Category Archives: Internet

Image Filters Didn’t Make Instagram Successful

Yeah, I know. Adding image filters to your Internet service is all the rage these days. Twitter’s doing it. Google’s done it. Flickr did it today.

Enough.

Yeah, I know. They’re fun to fiddle with, but I honestly don’t believe that Instagram became successful because of image filters. When I first hopped onto Instagram, I honestly didn’t get it. I eschewed it for months. Why would I care to destroy the image quality (and resolution) of the photos I painstakingly snapped?

It’s just another image service, right?

Turns out, no.

Despite having every social account known to humanity (and then some), now, my favorite app to open up at any given point in the day is Instagram. Why?

Because I don’t have to think about it; I just have to look.

I don’t catch up with friends through their Twitter or Facebook feeds (and, please, don’t get on my case about Google+ again). Instead, I look to Instagram — usually. And here’s the thing: I’ve started to break my “rule” about social photo friending.

When I set up my Flickr account, I made the decision to only friend people I knew in real life. But on Instagram, it turns out that many of the people I know love to take unintentionally blurry photos of people I don’t know who are speaking at a conference I honestly don’t care about.

So, I’ve turned to friending people who are doing genuinely interesting things on Instagram — like Bobby Sussman (who has been posting a scene from The Empire Strikes Back in consecutive order with Star Wars toys since the beginning of the year) and Chris McVeigh (who is one of the most talented LEGO brick artists around).

It isn’t because of filters that I’m drawn to Bobby and Chris; it’s because they’re being creative, and it’s easy to scroll through their creativity at any given moment.

Twitter? Words, words, words. Facebook? Words, words, words. Links, links, links.

I don’t read anything on Instagram (and don’t want to). I don’t click anything on Instagram (because you can’t). I just turn off the thinking side of my brain for a moment and enjoy what my eyes take in.

So, when a service makes an announcement that it’s adding x amount of image filters to its product, I furrow my brow and wonder if it really understands that… image filters didn’t make Instagram amazing.

Its simplicity, stage for creativity, and no-thinking-required did.

Can Instagram be replaced? Sure, but image filters are merely icing on the cake — a gimmick, at best. The ability to share the photo’s permalink? Well, Instagram should only care about getting more users to Instagram.

Did you even read this article? Here, let me sum it up for you with this photo:

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How to Set up Apple’s AirPort for Extreme Speed

If you’ve been following the ongoing situation with my home wireless network, then you might be aware of the different methods I’ve tried to harvest a fast, reliable connection throughout my home. I have two AirPort base stations and am constantly having signal issues resulting in slow speeds and unpredictable connectivity. All I want is for my connection to be fast and consistent from the basement all the way up to my home office.

Recently, I received an email from Dennis (a member of the LockerGnome community) making me aware of a plan that allows two AirPort base stations to share the same network and Internet connection without creating an issue between them. To my surprise, it worked.

This setup is called “roaming” which allows you to pass between base stations without dropping your connection to the Internet. By doing so, you effectively double your available wireless coverage area giving you consistent speed throughout your home. Here’s what I needed to do to set up my Apple AirPort base stations to do this:

  • Connect all of the AirPort Extreme Base Stations and Time Capsules to the same subnet on your Ethernet network.
  • Give each device a unique name.
  • Give each device the same network name and password.
  • Set up the devices as bridges. (More information on how to set up Apple’s AirPort as a bridge can be found here.)

AirPort wireless devices are configured by default to bridge the connection between an ethernet network and a wireless AirPort network. This means that your wired network is connected to your wireless network through the AirPort device, allowing your wired systems to communicate and share resources with wireless ones.

Once you’ve got everything configured, you should be able to pass through rooms without the two base stations battling it out with one-another and causing interference. They theoretically would work as a team on either 2.4GHz or 5GHz.

This setup is working for me in my home office, and it may work for you. If you know of a better solution to the problem of keeping a solid wireless connection going throughout your home, please email me and let me know. I’m always looking for a better way to increase performance without having to spend an extreme amount of money to do so.

Comcast 250GB Cap? Avoid Dropbox or Online Backup!

Recently, I “downgraded” my Comcast service from Business to Residential – largely because I got more speed for less money, and I wasn’t anticipating coming anywhere near the 250GB cap. I hate artificial ceilings, but that’s the price I pay for paying less of a price?

I know I don’t knowingly download 250GB worth of data every month – I’m not THAT hardcore.

However, that 250GB cap is for all transfers (upload AND download) – and it’s not just for email and Web browsing, but everything. EVERYTHING. I was reminded of this when I read the article by another local boy about how Comcast is totally screwing him. Completely.

Since I record a TON of videos for YouTube, and most of my production is remote, I rely on Dropbox to better facilitate content for the channel. I connect to Dropbox from more than one machine (and, yes, LAN sync is always on). Either way, I push a lot of bits down the pike (before editing) – and a lot of bits get pushed back to me (after editing).

Tonight, as I was recording more videos for the YouTube, someone suggested that Dropbox was causing me to push my limit:

I’m guessing that user is 100% correct. I immediately disconnected Dropbox from one of my computers and cleared out certain folders (without realizing ramifications, causing further consternation). Video is bandwidth intensive – and not just when you’re wanting to watch it. I know I have likely pushed and pulled extraneous gigabytes of video data in these two weeks on Comcast’s Residential Class service.

Thank goodness my offsite “online backup” option stopped working a while back, or I’d have been in twice as much trouble by now. Could you imagine? I mean, how frequently do you see online backup services advertised everywhere? I wouldn’t recommend an online backup service if you’re dealing with a data cap, that’s for sure. No way in hell.

So, to put a finer point on my alarmist headline: be forewarned about using ANY KIND OF data-intensive service (like Dropbox or any online backup option).

