Monday, May 19, 2008

SSC #66 Russell County WiFi

One of the things that this county routinely depends upon is its tourist trade.  Having a great location near Lake Cumberland has been a big factor in the growth and influence that Russell County has enjoyed.

With the long history of tourism starting with the original sulphur springs that prompted the creation of the town of Russell Springs, long has Russell County received its bread and butter by its ability to draw teeming crowds of summer funseekers and give them a quality vacation spot to get away from the big cities.

Love them or hate them, the tourists are coming.  They are planning their trips, they are making their reservations.  They are currently arguing with their in-laws over who left who's cooler back at the fishing shack when they were here last year.

But some of these tourists are going to be a little different this time around.  They're going to be coming along with a plethora of tiny devices and gadgets.  They'll be looking for available power outlets so they can charge laptops while they shop.  They will be getting frustrated and inconvenienced by the lack of open WiFi hotspots.

These are people who have become accustomed to widespread free wireless internet access.  Malls, gas stations, libraries, coffeeshops, restaurants, hotels...  when driving through St. Louis last week it was simply astonishing how many signs all over the place proclaimed free wireless internet.  Its getting so saturated that you can likely surf Flickr at the dentist's office while you wait for your root canal.  
I actually got the chance to use my laptop "in the wild" at a gas station in Mulberry Grove, Illinois at around 1 AM when we were on the way back from the concert (which was awesome). I simply booted up and connected to their wireless network which had the SSID of "Welcome to CC Food Mart".  Using their WiFi I was able to use Google to find a campground nearby where my wife and I could set a tent and catch some much needed rest.  And when we got there, the campground had free WiFi.  I didn't try to connect to it though, we were pretty worn out.

With more WiFi equipped handheld devices becoming widely used such as Skypephones and Mobile Internet devices a.k.a. "MID's" like the Nokia n810, its getting easier and easier for people to communicate with and through the internet.  With two Skypephones at coffee shops on opposite ends of the planet you can bacially have free Starbucks-to-Starbucks communication indefinately.  Or at least until all the caffeine gives you an anurism. Alexander Graham Bell would be proud.

The younger generation is really poised to capitalize on this sort of connectedness.  With cool phones and MID's becoming the new status symbols of highschools across the nation, these kids are one tech-savvy crowd.  And enterprising business owners in Russell County should take note of this.  Because these are the tourists of the future.  They'll pick a WiFi equipped restaurant over the competition because at that restaurant they can grab some great food AND they can check on their Ebay auctions.  And they'll stick around a little longer as well, grabbing a dessert and another cup of coffee while they grab the latest Doppler radar images from so they know what the weather will be like for the trip back home.

Hotels you better listen up too!  For the future tourist, being able to connect beats out coffee and donuts... er.. *cough* continental breakfast... any day of the week.  Being able to offer your customers free WiFi means you are connecting them to their online lives.  Creullers just cannot compare.

From the tourists perspective they can email the pictures of lil' Billy catching his first fish to Grandma in less time than it used to take to drop off the film.  When on the lake these folk want to feel like they are roughing it.  But when they come back to town for supplies, they want the conforting embrace of civilation.  

If your business already has open WiFi available, be sure and advertise it loud and proud.  It could really be a big boon to your business.  If your business doesn't offer open WiFi, perhaps you should consider whether it is something that your customers would appreciate.  Its cheaper than you think.  If your business already has an internet connection, adding a wireless router can be very inexpensive.  Even as little as $50.  And the possibility of greatly increasing your business's "coolness" factor for as little as $50 is something you can't afford to disregard.

If you live in Russell County or the surrounding areas and you need help fixing your computer, give me a call at (606) 219-4088 to set up an appointment.

