Battling Cable Clutter with a USB Hub

I recently acquired a small desk in our spare room on which to write. I had been using the dining room table after I abandoned the office in my workshop – for a number of reasons. My primary tool is, of course, my computer. I use a laptop. To this I connect a mouse, a printer, and an external hard drive. These are permanent residents. I also have another external hard drive, several flash drives, and a camera that are connected as needed. All of these use USB cables to connect. My laptop has 3 USB ports.

Without a USB HubTwo of these are on the right hand side, about midway back, the third is on the left near the back corner where the power connector is.

Not only do I not have enough ports for everything, but the two on the right side seriously mess up the area I use to run my mouse. I tend to lay my arm across those two cables, pulling them down and causing the connection to flicker. I was afraid if that continued I might crack the mother board. There has to be a better way. Continue reading “Battling Cable Clutter with a USB Hub”

Keyboard Adventure

keyboard, laptopLast night I replaced the keyboard in Marie’s laptop.  I did that because she slopped coffee on the original and half the keys stopped working.  Nothing went up in smoke and she could still do things with the mouse, so I figured it had not leaked through the keyboard and onto the motherboard or into other touchy stuff inside.

I ordered a replacement a couple of days ago.  I noticed that some were half the price of this one, but were billed as “without frame”.

“What is a ‘frame’” I asked the screen.  It did not answer.  It never does, but I tend to ask it things anyway.
Continue reading “Keyboard Adventure”

Riding in the Internet Fast Lane

Please note: this article has been resurrected from many years ago.  Service and reliability of the companies discussed may have changed since them… but I doubt it.  This is offered as a humorous adventure story, not as a commentary or review of these firms.

high speed internet is a wild rideWe have been looking, longingly, at high speed internet deals for over a year now.  The trouble is that there really are few viable options available to us here on our mountain side.  DSL is not available and will not be available anytime in the foreseeable future, according to AT&T.  There is one local wireless internet company, but they say their towers are at capacity and are not accepting new clients.  That leaves satellite, cell phone or cable.

My research indicates that satellite service is not especially reliable (or affordable) in locations such as ours – trees block the signal, or more accurately, moisture in the leaves of trees block the signal as do clouds and fog.  We live in a forest.  The Great Smoky Mountains are famous for the fog and mists that rest on our mountain overnight.  Some are lazy and refuse to get up and fly way at the crack of dawn, so atmospheric water content is an issue especially for sending (uploading) which is most of what I do here.  That leaves cell phone or cable.

To be honest, I’m afraid of cell phone companies.  I know too many people who complain loud and long about their cell phone bills and the way they were duped into a two year (or more) contract for services that don’t work well.  Air time is expensive, and the internet is a major player in our household and business.  No, I don’t think a cellular account would suit us at all.  That leaves cable. Continue reading “Riding in the Internet Fast Lane”

E-Cigarettes Can Give PCs Cancer

E-Cigarette chargerMy twin brother by another mother, Mike, sent me the following update about e-cigarettes.

“Oh, I just read that the new e-cigarette can give a PC a virus.  They need to be charged up to make the vapor stuff, and they charge via USB.  And most are made in China, so the charger has a built-in virus.  Nice of them, no extra charge.  No pun intended.  Anyway, now smoking fake cigarettes can be harmful to your PC.”

Mike knows this stuff: he’s a certified network engineer and a security specialist.  He keeps up with all the current threats. I went looking for details.

A story on social news site Reddit says that at least one “vaper” has reported the downside of trusting their e-cigarette manufacturer. An executive discovered a malware infection on his office computer. The source could not be determined. After all traditional sources of infection were investigated the I.T. department started looking into other possibilities. Continue reading “E-Cigarettes Can Give PCs Cancer”

Simple Living and Technology

At first glance, the concepts of living a simple life and embracing modern technology would indeed seem to be strange bedfellows.  And our minimalist cousins are quick to point to the high cost of purchasing, maintaining and upgrading personal electronic gadgetry… and they are right to do so.  Especially when you consider the cost of required ancillary services like cell phone air time and ISP fees for computers.  However, for us not-quite-minimalists, there are some advantages to be had that can allow us to live more simply if we choose carefully and eliminate the unnecessary.



Cell Phones

Continue reading “Simple Living and Technology”

Absent Internet and Tepid Coffee

I spent the afternoon Thursday packaging up a set of tray tables I’d built to fill an order. It had taken me a long time to build the tables and my client had been very patient with me. It was time to request his payment and process a shipping label. I went to my computer.

No internetI went to PayPal to send my client: Phil, a request for payment. Unable to connect. I checked my network status: connected to LAN, no internet gateway. That usually means the modem has gone wonky and I need to reboot it. I was on my way over to do that when my cellphone rang.

I carry a cellphone as emergency communication between my wife, Marie, and I. No other reason. This had to be Marie – unless it was a wrong number or robo-caller, which does happen from time to time. It was Marie.

She had been trying to call me on our home phone but was getting a “Not available” message. She wanted to let me know that their internet was down at work. That is a big deal since much of the data processing work they do is done over the internet on remote servers. She had heard that a wreck on Highway 25/70 took out some necessary infrastructure and a large area was blacked out and without phone or cable.

By this time I was in the office and could see that the modem was not receiving any signal from Comcast. My problem was external; rebooting won’t help. Cable TV was out too. I am electronically MAROONED!  Continue reading “Absent Internet and Tepid Coffee”

My Goodness the Gnats Are Big This Year! drone delivery
Photo via Associated Press

It seems the world is a-buzz (sorry) with the news that Jeff Bezos, head honcho at, spilled on 60 Minutes last Sunday (Dec 1, 2013) about Amazon moving into the use of flying drones to deliver packages.  The resulting social media chatter is not decisively for or against this move.  Some just make fun of the idea: asking when drone hunting season opens or speculating about getting dinner by knocking down a pizza drone.  But then some of the jokes may not be without some truth.

Continue reading “My Goodness the Gnats Are Big This Year!”

Are We Borg Bound?

Sci-Fi, society, borg, star trek
Image from

I have, on several occasions, pointed out humanity’s increasing love affair with technology and forecasted that we would one day become essentially the same as the fictional Star Trek characters known as the Borg.  These humanoid beings have embraced technology and integrated it into their very bodies to increase their awareness and effectiveness to the point that they have become something beyond a society.  They have no concept of individuality, but rather they work in concert as cells in a body do.  This is accomplished through a collective consciousness that connects their minds together into a neural net that spans the galaxy, sharing their every thought with every one, knowing every thought of all.

I am often chided for my refusal to become so dependent on a cellphone that I would hyperventilate if I discover I’d left home without it. (I know people who do this!)  In fact I don’t own a cell phone at all.  I refuse to get to the point where, if I were to be cut off from the internet for more than a day or two, I’d curl up in a ball on my bed and whimper. (I don’t know anyone THAT bad, but pretty close!) People don’t believe that we will ever implant cell phones or create a permanent brain to internet connection.  People say these are just conveniences, just gadgets, nothing to worry about!

I came across this yesterday, and all I can say is “See, see, I TOLD you!”  It’s already happening… Continue reading “Are We Borg Bound?”