900+ Megabits Per Second

Old Old “Modem”—Really Just a Transformer

This photo neatly encapsulates the evolution of telecommunications in our old house. The Old-Old “Modem” (Really Just a Transformer) was the original telephone signal device. Located on one of the rafters in the basement this photo contains archeological elements from all of the different sedimentary layers of telecommunication that were ever used here. The transformer converted the telephone’s signal that came from the pole over twisted pair. You can see that this twisted pair line is effectively knob-and-tube wiring, which like dates it back to who knows when? Can anyone say Alexander Graham Bell? Above this transformer in what we call the Central Hallway is a wall nook that we’ve always called the devotional area, but on this little shelf is where I believe the house’s first candlestick style telephone sat. Our house was built in 1937 and the nook looks original. The red inspection sticker is dated 1980, which is when the previous owner bought the house. I suspect that she had the red-yellow-green wires run to what is now the computer room. We used this connection when we bought the house and for some time afterwards.

We eventually bought a computer and endured dialup with its painfully slow data rates. We upgrade it to DSL, still using the old connection, albeit with the addition of special filters (not shown) that allowed the DSL to handle both voice and data service on the same line. Eventually, the DSL was upgraded to the faster U-verse, which is the white cable running across the top of the photo. Today, the black fiber cable, running along the bottom of the picture was installed. All of the obsolete communication means are still down there and will likely remain so, for some future home owner to puzzle over. Much like the basement also holds relics of all of the old methods of home heating. There is the old coal chute door, which was the original home heating method. This cast iron chute door has a hole cut through it, where the heating oil spout still sticks through it and the old oil tank is still in the basement too. We run on gas now, but all of these artifacts from the past still inhabit the basement.

Fiber900 mbps22.5 × Speedup
U-verse40 mbps6.67 × Speedup
DSL~6 mbps107 × Speedup
Dialup0.056 mbps
Internet Speeds (Megabits Per Second)

Micro Mobility

New Longboards

Dan sent us this photo of Britt and him with their new longboards. Dan bought them in honor of Britt’s birthday this week. Human powered they circumvent NYC’s prohibitive rules on e-transport (e-bikes, e-scooters, e-monowheels, e-skateboards) and provide a solution to the last mile problem, making these two super pedestrians. Safety is an issue. They have helmets, but they are currently packed for their move. Most accidents occur while first starting out. For this first outing they practiced on a quiet neighborhood street. I want to tell them watch-a-watch-a-watch-a. I hope that they survive.

Time Fork

Time Fork Screenshot of The Way

Yesterday, in addition to moving mattresses we also shelled out some dough and bought two new iPhones. I got the 12 Pro and Anne got the 12 mini. Our venerable previous iPhones (a 6 and 5S respectively) were too old to reap any of the rebates that were being offered, so we had to pay full freight. They had the Pro in stock, so I picked mine up at the store, but they were out of the mini. No problem though, because later that day an AT&T rep came by the house to drop off Anne’s new mini and set it up for her too. She even found and removed enough excess charges in our phone plan, the savings from which should pay for our new phones. Win-Win. We had backed up our old phones and I used my backup to restore my new one, but the rep showed Anne how to directly clone her new phone from the old one. Even with my backup, I still ended up spending hours logging back into all the many myriad of accounts that I have. I think that I prefer the older phone’s fingerprint reading scheme over the newer phone’s facial recognition one. I have a lot yet to learn about the iPhone.

We went to Laumeier Sculpture Park today and I downloaded the virtual reality app Time Fork. Created by media artist Van McElwee, this app wouldn’t run on the old phones. I wouldn’t say that I bought the new phones just to use this app, but it did contribute to the decision. Time Fork, organized as a walking tour of the Park viewed through the lens of technology, entertains a playful fiction: roughly a thousand years ago, time branched to create a parallel world. In McElwee’s installation he will use Augmented Reality to reveal features of a settlement that exists in that parallel or even future world, overlapping what we know as Laumeier Sculpture Park. Now that I’ve tried, I’ll delete the app now.

Hitting a Snag

Hitting a Snag

We’ve been on a bit of a spending spree as of late. You might think that it was stimulus checks derived, but you’d be wrong. It has more to do with the fact that for about a year we haven’t been spending much money and things that we need to get have piled up on us. What money that we have spent has been on groceries and with Amazon, but only for incidentals that the grocery delivery services couldn’t handle. We’ve been leading a pretty monastic life while in quarantine.

Earlier this month, after we got our vaccines, we bought a new desktop PC, because our old one was becoming too addled to work with any longer. Not soon after, our HP inkjet printer began acting up, throwing out the error message, “missing or failed printhead”. At first it was only intermittent and could easily be solve by cycling power on the machine, but all too soon it became a permanent feature. I went on YouTube U to diagnosis the problem and the video offered a number of potential fixes. I downloaded a new driver and firmware, thinking that the new computer was having trouble communicating with our venerable printer. Na-da. Nope. Not the problem. I popped and reseated the four ink cartridges and then popped and reseated the printhead, not once, but three times, as instructed. Still no joy. Exhausting all corrective options, I exercised the video’s final suggestion. I ordered a new printer and not an inkjet, but a color laser printer. I remember my first use of a color printer years ago at work. It was phenomenal, but that printer was also phenomenally expensive, about $10K. Nowadays they are a lot cheaper.

