Monday, October 31, 2005

Texas Wine Country

y'know ... I've decided I kinda like Texas! Check it out, there is a major wine region in these Texas hills. On our way back from Kerrville to Austin, we stopped at Torre di Pietra winery. They even provide a beautiful courtyard where you can enjoy a bottle of their finest, while taking in the beautiful surroundings ... and delightful weather too! It just made us feel so 'Texas-friendly' that we had to call Lynne and John and tell them all about it. Ok, so maybe it was the wine that got me feelin' artsy-fartsy-tipsy.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

More Rally

Today was my day giving seminars. Well, halfway anyway. I partnered with Gypsy John to give a seminar for beginners on building websites. And, I partnered with Jim to give our seminar on 'Safe Computing'. Jim and I also visited a few other folks at the rally to help with some computer questions. When we'd say "Ok, just tell me which motorhome is yours." They'd respond, "The one with the Datastorm on top!" uhhhh ... ok ... All in all it was a great rally, we learned a lot, met some great new people, and got reacquainted with some folks we met at the first rally.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

WiFi tip: changing channels

Jim and Don presented a session yesterday, here at the Datastorm Rally, on networking issues ... Wireless Networking ... WiFi. One of the topics of discussion was what channel should you be on. Here at the rally there are 50 RVs, all with their own Internet connection thru the Datastorms. Most of those RVs have more than one computer inside - so they use wireless networking to enable both computers to use the Internet. Jim pulled up his "View Available Wireless Networks" screen and counted 32! And, his netstumbler software reported that most of them were on channel 11 or 6. Here's just one screeful: So, what does that mean? Is it important? Maybe yes, and maybe no. Think of radio stations. If you're trying to listen to a radio station on frequency 91.3 and you're driving down the road, it's going to get weaker and weaker. If another radio station that's closer and stronger is at 91.1 it may start interfering with yours. A closer station at 91.3 will definitely take over. Distance, strength, and frequency all combine to produce your listening experience. You will never have two radio stations, close together, broadcasting on the same frequency because the FCC doesn't allow it. Before the radio station can open their doors, they must apply for a license and the FCC tells them what frequency they can use. The FCC has specified that WiFi can use the *unlicensed* frequency of 2.4GHz which includes channels 1 thru 11. These channels overlap. Only 1, 6 and 11 are far enough apart to be distinct from each other. Add to the radio station analogy the fact that WiFi is *2-way* transmissions and you see lots of possibility for interference. Don told the audience that whenever he pulls into an RV park that has their own WiFi, he asks at the office "What channel are you using?" So, he can put his WiFi network on a different channel. (they usually don't know) He said that he has never experienced another network interfering with his, but he wants to be a 'good neighbor' and try not to interfere with theirs. His network is pretty powerful (surprise, surprise) and might easily overwhelm a neighbor's attempt to connect to the park's WiFi. So, how do you change your channel? It depends on your equipment, of course, but every wireless network is served by a Wireless Access Point (sometimes it's part of your router) and every Wireless Access Point has a configuration utility with an option for selecting the channel. Usually the utility is reached by typing the IP address of your router/Access Point. So, for our settings, I go to a browser window and type in, fill in the username and password and I get the following screen. You can see the option for the channel. If you want to read more on this subject ... I'm sure everyone does :-) or or

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Installing 'The Big One'

When you come to a Motosat/Datastorm rally, you get to see the latest and greatest technology. This time they brought their new dish ... the XF2. The X is supposed to stand for 'Commercial' - but, right now, we say it stands for Xperimental. Not only did we get to see it, but Jim got to help install it! Here's the really cool contraption they used to get it on top of the motorhome: That's Scott who is setting it up and who owns this cool tool. Scott is also known as "Dustyfoot" and he is one of the highly respected installers who are attending the rally. Jim is so excited to be able to learn from these guys. Jim breaks thru a barrier! Here he is actually putting screws into someone else's motorhome! And, what better motorhome to start with than Don's!? You see, Don is the guru of all things Datastorm. He created and maintains the Datastorm Users website and forum. He is also the first one to get any new toy. That's him in the middle of this next photo. The only one to get the technology before Don would be the president of MotoSAT! Aha, speak of the devil - here he is, Jim Pendleton, just checking in on the guys, making sure they're doing it right! During this rally we've had the privilege and the pleasure of hearing from the President, the VP of Engineering (Ed Travis) and the VP of Sales (Royal Lamb). And I do mean a pleasure! When they talk you know you're getting the straight scoop. They have a great product - attested to by all the attendees - and they obviously love what they do. The only thing missing from their presentations was a group hug!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Winter Hurricane

