Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Waiting with Wifi

A couple months ago, a friend of mine needed surgery and I took the day off work to stay at the hospital from start to finish. I stocked up on snacks and lunch from Wawa and packed up my backpack with everything I would need for the day: knitting needles and plenty of yarn, books to read, math puzzles, my cell phone plus charger, and an iPod loaded with music and several episodes of Lost.

Little did I know that Pennsylvania Hospital offers free internet in the surgery waiting room! Friends and family can connect wirelessly to the network, but if their laptops only have wired connectivity, there are several network access ports near the back of the waiting area.

This is great for people spending all day in the waiting room (like myself) and needing to stay connected to others who may want to keep updated on their loved one’s patient status. This would have been so much easier for me than trying to check my work email with Outlook Webmail on a tiny Opera browser using the internet on my mobile phone.

Speaking of patient status: there are also large monitors installed in the waiting area showing the current location of all surgery patients! For privacy reasons, the list only shows the patient’s first initial and the first four letters of last name, but it’s so much easier to see that DOE, J was admitted to PREP at 10:30 than to sit around wondering why the doctor hasn’t come in to update yet.

Comcast Runaround

Last week the cable starts acting weird. Brian calls Comcast and they send someone out on Saturday morning to fix it. After he explains the problem, and the steps he’s already taken in an attempt to fix it, the technician then follows the exact steps Brian has already taken, with the same results: flicking cable and the occasional missing signal. After some hour and a half of putzing around, the technician finally replaces the wire outside, leaving his trash all over the basement and the front of the house, the cable works.

For about an hour. Then it goes out completely.

Wireless Philadelphia: yay or nay?

I’m moving this week, and things have been pretty hectic for me; working, packing, and (most importantly) sleeping have taken up a good amount of my time. I love the new place and the roomie, but I am totally in need of some high-speed internet access at home.

Out comes the research! I’ve been with Comcast for the past six years and really haven’t had too much of a problem with them or their service. Certain Verizon DSL packages appear to be much cheaper, but the City’s partnership with Earthlink for the Wireless Philadelphia project has intrigued me.

Research and more research. It seems that I won’t be able to set up a home network with the wifi service; Earthlink charges an additional $1 for each hour more than one computer is connected to your account. Well, I can deal with that, if the roomie keeps her current internet service.

I’ve tried scouring through blogs and reviews, and have really only come upon a few posts about the service, most of them negative. The reviews of the free zones, like Love Park and Headhead Square, glow but moving outside Center City the reports turn pessimistic, even nasty in one case.

Needless to say, I’m a bit nervous about signing up and forking over $20 a month for service that may or may not work in my new area, regardless of the greens on the coverage map.

Please chime in with your thoughts and experiences!

Check Fraud Scheme

While this isn’t really a local piece and more of a national/worldwide piece I still wanted to bring some attention to the issue. Recently there has been an increase in check fraud schemes targeting online auction sites, e-mail and even some snail mail users. While there are many iterations of the scheme they all seem to follow the same basic formula that is shown in the e-mail shown after the jump. Basically the initiator of the fraud sends you a check (or will send you a check) for significantly more than you need and requests a few things.

1. That you cash the check right away. Not deposit the check, cash it.

2. That you leave the bank where you just cashed the check and Western Union the remaining money right away.

In some cases, not involving eBay or the likes, the perpetrator will advise you that they are going to send you a large sum of money for doing this (most likely because you won some sort of bogus prize) or in cases of online auctions they request that you contact DHL with their account number and ship your item to them. What happens in both cases is that you get burned. Not just by the schemer but also by your bank who will be none to happy when they discover (most likely in a few days time) that the check you cashed is bad.

You would be surprised how many people actually fall for this scheme, so don’t let it be you. Read over the e-mail and if you do get one, contact your local law enforcement or your bank, who will put you in touch with fraud investigators. Also contact your e-mail provider and let them know that you are being phished.

Consumer Report – COMCAST DVR

Do you have Comcast as your cable provider? Probably right? I mean who really has another cable provider in this area, especially if you want to watch the Flyers, Phils or Sixers. Most of you that have Comcast probably have digital cable through Comcast because they have made it just about impossible to use their Analog service anymore. So those of you with 400 channels might be thinking with all this programming to watch how can I watch it all, well Comcast claims they have the answer for you in their DVR (Digital Video Recorder) package.

