Category Archives: WiFi

The 8000 mile tech. support call with Skype and Crossloop

It has always amazed me how complicated vendors make it to set up a WiFi network at home. Case in point. I am currently in Saudi Arabia. My sister lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She recently received a new laptop and wanted to connect to her WiFi router. When I was out there in 2008 I had set up their home network for them and written down all the important passwords such as the router administrator password and the network key. That was over a year ago and things get misplaced. Thanks to Skype I was able to talk to her about some of the things to do, but without those key passwords, there was skypeonly so far I could go. So I took the last step of resetting the router and proceeded to set up her home network for her. Usually this could have been a very long process if I had to describe this over the phone to someone who is not technical. Trying to explain to a non-techy how to enter http:// by itself can be confusing for some. But I was using Crossloop which allowed me to connect to her laptop and do all the work as if I was sitting right there. Now I know that the latest version of Skype allows you to share screens, but when you are rebooting routers, you loose the connection. So I was using Skype to call her land line. With Skype subscription service, I pay $3 a month for unlimited calling to North America.

crossloop

Crossloop is a very simple program to use. You go to Crossloop.com and register an account. The registration and use of the software is free. Then you download the application and start it up. You have 2 tabs depending on which end of the call you are on. If you are the one needing support, you click on the Share tab. You will be given and 12 digit number. The person doing the support clicks on the Access tab and enters your 12 digit number that you give them, and clicks on connect. After a few seconds the person getting the support is asked if they want to connect, they click on the connect button and say yes they want to allow the person giving the support access to view their screen. From then on it was like was sitting there on the computer in Vancouver (except for the +25 degree difference in temperatures). Crossloop is very secure as it generates a new code for each connection. So there is no need to worry about the support person dialing back in and downloading data. Once the session is ended, the code is no longer valid.

So thanks to technology, a happy ending to the story. My sister is happy and everything is working fine with her new laptop and home network. I wonder what the fee would be for a tech. support call from 8000 miles away?

CES 2009 Las Vegas

According to the Consumer Electronics Association, attendance at this year’s CES 2009 was down 10%. Feedback from people visiting the show and manning the booths was that it was down more than that. In previous years you could barely walk down the aisles. This year they were wide open. The following is a quick summary of the week.

Biggest Let Down: MacWorld. In previous years, ironically, the buzz at CES was MacWorld and new product announcements. With Steve Jobs a no show and barely any new announcements, it was almost a non-event.

Biggest Surprise: Palm Pre phone. Most people had written Palm off as a phone supplier since the introduction of the iPod. When Palm announced the Pre, their stock went up 35% in one day. Some comments in the blogosphere are that this could actually be competitor to the iPhone. We will have to wait and see.

Everyone has a Netbook. If you make hardware, you probably launched a Netbook at CES. The most talked about was probably the Sony Vaio P. But there were many others. There were new introductions from the market leader, ASUS and Dell, but even Viewsonic, a monitor maker, launched a Netbook.

Most over used phrase Normal People. This phrase refers to all the non-techies out there who have a tough time getting their photos on their TV, or configuring a home network, or connecting their media to all of the above. I must have heard this definition at almost every demo. It is a great focus because we all know how hard it is to do all the above, but they have been trying to get there for a long time.

Home Theatre. In previous years it was who had the biggest flat panel. Given the economic times, it seemed appropriate that this was not the focus of HDTV launches this year. It was more about the thinnest, or the technology such as LCD screens moving to 120 and 240 kHz. Also there was more focus on connecting HDTVs to the internet. The other development in this space is Sound Bars. These are replacing the 5 speaker surround sound Home Theatre In a Box (HTIB) with one bar that can be mounted below the TV. It still gives you surround sound, but without the hassle of running cables around the room.

Connected Media. All the network vendors launched storage and media streaming devices for normal people. Cisco (Linksys), Netgear, Seagate and others all have some kind of devise for home network storage and media sharing. The device that caught my eye and follows the KISS principle was PogoPlug. You simply take a hard drive, put it in the enclosure, plug it into an outlet then plug it into your router. It configures itself and makes the hard drive available to anyone on the network. With the price of hard drivers now below $100 for 1 terabyte of storage this is a great way to increase network storage.

Economy. Lastly, everyone was talking about the economy. Forecasts were showing declines in the single digits for 2009. This doesn’t really fit with the fact that Circuit City will be liquidating 500+ stores and Best Buy had a 70% decline in earnings for the last quarter.

