Featured Photos

Baseball Hall of Fame - 8/23/11

Featured Video

Avery's QuEST Project - It's Healthy!

House Construction

The Completed Home Renovation

Home Renovation - Complete!

Our House Construction Photoblog

RSS Feed

Archive for March, 2007

                     Next Entries »

Spring Today, Gone Tomorrow…

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Check out the weather forecast for New York City over the next couple of days:

62 degrees and rain today, low 30′s and 4-6 inches of snow tomorrow. I hope the tourists packed their entire wardrobe!

Also, I’m sure this indicates something profound about global warming, global cooling, or global climate change. Exactly what that is, though, I have no idea…

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | 1 Comment »

Here We Go Again – EU vs. Apple

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

I’m beginning to believe that as Apple enters the mainstream, it will slowly but surely turn into Microsoft.

Case in point: the EU is accusing them of anti-competitive practices because of how they bundle their software

Pressure on Apple has been building, with consumer rights organizations from Germany, France, Finland and Norway recently agreeing a joint position in their battles against iTunes.

They argue that Apple uses digital rights technology to limit consumers’ free use of songs bought on iTunes, including the ability to copy and transfer songs to other users and other MP3 devices besides the Apple iPod.

It’s not that bad right now – these are just consumer groups, not the DOJ-equivalent government agencies that went after Microsoft for putting Windows Media Player into Windows. The head of that agency, though, had this to say:

Do you think it’s fine that a CD plays in all CD players but that an iTunes song only plays in an iPod? I don’t. Something has to change

A spokeswoman said these were her personal views, not those of the Commission. Still, ITMS and the iPod have certainly been noticed over in the EU…

Categories: Political Rantings, Tech Talk | No Comments »

The Right Way to Install a DSL Modem…

Sunday, March 11th, 2007

One of my more popular Ramblings (long-form) articles is DSL – The Darkside of Broadband, in which I describe the odyssey that was installing a Verizon DSL modem at my parents’ house. So when my in-laws purchased a Verizon DSL modem (the Westell Model 327W, for those who are interested), I braced myself for another series of weekend trips, calls to Verizon tech support, and unforeseen expenses.

I’m happy to report that this time, the entire process took less than two hours. But that’s only because I had anticipated all the problems my parents had, and made sure my in-laws did enough prep work up front to avoid delays.

So, as a public service, I present Tips & Tricks on The Right Way to Install a DSL Modem:

1) Check the O/S
Windows XP (and, I assume, Windows Vista?) supports USB 2.0 natively, but earlier versions of Windows do not. If the machine you’re installing on has an O/S that pre-dates Windows XP, you’re going to have to connect the DSL modem with an Ethernet cable, not a USB cable.

2) Check that the Machine has an Ethernet Connection
Today, every machine has an Ethernet connection, but not everyone who is switching to DSL (presumably from dial-up) has a new PC. In a lot of cases, it’s someone with an older machine (bought when dial-up was the slickest way onto the Internet), who would have had to shell out $100 or more for a NIC card back when the machine was purchased. If the machine has no Ethernet, you can pick one up at any Radio Shack, Best Buy, CompUSA, etc. In this case, I bought a Linksys 10/100 EtherFast PCI Adapter (LNE-100TX) for about $35 and brought it with me to the install.

3) Make Sure You Have Enough Filters
Before I even showed up at my in-laws house, I made them count the number of phone jacks that used the DSL-enabled line and compare with the number of filters they were sent. As with my parents, there weren’t enough. My in-laws had Verizon deliver the additional filters (including one for a wall-mounted phone, which doesn’t come in the standard box) before I even set foot in the door.

4) Make Sure the Machine Has a CD Drive
The installation software comes on CD, and as discussed above, you’re not necessarily dealing with a modern PC here. I honestly don’t know what I’d do if the PC had no CD Drive (would buying an external one be worth it to install DSL? Your mileage may vary…)

5) Manage Expectations Around AOL and Other Software
AOL now offers their service for free if you have broadband service from someone else (e.g., Verizon DSL). This was a lifesaver, since unlike my parents situation, I was able to leave the software side of things pretty much alone when I was done (they still use AOL for mail & web browsing, but everything’s a lot faster now). I did show them Internet Explorer, since it’s a lot faster than AOL at web browsing, even with a DSL connection. I also told them to assume that AOL would bill them for the current month in full, and then switch them to the free service. Who knows – AOL may pro-rate the last month, but just in case, I managed expectations downward…

If all of the above check out, you should be in for a pretty quick install:

Categories: Tech Talk | 3 Comments »

This is not an Onion Story – I Swear…

Friday, March 9th, 2007

Hat tip to Jason Bennion:

Swiss accidentally invade Liechtenstein

According to Swiss daily Blick, the 170 [Swiss] infantry soldiers wandered just over a mile across an unmarked border into the tiny principality [of Liechtenstein] early Thursday before realizing their mistake and turning back.

A spokesman for the Swiss army confirmed the story but said that there were unlikely to be any serious repercussions for the mistaken invasion.