If you have a question or comment, feel free to email me at

If you'd like to read my past articles, browse to

Monday, May 12, 2008

SSC #65 internet radio

    A wise man once said you can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.  If you replace the word "fool" with the word "please" then you have aptly summed up the problems of a music radio network.  Unless you are Mr. Average, you have 1.5 kids, and your tastes play along the lines of the common denominator of society, chances are that sometimes the music played on the radio just doesn't suit your tastes.  So you switch the channel... and catch the tail end of your favorite song just before the DJ decides that it is time for a 5 minute block of news, weather, and commercials.
    Radio has its problems.  I really don't envy them their job.  They have to do the best they can to please all of their listeners all of the time.  This is why they tend to stick to the Top 40 hits from the last 20 years.  It is just a way for them to play it safe.  But some musical artists don't really get good until you get off of the beaten path and delve into some of the stuff that never saw airtime.  And sometimes you really just want to hear something new. There is a lot of great music out there that just isn't getting heard.  If this describes your feelings toward music you hear on the radio then is for you. is a great new internet radio service that brings a breath of fresh air.  Its kind of like a radiostation that is built on the fly to suit your mood.  With a single artist name, song name, or even just a keyword that describes what you want to hear, it will line up a playlist of similar music that will play commercial free, non-stop until you turn it off.  And controlling it could not possibly be simpler.
    You start off by going to and signing up.  Don't worry, its free and they don't ask for anything personal, just your name and email address.  Once you have an account, you can listen via the flash player on the website or you can download their Windows client.  Ubuntu users, fear not, Rythymbox, Ubuntu's default music player already has support built in, just look for it under plugins.  They also have a stand-alone Linux client availble as well.
    When you start it up, you start off with just a text box, and a little drop down menu to select between a tag or an artist.  More on tags in a minute.  You simply just type in the artist you want to hear and it starts playing.  It may not immediately play the artist you entered, but it will eventually, as well as artists that belong in the same music genre.  If you type in Tammy Wynette it will fill the list with Tanya Tucker, Conway Twitty and George Jones and more like that.  If you put in Megadeth it will put in Pantera, Rob Zombie and more of the same.  Much of it will be stuff you've heard, and some of it will be stuff you never knew existed.  Myself, being a big Radiohead fan of course, I put in Radiohead and I was introduced to a couple new bands (Mogwai, Muse) that I liked immediately.  
    Now what if you want to listen to something but you can't really think of an artist to put in?  Or perhaps you're going for a specific mood?  This is where the "tags" come in.  You could put in "easy listening" and thats what you'd get.  You could put in an emotion such as "melancholy" or "angry" and you'd get music that represents that feeling.  Or you could put in something completely off the wall like "purple" and it would do its best to serve up a playlist of purpley music.  And here's the greatest part.  If you hear a song you don't like, then with one click of the mouse, you can ban it forever.  Alternately you can click the "Love" button and will try to play that song more often.
    The only downside that I found at all to the whole thing was that occasionally it would throw in a song in another language.  But really that is to be expected since it is designed to service the entire planet.  And to be fair, the music sounded like what I was looking for, I just couldn't understand the words.  But no worries, a quick click of the "Ban" button and it was gone, immediately replaced with something else.  
    In testing out the limits of the service I tried really hard to stump it, but it seemed to have all the bases covered.  From Perry Como to Iron Maiden just about everything I typed in came back with some music.  So no matter what your music tastes are, and especially if your music tastes differ from what is served up by the local radio stations, is something you should give a try.
    I must admit, I'm not sure how well works on Dial-up internet access, so if you're a dial-up user and you give it a shot, please do drop me a line and let me know how it works out for you. Enquiring minds want to know.
    Until next week, Rock on!  ...or not.  Its up to you!

If you live in Russell County or the surrounding areas and you need help fixing your computer, give me a call at (606) 219-4088 to set up an appointment.

If you have a question or comment, feel free to email me at

If you'd like to read my past articles, browse to

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Monday, May 5, 2008

SSC #64 Linux Lament

    There's nothing really huge to talk about this week that I'm aware of...  I know that's not really the best way to start out a newspaper column, but I'm not one for sensationalism for the sake of sensationalism.

