Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Use iTunes, Not Cable

I'm certainly not the first to suggest that people could start using Apple TV instead of their cable TV provider. No one seems to think that would happen - and being a long time Tivo fan, I never did either.

Something happened though recently that made me change my mind. First, I did the math, looking at the TV shows I really wanted to watch. I need the Daily Show, Colbert, The Office, and Scrubs. I figured that would currently run me about $36 a month - not bad, and certainly better than my cable bill plus Tivo bill plus HD plus etc... So for another installment of how technology is making my life better, I look to iTunes and the TV show downloads.

My economist friends will argue that the remainder is the value of bundling all shows together. And it's a valid argument, but leaves out one strong assumption. I don't want to be able to channel surf - that drain takes away from the rest of my life, and I'm not strong enough to resist it.

The quality isn't awful on my 50" TV (better than something I Tivo'd off Comcast, non-HD), and it's actually very good streaming from my mac mini to my laptop. This was the selling point for me, being able to watch these shows anywhere in my house, wirelessly streaming them to my laptop. No need for Apple TV - just a couple computers and a decent wireless connection.

As if people didn't need enough reason to ditch the cable provider, here's one more - just get what you want from iTunes.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Meraki and Free Internet Access

I'm a huge believer in Free, and it's one of the things I like the most about cool technologies. I especially like it when a company or idea lets people (strangers) come together, pool their resources, and make things free - especially things like free Internet access.

I wish I could remember how I first found about Meraki, but looking back I think it must a post in Engadget or GigaOm or something. Either way, my interest led me to Meraki's website, which had a great map that showed I wasn't getting Free Internet in my Russian Hill Neighborhood. Nevertheless, still inspired by their idea to share part of your bandwidth, I gave them my address and pretty quickly forgot about them.

Then, yesterday I received a package in the mail. Two packages, actually - one containing a little mini-router, and one containing a CAT-5 cable. Setting it up was seriously the easiest thing I've ever done. The hardest part was finding a spare power outlet next to my router and everything - after that, you just plug it into the router.

Shortly after plugging it in, a "Free the Net" connection popped up in my wireless list. What surprised me the most was that I actually see a stronger connection to the Meraki router than my own Linksys. Granted, mine is two years old, but we had paid quite a bit for it then...

Apparently Meraki will start allowing people to charge for access to the mini-wireless mesh networks they set up. Which is sorta cool, since people can essentially resell their own Internet connections by setting up a few repeaters around the neighborhood (only one needs to actually be connected).

Nothing makes our lives better than free, ubiquitous access to information and the Internet, which is why I am happy to be doing my part. It'd be really interesting to see some innovative entrepreneurs start finding ways to make money off Meraki. Because it's clear that the government's not going to set up free, ever-present Internet in San Francisco for us. So we get to do it ourselves!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Return of PhiloTech

So after nearly a one-year hiatus, I've been inspired to start this ol' blogging thing back up again. I gave up after a few months last time because there wasn't any focus - it was mostly just me rambling about how I felt about technology. It was fun for a while (and a great way to pass time in my old job), but in the long run it wasn't very worthwhile, 'cause no one really wanted to hear me talk about my feelings.

The moment of inspiration came to me again today after receiving a nice surprise in the mail from a company called Meraki. A new post about them should come shortly, but once I opened this package, I realized how intertwined my life and technology have become. It's partly a generational thing I'm sure, but I also have a deep passion for it. It's got to be a fairly rare thing to be able to say I started programming computers when I was 10, and haven't stopped finding ways for technology to improve my life since. And also that I have always had friends :)

I'm inspired mostly by places like FiLife and My Money Blog, where the authors are sharing their own stories about their financial lives and philosophies. I'll be applying that to technology, sharing my own stories about how I use cool new tools & toys to make my little world a little better.

So - what am I saying here? I'm saying that this blog is getting started again, with a new focus. A focus on how technology can improve all our lives.

And as always... let me know what you think!