Sunday, July 25, 2010

Not Such Deep Thoughts; Special Summer Vacation Edition

I’ve been on vacation and maintaining radio silence, so it’s that time again, time to purge all those temporary files that have been building up in my head. There’s a lot, and I need my brain back, so let’s roll;

There’s nothing as relaxing for me as the beach in the late afternoon. The crowds are gone, the sun has mellowed; it’s the best time to be there. Sometimes I just sit in my sand chair and stare at the ocean, sometimes I walk the beach at waters edge, always listening to the rhythmic sounds of the surf and contemplating the vastness of it. It’s so powerful, so unrelenting, it always reminds me that I play only an infinitesimally small part in the workings of the universe, and that always makes my problems seem infinitesimally small, also, and that’s a good thing, as Martha would say.

Speaking of Martha Stewart, I was never a big fan of hers before the whole insider trading thing, but my views on her have changed. She did her time without so much as a squeak, and rather than staying aloof and alone in jail, she actually became a part of daily prison life and made some very unlikely friends. Now I’m not advocating a life of crime, but I do admire people who take their punishment without whining and blubbering, and who don’t write a book about it when they get out. You shouldn’t be rewarded for the errors you make in life (Are you listening, Miss Lohan? I doubt it). While I was on vacation I found one more reason to like her. I saw her on late night TV and she was talking about a “You Tube via On Demand TV” event she had recently attended, and she mentioned that her favorite You Tube video is the same as mine; Sneezing Panda. I just can’t get enough of that video, it cracks me up, and it looks like I’m in good company.

Will the Sox get anybody back from the DL in time to make a difference? It’s not looking good.

And speaking of the DL, Jacoby Ellsbury is no Wes Welker.

Two weeks is the perfect amount of time for a vacation. The first week you start to wind down, by that middle Saturday you’ve hit TRM (Totally Relaxed Mode), and when the end finally approaches, you’re usually more than ready to get back home to your creature comforts, and your creatures.

Speaking of both vacations and creatures, our cats are wicked smart, and they know when we’re getting ready for vacation. It always plays out the same; the minute a suitcase comes out, their little dance starts. First they get a little standoffish, ignoring us unless we’re trying to pack, then they’re either on or in the suit cases. Maybe they’re thinking that preventing us from packing will prevent us from leaving. It all culminates when we’re closing up to leave, and one or both of them bites or scratches me when I go to give them a goodbye pat. Always the same. There’s also a minor variation of “the dance” when we get home. When we first come in, they’re all over us, but then there’s a lull in the action. It’s almost like they’ve just remembered that we deserted them and they’ve decided to give us the cold shoulder. It doesn’t last too long though; they’re usually back underfoot pretty quickly. By the time we hit the rack, they’re usually both in the bedroom with us, purring and snoozeling in their favorite spots. I really missed that while we were away.

From the “Be careful what you wish for” department; as I said before, I was way ready to get home and get back to business by the end of my vacation. That lasted for all of a day. I had conveniently forgotten that I was going to have people who had been waiting the whole two weeks to talk to me, both at home and at work, and they all pounced on me on that first Monday back. Contractors, Drs., Lawyers, customers, bosses, friends and family, everybody wanted a piece of me. Sheesh, it was a nightmare. I don’t think I left work before 7pm any night last week, and I’m pretty sure I only had time for lunch twice. Plus, when I did finally get home there were lots of chores that had backed up, and little time or energy left to do them. It’s interesting to me that people don’t understand, or don’t care to understand, that when you get back from an extended absence you can’t dedicate large blocks of time to them. It’s not that you don’t want to; it’s just that there are too many things that need attention, at least for the first couple of days. Instead, everyone clamors to be first, and consequently things go to hell in a hand basket. No matter how hard you work, you end up pissing people off, and that’s very frustrating. I call it the “Vacation Residual Factor”, and it’s as certain as death and taxes.

