Category: technology

Increasing My Internet

Up until this quarantine situation, I was paying for 15mbps (down, 1mbps up) of internet at my house. Specifically using Consolidated Communications (the company that took over for Fairpoint a while ago). It was DSL, and it was adequate for my needs. I paid about $43/month for it.

Once I saw the writing on the wall for the next month (or more) of life at home, however, I quickly decided 15mbps wasn’t going to cut it. I’m a self-confessed technophile, and it’s rubbed off on my family. Here’s a list of internet-consuming devices in my household:

  • 4 laptops
  • 1 desktop
  • 3 iPhones
  • 4 iPads
  • 2 smartwatches
  • 1 Nintendo 3DS
  • 1 Nintendo Switch
  • 1 PS3
  • 1 Apple TV
  • 3 Kindles
  • 3 Kindle Fires
  • 1 Internet phone

I might be forgetting a couple. Mind you, a lot of those devices are older (quite a few hand-me-downs on that list), but they all at least sip some internet. And when an Apple system update comes down the pike? Fuhgeddaboudit. We were already to the point most evenings where I’d go around the house, pestering the kids to make sure they’d turned all their devices to airplane mode, just so I could ensure Denisa and I had a decent picture when we were streaming video in the evening.

15mbps wasn’t going to be enough. I could either cut out some devices, or I could increase the speed. Seeing as how the internet has suddenly become the main avenue for my job, Denisa’s teaching, and all the kids’ learning, simply cutting devices wasn’t an option, either.

It was time to pony up the money.

Because I live in rural Maine, my options are limited. I could increase the speed of my DSL to 40mbps, which would bump the cost up to around $65/month. Or I could switch back to cable, going with Beeline, which offered 125mbps (8mbps up) for $79. I used to be with Beeline years ago, but I left them because their internet speeds tanked each evening, when everyone was online. This time, I asked around on Facebook to hear what other people were using locally. Some of the other internet hungry folks had gone back to Beeline. Yes, it was almost twice what I was paying now, but it was a serious speed increase, as opposed to the DSL bump, which would be only modest.

I wanted them to come sooner, rather than later, because quarantine. I wasn’t sure how long companies would be allowed to send crews out to futz around with people’s internet. Maybe it would always be considered essential. Maybe it wouldn’t. I’d rather not test it. I called them up Friday, and they were here on Tuesday.

Overall, I’m already very pleased with the upgrade. During the day, I clock speeds of around 145mbps down, 9.5mbps up. More than what I’m paying for. Up in my addition, it’s slower, because the way I’m getting my internet up to that part of the house is over the power lines, but it’s still 20mbps. (I’m going to look into figuring out a better way to extend the internet across my property. When I have time to focus on it, which isn’t now.)

The best part about it all? I can stop pestering the kids to turn off their devices. Everyone can use the internet, things can autoupdate without me having to ration things out, the internet quality has been excellent.

I’ve run some tests in the evening, and there are still periodic times when the speeds slow down inexplicably, but even when they slow, it’s not an issue, because everything’s so fast in general. All the updates that have to run, run overnight. All told, I’m happy. Not happy with what I’m paying, but it comes with the territory, I’m afraid.

Out of curiosity, what do you pay for the speed you’re getting, wherever you are? Go ahead, make me insanely jealous.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Adventures in Robotics

Tomas headed down to New Hampshire over the weekend to participate in a robotics tournament. He’d done this last year, but somehow I ended up having no clue what it was he was doing. This year, he sent me a link so I could stream the event on Twitch, and that made a huge difference.

For the uninitiated, the goal of a robotics competition is to build a robot designed to do certain tasks. The league tells everyone what the tasks are ahead of time, and then you get to work designing a bot that will do whatever you need it to. This year, the goal is to gather up yellow nerf balls and shoot them through various goals, then go and grab onto a pole and lift itself up in tandem with the other robots on its team.

Does that not make sense? Here’s a video:

All the teams get the info on the season challenges at the same time, and then there are rules as to when you can work on the robot. Make more sense?

Thursday was a snow day, so Tomas headed over to school before they were leaving for the event, and he spent hours working with his team on their bot. They drove down to NH that evening and spent more time working on it that night. Going into the competition, they were pretty worried, since their still hadn’t tested the bot out and weren’t even sure if it would be able to do anything. They still didn’t have a working arm (to lift the robot off the ground at the end), and they didn’t have a working turret (to fire the nerf balls.) Of course, the other teams were also under the same time restrictions, so it was likely many of them were having issues as well.

