Archive for the ‘on-line community’ Category

No more hide and seek.

November 4, 2007

Most people have many phone numbers these days, whether it’s the office, home, cell, etc.  Companies for many years have been trying to figure out a better solution for reaching a person than calling a list of phone numbers.  A company called Grand Central seems to have a good option.

After reading about this company in the newspaper many months ago, I signed up immediately.  Almost anything that sounds remotely useful and free, I am interested.  This company assigns a new phone number that automatically rings all of your possible phone numbers at the same time.  Whichever one you answer takes the call.

There are many other features that I like.  While the caller hears a ringing sound, you are given a few choices.  You can answer the call, send the call to voice mail, or listen in on the call as the caller leaves a message.  You can even cut in to the call during a message.  Once the caller leaves a message, the message gets mailed to your email address.  All the settings can easily be modified at Grand Central’s web site.

The biggest snag is that this product is in beta.  Who knows what the company will charge when it releases.  I would hate to give everyone a single number and find that in a few months or weeks I decide to give it all up.  Also Google has bought this little startup.  I have no idea how that will effect Grand Central.

Wireless Weather Station

February 2, 2007

Many companies make weather station kits.  These can cost hundreds of dollars and take time to install the sensors.  I have owned a couple of these over the years with many problems.  At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) I learned about a new one from Oregon Scientific model  OSI WMS801.  Instead of requiring one to install sensors, it uses a service from Microsoft called MSN Direct.  Microsoft gets the weather information and broadcasts it over FM.

This weather station is one of the easiest products to use.  You just plug it in the wall and the unit automatically gets the weather information.  I know that MSN Direct does not work everywhere; so one would have to check the Internet to make sure it works in your area.  I used it in Manhattan, where it worked very quickly.  There are some confusing buttons on the outside, but once you figure out how to change the time zone, you are home free.

The MSN Direct booth at the CES demonstrated many products that use their service.  Most charge a monthly fee, but this one does not.  Once you buy the unit for $125 from Costco, there are no additional charges.  The representative from MSN also assured me the service would be around at least five years.

As mentioned earlier I have used many weather stations.  This one is probably the clearest.  The temperature and humidity are large and bold.  The forecasts for the next three days are in slightly smaller type with the barometric pressure trend, wind speed and direction.

For people who like to know more about the weather than just looking out the window, you cannot go wrong buying this product. 

Travel wireless router

December 7, 2006

Travel wireless routers are made for business people who want wireless access in a hotel room.  I recently had a guest who just plugged one into my home network to use a laptop computer wirelessly without touching my wireless settings.  I was very impressed how quick and simple the whole process took.  In my search for a travel wireless router, I found many options.  The cheapest was a Netgear WGR101 for $15 from Amazon.  At that price, it was worth a try.

Some of the Internet reviews were less than stellar.  People complained how hard it is to set up and configure with encryption.  My experience could not have been more different.  In about five to ten minutes, I plugged in the router to my computer and made all the necessary settings.  These included setting the SSID, encryption, and MAC addresses for my computers.  There is a slide switch that needs to be in the correct position during this process, but the instructions were clear enough. 

Since the original day when I configured the router, I have not had to make a single change.  All I do is plug the router into a wired connection and an electric outlet.  It is really that simple.

LibraryThing.com

November 3, 2006

LibraryThing is a social networking site for book collectors and bibliophiles. Once you open your free account (which requires divulging no personal data), you can catalog two hundred books for free. This process is so easy and fun that you could fill your free account in an afternoon. LibraryThing has a powerful search engine that is built on top of the Z39.50 protocol, which is an international search standard used by libraries and large retailers like Amazon. LibraryThing.com allows you to search from over sixty libraries, so no matter how obscure your title, you are likely to find it.

LibraryThing is more than just a book catalog. Once you find your title and optionally tag and rate it, LibraryThing will alert you to others in the system that own the same book. It will also recommend books to you based on matching your titles and tags with those of other users. Also, you can write your own review of any title, as well discuss books with other users, in complete anonymity.

For a lifetime membership and the ability to catalog an infinite number of books, LibraryThing charges individuals $25.00; a yearly membership costs $10.00.

brazen, balzy and bullish … tcsdaily.com

October 29, 2006

Yesterday I received an article frowarded from tcsdaily.com.  An online news journal I had never heard of before.

The article, was quite brazen.  It was a civil analysis of the vigilante killing sprees that have recently started in Iraq.  The author characterized them as akin to the South American death squads.

 He also asserted that most modern democracies had death squads or vigilante reprisals as part of their transition from fascism/absolutism/communism/autocracy to modern democracy.  In the author’s view, such dark movements are civil society’s only practical response to implacable violence-pledged fanatics.

While the argument is compelling and quite brave, in principle I find it quite frightening.  It strikes me that there is little difference between the vigilante death squads and the squads of the various dictators (think Hitler, Idi Amin, etc…).  Perhaps the only difference is the timing of the group’s activities and their potential composition.  Can evil accomplish good goals?

While an uncomfortable topic, it certainly is a brave one to address.  Worthy of attention.

After reading the arcticle, I was certainly motivated to see who would publish such an article, hence my discovery of tcsdaily.com.

It’s openly ideological – more to the free market than price controls, open societies rather than closed ones and a strong belief in the idea of progress.

Whether or not you agree with it, it is worth examining.

-gadgetology