Google’s Project Fi – From 1996 to Nexus 6

Why Project Fi?

I’ve been a Verizon customer since back when they were called Bell Atlantic back in The Year 2000. Lately their service has been terrible in my area. When I’m lucky enough to get an LTE connection, it’s slow and high-latency.

Project Fi lets my phone choose the best of two providers for my data service: Sprint or T-Mobile. And so far, it’s just plain better.

I go on at some length about it in the video above.

The Intro

In a previous blog post and video I showed off my motion control slider project. I’ve been looking for excuses to use it in particularly “motion-controley” ways, and so I decided to composite a bunch of passes of the camera over my one Nexus 6 to make a wall of Nexus Sixes.

Please check out my new post about the intro!

Amazon Echo – Unboxing and Review (Exasperation with Alexa)

Background

I should point out that I knew next to nothing about the Echo when I pre-ordered it. I knew next to nothing about it when it arrived. I figured I’d take the approach of someone that just got this thing as a gift or something.

Amazon Echo Unboxing

I unbox the Echo and spend some time setting it up. It did not go well.

Then I attempted to interact with Alexa. I suppose I’m just accustomed to Google, because I can ask it a variety of free-form questions and most of the time it comes up with the correct answer. Alexa seems to be far more finicky about phrasing and command syntax. Which is just what you want from a user-friendly tube that ominously glows at you from the center of your living room.

Then the Rest of the Review

I just don’t get the Echo. Fine, it can play music and it can control all of your lights a limited number of brands of lights.

For home automation though, I’d want something more discrete. Something integrated into the house, not an obvious cylinder that I have to explain to everyone.

For listening to music I’m fine with a Bluetooth speaker.

If I have extemporaneous questions for the internet I can always ask the Google that’s in my very pocket (or glued to my hand).

I am Hopeful

Amazon does publish an API for Alexa. After making the video I signed up for their developer program. It’s been about a week, and I still haven’t heard back.

However, I’m hoping that the community will come up with some killer apps, and that home automation compatibility will increase.

But in the meanwhile of my daily life, Alexa remains a novelty. My living room and my workstation in my basement already have better speakers than the Echo’s. So she doesn’t do me much good for music, and she still can’t answer questions better than my phone.

Amazon Echo (New in Box)

Home Depot: Review Rejected – HDX 150-Watt Incandescent Clamp Light

HDX 150-Watt Incandescent Clamp Light Model CE-300PDQ - Hyperbolically Aflame

The Rejected Review I know that I tend to be harsh in my criticisms, but this is the most recent review that I tried to post to Home Depot’s site regarding their HDX 150-Watt Incandescent Clamp Light CE-300PDQ: Very rarely do I wish I could give a product a negative number of stars, but this is one of them. I know that for under ten bucks I shouldn’t expect an extremely high-quality, durable item. I know that at this price the light could fall apart completely after a bit of use and it wouldn’t be a huge deal. But what it absolutely shouldn’t do is cause a fire, which is what TWO out of the SIX of these I own … Continue reading

Newegg is no Amazon, Even if They Want to Be

Amazon vs NewEgg

Newegg was, and still is, the best online retailer of computer components in the US. I stand behind that statement. But they’re trying to be Amazon, and they’re not doing a very good job of it. The Good Just like Amazon, Newegg allows other merchants to list items for sale on their website. They take a cut of 8-15 percent of item sales and intermediate disputes between customers and third-party sellers. But here’s the thing: I always shopped on Newegg because I liked Newegg. Especially when they opened their distribution center in Edison, NJ and my ground shipments started arriving in under 24 hours. I also liked the responsiveness of their customer service and the clarity of their search results. … Continue reading

Microsoft Web Deploy – Bad Application, or the Worst Application?

Down load Microsoft Web Deploy to your toilet today!

Background I’m migrating a bunch of corporate websites hosted on Win2k8 and IIS7 to a new server running exactly the same. I’m sticking with the same environment because there are some things I really don’t want to risk breaking — we just needed faster hardware and more spindles. I figured I’d use MS Web Deploy 3.5 to move all the IIS settings from one server to the other (a task that was gloriously simple in IIS6). Web Deploy adds the following option to the IIS Manager context menus for the server and individual sites: It looks great! Simple and straightforward. Export or import. Indeed it’s a simple interface. I wanted to export everything, so I chose to deploy from the … Continue reading

HPRC 2550W vs. Pelican 1510 – Carry-on Case Comparison

The cases

The HPRC 2550W and Pelican 1510 are both watertight rugged hard cases meant to fit into the overhead compartment on an airplane. They’re pretty much the same size, of similar weight, and have a very similar design.

For the basics, check out the specs for both:

HPRC 2550W: http://www.plaber.com/2550w.htm

Pelican 1510: http://www.pelican.com/cases_detail/Case/1510/

A couple of more things..

Back in 2008, another blogger pointed out a major difference between the 2550W and 1510:

So it turns out that HPRC have done the seemingly impossible; making a case smaller on the outside and bigger inside, than the equivalent Pelican 1510. They’ve done it simply by designing specifically for purpose. The Pelican 1510 is a minor adaptation of a carry-case with a handle-and-wheel component bolted onto the back of the case.manbagaholic.blogspot.com

While he goes on to point out that the HPRC does indeed fit more gear than the Pelican, I actually prefer the “kludged” on handle and wheels of the Pelican. As I pointed out in the video, they’re more easily replaced that way — I have a couple of pieces of luggage with broken wheels — and there are fewer intrusions into the case.

Not only that, but the Pelican is arguably better protected on the underside. It has the entire handle module between the bottom of the case and the ground.

