Sunday, June 26, 2005

Hitchhikers Guide To Pittsburgh
After reading a couple of Douglas Adams books, I began to pick up a few things from his writings. Number one, he hates New York. Maybe 'hate' isn't strong enough. Loathe. There's a nice word. He LOATHES new York. I suppose being Brittish that it's the complete opposite of the world he was acustomed to. I also gradually picked up that Douglas Adams was a bit of a traveler, and when he traveled he was probably highly amused by the cultures around him. This of course translates into intergalactic travel in his books. But having done some traveling you begin to unravel the parallels in his books.

This past week, I traveled to Pittsburgh PA to do a week long class in the downtown area. We had decided to book a hotel inside of downtown, despite various warnings of the 'cost' involved. Sure, it was a little overpriced. About $180 a night. But with my AAA discount, it came down to $109. That paid for a double room, a couple of TV's, a desk, a huge bedroom, and plenty of living space! There were other nice features such as a shuttle van that would take you anywhere you wanted to go, an indoor pool, and of course valet parking. Normally, we would not spring for such a ritzy hotel for work travel ... but this was a vacation too!

Being that it was a vacation, we brought the whole family along for the ride. Sometime in our second night in Pittsburgh, I found myself looking across the river. We had taken the subway just across the river to a nice tourist spot known as "Station Square". As I looked over Pittsburgh which was now beginning to glow as the night embraced it, I thought to myself "thank God I was laid off".

Audrey II Saves The Day
One of these days I'm going to get myself a new laptop. Audrey has some serious issues. She murders batteries faster than I can afford to install them. Looking around for replacement parts to rebuild her with, I can see I am going to spend a hundred dollars or so. But just when I consider retiring the old beast, she surprises me again.

Our first night in the hotel, I grabbed the bag of phone parts and began to dump it on the hotel room desk. We had brought along our Vonage box (voice over IP) and our business telephone. The idea being that we could plug it into the hotel's "data port" and have a free phone to make local calls from during the week. Plus, we could answer our business line and not have to keep checking voicemail all week. Low and behold, there was no data port. It seems the hotel is being rennovated, and would soon be turned into a "Doubletree Hotel". The data ports were no longer. They have been replaced with wireless access, which was still not yet completed. Luckily our floor had an access point, which must have been relatively nearby. Cracking open Audrey, she connected with ease and I was online.

The problem: The Vonage box plugs into a normal network port. I wanted to plug it into Audrey and make the laptop route the traffic to the wireless network. This would require a crossover cable ... and I didn't have one. I made a quick trip down to the hotel lobby and asked where that "convenience store" was that I read about in the brochure. "You mean the 7-11?", the guy asked me. "Sure", I said. In the 7-11 I found everything I needed. Nail clippers, and some tape. Back at the hotel room, I split open my cable, clipped the orange and green pairs, and wired them opposite to each other. Boom! Instant cross-over cable. Moments later Audrey was routing my phone calls. I kissed her.

A few days later my son was still bummed that his laptop didn't work. A week or so earlier he had dragged this old laptop out of my basement and asked if he could have it. I let him know that I had planned on giving it to him before, but didn't because the battery was shot. He must have a bit of his old man in him, because he spent the next day or so nursing the old Ni-Cad back to good health. Anyhow, the poor boy couldn't get the wireless access to work at all. Having a look at it I could see that his traffic was being diverted to the hotels "wireless payment system". What a load of crap! It had worked fine for a few minutes. After a few futile attempts to change his MAC address I began to wonder how it was that Audrey was still so well connected.

After having a look at what Audrey was connected to, it occurred to me that I wasn't using the hotel's wireless access at all. I was connected to some nearby point, and I had been freeloading the past few days. This explained why the signal was somewhat weak and sometimes unreliable. So I did what any respectable citizen would do. I waved my son over to that side of the room and showed him how to do wireless surveys, locate open AP's, and freeload! To this, he stood up, shook his fists in the air, and yelled "hacking power". I couldn't be more proud. The rest of the trip he was carrying the laptop around finding that it worked better in some areas than others and eventually ended up camping out under my desk to surf Pokemon and Neo Pets websites.

Incidentally, I picked up a new Hitchiker's book in Pittsburgh. It seems to be a tradition when I travel. So I will end with one of my favorite quotes.

"Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws". -Mostly Harmless

Historic Comments
Way to help raise the hackers of tomorrow, Ray!
Dan | Homepage | 06.26.05 - 12:53 pm | #

Face the facts Ray, one of these days Franken-Audrey is going to pass away. You should prepare now by placing a "Donate to Audrey III" button at the top of your page. Glad to see you're posting again!
Poe | 06.26.05 - 7:10 pm | #

Heya You need to pick up Last Chance to See. A non fiction Adams book about a lot of his travels around the world looking for endangered/extinct species of animals. Great book, and gives you even more insight into what he thought about the world around him.
George | 06.27.05 - 12:47 am | #

Glad to here that all is well.
apex | Homepage | 06.27.05 - 3:01 pm | #

Apex, what have you been doing you bum?

Anyways, sup Ray? Good to see you are showin the boy a few tricks. >
Phrightener | 06.28.05 - 10:58 am | #

Ray, that is awesome.
Benzoate | 06.29.05 - 6:13 am | #

Found ya :P

How goes the blazzoring?
hobKnob | Homepage | 06.29.05 - 1:04 pm | #

Poe: You're right about that! Perhaps I should try to update and complete my book and then sell it for a few dollars a pop.

George: That book sounds dope. I have tried to find it in a couple of book stores and failed. I think I will have to order that one.

HobKnob: Where the hell have you been? Phrightener and I called off the search for you sometime back in 2000.

Ray | 07.11.05 - 6:24 pm | #

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