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November 12, 2009

Not the router you're looking for

I have a small stack of retired technology next to my desk, waiting for me to develop the momentum to list it all on eBay. One of the boxes is a Belkin broadband router, not a wireless one, just a standard four-port ethernet router of the variety everyone had in the days before pervasive wireless.

I only just noticed that the design on the box includes a small photo of a similarly-shaped Belkin wireless router, with the heading, “Consider Wireless” and caption, “Extend your network to different floors and rooms—without cables.”

The thing I find remarkable about this is that to someone picking this box up in a store, the message is, “No, not this one, try that other router.” I’m sure the price for the wireless router was higher (and possibly the margin for Belkin as well) but the idea of putting text on product packaging which actively encourages potential customers to buy something different feels backward to me.

Posted by pjm at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2009


I used to scoff whenever I read someone referring to “retail therapy” after some semi-traumatic incident.

However, after today’s frustrating GPS experience (which essentially burned most of the daylight hours available for caching), the next item on my list was picking up a book I had ordered at Market Block Books. (For the record, that book would be William Kennedy’s O Albany!.) And I have to admit I left with what might be more accurately described as a stack of books.

I even forgot to use the Booksense gift card I have.

Posted by pjm at 6:38 PM | Comments (0)

Magellan GPS not recommended

For years, I did my geocaching with a Magellan Meridian Gold. Its PC interface was a laughably obsolete serial cable, but I could write waypoints to an SD card which the GPS would then read. Eventually, it died an ugly death involving leaking batteries and corrosion, and I went to replace it. I picked up a Magellan Triton 400 from L.L. Bean, figuring that was the natural progression and that a newer model would be better. Hey, the Triton actually had a USB cable!

Turns out that development goes backwards at Magellan. My Mac would not recognize or talk to the Triton, but that’s more of a disappointment than a surprise; MacCaching, a cache manager for Macs, explicitly specifies that it doesn’t work with the Triton series (and so do a surprising number of 1-star reviews on Amazon). What’s more, it turns out the Triton won’t use the SD card for waypoints, only for “media”—photos and sound clips. (This model of Triton doesn’t even have a camera, making this limitation even more laughable.)

I figured I’d try my usual “doesn’t work with Macs” back door, a Parallels VM running Windows XP. Except that Magellan’s software then refused to connect with the GPS, even though Parallels was quite definite about taking charge of the USB device. The Triton just wouldn’t make a connection.

I had hoped today, with a day off and nice weather, that I could spend some time outside hunting tupperware in my new area. Instead I spent two hours plus fighting with the GPS just to load waypoints. I could’ve keyed them into the GPS in that time. Finally I gave up and put everything back in the package and drove it to the L.L. Bean retail store in Albany.

Point one for L.L.’s Albany outlet: they took back the Triton (which was in a box with one of their price tags, but which I bought maybe two or three summers ago despite my lack of time for caching) and gave me a store gift card for the full value on the price tag. (No credit for the Maine sales tax, but I suppose the state has long since spent it anyway.)

Point two: an enthusiastic young bike mechanic not only went through the specs on a stack of Garmins, but pulled a pair out from the back room and let me test loading waypoints on them. I had brought my MacBook with me, because I wasn’t paying a cent for a receiver until I had seen every step of the “load waypoints to GPS” use case working. We spread cables and receivers and laptop out on a counter in the bike shop as I first slurped the default waypoints off the Garmin, then loaded a dozen or so Watervliet and Troy waypoints.

So I walked out with an eTrex Venture HC, which actually cost (tax and all) about $15 less than the Magellan. It’s pretty basic, but it works so far and we’ll see how it plays in the long run.

But I will underline this point yet again: If you’re a Mac user, Magellan doesn’t care about you. Don’t waste your time.

Posted by pjm at 6:04 PM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2009

No wonder he's so active

The reasons have never been clear to me, but it’s not uncommon to have to herd Iz away from an open fridge door, and if we hold it open for a minute when removing multiple items he will often climb in. There’s nothing in reach that he would consider food, or at least that’s what I thought, so we just pull him out again when it’s time to close the door.

This morning I discovered punctures in the resealable bag of coffee grounds which were about the size and shape of feline teeth, so maybe he’s just been looking for a fix?

Posted by pjm at 9:00 AM | Comments (0)

Turn in to the skid

Somewhere there is an old Bill Cosby routine—I think it involves driving while very sleepy—in which he highlights the counter-intuitive nature of recovering from a skid while driving. (Steer in the direction you’re sliding: yeah, that seems like a bad idea, but it’s not.)

So after running the Stockade-athon on Sunday, I’ve decided that it’s time to back off mileage and spend the winter concentrating on strength and general fitness, in the name of avoiding injury interruption in 2010. To this end, A suggested I come over and do the conditioning workout with her team yesterday morning.

Today feels like the day after the first day of swim practice, and among the list of activities which are items like “lifting my arms to the keyboard.” And yet every twinge is reminding me that I need to keep doing this—to turn in the direction of the skid.

Posted by pjm at 7:25 AM | Comments (0)