Not a Surprise

The new light rail extension to the University of Washington hasn’t even been open for a week and it’s already subject to a problem that the experts hadn’t foreseen (but which I predicted but alas can’t find the entry predicting it): crowding due to unexpectedly high demand. So they’re having to make plans to add extra cars to the trains already.

It’s the induced demand I talked about when I made my prediction. It’s now very much easier to travel between the neighborhoods where the new stations are. It used to take at least 20 minutes and often 50 to get between the University of Washington and Downtown. It now takes eight. So of course people are starting to make trips they never would have considered before (such as going from the UW campus to Capitol Hill for lunch).

The Kiss of Death for SDR

So, after trying a cheap RTL2832 dongle for a month or two, I’ve decided that throwing more money at software defined radio at the present moment would be a waste of same.

The reason is Microsoft Windows. I still hate using it as much as ever, and if you don’t run Windows, your options for SDR software are extremely limited at the present time.

Given that this is all a hobby for me, “I hate using it” is the kiss of death. So I’ve basically given up on SDR for the time being.

It was of very little loss. The software was free and my hardware investment cost under $10.

Cutting the (Virtual) Cord

I’ve been using Boingo for internet access on the ferry since moving to Bainbridge Island about three years ago.

It’s reasonably priced (about $10 a month), but it’s never been fast. Three years ago, it was easily good enough for reading email with IMAP and sometimes a bit of light web usage. (Pages that had lots of Flash or Javascript never worked well, but simpler ones often worked slow but passably.)

Since then, it’s gotten progressively slower. I long ago given up using a web browser on the ferry and relegated it to IMAP-only use. Then it got harder and harder to even do that; it would take half the trip just to get Boingo to allow me to connect, and it would frequently drop out altogether and make my e-mail client fail.

The exception has been when I tried it on trips other than those at peak commute times. Boingo is surprisingly fast and reliable then (which is mostly irrelevant, since most of my trips are at peak hours). So clearly it’s an issue of capacity and overloading.

One day, while Boingo was giving me the usual frustrations, a new open access point popped up in my Wi-Fi drop-down menu: “Karma Wi-Fi.” It turned out to be a novel marketing strategy by a company that sells cellular internet modems. The connection was faster and more reliable than Boingo had ever been. But the monthly cost was significantly more, so I held off.

Then one evening I did some back of the envelope calculations based on how much my time is worth, and it was clear that the costs of the more expensive service would pay for themselves in about a fortnight. So I’ve taken the plunge, and it’s been as reliable as my free trial was. Time to call Boingo and cancel my service.