Sunday, December 23, 2012

Last Minute Tips for a Very Geeky Christmas

Still struggling with your Christmas shopping? Well, you’ve come to the right place; our annual last minute gift guide will help you get over the goal line. There’s something here for every budget, and all items are readily available and guaranteed to please that special geek in your life.


Apple iPad mini

The hot gift for 2012, nuff said. $329 and up at Apple Stores, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, basically everywhere. Comes with the new Lightning to USB cable and a USB power adaptor.


Apple 7th gen iPod nano

As it says on their website, it’s been completely renanoed. The widescreen and video are back after a failure to report for duty in the 6th Gen version. Bluetooth, Nike + support and a pedometer function have been added. It’s got a touch screen, FM radio with live pause, 16GB of storage for your music, videos, photos and contacts, and it comes in a plethora of colors. I think this is their best version yet.

$149 at Apple stores, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, basically everywhere, best selection of colors is the Apple Store. Comes with a set of the new Apple EarPods and a Lightning to USB cable.


Belkin YourType Bluetooth Keyboard/Folio for iPad

Touch screens are amazing, but sometimes you just need a keyboard. There’s a bunch of them on the market this year, but I like Belkin’s best. It has a responsive, well designed removable keyboard with 60 hour active battery life, and the folio adjusts for multiple landscape and portrait iPad viewing angles. Comes with a micro USB cable for recharging.

$79 to $99 at Target, Walmart, Best Buy


Logitech Harmony® 650 Remote

Love the Harmony remotes, hate the prices. The top end models go for $250 to $350; too rich for my blood, but the 650 can be found for as low as $50. It’s got a color screen, controls up to 5 devices, and supports over 5000 brands. Connect it to your PC via USB cable and let Logitech’s online software walk you through configuring it for one click activities, and their constantly updated database ensures this remote will be able to keep up with your component changes for quite a while.

$49.99 to $79.99 at Best Buy, Home Depot


Bluetooth Speaker Systems

Forget the docks and cables; you can wirelessly stream music from your Bluetooth enabled phone, iPod or laptop to a wide variety of Bluetooth speakers and receivers available in every price range. From the HDMX Jam at $44, to my favorite, the Bose Soundlink II at $299, there’s a lot of options here.

$44 to $299 at Apple stores, Best Buy, Target, Walmart, these things are everywhere this year.


iTunes Cards

Every Christmas we pick up a couple of 3 packs of the $10 iTunes cards, they make great stocking stuffers and they’re good to have on hand for emergency gifting. Available everywhere. $10 and up.


Google Play Cards

Finally, prepaid gift cards for Android users, what a concept! Available at Target, Walmart, Staples and Radio Shack. $10 and up.


That’s it, there’s something here for every budget, and they’re all “swoop in and grab” kinda presents. It will take you longer to find a parking spot than to find and purchase any of these items, so get it in gear and let’s wrap this thing up!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Choosing a New Internet Provider?

Be sure you ask the right questions.

I’ve gotten a couple of calls in recent months from family and friends who have changed providers and suddenly found themselves without Wi-Fi. I always start by asking them the same questions;

Does your new router/cable modem have Wi-Fi? To which they usually answer; how can I tell?

Okay, did your new provider leave you with Wi-Fi credentials, ie: SSID and WEP Key/Password, and if not, is that info listed on the router’s label? The answer to this is usually; hmmm, there’s a lot of numbers on the label…

At this point I politely cut them off and say; I’m going to need to stop by. When I do, I often find that their new gear doesn’t support Wi-Fi, and it seems to happen most often when people switch over to Comcast.

I’ve got Verizon FiOS at home, and you know what they say; once you go glass, you never go back, but some people don’t have that option. If your only choice is between Verizon DSL and Comcast Broadband, sooner or later you’re going to make the switch to Broadband.

The problem is, Verizon provides Wi-Fi with all of their products; get internet service, get Wi-Fi. With Comcast, it seems you need to specifically ask for Wi-Fi, as their standard cable modem doesn’t have built in Wi-Fi, only their “Advanced Wireless Gateway” does, and if you don’t ask, oh well…

Smart phones, tablets, laptops, smart TV’s, we’ve become very dependant on Wi-Fi these days. It’s become ubiquitous, something we expect and take for granted. Data invisibly streaming all over the place; it’s amazing when you stop to think about it.

Whoosh; there go our Thanksgiving pictures on their way up to my wife’s iPad, buzzing past me as I sit wirelessly streaming my iTunes library to my entertainment center. It’s a brave new world.

As I said, we really take it for granted, until someone pulls the plug, that is. When the Wi-Fi goes down, or you lose it when you switch providers, it’s a real problem, but not an insurmountable one.

Comcast will ship you their Wireless Gateway, for a fee, if you find yourself in this position and you call and complain, or you can just set up your own Wi-Fi router, which I recommend. It’s relatively easy, and is a more flexible solution for homes/businesses that present Wi-Fi coverage difficulties.

Below are some links to previous posts on both our website and blog that will help you setup and tweak your basic home network and boost your Wi-Fi signal, but the most important takeaway here is; when you’re thinking of switching providers, ask them if they provide Wi-Fi.


Choosing a provider

Setting up a home network

Wireless Network Settings and Solutions


Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Place To Be This Black Friday:

Home, in your fuzzy slippers.

Here’s the deal; there’s this thing called the interwebs, and you can get great deals with just the click of a button in the comfort of your own home, wearing your PJ’s and fuzzy slippers, no less.

All while chewing on a leftover drumstick.

It’s amazing!

Or, you can stand outside all night in the freezing cold, only to take part in an out of control stampede for a couple of loss leader items.

Hmmm…

Seriously, Cyber Monday has been slowly spreading its wings, and the online deals are now available as early as Thanksgiving Day, just like in the brick and mortar stores.

We’ve gotten some tremendous deals online the last few Black Fridays, and the one time in recent memory we ventured out, it was to Paul’s TV inside Jordan’s Furniture. Great TV, great price, no lines, and the new TV and stand were delivered and set up, for free, before the day was done. Nice

So, if you can’t stay home, pick your spots.

That is all.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Samsung Galaxy S III

The Samsung Galaxy S III is a great phone, and currently the best selling smartphone in the world, outselling the iPhone 4s and all other comers. The figures aren’t in yet on head to head sales with the new iPhone 5, and that may change things, but I don’t see it giving up much ground once they are.

It’s got a huge 4.8” HD screen, and yet it’s easy to grip and surprisingly light at 4.7 Ounces. It’s a real head turner too, with lines more reminiscent of the iPod Touch, as opposed to the iPhones of late. The casing has a nice feel to it, slick and sleek without being slippery; it really feels comfortable in your hand.

This phone isn’t just another pretty face, though. With a 1.5 GHz dual core processor, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of ROM on board, and the Android 4.1 OS (Jelly Bean), it’s a fast and responsive device preloaded with Android Apps that rival Apple’s best, and blazing fast 4G connectivity (4G LTE and HSPA+ 4G/3G, depending on the carrier).

It transfers files with other devices wirelessly via Android Beam and S Beam (NFC based features) just by touching the devices together, and the DLNA function (WiFi Direct) allows you to display photos and videos on a Samsung Smart TV, which is pretty cool.

It also has a Smart Tag feature, which uses facial recognition to match faces in photos to faces in your contacts list, and then it automatically displays the contact’s latest social media status updates for you.

It has both front (1.9 Megapixal, 720p video) and rear (8 Megapixel, 1080p video) facing cameras that are very good, comparable to some point and shoots, and it uses the front facing camera for Smart Stay and Face Unlock, two more features that take advantage of the facial recognition software. With Smart Stay on, the phone looks back at you every once in a while, and if it can’t see your eyes, it puts the display to sleep, extending battery life. Face Unlock matches the user to their contact photo and wakes the phone up.

