Sunday, October 31, 2010

I Have a Wi-Fi Hotspot

Unless you like travelogues (or enjoy snickering at the clueless), you technically advanced readers may skip the following blog entry: You probably already know that a Linksys router turns a home into a Wi-Fi hotspot. I (being somewhat technically slow-witted) just figured that out this morning.

I got a Linksys router more than a year ago so that my husband could use the laptop computer downstairs while I'm on the aging desktop up here under the eaves. Our first stab at the problem of connecting both computers at once was a 100-foot Ethernet cable to connect his laptop to the wireless Internet antenna that's just outside my office window. That, of course, didn't work so well. Lots of plugging and unplugging, not to mention the unsightliness of stringing a long black Ethernet cable along the upstairs hall, over the balcony, and down to the kitchen desk. After seeing the wireless router a friend had installed in her house, I realized that was the solution to our situation.

We quite easily linked the laptop to our new, at-home wireless connection. And when we traveled with the laptop, I had no trouble connecting to hotels' Wi-Fi services. But even with a year's experience with wireless routers, I still didn't grasp that our home router created a Wi-Fi hotspot.

It was only this month, during a week of vacation, that I began, dimly, to see the truth. We went to Palo Duro Canyon and the Alibates Flint Quarries in the Texas Panhandle, then across to Red Rock Canyon and Turner Falls (pictured above) in Oklahoma. While staying in Amarillo, we drove past the Barnes & Noble bookstore repeatedly. Each time, I thought about taking my Nook e-reader into the store so I could download an e-book that kept insisting it required a Wi-Fi connection to download. I don't know why that should be the case -- I've successfully downloaded other books with the Nook's built-in 3G wireless connection.

But we never made it into the Amarillo B&N, and it was only after we got home that I began to wonder whether I could have connected my Nook to our hotel's Wi-Fi hotspot instead. And eventually, that train of thought led me to try out my own Wi-Fi hotspot this morning.

It connected, of course. I downloaded the book that had to have a Wi-Fi connection. And I became just a little less ignorant about Wi-Fi and routers and wireless communications in general.

Honestly, why don't the makers of these gizmos take into consideration the limited technical know-how of a big chunk of their potential audience? I'm a writer, reader, and editor, not a tech guru. I do all right with the technology, most of the time. At least, I figure out what I need to know about it. But experiences like this make me realize just how much is taken for granted by the people who build the hardware and write the software.

Don't just tell us that a Nook 3G + Wi-Fi exists. Tell us that it will download books out of the air the same way a cell phone receives a text message. (That's 3G, right?) AND that it will recognize and use the same wireless router that connects my husband's laptop to the Internet at home, in the same way that the laptop recognizes and uses a hotel's Wi-Fi hotspot.

Well, live and learn. Now I'm going hunting on the 'Net for Alibates flint jewelry. The rock is so beautiful.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Favorite Quotes: 4

On Writing:

“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” —Plato

“Inspiration is the act of drawing the chair up to the writing table.” —Orhan Pamuk

“Every production of genius must be the production of enthusiasm.” —Benjamin Disraeli

“No good story is quite true.” —Leslie Stephen

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” —Albert Einstein

“Diligence is the mother of good fortune.” —Miguel de Cervantes

“I have a hunch we all get told that we’re a loser, and how healthy you are as an adult depends on how much you believed it when you were growing up.” —Aaron Sorkin

“’Tis of no importance what bats and oxen think.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

“You’ve got to go out on a limb sometimes because that’s where the fruit is.” —Will Rogers

“Always acknowledge a fault. This will throw those in authority off their guard and give you an opportunity to commit more.” —Mark Twain

“A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.” —James Joyce

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” —George Bernard Shaw

“Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open.” —Alexander Graham Bell

On Living Simply:

“Thrift is more about knowing what you cherish, then skipping the rest ... spending less money creates more time.” —Jeff Yeager

“A true sign of wealth is free time—freedom from drudgery and unwanted commitments.” —Daniel Newman

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” —Leonardo da Vinci

“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In the absence of clearly defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.” —Robert Heinlein

(For more like these: My Favorite Quotes: 3)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Jury Duty

I’ve had an interesting week. On Monday I answered a jury duty summons that took me to the county seat to sit with about 120 of my fellow citizens. The judge laid out the unusual circumstances (unusual for a smallish, rural county like ours): they were needing to fill three juries at once. One was for a civil case that was predicted to last a week; one was for another civil lawsuit that might go as long as two weeks; and the third was for a criminal trial that should be over in three days, tops.

By the luck of the draw, I was assigned to the pool for the criminal case. We 35 were sent home posthaste on Monday, with instructions to return at 8:30 this morning (Wednesday).

Upon re-reporting for duty today, the potential jurors were told that the case involved a theft, under $1,500. So why wasn’t it being handled as a misdemeanor? The defendant had been convicted of theft twice before. Those prior convictions raised the stakes.

What I found fascinating about the experience was the cross section of small-town Texas represented by the members of the jury pool. We had welders, machinists, nurses, accountants, ranchers, shipping managers, truck drivers, office workers, retired military ... a candle-maker too, as I recall. I was the only writer. Or at least, the only person present who would admit to being a writer.

Sitting next to me was a retired elementary school teacher who’s now a high school reading teacher. A reading teacher! I slipped Kay my card—naturally. And I’ll be mailing her two copies of my chapter book Trail Fever. It’s been used in adult literacy classes in Arkansas (they sent me a nice note saying how well it fit the needs and interests of their adult learners). So I feel sure it’ll be of some use to Kay in her efforts to help high-schoolers improve their reading skills. Though written for the fourth-grade history curriculum, it’s got enough action and drama to appeal to teenagers and adults, too.

Coincidentally (or perhaps it’s all part of some plan?), a very good friend of mine recently shared with me some advice from Rebecca Webber—“Make Your Own Luck,” about the value of seeing possibilities in every experience. Rebecca cites research by psychologist Richard Wiseman:
“He found that those who call themselves lucky score higher on the personality factor of extraversion. That means that they are more likely to have a fortuitous encounter because they meet lots of new people ...”
I consider myself an introvert (aren't most writers?) but I also believe I’m pretty lucky. Certainly I’m flexible and open to new experiences—open “to life’s surprising twists and turns.”

I enjoyed making a lucky new acquaintance this morning. Of all the people I might have sat next to, I ended up elbow to elbow with Kay: a reading teacher! Fabulous fortune.

My only disappointment was that I didn’t get picked to serve on the jury. The chosen 12 came from the first three rows, and Kay and I were sitting in the fourth row. Well, maybe next time. Jury duty is one of life’s experiences that I’ll be glad to have, if and when I get that postcard in the mail again.

(Hmm. I wonder if I should have told the defense attorney, or the prosecutor, that the protagonist of my fantasy trilogy is a thief? Possibly that would have changed my luck ...)