Friday, August 19, 2016

Free Airport WiFi using WiFiSpoof

I'm sat here in an airport for three hours whilst I wait for my next plane. Many airports offer free wifi but this one contracts through Boingo Hotspot that offers 30 minutes free and then you have to pay.

Or do you?

The way that Boingo Hotpsot tracks usage is by your MAC address (MAC in this case has nothing to do with the Macintosh, it stands for media access control), that somewhat unique identifier for your hardware. Using WifiSpoof allows me to circumnavigate those road blocks by allowing me to re-address my Mac and give it a new MAC address.

Once you do that, free wifi is mine again. 30 minutes at a time.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Steve Jobs as Art

I was traveling on business this week. I stayed at The Inn at the Crossroads in Lake City, SC. This wonderful piece of art adorned the hotel's walls. I took a photograph so I could share it with you all. Evidently the piece took The People's Choice award in the town's annual art competition in 2013. The artist is Kirkland Smith and the piece is called Steve Jobs.

I broke the standard format rules I set myself for this blog because I think the piece deserves it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Apple Watch: Only for Smaller People

My girlfriend wants to buy me an Apple Watch for my 50th birthday. Yes, I really am that old. We were traveling yesterday so were close to an Apple Store, a novelty for me. We went in and after being initially told it would take almost 3 hours to get an appointment to try on a watch (really?), one of the sales assistants with a little more competence said that no, it would only be a 20 minute wait. So we made an appointment to try on a watch and came back after a quick run to the bathroom (not too much information is it?).

Some of you may remember that I'm a little taller than the average person. I'm not exceptionally tall, I'm not Shaq, but tall enough that I'm taller than most football players and I don't feel out of place stood with the basketball team (though I am built more like a football player). And, of course, I have hands and feet to match too.

I only wear watches with metal bands. Having a day job that means plastic (and often even leather) bands are not an option, I wanted to make sure that the metal straps worked. That means, in reality, I'm trying to choose between the watch with the milanese loop or the link bracelet.

I tried on the milanese first. It went on okay, would fit on the wrist with ease but, because the magnet doesn't feed through the clasp, was really hard to take off. That's not usually a big concern with a watch, particularly if they are water resistant as I'd put the watch on and then not take it of for quite a while. That's not an option for a watch that needs to be removed each night to charge.

So then I tried on the watch with the link bracelet. $400 more than the milanese if you want it in black (let's be honest, who wouldn't want it in black?). It just about went on over my hand. Not with ease but at least it went on and came off with the same relative ease. However, it was tight on the wrist. Tom the sales guy showed me how easy it was to remove links. So it must be just as easy to add the extra links you guys will send out to those that need them, right? "I don't know, let me check" No-one in the store knew. I called 1-800-MY-APPLE and the guys there didn't know so I've now got to call Corporate.

Any even moderately competent watch company will send you up to three extra links for a steel watch and usually on their dime. Apple doesn't even know if they can sell you the links.

This is very sub-standard service and unfortunately what I've come to expect from Apple support recently. Even with such a simple question, they did not have an answer.

And I always love the ending tag from Apple's help line: "is there anything anything else I can do for you?". Especially poignant when they failed to answer the simple question I first called about.

I'll update with what I find out from Corporate.

Edit 8-25-15 Corporate was no help. Evidently there are no extra links to be had through official routes. Apple offers a kit for the silver link watch for $49 but that's not satisfying for those that wanted the black link watch. However, there was a happy ending to my story. My girlfriend acquired three extra links for me from her optician who had just bought the same watch.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Two of Three

Not computer related this time but a little story I wanted to share.

When I was a student, like most, I had to be a little more conscious of where I spent my money. This restriction doesn’t sit well with those of us who collect things, any things. It meant that from my student years, there were three things that I wish I’d bought but didn’t. And now that I have a little more disposable income, I have been trying to track them down. Yesterday, the second of the three items was delivered to my door.

Now these things that I seek aren’t items of great value. They have some collector interest and enough value that you will see them occasionally but not enough that I’m going to blow my son’s college fund on purchasing them. Not that some sellers aren’t asking for the entire college fund, just that most are more sensible.

