Studio711

Geek

Classic Mac Games

One of my earliest experiences with a computer was the Macintosh Classic (or Classic II?) that Dad would bring home from work. I spent a lot of hours on that machine and one of our favorite games was Airborne. Gameplay was pretty simple. You had two different times of guns to shoot from the lower left of the screen. Planes and helicopters flew in from the right and sometimes they would drop parachuting infantry. Once there were enough troops on the ground, you would lose.

It turns out that archive.org not only has some of the old Mac games, but there’s a built-in emulator so you can easily play them from your browser! Airborne is on the list and you can play it right now.

Now if only I could find a few other favorites from that computer. I remember an air traffic control game, a “3D” maze game with monsters, and an elevator/frogger game. I wasn’t able to find any of those on the archive.org list but maybe they’ll show up eventually.

 

Stop Renting Cable Modems

When you get internet service from Comcast, they rent you a cable modem. This costs around $10/month. The nice thing is that if you ever have trouble with the modem, you just replace it at no additional cost. But if you’re willing to put in a little extra effort, you can ditch that monthly fee.

Start at the official Comcast help page. They walk you through the steps of figuring out what kind of modem you should get. There are a lot of options and your specific choice depends on whether you have your telephone through Comcast too or whether you want to have your modem and router all in one device or in two separate devices.

When I buy a modem, I try to get one with the latest tech so that I don’t need to upgrade it very soon to get faster service. Currently, the top of the line units have DOCSIS 3.1. That supports some pretty crazy speeds, but as long as you get DOCSIS 3.0 you should be fine. Being a huge nerd, I like to have a separate modem and a separate router. I don’t have Comcast telephone service. I bought our current modem back in 2012 for $89.99 from Newegg and it is a Linksys DPC3008-CC R. It looks like it’s only $37 now.

I don’t remember the details of how you actually do the replacement once you have the new unit in hand. I think you just plug in the new model and then call Comcast support. They’ll ask you for the “MAC Address” of your new unit which is printed on the device somewhere. After that you can ask them how to return your old modem.

In my case, I broke even on the cost of the modem in 9 months and ever since then I’ve been saving $10/month. If you’re willing to get a little nerdy, it’s an easy way to save some money.

WiFi Channels

If you could see inside my house when I’m trying to fix network troubles, you’d see me walking around staring at my phone running an app like WiFi Analyzer. It shows all the different WiFi signals and their strengths. A quick glance at that app around my house quickly shows a lot of neighbors with improperly configured routers.

Here’s a tip: Your router probably lets you choose from 11 different channels for the 2.4Ghz radio. You should never use any channel other than 1, 6 or 11. Each channel bleeds over into it’s neighbors and that overlap causes interference for people on the other channels. So if you use channel 3, you’re messing up the spectrum for twice as many people as you need to. This chart shows how the channels overlap:

In most cases, you can randomly pick 1, 6 or 11 and be ok. If you want to go the extra mile, use an app to analyze your wireless spectrum and then pick one of those three that have the least amount of usage.

 

WiFi

My love for UniFi WiFi points from Ubiquiti is a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I installed it at church and at our house. The church system is rock solid. The one at our house has caused me a lot of pain and I was pretty convinced one of the two access points had hardware problems so I unplugged it and put it on the shelf.

Recently, Tyla has been having WiFi troubles on her laptop. My first reaction was that the other access point was probably going bad so I started looking into the new distributed wireless (or mesh wireless) network devices like Eero, Orbi and Google WiFi. Those systems aim to simplify the deployment of multiple access points around your house.

I realized that they aren’t generally targeted at me. They lack some of the advanced features that I like and they generally use a wireless connection to sync up the access points. I have my house wired with CAT6 ethernet and want to have everything wired, if possible, including my access points. WiFi has been around since the turn of the century and it has been causing me pain ever since. If a device in my house doesn’t move, it gets a hardwired network connection. Wireless is reserved for laptops, phones and Internet of Things devices that don’t have a wired option. So that’s my long way of saying that I don’t want to have access points that connect to the mothership via wireless.

Before plunking down more money on some replacement hardware, I decided to give the UniFi system one more try. After a fresh look, I realized I should check the network cable that runs downstairs into the living room where I had the “broken” access point hooked up. Sure enough, one of the 8 wires is not connected! Duh. I used a different jack on the other side of the room and it worked fine. I’ll have to go back and figure out why that one jack doesn’t work, but for now, I’m up and running.

I flashed the firmware on both access points to the latest version, adjusted the placement of both access points to provide optimum coverage around our house, and now I wait to see if there are any more wireless networking reports from Tyla.

Favorite Things of 2016

I looked back through my Amazon purchases in 2016 and thought I’d share a few of my favorites:

  • iVac Switch – I don’t know why I waited so long to buy this. If you use a dust collector in your shop, this is an awesome upgrade. It automatically turns your dust collector on when you turn a tool on. When the tool is shut off, the vacuum runs for a few more seconds and then turns off.
  • Truck cover – My truck should probably be on this list but that seemed a little silly. This truck bed cover, however, is a perfect fit for the list (and the truck!) I can unroll it or roll it up in less than a minute. It creates an almost waterproof seal over the bed. If you’ve fought with a tarp even one time, you’ll appreciate this purchase.
  • Amcrest 1080p cameras – We continue to build out our home surveillance system with bargain hardware and it continues to work out very well. These new 1080p cameras are incredible! The only problem is that it makes me want to replace all of my old ones.
  • Kingdom Builder – This board game is a gift we got for Logan, but it’s also available on your phone. The rules are fairly simple but the strategy is complex. I’m a wee bit addicted to this one right now.