Everything that follows is a result of what you see here.

Welcome to my site. I’ve had this domain for awhile now and was never really sure what I should do with it. I’ve got so many things going that it was difficult to pick just one. So I decided not to pick just one. This will be sort of a catchall site. Part experiment, part promotion, part play. At the time of this post being published, this is a WordPress 3.0 beta1 site, see what I mean?

Everything on the site will have something to do with something I’m either currently involved with or on which I’m working or those things past, hence the quote (with apologies to Isaac Asimov) that is the title of this sticky post.

I’m sure this will suffer from fits and starts and then periods of heightened activity and most definitely it will change, sometimes almost in discernibly and sometimes not. It is after all, my site. I hope you enjoy your time here.

3 things about Comcast’s Neighborhood WiFi HotSpots

I haven’t read anything about the Comcast Neighborhood WiFi hotspots issue, I just found this and decided to make an observation or three. I’m not sure how well this was thought through by Comcast…But I digress.

1. You’re now a commercial transmission site

Transmission towers, wifi

Photo Credit: Susie

Let me explain. When you start your internet service with Comcast, there is a physical installation of the transmission cables and you either pay a technician for that, or it’s already been done and you either pay to have the technician hook up the equipment or you can do a self installation. Regardless of the method, the physical cable has to be run in order for you to receive personal, protected (as much as possible), reliable Internet service.

Comcast is now taking that private, physical installation and making it a transmission site for a commercial WiFi hotspot that any Comcast customer can use without your permission or knowledge or ability to opt out, from what I can see [Update 2013-06-19:  I had a reader inform me that the customer can opt-out of the program and confirmed it based on the Mutlichannel.com article Cable Show 2013: Comcast Turns Wireless Gateways Into Neighborhood Wi-Fi Hotspots]. That Hotspot can’t exist if only the cable is there. There has to be a modem and router in order to broadcast, or distribute the hotspot signal. If there’s no Comcast customer there, there can be no hotspot.

Think of it like all the cell towers you see around you. While the companies own the equipment, it would be impossible for them to own all the land and buildings those towers are on, so they pay some sort of  combination of rental and/or access fees for their towers to be transmitting from those locations.  I don’t know of any compensation for Comcast customers and especially for those who own their own modem and router.

2. You’re providing an unpaid public endorsement  for Comcast by being a Neighborhood WiFi HotSpot

Funny story. I was going to use a photo of Captain Amazing (here’s a link to the results of a Google image search on Captain Amazing if you’re interested) from the 1999 Universal Studios film Mystery Men which is owned by Comcast, but couldn’t find a copy marked for free use. If I used one, it would be me distributing their product without a licensing agreement or compensation, which could be considered piracy, as opposed to them distributing their product using me as a distribution point without a licensing agreement or compensation which is considered…What now?

Anyway, you might ask how that’s a public endorsement? It goes hand in hand with the last thing…And I’ve saved the worst for last.

3. Your privacy can easily be violated

[There will be a lot of blanked out information following for privacy reasons]

I went to the site and saw that you could search for HotSpot locations, so I did. I went to http://hotspots.wifi.comcast.com/ put in a zip code for a Chicago neighborhood and I got this result:

Xfinity Neighborhood WiFi HotSpot Search Results

Click to enlarge
(opens in new window)

This was my first search and I noticed something about the first street address result and I left it uncovered in the picture above. It says Fl Ground, short for Floor Ground. That doesn’t sound like a business address to me, it sounds more like a billing address. So I went to  http://www.switchboard.com/ and did a reverse address search and these are a portion of the result:

Switchboard.com reverse lookup results

Click to enlarge
(opens in new window)

 

From two quick searches, I got these pieces of information:

  • A person’s name (And it was a person’s name, not a company or business)
  • Street address
  • Telephone number

And one last piece of never before publicly available information that ties all of this together in a scary and possibly dangerous way:

  •  The extremely high probability of that person being a Comcast customer. A business which sends technicians out to onsite service calls, in many cases house calls.

As I said in the beginning, I don’t think this was thought through very well and based on the information I was able to find out in less than 5 minutes using only widely available internet tools, Comcast might want to work on plugging some holes and soon.

