Wheeee!

Well. It’s been a bit of an adventure. Wednesday, we got a new roof on the house. Siding will be done soon.

Well, the roofers (a crack team of Ukranians subcontracted by our G.C.) did a mighty fine job, but the lone mishap was a silly one: they had to move the phone lines slightly to access part of the roof and put new shingles down. This they did, and not 30 seconds later, a garbage truck driving by ripped the lines from the pole and the “Network Interface” box from the wall of the house. As our ‘net service is via DSL, this meant no phone and no net…

AT&T contacted — this is Wednesday, early afternoon. Repair scheduled for Friday morning, 8 am. As of 9:20, they hadn’t shown. Phone at house did not ring through to answering machine until about 3:50 PM. Yet the sheet the tech left says he a) attempted to contact us (probably by dialing the dead landline) before arriving and b) arrived when scheduled.

Anyway, as of last night, it is all working again.

Otherwise, life is busy but well. More later. Tired tonight. Need sleep. Lots.

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A nifty tool, and some observations on network access

If you go to http://www.flightstats.com, you can create an account (free!), and, if you’re traveling by air as we were recently, you can set up a monitor on your flights that can e-mail you or even text-message your cell phone with information about your flight — on-time status, delays, etc.

As we were flying Northwest near the end of the month for the down-leg, and NWA has had a number of rather silly labor problems causing numerous cancellations toward the end of the month as pilots refused to work more than 90 hours in the month, knowing whether or not we would have a flight on the 29th was pretty important.

Oh, and a couple of other observations: If you’re dropping $100/night on a hotel room at the Detroit Metro Airport Westin, you’d think you wouldn’t have to pay for the internet service… and you’d be wrong. $9.95 for a day’s block of usage that ends if you check out of your room. The big Northwest terminal at DTW has a great wireless network, too — if you want to pay $8.95 for a single use (you can buy a subscription, which makes sense if you’re there regularly, I guess). On the other hand, Southwest Florida International Airport (which serves the Ft. Myers/Naples area) has free wireless in the terminal and concourses, although the signal strength was spotty when we were sitting at the Quizno’s having a sandwich before going through security. It was full-strength at the gate at the end of C Concourse, though.

The house we rented for the week had a nice cable modem right there, but I wasn’t about to establish a Comcast account and load a bunch of Comcast crap software on the laptop just for the week. We wound up retreating to a Starbucks nearby and paying $9.99 for a “day pass” with T-Mobile. I suppose if this is going to become a habit, I’ll have to buy a subscription, but I’m hoping it doesn’t.

Hampton Inns, which is one of our regular weapons of choice when traveling, has free access from the room and wireless in the lobby, but you have to have their code (which you receive at check-in). This has posed a problem for me with a work laptop, as it won’t connect to any outside web sites unless you first connect to the mothership’s VPN, but you can’t get past the hotel system to the VPN unless you enter the code first on a page you can’t get to unless you first log onto the VPN… Catch-22.

Oh, and people who use hotel business center PCs for anything other than checking the weather? Stupid. Anything with a password is susceptible to being grabbed by software installed by random people who view those business center PCs as fertile soil for identify theft.

And the “poor” day traders whose brokerage accounts were compromised when they accessed them from a hotel business center PC that had password-grabbers? REALLY stupid! C’mon, if you’re doing so well at day trading that you can travel at will for fun, spend $500 and buy yourself your very own laptop…

And remember, kids: “Security” and “Wireless Network” are mutually-exclusive terms. Yes, even if it’s a “secured” wireless network. All that means is you gotta know the magic number to log on. It doesn’t prevent someone with the right equipment from grabbing packets your system broadcasts in a complete sphere as much as 200 feet in diameter from your laptop. Likewise from whatever wireless router is in use. Making sense of those packets is tricky, sure, but there’s software that automates most of the scutwork, and a determined info thief will have that software. VPN software may encrypt the data between you and the VPN server, but most of us don’t have that set up for our personal systems.

If you have a home network, see if your wireless router will let you adjust its broadcast power. I have ours set so that it just barely covers our little house and the back deck. I’ve also set ours to not broadcast its name, either — so anyone trying to use it will have to know what the name is (and the name isn’t the factory-supplied name, either). Depending on what part of the house I’m in, I can pick up as many as 4 other wireless networks belonging to various neighbors, and only one of them is “secured” — the others are open and I could just as easily connect to them and use their connection instead of my own (I don’t, but I could, as could anyone else driving by).

And that’s about it for me tonight. 🙂

Sum-sum-summertime!

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Well, mostly, if you except my first year in LA, the 4 early years here in the Detroit area, and the 2 years exiled to the Chicago suburbs. But anyway, I’m used to summertime heat kinda like they’re seeing down there right now (just in time for the big PGA Championship golf tourney this week at Southern Hills Country Club, about which more in a sec), temps in the high 90s to mid 100s, with humidity to match producing heat index numbers (equivalent dry temp) in the 125-128 degree range.

But I’ve been in Michigan as an adult since 1990, and I think the lack of “real summers” up here has softened me. Well, that and the extra hundred ten pounds of mass I’ve added since I graduated high school. So last week’s trip to Florida with temps in the high 80s with frequent rain and lingering near-saturation humidity between rain, followed by no-rain days with temps in the mid 90s, had me suffering more than I’d care to admit. At least the house we rented had its own screened-in pool in the back, which was always excellent for a cool-off (and well-screened from the neighbors by ample plantings for privacy!), and the rental car had a remote starter function that I used without any guilt whatsoever — it started the car and ran the AC on full blast for a few minutes prior to our entry to the car, thus taking some of the edge off the fishbowl effect. Unlike a lot of the locals’ cars, the rental did not have dark tinted windows that cut down on a lot of the solar gain.

But that’s what you get when you go into a near-tropical zone in mid-summer. We had a great time in spite of the heat and the rain.

Back…

…from our trip to SW Florida. There will be a trip report. I will also eventually finish the big Cruise trip report from back in February.

You can quit laughing now.

In other news, the regional VP of the storage company called me Friday the 27th to confirm that they’re going to cut me a check for about half of my losses. While I haven’t actually seen said item yet, I take it as a reasonable outcome and it’ll make a sizable dent in the empty toolbox situation.

Other than that, I’m so far behind on f-list and everywhere else that I’m not even going to try to catch up.

And I’m worn out. Lots going on in the coming days and weeks, both at home and at work.