Category Archives: Technology

Netflix Annoyances – Can’t Gift DVD Subscriptions

Netflix continues to annoy me; and I’m not even a member anymore. My wife and I canceled our account earlier this year when Netflix announced their price hikes on their DVD and Streaming subscriptions. I had thought about just canceling the Streaming subscription because the titles available sucked, especially compared to what we could get on HBO/Cinemax/Showtime, but I was just overly annoyed so I gave them the boot. We weren’t alone as thousands of subscribers punted on their Netflix subscription. My mother on the other hand, kept her subscription.

She lives alone and having access to movies to watch, especially during the winter, was worth the price she paid. This year for Christmas (hopefully she’s not reading this in case I figure out how) I wanted to get her a year long subscription to Netflix. I figured it was a gift not only she could use, but she’d enjoy. When I went to Netflix’s site though, all I could see where subscriptions to their streaming packages. It would cost $99.85 for a full year to their subscription service. Ok, great, $100 for crappy titles on-demand. No DVDs. Not even the option to gift the DVD subscription and not streaming.

Now, I could be totally off base here and their streaming service could be 1,000 times better than it was, but I haven’t had anyone tell me, “Bill, get Netflix! Their Streaming is awesome now!” If someone had, I’d probably at least check it out for a month. But no, no evidence of that. So my deal here is why would I spend $99.85 on something that I’m not convinced is of value as a gift? Why wouldn’t Netflix offer both as gifts? I understand that streaming is the wave of the future, but until you can get every title on-demand, it just doesn’t seem worth it. What do you think?

Email Unsubscribe Forms – What Not to Do

Just like everyone else, I get a lot of junk mail. Some of it I’ve signed up for years ago and some just shows up. I received an email from some company called ATLANTIC-ACM this morning. No idea who these guys are, so I went to unsubscribe from their list. I use Chrome and Firefox 4 most of the time and I saw this when I clicked their unsubscribe link from Chrome:

This is basically what it says:

Unsupported Browser (Safari AppleWebKit 534.16 WinNT)
This product requires Internet Explorer 6.0 SP1 or later, or Firefox 1.5 or later

Really?!?!? In this day in age you’re forcing someone to use a specific web browser? Especially for something as simple as an email unsubscribe form. This is just rediculous. If you’ve built something like this into your site, you should know better.

Yahoo Shutting Down

Per this link that I read via digg, it appears so. I’ve used for years ever since Kyle turned me on to it. I don’t bookmark as many sites or pages as I should, but its always nice to know that something I’ve looked up in the past might be saved off on my account for retrieval. For instance, that’s my go to place to find a page I book marked to remind me how to backup/restore MySQL databases. Its not a thing I do every day or even every few months. Maybe once a year.

There are some alternatives out there like:

For a complete list of alternatives, you can check out this site. Some are better than others. Some are paid solutions, some are not. I will miss though. Sorry to see it go.

Linksys WRT54G as a Wireless Repeater Using dd-wrt

Recently, I discovered I had some weak wireless signal in certain areas of my home. My first instinct was check out BestBuy or some other online shop for a Wireless Repeater only to find that I’d be spending a minimum of $90 to get the device. Yuck. Double yuck. I wanted a cheaper solution. Yeah, I might have found something cheaper on eBay, but I was also impatient and didn’t want to wait.

I had this Linksys wireless router kicking around and wondered if someone knew how to turn it into a Wireless Repeater. Afterall, isn’t the technology used to be a wireless router or repeater basically the same? After a quick Google search, I found out there was a solution. Using the dd-wrt linux based firmware. I was familiar with this already as I had used it before on another router to upgrade it after I had read this article on turning your $60 router into a $600 router. So I decided to give it a shot.

Pretty much all of the instructions I needed I found here. Basically you have to:

  • Disable the firewall
  • Choose the network you want to repeat
  • Create a virtual network to connect to

All said and done it took me about 20 minutes to set it all up, mostly because I didn’t want to brick my router, even if it only cost $50 and I wasn’t using it anymore. I’m not a fan of breaking stuff. Anyway, now I have great signal strength no matter where I am in my house, which is key. If you’re having a similar problem, I highly recommend trying this out, especially if you have the hardware lying around unused.

Google’s Clean Energy By 2030 Initiative

Right on the heals of my post about the wind turbine here in Worcester, MA, I just read a great article on Google’s Philanthropic Blog on what they’re working on to get our nation moving faster to renewable and cleaner energy. It’s great to see such a large company that is a household name take the initiative in helping us get to where we need to be. A lot of corporate and personal responsibility needs to be had in the near future to get us off of fossil fuels which dominate our fragile economy. For the most part, I think Google is on the right path…

Wind Turbine Goes Online in Worcester, MA

This probably isn’t that interesting to most other people in the world, but it is to me since I live in Worcster, MA and I love hearing about clean energy making progress. It’s something that just makes sense and we’d be foolish not to embrace it. Anyway, Holy Name Central Catholic Junior Senior High School did the research and actually followed through on building a 262 foot high wind turbine on their campus here in the city. You can just barely see it pop above the tree line as you drive down 290 west bound through the city. I saw it the other day and couldn’t believe what I was seeing right in my own back yard. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was excited to see it.