 

Without a second thought

Big Tony's Pizza

Big Tony’s Pizza in Logan Square

I’ve had a couple of weeks of horrific customer service, so I decided to focus on an example of customer service that will keep me as a customer for a long, long time.

There’s a little place called Big Tony’s Pizza in the area. Yes, they’re a pizza place, but they also have Burgers, Italian Beef, Gyros and more.  There are some tables in the place, but I’d be willing to bet that most of their business is split between carry out and delivery. I tend to pop in, order and bring it home because I can run some quick errands after I order and be back in time to pick it up and I really like their burgers and Italian Beef a lot. It’s one of those “Ooo, you know what sounds good right now? A burger from Big Tony’s.” type of thing. But that’s why I started going there. Here’s why I’ll keep going there.

Not long ago I went in with Theresa and it was the busiest I’d seen it in there in awhile. I don’t think there was an empty table and people either ordering or picking up orders were 3 – 4 deep. We ordered and sat down and this time we decided to eat there. We were talking when I heard someone say something I couldn’t make out, but it made me look up just in time to see the man behind the cash register say “just a minute” to line of people three or four deep.  He turned and walked over to a physically challenged man in a wheelchair who had a couple pieces of pizza and a soft drink in a can with a straw and put the straw to the man’s mouth so he could take a drink and turned back to the cash register in almost one single motion. If I hadn’t looked up right then, or I had blinked, I would have missed it. A lot of the people did miss it. But there was also this moment of “you saw that, right?” bit of silence for those who did see it.

It wasn’t that it was the right thing to do, even though that’s exactly what it was, or that it was good customer service. It was those things and there was no complaint, no fanfare, not even a break in stride.

It was done without a second thought.

I don’t know about you, but a place that employs people with customer service like that gets my return business, period.  And it makes Big Tony’s Pizza a happy place for me.

 

Photo Cycle example

This is an example of a photo cycle done using the NextGen Gallery plugin and the JJ NextGen JQuery Cycle.

[jj-ngg-jquery-cycle html_id="about-cycle" gallery="1" <!-- width="640" height="480" -->

timeout="5000" speed="1000" fit="1"]

 

It’s very flexible

I like to setup a single gallery for the photo cycle itself and all that needs to be done is upload the pictures to that gallery and it’s good to go. However, you can change how long the photos display, length of transition time between photos, display size of the photos and order of the photos. You can also set up links for each picture with a minimum of work.

Best of all is the ease of use to rotate pictures on an ongoing basis. You can simply add or remove pictures from your gallery and they automatically update in the cycle. No messing with editing or recreating a new file using any specific program, so you can show your best pictures at any time.

A laugh at bad infogr@*#ics and a tip

Large number 10 painted on wall

Photo Credit Horia Varlan

I woke up this morning to an infographic titled 10 Ways to Make Your Infographic Totally Awesome – ‘Our sarcastic tribute to those infographic designers who insist on doing it wrong…repeatedly and unashamedly.’” from Neo Mammalian Studios. It’s hilarious and right on the mark, go visit it right now, just come back afterwards. I found it via halfblog.net (Thank you Geoff).

I don’t care much for infographics on the whole and bad infographics? I’d use them as a virtual coaster for a virtual drink I just spilled and didn’t have a virtual paper towel to wipe off the drink on a virtual table I couldn’t possibly care less about whether or not it got virtual watermarks on it because it’s so easy to replace and besides it’s virtual.

That being said, while  I reading/laughing at this infographic, I flashed on #5 “Copyright is for losers“, with a little callout that says “Google images is your friend”.  I don’t know if it’s because I’ve researched copyright (meaning by no means am I an expert, but I’m knowledgeable), or because I just used this tool yesterday, but there’s an incredibly simple tool out there that helps avoid this.

You can find it at search.creativecommons.org. You put in your search terms and you can find images, video, music and other media that’s all licensed under Creative Commons and you can use for your posts, pages, etc. very liberally, in most cases for free with proper attribution and sharing as long as it’s not being used for commercial purposes. It searches sites such as Flickr, Google images, YouTube and many more that I wouldn’t know to search if it weren’t for this tool.

So take it or a spin, find a graphic or video or piece of music or two, that’s why it’s there. and if you have any other quick suggestions relating to the other 9 points on the infographic, feel free to share them in the comments section, I can always learn a thing or two about something new.

