Sunday, January 30, 2005
Flight to Florida
Well, we made it. But not without challenges. On the 2.5 hour drive to Phoenix we heard a news broadcast about ice storms in Atlanta. hmmm, our Delta flight to Florida goes thru Atlanta. When we got to the terminal and looked at the monitors of Arrivals and Departures we saw that the flights to Atlanta both before and after ours had been cancelled. Ours was still 'on schedule' but we didn't have a real warm and fuzzy feeling about it! We waited in line, used the self-serve check-in computer screens (pretty cool), checked our baggage, and walked to the gate. Within the hour we heard the announcement that our flight had also been cancelled. Surprise. So, back in line to talk to a reservations person. It took a while, but they were able to get us on an American flight to Dallas and then to Ft. Lauderdale. It worked out great, getting us into Ft. Lauderdale just a couple hours later than our original plan. However, our luggage decided to take a different flight. That took another couple hours, in another line, to fill out the reports. My Mom was there to pick us up and take us to her house. We got to bed about 1:30am, 17 hours after we left Quartzsite. We slept good! Wi-Fi note - we expected more available Wi-Fi connections in the airports. Phoenix had no official hotspot available, not even at the Starbucks! Jim did find a weak signal from a network called 'T1'. It was too weak to maintain a connection for more than a few minutes. In Dallas there was a 'Wayport' network as well as TMobile. Wayport was $7 for a day, TMobile was $10/day or $7 for an hour and .10/minute thereafter. Fort Lauderdale had a 'guest' network that was strong and solid and free. But, by then, we were done with our travels.
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Quartzsite RV Show
OK, now I get it. It's just like a really big rally. And, it's kind of grass roots organization rather than sponsored by the big guys. It's an RV show. Under the big top: Now here's a booth you don't see all the time. And, did you know that KOA doubles as an ice cream parlor? They sure did up their popularity by handing out ice cream cones. And then there were the outdoor exhibits. Pretty cool for the vendors. Their motorhomes double as their booth. Gives a new meaning to 'working from home.' I really liked the 'Campfire in a Can'. You can safely have a fire anywhere, quick and easy. We didn't buy one though. We didn't buy anything - we were too overwhelmed. So, where are all the RVs? Everywhere. Here's a whole group you can see in the distance. And, here's some on our way back home to Rainbow Acres. That's all for now. We get on a plane tomorrow morning for Florida and I'll be in a conference. I'm going to leave the camera with Jim. g'night
Friday, January 28, 2005
Back home in Quartzsite
This does feel like home. One of the few places we are comfortable enough to arrive after dark. We know right where it is, and we arrived to a large group of people gathered around the fire in the front yard. Thank you so much Lynne, John, Dick and Frankie for 'adopting' us. We woke up to a gorgeous desert morning. And, Odie is so happy to have public lands where he can go RUN. Can you tell he got a haircut? I think she did a really good job. Here's a closer picture: We have a lot of computer 'catch-up' work to do, and then we drive the car to Phoenix tomorrow morning to catch a plane to S. Florida. Wierd. Taking a trip from our trip. I'm going to a conference in Orlando with my Mom and Jim will visit friends and family in Fort Lauderdale. Odie is going to stay here in Quartzsite. Dick and Frankie are adopting him for the week - THANX! We really don't have much time, but we understand this is our only chance to see the 'big tent' in Quartzsite. It'll be gone by the time we get back. So we'll be taking a couple hours this afternoon to see this unique RVers 'woodstock' type gathering. I'll take lots of pictures so you can see it too.
Wrapping up Casa Grande
A whole month in one spot! Today was our last scheduled seminar. Jim usually stands and does most of the presentation while I 'drive' the computer - but I have to put my two cents worth in sometimes, even if it's just with my hands! All totaled, we delivered 14 seminars this month. And we met individually with close to 100 individuals with questions about using Wi-Fi and their particular setup. You'd think we must really understand this stuff now. Far from it. The more you know, the more you know you don't know! Give me a brand new computer, a good USB wireles adapter and almost always, you just turn it on and it works - perfectly. But, then there's that one case, with a 6 month old computer, a good USB wireless adapter, that we couldn't get to work for the life of us. And, a 5 year old computer, with Windows ME that we said couldn't possibly work, connected right away with no problem. Go figure. Jim's Sony Vaio worked like a champ. He took it with him everywhere he went. So many times, a person's computer would be connecting but it would be very slow, or it would drop it's connection or something else annoying. He had to know, in these situations, whether the problem was with their computer or with the Wi-Fi system itself. His computer would connect right up and browse speedily along in almost every situation. And, it just has a built in adapter - something we normally don't recommend. Go figure. One user came knocking on our door asking for help. Jim was out and about, so it was up to me. I saw he had a new Sony Vaio and I breathed a sigh of relief. This was going to be a piece of cake. It was. He was just confused about the login process. The most disturbing thing we discovered was about Spyware. Some folks were experiencing what looked like a bad connection - slow and ocassionally getting dropped. When we cleaned some Spyware off their computer it ran fast and smooth again. We may not be able to require that everyone buy a brand new Sony Vaio (or can we? that would sure be nice) - but we do need to require that they run anti-Spyware. Microsoft's new anti-spyware program is pretty good. I'm afraid I can't tell you too much about Casa Grande, although we did make it to the ruins once, just before it closed. Here's the 700 year old structure that gives the town its name: You can't go inside the 'big house' unless you're with a tour, but they let you wander all thru any of the other structures. So, now we're back on the road! God it feels good! I just can't imagine living in a home without wheels anymore. I really like the views here in Arizona - the mountains are all over the place, rising straight out of the flatlands. Oh Boy!