What I find particularly exciting about this is that Worcester is known for its weather. We get all sorts of weather patterns coming through the city because of its central location in Massachusetts. We always seem to at least have a slight breeze all times of the year. It gets especially windy in the Spring, Fall, and Winter. So this type of renewable energy in our city makes total sense. I’d like to see more of these pop up around the city. They don’t look ugly if you ask me, and with the abundant wind resource we have here, it makes perfect sense to help power the city.

Microsoft Offers to Gobble Up Yahoo for a Cool $44.6 Billion


I just read over on Bloomberg that Microsoft has made an unsolicited bid for Yahoo. This is clearly in an attempt to compete with Google in Internet Search, something Microsoft hasn’t been able to do well yet. The offer is for $44.6 billion in cash and Microsoft stock. This is, according to Bloomberg, 62% more than Yahoo’s closing price yesterday. Quite a good deal for Yahoo shareholders who have probably been waiting years to make some money on their investment. Neither Yahoo or Microsoft has been able to get up to the level Google is at with search, though both have tried admirably.

My take is, this probably makes sense for Yahoo and to a degree Microsoft. I’m not sure about the heafty price tag though. Yahoo was already starting to cut jobs, so its probably a smart move. Only time will tell if Microsoft will be able to successfully meld the Yahoo culture into its own and share technology successfully. This will be the biggest technology merger ever and they don’t always work. Should be interesting.

Yahoo Implements OpenID


I was reading on TechCrunch today that Yahoo has implemented OpenID, effectively tripling the number of OpenID accounts. They’ll be going into Beta at the end of the month. This is a huge win for the project, but it got me to thinking.

Remember way back when Microsoft Passport (Microsoft calls it Live ID now I believe and its used mostly on just their sites) came out it was supposed to be the answer to all our password woes? Create a Passport account and log in with the same username and password on any site that implemented it. Well, how far did it get? Nowhere. At least nowhere fast. Reason being I think implementation wasn’t all that easy and there was no real need for it without the abundance of internet users that we have today.

So what will make OpenID different? Well, first, the amount of social networking and information sites, not to mention the sheer number of people online, will make the adoption of some single account interface more appealing at some point. Second, with huge names like Yahoo, Google, Verisign, and IBM getting into the mix, something cool like this will have a shot at gaining some traction. I know I’d love to have one log in for all the sites I use daily. Remembering usernames and passwords is a pain.

Take this one step further. I’m in the e-commerce industry. I started thinking that I’d love to use something like this in all of the e-commerce sites we run. I would basically have one central spot to store authentication and account information instead of separate databases. So what if major brands started getting in on this? Think about it. Amazon, Gap, Target, WalMart, Best Buy, etc. etc. etc. are all on OpenID. You can effectively shop with the same authentication everywhere. No more forgot password reminders because you use this ID every day. You’d never forget! How cool would that be?

Why Don’t Cars Have Heated Locks?

Honda Accord Sedan

I awoke this morning at 7am (I usually get up around 8:00 or 8:30 for work) to Shannan telling me she couldn’t get in her car (a 2005 Honda Accord). It wouldn’t unlock. I’m thinking, great, you left the lights on and the battery is dead. Time to call AAA. But, I decided to go out and take a look. Turns out, the lock was just frozen. We received about a foot of snow yesterday, so my guess is some of it got in there and shut her out.

The FOB wouldn’t unlock it. I couldn’t unlock it with the key either. I ended up gaining entry by opening the rear window and getting in that way.

This got me thinking. Why don’t cars have heated locks? We have heated seats. We have heated mirrors. I’m sure some car has some other “heated” feature I don’t know about. So why is it locks aren’t heated? I think this would be a great feature you could activate from the keychain FOB for your car. Can’t get in ’cause the lock is frozen? Heat ‘er up and you’re set!

Note to car manufacturers, if you do this, I want credit! You heard it here first!

By the way, something else I just noticed today. Newer cars seem to only have one key port and its on the drivers door? No more passenger door lock? That cut my chances of unlocking it the “traditional” way in half. Thanks guys.

No Cash Register No Sale?

Exxon/Mobile Gasoline

I had to run some errands for work today and needed to stop for some gasoline. I pull up around the gas pump at a local Exxon/Mobile gas station and get ready to “fill ‘er up”. Typically I pay at the pump since I hardly ever need anything inside a convenience store, so I look at the screen on the pump and it says please pay inside. Arrgh, ok, no problem.

I walk up to the door to see a hand written sign that says “System is down. Registers too.”

Ok, I’ll go around the other side where I can see the attendant to see what’s up. He points at the sign.

I look back at him puzzled (the door is locked).

I pull my wallet out and flash some cash.

He shakes his head no.

No? No?!?! In this day and age of technology, we can no longer accept the almighty dollar bill in its original form? We’ve become so dependent on credit and computer driven register systems that we can’t accept a $20.00 bill? You’ve got to be kidding me. As I walked away, I felt bad for the guy as I heard some lady scream at him through the door. Lady, its not his fault. He’s probably under instructions from the proprietor to do what he did.

Anyway, my business went down the street to another, competing gas station station (where I did go in and buy a Coke, shame on me). I knew a lot of people can’t calculate change without a register, but actually take cash in hand? Come on now!