Best. Headline. Ever.

Categories: The World Wide Weird | No Comments »

A Plane-ly Obvious Solution…

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

They typically load passengers on the plane starting at the back, so people aren’t stepping over each other in the aisle. Logical.

They also pre-board their frequent flyers to provide an incentive for becoming one of their regular customers. Makes perfect sense.

So how come, when the flight’s a commuter flight (i.e., Chicago to Newark at 6:30pm), and more than half the passengers are frequent flyers, do they just randomly board all the frequent flyers first, as opposed to boarding the frequent flyers from the back of the plane forward? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone, including the frequent flyers, if they didn’t have to step over each other once onboard?

I’m just askin’ is all…

Categories: Travel Talk | 4 Comments »

Game Day EyeBlack

Monday, March 5th, 2007

Remember when we were kids and they told us that one day, advertising would be everywhere? Well, they were right.

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | 1 Comment »

Oh, by the way, a laptop too!

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007

With all the technology running through the house lately, I never got a chance to post about my other new toy: An HP Pavillion dv6000 laptop.

Here was my thinking: Now that we’re a multi-PC househould (the super-fast desktop PC in the home office and the previous office PC in my son’s room), we might as well setup an actual wireless network in the house. And what’s a wireless network without being able to access the network from anywhere in the house? Ergo, we need a laptop.

This was unfamiliar territory for me, because it meant buying a PC that wasn’t tricked out to do anything I may ever imagine doing with a PC. After all, I already have the desktop PC for that. Instead, this machine would serve more of an “appliance” function. It’d be the machine we keep in a drawer in the den, so we can surf the web or check our e-mail while watching TV, or the machine that my wife would use when she’s doing some work from home while taking care of the kids. So it had to be cheap and competent, as opposed to expensive and awesome.

Stop #1 was Dell.com. Every computer I’ve ever bought for myself has been purchased through Dell.com. I know some people have had troubles with them, especially lately, but my experiences have all been good (knock on silicon…). It turns out, though, that Dell doesn’t do “cheap and competent” all that well. The cheapest laptop I could configure from Dell with my minimum requirements came to more than $1,500 every time. Very odd. So, I found myself doing something I haven’t done since my parents took me shopping in grade school – going to a computer store to buy a computer.

My first instinct was Best Buy. Large store, big selection, and if you’re lucky, some competent sales people who can answer basic questions about the products. I can’t say I was disappointed in this regard. I learned a lot of about laptops and about Windows Vista there, and actually decided on a laptop: a Gateway, 17-inch machine for just $700. Quite a steal. So good, in fact, that they were sold out of it and couldn’t predict when they’d get more. I left the store empty handed.

My next stop was CompUSA. By this time, I knew exactly what I wanted: a 15-inch screen, Windows Vista Home Premium, at least a Pentium Duo chip, 1GB of RAM, a graphics card with at least 200MB of dedicated RAM, a decent (but not huge) hard drive, and whatever other bells & whistles they could throw in. CompUSA had the HP Pavillion dv6000 for $700, plus $150 for accidental damage & warranty for two years (for most devices, I ignore these packages, but a laptop has a higher chance of being dropped, spilled on, etc., especially with kids in the house). So, I came away with a new laptop for $850, all-in. A little more than I hoped for at the outset, but still a pretty good deal for a brand new PC.

I’ll post later about my thoughts on Windows Vista, my experience with wirelessly networking the two machines together, as well as my thoughts on file sharing (Vista on the receiving end and Windows XP as the host – not exactly a common configuration these days). But I’ll close this post with a quick word for my Mac-friendly friends on the topic of “it just works.”

When I opened my laptop, the first thing I saw was a piece of paper that said (I’m paraphrasing here):

Congratulations on purchasing your new HP laptop. The first time you turn it on, your laptop will optimize Windows Vista for you, based on your answers to a few simple questions. During this process, the laptop screen may go dark for short periods of time, and the computer may appear unresponsive. Do not turn the machine off during this time. The process will take approximately 25 minutes.

I plugged it in and turned it on. It asked me for basic ID info (name, address, phone number) for the purposes of registering with HP, and it asked me for my timezone, preferred language, etc. to setup Vista properly. Then, it went to work. Most of the time, the screen had “feel good about the machine you just bought” advertisements on it. Occasionally, it did go dark as the paper said – including a couple of automatic Vista reboots. In the end, though, exactly 25 minutes later, I was up and running with my new laptop. It really could not have been simpler.

So, there you have it. My new PC is still in boxes in my living room, but I’m already a full-fledged Vista user, and a bit of an expert on wireless networking and file-sharing. Turns out the laptop served the unintended purpose of training me to be my own IT Support desk, before attempting the big job that awaits tomorrow.

Should be fun…

Categories: Tech Talk | 4 Comments »

It’s here…

Saturday, March 3rd, 2007


Now you know what I’ll be doing this weekend!

Categories: Tech Talk | No Comments »

                     Next Entries »