Winter arrived overnight. We woke up to 48 degrees this morning and went scrambling to find our winter clothes. We also woke up to the news that hurricane Wilma is hitting South Florida. I thought this was the least likely storm to damage our hometown - so late in the season, starting so far away, coming from the west. It had all indications of a storm that Fort Lauderdale wouldn't need to really worry about. But, it's slamming into Broward County with category 3 winds. Ouch. We also woke up to a beautiful sunrise here at Buckhorn Lake RV resort in Kerrville. There are over 50 RVs with Datastorms here at the rally. Usually, we're the only ones! Normally, when we see even one other Datastorm in an RV park, that's reason enough to go introduce ourselves. hmmm, I guess that's what Rallies are all about huh? Gathering those with something in common. It's still amazing to see every site filled with a Datastorm-topped RV!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Texas - and the Hill Country

We took a couple hours on Friday to stop and visit the museum that we pass by on our way to the office. It's called The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and it's right down the street from the Capitol. Museums aren't actually my favorite things - but I think it's important to learn something about the places we visit. I liked the monument to the 'LoneStar' state that was erected outside of this museum. I learned that Austin is named after Stephen Austin who is generally regarded a the father of 'Anglo-Texas'. He brought a lot of settlers here from other parts of the United States, before Texas was a state. Saturday we hit the road, traveling west into Texas Hill Country. Texas is a big place! The countryside is very interesting and quite beautiful. It seems to me to be a cross between the limestone, spring-fed, Cypress tree-lined rivers of central Florida and the Oak-covered foothills of California. We stayed last night at Parkview Riverside RV park and admired the Rio Frio river. Our campsite is on the edge of a bluff overlooking the river. They provide a handy stairway to get down. Beautiful place! We're directly across the river from Garner State Park. Wish we had more time. We'd do some kayaking here. You've heard that before right? One of these days ... But, for now we gotta get to the Datastorm rally in Kerrville.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Weblog Life

You know when life is getting boring when there's nothing to say in your weblog! I know when it's time to go do something interesting when I've had some blank days. We will be leaving tomorrow to visit a park west of Austin for a day. Then, on Sunday, we will be at the Datastorm Users Rally. We went to the first Datastorm Users rally in Tampa in November 2003. That was before we even had a Datastorm .. we were just wanna be's. We missed the rally last year. Now we're going right after Jim has been authorized as an installer. We're really looking forward to it. You can see photos from last year's rally on our friend Joline's weblog. Actually, life hasn't been boring at all! We are so lucky to be involved in the exciting industry of Wireless Internet in the "Travel by Road" market. But, spreadsheets, memos, and meetings just aren't very 'webloggable'! Bye for now - it's off to the office.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Oaks and Flowers and Full Moon

I keep thinking that we need to take a trip down to San Antonio and see the Alamo, or take the kayaks to a nearby lake for a paddle, or ... or ... But, Jim isn't feeling so hot, and we really do have a lot of basic around-the-house type chores to do. So, we just 'hung-out' at Oak Forest RV Park, aka 'Home' for the weekend. It really is beautiful: We take Odie in the woods next door for nice walks. And admire this pretty white flower (no, I have no idea what it is..) We do things like laundry, house-cleaning, house-washing. And talking to friends and family during the free-weekends on our Verizon phone plan. Then, take advantage of the hot tub, and the full moon at night. ooohhh, aaaaahhhh

Friday, October 14, 2005

Office Time

We say that we are here in Austin to spend some time in the office. The office IS a good place for people to come to visit. Like Barb and Gary who we met at the FMCA convention in Minot, ND. Really nice people! And they had never used WiFi before. They have now! Most of the time we can be more productive sitting in our motorhome at our computers. Just like the saying "Anywhere I hang my hat is home" Today, it's "Anywhere I have my laptop and cell phone is the office" That is, IF the laptop has an Internet connection. And, today, that's just about anywhere. One of our tasks this week was to test the WiFi Internet connection at a Rest Area. Yep, the office is where the Internet is.