Folder Share

I recently upgraded my network at home to 1GB. I wanted to find a software that would backup my files incrementally. Meaning, as a file was changed, its backup would also be changed. I was able to find FolderShare. This is now a free service from Microsoft Live.

You simply download the software onto the 2 computers you want to synchronize. Point to the folder(s) you want to be in sync. and the software does the rest. As you change files on one computer, it is backed up on the other.

Finding new music with Pandora, LastFM

Are you getting tired of listening to the same old artists and the same old tracks on your iPod? There are 3 web services out there that can help you expand your music listening experience.

First is Pandora. This service asks you to enter some of your favorite artists and songs. It then uses a very sophisticated algorithm to mathematically quantify the music from those artists. Pandora will then play those artists as well as other artists and songs with a similar scoring.

You can play this through your computer, or if you have been reading my blog, via WiFi with the Sondigo Sirocco. Also, thanks to a partnership, Pandora also works with a WiFi player called Slim Devices (which was recently bought by Logitech).

The other service is lastFM. Similar to Pandora, it allows you to select your favorite artists and songs. It then uses the social community of its members to offer up other artists that were chosen by others as favorites along with your favorite artists.This service can also be played from your computer or wirelessly using the above devices.

The 3rd service is Yahoo’s Launchcast radio. You can select your favorites in several ways using this service. You can add a list of your favorite artists, albums, songs or genres. Or, you can simply select one of the previous options and start playing. As each song plays you have an option of rating the song, the artist or the album using 1-5 start or 0 for don’t play this again.To start, you may want to spend some time with this and quickly skip through the songs and rate them. Launchcast then uses these ratings to play other songs from artist or genre you have rated highly. Over time as your rate more and more songs, the “station” becomes more and more personalized.

So now you have 3 options to expand your musical tastes.

Playing music via WiFi

I recently had an opportunity to test a new WiFi music bridge that allows you to play DRM music from either Apple iTunes or Windows Media Player. The product is called the Sirocco from Sondigo.

Feature List

You don’t need any hardware on your computer. Other than your existing wireless router. The system allows you to play DRM protected music on your stereo system by making your stereo an extension of your computer. Just as if you were plugging speakers into your computer.

And best of all… it lists for $139.99 US.

Ubiquitous Wireless

I recently attended the Mesh 2006 conference. There were a lot of great discussions. The one that interested me was a discussion on wireless and satellite radio. I sat behind Andrew Coyne from the National Post. He coined the phrase Ubiquitious Wireless.

 ubiq·ui·tous : existing or being everywhere at the same time : constantly encountered :

This means, wireless everywhere. This is not some future science fiction, but reality in the next 5 to 10 years. It is already happening in San Francisco and Phillidelphia. This means, wireless everywhere. This is not some future science fiction, but reality in the next 5 to 10 years. It is already happening in San Francisco and Phillidelphia.Now imagine for a minute, if all handheld and portable devices had WiFi capability. From your MP3 player, to your cell phone to your car stereo. Now that you have the hardware, you need the content. Robert Scoble posted an entry in his blog about the sort of filter he would like to see for retrieving content. It could retrieve random information and post it to his iPod. Then as he listens to the information it would track what you liked and remember to download like content the next time. There are music services that do this today. The Pandora project uses math to analyze songs and groups them together. You choose some artists or songs. It presents those and others that fit the same style. Last.FM uses community preferences. If a lot of people who picked your artist or song, also picked these other songs, then it puts those into your playlist. Now take all the above and add it into a car stereo with WiFi. The software or your choice collects the music content for you above and either plays it, or stores it on your car stereo. Cheap flash memory is available today in 8GB sizes. So how does satellite radio compete with this. Or maybe the question is…Can satellite radio compete with this.

Use Skype without a PC

I am a big fan of Skype. Who wouldn’t be, free phone calls anywhere in the world. Check out my Skype-me icon on top right. Netgear has introduced a new phone that is Skype compatible and you don’t need a PC to use it. This is the first time I have seen this. There are a lot of Skype compatible phones, but they all plug into PC’s in order to work. This phone can be use anywhere there is WiFi access; like Starbucks or Second Cup for example. You can receive or make phone calls to anyone on your contact list for free. The phone is coming soon, and you can Pre-order Phone Here