Brady will not be a holdout. It’s just not his style. If a deal doesn’t get done, he’ll fulfill his obligation and he won’t grouse publically. I’m also sure that privately he’ll make it known to Bill and Bob, and I don’t mean the roast beef guys, that he’ll be entertaining all offers next year, and that there will be no home town discounts. Can you blame him? Life is uncertain in the NFL, and although Tom will probably go on to something equally as lucrative when he retires, he’d be a fool not to look for that last big payday. Will the Patriots ante up to keep him going forward? Hard to say. If it were just up to Bill, I’m sure the team would roll the dice and let him move on, but it’s not just up to Bill. Mr. Kraft doesn’t appear to meddle in team affairs that often, but he is a shrewd business man. He knows that in these tough economic times, marquis players can still fill seats, even if a team is not performing all that well, and that’s what it all comes down to; filling seats.

I have an idea for a new reality TV show; The Real Housewives of Revere Vacation at the Vineyard. It’ll be great. I got the idea when a group of 8 to 10 women moved into our condo complex on our last weekend there. It was hard to get a count, because I didn’t really have enough time to distinguish amongst them. They were all between 30 and 40, and they were always coifed to the max. Big hair, makeup, jewelry, high heeled sandals and bathing suits. You just knew they weren’t headed to the beach. Uh-uh, no sand in the butt crack or salt in the hair for these ladies. It was a really scorching week, as it has been everywhere, so I couldn’t help wondering how they were going to keep that look without staying indoors. I’m betting they spent most of their time in the clubs on Circuit Ave. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the island is more of a beach and water sports kind of place during the day, and has a definite low key bohemian flavor at night. When I’m there, getting dressed up for dinner means switching from T shirt, bathing suit and sandals to semi clean shorts, a polo and sneakers. Sometimes I even rinse the salt and sand off too, but not often. So here are my plot thoughts; the cameras follow the ladies around as they try to move about the island without their “look” melting, or as they go to a gallery opening and mingle with the local barefoot artists. They could even go fishing for blues, the possibilities are endless. Forget Jersey Shores, this show will have ten Snookies, and not a Guido or a dance club in sight. You know they’re gonna mix it up with someone before the vacation is over. I love it!

I’d like to see the Shaq Daddy end his career in Celtic green. I’ve always loved watching the big man play, even when he was a Laker, and I think he’s still got enough left in the tank to be fierce off the bench. He’d give them the size and muscle they need, and it would be a treat to see.

Speaking of having something left in the tank, I’m loving my Toyota Highlander. My previous vehicle was a Dodge Durango, and although it had all kinds of payload space, it was a real gas guzzler. Because of the high price of gas on the island, I always stop and top off in Falmouth before getting on the ferry. The Durango usually took 7 to 10 bucks to top off after the ride to the Cape. In contrast, it only took 72 cents to top off the Highlander. Nice. Being able to watch a DVD while I wait for the ferry isn’t half bad either.

Because we’ve been going with a beach vacation theme here, I’ll leave you with this last thought. It’s a neat little excerpt from the book "How to Live At the Beach," by Sandy Gingras:

“At the beach, life is different. A day moves not from hour to hour but leaps from mood to moment. We go with the currents, plan around the tides, follow the sun. We measure happiness by nothing we can hold... nothing we can catch. Everywhere…Life is jumping and elusive and momentously momentary. We want to [stretch] the days, distill the memories, make them last. At the same time, we know that the beauty is in the evanescence. Every wave comes in, then retreats. Every day promises, then turns its back and slips away. Every joy has a little tease in it, a give and a take, and leaves a wake of longing."

That is all.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Turning Wireless Routers Into WAPs

There’s a couple of ways to boost the Wi-Fi signal strength in a large home or business, the cheapest and easiest of which is to use a Range Expander, which is basically a signal repeater. I’ve experimented with them and found them to be functional, but lacking. You can read about it here: Linksys Wireless G Range Expanders.

