Sunday, June 13, 2004

Big Day (and Night) Out



The "Time to Read" Gig and Airport Extreme
On Friday (11th) we had the privilege of presenting some of our ideas about Instant Messaging to the biennial seminar provided by the Time-Warner-AOL Corporation for participants in it Time to Read program. Our colleague, Don Leu, had kindly suggsted us as presenters, and we accepted the invitation.

We knew little about the program before, but quickly got on to the task of getting up to speed. It would be an understatement if we said we had been nervous in the lead up to the event. Much of our uncertainty was based on not having a clear sense of who the audience would be. Talking with Don Leu helped a lot, as did teleconferencing with Allison Burns-Ferro,who runs the Time to Read program, and Jacquie Moen (from AOL) who was doing the first part of the session with us.

Happily for us the talk went well and the feedback was very heartening. But the real thrill was getting to see the nature and scope of the program up close, and to get a good inside sense of its various dimensions as seen through the eyes of key people involved. Because the program is interesting, and because we hope to maintain links with it, we will make some further posts on this theme in the days and weeks ahead.

We also want to write our talk up into a formal paper and publish it online and in print. (Watch this space.)

However, the thing we want to talk about right now is our luck the evening before the talk. We took the train from the Montclair Heights (Montclair State University) stop to Penn Station (NYC) on Thursday afternoon. We planned to register and then locate the nearest Apple Store to go buy an Airport Base Station to set up a wireless network for our computers at home and at work. We located the nearest Apple Store down in Soho and caught the R train from mid town, where we were staying.

Finding the store at 103 Prince Street was easy. We checked out the visible information on the Airport Extremes, got one and took it to the counter to pay, and to ask about an antenna. We had read the information as saying that the Extreme cost $199 (US) and that the $249 model included the antenna. 'No', said the man. 'The antenna is separate. There is a $199 model and a $249 model, and the antenna costs a further $99 on top of whichever one you buy'. We asked what was the difference. The guy explained that the more expensive model had a port for dial in as well as LAN and WAN Ethernet.

Pardon our ignorance, but we had had no idea previously that a dial in connection could possibly support wireless. Even though we expected the links to be slow using dial in we could not resist the option. We bought the $249 model.

Good choice! For sure the ethernet connection at work on a good day is much faster (and even without the antenna the range is good) than the dial in at home. But the latter is suprisingly good. It seems to us to be somewhat faster with 3 machines running on wireless than with a single machine connected by modem direct to the phone line. Let's just say that when we buy another one to take back to Mexico and for use in Australia, we won't be in a hurry to get cable. The dial in connection will suffice perfectly well for the time being.

And the special bonus was finding that Apple has Airport management software for PCs running Win 2000 and XP. So you can use the Airport extreme with your PC. Along with the ever loving iPod, and my firewire card (that makes a 1999 IBM Thinkpad running XP on maximum RAM sufficient for my daily needs even now in 2004), this is our happiest tech purchase in a while.

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