S-voice (think Siri without the dry wit), Custom Call EQ (the phone plays a series of high and low tones, you tell it which ones you hear, and presto, custom call EQ), the list goes on and on. For me though, the real selling points are; Micro USB connectivity, drag and drop file transfer, an external memory slot that holds up to a 64GB microSD card, and a removable battery.

I’m an iPod guy, love ‘em, have ‘em all, I’m like Gollum when I’ve got one in my hot little hands, so I was a little leery of going with an Android phone, but the ability to load files without connecting to a specific iTunes library, use a cable that isn’t proprietary, pop in an SD card and replace my own battery has totally won me over, and the newest Android OS (4.1) is clean and routine, a pleasure to use.

Samsung’s ad campaign that’s set outside of an Apple store on release day is great, a guy with an S III holding a spot in line for his parents, then sharing play lists with his buddy by touching phones as he leaves, it says it all; It’s not an iPhone, but it has everything you hoped the iPhone 5 would bring to the party.

Brilliant marketing, brilliant phone.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Unity Of Purpose

I’m going to deviate from my standard post topics tonight and I hope you’ll bear with me for a few moments, because I feel what I have to say is important.

Tomorrow is Election Day, and there are only two things that you absolutely have to do; the first is to vote, you have to vote. People have sacrificed a great deal, including their lives, so that you and I can live in a free society and exercise our right to vote for the candidate of our choice.

The second thing you have to do is to make the choice to stand behind whoever gets elected.

Why? You ask. I can hear you now; “Over my dead body, I can’t stand that other guy. I can’t stand his policies or his personal beliefs, and I’ll never acknowledge him as my President.”

The answer is simple, we’re in a dark place right now, and no politician or party can pull us out of that dark place without our help. Unity of purpose is the only way we’ll ever get this country back on track again. One nation, indivisible, that’s how we bill ourselves, and it’s what allows us to be great. Many hands working for a single purpose, that’s how things get done.

Right now, we’re a nation divided, but we shouldn’t be. The people on the other side of the political fence from you are not your enemy. They’re not crazy, and they’re not deranged, they’re just your friends, your neighbors, your coworkers, good Americans all, they’re just not all on the same wavelength as you, and you know what? That’s how it’s supposed to be.

If everyone was the same, thought the same, acted the same, there’d be no progress. It’s only through our exposure to others who think differently that we learn, and that helps us to make informed, intelligent decisions. Freedom of thought and speech form the bedrock of this great country. My opinion, or yours, or our party’s, is never the be all and end all. There’s always room to build and grow, none of us are perfect, and it’s how our forefathers intended it to be.

If you’re afraid that we’re going down the wrong path if one party or the other comes to power, fear not. The checks and balances that are built into our political system ensure that no one person, or party, can take us too far off track. You can start to work immediately after this election cycle to make sure the person or party of your choice makes it into office in the next cycle, but you are undeniably obligated to try to make things work in the meantime.

I look at it like this; say you work for a company that has profit sharing, and you get a new boss who you disagree with. Do you stop performing because you’re unhappy, or because you don’t like the direction the company is headed in? Of course not, because you’d be cutting off your nose to spite your face. You wouldn’t stop working, and you wouldn’t publicly talk smack about your boss, or your company, because it would hurt the company’s public image, and that would hurt your earnings.

That’s what’s going on right now, people are intractable in their beliefs and refuse to see the higher ground. They refuse to see the benefits, no, the absolute necessity, of cooperation, of unity of purpose.

Yes, there are a plethora of things wrong, and yes, change is slow and painful, but change can only be achieved if each and every one of us rolls up our sleeves and contributes, so tomorrow I ask you to vote, and to promise you’ll work with those crazies on the other side so we can get things back on track. It’s your solemn obligation as an American, and the only way you can ensure that this great nation carries on.

That is all.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Ultimate App for Pats Fans

Whether you’re on the move, camped out in the man cave, or at the game, you need the Patriot’s smartphone app to stay in the know.

The smartphone app runs on both the iOS and Android platforms and provides you with a wealth of information. Pats news and videos, team and league stats and scores, photos, blogs, schedules, you name it, they’ve got it. My favorite feature though, is the Gameday section.

Gameday has a tab for up to the minute Play By Play action, another for a Live Blog with PFW Editor-in-Chief Fred Kirsch, so you can kibitz during the game, a Game Stats tab that breaks it all down by team, player and drive, and a Scores Tab that keeps you up to date on all of the games that week.

Not only is this app a must have if you’re away from both TV and radio on game day, it’s also indispensible when you’re actually watching the game. Let’s face it, we all need the occasional bio break or snack run, and you inevitably return to your seat saying “WTF just happened? How did they end up with the ball, and how did they score so quickly?”

I keep the app open to the play by play tab on my Touch when I’m home, or on my phone when I’m out, and if I miss anything, there’s a detailed play by play description of the action constantly updating on my device. “Ah, Big Vince with the fumble recovery, now it makes sense…”

Nice.

You can get the app at both the iTunes store and Google Play, or you can just go here, to the Patriots Media Center, where there’s a link to both. There’s also a Patriots Football Weekly app available for the iPad, and a link to the Patriots Mobile Site so you can browse a mobile version of the Official New England Patriots site on your portable devices.

The Pat’s have done a fantastic job on both the apps and their websites, but I'd expect no less from the franchise that's been at the forefront of the NFL’s foray into cyberspace since day one. You’ve gotta love the Kraft family, always on the cutting edge.

That is all.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker

I teased you in my last post that I’d been playing around with some pretty neat technology this summer, it’s time I got down to business. Let’s start off with my favorite new audio accessory, the Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker.

Forget about docks and cords, wireless accessories are where it’s at these days, and the Bose SoundLink is my personal favorite in the wireless speaker category. It’s small and compact, with a solid feel and a sleek look, and it has pretty good overall volume and sound reproduction for a device of its size and portability.

It pairs with and remembers up to 6 Bluetooth devices. After 6, every new device you pair it with bumps an old one out of its memory. I currently have it paired with my laptop, iPod touch and my Smartphone, all were a snap to pair, and all reconnect to it instantly after initial setup. Its sound is warm and impressive with nice full bass, not sonically perfect, but nice, and it has enough volume and clarity to use outdoors.

The controls are simple, just a few buttons on the top of the device for power, volume, mute and Bluetooth pairing. No remote, but that’s fine with me. The paired device performs that function quite nicely. It also has a built in cover with a magnetic latch that does triple duty. It protects the speaker when it’s closed, acts as a stand when it’s open, and turns the unit off when you close it again.

Like most Bose music systems, speaker placement is key to maximizing its sound; you want to have a solid surface a few feet behind it to reflect the bass, especially when you’re using it outdoors or at a large party. The SoundLink’s range is at least 30’, which gives you a lot of options in the placement department.

I’ve actually had the device for a few months now, but have been holding off on a review until I’d really put it through its paces, and this baby passed my summer torture test with flying colors. The only problem is, I waited so long that Bose has just released a second generation device, the SoundLink II, and a software update for the original device. The SoundLink II has been sonically improved, and now comes in 2 flavors, Bluetooth or AirPlay (Apple’s proprietary Wi-Fi).

The sonic improvements come in the form of new transducers and better digital signal processing, and the addition of an AirPlay version gives the device even more flexibility when paired with an iOS device or iTunes.

The software update for the original model is easy to install, the SoundLink has a micro USB port on the back labeled service, and it’s great to know that the device is upgradeable, seeing as the electronic landscape seems to change every nanosecond these days.

Bottom line, there are other Bluetooth sound systems out there, and most are a lot cheaper than the SoundLink, but for my money the SoundLink has just the right mix of sound, portability, function and form. Small and sturdy enough to travel with, perfect as an add-on speaker for your laptop, iPod or Smartphone, powerful enough to use as a boom box at your next party, and it pulls it all off with style.

That is all.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Not Such Deep Thoughts: How I Spent My Summer Vacation Edition


It’s been a summer to remember; hot sunny days, very little rain, and way too much to do to be spending time staring into this screen, but Labor Day is upon us, and my brain pan is filled to overflowing with random thoughts, so I will now proceed to entangle the entire area.

