Easy Way To Improve Rural Cell Phone Reception

The only cell phone tower near my farm is slowly getting masked by trees as the forest next door grows up, and the cell phone reception in my house is dreadful.

I just bought a Verizon Network Extender and couldn’t be happier. This is a device that looks like a wireless access point but acts like a miniature cell phone tower, using your DSL or cable modem to reach the cellular network. Our phones went from zero bars to four! Woo-hoo!

This is a zero-config device: I plugged it in and it self-configured within about 20 minutes. I didn’t have to set a single parameter.

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Wrestling With Google Groups

[Update: the links actually work now!]

I invited all 4,400+ subscribers to my monthly poultry newsletter to join the Grass-Fed Eggs discussion group, and then the fun began.

It turns out that Google Groups will let you sign up without having a Google account, but if you do, you can’t change your subscription options. And the default subscription option is “send me every posting as a separate email message,” which — because the group has become lively — is too many email messages for most people.

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Got High Blood Pressure? Buy One of these Monitors

If you have problems with high blood pressure, as I do, you’d probably like to have one of the spiffy high-tech monitors like the Omron HEM-790IT Automatic Blood Pressure Monitor with Advanced Omron Health Management Software

This doohickey runs off four AA batteries and gets an accurate blood pressure reading in less than a minute. This particular model comes with a USB cable and software that will keep track of the readings over time. This is the top-of-the-line model and cost about $75 on Amazon.

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Thirty Years of the HP 41C Calculator

Classics never go out of style. I still use the same type of programmable calculator today that I did thirty years ago.

It seems hard to believe, but thirty years ago I plunked down $299 for an HP-41C calculator, which had just been released by Hewlett-Packard. I was a penniless college student at the time, and for the life of me I can’t remember where I got the money.

I was living in Corvallis at the time, attending Oregon State University. The HP-41C had been designed across town at the Hewlett-Packard campus, and many of my classmates were HP employees.

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The Three Stages of Feature Development

When I worked at Activision, one of the vice presidents told me that when he suggested a new feature to a game designer, there was a three-state process:

  1. “It’s impossible!”
  2. “It’s too hard.”
  3. “It’s on your desk.”

Note that the process doesn’t have anything to do with getting a commitment out of the game designer. Just plant the seed and occasionally ask if he’s figured out how to do it yet. If the idea is a good one, it will gnaw at the designer, and eventually a solution will appear as if by magic.

That was great management. The designer’s own desire that his product be cool was the only tool required.

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