Once things got underway, I actually found the whole thing a ton of fun to watch. It was great to see the many different approaches different teams had taken to solving the same problem. 40 teams had shown up, and they were randomly put into trios for a series of 80 rounds of competition, with each round pitting two trios against each other. Some of the robots were clearly further along in design than others, but it was fun to see how different teams compensated for their flaws. Tomas’s was particularly good on defense. Since their shooting turret wasn’t working, they would go and interfere with the other teams’ ability to shoot the balls, and they did a great job with it.

After the 80 rounds are over, the top 8 teams get to select alliances. They invite lesser-ranked teams to join them in the quarterfinals. Tomas’s team was literally the last one selected, but that meant he was on the alliance that featured the first place team. By then, they had fixed their arm and were able to lift themselves off the ground, and they’d perfected their defense. Things were really looking up.

Sadly it wasn’t meant to be, however. All that defense had taken a toll on their bot, as they’d been repeatedly slamming it into opponents for two days straight. It shot a gear loose, and then the bot quickly self destructed to the point that it couldn’t move, which spelled doom for their alliance.

Still, it was a lot of fun to watch, and I look forward to hearing about upgrades they’re making for their robot in preparation for their next competition in a few weeks.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

When Projectors Explode

It’s been over three years since I set up my movie room in my house. Over those three years, I’ve had no complaints. It’s been a splendid experience, and it remains one of my favorite things about our house. (Yay for successful renovation projects!)

Last Friday evening, however, MC was up watching Netflix in the movie room when suddenly the projector let out a loud sound, as if it had been shot. She came running in, crying and scared, saying she’d broken it somehow. Of course, she hadn’t actually broken anything. The bulb (“lamp” if you’re being picky, Steve) had given up the ghost, exploding into a lot of little glassy pieces. (All of which remained in the projector casing, thankfully, so no one was injured.)

It was at that point that I realized just how much I’d come to take that projector for granted. Being able to go upstairs, press a button on my remote, and have a lovely viewing experience was just something that had become par for the course. All at once, the largest screen I had in the house was my laptop. Going from 105 inches down to 13 is . . . quite the jump. Especially when you were planning a family Oscar party for that weekend.

I got online, hoping there would be an easy fix for this. When you live in the hinterlands of Maine, there is no easy fix for anything, unless it’s “I want to go for a hike.” A brand X replacement bulb would be $100, and a name-brand one would set me back $250. I went with the name-brand, because I wasn’t confident enough in the no-names that I wanted to save money risking them. If one bulb lasts me 3+ years, then I think I can shell out $80/year or so to keep my movie addiction satisfied.

It didn’t arrive until yesterday, even paying for 2 day shipping. In the meantime, I checked a projector out of the library, and I sat it on a table in our movie room, hooking my laptop up to it and then my laptop’s sound up to my surround sound. It got us through the Oscars and a few nights, but it was far from ideal. (Mainly because I didn’t have an easy way to control the thing. Pausing meant getting up from my chair and walking across the room. #firstworldproblems)

I swapped the bulb out last night, and it was a smooth, easy process. I just had to unscrew three screws, take out the whole bulb package and swap it out with the new one. Once that was done, I just screwed it all back together and pressed power. The whole thing was back to normal.

When I originally went with a projector over a television, this was the part that had scared me the most, to be honest. What if they bulb blew, and it was hard to replace? Now that I’ve done it, I know the scariest part of the whole thing was when the actual bulb shattered, just because it was loud. If I’d bought a replacement bulb and had it on hand, I could have been up and running again an hour later. (Just need to give the thing time to let it cool down, because who needs bad burns?)

Hopefully I’m good for another three years!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Spammers are Using My Number

It appears some spam phone callers have somehow decided to use my phone number to start calling people. I base this off the fact that I’ve now had two different people call me up within the last two weeks, wondering why I keep calling. These are people I don’t know. I haven’t called them before. They just seem to be calling me out of the blue, and when I answer, they’re fairly irate, wondering why I keep harassing them.

Needless to say, it’s a bit disconcerting to get yelled at by strangers, and I’m more than a little put out about it. On the other hand, my options for dealing with it aren’t too great.