The Basics of Blogging: Secondary Formatting toolbar

This post is on the Secondary Formatting toolbar.  There are 13 buttons/droplists on this one and they’re going to take a bit more explanation and description. So here’s the list from left to right:

WordPress Secondary Toolbar

  1. Header and Paragraph types
  2. Underline*
  3. Align Full
  4. Select Text color
  5. Paste as Plain Text
  6. Paste from Word
  7. Remove formatting
  8. Insert custom character
  9. Outdent (decrease indent)
  10. Indent
  11. Undo
  12. Redo
  13. Help
 *Formatting described is used on the text in this post

The first button on this toolbar 1. Header and paragraph types, requires the most explanation or one specific reason. The formatting will rarely, if ever look the same between the visual tab on the create/edit screen and the published post/page, so it’s not exactly  ’What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG)’. this is because of the use of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). It’s a good approximation of what it will look like.

Think of it like being invited to a Themed Costume party. The host knows sort of what you will look like because of the theme, but not exactly what you look like until you show up at the party. Same thing here. So let’s start with the styles.

The first choice on the preformatted drop menu is paragraph, the default font style for your blog. It’s your blog’s standard for posts and pages.

The second choice is address, and that’s what it’s made for, to put a specific styling on addresses. This paragraph in that style is not how it was intended to be used, but you get the idea.
The next choice is preformatted. This is the rare exception on these 
styles. It will look exactly the same on the edit/create screen and on
the published post/page. 
              It makes the text easy to copy and paste. 
                  This formatting is very exacting, unforgiving and 
                      labor intensive. 
                  Unless you already can see a use for this format 
              (like a code snippet
or an e.e. cummings poem), you probably won't use it much.

This is the Heading 1 selection.

This is the Heading 2 selection.

This is the Heading 3 selection.

This is the Heading 4 selection.

This is the Heading 5 selection.
This is the Heading 6 selection.

The second button is the 2. Underline button. It’s fairly self-explanatory.

The next button is the 3. Align Full button.  The purpose of this button is to have flush right and left margins, no ragged edges on either side. The downside to this format is to achieve the flush line on both sides spaces are added between words and can make the spaces visually distracting (typographers call it ladders and rivers).

Next is the 4. Select text color button. You get a drop list with color choices for the text you have selected using click and drag.

The next two buttons work in a similar fashion.

The fifth button on the toolbar is the 5. Paste as Plain Text button.You use this button when you want to paste text into a post or page. That removes formatting that could cause problems with how the text is displayed on the page. It’s basically the safest way to make sure that your posts and pages look good.

Next is the 6. Paste from Word button.  Microsoft Word has a reputation for adding a lot of code that if you simply copy and paste, will have your displayed text go wonky.  It’s so prevalent that this button was created. Use it if you want to bring something over from Word.

The 7. Remove Formatting button clears the formatting you might have in a paragraph or selected text should you change your mind about what you used or just decided to make a change.

Next is 8. Insert Custom Character button gives you a drop chart of those extra characters so you don’t have to find the HTML code or the Number code or yourself to write a mathematical formula or a word in a foreign language with diacritical markings.

9. Outdent (decrease Indent)  button. It seems a bit backwards to have this button first since you have to have some indented text before you can outdent or decrease the indent button, but that’s what it does. If you’re outlining a process and you have multiple levels, just click the button and it’s done.

And the 10. Indent button is the other half of the pair. Use it for a Multilevel numbered outline or bulleted list and this will give you the next subset level.

Next is another pair that seems a bit backward, starting with the 11. Undo button.  I don’t have a deinitive answer as to how many actions you can undo, but I do know it stores over 20 of the last actions. This depends on whether or not you have saved as well. Saving will commit all the actions and thereby clear out the individual steps.

The other half of this pair is the 12. Redo button. This will reverse a lost of the actions taken and has the same constraints as the Undo button.

Last, but not least is the 13. Help button. Click that you get a popup box with four tabs “Basics, Advanced, Hot Keys and About” . Each tab gives you specific help on those areas of the toolbar and how it works.

So that’s an overview of the Secondary toolbar in the WordPress interface. More to come soon.