You might need a new router

Do you need a new router? If your Internet is slow after upgrading to a faster service, and if your wifi range and reception is poor, or your Internet connection just generally misbehaves a lot, you might need a new router.

Even the New York Times, of all places, has published articles extolling the virtues of new routers. If your wi-fi at home is bad, they say, think about picking up a TP-Link Archer C7 router. I like the Asus RT-AC66U myself,  but in my experience, and the experience of my colleagues, a new router makes a huge difference.

When one longtime friend upgraded to a TP-Link Archer, he told me his wi-fi improved so much his wired network was suddenly struggling to keep up with it.

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The New York Times’ dialect map can’t figure me out

My first semester of college, one of the copy editors for the student newspaper either minored in linguistics or just enjoyed the subject. He could peg where all of us were from–except me.

The New York Timesinteractive dialect map struggled with me too. I’ve taken the test five times, and it managed to give me a map just once. Read more

The price of Amazon

Slashdot posted a link to a New York Times piece that asserts that the full extent of Amazon’s existence hasn’t been felt yet, but it asserts that book pricing is becoming whimsical.

My experience disagrees with that. The market will stabilize. I think the cost fluctuations are because the market hasn’t stabilized yet.

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CISPA is trying to solve a legitimate problem

I read yet another anti-CISPA piece today. I’m not comfortable trying to read it and decide whether it’s a good or bad piece of legislation, but I do understand the problem it’s trying to solve.

Those who have tried to paint CISPA as the new SOPA or PIPA are misunderstanding the problem CISPA is trying to solve. CISPA isn’t supposed to be about stopping the scourge of teenaged boys using the Internet to copy music and movies. It’s actually chasing something nefarious.

Let me give you an example.
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The LCMS won’t be able to work out its differences in the dark

I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard a journalism professor say, “Don’t ever do something you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the New York Times.”

It’s worse today. In the 1990s, the news cycle was hours long. Today, with three major cable news channels and the Internet, the news cycle is minutes long, and marching toward real-time.

That’s the problem with Dr. Matthew Harrison’s hope, reported in the Post-Dispatch, to handle the LCMS’s Sandy Hook Vigil controversy “[Internally,] well out of the public spotlight.”
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Nobody respects craftsmanship anymore

The New York Times laments the decline of craftsmanship and its side effects in the United States.

A generation ago, it wasn’t terribly uncommon for men to make their own kitchen cabinets. And those cabinets, if built correctly, would last several lifetimes. The cabinets my great-great grandfather built before the turn of the previous century survived just fine into my lifetime. A year ago, a prospective tenant took me to task for having such handbuilt cabinets in a rental house, and pointed to a couple of other rental houses–with particle-board Home Depot junk in them–as having “better updates.”

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Apple and China, or Why the U.S. Middle Class is Shrinking

“Companies once felt an obligation to support American workers, even when it wasn’t the best financial choice,” said Betsey Stevenson, the chief economist at the Labor Department until last September. “That’s disappeared. Profits and efficiency have trumped generosity.”

Apple Computer, currently the highest-valued company in the country, at its peak employs 1/10 the number of Americans as General Motors did in the 1950s.  Apple is an easy target because it’s big, but the problem isn’t unique to Apple. Technology companies as a whole employ fewer people than the heavyweights of ages past like General Motors and General Electric. It’s the nature of the work.

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News flash: e-books are overpriced

I saw a story yesterday about how e-readers are getting cheaper, but e-books are rising in cost.

In some cases, the e-books cost as much as, or more than a paper copy of the book. Which, as anyone with any knowledge of printing should be able to tell you, is ridiculous. Most of the cost of a paper copy of the book is printing and distribution. Or, at least that’s what they used to tell writers. When people paid $24.95 for a copy of my book, published in 2000, I saw about $1.75 of it. I’m probably not supposed to tell you that, but I just did. The printing and distribution costs of an e-book are negligible, so if the author, who does most of the work, is supposed to be able to get by on $1.75, shouldn’t the publisher and retailer find a way to do the same? So divide the revenue evenly between the author, publisher, and retailer, sell the e-book for $5.25 and, and everything’s fair. They could even put the book on sale for $2.97 sometimes, drop everyone’s share to 99 cents, and hope to make it up in increased sales.

But here are some things you can do while you wait for publishers to get a dose of reality.
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How to tame e-books

I haven’t exactly been rushing out to buy an e-reader, for at least a couple of reasons. The practical reason is that I’m afraid of being locked in to a single vendor. Amazon is the market leader and the most likely to still be around for the long term, but they’re the worst about locking you in. The other vendors offer slightly better interoperability–supporting the same file format and, optionally, the same DRM–but the non-Amazon market leaders are Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Sony, all of which are scary. Borders is being liquidated; B&N isn’t losing money–yet–but its profit margins have shrunk each of the last two years; and Sony’s recent problems are well known to the security community. I’m not too anxious to climb into bed with any of them. Google is entering the market as well, but the first Google-backed e-reader doesn’t support highlighting or note-taking.

The Luddite reason is that I’m old enough to have an attachment to books. Physical books, printed on paper. Maybe this isn’t true for any generation beyond mine (I’m a GenXer), but for my generation and previous generations, having books on your shelf is a sign of being educated. And there are certain books–or types of books, depending on your field–that you’re expected to have on your shelf.

To a certain extent, the latter reason can be negated by playing the e-reader card. Of course I have the complete works of Shakespeare on my e-reader, so those Shakespeare books from college just became clutter…
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On content farms

It looks like Google has taken action against content farms, low-quality sites that publish articles about anything and everything quickly, and try to make money from the ads.

I can’t tell yet if this has really affected my traffic any–my traffic can drop or jump 20 percent on a daily basis for no apparent reason. But I support the change.
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