What to do when your home wifi stops working and your broadband provider can’t fix it

People tend to take their home wifi for granted, like their electricity supply: it’s just supposed to be on. But unlike your power, if your wifi stops working, too often it’s up to YOU to diagnose and fix it.

I work at home and depend on broadband internet to make my living. This week I lost about two full working days because my broadband went out. My internet service provider (ISP), Comcast, was unable to get it working or even steer me in a useful direction, despite keeping me on the phone for hours and running lots of tests of the connection between their equipment and my equipment.

Were I not lucky enough to know a programmer with lots of networking experience who could spend time helping me investigate other possible points of failure, I’d be out of luck for home wifi right now — which would severely hinder my business and life.

Here’s what happened with my home wifi, and how I fixed it. Also here’s why ISPs need to do a much better job of helping residential customers diagnose possible network problems that lie beyond the narrow scope of the wires and modems they sell…

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YouTube founders buy Delicious, but I’ve moved on

For a long time I was a devoted fan of the social bookmarking service Delicious. It was my backup brain, and I used it to feed content to this blog when I didn’t have time to write. But after Yahoo bought it a couple of years ago, they just let it wither on the vine. It was sad.

So I was happy to see this news today:

YouTube Founders Buy Delicious; First Step To Taking On Google?

…Of course, I’ve moved on. Diigo is now my new backup brain. I’ll keep an eye on how Delicious evolves, but it would take a hell of an upgrade to tempt me to switch back.

Social Media for News Sites: J-Lab learning module, live chat

Recently I helped co-author a new learning module from the Knight Citizen News Network: Likes & Tweets: Leveraging Social Media for News Sites. It’s a pretty detailed resource, intended primarily for online local news startups — but the lessons there could be applied by local news orgs in legacy media, as well as anyone trying to connect with a community online.

I only played a small role in this project — the vast majority of the work was done by Susan Mernit and Kwan Booth – my Oakland Local cofounders and partners in the House of Local media consulting group.

Yesterday, Susan, Kwan & I participated in a one-hour live chat hosted by J-Lab about this learning module. You can replay the complete transcript. We got really great interaction on this. J-Lab told us that this live chat attracted far more readers and participants than its other live chats. It was fun, and I’m glad it was a success!

My first TV news appearance: CNN interview, Easter 2011

This past Sunday (Easter 2011) was a pretty interesting day for me. I did my first-ever TV news appearance — I was interviewed live on CNN by Fredricka Whitfield about how mobile phone users are more vulnerable to e-mail phishing attempts. Here’s the video (sorry about the annoying preroll ads)…


CNN tech Writer Amy Gahran talks to CNN about… by BeyondPixBroadcast

And here’s the transcript.

Now that you’ve seen the finished product, here’s the backstory….

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Practical example of low-tech augmented reality: My phone’s camera

I was in Louisville, KY over the weekend, staying in an upper floor of the Galt House hotel, which offers an excellent view of the Ohio River.  In the wee hours last night, I awoke for a bit. I noticed that outside my window, I could see the bright blue lighted sign of a large office building. But my eyesight isn’t what it used to be. I could see the sign, but no matter how much I squinted I couldn’t make out the name declared by the sign.

This bugged me — and when stuff nags at my mind, even weird minor stuff, I have a hard time getting back to sleep. The hotel room was dark, and my eyeglasses were out of reach. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed. But my cell phone was within reach, on the bedside table. (It’s my main alarm clock.)

So I grabbed my phone and snapped a quick photo of the building with the blue sign. Then, looking at the phone on my phone’s screen, I could easily read: Central Bank.

sign on top of their downtown Louisville, KY building.

This satisfied my nagging curiosity, kind of like scratching an itch. I was soon back to sleep.

It occurs to me that this is a potentially significant use of augmented reality enabled by mobile devices — and the only “app” I needed was the software controlling my phone’s camera!

Most AR apps I’ve seen are kinda gimmicky or not very compelling. For instance, seeing local coupon offers overlaid on a camera app (which Junaio does), or local tweets similarly overlaid, hasn’t really thrilled me.

But being able to compensate for poor vision or a lack of information about what things are? That’s useful.

Now if only someone could do a similar service for audio that would automatically filter out noise in a train or bus station to tell you what the hell those announcers are really saying…

Massive Twitter research project yields insights on influence

My latest CNN post is actually not about mobile, for a change. It’s about the findings from a huge Twitter analysis done by an international research team.

See: How to gain influence on Twitter? Focus

Get this: They got Twitter to release to them a dataset of tweets from nearly 55 million accounts that were in use as of August 2009. That’s nearly 1.7 billion tweets, interconnected by almost 1.9 billion “social links” — which I think means @replies or retweets.

From this, they figured out some things about how influence works on Twitter. Basically, if you’re not already a celebrity or a major news organization or aggregator, then the key to gaining influence through Twitter is to focus on one or a couple of topics.

Also, the report has a good discussion of why popularity does not necessarily equal influence, especially on Twitter.

The research team is releasing its anonymized dataset. I bet other people will have a lot of fun running other analyses of this dataset.

Free Kindles, local mobile news, and pissed off fanboys: My recent CNN.com Tech mobile stories

It’s been a very busy month and a half for me. I spent a week in Los Angeles as a featured presenter for the Mobile News Week at the journalism school there, and now I’m finishing preparations to travel to two other journalism schools next week for the Knight Digital Media Center’s Mobile Symposium. So I haven’t been letting Contentious.com readers know what I’ve been writing elsewhere.

But I’ve been logging a lot of cool mobile stuff for CNN.com Tech. So here’s a quick list of what I’ve been covering there…

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E-mail on your phone? Watch out for phishing

My latest CNN.com mobile blog post concerns the recent Epsilon e-mail security breach. I received four e-mail notifications from companies I do online business with (banks, etc.) about this break last week, so I knew it was a big deal — but as the scope unfolds, it’s pretty staggering

Then I found a recent bit of research that has special relevance to mobile e-mail security. So I wrote this article:  Mobile users more vulnerable to e-mail phishing scams – CNN.com.

My favorite comment: “The reason iPhone users are 8 times more likely to enter a phishing site is because with an iPhone you can actually get to the website. Ever try to use the web browser on a Blackberry…their built in phishing security is that the web browser can’t open websites.”