Let’s start off with my lack of posting. I’ve really been struggling with that old work/life balance thing lately, and I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to squeeze any sun and fun into this summer, something(s) had to go. I outsourced the weekly mow (again, but this time I think it’s permanent), took a hiatus from working on my websites, and put off all but a few crucial home projects. I also employed a couple of other time management tricks and tradeoffs, which we’ll get to later. The end result was that I was able to take some time off and enjoy the summer. It was definitely the right choice; summer is much too short, and much too precious to waste. Being outdoors, spending time with friends and family, drinking in the beauty of the season, and life in general, there’s nothing quite like it.

Speaking of not working on my websites, I picked up some really interesting electronical gadgets this summer, and it killed me not to post about them, but I held off. It was tough, but at least I’ll have lots to post about going forward. Good things to come!

While I’m on the subject of gadgets; I’ve figured out that my Blackberry is the root of all evil. I had shelved my personal cell phone a while back; I hated carrying two phones, so I threw mine in a drawer and started relying solely on my work Blackberry. Problem is, the flow of information is non stop, and once I pick it up, even for something as innocuous as checking sports scores, I’m sucked right in. It’s kind of like a virtual rabbit hole that takes me directly back into work. It drives my family crazy, and it makes it impossible for me to disconnect. As we were getting ready for vacation this year, my wife suggested that I upgrade my old cell phone and start using it again, because if I didn’t, she was going to throw my Blackberry into Nantucket Sound. Very convincing argument, and seeing as Samsung had just released the new Galaxy S III, I was immediately on board. Smartest thing I’ve done in a while. The S III is a beautiful device, and yes, Apple is correct; it is a lot like an iPhone, except its better, more to come on that soon. The most important thing is that it helped me break the chains that bind me to my work, and possibly prevented my wife from committing a crime of passion. Now when I’m off, so is the Crackberry.

Speaking of passion, I love our pool. No traffic or parking issues, no humping chairs and coolers, no sand in my sandwiches. Just mosey out the back door, hop on a float, and drift away. Heaven. And those midnight moonlight swims on hot summer nights are nothing short of decadent. Sometimes when I’m out there, I find myself looking around, positive that someone is going to catch me and throw me out, traces of my fence hopping youth. It pains me to think we’ll be closing it down soon. The season is too short, and it’s a lot of work, but its well worth it.

Another way I’ve been able to carve out some quality time this summer is by writing off the Red Sox completely. I’m no fair weather fan, I’ve been with them through thick and thin, good times and bad, but here’s the thing; There’s no crying in baseball! I won’t watch a bunch of whiney babies, and this is the biggest bunch I’ve ever seen. The average salary in MLB is 3.3 million, and these guys have the nerve to bitch and moan, it’s disgusting. I’m glad they blew up the team, and I hope the axe continues to fall. A coaching/front office shakeup is the next step in the process; maybe a new manager can get this team back on track for next year. In the meantime, I’m not paying the exorbitant prices to see a game, and I’m not wasting my time watching them on the tube. Instead, I’ve been spending my time watching the grandson play in the Jimmy Fund Little League Summer Tournament. It ran through August, ending just in time for the start of Pop Warner, and it has been a pure delight. No better way to while away the summer hours then sitting in a lawn chair, feasting on $1 hot dogs and 50¢ popcorn, and cheering on the home town team. There’s still a little bit of crying, but it’s nothing a blue raspberry slushy can’t fix.

Vacation: It’s all about the bacon. Normally, we don’t eat a lot of bacon, but when we’re on vacation, we seem to have it at least twice a day. In omelets, on sandwiches, wrapped around scallops, it just goes with everything. Did you know you can get bacon martinis? Wow, it’s the perfect food, and I’ve found that there is a direct correlation between bacon intake and overall vacation satisfaction.

File this one under; building a better mousetrap. We came downstairs one morning to find an end table tipped over and the cat camped out next to it, staring intently at the baseboard heater. We weren’t sure what had gone down, but she wouldn’t budge from the spot (not even for bacon), so I moved the couch out of the way and got down on my hands and knees with a flashlight. Sure enough, she had a little field mouse cornered inside the baseboard. Cute little gomer, but he had to go. My wife got out one of those no kill traps and baited it with cheese, but he was too afraid of the cat to move a muscle. What to do, what to do… enter my wife with her Mouse Eradication Device (patent pending), or as we like to call it, the canister vac. She took off the rug brush, added all the extension tubes, and got into position. When she had the business end of the tube close to the mouse, I flipped the power on and “foop, bonk, bonk, splat”, that mouse was history. Catches ‘em, kills ‘em, and bags the body; I really think we’re on to something here.

Who ya gonna call? Mousebusters!

We’ve made a couple of trips down to Gillette this summer for training camp, and I must say, the Patriots have really done it right. Free parking, free event, great sightlines, and the chance for autographs from your favorite players; it’s a great event to take the whole family to. The only drawback is the drive, but they’ve got that covered to some degree, also. Patriot Place makes it worth your while to make a day of it. Arrive early and stay late, take in The Hall before practice, then one of the many restaurants after. Nice. Red Sox? We don’t need no stinkin Red Sox…

Well, I’ve rambled on for long enough, gotta get outside and enjoy the last few hours of this Labor Day weekend. I’ll leave you with this: Just because it’s Labor Day weekend, that doesn’t mean that the summer is over. It ain’t over until it’s over, so get out there and enjoy!

That is all.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Operation Ghost Click: Are You Ready For July 9th?


On July 9th, the ISC (Internet Systems Consortium) plans to shut down some DNS servers. How will that affect you? Well, pull up a chair and uncle berry will tell you a story.

Last October, after 2 years of investigation, the FBI in conjunction with a myriad of domestic and international partners, broke up a cyber crime ring based out of Estonia that was using rogue DNS servers to hijack user’s computers and ring up 10’s of millions of dollars in fraudulent ad and click revenues.

DNS, or Domain Name System, is the service that converts URL’s (eg: www.google.com) into those impossible to remember IP addresses. Your ISP provides you with access to a valid DNS server and your computer caches the server’s address. When you open your browser and enter a URL, the DNS server looks up the name and returns the proper numeric address. Think of it as an alpha-numeric translator.

These Estonian cyber thieves were infecting user’s computers with DNSChanger malware, which changes the address of your DNS server to one of their own, a rogue DNS server. The rogue server then either directs you to the wrong site, or to the correct site, but the ads you see have been replaced by ones of their choosing.

You know when you’re on the wrong site, but how do you know what ads you should be seeing when you’re on the right site?

Very devious.

But they didn’t stop there; once they had infected your computer, the malware would try to break into your router using the default settings, and if successful, it would change the DNS settings there, also. Why? Because if you have a router, your real DNS settings are cached there, and your computer caches only the address of the router. You could wipe your computer clean and still wind up being misdirected. And just as an added kick in the pants, some of the sites you are misdirected to download other malware, things that prevent OS patching and antivirus updating. Oh, those crazy Estonians...

So, how does infecting your computer make someone else money, you ask? Well, the world of internet commerce is a very complicated place. There are millions of publishers, every web site owner is a publisher, and there are just as many advertisers. How do the two get together? Through middlemen, of course; publisher networks and ad brokers. The Estonians set themselves up as a publisher network under the name of Rove Digital, one of many shell companies they created, and proceeded to cash in. It’s pretty easy to make money off of ad views and clicks if you have a bot net of millions of end user computers clicking and viewing the ads and websites you specify. Kind of like shooting fish in a barrel.

They operated with impunity from 2007 until 2011, when they were finally tripped up by an international task force. It was only a matter of time before they got caught; their malware wasn’t discriminatory and had penetrated computers in some very sensitive places, so the FBI, NASA, the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance, the National High Tech Crime Unit of the Dutch National Police Agency, the Estonian Police and Border Guards and a plethora of universities, technical institutes and private sector companies all banded together and tracked them down. The FBI dubbed the effort “Operation Ghost Click”, a very appropriate name, and the operation highlights the incredible effort and international cooperation needed to combat cyber crime in our brave new world.

