Jul 30, 2014

Jul - 23 2014 | By

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Both Glenn & Paul were in the studio for today's show

If Glenn gets around to posting the podcast of this show, it should be here.

During the show Glenn mentioned that the music they've been using at the start and end of the show is from Pentatonix.

 

Paul noted that the technological theme of this show covers a broad spectrum. He invited listeners to call in, even if it's about levers and pulleys.

Paul talked about what's often called the "one off problem" (though he didn't use that phrase), which deals with how we count things — in particular, where we start and end. When they want to count to 10,000, computer programmers start at 0 and stop at 9,999. So when processing an array of 10,000 characters the programmer has to be careful to make the program access each character and not 1 too many or 1 too few. A more common example is a person's birthday — someone who's 57 has actually lived into their 58th year.
<The problem often shows up in programming when the wrong type of looping structure is used. One type increments the counter at the beginning of a loop; the other at the end>

And consider that 1 mile is 1760 yards or 8 furlongs. In the UK it's normal to place power poles every furlong, so how many poles in a mile? You have to be careful of the spot you start counting. If you start at the midpoint of a pole then you have 7 poles and 2 half poles (one at each end).

"But if you move the 1st pole up a little bit you only get 7 in because the 8th one is outside of the boundary", Paul said.
<His example seemed specious, unless I totally missed the point (it's 8 either way). Just remember to consider where you start and stop counting.>

Paul also talked about the expansion & contraction of the wires between electrical poles. The slack in the catenary curve of the wires has to be enough to prevent excess tension on the poles during winter to prevent snapping the poles.

On the theme of expansion & contraction, he also mentioned that there is a telescope set in concrete along the path leading to Fort Mason in San Francisco. The scope's site points at the bottom of the Golden Gate Bridge. Looking thru the scope you can see the rise and fall of the bridge as the temperature changes over time.

When the bridge was being built, the roadbed, as it was being built from both ends, was inclined upward. So when the ends were joined on completion, the road sagged slightly under the combined weight.

The other bit of trivia about the bridge is that the two vertical pillars are not parallel. The earth's curvature causes the tops of the towers to be slightly further apart than the bottoms.

There was a brief astronomical discussion.
– The Earth and Moon actually orbit each other.
– The Earth precesses — wobbles like a spinning top.
– The precession has other motions superimposed on it — nutation is one.
– The point made was that nothing is as perfect as you might think.
– Even the motions in the solar system vary over time.

Paul said he is currently getting a message from the newly installed version of Win7 on his computer — "A logon session cannot be created. You need to restart your computer".
– This has been happening to some people since 2011.
– Microsoft has issued a provisional patch.
– He installed the patch. It made no difference.
– He complained that they tend not fix the root of a problem but just put a band aid on it.
– However, Win7 seems more stable than XP.
– He didn't say if and how he fixed the problem.

Glenn talked about alternative phone services. He speculated that 80% to 90% of folks in the Nevada City area are using a copper wire connection.
– He wondered how many companies provide plain old telephone serve (POTS) and how many provide an internet service with voice over IP (VOIP).
– Spiral Internet provides the internet connection with long distance phone service.
– The original intention behind AT&T's U-verse product was to provide the internet and VOIP, but not the standard (dialtone) phone service.
– The companies like to bundle various services (TV, internet, phone) and give you just one bill. Just one ripoff, according to Paul.

Paul asked Glenn what his ideas were about that. Glenn said he uses Comcast for internet, TV, video on demand (streaming video) and gets one large bill.
– They charge rental fees on the equipment and they don't always tell you.
– If you unbundle one of the services, they charge you more for the remaining ones.
– On the plus side, Comcast, in his area, delivers the fastest internet.

Paul said the technical (internet) service from Comcast is great but the billing service are atrocious. The pricing structure makes it difficult to find out something as simple as why the monthly fee went up. It's hidden in the price of the bundle. Glenn agreed and said the customer service of all these big companies is bad, judging by his personal experience.

The disclaimer:
The views and opinions expressed on this show are those of the speakers only and not necessarily those of KVMR, its board, management, staff or contributors.

There are at least 4 companies in the local area that provide internet service. Spiral Internet, Smarter Broadband, Digital Path (the service Glenn uses, but VOIP doesn't work well in his case), they didn't mention the 4th service.

Glenn noted that he had continual problems with NetTalk. They've been resolved, He got a new unit and his account was extended until Feb. At that time he's going some place else.