The materials

I’d also argue that one of the reasons that the Pelican is larger on the outside and smaller on the inside than the HPRC is that it’s made of thicker material. I don’t have a pair of calipers to verify that, but it’s certainly sturdier.

In the video I also didn’t talk about materials: The Pelican is made of Polypropylene, while the HPRC is made of TTX01.

TTX01 is a polypropylene resin. Here’s the marketing hype:

TTX01 material confers the cases characteristics to withstand to impacts, drops and pressures thanks to its high resistance together with elasticity. An HPRC case used in extreme temperature conditions (both warm and cold) never lose its own distinctive characteristics (Granted range of temperature is -40°C +80°C). HPRC cases are watertight, dust – humidity – acids, ashes and sand proof. Cases withstand drops and impacts: a tool of transport not comparable to any other in the market for protection. Do not forget that TTX01 makes HPRC cases lighter in comparison to the average of the market. Maximum protection and light weight. (source: plaber.com)

It’s undeniable that the 1510 is heavier at 11.99 pounds than the 2550W at 10.69 pounds. I also noted the increased elasticity in the video. But is TTX01 actually a better material? All I can say is that I’m having the damnedest time finding specifications and/or independent (or even dependent) test data on TTX01.

Call me a pessimist, but HPRC doesn’t state unequivocally that TTX01 is stronger than the polypropylene of the Pelican. They only say that it’s “lighter”, and the extra 1.3 pounds makes no real difference to me.

The paucity of information on TTX01 is also troubling. I can’t even find the patent at either the US Patent and Trademark Office, or the Italian patent office. Of course, they may have patented the material under a different name, but I also can’t find the trademark in either Italy or the US (though I can find “HPRC” in both).

My point is that I’m betting that TTX01 isn’t as brag-worthy as HPRC would have us believe. In fact, their offered temperature range for performance of -40°C to +80°C is narrower than that of the Pelican 1510 of -40°C to +99°C. (Of course I get that you’re not going to be using the case in the range of 80°C to 99°C. I’m pointing out the only objective metric available.)

Conclusion

It’s what I said in the video: Get the Pelican. I’m sure you know that there’s a feel you get when you hold and manipulate a quality product. Even though the HPRC isn’t a bad case, the Pelican has an inherent feel of quality that the HPRC lacks.

Sprint / Netgear 6100D 4G Antenna Installation (Video)

What’s all this, then?

Back in August I reviewed the Netgear 6100D from Sprint and followed up with a post detailing some advanced configuration options.

The Video

I also installed a flat panel 4G antenna from 4G Antenna Shop. I made a video detailing the unboxing and installation (which I just got around to editing together):

It’s my first video of this sort, so if you have any feedback please let me know in the YouTube comments or by email!

4G Antenna Shop

I didn’t get into it in the video, but overall I’d recommend 4G Antenna Shop. The cable and antenna I got were both of very high quality and definitely worth the price.

Their customer service was great; I had a couple of questions about my order, and one of their guys (Robert) got back to me within 15 minutes and was extremely helpful. They shipped really quickly, too.

I did have two minor issues, both of which I talk about in the video:

During checkout they give you the option of selecting your device so that they can provide the correct adapters to go from the cable (if you order it through them) to the device. At the time I’d ordered, they had an option for “Netgear Sprint Spark LTE”, which I thought was the Netgear 6100D. There was no separate option for the 6100D, but it turned out that they were referencing a different product, and so I received the wrong adapters. (They’ve since added the 6100D as an option.)

I chalked this up to being mostly my fault, as I didn’t know that there was another Netgear LTE device out there for Sprint Spark.

My other issue was with the packing job. Again, it’s a minor complaint because nothing was damaged, but the box arrived pretty beaten up with holes in the top from the antenna mount having poked through. There was no packing material to keep the box rigid, and the antenna and cable were just sorta rattling around inside.

Bear with Me…

Oh, and sorry if I rambled on a bit in the video. If you couldn’t tell from a lot of my other posts on here, I have an aversion to brevity. :)

I’m hoping to get some more how-to and instructional videos out there in 2015, so please subscribe to my YouTube channel!

(Hey, I’m allowed to shill for myself, right?)

Netgear LG 6100D LTE Gateway for Sprint Review – Bad Device, or the Worst Device?

Netgear Joke 9000

I recently obtained a Netgear LG6100D LTE Gateway from Sprint as a backup for my hard internet connections. The device seemed perfect on paper: Cellular connectivity for the home or business network! I’ve used some bad consumer routers in my day, but this is one of the worst I’ve encountered. Or maybe it’s that it looked so promising at first and then let me down so hard. Update (2014-08-26): I found that you can access the native Netgear web GUI. It has a heck of a lot more features, and solves many of the complaints I have with the “correct” way of configuring this device. Upon logging in the user interface is clean, fairly informative, and I noticed that the … Continue reading

ARIA Resort and Casino Mega-Review (Las Vegas, NV)

Relaxing at the ARIA after the room was cleaned

I don’t usually post hotel reviews, but when I do… I’m not sure how much MGM paid for the ARIA’s Five Diamond award from AAA, but I’m sure it must have been a lot. Note to lawyers: My previous statement was intended as hyperbole, and not as an accusation of bribery on the part of MGM. That’s how poor the service is at this hotel: They’ve left me with the impression that they’d sooner sue me to take this review down rather than improve the overall customer experience. If I could sum up the attitude of the hotel staff in one word it would be uncaring. I stayed at the ARIA for 4 nights encompassing 3 different hotel rooms. I … Continue reading