The best way to boost your signal is to add a Wireless Access Point (WAP) or two in strategic locations and hardwire them back to your main router with CAT5e cable.

An Access Point is basically a wireless router without routing capabilities. There are many on the market, and for some reason they usually cost quite a bit more than wireless routers. A good example is the Linksys WAP610N, a nice device, but it’s twice the price of the WRT120N wireless router, with only half the functionality (1 wired LAN port vs. 4, no WAN port and no DHCP). You’re better served getting the WRT120N and dumbing it down a little. You’ll save money, you’ll have a spare Wi-Fi router “just in case”, and it’s really easy to do.

Here’s how:

Power up the router standalone, do not connect it to your network.

Plug your laptop into a LAN port on the router. Don’t plug in to the WAN (Internet) port. You won’t be using this port at all in this exercise.

Log in to the router by putting its address into the address bar of your web browser. Linksys routers have a default address of, as do most routers. Check your manual to be sure, though.

When prompted, leave the username field blank and enter admin for a password.

Now we’re going to change some settings, including the default address of the router. Save the address change for last though, as you’ll lose your admin session once you change it. No big deal, you can connect again, it just slows up the process.

Note: After each change, do a “Save Settings”.

Change the defualt password from admin to lock down the device. Be sure to write it down someplace safe!

Disable DHCP, you’re gonna let your main router hand out addresses.

Disable NAT (Network Address Translation). Once again, your main router is going to handle this.

Set the SSID and encryption key to match the main router's settings.

Change its broadcast channel to something other than what the main router is using. It’s a good practice to set it 5 channels off of the next nearest WAP or wireless router, ie: main is set for channel 1, next one is set for channel 6, next one is channel 11, etc.

Change its address. First, look to see what range your main router is handing out. A good bet is setting it to, as most manufactures set the routers to begin at .40 just for this reason, but be sure to check. An address conflict will hose you all up. Once again, be sure to write down the new address someplace safe. I keep Word documents with all the settings for each network I tweak.

One last save and that’s it, your wireless router is now a WAP.

The last step is to plug it in to your network. Use LAN port 1 on the new WAP, and any open LAN port on the main router. Refer to the diagram above.

You can add as many WAPs as you need for maximum coverage, and you will now be able to roam seamlessly between Access Points. Remember, each one needs to have its own unique address!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Turn Your Laptop into a Hotspot

Happy National Wi-Fi Week!

Actually, it’s not really a national thing yet, but here at berryjooks headquarters we like to kick off the summer vacation season by celebrating those little invisible radio waves that bring us all of that Internet goodness we crave when we’re unplugged and roaming.

We’re going to share a couple of tips with you this week, and we’re going to start with something simple, wirelessly sharing a single Internet connection between multiple computers.

There are two types of Wi-Fi connections; infrastructure and ad-hoc. An infrastructure connection is when you connect to the Internet via a Wi-Fi enabled router or a WAP (Wireless Access Point). An ad-hoc connection is a peer to peer (laptop to laptop) wireless connection that runs solely over the laptop’s Wi-Fi radios, no external hardware is involved. This can be a great tool for file sharing amongst a group when there’s no network available, or if there is a wired Internet connection available, you can take it a step further and enable Internet sharing on one of the laptops and use it as a WAP or Hotspot.

I had a friend ask how to set this up at their vacation cottage the other day, and rather than try to give them a tutorial, I did a quick Google search and found the excellent video below on CNET. It walks you through set up on Windows XP, Vista and Mac OSX, and it even discusses how some PC’s are set to shut down their radios when a wired connection is present and how to get around this.

Note: This video was made before the release of Windows 7, but the Vista instructions will work for 7 also.

Pretty neat, huh?

That's it for now. Later this week I’m going to show you how you can dumb down wireless routers and use them as WAPs to increase your wireless coverage in a large home or office, so stay tuned!