't taken by the iPhone. Lo and behold, plug it in, it pops up as a camera . . . hmm. Figuring I'd repro it, do my bit, and properly report a firmware bug to Apple Dev. . . I pulled down a couple large images from my Flickr, and some PNG files off XKCD, but was unable to reproduce the problem again . . . go figure. *sigh*

How do people that make such terrible software, get their hands on such awesome hardware to defile with their garbage?

Anyway, if your iPhone's not recognized as a camera, try cleaning out your Camera Roll.

I'm gonna go kick a mac.