Breaking up the crime ring and bringing those bad boys to justice wasn’t the end of the story, though. The task force quickly realized that if they shut down all of the rogue DNS servers the Estonians were operating, they’d effectively be turning off the internet for the millions that were infected. The Internet Systems Consortium was tasked with replacing the rogue DNS servers with valid ones, and keeping them running during the cleanup process, and the DNS Changer Working Group (DCWG) , an independent group of subject matter experts, was formed to aide end users with the cleanup.

On July 9th, 2012, the formerly rogue servers are scheduled to be shut down for good, they can’t keep them running forever, it costs a lot of cash, and anyone still infected with the DNSChanger malware will suddenly find themselves off the air. There are steps you can take to make sure you won’t be one of them, and the first step is the easiest.

The DCWG has set up an incredibly informative web site, and you need to make use of it. There’s a link to find out if your PC is infected, that’s your starting point, but it’s not all you need to do. You need to check your router also, and even if it hasn’t been compromised, you need to change its username and password from the default. Never leave default credentials in place on any device.

How do you check your router? The DCWG website has a link for that, also. The OpenDNS Store has instructions for every router conceivable. You don’t need to sign up for an account with them, you can just browse for the info you need.

Both Facebook and Google are teaming up with DCWG also, and will be alerting you if they notice a rogue DNS server address on your system, so don’t blow off any warnings you see on either site that informs you that your computer might be infected. This is no hoax, people.

If you are infected, the best fix possible is to reformat your hard drive and reload your operating system. This malware is a bear to get rid of, so if you have your system disks and a good backup, the wipe and reload method is your best bet.

If you don’t, DCWG has a link to help, of course. The DCWG Fix page has a list of free tools and self help guides, but it’s not an easy repair, and the site actually recommends that if your system is old, now might be the time to junk it and upgrade. That says a mouthful about the pervasiveness of this malware.

Don’t panic though, after all, it won’t be the end of the world if you lose internet connectivity on July 9th, but it will be a lot harder to set straight once you're off the air, so be proactive, and while you’re in a proactive mood, take a moment to read our post on creating system recovery disks and backing up, especially if you’re thinking about scrapping your system in favor of a new one. It will serve you well.

That's the end of my story, at least for now. There'll be more to tell as we get closer to the cutoff date, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I've given you lots to think about, and lots to do, so get busy. I'll leave you with one last thought, just because I can't help myself...

Beware of Estonians bearing gifts.

That is all.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Red Sox Show Up To Play


It was a beautiful day in Boston yesterday; bright, sunny and 68◦. The kind of day you dream about on those long winter nights, and the perfect day for a home opener.

After the way the season ended last year, and the inauspicious start they’d made on the road so far, I was more than ready to be disappointed. There was also the fact that it was Friday the 13th, and they had the added pressure of the whole “100th season” thing, which I assumed would lend a circus like atmosphere to the day. I was wrong; the Sox didn’t disappoint, neither the front office nor the team.

The team showed up to play and crushed the Jays 12 to 2, which was a pleasant surprise. Beckett looked good through 8 solid innings, and he had lots of support both offensively and defensively. While there are still 155 games to be played this season, there is reason to be hopeful after yesterday’s performance.

The only mar on an otherwise perfect outing was the loss of Ellsbury in the 4th to what appears to be a dislocated shoulder. If it is a dislocation, it will probably be 6 to 8 weeks before he’s back, and that’s gonna hurt. New skipper Bobby V said after the game that the team will call up an outfielder in time for Saturday’s game; I’m betting it will be Che-Hsuan Lin, as he’s already on the roster, and was a scratch from the lineup in last nights PawSox game. He’s no Ellsbury, but he’s not half bad.

The other surprise from yesterday was from the front office. After hearing that old Doc Charles had been hired back to “produce” the 100th anniversary festivities, I was nervous that we’d see all kinds of ridiculous hoopla for opening day. I’m not much for attending the home opener anymore, I liken it to New Years Eve; amateur hour for the poorly behaved, but I do love to watch it, and since my work schedule usually doesn’t allow me to be home early enough to see the opening ceremonies, I DVR it, and watch it later.

When I finally had time to sit down and replay it, I was not only impressed; I was moved by what I saw. No Super Bowl or Stanley Cup victors running around, no big flashy musical acts, just the Pops, the jets, the flag, and a few well chosen Red Sox legends.

After watching it, I couldn’t help but think that old Doc, and the front office et al, have learned a few things over the years, most importantly that the current owners are just the caretakers, as are all owners. The team belongs to Red Sox Nation, always has, always will.

Seeing Pesky in such a prominent role reminded me that it’s still my Dad’s team, seeing Rice and Dewey reminded me that it’s still my team, and seeing Tek and Wake reminded me that it’s still my sons’ team. We all hold and cherish our little piece of the team in our hearts and minds, and it was very smart of the current regime to make past legends the centerpiece of the day. It gently nudged recent happenings into the back regions of my mind, making way for some pleasant memories, while still leaving room for new ones to come. Nice.

I have no idea what the next game will bring, maybe heartache, maybe joy, but what I do know is that whatever comes our way is only a small piece of the larger picture for this storied franchise, and for us too, and I’m going to savor every moment of it.

That is all.

Oh wait, almost forgot the most important part;

Play Ball!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bose IE2 Series In-Ear Headphones

The Bose IE2 Series In-Ear Headphones have a warm and spacious sound, and are possibly the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever owned.

They come with 3 different sized “StayHear” silicon tips that have a wing on top that slides in under the top edge of your ear to help hold them snuggly in place. The leading tip of the silicon piece fits into your ear canal instead of the ear bud itself, so they’re actually more like a hybrid of an “on ear” headset and ear buds.

More importantly, these headphones sound great. They’re designed to be direct/reflecting, as are most Bose products; they have a bass port on the back that allows for that deep spacious sound without putting too much pressure on your eardrums. Sound reproduction is very true and natural, not sonically colored or overly bass heavy, just fat and sweet.

That being said, they’re probably not the right choice for someone who listens to nothing but House music; if that’s your pleasure, you’d be better served with a pair of those big funky Dre cans. They’re also not a true noise isolating headphone, but they’re close enough for me. I’m not a big fan of total isolation; I like to be at least somewhat aware of my surroundings, you tend to live longer that way…

There are 3 models in the series; the IE2 are just straight up headphones, the MIE2 adds a microphone and volume control, and the top of the line MIE2i has iPod/iPhone controls also. All 3 models have a thick sturdy cord that doesn’t kink, another plus, and all come with a pleather storage case that’s big enough to hold an iPhone or iPod along with them.

I’ve had a pair of the MIE2i’s for about 3 months now, and I can’t say enough good things about them. At first I was a little put off by the “wings”, but you quickly learn the right angle to insert them at, and with a slight twist, they sock right in place, and stay there. We recently went on a 3 hour hike and those babies didn’t budge an inch. I also found that when I paused or shut off my iPod I was leaving the earphones in place, mainly because I didn’t notice that I still had them on, and that says a lot about their comfort.

The MIE2i model also works great with my Blackberry, which is a huge plus. I’m always a little leery of products that are specific to iPods not working or acting quirky with other devices, but I was pleasantly surprised this time.

For me, the Bose IE2’s are the perfect combination of quality and comfort. Check them out, you won’t regret it.

That is all.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Not Such Deep Thoughts; Special Leap Year Edition

Had an extra day, thought I’d make the most of it. And away we go…

Lots of interesting stuff happening down at The Fort. Comings, goings, sage advice and weak excuses; yep, it’s Spring Training time again, and there’ll be lots to talk about. I’m not really sure why they call it Spring training, though. I just don’t associate February with spring, especially when it’s snowing. I think Winter Ball would be a lot more appropriate.