Paul talked about your right to port your phone number when you switch providers. There was some initial resistance by the phone companies and the government had to pass some laws to make it easier.
– They cannot take longer than a week to port a number, if Paul remembered correctly.
– The downtime cannot be longer than an hour.
– Paul has ported his number a few times — to PhonePower, to BroadVoice, to NetTalk, he currently has VOIP.ms. <I think this might be it>

Paul now uses the Obihai device, which Glenn found at Fry's for about $32. It's a VOIP device. Obihai is run by the guy who originally developed Sipura, one of the best internet routers for phone calls. Sipura was eventually sold to Cisco.
– Glenn returned the Obihai he bought for himself when he found out that Google Voice is dropping support. Though support stopped, Glenn said it supposedly still "works".
– It's small 2 to 3 inches by 1 to 2 inches and runs off USB power.
– It has a phone plug (RG11) and plugs into your Ethernet router (the router you have at home for your internet connection).
– A 2-phone line version is between $50 & $60.
– The Obihai device is just a one-time purchase, not a rental, and you have to arrange for the actual phone service separately. Obihai has some partners to provide the phone service.

If you buy a Comcast bundle with the internet and VOIP, the box (router) that comes with it is special. If you buy the same box on Ebay, for instance, and try to use it, Comcast won't allow it and claim that the box can only be leased from them. Paul didn't think that was legal and, indeed, discovered there is a class action law suit about the issue.

Other things to know about porting your phone number.
– Be sure to port the number before canceling the service from your old phone provider (AT&T or whoever). Otherwise you lose control over the number.
– Tell your new phone provider your phone number and tell them you want it ported. They will then work with your old provider and you don't have to do anything else.
– You can use a service called something like Ring Through or Ring Back (Paul wasn't sure of the name).  You can port your number to them for free and they provide a "parking spot" for your phone number, so you don't lose control over it. You can then use their web site to tell them where to forward a call that comes to that number.
– Many companies advertise that you can port your number to them for free. But there is no regulatory reason that you can't be charged by the company you're porting FROM.
<I couldn't find a free place to park your phone number (especially not with call forwarding) but this article mentions a couple of pay services and also talks about putting your number on vacation.
You can also port your number to Google Voice for a one-time fee of $20>

Glenn said he once had Magic Jack, another VOIP device. He hasn't heard of anyone having particular problems with that company.

The Vonage service was mentioned. Nothing particularly bad was said about them except they're not the cheapest.

James called. He'd been on hold while Glenn talked about Magic Jack and he wanted to know if it was a good choice.
– Glenn remembered the reason he left the service was that his unit stopped working and they wouldn't warranty it, even though he had it for less than 1 year. It was $30 to get another unit or $30 to port his phone number away from them.
– They don't have customer service. You cannot call them.
– Magic Jack & Net Talk are cheap but their devices are proprietary. When they break, you have to get another one. Broad Voice or Phone Power can use a generic unit.
– Phone Power is $8.33 per month for 1-year contract. With taxes it's about $150/yr. <Seems like a lot of tax, not sure I heard that right> It's not the cheapest in the business but Glenn had some good customer service from them.
– You can try Magic Jack free for 30 days to be sure it works for you. Not all VOIP units work well with all internet connections.
– Most VOIP companies have a trial period. Phone Power does.

Glenn mentioned California Lifeline for low-income people. You can get subsidized for your AT&T land line service end up paying only $8 to $12 per month. <You can get cheap cell phone service too, as I recall. Visit them here or here>

Brian called to ask Paul how to make Google understand the Queens English.
– Try google.co.uk. You can see what Google looks like in other countries. Use the country top level domain as in google.es for Spain or google.se for Sweden.
– On his Android device Brian can experiment using his voice at google.co.uk.

Bob called. He wants to switch to a different email address. He wants an easy way to notify his contacts of the change. He has about 800 contacts. He's switching from a small provider, CWnet to Comcast.
– Don't switch to an internet provider's mail system (Comcast). Instead get an address that lives on the internet like Gmail or me.com.
– You can't just send out 800 emails, your provider will think it's spam and not allow it. Send out the emails in small batches.
– Put multiple email address on the BCC: line, don't use the CC: line.
– Don't send the emails from the old account (CWnet), use the new account (Gmail or what ever).

Last updated 11:01 PM 8/7/2014