For me I get my HDTV Digital Cable box with a built in DVR, basically just a computer hard drive that has been formatted to record and playback video. I get the option of watching a program while recording another, or I can set it up to record while I am at work. Or maybe I want to record all the episodes of say American Idol over the course of a week, well it can do that to. Or so claims Comcast.

I Would Definitely Like One of These

NEC developed of a new system for automatically creating multimedia blogs. And it’s zany as hell. The new system has been developed on NEC’s prototype robot PaPeRo, and is initialized when a user begins a conversation with PaPeRo about the events of their day, which the system then records and analyzes. Following this, PaPeRo searches for suitable multi-media contents on the internet, including images, illustrations and music, which are automatically uploaded and edited along with the video recording on the user’s blog. This new system facilitates ease of multi-media-rich blog creation.

The novel system has been realized by integrating (1) large-vocabulary, continuous speech recognition technology, which converts the speech content of the video message into text and extracts important keywords, and (2) natural language, text retrieval technology, which enables searching of contents on the internet.

I don’t know about my fellow MetBloggers, but one of these could definitely solve a lot of my problems!

Ode to Google

Lately I’ve been on the biggest kick of googling old friends. It seems like every day I can dig up some new information on somebody I’ve lost touch with years before. Sometimes even contact information. I hope I’m not coming off as too stalker-ish. Old college roommates, old fraternity brothers, friends from high school, even gradeschool. Nobody is safe from my natural curiosity. it’s so pathetic that sometimes I’ll curl up on a lonely night with an old yearbook and just punch in name after name after name, seeing what I can come up with.

Who’s playing basketball in Europe? Who is married? Who is making 5X as much money as me? It’s all there for the viewing pleasure. Pair it with myspace for a truely unique experience in searching for long-losts.

I still haven’t decided if all this is good or bad. I mean, was it better back in the day when losing touch with somebody meant you might never truly know? When you might never truly see that person again, despite the fact that they have and continue to live within three minutes from where you are right now?!?

There are some people I’d never want to find me, but if they ever punch my name in google, it’d be pretty damn difficult for them not to read all about my life, my career, and the most intimate of thoughts I can share with the Metblog community.

I love Google. The only question is … should I?

Beware the Blog Virus

Be on the lookout for Storm worm, which allows PCs to be taken over by malicious hackers. It is being spread via blogs. The worm is embedded in postings from users’ PCs that have been infected. It plants links to malicious web sites that contain the worm, which if visited, download the worm to the visitor’s system. The worm is polymorphic, which means that it changes signature code with each download, making it difficult to prevent infection.

My computer has Kapersky antivirus, but I reccommend whatever you use that you regularly update its virus definititions and regularly scan your systems, especially given how most of you are blog trollers.

Top Tech Town (Not)

Wired came out with a list of the top 10 tech towns in the states. Our neighbors to the east, west and south, New York, Pittsburgh and DC all made it. Alas, Philadelphia loses. The criteria include proximity to top ranked engineering schools and free wifi. Well, we have some great engineering schools but that city-wide wifi project isn’t quite complete and when it is, there will be a charge to use it anyway. Another criteria is tech jobs, which tend to all be buried in suburban office park campuses, far away from the evil city wage tax. Perhaps if they’d extended the limits, as they did for the “San Francisco Bay Area” we would have had a chance.

Wifi and Waffles

The other day, I met up with other members of Potterdelphia (my Harry Potter group, for those not in the know) to continue planning out details for this winter’s coming Yule Ball. We decided on Bonte for a few reasons: near Washington Square, close to PATCO and SEPTA, tasty coffee, very tasty waffles, and free wifi access.

Ever since I finally got a wireless G card for my laptop, I’ve been on the lookout for places in the city offering free wifi access, and Bonte does not disappoint. I grabbed a table for our group near the back corner, right near the outlet, because my laptop battery is utter crap. I found the network quickly and easily, and after a minor glitch with my card settings, I was able to check my gmail, log onto our site, view the group’s flickr photos, and refresh refresh refresh Harry and the Potters‘ news page until the announcement finally posted.

Between my cell phone and (now) my wireless card, I don’t know how I ever held meetings like this without technology. And with waffles! Oh man, if you haven’t had the waffles at Bonte yet, I suggest you get over there (with your laptop) and order one… the blueberry and banana one is quite scrumptious.

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