Speaking of the Sox, and comings and goings, first Wake hangs up his cleats, and now Tek is following suit. Wow. That’s a lot for Sox fans to deal with; they’ve both been such a big part of the team for such a long time. It’s going to seem really strange not seeing them on a daily basis. In this age of the mercenary sports star, players that remain with a team as long as they did, and contribute as much as they did, are few and far between. They become woven into the fabric of the franchise, and it’s hard to imagine the team existing without them. It will, though. We’ll move on, but we won’t forget the great memories they’ve given us, or the great things they’ve done for our area. I wish them both prosperous times going forward, and send my heartfelt thanks.

While we’re on the subject of Tek, did I ever tell you my Varitek/Hooters story? Doesn’t matter, I’m going to anyway. My wife used to have a severe case of anti-Hooterism; wouldn’t go if you paid her. Well, we ended up stopping at the Fort Myers Hooters one day on the way back from the pahk. We had a request for a Hooters calendar from a friend, and we were going right by, so there we were. The wife and I were both hungry, and the wings smelled sooooooooo good, that she decided to throw caution to the wind and accompany me inside.

She got a kick out of the kitschy d├ęcor and the lively music, and our waitress turned out to be from Nashua, so things were off to a pretty cool start, and wings and cold beverages quickly ensued. As we were sitting there, I noticed that Jason Varitek was sitting a couple of tables away. I told my wife, who’s a huge Varitek fan, and I offered to go get her an autograph. Smart woman that she is, she suggested that rather than bothering him, we should send a round of drinks to his table, so we did. We told the waitress to tell him they were a thank you from some home town fans, and we kind of thought that would be the end of it.

It wasn’t. After a little while I saw him get up from his booth and head our way. He came over, leaned down on the table, and introduced himself. Like he really needed to, but that’s the kind of guy he is; unassuming and very personable. He chatted us up for quite a while, and then grabbed the menu and signed it for us with a nice little personal message. My wife was over the moon, and so was I, but not for quite the same reasons. She had met Tek, her favorite player, and he turned out to be all that a fan could ask for, Me, I was pretty thrilled by meeting him too, but the best part for me was that I knew I now had a lifetime pass to Hooters, at least the Fort Myers one, anyway. Nice.

Well, if I’m going to retell old stories, I guess I owe you a new one to go with it. Here goes; A Deacon, two Priests and a Bishop walk into this bar… Actually, it was a church, and this isn’t going to be one of those lame jokes. It’s a somewhat amusing real life story that happened just this past weekend, and it involves said clergy, pomp, circumstance, and a flying tackle. Got your interest? Good.

My nephew was being confirmed last Sunday as part of a pretty large class, and the Regional Bishop was presiding to boot, so the church was packed and seats were at a premium. One of the nephews and I left the seats to the ladies and stood in the back of the church, along with many others. We were the first two off of the main aisle, which is a pretty good spot, viewing wise. The procession slowly filed past us, as did our confirmant, and the festivities got under way.

As I said, the church was packed, and it was starting to get a bit stuffy as the mass went on. Suddenly we heard a woman gasp loudly, and we looked across the aisle to see the woman struggling to keep her husband erect. He appeared to be in the process of fainting, and I could tell that he was either going to smash his head on the back of the last pew, or face plant on the fancy marble. It also registered that she was never going to be able to hold him; she had a bad angle, and he was a pretty big guy. The last thought I had was that the way she was tugging at his right arm was causing him to spin a little so that I had a good view of his chest, and at that moment a little green light flashed in my head and I was off.

I zipped across the aisle, dipping as I went, and my shoulder made soft but firm contact dead center on his chest. I wrapped my arms around him in a bear hug and kept churning, forcing him up and back against the wall, and we came to rest like a couple in a loving embrace. His eyes were still closed, and I started to have a panicky “now what do I do” feeling. Of course, dead silence had fallen over the congregation, this was a major interruption to a major ceremony, even the organist had stopped playing, and that made it all the more unreal and uncomfortable, but as his wife fussed over him, and I still hugged him tightly, his eyes began to flutter open. He turned his head slightly until we were nose to nose and officially Eskimo kissing, and his eyes went through this amazing transformation; from unfocused, to uncomprehending, and then to angry, and he began trying to push me away.

Although I was a little leery of loosening my grasp, I decided it was time, and slowly disengaged. I’ve never been much for hugging guys anyway, and my job there was done. I lift things up, I put them down.

The fainting man’s family quickly whisked him outside, and as I turned away to leave, I noticed that everyone in the vicinity was watching our little drama intently. Even the organist had craned his neck over the railing and was staring down at us. I felt a little sheepish as I returned to my original post, but the smiles and thumbs up I got from my family went a long way to remedy that.

The rest of the mass proceeded uneventfully, thank goodness, and my new found fainting friend never returned, which is probably a good thing. The frosting on the cake for me, though, came during the collection. A friend of ours had our area, and as he passed by with the basket he smiled and said “It didn’t surprise me when I looked back and saw you at the center of things.” I just smiled back, because that pretty much sums up my life. I am Forrest Gump.

Apropos of nothing, my lower back is really bothering me this week. I don’t know what I did, but I seem to have done it well.

OK, on to some serious stuff. Davy Jones passed away this week, taking with him another little bit of my past. When the Monkees first arrived on the scene, I was just a wee lad of 11, and like most of my contemporaries, I was a big fan. I saw every show, had every album, and I still know every word to every song by heart. I know, they were a manufactured group, yada, yada yada. Doesn’t matter. They had some of the greatest song writers of that time period penning their lyrics, and they were happy, infectious tunes, and the Monkees were happy, infectious guys. They’ve stood the test of time, also. They’re the guilty pleasure on my iPod, and through the magic of cable, they reached whole new generations. My sons watched their TV show with me when they were just little spuds and quickly became fans. Their Great Woods stop on their 20th reunion tour in the late 80’s was the first concert they ever attended, and the night was one of those classic family bonding moments that I’ll carry with me to my grave.

Last year they came to the Lowell Auditorium, and my wife received some tickets as a birthday gift. It turned out that the Bruins happened to be playing for the cup that night, but we went anyway. Both my buddy and I had an earphone in one ear listening to the game, as did half the audience, and Davy was smart enough to give updates and wave around a Bruins jersey. It was a great night, on a lot of levels, and has become another little “stepping stone” in the river of my memories.

So, old Davy has caught the last train to Clarksville, or wherever it is that rock stars go when they pass too soon, but he’ll live on in our hearts and minds, and our iPods.

It’s been a pleasure, Mr. Jones.

That is all.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

CyberPower CP1000AVRLCD

The CyberPower CP1000AVRLCD Intelligent UPS/Surge Suppresser/Voltage Regulator offers you protection from brownouts, spikes and power outages, and is a great little device for the money.

The unit has a power capacity of 1000VA/600 Watts and has nine NEMA 5-15R receptacles (5 with battery backup, surge suppression and voltage regulation, 4 with surge suppression and voltage regulation only), and it also has inputs/outputs for RJ11/45 and Coax filtering and surge suppression.

CyberPower’s GreenPower technology means that the Automatic Voltage Regulation feature only kicks in if there is a drop or spike in the supplied current, and it reduces energy consumption by 75% over comparable units. Surge protection is rated @ 1080 Joules, and it has an easy to read LCD screen that displays 11 different functions, including input and output voltage, load, and approximate run time on battery given the current load.

It also has both a USB and Serial port for connection to your PC, and comes with a copy of PowerPanel Personal Edition UPS Management software which allows you to status the UPS from the PC and interfaces with Windows power management to automatically close files and shut down the PC.

I have a 20” iMac, a Windows Media Center PC with a 19” LCD screen, a 1 terabyte external hard drive, and my FiOS router plugged in to the 5 battery protected outlets. With all devices powered on, load is at ~ 38%, with peaks of 50% during reboots. Estimated runtime @ 38% utilization is 14 minutes, more than enough time for a clean shutdown. The PC is the real hog at the trough here, though; when only the iMac, hard drive and router are on, estimated run time is a whopping 60 minutes.

The unit is compact and light, weighing in at about 16 lbs, stays cool to the touch, and is virtually silent; all enormous plusses, and it also has more available outlets then most units in its price range. I have our inkjet printer/scanner, another external hard drive and a small digital cable box that I use with the Media Center PC plugged into the 4 suppression/AVR only outlets, allowing me to unplug everything with one swift pull in the case of a severe lightning storm. Pretty cool.

I like this baby so much that I’m going to order another one for my entertainment center. The battery backup will keep my Cable box/DVR and my DVD recorder from resetting, and protect the LCD TV and audio components from brownouts and spikes. It will give me “one plug pull” in an emergency for the entertainment center also. Nice.

The only drawback to the unit is that although it’s advertised as having “widely spaced outlets to accommodate transformer plugs”, that’s not the case at all. I have no idea why they would put this claim so prominently in their product description when it’s so obviously false, but they do. You can plug in 3 standard power cords and 1 transformer block, at best, on the 5 outlet battery side.

One way to deal with this is by using one or two 1’ extension cords for your power block devices, although CyberPower strictly forbids the use of both extension cords and power strips with their unit. Nein, Verboten! Use of said devices will result in the voiding of both the 3 year warranty on the UPS and the $350,000 connected device replacement feature, so proceed down this avenue at your own risk. I can see why they have this caveat; you could plug any piece of crap power strip or threadbare extension cord in and create a massively dangerous situation.

My advice is; if you’re going to bend the rules, do it right. Use a short, heavy gauge cord like the ones referenced above, or a small, high quality power strip, and only use it to allow for transformer plugs, e.g.: don’t use a power strip so that you can plug in an additional 8 or 9 devices into the UPS and overload it. That’s a very dumb and dangerous thing to do. I saw that little light bulb going on in your collective heads; don’t be that chucklehead.

You can find this unit at Staples for ~$120, or online at Amazon ($106) and Walmart ($111) . That’s pretty short money for a little protection and peace of mind.

While we’re on the subject of protection and peace of mind, here’s another helpful little tip; I have a small, open, 2 shelf bookcase with lattice style sides under my desk. All cords, connectors and power strips are on it, protecting them from wandering feet and rising fluids. I have the cords woven through the latticed sides for a little added strain relief also.

Because my home office is in my basement, the bookcase itself sits on a thick block of Styrofoam, so that if there is water, it won’t soak into the wood and wick its way up to the electronics. That’s a little trick I learned from the ServiceMaster guy the last time we had water issues. Also, the PC tower itself is up on a wheeled tower stand. There should be nothing in direct contact with your floor.

Keeping everything up and semi mobile not only protects you from minor flooding, it will also help with heat dissipation and makes it easier to clean under the desk. Beware the deadly dust bunny.

End Of Transmission.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Oh My

Obviously things didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped last Sunday night.

I was so jeeped up about the Super Bowl, and the Patriot’s chances, that the loss really hit me hard. When the game was over we sat there in stunned silence for a few moments, and then snapped off the TV and quickly went about cleaning up. I figured if I got right to it, I’d wear myself down and be able to crash.

I hate cleanup, especially scrubbing the broiler pan after making ribs, but I launched into it with great fervor. After that, I used some of the leftovers to make lunches, set up the coffee maker for the morning, and then refilled our pet’s food bowls. I did everything and anything I could to take my mind off of the loss, and to keep myself from watching the news.

It didn’t work. Sleep just wasn’t in the cards for me, not yet anyway. I ended up turning on the tube again and browsing the web for a while. Not a good idea.

What’s happened to people? Civility and good manners seem to have gone out the window, and everyone feels that it’s their right to say anything they want under the guise of “reporting the facts”. Pushing their own agendas and grinding their little axes while they rip people to shreds. It’s really sad.

I stumbled across a stunning rant by a Boston Globe writer that really turned my stomach, and finally convinced me to shut down the PC and go to bed. It was that bad. The guy trashed Brady’s play in the game, which is fine. If that’s the way you feel, if that’s the way you saw the game, then spout away, that’s what sports writers do. What wasn’t fine was his diatribe on how Brady’s career is over, and how he’s embarrassed himself and his fans.

He went on to say that Brady is an embarrassment to Mr. Kraft and the whole Patriots organization, that his play was hideous and he single handedly lost the game, comes up with a few really interesting and original names like Tommy Boy, Boy Wonder and Prince Valiant, infers that Brady’s lifestyle and living accommodations are part of the problem, and wraps up with the thought that it might be time Brady hung up his cleats and handed the reigns over to Mallett. Ryan Mallett. That one was actually pretty funny. Problem is, I don’t believe he was trying to be.

The article caused quite a stir, and the next day he was on local radio defending his actions and proclaiming that people didn’t “get it”. He said he was trying to emulate our displeasure, sort of a fan’s take on the loss, and that he knew it was over the top, but went with it anyway because that was his hook, the outraged fan. Needless to say, the interview only stoked the fire. He then went on to print an apology of sorts on Boston.com, which made it even clearer to me that he was the one who still didn’t get it.

In his “apology”, he bemoans the fact that people were angry with him, that they called him a no talent hack, likened his head to a cue ball and wished him ill will. He also extrapolated that most people were angry with him because Brady can do no wrong in some fan’s eyes.

Here’s the thing; he thinks it hurts when people call him names and demean his performance on a personal level, but he doesn’t see the connection to his article. What he wrote was mean spirited crap and very personal, and yet he whines because people responded in kind. No sir, he just doesn’t get it.

It’s not so much this one article that bothers me, though. The real problem is that guys like this have become the norm. These last few days have been chock-a-block full of small minded pettiness. Some schmo lays in wait for Gisele outside of the family viewing area, baits her, and then films her reaction on his phone. Sad, right? Not as sad as the fact that it was a lead story on the Today show the next morning. I can see the NY rags running with it, but the Today show? And they run it before they get to the Josh Powell story. Amazing.

A losing team dares to celebrate the end of a long and hard fought season, and once again someone records it on their phone; 3 days of news stories. No one cares that these guys have been in virtual lock down for the last 2 weeks under intense mental pressure, or that this might be the last time they see each other for quite a while.

Nope, sensationalism is what it’s all about. Get it any way you can, and cash in, baby. Be the first on your block to bring someone down and you win a prize; instant notoriety. I’m disgusted by it all. We’re the ones that supply the prize, though, so we need to take some of the blame ourselves. We need to stop reading/watching when things start to turn ugly, and we need to hold to that thought and continue to boycott the writer/reporter until their parent company takes notice and fixes things.

We also need to make our feelings known, whether it’s with a comment on the site, or a phone call to the paper or station, both are equally effective. It’s all about ratings, no more, no less. You can’t rant or be trashy when you do it though, otherwise your voice amounts to nothing more than spam. The Globe writer I referenced above has already felt the power of his audience. His article, and the anger it incited, will follow him for quite a while. That’s a start. Inch by inch we change our world.

Personally, I put things to the Oh My test. I have this friend; she’s a very prim and proper person, a librarian by trade. She’s actually the archetypical librarian; when she shushes you, you stay shushed. Whenever she hears something unseemly, she says “Oh My”, and then claps her hand over her mouth. When you hear her utter those words, and that hand comes up and the eyes darken, you know it’s time to change the subject. Simple and effective, so effective that I’ve begun to get a mental image of her whenever I read or hear something that offends my sensibilities. I’ve had quite a few of those Oh My moments this week, hence this lecture.

As for the Patriots and my feelings post Super Bowl, I say this; you can’t let a single loss erase a whole season, even a Super Bowl loss.

I was both angry and upset immediately after the game, there’s no denying that. They could have won if only they had made a few more plays, or a few less mistakes, but they didn’t, and although I was bitterly disappointed, they were in it until the final seconds, and no one on the team can be accused of not giving it their all. That’s what really matters.

I’m not going to dissect the game, the sports writers already have that covered six ways to Sunday. Suffice it to say, it was in their grasp and they couldn’t close the deal. Credit has to go to the Giants, also. They made the plays that mattered, and it kills me to say it, but they were the better team.

I take solace in the fact that on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed the season, and this team gave us way more than we could have ever hoped for. Play was uneven at times, but fun to watch none the less. They just weren’t deep enough in some spots and it showed. On the plus side, Brady, Welker, Gronk, Hernandez and Wilfork all were human highlight reels throughout most of the season, and that bodes well for next year.

A smart and aggressive off season that involves some key additions from both the draft and free agency is the ticket to success for these guys, and I’m confident we’ll see it. Although I don’t agree with “the writer that shall remain nameless” when it comes to Brady, I do think that the window for team success with Tom at the helm is narrowing. With that in mind, I’d love to see Belichick trade some of his picks for a couple of impact players, someone to make a difference right away. I’m thinking a legitimate deep threat (sorry Ocho), a dominant pass rusher and a lock down corner would round out this team nicely.

They’ll be back next season, and I’ll be there to cheer them on, and they’ll be back to the big dance again, too, you can bank on it.

And so will the Giants.

That is all.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Twitter Campaign: Do Your Part for the Pats!

The Patriots players are all big twitter users and have been tweeting away the hours leading up to the big game. Now’s your chance to let them know you’re behind them today, and if we can get one of the hash tags trending worldwide pregame, it will be a huge boost for our guys!

Tweet the following to all of the players, as well as all of your followers, and be sure to pass the word along on all of your social media sites:

#BeStrongPlayStrong #MHK #GoPats

Here’s my latest list of Pats Player's Twitter handles, if you have one that isn’t here, pass it on:

@Edelman11 @deionbranch84 @StevanRidley @wilfork75 @WesWelker @RobGronkowski @AaronHernandez @ochocinco @LightFoundation @SterlingMoore @bspikes55 @bhoyer8 @PatsLB96 @Dane_Fletcher @TiUnderwood @GaryGuyton59 @McCourtyTwins @RustyBenson35 @mr_carter93 @KyleLove74 @TheLawFirmBJGE @Ryan_Mallett_15 @danny__woodhead @JamesIhedigbo @ZoltanMesko @ShaneVereen34 @Arrington24_7 @SergioBrown31 @patriotscannon @NMcDonald65

And here are a few for the media, and some big Pats fans:

@PatsGuy4ever @scottzolak @rcolvin3 @Toucherandrich @GreshandZo @sportsguy33 @NEPatriotsNFL @mindykaling @HeyCollins @7BOOMERESIASON @Rodney_Harrison @HeathEvans @boblobel @RochieWBZ @RealTroyBrown80 @DaRealOtisMoss @AlbertBreer @FredTaylorMade @MikeReiss @mrs75 @FelgerAndMazz @Marc_Bertrand @SarahSFrench @ddreyeron7 @aallredon7 @ConanOBrien

Let’s do this! Go Pats!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Not Such Deep Thoughts: Special Countdown to the Super Bowl Edition

That old clock on the wall can’t move fast enough for me this week; I’m just wishing the hours away. That’s the way it is when the home team is in the big game, I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax, and there’s a million thoughts swimming through my head. Maybe if I get some of them out, it’ll help, so let’s get right to it.

The whole Pats Giants rematch thing is both the best and worst possible scenario we could hope for; Its prime fodder for the media, the source of endless discussion amongst fans, and a game that will surely draw mega ratings, as both teams have huge television markets. These two teams also have a history of tight hard fought games, which brings with it the promise of must see TV and a big payday for both the NFL and NBC.

The other side of the coin is a little ugly for us Pats fans, though. The Giant’s seem to have the Patriot’s number of late, and while the prospect of the Pats getting a little revenge really floats my boat, thoughts of the ’07 loss to this same team keep creeping into my brain and crowding out all of the happy. I’m also getting more than a little tired of listening to all the talking heads; Can Brady still do it? Is Eli the next greatest thing? Will the Gronk be able to play, and if so, can he make a difference? It’s been way over the top.

Speaking of the Gronk, and his impact; there’s not a doubt in my mind about his status. The kid is a football machine. I'm convinced he's a cyborg, and I swear, if you peeled back a flap of his skin you’d hit metal. Nothing could prevent him from being on that field from beginning to end on Sunday, except maybe Bill, and that isn’t gonna happen. You have to love him; he’s just a big goofy guy who lives for football, and he will not be denied.

While we’re on the subject of amazing tight ends, I think Hernandez is going to be a big factor in the game. While Gronkowski is number 2 on the list of most receptions by a tight end in their first two seasons, Hernandez isn’t far behind, coming in at number 5. He gets a little overshadowed by his teammate at times, but he’s a force to be reckoned with, none the less, and I think he’s going to excel on Sunday.

I’ve been honoring Wes Welker and his playoff stache campaign, #TheWelker83, by not trimming my beard or mustache for the last couple of weeks, and I’m beginning to look like a cross between Teddy Roosevelt and some guy who lives under a bridge. On the plus side, I’m really looking forward to my wife’s 7 layer dip, and this bushy baby is going to be a great flavor saver. Mmmh.

Speaking of Wes; we all know he’ll come through in the clutch, that’s his thing, but I have the strangest feeling that we’re also going to be talking about Chad on Monday. He’s just too good of a player to completely disappear the way he has, and I think his time has come.

I’m a superstitious guy and everything has to be just so on game day. Usual seat, usual clothes, you know the drill. Are you listening Bill? The grey hoodie, please. No substitutes.

Deep down, I have a pretty good feeling about this game. I think the Pats have the perfect mix of motivational tools at their disposal; revenge, validation and inspiration. You know that both Belichick and Brady still feel the sting of the ’07 defeat like it was yesterday, and all the crap in the media this week only serves to intensify those feelings. They’re going to play like a team possessed, mark my words. Belichick has been cranking the heat at their practices, and even simulating the extended half time, presumably in an effort to condition the team to the strangeness that is the Super Bowl. I really like this, and it makes me think that we’ll see them come out in the hurry up right from the start. A fast tempo, different formations, and a good mix of screens and draws will get the G-men back on their heels early, and really open things up for Brady.

On the defensive side of the ball I think both Big Vince and Spikes are going to be ferocious, and in Eli’s grill constantly, and I’m convinced that old Bill will have a trick or two up his sleeve with the coverage that’s going to confuse Manning and allow the defensive backs to shine. He knows what he has, and what the Giants can do, and he’s had a lot of time to think on it. You can’t continually beat Bill. He makes mistakes, but he always learns from them.

There’s also the fact that this Giants team only went 9 and 7 on the season and are far from the powerhouse that the media and their fans make them out to be. They’ve done a good job containing the Pats recently, but they are not a great team. They’re a standout in a weak NFC who’s on a late season roll, no more, no less.

Of course, I could be all wrong, but I’m betting on that third motivational factor to pull it all together for the Pats; inspiration.

These Patriot players have a deep devotion to Mr. Kraft, and they’ve watched him be strong all year. He worked hard to pull players and owners together to save the season, even though his heart was breaking, and he continues to be strong for them even now. How he gets through some of these interviews without breaking down is amazing to me, and should be an inspiration to all. I know it is to the players, you can see it, and I know they’ll be drawing on that inspiration this Sunday. Being strong, playing strong, both for themselves and for the Kraft family.

Go Pats!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Next Stop; Indy

The Pats are the AFC Champs again after beating the Ravens in a close and hard fought battle, and they’re headed back to the Super Bowl for a rematch with the Giants, no less. It just doesn’t get much better than this.

I had the good fortune to be there last week for the big win, but it wasn’t all buttercups and roses. There were some really tense moments as the clock ticked down, and the dropped pass and shanked field goal unfolded right in front of us. I thought I was gonna have the big one there for a moment…

The Ravens were a good team, better than most wanted to admit, and they held on right to the end. Back and forth, highs and lows, and the plethora of Ravens fans that shared the end zone with us made it all the worse. When I’m home in my lucky seat, there’s nobody wearing purple camouflage pants and a Ray Lewis jersey jumping up and down and chucking everyone the bird every time the momentum shifts. Very disquieting.

On the plus side, the stadium was electric from the moment we got there. There’s nothing quite like it; the crowd, the blaring music, the fog horn, the musket volleys, and that giddy feeling of being so close to the action, its pure nirvana for me. No one in that crowd sat at all, everyone was on their feet and screaming from beginning to end. The Razor was rockin’, and the game was nothing short of thrilling.

The win was far less than pretty, but a win is a win, especially one that brings with it a ticket to the big dance, and there were some real bright spots.

Although Brady was off, the grit and determination he showed with his spectacular swan dive into the end zone was unbelievable. It was the very definition of giving it up for the cause, and if he brings that same winning desire with him to Indy, good things will happen.

And how about the Gronk? Gotta love the Gronk. When he came back in the 4th quarter the place erupted!

The defense was a pleasant surprise, also. Big Vince played like a man possessed, as did they all, coming up with the big plays when it mattered most. They were a constant source of inspiration, and a most pleasant surprise.

If you strapped me to a lie detector, I’d have to admit that the thought has crossed my mind that there was even a bit of divine intervention involved in the outcome. Cundiff’s kick going so wide left was just that miraculous.

The bedlam that ensued post game was indescribable, and something I’ll remember for a long time, and the sight of all those purple camouflaged Ravens fans silently filing out in the final seconds as the celebration cranked up into full gear was just one of the many highlights.

We hung around for quite a while, drinking it all in, and when we finally saddled up and slowly made our way down Route 1, the scene was surreal. Bonfires dotted the parking lots on both sides of the road, and the diehards of Patriot Nation danced around them, celebrating, game planning, and dreaming of glory in Indy.

Go big team, go.

That is all.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Not Such Deep Thoughts; Shiny New Year Edition

Despite some very dire predictions, 2012 is starting off on a pretty good note for me. I’m finally getting back in the groove at work after a lengthy hiatus, and a lot of good things have happened in my personal life that bear chronicling, so let’s get right to it.

I think a good starting point for this exercise would be the Mayan Calendar and the whole 2012 doom and gloom thing. Here are a few facts from Wikipedia:

December 2012 marks the conclusion of a b'ak'tun - a time period in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar which was used in Central America prior to the arrival of Europeans. Unlike the 52-year Calendar Round still used today among the Maya, the Long Count was linear rather than cyclical, and kept time roughly in units of 20: 20 days made a uinal, 18 uinals (360 days) made a tun, 20 tuns made a k'atun, and 20 k'atuns (144,000 days or roughly 394 years) made up a b'ak'tun. Thus, the Mayan date of 8.3.2.10.15 represents 8 b'ak'tuns, 3 k'atuns, 2 tuns, 10 uinals and 15 days. Researchers have said that while the end of the 13th b'ak'tun would perhaps be a cause for celebration,[3] it did not mark the end of the calendar, and there is nothing in the Maya or Aztec or ancient Mesoamerican prophecy to suggest that they prophesied a sudden or major change of any sort in 2012.

"For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle," said Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies. The 2012 phenomenon, she said, is "a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in."[3] "There will be another cycle," said E. Wyllys Andrews V, director of the Tulane University Middle American Research Institute. "We know the Maya thought there was one before this, and that implies they were comfortable with the idea of another one after this.”

Wordy stuff, I know, but it all boils down to this; the only thing we’re really sure of is that 2012 marks the end of a Mesoamerican calendar cycle. The end of one era and the start of another, no more, no less. Maybe this era will be a new age of enlightenment, one where dogs, cats, republicans and democrats can all live together without excoriating each other, and then again, maybe not. We’ll see. In the meantime, I suggest you relax and enjoy the ride, that’s my plan. Oh, and Happy 5th World to all my Mayan friends!

OK, so now that we’ve kinda sorta proved that this year isn’t going to be the end of the world as we know it, let’s get to some good stuff.

The most exciting thing about 2012 for me so far, actually happened in 2011; the birth of our new Granddaughter. She arrived into this world about midway between Christmas and New Years, perfect timing as most of the family was free of obligation (work, school, etc.) and we were all able to gather to share the moment. Big props to our daughter in law for allowing our little band of hooligans access to a very special event, and even bigger props to she and our Son, for making such beautiful babies! She’s perfect in every way, and I love her with all my heart.

Another high note in this fledgling New Year has been the play of my beloved Patriots. They earned a first round bye in the playoffs, and then proceed to STOMP the Broncos in the second round. I was getting sick and tired of hearing all the hype in the lead up to the game; Can the Patriots win in the playoffs anymore, or will they be one and done again? Can anyone beat Timmy the miracle man, or is his destiny sealed by a higher power? Sheesh, it was enough to make a man crazy, but I think in the long run it helped our cause. The Sons of Belichick traditionally respond very well to the whole underdog, don’t get no respect thing, and it really showed in the intensity of their play. If they can maintain this caliber of performance, I’d say they just might make it to Indy.

All the attention and publicity is probably a good thing for little Timmy Tebow also, by the way. Now that it’s painfully obvious that he’s a one trick pony and not a professional quarterback, it will help him in his future endeavors. Word is he’s being courted by CBS executives to replace Ashton Kutcher on Two and a Half Men. The storyline will be that he’s their long lost cousin, a college jock who finds he can’t make it in the bigs, but takes solace in his deep religious beliefs and returns home to open a store front church and enrich the lives of his friends and family. Think Highway to Heaven with a laugh track. Sounds like a winner to me!

Speaking of winners, how about this winter? It’s been unseasonably mild here in the Northeast. So much so, that for the first time ever I was able to put up, and take down, our Christmas lights on bright, sunny 50◦ days. We’re half way through January and I still haven’t had to shovel or snow blow at all, and I can count on one hand the number of frigidly cold days we’ve had so far. Strange days, indeed. Before you know it, pitchers and catchers will be heading south and we’ll be well on the way to spring. If this is global warming, I’m all in.

And while we’re on the subject of pitchers and catchers, I’m hoping that our Olde Towne Team gets their act together this year. I’m still so distraught by the epic fail that was last season that I can’t even bring myself to say (or write) their name, but I’ll come around. Life goes on, and one trip to the new Baby Fenway should do it. I can smell those sausages grilling now, and the crack of a bat on a ball is music to my ears, conjuring pleasant memories of endless, carefree summers. Nice.

Well, I’ve bent your ear long enough for now, so I’ll leave you with this;

Whatever 2012 may have in store for you, roll with it, and savor every moment.

That is all.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

McDaniels to start immediately with Patriots

NECN and NBC Sports are both reporting that the New England Patriots have reached a deal with Josh McDaniels to start immediately as assistant to Bill O'Brien for the remainder of the season, and then take back the reigns as offensive coordinator when O'Brien leaves.

Although O'Brien has done an admirable job as offensive coordinator, and I wish him great success in his new job at Penn State, I'm kinda psyched that Josh is coming back. I don't think there was any chemistry between O'Brien and Brady. and it showed in the up and down play of the offense.

It's about being on the same page. It's why Welker and Branch shine with Brady, and Ocho Cinco doesn't. We've seen the relationship between Tom and Josh, always talking on the sidelines; picking apart the failures and successes, planning the next move. I want that back. Lately when the camera finds Brady on the bench, he's sitting alone and stewing. That gets you nowhere fast.

It's simple really, sports teams need a combination of chemistry and talent, along with a smattering of good luck, to succeed. Somethings been missing with this Patriots team, maybe this will be the thing that brings consistency to the offense and pushes them to that next level. It sure as hell can't hurt.

Can you smell what BB is cookin? It smells like Indy to me.

That is all.