Thursday, December 18, 2014

Switching home broadband

For the last five years, I've been a customer of AT&T for their DSL service for my home Internet connection. I started back then with their 1.5 megabit/second(Mbps) service and about a year ago they updated my service to 3 Mbps for the same price.

In that time, we've encountered a frustrating problem where the connection would regularly "drop" and we'd be unable to connect to the Internet for 2-5 minutes at a time. Over time the duration of the outage grew, along with the frequency. No one seemed to have an answer to the solution.

I was told my router was the problem but I highly doubted that. Luckily Renee had the router she used in Wyoming, so I set it up and converted all of our wireless devices. The connection "black-outs" were still getting longer and more frequent. It was clear that AT&T was the problem. Renee and I made the decision to ditch DSL and try cable. I discovered that for $5 more a month than I was paying AT&T, I could get 100 Mbps from Time Warner Cable! That's right for $5 more a month, I could get 33x faster bandwidth.

That information cemented our resolve to ditch the phone company. I did some research and discovered that we could "rent" a modem and a router/wireless access point from TWC or we could purchase our own. I elected to purchase our own cable modem and reuse the router we are currently using, in an effort to minimize our recurring costs.

Well, after dealing with a few incompetent installers (who probably didn't want to install the cable from the street, as the existing line was too old to be reused), we ended up with a great guy by the name of Edgar who installed the cable and got our connection working this evening. He performed his speed tests on the connection and we are getting about 110 Mbps download and 11 Mbps upload.

After Edgar left, we sat down to watch something on Netflix. There was no buffering at all, something we've learned to accept as normal. I'm hoping that TWC is going to be reliable for us. Only time will tell!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

"Official SuperHero" award

As any follower of TCO knows,  I am a big supporter of the school I work at: Yucaipa High. I have found the students, staff, and community to be wonderful. Besides doing my professional duties, I volunteer my time and services with the photography of water polo games, swim meets, & mountain bike races, along with coaching for two of those teams. It makes me feel good to be playing a positive role for these students' lives.

Earlier this week, one of our YHS seniors came by my office and delivered an invitation to a luncheon in the staff lounge for today. I hadn't heard about a staff appreciation luncheon, but then I don't always know what's going on around me when I'm busy trying to keep everything running.

I showed up for the luncheon during "B" lunch today and was met with some of my colleagues, some teachers, some support staff (like me). We were enjoying the delicious food when the ASB students announced that this lunch was for the teachers that felt had made their time at YHS fun and memorable.

A YHS senior who plays water polo and is a swimmer, +Cameron Harper selected me for his "Official Superhero" award. It was quite an honor to be recognized for the things I do because I enjoy them. Thanks Cameron!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Diversity and my heritage

Recently I took a course for my B.A. degree entitled "Diversity". It covered the various ways we are different, yet very much alike. The message was to embrace our differences and realize that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and kindness.

The week we covered racial and ethnic diversity, I came to an interesting revelation: I know way more about the Hispanic, specifically Mexican culture, than I do about my own heritage.

My father's side is primarily Dutch and my mother's side in Danish, so I am essentially a northern European guy. As I read the readings for the class, I realized that beyond knowing where my family is from, I know very little.

As was the norm at the time, when my great grandparents came over from Europe, they wanted to become an American. Doing that meant, to them, leaving the wealth of traditions from their former life behind and adopting the American culture. They wanted to blend in, not stand out. Contrast this with our modern day society, at least in southern California, we have learned to embrace the various cultural differences and accommodate new traditions and rituals. This is no more evident than the Mexican culture influence here.

In the city where I live, there are many Mexican restaurants, selling all sorts of Mexican foods and dishes. There are dress shops that cater to quincearas (a Mexican coming age party for 15 year old girls), markets that sell meats specifically for Mexican dishes, Mexican bakeries, and other businesses that I'm sure are escaping me at this moment. Being immersed in the Mexican culture has given the opportunity to experience it first hand. I love Mexican foods, as they are delicious.

When I thought about what my Dutch/Danish background, I realized I knew very little about my background. The only dish that has been pass down has been a tasty pastry dish called æbleskiver. The recipe I have has been passed down from my great grandmother on my mom's side and now to my brother and I. That's it, one recipe. Sure, they are delicious, I repeat they are DELICIOUS, but nothing else that is been handed down. Notta.

Now I am motivated to spend some free time to do some research and learn more about Dutch and Danish cultures.  I want to learn about traditions. Holiday. Food. Clothing. Something that gives me even a tiny bit of what my ancestors could have done in their homes.

Of course I will share anything interesting as I find it.

-- Tom

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Trying out a new open source photography application for Linux

As long readers of Tuna Can Org know, I'm a longtime Linux and open source user and occasional advocate. I just love the fact that we have a great UNIX-like operating system with a robust selection of software. In fact I've been a regular user of Linux (as a desktop) since 1997.

The one area that I've been unable to find a good Linux solution to was photography workflow. Sure, we had +GIMP but I was looking for something that could help to manage my budding photography hobby. My photography mentor had turned me on to Adobe's Lightroom (MacOSX and Windows), but Adobe doesn't appear to have any plans on releasing it for Linux. That meant for my photography I was relegated to using my Mac or my Windows computers.