On the one hand, I could do what I always used to do, and just not answer the phone when strangers are calling. However, this became more difficult once I became the Stake Executive Secretary. Now there are members from across the state calling me sporadically, and it’s usually easier for me to help them if I just pick up the phone when they call. Otherwise, I have to deal with trying to get back in touch with them, which isn’t always a hop skip and a jump. (Due in part, no doubt, to the number of spam calls we all keep getting, which makes us want to just not answer the phone.)

I can enable a call filtering service on my phone, which sends unknown numbers straight to my voice mail. Again, not the ideal. Instead of doing that, I think I’d just stop answering my phone first. Either way, if I go down that path, I’d probably change my voice mail message to something like “If you’ve been getting calls from me regularly, know that my number has been picked up by some spam services. It’s not me. Please just block my number, so both of us don’t have to deal with them.” But then again, there are actually people who I am trying to reach, not all of them known to me. I don’t want someone I’m trying to reach from the stake to think I’m a spammer, because then I can’t do the things I need to get done.

So for now, I’m kind of just hoping that this problem goes away on its own. Countless ostriches with their heads in the sand can’t be wrong, can they? It becomes a balancing act between how I want to disrupt my life.

Why has it gotten to this? Why is it that people are using technology to do idiotic things like have robots call strangers in an effort to convince those strangers the IRS wants their money? Probably because a portion of those strangers fall for the scam and send those robots money . . .

I’m just saying, if they’d had spam callers on The Jetsons, the future might not have looked quite so rosy. Where’s my flying car and my cushy button pressing job?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Wonders of the Apple Pencil

A year ago, I got myself an Apple Pencil and a new iPad for Christmas, because I love myself very much. The idea of the Apple Pencil seemed great. I’d be able to use my iPad as a notebook. Drawing! Notes! What wasn’t to like? Except when I got it and had it all set up, I walked away disappointed. The note taking apps I found left me sadly wanting more, and my iPad started seeing less and less use. Instead, I’d turn to my phone to thumb down some notes. It was far from perfect, but it was convenient, so I made do.

While I was down in San Antonio, I saw my sister using her Apple Pencil all. The. Time. It baffled me, really, because like I said, I hadn’t had much luck with mine. So I had her show me how she uses it. For her, it all came down to one simple app: GoodNotes. It let her make to do lists, organize her thoughts down on virtual paper, and keep track of her life. I was intrigued enough I grabbed my iPad (which I’d brought along to watch movies on the plane) and bought the app right away.

It made an enormous difference in how I use my iPad.

Suddenly, I’m taking it with me everywhere. I’ve always written down To Do lists in a notebook or on tiny scraps of paper. GoodNotes lets me write on my iPad, instead. It lets me import work documents and then take notes on those documents in meetings. And then(!) I don’t need to worry about losing those notes after I take them. No need to hold onto the pieces of paper, because I never had any paper to begin with.

But the biggest sign that this has really impacted my life? I’ve started using GoodNotes instead of Google Sheets or Excel for certain tasks.

I know. Crazy, right? For years, a spreadsheet has been my go-to solution for just about everything. Need to organize Christmas purchases? Spreadsheet. Need to keep track of bits of information. Spreadsheet. Need to work on a budget? Spreadsheet. It’s not like GoodNotes has totally replaced my need/love for Excel, but it’s made it so some things are more convenient in the app than in Excel. Take my Christmas purchasing plans, for example.

Before, I’d keep track of all of it in a spreadsheet. Who’s getting what, how much I spent, what I have left to buy. The biggest problem with this is interacting with the information is a beast. You have to find the cell, click into it, type notes down, then go elsewhere to keep it going. But it was better than a list, because I could spread the information across the page anyway I liked.

Kind of like a piece of paper.

GoodNotes lets me do all of that on a piece of electronic paper. I can add more pages to the note, change the layout, copy and paste information from what spot to another, all using the Apple Pencil. Does it all come down to the app? I don’t know. Maybe I just didn’t catch the right vision when I first used the Pencil, but I’ve caught it now. The less physical paper I can have in my life, the better. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with it and plotting a story . . .

Which is good, because my sister owed me something after that Bodypump debacle. All is forgiven, Susie. 🙂

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

%d bloggers like this: