Friday, December 10, 2010

Virgin Mobile Mifi 2200

Anybody else having a hell of a time getting this thing to work with a Mac? I have a pretty new MacBook Air and am having a hell of a time getting it to play nice with my Virgin Mobile Mifi 2200. The Mac times out when connecting, it won't ever get beyond entering the wifi access password. I was able to connect to the Mifi with my phone, and laboriously reconfigure the wifi to not require a password. No luck. Tried again, turned the wifi from 802.11B/G to B only, then it would connect, but I'd have no active connectivity. So I manually set it to channel 2 and then channel 10, no difference there. Manually changed the DNS to Google's Public DNS servers, and then I could resolve DNS. So....what does that mean? It's really a routing/config issue?

After an hour of messing with it, I gave up. Not worth the hassle. I'll use my wife's USB modem instead (if that'll work) and never top-up the Mifi again.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How to get an iTunes Store Refund

There are a lot of bloggers talking up how to get a refund from iTunes. Most of them suggest you click the "report a problem" link in your purchase history. This didn't work for me. Apple never responded, and then the system won't allow you to click the "report a problem" link a second time. To get a response, I had to submit a request manually via this webform. Make sure to include your order # and explain why what you bought isn't working. Be explicit and ask for a refund.

In my case, I had purchased Slingplayer Mobile for iPad, only to find out that it doesn't support my Slingbox -- even though Slingplayer for iPhone supports it -- and the requirements section of the new application is poorly worded, suggesting that it works with a Slingbox Pro, which it does not. (It actually refers to support for a Slingbox Pro HD, not a Slingbox Pro. The app store ratings page for the application is filled with people who ran into the same issue I did.)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Judith Griggs

Judith Griggs, managing editor of Cook's Source magazine, is a content thief.

People who steal other peoples' content really bug me. It amazes me how ignorant she seems to be of how copyright law actually works.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hire my friend Jess!

Hey, is anybody in Minneapolis hiring? My friend Jess is looking. I know she would do well as an administrative assistant or in some entry level marketing/communications positioning. Check out her resume here, and please consider asking her to come interview with you!

Friday, July 30, 2010

My Old Friend Target Let Me Down

For years I have considered Target the "hometown hero." I'm from Minneapolis, where Target is headquartered, and I've had various bits of peripheral involvement in different Target-related stuff, going all the way back to doing typesetting work for their benefits forms back in my graphic design days. Later, I worked for a pre-press shop that did a ton of Target print ad work. I always found Target easy to work with, and even easier to shop with. They have seemingly tried to position themselves as inclusive; open; inviting to all. That fits with Minneapolis, a city for which I feel has those same characteristics.

For years, I lived on the southern edge of downtown Minneapolis. Target opened a store in downtown Minneapolis in 2001. I was excited by this, and grateful to have a Target store within walking distance. It significantly contributed to an ongoing revitalization of the downtown neighborhood. Target seemed like a partner in my community. I shopped at that Target often, and bought many things. Groceries, home furnishings, clothing, electronics. I remember the ease with which my mom and I purchased a TV there on a snowy, miserable day. Drove the 4WD SUV into Target's underground parking ramp, bought the TV, loaded TV up dry, indoors, then we headed off on our way. Easy as pie. Target experimented with a grocery section, which turned out to be very popular, and it grew significantly over time. Today, Target remains pretty much the only grocery store in downtown Minneapolis.

Though I moved to Chicago a few years ago, my wife and I still visit Minneapolis periodically. We often stay at downtown hotels, and we visit the Target store on nearly every trip. It's a great place to stock up on a jug of water, snacks and toiletries when traveling, and it's a fun, vibrant environment. They even have a mezzanine that has (among other things) a place where I can get a haircut, which I've done at least twice.

And now, back here in Chicago, Target opened a brand new store at the Wilson Yard development in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. It literally just opened, I mean, just a week or so ago. The Wilson Yard development has been a bit of a boondoggle; the alderman, Helen Shiller, has taken the Daley approach of doing whatever the hell she wants regardless of what neighbors desire, and she seems to lack a commitment to transparency. A neighborhood group unsuccessfully sued to address perceived problems, and not everybody is pleased with the final product.

But everybody seems to love the new Target store. It is nice. It is large, at 203,000 square feet, larger than the average SuperTarget (174,00 square feet). The vast majority of comments from blog readers are positive. "The nicest Target I've seen around Chicago." "This store is awesome!" "Absolutely great!"

My wife and I are similarly positive. We've been there twice already. We've spent over $600 there in just this first week. We're not likely to do that every week, but we were really looking forward to the opportunity to shop here again. This Target is AWESOME! It's got a big grocery section, it's clean, it's nice, and it's right by the Wilson red line stop. We can easily get their without a car! And if we buy too much to drag home on the train, it's easy to grab a taxi outside of the front door. And, importantly, this new Target, like the one in downtown Minneapolis, is a significantly positive step in the revitalization of Uptown Chicago. Uptown is a neighborhood struggling to gentrify, home of some of the best, and worst, blocks on the north side of Chicago. This kind of investment in the neighborhood makes me want to move closer.

Target is great. Target does good. Right? That's what I thought, anyway. Until I read this: Target made a big ole donation to MN Forward, a PAC that is paying for ads supporting Tom Emmer, a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate who makes his anti-gay rights stance very clear. His website states that he has "consistently supported the constitutional marriage amendment that protects traditional marriage," the common phrasing used by people who are afraid that their personal concept of marriage is destroyed if somehow loving gay couples were allowed the same legal rights afforded to us hetero couples.

Target's CEO, Gregg Steinhafel, has gone into damage control mode. The Milwaukee Examiner quotes Mr. Steinhafel as follows: "Let me be very clear," Steinhafel said, "Target's support of the GLBT community is unwavering, and inclusiveness remains a core value of our company."

That's great, except for a couple points. First, he and his wife each donated $5,000 to Michele Bachman, a representative from the 6th district of Minnesota, a right-winger who regularly and repeatedly gets important facts wrong. Stuff like, the legality of the census, claiming FDR caused the depression (by accusing him of signing bills that Hoover had signed), accusing Jimmy Carter of being in charge during a swine flu outbreak in the 1970s (it was Ford), et cetera. Reasonable people can disagree on issues of politics, but I wouldn't even trust Michele Bachmann to give me an accurate reading of the time or temperature without it somehow becoming a reference to a secret cabal directing a liberal government conspiracy. She makes my wife and I itch to such a degree, that we are only half-kidding when we joke about moving back to Minnesota, solely for the opportunity to vote against her.

So, OK. We've got the Target CEO donating to an arguably crazy right-wing member of the House of Representatives. It's his money, not the company's money. He can do whatever he wants with it, right? Sure, he can. But you start with this, and then you ask yourself about Target supporting MN Forward, who supports Tom Emmer, who "hangs out with a guy who thinks killing gays is moral." Read about the anti-gay hard rock band "You Can Run But You Can't Hide," whose lead singer Bradlee Dean, told radio listeners recently that Muslim countries that call for the execution of gays and lesbians are “more moral than even the American Christians.” But Tom Emmer says Bradlee's a nice guy.

And Gregg Steinhafel says Target are nice folks, supportive folks, inclusive folks. Yet, Target and Gregg are effectively supporting this guy Tom Emmer, who actually doesn't seem like that nice of a guy, and who supports scary folks who think it's cool to further their agenda through hinting that it's okay to kill people they disagree with.

And now I'm wishing that my wife and I hadn't bought that television and kitchen table set from Target this past week. Target, I want you to be about supporting the community and a fun and positive shopping experience. I want you to continue to be the anti-Walmart. This is the Target I know and love, and yet, here is that same Target, taking little bits of the money I give it and helping it end up supporting people that don't believe in the things I believe in. Things that seem hateful and mean.

Why does Target need to support political candidates? I'm surprised Target thinks it's good business. It seems to me that open support for something as divisive as a political race ensure that you're likely to alienate everybody likely to vote for the other guy.

I'm surprised, and I'm disappointed. I'm nobody special, but as you can see, I'm a long time supporter of Target. But, after this, I don't think I can give you any more money, Target. Not until you show me that you can do better.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Best Lobby Bar in Downtown Indianapolis?

I travel to downtown Indianapolis a lot for work, so I've come to know just about all of the bars, hotels and restaurants in downtown Indianapolis. I thought it might be fun to write up some of the things I like and share them here.

Of late, I've been thinking about the concept of the lobby bar. You know, the bar that a hotel typically has, typically on its first floor, often times opening out onto the lobby. Indy's got a lot of hotels downtown and by extension, a lot of lobby bars. I've been to just about all of them, at least once. And it turns out that my favorite is at the Canterbury Hotel, a tiny little hotel on South Illinois in-between Maryland and Georgia Streets.

The hotel is a bit older, built in 1928. It's a bit small, something of a private club feel to it, and it occasionally feels a bit worn around the edges. I like it, though, as the people that work there are nice, and it's typically convenient to what I'm doing when I'm in downtown Indianapolis. There is an door that takes you directly into the Circle Center mall, which comes in handy for walking to work if the weather isn't so nice out. (FYI, the hotel was recently purchased by a new owner, who promises to renovate.)

The real gem, though, is the bar. Just off to the left from the front entrance, it is a small, quiet, wood-paneled kind of place, where I love to go sit with a book at the end of the night. Dani, the bartender, is quick to recognize regulars, and very friendly and funny. There have been other times where I've stayed at some other hotel, and managed to make a point of stopping in to have a drink, just because I like the room, and the bartender. And it's the kind of thing that makes me more likely to stay there next time I visit.

Monday, July 12, 2010

For Sale: Sprint Modem & Pocket Router

I have this Sprint 3G/4G modem (USB Modem U300) and this Sprint 3G/4G pocket router (Sprint PHS300S - made by Cradlepoint). Anybody want to buy these cheap? Service will cost you $60/mo from Sprint. 4G only works in some cities (such as Chicago), but the modem will step down to 3G automatically or manually.

If you're interested, contact me here. I am happy to guarantee that everything works.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Shock: Cops at 1137 Pratt Again

Sadly, it's not that unique to see the police over at 1137 W Pratt Blvd, as noted by myself and other bloggers. They are there again today. This time it's three cop cars, one marked and two unmarked. I wonder what's going on.

Another neighbor mentioned that the building has gone into receivership. Did the owner go bankrupt? It is/was owned by Stan Properties. I see that they've taken down the big, ugly "APARTMENTS FOR RENT!!!!" sign from the boulevard. It's a neat little building that would shine if only a little care and attention were paid to it. Based on the number of times we've seen the cops there, I suspect that the landlord running criminal background checks on prospective tenants would help significantly.

I've been inside it a few times. They rent some of the units out as hotel rooms, or at least used to. After the issues my parents ran into last time they stayed there (no lights in the stairwells, broken elevator, etc.), I stopped putting people up there, so I don't know if they still rent out some of the units that way.

Monday, May 31, 2010

4G: Not Ready for Prime Time

We recently tried Clear 4G (Wimax) internet service at home. Cost-wise, it's much cheaper than Comcast. We paid Clear about $70/mo for a home modem and a pocket USB modem (that supported both 3G and 4G). That's about what we were paying Comcast just for home internet. On top of that, I have a Sprint 3G/4G modem that I pay $60/mo for. My hope was that Clear could replace service from both Comcast and Sprint.

We really wanted to be out from under the Comcast near-monopoly. OK, Clear is partly-owned by Comcast (and is 51% owned by Sprint), so we're not exactly dealing with an independent, but we still wanted to try it. Truth be told, though, Clear was one of the worst internet providers I've ever had.

