Monday, October 31, 2011

When Kindle, Nook, nor Google Books Has a Price Advantage

I've been meaning to buy a book by Paulo Coehlo that I've read rave reviews about from people I follow online. So, as a little reward, I thought to find the least expensive version, either on the Kindle, Nook, or Google Books. The book is the same price on all three.

Having an Android tablet, it doesn't really matter to me what format I use, when there is a clear price advantage. However, when the book is the same price across platforms, all sorts of considerations suddenly jump up at me.

Here are the things I think about:

  • Where do I have the greatest number of titles already purchased?
  • What platform do I want to keep for the long-term?
  • Which one is DRM free?
  • How easy is it to share?
  • Which has the better Android app?
  • Is the printed version cheaper?
  • Is this something I'd want in the "family library" (Nook)?
None of this would have mattered if I could save a dollar. It would be an easy decision. However, given no price advantage, my mind jumps to all manner of considerations rather than quickly choosing a platform and buying the damned thing. 

And here I am blogging about it; I still haven't bought it. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Open Mesh Routers Are a Fair Alternative

Image showing mesh network layoutImage via WikipediaExample of a Single Point of FailureImage via WikipediaI've been working with Open Mesh routers at a couple of locations. Thus far, they have been reliable and have pretty good range on their own. Allowing the routers to mesh offers some pretty good advantages for small business.

One location where I am using an Open Mesh router has only one router as an access point. We wanted to test it out. I've been meaning to add a second access point for redundancy, though the office is small enough to be covered by the single router. My main motivation is to ensure that wireless coverage stays up should one router fail. That way, I have time to order a replacement while still servicing network clients.

In another location, I have three mesh routers. Two are set up as gateways with a third as a repeater. The two gateways are located in areas where I believe most people will use them, near the offices. The repeater is located in a conference room where it extends coverage outside the building. It also eliminates dead spots and weak signals inside the conference room.

Why Mesh Routers?

Previously, these locations had off the shelf, retail routers, which are OK; but, they tend to get flaky with prolonged use and multiple clients. I recognize that the burden of routing, not wireless, is what makes cheap routers flake out, especially when you involve VPN. However, by going with mesh routers as access points, turning off the radio on the cheap routers, it distributes the "risk" of single device failure.

The advantage is that the wireless mesh radios are not likely to all fail at once. If one fails, it's an inconvenience, but it's not the end of wireless coverage for the location. In addition, the mesh routers handling wireless means that I can choose any number of routers, including good ones that don't do wireless.

There Are Already Devices for That

There are already access points, routers, and repeaters available to eliminate a single point of failure without resorting to mesh routers. One of the disadvantages of mesh routers is the loss of speed due to the overhead of the mesh. I would worry about this if the locations relied on high speed access and low latency. But, the reality is that most small businesses need email, web browsing, and maybe the occasional Youtube video. The biggest limitation is the Internet connection speed, which is well below what the throughput limit is on a mesh access point. 

Small businesses are more cost conscious, which makes it important that I find cost effective ways of meeting their needs without resorting to enterprise class products. The Open Mesh routers handle many of the wireless needs of small businesses easily and affordably. 

Free WiFi is a Cool Add-on

Something else I like about the Open Mesh products is the free WiFi option they provide. They offer two SSIDs, one public and one private. The public one can be throttled so that guests don't hog up company bandwidth. Having open WiFi for guests is a good idea for the following reasons:
  • makes it easy for your clients to connect with information they need to do business with you, or at the very least keeps them busy while waiting;
  • allows vendors, partners, or other co-venture participants to operate on-premises without peeking into your network. 
  • splash page is a perfect marketing opportunity, which can at the very least connect to your Foursquare or Google Places page
  • you can still provide free WiFi with password protection, if needed
  • an alternative connection when the internal network is acting strange
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Handwriting Apps for Evernote on Android Devices

There are two apps for Android devices that allow you to take notes as handwriting. This is handy in that it can be a little faster than typing, even allowing you to draw figures if needed. The reason handwriting is useful with Evernote is that Evernote is able to recognize and index handwriting found in images, . . . legible handwriting. The ability to find hand written notes through the Evernote search function gives new life to the use of penmanship. 

The first handwriting app is Handrite. I like it because it has writing guides that help you more or less keep letters the same size and your writing straight across the page. Handrite is geared towards writing text. You can technically draw items; but, they will be resized to fall within the size of your text. 

I default to Handrite whenever I need to jot down something quickly. However, it needs work on tracking your finger movement. Writing in a hurry leaves a mess of sticks and circles. Notes are exportable to Evernote.

The other handy Android app is Skitch, which is owned by Evernote. Naturally, they work well together. Skitch is better suited to drawings and photo notations. Skitch does not have writing guides, so you pretty much have to be mindful of your own margins and letter size.

What I like about Skitch is that you can add any drawings in whatever size you choose. You can also annotate photos, on the photo itself, or around it. Skitch added auto-smoothing which gives your text a much better appearance. Of course, notes are exportable to Evernote. The only issue I have with Skitch is that it does not keep an archive of notes for you to append new notes. Still, it's very useful.
There are other handwriting apps for Android I have not tested.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Faith Without Works is Dead, Prayer Too

I'll probably hurt some feelings and cause others to bob their heads in agreement. Faith without works is dead; similarly, prayer without action is just a bunch of words. You won't get to heaven via prayer group. You must have something that you can claim to have accomplished.

I suppose that we should break up prayers into different types. There are the ceremonial prayers where you ask God for his blessing and praise him. You do that out of respect. Basically, this is giving God props for being awesome.

There is also the type of prayer where you are asking God for help, whether it be the strength to get through some hardship or whatever; a petition. I have a variation of that kind of prayer I call idle prayer.

With petitions, you pray for things like serenity and strength to deal with the challenges before you. You ask for those qualities that will help carry you through to take action. It all comes back to you. If you have pain, pray for endurance until the Ibuprofen kicks in. If you are unemployed, you pray for the ability to see opportunities that you may have missed. You pray for the things that will enable you to take action to resolve your problem.

I'm not going to discuss whether God actually grants these prayers or if it simply is a person meditating on a problem and priming their mind to focus on the issue at hand. That's for another discussion.

Idle prayer is where you ask for stuff that cannot be granted, like world peace. You ask that God help you defeat the other football team, while they pray the same thing. You ask for things that are completely out of your control or ability to influence.

It's the equivalent of being charitable by asking the government to take care of the poor and hungry. YOU are not being charitable nor compassionate. Asking God to do things and leaving it at that absolves you of taking any action. I'm sorry; things don't work like that.

We've all heard of the joke about a person stranded on the roof of their house after a flood, asking God to save her. People on boats and helicopters come by offering to help only to be turned away because God is going to save her. It's exactly like that. God provides you the resources to effect your own salvation; but, it requires action.

Your faith and your prayers must be followed by actions and works that demonstrate your co-commitment. If you want to end world hunger, start with people in your community. You don't need a government program or God to do it. Find people in need, befriend them and then invite them over for dinner often. Donate food to pantries. Volunteer.

Many of the big problems that we ask God to handle can be handled by you. You won't feed, clothe, shelter, or protect the world; but you can help a few of your neighbors. If we all took action, it would go a long ways.

I guess what I'm saying is that when you pray, unless it is the praise-God ceremonial type, understand that you are committing yourself to do something to achieve your petition. What is it exactly that God can accomplish through you? Ask for wisdom, knowledge, strength, inspiration, and such to help you make things happen.  Have specific works in mind for your faith and prayers. Put some skin in the game.

That's my two cents.

Saturday, October 01, 2011