Category: Reviews

Netflix Streaming: A Disappointment

For years I used Netflix DVD by mail service and loved it. The sheer scope of options was unbelievable and at the time, it seemed that almost every piece of content I wanted was available. It was amazing and maybe still is. However, times and priorities changed and so I unsubscribed. Spin forward about 5 years and a month ago I was ready to try again. However, I am used to the flexibility of on-demand content provided by Comcast, err XFinity, although the price leaves much to be desired. The idea of unlimited streaming with a vast content library was an appealing and so I decided to give Netflix another go; unfortunately, the result was not what I expected.
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A business colleague recent tweeted a question about choosing a home generator. He was concerned about recent power outages in New England and worried that they would continue in the upcoming months and years. He was looking at options to protect his home in the case of a significant outage. I had recently considered adding a generator and wanted to share some learnings. The process is not that complex but there are four key questions that need to be considered:

1. Generator size

There are two differing perspectives on this question.

The first strategy is to use a very large generator (someone recommended a 20Kw to me). The benefit of this approach is that the large unit would power everything in the house and so you could run all your appliances including air conditioners, electric dryer and even electric stove without a problem. However, there is a trade-off. The larger generator typically means higher cost, more noise and increased fuel consumption.

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As I recently blogged, I have become a major Android fan over the last three months and one of my favorite features of the platform is its flexibility. Nowhere was this more evident than in my recent search for a new Android keyboard.

The keyboard that came with my Motorola Atrix (running Android v2.2) was adequate; however, I had some significant challenges. The biggest problem was the positioning of the period key. For whatever reason, it is located next to the space bar and I inevitably hit it mistakenly when typing fast and trying to add a space.  This creates all kinds of weird spacing and capitalization issues, and is supremely annoying.  Additionally, the relatively small keys on the keyboard often caused typing error which were not always auto-corrected. My goal was to find a keyboard that could address these challenges and I was fortunate that Android has many options to choose from. Here is a review of the ones I tried out:

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Frequent readers of this blog will know that I am an avid smartphone user. For years, my primary platform was RIM’s Blackberry and I appreciated the phone’s highly functional physical keyboard. When I changed jobs, my new company did not support Blackberry and so I was issued a Palm Pre Plus which I blogged about here. However, I also maintained a personal phone and back in March decided to upgrade to a Motorola Atrix 4G which is an Android based device. (I did not get the laptop dock.) Having lived with the phone for about 3 months, I wanted to share my thoughts.

Good: Speed

I will not go through the Atrix specs in detail, but one point of note is that the phone includes the new dual-core Tegra processor. Having never owned a single core Android phone, I cannot compare it directly, but can say that it is very fast. It virtually never slows down and runs everything application flawlessly. One of the areas where this is most visible is in Google Navigation. The route re-calculation functionality is instantaneous and I barely know when it happens. This is in sharp contrast to my Tom Tom navigator which takes a good 5 – 10 seconds to recalculate during which time you are driving blind. This phone is in sharp contrast to my Palm Pre Plus and previous Blackbery Bold 9000 both of which slowed down frequently.

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One of the challenges in today’s connected world is that we expect Internet and cellphone signals just about everywhere.  However, many rural areas are lacking in coverage and I recently embarked on a project to provide wireless service where previously there was little to none.

I frequently visit a summer house on a lake that has minimal cell coverage.  When walking outside, you are lucky to get one bar with AT&T while Verizon is a bit stronger, but still of questionable usability.  My goal was to find a way to deliver consistent coverage to a desk in the house.  Note that the objective was not to provide signal for the entire house, but simply to one location.  (This is an important distinction.)

I researched many solutions.  The first option was a femtocell.  Carriers provide femtocells which provide cellular coverage in houses using voice over IP and existing Internet connections.  The idea is a good one, but did not work in my case because the house did not have Internet access.  Additionally, the carriers charge around $10 a month for this service which is ridiculous.  Clearly, I needed an alternative approach.

The second choice, which I eventually went with, was a wireless repeater.  These systems include an outside antenna, inside antenna and an amplifier.  The outside antenna receives the carrier’s signal while the amplifier amplifies it and re-broadcasts it through the internal antenna inside the house.  Thus, all cell phones inside the house work normally because they connect to what is effectively the outside signal amplified.  There are a number of options to choose from including units from Wilson Electronics and Wi-Ex.  In general, the reviews of both units were positive.  Note that both companies also offer a range of accessories to improve signal quality and internal coverage area.

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