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
I remember, years ago when I was a backpacker, I was quite disdainful of RVers. It appeared that they were always watching TV. They'd set up their satellite dishes as soon as they got parked - TV was that important. I remember thinking, 'why do you bother to leave home?' Of course, now I are one! But, I also realize that for many of us - we didn't leave home ... this IS home. Anyway, we now have an antenna for just about every purpose. From left to right in the photo below: TV antenna (regular broadcast TV) Wi-Fi antenna (more on that later) Wilson Trucker Cellular antenna Datastorm 2-way Internet satellite dish antenna Sometimes I think we should name our motorhome 'starship enterprise'. The TV antenna works great - it's just run-of-the-mill broadcast antenna. Remember the old days? Before Cable? When you used rabbit ears, and, if that wasn't good enough you put an antenna on the roof? Well, when it comes to TV, that's us - in the dark ages. The cellular antenna is great - turns 0 bars into 4. The Wi-Fi antenna is something we're just trying out. 6 months ago, we couldn't find any such thing as a Wi-Fi antenna that was made to mount outside. Now, there are dozens. This one is marketed for boats and RVs! It is omni-directional, non-line-of-sight, and multi-polarization. All of which simply means it will enhance your signal even if you don't know where it's coming from and there are lots of obstructions all around. We got it here. We've been showing a few other people. Jim mounted it on the top of a telescoping scrubbrush pole so he could take it out and about and try it at different people's homes and RVs. I'm the 'pole-holder'! One other RVer agreed to try it - and even liked Jim's 'patented' pole-mount. It has clearly improved his connection, but it's not a magic bullet for all issues in Wi-Fi. I know that other folks out there are experimenting with external antennas - we'd love to know your experiences. Email us if you have tried one. But, of course, our most special antenna is the Datastorm 2-way Internet Satellite Dish. This is the one we spent $6,000 on, and this is the antenna that gives us the confidence to know we will always be in business, no matter where we are. So, have you noticed? We don't have satellite TV. The basic requirement of the majority of RVers is to have satellite TV. We have the satellite dish, but it doesn't get TV - just Internet. Now, there IS an attachment we could buy. It's called 'Bird-on-a-Wire' and it uses the same dish. We'd have to pay for the attachment, and then we'd have to pay a monthly subscription for the satellite TV service. Jim would love it, especially during football season! I've put my foot down and said 'no more monthly bills!' Do you think this will make him happy?
Sunday, January 23, 2005
Boys and their Toys
No, Jim you can't have $250 to get started in the radio-controlled airplane game! They are awfully cute though aren't they? Apparently there are quite a few people here at Palm Creek involved in radio-controlled model planes. Actually, there are quite a few people here at Palm Creek involved in anything you can possibly think of! It's like summer camp for adults - only in the winter! They have a computer lab, a lapidary, a stained glass workshop, jewelry making workshops, gourd painting, lawn bowling, tennis, pickle-ball, and ... oh yeah ... golf. Back to flying ...
Saturday, January 22, 2005
The Pet Section
This RV park is divided into the Pet Section and the No Pets section. Guess where we are? I'd also call it the 'sociable' section. I'll bet we get to meet a lot more of our neighbors here! And, Odie just can't wait to get out there and check his pmail! Then ... what's this?!?
Thursday, January 20, 2005
We ARE really good at that!
