Tuesday, March 11, 2008


For the three of you who read my blog, and the two of you who subscribe to this blog's RSS feed, I'm here to say you may want to also sub to my tumblr feed.

Actually, you may want to sub to that and unsub from this because the tumblr feed aggregates this blog feed. It's up to you I guess.

Why tumblr? Because I'm not cool enough for twitter, and honestly, I like the extra content-type features tumblr offers. My primary reason for creating a tumblr account is because I have my Google Reader Shared Items feed, (shown at right, and also aggregated by my tumblr feed,) but I've ran into a lot of things that aren't on a feed and thusly can't be easily 'shared'.

So, that's yoopergeek.tumblr.com, and it's RSS feed.

A little extra EVDO info

In my last post about my new-found broadband, I should have linked EVDOInfo.com Specifically, their "What is EVDO?" page.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Current Reading

Over a year ago, I subscribed to MAKE Magazine after following the MAKE RSS feed for probably 6 months before that. I loved the magazine, but felt slightly left out of many of the projects being covered.

See, while I have a lot of software development background, I have very little electronics background. I did grow up playing with those "100-in-1 Electronics Projects" kits but electronics never really took off in my mind.

I've taken a couple (pathetic) stabs at it in the past, but I always lost interest when I couldn't find any good introductory reading material. The things I would read seemed so far detached form the level that I wanted to be involved with. (Does that makes sense?) I knew I had to learn about the low-level concepts such as electromotive force, current, power, and how they relate to each other, but everything I tried reading just didn't seem to hit the right 'buttons' in my head to click.

After watching the AVR Episode of Systm, I thought "holy crap, I can do that, and these AVR microprocessors? They seem right up my alley!" I don't know what it was, but there was something about that episode that made electronics, at least simple microprocessor-based electronics, feel accessible to me: Wire up a simple chip-programmer. Write some code. Compile some code. Push code to chip. Blinky LED!!

I really think it had to do with the simplicity of the programmer, and the hold-your-hands instructions they linked to that grabbed me and said: "You're gonna learn another hobby, buck-o."

I played a bit on a breadboard, never actually making that AVR programmer (yet). I again thought: "Yeah...this is cool...but I still need a good book." I dug around for a while, and of course, there's a ton of books on "learning electronics"...kinda makes picking one a tough choice.

Luckily, while on Amazon I was reading a scathing review for some book that I don't remember. The reviewer mentioned "Gibilisco's book", and how great it was for the total newbie. "Not too in depth, not too light." The freakin' just-right porridge of the 'learning-electronics' book world is what it sounded like!

I searched, found, and purchased Gibilisco's book and have been reading it (slowly) for over a week now, and I have to agree with that reviewers sentiment: So far, this book is good for beginners. I like that it's easy to read and understand, and at the end of every chapter, there's a test. It feels like a book from school in some ways...but without that $250 price tag.

I'll probably write more about this as the time goes on. But from what I've read so far of this book, I like it, and I'd recommend it to any 'geeky' individual who just hasn't found the right reading material to get them into electronics.

Motorola ROKR (MOTOROKR Z6m) + Alltel EVDO == "Finally, broadband in my home!"

My family and I live in one of the few remaining middle-of-nowheres. There's plenty of nice things about our middle-o-nowhere: it's cozy, it has just about everything you need and it's surrounded by pretty much nothing but beautiful sites for at least 100 miles. Heck, it even has bandwidth options out the wa-zoo: cable, DSL, and even line-of-sight wireless DSL. Naturally, we bought a house that's just far enough out of town to not have access to any of these options.

"But I work in front of a computer all day...surely I don't need/want broadband at home?" Yeah...I kept telling myself that for the last 8 years. The winters are just too long around here to not have broadband. Of course, I've always had the satellite option, but it just wasn't for me -- large initial setup costs, and then hefty monthly fees, mixed with latency issues.

Thankfully, finally, as I sit here and type this, I'm on something other than dialup, and man, I gotta say, Alltel has got a decent thing going right now. I wish I could say I'm being paid for this free advertising, but I'm not. I'm just thrilled to the core to have bandwidth!

I recently got a new cell phone, the Motorola ROKR Z6m. I won't go into the snazzy details of the phone -- click that link if you want details.

We've had an Alltel contract for nearly two years now. A while back, as I drove home from work, I noticed the Alltel store had a banner outside proclaiming "$25 HIGH SPEED INTERNET FOR YOUR PC!" Huh. I eventually got around to checking it out. It's just that. $25/month, for, as far as I can tell, truly unlimited data transfer. I've heard it called 'tethered' internet because you have to hook your phone to you computer via USB (or possibly bluetooth...) Anyway, it's nice in that it's not a contracted service - you can turn add/remove it from your plan whenever you want.

Now, if you're reading this and you don't have broadband, and you're considering going with this Alltel-route, maybe I can save you some money and trouble. Visit the alltel page for some brief details. Scroll all the way to the bottom and you'll see the "Wireless Internet Kit" which strangely, includes a cable. All this kit has are cable(s) for hooking your phone to your PC's USB port, and some software/drivers on a CD.

If you have a phone that has a USB connection on it, just pick up the most affordable USB cable you can find. If not, well, you may want to spring for the $60 kit...or maybe splurge and upgrade to a new phone? Make sure it's an EVDO phone! For the software, all you need are the USB drivers. You can download these drivers directly from Motorola (free registration required to download.) After downloading and installing the drivers, but before hooking your phone to your PC, make sure your phone is set to work as a modem when hooked up via USB, this should be buried under the "Connection" settings. Now hook your phone to your PC.

Assuming you have your internet plan turned on, your phone has signal, your drivers are 'happy' with the phone, all you need to do to get connected is to setup a new dialup internet connection in Windows (sorry, I'm not a Mac guy, and I've not the desire to make this work under *nix.) The number you need to dial will be "#777". For username and password, use "[YourPhoneNumber]@alltel.net", ie: 1235551212@alltel.net. The password should be "alltel".

Dialup and you should be connected!

Check me out! It's not amazing, but you must admit it's a ton better than dialup. :)

PS: I've left out some details here as it's getting late, but big thanks to Mikie and mom for helping get my contract squared away, and thank you interpipes for offering up the answers as you always do. ;)