Where were these guys 35 years ago?

When I was in my early 20s I bought my first car, from a friend of my brother. A 1970 Pontiac Catalina.

The guy told me I should check the transmission fluid. These days, I would know that means I shouldn’t even buy the car. Back then, though, I not only bought the car, I also completely ignored the advice.

About a month later, the transmission died.

An uncle found me a replacement and, fool that I was, I set about removing the old one and replacing it. I spent three days under that car. When I was finished, my parents came over from Danville to follow me back to their house – I was going to be between apartments for a couple of weeks – and I found many years later that my dad had told my mom there was no way the car was going to work.

I started the engine and shifted into drive and felt the gear take hold. Made it home with no problem.

That’s the last time I’ll ever change a transmission. I do not recommend it.

At that age, I didn’t realize that I had no business spending three days under a car. I’m not good with tools. I don’t know very much about cars.

Some years later, I upgraded my first computer, replacing the processor – I think swapping a 486 for a Pentium, but I could be wrong about that. I approached that task with far more trepidation than I had for changing the transmission on that Catalina.

I knew I could screw this up. And back then I only had the one computer, so if I did, I’d be out of luck.

Surprisingly, that replacement worked, too.

Still, I was even more timid last weekend about replacing the operating system on a new Android tablet.

There’s great information online about how to do this. This is one of the ways the Web reaches its potential: people from all over with common interests sharing their knowledge.

I read and re-read and re-read. I watched YouTube videos posted by others who’ve taken the plunge.

Why did I even want to do this?

The device is a Viewsonic GTablet, and while it had much of what I wanted – good speed, internal memory, expansion capabilities including a microSD slot and a USB port – the stock interface is ugly. You don’t have to take my word for it. Read the forums and you’ll see. But I’m telling you too, it was ugly.

Even though it had the “Froyo” update of Android, which allows Flash and other refinements, the tablet lacked the Android Market, which is one thing that makes Android devices so good, in my view, and other Google apps, including Gmail and Maps. And the "market" that came pre-installed was limited in its offerings. I could search the Web and download individual apps by their installation packages, but that’s unwieldy when I know there’s this better alternative.

Still, for the basics, the interface would have worked.

But I decided that wasn’t enough. And on Sunday, with the promise of uninterrupted hours available, I took the plunge. Reading the directions more carefully than ever, I remember thinking, really? That’s all I have to do?

Hook the tablet via USB to a PC; copy some files. With a particular key combination, restart the device to invoke an “update” to the software. I’m oversimplifying, but not by much.

There were warnings that, after the update, some programs would “force close,” stop running without any input. And there was a solution already posted for that.

All of it worked.

There were a few moments while the tablet restarted when it wasn’t certain – the version of the OS that I used has Android’s “Honeycomb” startup theme, and it seemed to be taking a long time.

But now, my tablet looks very much like my Droid phone. Adding apps is easy. Gmail and Google maps and navigation are all there  by default, which was not the case with the stock version. I want to change the spacing between icons on the home screen. I remember reading something in the forums about that; I just have to find it again.

It’s really astonishing to me how dedicated the developers are, how careful they are in their written and video instructions. Some of them accept donations, but not all of them.

If only they had been around when I was under that Pontiac. Bet I’d have been done in an afternoon.

Tags (2):gadgets, Android

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TimBorb wrote on April 05, 2011 at 12:04 pm
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Funny to think that the 20 year old "kids" working on / wrenching Catalina transmissions at the Pontiac dealership in 1970 are now 60 years olds reading automotive diagnostic codes on their iPads or Android tablets!

Mike Howie wrote on April 05, 2011 at 12:04 pm
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Yes. And to think they have no new Pontiacs to work on.