I have very long arms ... I can reach right around and pat myself on the back! We gave a special seminar yesterday called "Practice Safe Computing". There were about 60 people there. It's so wonderful to be able to do something you're really *good* at. After all, both Jim and I have been in the computer training and support field for over 20 years. We better know what we're talking about. But knowledge is just one piece. You also need presentation skills, good content selection and good materials. All four came together yesterday. AND, we *love* doing it. I think that comes across. We actually got applause! A couple of people came up afterwards just to say how valuable they felt our handout was. They said 'this is worth some money!'. If you want to check it out, just click on this link for our "Safe Computing Frequently Asked Questions" Part of the value of this handout is that it's short and sweet. I wrote more about this issue in a previous post, complete with lots of links to other places. You can read all about it for days if you want! This is such important stuff for people to know. Viruses and Spyware are such a problem. Check out this current article about Spyware, IT's Public Enemy No. 1. It's a reall pain in the a**. It makes me mad. Computers have enough issues getting them to work properly without having to work to protect ourselves from all the bad guys out there. We shouldn't have to do all this scanning and search and destroying and reformatting just because there are a**holes out there using the web for nefarious purposes. But we do. And you'd better do it too. Or stuff on your computer will just stop working.
Monday, January 17, 2005
We're not very good at this!
We are now 1 for 4 on our geocaching excursions. I really, really wanted to get outside yesterday and looking for geochaches gets you to unusual places - it's really cool. So, we followed the directions to a geocache called 'Higher Lurnin'. Hah! That's because it starts in the parking lot of Central Arizona College. Pretty cute. It's up on that hill behind the school somewhere ... We never did find the cache, but we got some exercise and saw great views. Jim got a bloodied hand when he fell on a rock, I pulled my leg out of my hip socket when I slipped, and poor Odie kept having run-ins with these really nasty cactus thorns. I think they're called Cholla cactus. Pieces of it break off and are found on the trail. We had to carry him over a particularly nasty spot. It seems pretty clear ... we're not very good at this. But we still like it and we'll try again! Stay tuned.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
What's that Noise?
Ever since we sold our house in November 2003, our only phones have been our cell phones. It took a little getting used to, but now I think it's great. We got Verizon and most RVers agree that they have the best coverage in the country. We have found the holes tho ... believe me they're out there. Having the Wilson Trucker antenna mounted on the outside of the motorhome helps a lot. It can't give us cell service when there is NO Service, but it will take one bar and turn it into 4 bars no problem. We use it a lot. Both Jim and I have our own phone and they have different rings. I love that. You see, I really don't like the phone much. When we were living in the house, it was always Jim's job to answer the phone. Now, I only have to answer it when I hear 'my' phone ring. Calls between our two phones are free, so when we're driving our vehicles separately, we each have our phone. We plug in the hands-free and can talk to each other just as freely as if we were in the same car. The only problem with the cell phones, other than the occasional lack of service/low signal/dropped calls, is the cost. Whew! Our bill last month was $250. ouch And, if anything we're talking even more this month. Here at Palm Creek, they have a park-wide telephone system. They have their own PBX. Kind of like a big hotel where there's a phone in every room and you can call the rooms just by dialing the room number. Here you can dial any site by dialing the site number. Well there's a little trick - to make sure it's 4 digits you add 6000 to the site number. So, someone in site 52, you'd dial 6052, site 1500 would be 7500. When we checked into the park we were asked if we'd be using the phone system and we said no, because we don't have a phone to plug into it and we're accustomed to using our cell phones for everything anyway. After being here for a while, we learned that, if all you want to do is call within the park - there's no charge. Just plug a phone into the jack and you instantly have service for all the 4 digit numbers - a 'house' phone. We decided that would save us some cell phone minutes, and maybe more people would be encouraged to call for help with their Wi-Fi. So, Jim went to the local Walmart and picked up an inexpensive phone along with a long telephone cord that would reach from the utility pole in the back of our site to the phone inside. What a strange looking thing on my desk! note: for being into wireless technologies, there sure are a lot of wires around my computer desk!! So, last night while I was up in our 'loft' watching a movie and Jim was sitting at his computer, we heard this shrill little ring. I thought it was part of the movie and expected to see one of the characters reach for their phone. After the third ring, when no one in the movie seemed to notice the ringing, Jim and I looked at each other to say 'what's that?' We thought maybe it was an alarm in the motorhome so we tried to locate the sound. It was coming from the direction of my computer. We thought maybe it was a Skype phone call. Skype is a system for making phone calls over the Internet. But, no, the Skype icon was not flashing. By the time we figured it out ... the caller had given up. Sorry caller ... I guess you have to say we're technology challenged! It reminded us of a favorite old joke about people and technology:
A lumberjack hears about how many more trees you can cut down if you use one of these newfangled chainsaws instead of a handsaw, so he goes to his local hardware store and buys one. After trying it for a few days and getting totally worn out trying to saw down trees with this heavy chainsaw, he takes it back. He says "this doesn't work, I want my money back." The sales clerk takes the chainsaw and starts it up to see what's wrong. The lumberjack says, "WHAT'S THAT NOISE!?!?"