I found the first of the three items, a boxed Grendel mask from the original Matt Wagner run at Comico, about fifteen years ago. I had seen one, but just one, years ago upstairs in the comic department at the Virgin Record Store on Oxford Street in London. I did not have the funds back then to pay the asking price that I think was £100. Just as communities were starting to evolve on the web, Dan Homer put together a forum for those interested in Matt Wagner’s work. An archive of that site still exists. I think it was Dan who mentioned that he had tracked down the original manufacturer of the masks and that he (the manufacturer) still had some. Following Dan’s lead, a few weeks later I had four of the masks in my possession; two to trade and two (one a signed, limited edition) for myself. And the final price? Free, after selling off the duplicates. The first of the trinity had been acquired.

The second item, the one I just received, was a CD single by the group Dire Straits. I’m still a huge Mark Knopfler fan and have a good collection of singles, albums, CDs and the like. But the one I didn’t have was a copy of the first CD single ever release, the Live in ’85 version of Brothersin Arms. Again, I had seen one in a record store in Harrogate, North Yorkshire some years back but didn’t buy it. This time, the reason was not the lack of funds but that I didn’t own a CD player at the time. I was and still am a huge fan of vinyl so didn’t make the switch back then. By the time I did buy a CD player, the single was long-since out-of-print. I found a copy of the CD single on e-bay a couple of weeks ago and had it shipped to my home in the US from Sweden. The final price this time? A little more than the original £20 at $80, but still not too unreasonable. The second of the trinity had been delivered.

And what’s left?

The final item I am looking for is the boxed set of fourspinners (toy cars for the uninitiated) from the movie Blade Runner. The set was released by ERTL. I had originally seen them in a store off Oxford Circus, again while I was a student in London. I passed this store for weeks and they just sat there, of course until the Saturday when they didn’t. I’ve never seen one since, other than online where I see them pop up every now and again on e-bay but for silly money. Anyone can throw money at a problem; I want to add these items to my collection for a reasonable cost. So the final “holy grail” to my collection still sits out there, elusive. But I’ll get it one day.
[Edit 4-5-2016: Finally bought one for $60]

Just like I will the bronze Grendel statue.

And the Amazing Fantasy #15 (the first appearance of Spider-man).

Collecting is an addiction and there’ll always be that one other thing out there to get.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Apple to Buy Beats for $3.2B

Apple, a well loved hardware company  (by their users, execrated by others), to buy Beats, another well loved (by their users, execrated by others) hardware company, for a lot of money.

And the pundits start.

Rather than add my uninformed opinion, I'm going to use this post as an excuse to promote an artist whose work I love, Len Peralta, who designed the logo to the left.

Disclaimer: The author of this post has no connection to Mr. Peralta other than being a fan. Buy his stuff, people!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Steve Wozniak - My Warm Up Act

I got to present at a conference this week immediately following Steve Wozniak's presentation.

Talk about a tough act to follow.

Steve was, as always, very engaging and thoroughly entertaining. Most of us in the audience sat there listening, thoroughly enthralled, until he pulled his gold iPhone 5s out of his pocket then all of the fanboys (hey, I'm in there too) started snapping pictures.

Thanks Steve for a great presentation and some wonderful stories.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My First Smart Phone

Anyone else have one of the Motorola Startac's with a ClipOn? I also had an external modem for this phone at one point too. Add the in car kit and in home booster and I probably paid more than I paid for a couple of iPhones to get this system back in ancient history (also known as a couple of decades ago).

What was your first smart phone? (and yes, I realize I'm using "smart" pretty loosely here).

Friday, September 20, 2013

LinkedIn Shares E-mails

LinkedIn is essentially the Facebook for business. It is a social network designed around business relationships.

But those with whom we do business and those with whom we want to interact further are not always the same. You might have a colleague with whom you're happy to discuss business matters on the site (or app) but don't want them to have your e-mail address. You know the guy. You might be the guy. Maybe I'm that guy?

Well, tough!

If you're connected through LinkedIn then they can get to your e-mail by exporting their contacts. The export function provides the user with a nice list of user names and e-mails in .csv format that can then be imported into any number of programs.

