WiFi Performance Boost

It’s been a while since my last real tech post and if you don’t want to geek out, it’s OK if you skip this one.

I just replaced an aging Netgear wireless router that was being used as an access point (AP), with a Ubiquiti Networks UniFi AP. What a difference! Great signal strength throughout the house and I’m seeing the same throughput on wireless devices as those connected via Ethernet cable. And best of all, no Netflix buffering on our Chromecast connected TV.

UniFi Controller Software

UniFi Controller Software

Ubiquiti makes enterprise grade networking components at a much lower cost than a company like Cisco (the UniFi AP is under $70 from Amazon). Instead of the typical flat box sprouting antennas, the UniFi looks like a smoke detector and is designed to be mounted on a wall or ceiling. It has a single, ring shaped light (which can be turned off) that indicates its status. Unlike most consumer networking hardware, there is no configuration software on the device itself. Instead, all management is done from an application running on a computer, which must be connected to the same network. This allows for configuration and monitoring of multiple APs that can be incorporated into a single wireless network. There was a bit of a learning curve to getting the UniFi Controller software running (hint: make sure that it’s not being blocked by Windows Firewall) but once loaded, it was easy to configure the device.

With the signal coverage that I’m seeing, we have no need for more than one access point. Yet I don’t think that this class of equipment is overkill for a typical household. Last night, we had eight connected devices and my son’s computer had downloaded 1.3GB in the first hour that the UniFi was connected. This kind of demand makes it worth spending a little extra on equipment that was designed to handle much greater loads.

I should note that the UniFi AP does not include a router. It simply connects to the router installed by your ISP to greatly improve wireless connectivity. It also requires an Ethernet cable connection to the router, through which it gets power, using an included Power Over Ethernet injector.

I will keep Ubiquiti on my list of go-to hardware providers.

Finishing Touches

On May 4th, we started our home improvement project, in preparation for putting our home of 20 years up for sale. From the humble first step of painting the bathroom, we have progressed through re-roofing, deck repair, exterior painting, a front door portico and winding gravel walkway. As I write this there are only three walls and a patch of ceiling that remain unpainted inside and the portico needs a few square feet of shingles.

We expect to be listed by the end of August, which launches us into the next phase of our move-down-the-hill adventure and the ongoing question, “what have I gotten myself into?”

Here are a few more exterior photos. Click to enlarge.

Green House In the Trees

We’ve lived for 20 years in this brown stained house and truth be told it was pretty ugly. We now have a fresh new coat of light green paint with cream trim and a new front entryway (portico?). Oh, and our deck is no longer falling down. Thanks to Ray Hall, General Contractor and John Fenger, Paint Contractor and their crews. Here’s a photo timeline (click images to embiggen):

MayOne.us Stage 2: Pledge to Reclaim Democracy

I recently joined Lawrence Lessig’s citizen-funded MAYDAY.US campaign – an ambitious experiment to win a Congress committed to ending corruption in 2016 – and we did something amazing: We raised $1 million in 12 days in May. Matching funds brought that up to $2 million and that’s a ton of money, but it’s not enough.

So, what’s the plan?

We have launched an experiment to see whether we can kick-start a campaign for fundamental reform.

That campaign will occur across at least two election cycles.

If we raise our funding targets, in 2014, we will launch a small campaign in at least 5 congressional districts. Based on what we learn in those 5 districts, we will launch a much larger campaign to get us to 218 votes in the House, and 60 votes in the United States Senate.

We will set a series of targets two in 2014, more for the 2016 cycle in which we announce a fundraising goal, and ask people to commit to that goal.

People “commit” by pledging a contribution anywhere between $5 and $10,000 to the Mayday PAC. Those funds are kept only if we reach the target by the target date. If we don’t meet the goal, no pledges are kept by Mayday PAC.

Our next goal is to raise $5 million more by July 4, and I’m writing this post to my friends and family to ask if you can help us get the rest of the way there. If all of us who have supported the campaign so far each recruit just five matching pledges, we’d easily hit that goal. But I’d like to see if I can recruit ten of my friends to donate. So my question is: will you be one of those ten?

Pledge Now!

Congratulations, Jacob

My son, Jacob, graduated from 8th grade yesterday. In my day, the transition from Middle School (then called Junior High) to High School was important but didn’t merit a formal ceremony. More things are celebrated now, which is probably a good thing. For Jacob, it’s a great time to recognize his success at finding a mode of learning that works for him. He has never been a classroom learner and during his early school years developed an intense dislike of schools and teachers. This brought his formal learning nearly to a halt. As parents, we struggled with many questions: Were we being too permissive? Was the problem with his teachers? Could the underlying problem be physical, mental or emotional? We may never find the answers to these questions but over time, we have banged together something that works.

Two years ago, Jacob started attending The Education Option, associated with Gold Rush Charter School in Sonora. With the support of his teacher, Charis Caughey, he transitioned to Acellus, an online curriculum. This allows him to work at his own pace (which is surprisingly fast), outside of the classroom. He now works at or above grade level in all subjects except math (he takes after me in that area).

Jacob graduated with a mention for academic excellence (maintaining at or above a 3.5 GPA) and with four certificates from The Education Option, including having the highest reading score above his grade level (12.5) in STAR testing.

I have long believed that traditional classrooms do a poor job of preparing kids for the world in which we now live. There must be better ways of gaining the knowledge needed to reach goals. We are in a time of transition and it can be scary to depart from a well worn path. My hope for my son is that he continues to find new ways to move through life with purpose and as himself. Well done, Jacob.