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
We had our best turnout yet at our Palm Creek Wi-Fi seminars. And then I did a smart (or stupid?) thing. Instead of telling people they could call us if they wanted individual help with their computers connecting to Wi-Fi, I sent around a sign-up sheet. This means the ball is in our court to contact them. 20 people signed up! At one hour each, we won't be able to get to all of them before our next seminar and the next batch of visits. Oh well, that's why we scheduled ourselves to be here all month. We knew there were a lot of folks here. And it really is great to be able to visit with them rather than trying to help over the phone. So many of the problems have to do with people simply not understanding their computer and how it works with the Wi-Fi adapter and the hotspot. And, when the problem is with the hotspot itself, it's so much clearer for Jim to be able to identify it firsthand. Palm trees are certainly their trademark here. And the sunlight is so bright and beautiful. It's still chilly tho - 45 degrees when we got up this morning.
Monday, January 10, 2005
Geocaching is something we do to get us away from our computers and out into the local countryside. It's like a treasure hunt. Someone who lives around here takes a container, puts some trinkets in it, and hides it somewhere. They record the latitude and longitude of the hiding place and enter that on the geocaching website. Then people like us try to find it using our GPS equipment. If we find it, we can take one of the trinkets and/or leave a trinket of our own and sign the log book. Then we can go back to the website and prove that we found it because we tell what trinket we left there. Fun stuff! But does it really get us away from our computers? First we spent an hour or so reading about all the caches in the Casa Grande area. Then we fed the GPS coordinates into Jim's laptop and the mapping software we have there - we'll use that to guide us on the drive there. Next we need the coordinates in the handheld GPS to guide us the last part of the journey where we walk. ooops, the handheld GPS wants the coordinates in degrees and minutes and the mapping software wants all decimal. Ok, wait a minute, there's a website here somewhere that will do the translation. Probably another hour gone by. On the road. The description of the cache claimed to be 12 miles from Casa Grande. We got on highway 10 and headed toward Arizona City 5 miles away. I wonder, was the city named after the state? Or, was the state named after the city? Then we get on a local road and have 16 miles to the turnoff onto a dirt road. oooohhhh, I get it, the 12 miles stated in the description is 'as the crow flies'. Getting out in the desert here really is beautiful. But all the rain has turned the dirt roads into lakes. Our car has 4-wheel drive, but this looks like it might require amphibious capabilities. So we cut our adventure short. Odie enjoyed a little run. And we determined to come back when the desert has had a few more days to dry out.
Saturday, January 08, 2005
You don’t hear a lot about Jim here since I write most of the posts. But, believe me, he’s always here. And I’m so glad. Let me tell you about Jim.
- He’s a happy guy. He doesn’t just chuckle, he throws back his head and roars when he laughs. And, that’s not just when he’s laughing at me! He can laugh at himself too. Never does a day go by that we don’t share laughs.
- He’s a smart guy. You don’t want to play Trivial Pursuit with him! It tends to make those of us around him lazy … we don’t have to look anything up – just ask Jim. Of course, if it takes him a while to answer you can bet that he’s looking it up on Google! Hey! I told you he’s a smart guy.
- He’s a capable guy. If he says he can take care of it … he can. If he says he can’t … often he still does. And, the motorhome brings out the best in him. He was never Mr. fix-it at home, but in the motorhome he’s fixed everything himself … twice! :-)
- He’s a loving guy. I can’t say too much about that or I’ll get weepy. He’s my Wi-Fi guy. Aka ‘Antenna-head. He’s my ‘great white hunter’ scuba guy. He’s my hiking buddy. But, best of all he’s my buddy in this adventure called life.
A hallmark card one of us gave the other years ago expressed it so well…
I love you Jim. Happy Birthday!
“Life is full of highs and lows. With you the highs are twice as high because we share them and the lows are only half as low because we support each other through them.”
(can you tell I never got around to getting a card or a present?)
Friday, January 07, 2005
A 2-seminar Day
There's lots of RV parks in South Arizona! The one where we're at right now has about 2,000 sites. We're scheduled for 2 Wi-Fi seminars/week, and we gave an extra one yesterday. Then, Jim had to get up at 4am this morning to make the 3 hour drive to Yuma and give another one. What about me? Oh no, I stayed in bed. Then Odie and I took care of business all day. I've gotten behind on my web-work and bookkeeping. Yes, all those normal things still need to be done, even tho we have this wonderful life on the road. Back to work.
