Where’s My LED Bulb Mesh Network?

On the heels of the news this week that GE will wind down manufacturing CFL bulbs for the American market and focus on LEDs, I had a thought. LED bulbs replace a typical incandescent lamp (drawing 60W) with a low-power (around 10–12W, from the few I looked at) light source that often contains a microprocessor controller and wireless hardware. The more advanced models connect to an existing WiFi network to allow controlling their brightness and color from smartphone apps. Why don’t we take this as an opportunity to build mesh networking into homes bit by bit as old incandescent and…

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Blast from the Past: Offline Foursquare

This is a revamp of a post originally drafted in June 2011. The Foursquare universe has changed a lot since then, as have smartphones in general, but it was worth partially rewriting as a window into how things used to be. For a number of months after getting my first Android phone (), I spent a lot of time thinking about ways to check in on Foursquare without an internet connection. At the time, I used the phone on Wi-Fi only, for Internet things. I didn’t start on a service plan, because I had with a lot of accumulated airtime…

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Polishing Minneapolis’ Wireless Civic Garden

I’ve done some playing around with the citywide Wi-Fi here in Minneapolis, and I must say that the range of information accessible through the Civic Garden feature (which allows even non-subscribers access to City-related sites) is impressive. However, while I understand that the whitelist of “free” domains is limited to noncommercial properties, there are a few exceptions that should be made. Or at least, some resources should be hosted by the City or proxied for Civic Garden users. Metro Transit’s site Visiting MetroTransit.org when online via the Civic Garden is a little weird. The home page is a lot longer…

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Hypothetical Google Voice Export Format

Google Voice was released over a year ago, and I’ve been using it as my primary phone number since switching from its predecessor, GrandCentral, which I’d used since 2006 (also as my primary phone number). In the time since making the switch, I’ve seen the interface revised more than a little—the quality rating buttons for transcripts and calls are among my favorite enhancements—but despite all the new features introduced over the last 14 months, one has been distinctly lacking. That one feature: Export. Think about it. Google Docs lets one download all of one’s documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in a…

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On Morning Matinées

Image by Micah Taylor via Flickr This morning, I had the dubious pleasure of waking myself at 08:00 to work a morning matinee of Jack and Rochelle. Not falling asleep until around 04:00 didn’t help things, but even getting just four hours of sleep would have been worth it if everything had gone as planned. But as it happened, this morning’s show was canceled for insufficient audience. OK, so Friday morning at 10:00 is kind of a strange time to have a show. The target audience is school groups, since most people are at either work or school; the only…

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“No Evil”: My NET10 Wireless Experiences

Update (2012-02-26): Apparently NET10 now sells SIMs for use with AT&T, T-Mobile, and unlocked GSM phones, if you’re willing to pay for the $50/month Unlimited Talk/Text/Data plan. Thanks to Anna for her comment. Last summer I began using a prepaid cell phone (an LG 300G, the cheapest, most basic model available at my purchase location) from NET10 Wireless, supposedly the “high-usage division” of TracFone. NET10’s rates are flat: 10¢ per minute (even if it’s actually one second, like any other per-minute charge) and 5¢ per text message in or out. The phone’s been very handy for some important calls and…

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My First WordPress Plugin Patch: Wibiya Toolbar

The beauty of using WordPress instead of Blogger is, in a nutshell, the freedom that comes with using an open system instead of a closed one. Under Blogger, I had very little freedom to extend the platform. Everything I could do had to be added by someone from Google, with the exception of a few JavaScript- and Flash-based sidebar widgets. Under WordPress, I have access to literally thousands of open-source plugins to modify, extend, and replace the functionality of the site. The beauty of using this open system is that if something doesn’t work the way I want it to,…

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Stop Direct Mail!

Image via WikipediaAnnoying. Wasteful. Downright useless. What am I talking about? Direct mail. Notice how that pile of paper you bring in from the mailbox (street-side, just-inside-front-door, wherever it is) is mostly stuff you bring in one door and out the other? Literally or figuratively, most of that mail ends up going right through the house and into the recycling (though sadly, some people – my dad included – just throw it away). If one were to examine that bulk of mail, one might find that virtually every last piece is trying to sell something. From yard services to home-improvement…

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Telemarketing Loopholes: FAIL

Image by elh70 via FlickrI was relaxing at home in the evening on the Monday before Thanksgiving, around 19:30, looking through a Hebrew-English dictionary to try and figure out what the song title “הלב שלנו” means in English. (I never did find the meaning of the word הלב; it seems to be conspicuously absent from both dictionaries I possess.) But an interruption was about to occur. The phone rang. Normally that would be a simple matter – just pick up the phone, read the Caller ID, and decide whether or not to answer it – but this situation was remarkable…

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Caller ID Should Be Standard

Image via WikipediaI don’t particularly like using the telephone. Don’t get me wrong; it’s nothing against the concept of talking to someone who’s not there – I do that all the time online. It’s not the fact that it’s voice-based instead of text-based. (Actually it kind of is, but that’s not the point of this post.) One of the biggest reasons I don’t like telephones is that it’s sometimes impossible to know who’s on the other end of the line. Caller ID is considered a premium feature and carries a charge somewhere in the area of $5/month per line. (This…

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