    I know I have spent a lot of time hyping Ubuntu up and making it sound really good, but I want you to know that you always get the straight story from me even when it is news I would rather not have to be reporting.  

    Case in point, I've been installing Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron around town amongst friends and customers for the last little while, and I'm beginning to see through some of the shine and polish.  I'm finding that it is better installed freshly as opposed to an upgrade from Gutsy Gibbon.  One friend of mine who was using Gutsy has said that his machine has started acting very sluggish and that things that formerly worked very snappy and crisp are now delayed for unknown reasons.  I am thinking some of this is a result of the Beta status of Firefox 3.  They did some heavy tweaking in it to make it lighter on your RAM and as a result it is almost as though it runs with lower system priority and hence runs sluggishly and even freezes at times.  He was also a big fan of XMMS, like myself, and is having trouble making the transition to a replacement music player.  I plan to go over and help him to either work out the bugs or perhaps even switch him back to Gutsy, with which he was very happy.

    Another friend of mine has a fairly new machine from Dell, and I spent 12 hours yesterday trying to get Hardy Heron correctly configured on it.  It installed fine via the Wubi installer, and everything worked great except I couldn't get the wireless network card to work.  Also it seemed that every time I installed the nVidia 3D-acceleration drivers then the monitor would be limited to a low resolution of 640x480.  Oh, the 3D would work, and the windows would wobble and I could do all the cool special effects, but in 640x480 that just isn't enough to satisfy.  In the end I realized that the 3D drivers were working fine, they just didn't properly recognize her flatscreen monitor, and as a result of this failure, they refused to display in resolutions that it could not detect.

    After spending all of this time on it and failing to get these basic hardware components to work, I gave up.  And a little piece of me died inside.  I booted back over to Windows Vista and I removed Ubuntu.  

    After a brief moment of silence, I went and passed out in exhaustion.

    I spend a lot of time in this column touting the benefits of Linux and other Open-Source software.  Its something that is important to me.  And if you're a computer owner, I feel it should be important to you also.  But even I must admit that Linux isn't for everyone.  While Linux works on more hardware than any other operating system (this is verifiably true) it doesn't work on ALL hardware.  My friend could have spent some money and replaced her graphics card and her wireless card with components that are definitely supported.  And if you're really determined to get Linux to work, sometimes parts replacement is the only option.  

    In a perfect world, all of the hardware manufacturers would release their driver specs openly and Linux would work perfectly with every piece of hardware ever made.  But this isn't a perfect world.  Companies go out of business and their specs are lost.  Some companies refuse to release theirs for fear of losing a market edge.  And some companies don't have the choice to open their drivers because contracts signed with other companies for various reasons.  

    If you have recently tried Ubuntu on my advice and you couldn't get it to work.  I apologize and sympathize with the frustrations you felt.  Its a great operating system and I love it dearly, but I admit that it isn't perfect and it doesn't work for every machine.  If you had some frustrating encounters with Linux, I'd love to hear about them.  In some cases I may be able to help.
    On the other hand, if you tried Ubuntu and everything worked out and you decided to stick with it, I'd like to hear from you as well.  After the discouraging times I've had lately with it, it would be nice to hear some success stories.

    I've been thinking a lot lately about starting a LUG.    A LUG or Linux User Group is a local club for Linux users to get together and swap stories, tips, and help eachother.  The Ubuntu Loco group (basically a Loco group is just like a LUG but its just for Ubuntu users) for Kentucky is located in Lexington, and I'm a member, but I'd kinda like to get something started here in Russell County.

    If you'd would be interested in gathering together with other local Linux users, please contact me by the one of the methods outlined below.  If there is enough interest, I believe it would be great to have a local community LUG.  

    Next week we'll be looking at and how it has been revolutionizing internet radio, be sure to check it out!

If you live in Russell County or the surrounding areas and you need help fixing your computer, give me a call at (606) 219-4088 to set up an appointment.

If you have a question or comment, feel free to email me at

If you'd like to read my past articles, browse to

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