Monday, October 10, 2005

A family weekend

We were invited to a birthday party on Saturday night. Frank's Dad, Frank Sr., celebrated his birthday with a family gathering. Three generations were there. We're so lucky to have an Austin Family! And, a great family it is too. Where's Norman Rockwell when you need him? Here's the youngest, Brandon. Yes, that's a boy. Hey! Do you think you could cut off those beautiful curls if he was yours?! And a yummy Brazilian dinner by Carol (she lived there once). That's black beans and rice with homemade salsa and a fried egg and a dark green leafy vegetable that I can't remember the name. And a slice of mango. It was wonderful. Here's Grandpa reading his card from granddaughter Emily. A great evening. Thanx so much for including us Frank and Frank! Then Sunday, we paid some attention to our own family and got Odie a haircut! Do you think he needed it? Ohhh, poor scruffy Odie. Doesn't he look better after his PetSmart haircut? And, he feels so much better too.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Oh! What a Beautiful Day

Really ... after suffocating heat, hurricanes, then a cold front yesterday - rain, wind and cold. Today we are settled in a new RV park on the outskirts of Austin and the weather is P E R F E C T! Not a cloud in the sky. No humidity. Light breeze and 74 degrees. It's the first time we've opened up the windows in *months*. We're really happy with this park too. It's an easy drive to the office - get on the road that's right outside the park, head west and in 8 miles we're at the office. No turns. And, we go right by the Texas museum of History and near the capitol. We will have to stop there one day. They're a Passport America park which means half-price. And ... there's a really nice hot tub and a big woods for walking Odie. We're set here for a couple weeks.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Of Bridges and Ladders

'Bridges' are a part of a Wi-Fi hotspot that Jim has questions about. He hasn't worked with that many and he's a real hands-on learning kind of guy! (I like that in a man :-) So - when a park outside of Austin needed a new bridge installed, he volunteered. What's a 'Bridge', you ask? It's a way to get the network (Internet) signal from one point to another without having to string cable. At least, that's what it does in this case - it can actually mean a few different things. Here, it is 2 radios transmitting directly to each other to make a wireless connection. Not all Wi-Fi hotspots need it - only when the Internet connection comes into one place, and the Wi-Fi Access Point Antenna needs to be in another. Here's Jim, up on his new ladder installing one side of the bridge. And, here he is putting up the other side. He's been wanting a bigger ladder. He will definitely need it in order to do Datastorm installs. Check out the photos of when ours was installed. Actually, I think he may have voluteered for this job just to give him an excuse to buy a bigger ladder! Like Tool Time Tim, Jim loves tools, and the bigger the better! So, how do we carry this monster in our motorhome? Guess what?! It's chilly today! 58 degrees when we got up, and now, at noon, it's still only 61. brrrrr Now, where is that sweatshirt that I neatly stowed with 'winter clothes'?

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I wanna write for a winery

I've never seen a wine section in a grocery store ... or even in a wine store ... like they have in the Whole Foods store here in Austin. We found a bottle from our favorite winery in California - Folie a Deux! It's called 'Menage a Trois' (red) and it's a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet. The description is: "Take a walk on the wild side and explore the pleasure of our Menage a Trois. Surrender to the seduction of dark, rich berry with a hint of pepper, a lush lingering finish leaving you wishing for more." yum

Monday, October 03, 2005

The City of Austin

We're back in Austin now, and we thought we'd try a downtown RV Park this time so we could get a feel for Austin. Take a look at where the DatastormUsers map shows us. We're right in the middle of some really cool stuff. We went for a walk yesterday and within a half-mile we found Barton Springs. A place where city dwellers can go for swimming, kayak and canoeing, playing frisbee and just hanging out. On the road right in front of the park are lots of trendy food places. We had Cappuccino and Breakfast Tacos at Austin Java, and we had dinner at Chuys Tex Mex. The RV park is just another establishment on this street. It's been here since the 40s. We understand that some famous people keep a trailer here. The manager pointed out Matthew McConaughey's airstream with a Datastorm on top! I think they would come here to hide out, not to show off. and here we are You might notice a major problem ... too many trees for the Datastorm to work. Well, we decided to stay for a couple days to get the experience of the city even if we can't get the Internet. We just couldn't stand it! I used my Verizon cell phone to connect on Saturday - but it's just agonizingly slow. Jim took his laptop down to Austin Java and used their free WiFi there. But, my computer is a desktop. Well, I plugged in a more powerful adapter, and, voila! I'm able to attach to a couple of free WiFi hotspots nearby. We follow our own advice, "If it doesn't work, try another adapter!" The one I'm using at the moment is made by Parkervision - unfortunately, they don't make it anymore though. Anyway - today there was a free concert downtown. We just walked in the other direction about a half mile and we were at Auditorium Shores where Lance Armstrong was throwing a 'Thank You Austin' party and his fiancee, Sheryl Crow was performing. What a wonderful scene. It's not surprising that bicycles were the primary method of arriving at the park! I just wonder which came first? Was Austin a bicycling city that attracted and created a Lance Armstrong? Or did Lance's hometown of Austin pick up on the sport to follow him? Bet you didn't know he could play drums too? Odie and I were starstruck!