Comcast – ease up there, dude. You’re screwing some of us out of very useful services.

I realize I’m probably more of a business user at this point, but your new Business Class prices are nowhere within the realm of reasonable – that’s why I “downgraded” (and got better speed in the process). Y’all need to set up some kind of in-between “Producer” or “Prosumer” level. We don’t want your Exchange or email crap – we just want no data caps for us to push legitimate traffic around.

I’m obviously willing to spend money – we all are. But you have to match our needs better (especially if we have “no choice” but to go through you as a broadband provider for home).

Now, I should also take this time to tell you that Comcast really isn’t horrible – at least, not the people I’ve dealt with. They accidentally turned off my service for 24 hours this week. A technician saw me flagged as a former Business subscriber and he accidentally killed all of my services (TV, Internet) – until I tracked someone down later that day to get to the bottom of the problem. By the following afternoon, they realized it was their issue (since my business connection existed at the same place as my residence). Comcast is now going to offer me a refund for some outstanding charges. It was their mistake, but they cleaned it up – with a good degree of speed and candor.

Seems like they’ve got another mistake on their hands, here, by ignoring power producers who aren’t pirating anything. I doubt anybody at corporate is going to pay attention to my plight – and they’ve obviously done their best to ignore Andre’s. If you’d like to read more about what happened to another Seattle-area Comcast subscriber, he’s detailed the literal post mortem in a complete ‘Day After’ blog entry.

There is no competition with Comcast – they’re pretty much the only game in town in certain areas of Seattle, and that sucks (for consumers and power users, at least). I don’t even want to get into the headaches my neighbors have had with the problematic Netgear routers Comcast keeps passing off for them to use. That’s another battle for another day.

*knock knock* Anybody there?

How to Disable Animated GIFs in Chrome

I admit it: I’m a huge fan of the animated GIF. Don’t worry, though – I’m not going to embed any in this post, because the chances of you wanting to see an animation after reading that headline are slim.

There’s nothing wrong with the GIF image file, itself – it’s just that when frames are spliced together into a single GIF file, the resulting animation may be jarring to some (especially when used as a web page background).

In most browsers, you can simply tap the ‘Esc’ key to halt the sequence (since turning off support for GIFs altogether is never advised). Google Chrome, however, doesn’t currently support such a feature – so, until that happens within the browser itself, there are a few Google Chrome Extensions you might try using:

If you care to test any one of these scripts, here’s a page with a simple animated GIF to try. Did the extension work for you?

I was prompted to assemble this post after one too many people complained that they didn’t want to see any more animated GIFs cluttering up their Google Plus experience. They may still appear in My Google+ Profile from time to time, but that shouldn’t stop you from following me (especially with these extensions installed).

Are You Using the Best Wireless Channel?

Setting the right wireless channel on your router can make a big difference on how well your Wi-Fi connection works. While most users may be just fine with whatever the default settings may be, others can experience frequent packet drops resulting in the appearance of an unstable or even unusable connection.

These issues can be caused by a number of factors. Other networks, electronics, and even your neighbor’s equipment could be interfering with your router’s ability to maintain a solid connection with your various devices. This interference can cause confusion between devices similar to a couple trying to carry on a conversation at a crowded location. While you may be focused on the person in front of you, making it easier to hear them than the background, an occasional shout or holler can interrupt the conversation and break the chain of communication.

If you’re having occasional problems with your wireless connectivity, you might consider switching channels and giving the new space a try. A good method for testing the new setting is by doing a speed test and comparing the results to other channels. Run the test several times in order to determine consistency in cases where problems may come and go frequently.

More popular Wi-Fi channels tend to be the best to avoid as they are usually the most crowded and prone to interfere. These include 2, 6, and 11 which are commonly used as defaults on some of the more prominent router brands. If your router gives you the option of allowing it to automatically find and set the best channel for you, this is usually the best way to go. The router will check each channel for traffic and connectivity potential before deciding on what it determines is the best option for you.

One useful tool for figuring out which channel is best in your specific location is a Wifi analyzer. This can come in the form of a dedicated device or an app for your smartphone that uses a Wi-Fi connection. Android has a popular free spectrum analyzer available to it aptly called “Wifi Analyzer“. This program checks various channels on the spectrum and allows you to do connectivity checks as you switch between them.

This is just one of several tips and tricks that can help you improve the stability of your wireless network at home. What are your wireless tips? Do you know any tricks that can help strengthen the connection?

How to Increase Wi-Fi Speed

Networking is complicated. Businesses often spend a great deal of their available revenue on their IT department in order to keep their various systems talking to each other. At home, small and medium sized networks are becoming more and more common as our devices begin to integrate the net in to what they do.

In the past, you would connect a modem to your computer and that was the extent of your networking needs. If you had multiple computers, you may have invested in a second network card and switch, hub, or even a full-on router if you really wanted to go all out. Now, having a router in your home is as common as having a television set.

What happens when you want to utilize your router’s Wi-Fi capabilities, but the signal degrades between the upstairs and downstairs areas of your home? My solution to this problem was to set up two base stations with default settings and it appeared to work. Unfortunately, we experienced serious packet loss as a result.

Brandon and Jake tackled this problem at my home office and their solution was to set up a Wireless Distribution System (WDS) which used one of the base stations as a primary and the other as a remote. This creates a unified operation between the two base stations which helps manage and improve the flow of traffic between my wireless devices.

They recommend using two matching routers (in brand at least) for this setup in order to be sure that they are using the same variation of the WDS standard. You also want to make sure that they are using the same wireless channel. In addition, it would be a good idea to avoid the default channel (whatever it may be) on your device as most users keep their devices on default which may cause interference.