So today on Google+, I had a very helpful user tell me about this open source photography workflow software called DarkTable. I installed and after glancing around with some photos I had in a folder, it appears to work very similar to Lightroom. I'm very excited about using DarkTable and maybe being able to migrating my photography to my Linux workstation. I will definitely keep my TCO readers updated on how Darktable works for me.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

ChromeOS, it's time to see what you are all about!

Well this weekend I finally did it and bought myself something I've been considering for a while, a Google Chromebook. Ever since I first heard of the Google ChromeOS, I've wanting to get my hands on a ChromeOS device. It seemed like an interesting idea to have an operating system that ran inside of a browser. It had the potential to be a pretty versatile system. Of course since it ran on top of Linux, I was very intrigued!!

This afternoon I bit the bullet and invested in a ChromeOS device. I bought a Hewlett Packard Chromebook 14 from Best Buy. I stood in front of the Chromebook section for a while, analyzing what they had and trying to figure out what I want. I looked over the features and specs of each Chromebook, but seeing as I am a "big guy", I was drawn to Hewlett Packard's Chromebook 14 for it's large screen and full size keyboard. Also of note was 2GB of RAM, 16GB solid state drive (SSD), and 8-9 hours of battery time.

This evening I was able to spend some time using it and getting use to the ChromeOS experience. I have to say that it was a pretty nice experience. I was able to quickly (and quite easily) get my Chromebook on my WiFi network at home and logged in with my Google account. What I discovered was that the apps I had installed on my desktop Chrome were already set to go for me.

I'm now working on customizing it. I am also browsing the Chrome Store, looking for interesting and useful things. I will share my experience with the Chromebook and a more in depth analysis at a later date.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Last chance at Disneyland for summer

One of my favorite places to go ever since I was a young boy is the Magic Kingdom: Disneyland. I have a lot fond memories of going to Disneyland with my family and later with friends. The excitement of being able to ride a "doombuggy" in the Haunted Mansion or in a boat on the  Pirates Of The Carribbean ride was something that has never failed to bring a smile to my face. 

This fascination has continued on into my adult life. Off and on, I've invested in an annual passport to the Disneyland Resort so that when the whim struck, I could visit when I wanted to. Luckily for me, Renee shares this same appreciation of Disneyland, so now her family and I have annual passports. 

This evening was the last chance for us to enjoy the park before our summer "black-out" days kicking in. The inexpensive passes have days where we can't go, and with our particular pass, this means that all of the summer is off limits for us. Renee and I, along with her daughter Ashleah and Ashleah's boyfriend Alex spent the evening in the Magic Kingdom.

Ashleah and Alex wanted to go off on their own, so this gave Renee and I some time to spend together. We enjoyed the beautiful weather there in Anaheim and enjoyed a delicious dinner at the Carnation Cafe on Main Street.

Now we have to wait until the end of August for our next trip to Anaheim. I for one and looking forward to it! 

-- Tom

Sunday, June 8, 2014

New home for TCO!

I started this web site over sixteen years ago as a web site for me to post my personal events and thoughts.
It was basically my own blog in a time period when blogs weren't popular yet.

The first TCO was written by myself using a program that is now long gone called "HoTMetaL Pro" by a company called SoftQuad Software. It was simple web site with just the information. This was probably about 1997 or 1998. I learned a lot about writing and maintaining HTML code from that first design.

For you web designer folks, this first design used the technique of the day to get the layout I wanted: tables. It gave the web pages the look I wanted, but I discovered that by doing that, any adjustments would be very frustrating.

So about 2005 or 2006, I took a class on writing web page with Macromedia (now Adobe) Dreamweaver. Dreamweaver had become the industry standard for web designers to create and manage web sites. I found a lot of features very convienent, like custom page templating and built FTP access that made managing a web site very easy.

I took advantage of this new resource and spent my time doing a complete redesign of this web site. This time I did my research and embraced the newer technologies of XHTML and CSS to create a web site that looked good, was easy to maintain, and gave room for future growth. Using XHTML and CSS meant I had to learn this new way of thinking. Once I got my brain wrapped around how it works, I found that I loved how the new site was going to come together. A friend at the time designed the TCO logo for me after seeing an early prototype.

I ran the new version of the site on the same server I had been using since the beginning and everything seemed to be going well. I had other aspirations for the back-end of the server, but I never had the time and resources to invest into developing the code, so I just used Dreamweaver to post updates.

A few years ago I finally got myself a smartphone (Android FTW!!!) and discovered the freedom you have when you aren't tied to one computer. As I discovered one cool app after another, along with my embracing of social media, I felt that my web site was going to need to adapt to the new times. After spending time thinking about it, I felt that using Google's Blogger service was the best option. Now I can post updates from any computer or smart device. I wasn't tied to the computer with my site and Dreamweaver.

So I hope this little experiment works well. At the moment, I have enabled comments on every post, so feel free to share your thoughts or comments!

-- Tom