New Year, New Technology Configuration

Cleaning the messy office. Cleaning closets. And reviewing my personal technology configuration. In my current case, I’m talking more hardware than software! That’s what I’ve been doing over the slow weeks of early January before client work tends to kick in (and yes, I’m available!)

After cleaning up my office (lots of paper recycled and still two drawers of articles printed off from the net that I can’t quite let go of, organizing accounting stuff, etc…) the next thing I had to deal with is my internet service. I’ve had DSL, orginally through the beloved Speakeasy, but now part of Megapath. I loved the localness and great customer service of Speakeasy, but after about a year of their VoIP service for my phone I started having problems. And they said I needed to buy more bandwidth. I was stubborn. They sold me the package based on the level I bought and it SHOULD work, right? So I dithered for another year, contemplated moving to Quest Fiber, but once CenturyLink took over the complaints scared me away. That left me with Comcast. Sigh. I resisted for years. But we have Comcast for TV service (I am married to a television fan).  So after researching, I took the plunge.

But, if I canceled my old Speakeasy internet and phone for my business, I still needed phone service. Comcast pitches the old “six months at a reasonable price,” then it balloons. And I don’t use my phone THAN much. So I decided to follow the advice of Eugene Kim (now at his new venture, Groupaya) and port my business line to GoogleVoice, then use the OBI110 device (Amazon associate link – full disclosure)  to bridge Google Voice to my regular phone handset (not needed the computer to be on for calls). There are a few little twists to this process, which Eugene has generously captured on his wiki. This link is particularly helpful if you have to port a land line into Google voice via a mobile line, as Google does not port land lines.

So far so good. I purchased the required cable modem as directed by Comcast (Motorola SB6121 SURFboard DOCSIS 3.0). Check. Bought a new router as my two year old router has been needed more frequent resets. (Linksys E3200 High-Performance ) Check. Scheduled install of Comcast 20MBS service for yesterday.  Check.  Clean out the stereo cabinet where I hope to put all this equipment (and free a little more room in my micro-office.) Check.

Delay leaving for meeting Sunday afternoon to be there when the Comcast tech arrived and … Comcast was a no show. Somehow, it seems, our appointment was cancelled. Now rescheduled for Thursday. Grrr. Am I going to regret this choice?

Today I still went ahead with the line porting. I got a cheap TMobile pay per use sim card, popped it in my old Tmobile handset (unlocked that I use for travel), and ported my business phone to my mobile. That took about 2 days. Today I started the porting process to Google Voice. Now I have to learn the ins and outs of GoogleVoice, how to get voice mail and all the myriad of options. Mamma mia. It ain’t simple.

Then I set up the OBI110 and tested my phone with it. The audio quality was terrible with lots of breakup, but I suspect this is an exacerbation of the problem I’m having with my VoiP from Megapath, so I can’t judge the sound quality until the new internet service arrives. Yes, I’m impatient. I also need to assess if the headset I’m using is fried, further deteriorating sound quality. I’m hard on headsets.

But wait- that’s not the only change. I have been frustrated a the current limitation of our home audio/video system. I want to stream music from my computer, I want to get rid of half the devices cluttering up our tiny living room and I want to bring more music into my daily life, not just when I’m at my computer. So we bought ourselves an 28th anniversary present of a Sony home music system (Sony BDV-E780W Blu-Ray Disc Player Home Entertainment System which we got on sale much cheaper than the current Amazon price – yay! But it still hasn’t shipped. Boo. ) which will replace the Roku box, the BlueRay DVD player, the old Onkyo tuner  and trigger my husband to finally remove the VCR that isn’t working from the stack! The five small speakers will replace the huge, ancient (well used, loved and now not so great) speakers, freeing up more space in the micro-living room. We’ll be Freecycling the speakers.

The router I bought has a USB port and I plan to put a large external hard drive on that as my file back up (and if I can configure it with some of the constraints I’ve heard about Comcast) be able to access some of my key files from the road. Then I can also transfer all my audio library so I can stream to the new wifi enabled stereo and play on another remote speaker that, natch, came free with the stereo set. I understand that there are some format constraints with Sony (and which almost caused me NOT to buy it, but it was a weak moment, what can I say.)

The final part of my configuration update will be a new desktop. Since my computer is essential business equipment, I tend to replace it every 2-3 years, donating my old computer to Interconnection here in Seattle. They make it free and easy. Thank you, folks! I bought an iPad2 last summer – my first Apple product — and I hate to admit it, but I love it and use it. A lot. Which has me considering an Apple product to replace my pee-cee. For years, the money I invested in PC software was a major barrier, but I’m doing more and more in the cloud. I open Office much less often and everything else I can use on a Mac. So should I do it? What is the migration path? I have gone to the Apple store a few times considering MacBook pros hooked into my existing ViewSonic 21 inch monitor. Or the slimmer MacBook Airs. But to be honest, where I travel in my work, I rarely have secure places to lock up computers and I hate carrying that much money around. So I travel with cheap netbooks. So do I need a laptop? Why not an iMac all in one? SOOO many decisions. I have not decided on this last step and missed my December 31 deadline (for accounting purposes) so I’m sitting with the question. There is no urgency. It may, however, impact how I set up my remote drive on the hub. Hmmm…

It is no wonder my mom calls me every time she needs to change her tech configuration, or why my husband has me do most of it for him. This takes a lot of time and consideration.  Technology stewardship is not for wusses! Even for me, who helped write the book.

