Hi there

I have some time, so I decided to upgrade my blog from the ten-year-old and obsolete WordPress theme I created to a customized, modern replica. Goodbye, PHP 5!

And since Facebook has blocked automated posting to your own timeline, what’s the point? You can manually copy and paste the URL but not do it automatically. Weird. Doing that, however, includes the post title as the first snippet of text.

Bonus celebrity:

As I was driving on Fleet in Hampstead, I spent some time alongside an Apple Maps car. Look for a red Mazda (yes, still, and I still enjoy the heck out of it) to appear between Harland and Minden when street view in Apple Maps comes to Canada.

Test Amazon Echo online

Maybe you’ve heard about Amazon Echo or Alexa. Maybe not. You’ve almost certainly heard of Siri.

Alexa is Amazon’s Siri-type verbal interface. It’s available here and there, embedded in this and that.

The Amazon Echo is a new box that comes in… – well, a cylinder, really. You can buy one come June, if you’re in the US and you have $180 to throw at it. I don’t, plus I already have Siri on my phone and she knows where to dump a body. Alexa’s only advice is “Call the police.”

I know that because I have tested Amazon Echo. So can you. Online! Amazon has a verbal interface that lets you use Alexa in a Web page as if you had an Echo sitting in front of you. If you click the virtual Echo button and ask, “Hey, Siri, what is the weather?”, you will get Alexa and Echo talking over one another. Siri will give you local weather; Alexa will let you know what it’s like in Seattle.

Give it a shot, and marvel at the world we live in.

Bonus observation:

Can you tell that part of me still pines for Netsurfer Digest?

SamKnows and the LAN

I have volunteered to take part in the CRTC’s bandwidth-measurement campaign, which follows on the heels of similar projects in the EU and by the American FTC.

It’s a simple process. You sign up and the company running the project, SamKnows, sends you a router which you plug into your home Internet feed. Exactly how it works depends on whether your modem and router are in the same box. Our modem and router (Ethernet and Wi-Fi) are separate devices so the structure of our home local-area network (LAN) looks like this, which I scanned from the installation instructions:
(I apologize for the quality of the image, but I had to scan it since I can’t find that document online.)

The text instructions are even easier to follow than the image and, indeed, I got it up and working in a minute or two. Everything was working as before, almost. One nifty thing about the Whitebox is that its antennas passively pick up Wi-Fi traffic but only record the bandwidth. It’s not actually a wireless router itself. Ethernet connections do pass through it.

As (very) faithful readers may remember, I run a Plex media server on my iMac. I was downstairs and wanted to watch something on the Plex server through the PS3 but the PS3 had lost the media server link. That happens once in a while, but this time the PS3 couldn’t the media server when asked to. That was altogether a more worrisome problem.

I rebooted the server on the iMac. Our iPad could find the Plex server but still the PS3 could not. This called for research.

Aha! The PS3 use DNLA to access media servers. Although SamKnows doesn’t explicitly admit this anywhere, I suspected their Whitebox device does not. And users cannot get into the device to wiggle its settings.

I was looking at the LAN structure when I had an idea. The iMac, on Ethernet, sat behind the Whitebox. If I moved it to our established router, the PS3 could get to Plex without passing through the Whitebox – but that would mean either going on Wi-Fi (I love me my physical connections) or ignoring the Whitebox entirely, which runs counter to the point of having it.

So, I thought, what if I activate the Wi-Fi network on my iMac while maintaining the existing Ethernet connection?

Yeah, that works, as the PS3 can recognize Plex through our router without having any of that traffic pass through the Whitebox. Problem solved.

Bonus thought:

SamKnows and the LAN would be a great name for a band.