To get the .csv file:

  • Under NETWORK select CONTACTS
  • On the bottom right of the page is a link to EXPORT CONTACTS
  • This will take you to a new page where you can select format (.csv is the default and works for this application)  and then EXPORT (you may go through a CAPTCHA page and if so, verify).
  • A file will drop on your desktop that you can open with Excel (or equivalent) and read off the e-mails in plain text (you might have to give permissions in IE if you're stuck using IE).

Not cool!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Apple iOS7 Vs The Otterbox Defender

Many pundits complain about the amount of time Apple spends on the design and slimming of iPhones as users immediately put those slim, pretty phones in big, clunky cases. The big, clunky case of choice for many (myself included) is the Otterbox Defender. My son does not get a phone unless it fits in an Otterbox (phone, pad). I am a long time fan of the product and know that they've saved my electronics more than a few times.

Apple released iOS7 yesterday to the general public. A welcome update with many nuances we users are learning. The new OS includes three new significant swipe commands. They are:

  1. Swipe down to access Notifications
  2. Swipe up to access the Control Center (frequently used features), and
  3. Swipe from the middle and pull down to access Spotlight (yes, that's where they've hidden it).

However, after updating my Otterbox Defender clad iPhone 5 so that it runs the new iOS7 yesterday, I find, along with many other dissatisfied owners, that the the Control Center cannot be accessed. The large, hard plastic surround for the button limits access to the part of the screen required to activate the Control Center.

And Otterboxes response is less than useful. Users on the Macrumors Forum have reported that the official response from Kendra was "I am very sorry that you are having trouble accessing your iOS7 software. I recommend that you contact Apple and make them aware of the issue. I am very sorry for this inconvenience. Thank you for your time."

Not what I'd expect from a company selling a $60 case! And of course, the issue is not mentioned on their web site and they are still advertising that the Otterbox Defender works with the iPhone 5.

Edit 10-28-13: It seems that Apple listened and fixed the issue, now allowing swipes from the left side of the lower screen. Thanks to Anonymous (no, not that Anonymous, they have bigger fish to fry) for notifying me of the fix.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Free iOS VPN from TouchVPN

It's been a while. I haven't had much to say recently and rather than publish noise, I kept quiet. But I wanted to share this information so here goes....

You've seen that option in your settings and are wondering what exactly is a VPN and do you need one. A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. Typically this means that you will have the ability to access your network over the internet with some level of security. Great if you work at a multinational or university who doesn't want to share secrets.

But why do I need a VPN on my iPhone? I don't need to access secret data on my work computer on my phone. Is there anything there for me?

Well, yes. According the the TouchVPN web site, "Everyone Need VPN". To paraphrase their content, VPN has a number of benefits to the average mobile user.
  • Web Surfing Anonymously - users can browse the internet anonymously even when using public Wi-Fi hotspots or through your cell provider.
  • Enhanced Safety and Security - data is encrypted through the VPN. Well, as long as you trust the company providing the VPN service*.
  • Unblock Websites & Bypass Web Filters - VPN has servers in the UK and US and becomes an efficient way to unblock region-restricted sites that allow access from those countries (I'm looking at you BBC).
  • Hiding your IP address - VPN replaces your local ISP's IP address with the VPN public IP. All websites you visited will only know the VPN IP intead of your real IP address.
Possibly the most well known public VPN (I love that oxymoron) is Hotspot Shield but their service is not free. If you are too cheap to pay for their excellent service (hey, we can smell our own), try TouchVPN.

Their web site provides adequate details on how to connect through their UK-based or US-based VPN. The US-based VPN is pretty fast but the UK-based VPN is slow (so no BBC on my iPhone, still have to rely on Netshade on my Mac).

*Do I trust TouchVPN? I did a lot of searching to find an answer to this question before I decided to write this post. Their server is out of a small town just outside Wichita, Kansas. They are a relatively new company but all the buzz seems positive. Scamadvisor gives it a trustworthy rating (do I trust Scamadvisor?).

**In researching this post I ran across Blogger Jin's web site that lists 21 free alternatives. You might prefer the service from one of the alternative sites he lists.