Thursday, January 06, 2005
Wi-Fi Tip: Sending email with Outlook
Sending email is handled with a setting called the SMTP server. It used to be that any SMTP server on the Internet would send whatever mail was given to it. All that has changed with the proliferation of SPAM. Now, many ISP's (Internet Service Providers) don't even offer outgoing mail (SMTP) services because they don't want to be liable for spam. Those that do offer outgoing mail will ONLY deliver mail from users who are authenticated to their system. When you are at home and you are connected to your home ISP, your Outlook SMTP setting is also set to your ISP. You are authenticated to them because you are logged in to their service. They know who you are and they are happy to deliver your email. When you are on the road and using a Wi-Fi signal to connect to the Internet - your Outlook SMTP setting is still set to your home ISP, but since you're not connected thru your home ISP they don't know who you are and refuse to deliver email. There is an advanced setting in Outlook 'Accounts' under 'Outgoing Server' that can help ... find and check the box that says "My Outgoing Server (SMTP) requires authentication" and "Use same settings as my incoming mail server". This will solve the problem in many situations, but not all. If you're only away from home occasionally, using Webmail is the best way to go. You visit the website that your email provider offers and log into your mailbox. Since you're logged in there - it knows who you are and will happily deliver your email. If you really want to use Outlook (as I do) and the above setting doesn't help, you will need to talk to your email provider. If they don't have a solution, check out the service provided by www.smtp.com. I know one person who has used it, and say it worked great. AOL mail: even AOL now says you can receive and send your AOL mail with a third party email client like Outlook. Here's what they say about outgoing mail:
The outgoing e-mail server is an SMTP server. The SMTP server requires authentication, and you will have to select this feature at some point during the setup process. Using an authenticated SMTP server means that in order to send e-mail you must log in the SMTP server with a user name and password. The user name and password are the same as your AOL screen name and password. In addition, you need to change the outgoing mail (SMTP) port number to 587.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
Chris the Magic Techie
Jim has a cold ... poor baby. So I did his 'rounds' for him yesterday. I figured it wasn't good for him or the other people for him to be going out to their homes and sitting at their computers. I visited 3 folks with Wi-Fi problems yesterday afternoon and I had fun! I was a little apprehensive, cuz Jim is much better at this techie stuff than I am, but the moment I walked in the door - each of them said, "Well, what do you you know, it's working great right now!" Hah! Just like when you go to the doctor and it doesn't hurt any more, or take your car to the mechanic and it won't make the noise. It's magic! They still had lots of questions and I could answer 90% of them - pretty cool. One guy was quite distressed tho when I told him that his cordless phone was on the same frequency as the Wi-Fi (2.4 gigaherz) and would cause problems when being used near the computer. It's true. Our new convection oven (which I still have to tell you about cuz it's SO Cool) is also 2.4 gigaherz and it knocks us offline whenever we use it! Another woman wanted to get her AOL software set up correctly to use with Wi-Fi. I had the sure-fire solution for her ... remove AOL! It stopped raining finally, and the sunshine here at Palm Creek is blinding. But it's COLD. 44 degrees out there.
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
New Year's Resolution
Blew it already! What was yesterday? the 3d day of the year ... and I couldn't follow thru on my resolution. I vowed to do 15 minutes of Kundalini yoga every morning. That's one thing I miss about living in Ft. Lauderdale is my Kundalini Yoga classes - and my dance classes and our scuba diving. I thought this life on the road would be filled with exercise ... but it's not. We sit at the computer a lot, we drive a lot - you tend to get stiff. We walk a lot too, but it's more like strolling – not real exercise, and certainly not stretching. In any case, I've come up with just 15 minutes of yoga that I can do sitting on the floor in the 'living room'. There's just enough space. I figure there's nothing that can't wait for 15 minutes. Well, yesterday the phone started ringing at 7am (people on the east coast don't know where we are) and I just never got around to it. Oh well, I won't beat myself up ... I did my 15 minutes today and I'm raring to go! Now, if it would only stop raining. Yes, you heard right ... it's been raining for 2 days. We're in the desert in Arizona. Now I know why it's green. I'll just give you a picture thru the window, cuz I don't feel like going outside. If you notice that thing stuck to my window .. that's my Wi-Fi adapter. I have it stuck to the window with that putty-like stuff that you use for posters. We're in Casa Grande, Arizona at a Coach Connect park named Palm Creek. This is a big place. We plan to stay here for the whole month of January to give seminars and help folks get connected to the Wi-Fi.
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