WiFi versus WiMax – what’s in the numbers?

While browsing through Sunday’s newspaper ads, I saw a vendor advertising “Wireless N” with some magical, rounded integer percentages of improvement over “Wireless B.” I’ve also been reading stuff about “WiMax” and “Wi-Fi.” Since it takes an EE to spell geek, and I happen to be one, I thought I’d find out what all the numbers and letters mean. Moderate amounts of EE ahead.

Computing was supposed to make life easier

Sometime Tuesday, my laptop crashed. I don’t know exactly what happened, except when I woke up, the machine had powered itself off and would not get past its POST. I power-cycled the machine several times, expecting different results. No, I’m not crazy; computing is just that nondeterministic.

I undocked the laptop and tried again. This time, it had made it past the BIOS select screen. (See!) Anticipating the usual 5 minute boot cycle, I went to get breakfast.

Something horribly wrong happened when Windows 2000 tried to bootstrap itself: “a missing file.” The error message wasn’t going elaborate, but it did suggest booting from the system disk and using the “recover” option. Yurp. I took my computer to work where I could tend to it and still be productive on my other machine.

The “recovery” option is a waste of time if the operating system is horked because it depends on a floppy disk-based system backup. You know, those little square things that hold “up to 1.44Mb?” Yeah, I’m sure I have one somewhere among my pile of cassette tapes, 1/4″ cartridges and 9-track reel tape. I had to reinstall the OS.

Plastic Surgery

My Dell Latitude is nearly four years old, which is about 85 in Laptop-years. Sure, the glide pad has an unnatural sheen in the middle, buffeted by hundreds of hours of hackery; the bumps on the “F” and “J” keys wore off a long time ago; and the cooling fan groans whenever I do serious photoshopping. More recently, the bays were loose, letting the second hard disk rattle and, occasionally jettisoning the battery, whose four hour charging cycle produces fifteen minutes of computing.

Link Refererer spamming

Referer link spamming is when someone from Site A fakes out web servers on Site B into thinking someone was referred from Site A. The hope is that Site B is running one of those dynamic visitors lists and, by doing so, Site A appears on Site B’s list when Google’s indexing spider visits. Google “sees” another occurrence of Site A and ranks them as more important than other, comparable sites. The industry name for this practice is “search engine optimization.”

I’ve seen an uptick in the number of link spammers “visiting” my site. Initially, these were one-offs like the P.Hilton video hawkers who had set up on blogspot.com. Last month, there was a spike from a Hallowe’en costume vendor who did the same. I’ve also been seeing direct hits from , makers of software to automate link spamming.

All hail the DVR and syndication

I’m nearing the one year anniversary of DVR ownership. If you don’t have a ReplayTV or TiVo, and you watch TV, you’re missing out on a very cool device. Think of it as a VCR with a 40+ hour capacity, but with no tapes to rewind and it’s programmed by selecting the show you want to watch, not the time, day, or channel it’s on. It’s behavior-changing because you’re now watching TV at your convenience.

Last night I finished watching the entire Deep Space Nine series. I’d have to agree with Director Mitch that DS9 was a much better show than I thought, especially now that I’ve been able to watch it in sequence and follow the very long story arcs.

The show’s debut was in 1993. I loved the the first few episodes because the show had an edge that wasn’t present in TNG (hitting its peak about that time). Moving, work, and other commitments got in the way, and I stopped watching it regularly after the first season. By the third season, hitting every fourth episode, I was thoroughly confused on the story arcs. Where did the Jem Hadar come from? What is ‘White’? When did Worf come on? Aren’t the Klingons allies? Wasn’t that Vorta guy Weyoun killed? Aren’t the Romulans enemies? And so on… I gave up on it quickly.

Liquid bandages

This may seem far-fetched, but I got a paper cut from picking up a cardboard box. The box slipped, and when I grabbed it, my finger brushed against the edge, leaving a large gash in my finger. Okay, maybe not “large,” but it hurt a lot and the cut was big enough that it needed to be covered. However, it was right on the joint such that a conventional bandage would overly restrict movement.

We have been keeping liquid bandages around because my oldest is allergic to the adhesive used on normal bandages. I decided to try one on myself.

The package consists of an applicator and a liquid activation solution. The applicators look like a plasticized cotton swab. When you dribble on four drops of the activator, the applicator becomes viscous. It’s great for paper cuts because you can apply some to the surface of the cut, pinch the skin together and in a minute, the wound will be glued shut.