Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I am, once again, a Rebel

After double-checking something someone told me, it does not appear that Clear.com internet services is owned by ClearChannel. That makes me a bada*s, internet swashbuckler thumbing my nose at the big boys once again.

(Trying to ignore the little guy's massive ad campaign in the process)

Ha!

In the age of teh Internet tubes, I should know better than to blog verbal hearsay. Bad, bad Snabby.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

April Blooms

I resurrected my best digital camera on the hope that it was battery problem rather than a camera problem and got lucky. So now I have a decent camera for the first time in almost 2 years.

Here are the results of the first couple forays into our yard and in Washington Park above Portland, Oregon.

These pictures are from our own yard:



These are the leaves of our water-catching lupine. No flowers yet on this one.



Several years ago, I planted a wild bleeding heart that I bought at some native plant sale for a non-profit organization. It has slowly spread and is doing quite well.



This is an ornamental flower (I believe it is in the mint family) that Ladybug is growing in a hanging planter.

Washington Park stuff is still to come...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Viva La Compagnie

I added a link to a new blog over on the right called Techxpose (or Tech Xpose or something of the sort). The proprietor and I had a nice Meebo-chat on virtual machines based on my earlier post about virus-proofing. It is new, so go visit and find out the latest tech buzz!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My 2009 Stumptown Comics

The 2009 Portland Stumptown Comics Festival took place last weekend. I like it because it is quirky and 100% Portland. I grabbed my two grand nephews, gave them some money, and turned them loose. I only purchased two comics this year:



Historyonics



I still Live - Biography of a spiritualist

Ladybug is an avid historical reader, so I thought these might pique her interest and so they did. I purchased a couple comical comic prints for the MiniSnab as well.

The kids bought their own items. One went for a couple indy artists and bought $7 worth of Super Mario yellow star candies. The other focused more on mainstream comics purchased at the Cosmic Monkey table.

The weather was beautiful and the guys had a great time. Hopefully the economics next year allow for more conspicuous consumption of homegrown art.

Friday, April 17, 2009

On the Bleeding Edge: WiMax

Given that we had NetFlix and a Digital TV ready setup, Comcast TV and internet service was getting a bit redundant. It was time to cut costs.

We made the decision to try the new kid in town: Clearwire. Instead of cable, phone, or fiber optic lines, we had the opportunity to be one of two cities in America to sample something called WiMAX, or 4G, wireless internet. Being wacky carefree, schizophrenic Luddites cum Technojunkies, you can guess what phase our vampiric technical mood swing wrought.

In a nod to one of the last local dial-up providers, we chose PCEZ.com to be our Clear.com dealers. For those in our geographic area, I recommend giving these good folks a nod. They provide a good service to many who can't afford broadband and deserve a financial "bump" for their cheerful service. They got all of our information entered and a few days later we received a WiMAX modem.

An aside: Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Translated into English, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." WiMAX may seem like a big new idea, but the seeds were sown a long time ago and I was a part of it.

Back in 1998, there was already a microwave internet service in town called WantWeb. They no longer exist, but an extremely talented person I know wrote about them in Computer Bits magazine right here. For the time, their 750k download speed was phenomenal. Unfortunately, the FCC wouldn't allow microwave uploads, so 14.4k through the phone was as fast as you could upload. That pretty much killed them I think.


Hooking it up was quite easy, but there was one problem. By coincidence, the network I hooked into used the same numbering scheme as my own network (192.168.15.x). With a little router fiddling, I fixed it and we were freed from being next to the nearest cable/telephone jack in the house. I could set up communications anywhere I wanted to (so I did).

The speed was excellent right at first. I attributed that to being one of the first people to sign up. Our plan calls for 6M download and 512k upload speeds. Not as fast as our cable company, but I figured it should be fast enough. We hooked up our Vonage phone and our computers for home and work and off we went.

The speed is mostly consistent, but we do get weird slowdowns when watching Hulu or YouTube that we didn't get when we first signed up. Sometimes the person talking to me on the phone will break up even if they are on a landline. We generally can have only one computer watching video at a time which is unfortunate since we were able to do that with Comcast, but it may be more of a sign that we need to get a life than blaming it on Clear. I think signal variations and the same things that affect TV and radio likely affect this connection.

Our monthly price is $55 that breaks into $30 for the service, $10 because I wouldn't sign a 2 year contract, $5 for the Clear modem rental, and $10 for a static IP address for my business work. Not awesome, but not bad. If you get their USB stick, you can take your laptop all over the city and not worry about Internet access. We went with the home plan. Now that the office has moved home, my employer is defraying the cost.

If you get static IP, know these things: If you use a router, you will need the help of Clear tech support to put your router in their DMZ on the WiMAX modem. This allows your port forwarding to work. You will need your router's MAC address handy as well. You should also know that they block port 80, so you can't run a standard web server on a standard port. They don't advertise this anywhere. Their reasoning is idiotic and I think the tech basically made it up. If they were worried about bandwidth violators, they chose the wrong port.

Overall, I think it is a decent deal for those who want freedom of movement, don't mind a small speed hit (though still faster than many DSL plans), and don't want to host a web page. There was an anti-big company factor involved in it for me to. I loves me those independent companies. However, it was all ruined when I found out that Clearwire is owned by ClearChannel. You know, the nice folks that own a bunch of radio stations, censor playlists, and organized the Dixie Chicks CD burnings when they mentioned the obvious about Bush before it became common knowledge...yeah, them. Out of the frying pan and into the fire I guess. We will probably keep it for now and dump them if the sunspots flare up and mess up our signal (the next couple of years will likely show a cyclical increase).

Thursday, April 02, 2009

When Disappointment Isn't

Spring vacation was a little different this year. It had to be. Times are tougher for everyone. While I am fortunate to still be employed for now, some good and very capable friends are not. There would be no trips to California or beyond this spring. In fact, due to some interesting circumstances, Ladybug and MiniSnab vacationed for the first part of the week, while I did for the last part thanks to the generosity of Papa-in-law-Snab.

Our travels this year brought us to the southwestern corner of Washington State, about 2 hours driving time from Portland, OR. Ladybug and MiniSnab spent a few rain-soaked days in Long Beach, WA seeing the sites and visiting museums sans camera. I brought mine and enjoyed a dry day and a couple drizzly wet days.

We drove to Leadbetter Point State Park at the northern tip of the Long Beach peninsula. The actual tip is a protected area for the snowy plover, so we hiked down to the Willapa Bay side of the park and looked west over the bay where we found this barnacle-encrusted log.



You Make the Call. Low tide or high tide?



On Friday, we went into over the bridge into Astoria, Oregon for a bit of window shopping, then back to the northern shore of the Columbia river and its confluence with the Pacific at Cape Disappointment. This rocky headland is home to a profusion of cormorants.



If you zoom into this picture, you can see the aftermath of a large wave crashing into the cape. A temporary waterfall.



This is the Cape Disappointment lighthouse in the foreground. Emerging into a background is a large cargo ship emerging from the treacherous Columbia Bar and out into the Pacific.



A cormorant flies through the ocean spray from the surf.



I am a big boy, but not even close to this Sitka Spruce.



This was as close as we came to a sunset. It was still beautiful even in its grayness.