I had been thinking about it for a while. I already had the Sprint 3G/4G modem -- "Sprint 4G" is really Clear Wimax. So I figured that I was already experienced with the service. I mentioned on Twitter that we were considering making the leap, and a very helpful Clear sales rep responded to me via Twitter, offering to bring over a modem and set it up for us. We took him up on his offer, and he came over the next day.

The setup process was pretty painless. The Clear rep had a bit of trouble with his laptop, but it got sorted out, in the end. We tested our Roku box while he was there, and it was able to stream Netflix or Amazon videos just fine. So, we went for it, switched the home network over to Clear, and turned off Comcast.

Clear worked well....for about two days. Then we started having problems.
  • You get knocked off line at about 4:00 pm just about every day. My wife always works from home, and I often do, so this is problematic. Losing connection to the client's Webex webcast mid-call is not a fun situation to be in.
  • Speeds seem "OK" most of the time but seem to take a dramatic drop about 7:00 pm. From megabits to modem speeds. Or dead stop.
  • Video streaming services like Netflix usually worked OK after forcing the Roku box to use a low bit rate. But, Clear just sort of "poops out" periodically. It couldn't keep up any sort of sustained bit rate. It's hard to watch a TV show when it stops every three minutes to re-buffer for another sixty seconds.
Keep in mind, a big part of Clear's advertising talks up streaming video and audio "anywhere you go." It wasn't exactly like we were trying to use the service for something other than what it was designed for.

I did a lot of research online, and called in once or twice. Theories for poor performance ranges from weather conditions, other users on the same Wimax cell splitting bandwidth, etc., but I was never able to conclusively figure out why performance was so slow.

We weren't expecting blazing speeds. I know it's wireless, and it's not going to be as fast as Comcast. But, we couldn't go a day without some huge irritating lag in the connection, web browsing slowing to a crawl, or continual re-buffering of streaming video.

So, we gave up, and called Comcast back to turn cable internet back on. Turns out, they "have to" send a rep out to re-enable internet service that had been off for no more than two weeks. Probably a bit less than that. But, whatever. They came out, they checked the wiring, they turned everything back on, and suddenly we're back to getting reliable 20 megabit connections over coax.

There's another thing to consider. When everything is working GREAT with Wimax, you're going to get about 1.5 megabits. When it's not working great, we were getting about .3 megabit (or nothing at all). Comcast, from its worst to best, was ranging anywhere from 3.5-20 megabit.

The latency is a lot higher with Wimax, obviously, but I didn't write down any of my ping test numbers, so there's not much useful I can share in that regard, beyond telling you that a wired connection is usually going to be better than a wireless connection.

Since then, I've picked up an Apple iPad with AT&T 3G built in. I'm not a huge fan of AT&T, but I figured it would be good for light use while traveling. In my random tests, I found that AT&T 3G is often faster than Clear Wimax (Sprint 4G).

In fact, it's about time for me to dump the Sprint modem. I use it mostly for reading the web while traveling, and now I can do that with the iPad.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Busy Bee/Late Spring Cleaning

It's been a busy past few days here in Rogers Park.

My wife is in NYC, leaving me behind to fulfill my dreams of....cleaning, I guess. We have too much stuff. A lot of it is old computer parts and old printing/design materials from my designer days, so I've been thinning the herd. The goal is to turn my home office into a den, dump/donate everything we don't need/want, and fill up our storage area in the basement with any of that inbetween stuff, the things we're just not sure we can part with, even though we haven't done anything with any of it in five years. I hit up the local Target to get some plastic boxes and have slowly been filling them up.

On Sunday I planned to take my first box down to the basement. I scoped out where our storage locker was supposed to be, and lo-and-behold, it was entirely packed with somebody else's crap. Not sure who, couldn't tell by locking at it. The locker wasn't labeled, either. I contacted the landlord, who confirmed that the space is ours, and got her permission to displace all the stuff that's currently in there. I did that yesterday, moving stuff to a common area in the basement. Some of the beat up plywood furniture they were hiding down there was hella heavy, so now I'm sore. Ow.