We’ve also ordered and received a new bed. It will replace our current bedding which we plan on moving upstairs for guests. No more air mattress here folks. The new mattress and frame are both very heavy. The delivery guy left it on the front porch and we were barely able to wrestle into the house. The frame was not quite as heavy and between the two of us we got it into the bedroom, where it still sits all boxed up, because first we have to get our current bed and frame out of the bedroom and upstairs. That should be fun. Before we can do that though, Anne has to deflate the air mattress upstairs. Why Anne? Because currently her quilting project is all over it and she wants to finish that project before any of this other stuff can occur. It’s a process, folks, it’s a process.

Finally, Anne is seen “modeling” her new tights that just arrived from Scotland. They are called Snags and while she has been doing phenomenally well while on Weight Watchers, it is my hope that this photo does not convey her ultimate weight goal. She says that they stretch.

Grave Situation

Grave Situation

I have been wrestling with technology, slowly, but surely beating it into submission. Afterall one shouldn’t be ruled by machines. Yesterday, our new desktop PC arrived early. I unpacked it and began setting up. I hit a snag when I realized that our old monitor’s VGA cable was not supported by the new machine. A trip to the Micro Center was in order. Even in non-pandemic times this store is dangerous. Not so much to your health as to your wallet. Tomorrow is when my vaccine is supposed to achieve immunity, but I decided to chance it and jump the gun by a couple of days. The store was crowded and reeked of geek. Everyone was wearing masks, but between the crowd and the store’s narrow aisles, six feet was asking too much. Vaccine don’t fail me now. I found the connector aisle and a helpful clerk was ready and waiting to help. He called for backup and between the two of them I was soon on my way to checkout, with my new VGA to HDMI converter in hand.

Returning home, I plugged it in, booted the new machine and was good to go. I spent much of the rest of the day configuring the new machine to operate like the old one did. A lot of this task involved restoring bookmarks to all of my favorite websites. Anne and I share our two computers and in order to stay out of each other’s business I use the Microsoft Edge browser and she uses Google Chrome. So, imagine my chagrin today, after spending hours yesterday restoring my old links, when with a push of a button Anne restores all of her old favorites at once. That’s technology for you.

My other complaint about technology involves this website. For months now WordPress has been modernizing the behind-the-scenes workings of this blog. You never see any of this stuff, but I do. Systematically, they have been removing functionality that I like and replacing it with a newer, but dumbed down version. Their latest blow has been the removal of the dashboard. This was a webpage that afforded me control over all aspects of this blog. I will mourn its demise. VGA cabling, WordPress dashboards, what’s next to die?

Xylia—314—PC—Victory!

Winter Storm Xylia Sunset

While much of the Midwest is getting pummeled by winter storm Xylia, here in Saint Louis it is only a rain event. There is some flooding in the area, but thankfully none of it is occurring in our basement, at least so far. Last night, I used the drone to capture this storm generated sunset. At a hundred feet up, looking west is a nice view of the Clayton skyline, silhouetted by the angry sky.

Today, while everyone else is celebrating Pi day, here in the 314-area code, we have Saint Louis day to celebrate too. Here in the Lou, we’re not cool enough to have someone like Eminem singing the praise of our area code, but local stores are offering special deals in honor of this numerical holiday. Mainly all sorts of good things to eat, but unfortunately for me, tomorrow is weigh-in day.

We haven’t received our stimulus checks yet, but I’m already spending mine. I’m out there already, stimulating the economy. Our venerable desktop PC’s long running case of dementia had reached the tipping point. As I write Anne is rebooting it, because the Photo app stopped working. Its flaws are too numerous to count, but lately, like after this last week’s Windows update they seem to have multiplied. So, I ordered a new machine, which is due for delivery later this week. After ordering the new machine, I backed up the old one in preparation for the switch over. The price point for PCs has really dropped.

So, we have enough stimulus funds leftover to upgrade our iPhones too. Our phones are both so old that some apps have stopped working on them and new apps won’t even load. When we were at Laumeier sculpture park this last week, there was a new exhibit called Time Fork. As near as I can tell it is an augmented reality app that interfaces with the more bricks and mortar parts of the park. I’m only guessing though, because my phone is too old to support the app, but that will change soon and then we’ll be all up to date. Yeah…

Every dog has his day and mine was yesterday. The below pictured score is typical of one of our games, except for this one the names have been switched. I finally won a game. Overall exceptional letter draws and a seven-letter tray emptying play made the difference. I can see why Anne likes this game so much.

Scrabble