How do you manage your personal technology configuration? Any tips or breakthroughs? Please, SHARE!


11 thoughts on “New Year, New Technology Configuration”

  1. Ah – dealing with cable companies … We are in Cablevision land. Getting appointments can also be challenging, but they’ve been in a fight with Verizon locally and service has actually improved. Now if we only had real competition nationwide and with more than (usually) two providers…

    We’ve been using OS X for some time now and have been very happy. It isn’t perfect, but the amount of tech support is much less than what is required for Windows (still) and way less than Linux. I’m fairly geekish, but with age like focusing on problems other than keeping my computers and network running. Apple provides a very natural way to share music among devices and a nifty feature called Airplay allows you to stream any content from an iPad, iPod Touch or iPhone to Airplay enabled speakers or an Apple Airport (Apple’s name for wifi devices) that might be connected to a home entertainment system. There is also a $99 device called an Apple TV, which is basically wifi with Airplay and also video to your digital tv.

    The Apple kit we’ve had has been robust. I replaced my laptop at 6 years old and Sukie at 5 – but she hastened that by killing her with a glass of lemonade. Hers still works, but the screen was fried – so we use it as a headless server. If you need to get geekish OS X is roughly BSD Unix underneath (the kernel is Mach) and unix-y stuff is possible. I’m a BSD person and greatly prefer it to Linux when I need to be doing stuff that is beyond normal applications.

    You can dual boot into Windows on a Mac if you like. I don’t, but know a lot of people who do for compatibility at work. Office for Mac is about one version back from Windows – but is robust according to friends. I don’t use Office and am happy with alternatives.

    iMacs are a nice value. Even the basic model is way more than people need. Mine is a few years old with a 24″ screen. The larger screens are too big in a way — at distances I sit from the computer I have to move my head back and forth to see the whole screen on the really big monitors, so I went with the 24″. In truth I would probably be happy with the 20″ on the basic machine.

    Enough of our needs have moved to the iPad that iMacs and iPads may make more sense than keeping laptops too. It is funny how this changes with time. We still only have one iPad. I use my iPhone for as a portable computing device when I travel these days … of the past 5 trips I’ve only taken the laptop once.

    Drop me a line if you have any questions on OS X setups … it may or may not be a good path for you.

    1. I hear you about the iPad for the road. This is beginning to look doable for me. I am still somewhat hesitant to take the full Apple plunge. Maybe I’ll buy a used iMac and feel it out. 😉 Thanks for your experiences, Steve.

  2. Wow, I didn’t realize you had such Techno Chops! Impressed! What a sweet setup you’re putting together. Just please, please don’t make hubby give up the VCR!

    One other thought is that you might want to hang onto the Roku (unless it’s not HD.) Roku specializes in streaming services, where the Blue-Ray player may not have the same quality and extent of services.

    My wifey is not a fellow iPad user and will probably find, like you, that it’s the preferred travel device.

    Enjoyed the post!

    1. Yo, Mr. Burke. The Roku is a simple old one – not HD. I’ll hang on to it. Now debating jettisoning the OLD Tivo for a Comcast DVR to again, simplify. By the way, I got the phone working with the OBI and it is SWEET! And yes, Larry has one VCR remaining. Two are going away!

  3. I made the BIG change to Apple a couple of years ago. It was against my “open systems” principles but I was just finding maintaining an open system was becoming too much of a productivity drag…especially since leaving the comfort of a corporate help desk!

    I’m currently holidaying with some friends who have built their ‘retirement’ home on the Coral Coast of Fiji. Its been raining a lot so we have spent some productive (many) hours getting their wireless modem working across the ‘estate’ and then getting the plethora of PCs connected and working. Many hours on the xyz forums but eventually got the puzzles solved

    Of course I brought my iphone, ipad and macair with me…they all connected without a hitch!

    But back to my ‘modified’ principles …. A good ‘closed’ system will always beet an open system….its just that their are precious few good ‘closed’ systems. Apple just happens to be a rare exception.

    PS … I’m looking at Apple TV and rationalizing all my media to one big media drive from which I can stream to all my (Apple) devices … wireless of course.

  4. Joitske, things are mostly working well. I need to find a better way to manage my email since my old habit is Eudora so I could work offline on airplanes, but now with greater iPad use, that is not working so well. Lots of duplication, etc.

    Laurence, I hear the “good, closed” system argument, but something in my gut is not happy about it. It is odd that this bothers me. So there must still be something to learn that I have not figure out yet. My current phone contract ends in June and I don’t see an iPhone in my future and I wonder how much of that is my own stubbornness?

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