And now I'm realizing that some of the stuff I want to move to the basement is too heavy for me to do it by myself. So, do I hire movers to help me move stuff down flights of stairs? Feels lame, but I'm probably going to have to do it.

I'm still hoping to make our second bedroom, what was my cluttered home office, into a much more appealing den, by the end of the week. Wish me luck.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Back in the Hood

I've been traveling a lot lately, so this blog has suffered. But now, hey, I'm back. So I'll do my best to come up with something more interesting soon.

Lesson learned this past weekend: The dog is a hindrance on a road trip. He just isn't happy. I wasn't happy either -- I'm not sure anybody lives in Cleveland on purpose -- but you don't hear me complaining.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

B&B in the RP

The friendly neighborhood blogger over at "The RP & Beyond" points out that we have a cool little bed and breakfast right here in Rogers Park. The Cat's Cradle Bed and Breakfast is at 7421 Sheridan, right next door to the Emil Bach house. Neat!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Blog Using Your Own Domain Name

Here's why you should always blog under your own domain name, and never use a subdomain under one of the popular blog services: They could take the name away from you at any time, as one Tumblr user found when his blog was displaced to give his URL to Pitchfork. Lame. Of course, even if you do use your own domain, that might not stop Tumblr from deleting your blog, but you could then at least resurrect it elsewhere.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Resident charged in fatal apartment building fire

The Trib's Chicago Breaking News site reports: "Mahad Ali Hassan, 26, of 6720 N. Sheridan Road, was charged late Saturday night with first-degree murder, aggravated arson and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, said Chicago Police News Affairs Officer John Mirabelli."

Here's a prior story on the fire from the same site, with more details about the blaze.

Friday, January 15, 2010

6720 North Sheridan -- The Day After



Here's 6720 North Sheridan Road the day after the fire. Looks a lot quieter today, doesn't it? Sad to think of the people who were hurt, the one person who perished, and of course, the people who are now homeless, thanks to their apartments being ruined by fire, smoke, and/or water damage.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

6720 North Sheridan Fire Update


According to CBS2:
  • One death; multiple injuries. :(
  • Somebody jumped from the back before they could be rescued. They are in critical condition.
  • Two firefighters were injured.
  • Might have been arson. Gasoline found nearby.
CBS2 used some of my pictures on their website, including the one accompanying this article.

I fumbled trying to shoot cell phone video with my phone; was hard to see the "recording" indicator. This left me with a handful of very short clips. I was able to stitch them together into a single Youtube video.

Fire at 6720 North Sheridan



I spent the morning working from Starbucks, then was going to walk down to Five Guys and grab a burger for lunch. I walked out the door of Starbucks and wondered, why are all those people standing there? What's that smoke? Oh no, the apartment building at 6720 North Sheridan Road was on fire. Smoke seemed to be pouring out of two middle windows on the top floor. (The building is a four plus one.) Just as soon as I had walked out and saw the smoke, I heard sirens, and police and fire showed up seconds later. It was clear that I was in no position to help, so I hung back and took a few pictures.

Click here to see some more pictures from the fire and rescue efforts.

One lady was sticking her head out of her fourth floor window, telling people she couldn't get out of her apartment. This was right when the fire trucks were arriving. The CFD didn't spend any time messing around. They very quickly set things up so they could get a ladder up to her. She did make it down OK. She's on the stretcher here, I wonder if perhaps only due to possible smoke inhalation. At the same time, the firefighters were helping one or two more people down from another fourth floor apartment on the other side of the fire.

It looks as though the people in the two adjacent apartments were able to get down safely, thanks to the good work of the Chicago Fire Department. Here's hoping that the burned apartment was unoccupied.

Update: One dead and four injured, according to CBS2. :(