January 14, 2007

Spicing Up Your Marriage the High Tech Way
Airport Express spices up a marriage

No, not those implants! Spicing up a marriage with these silicon implants: Apple’s Airport Express

Sometimes it takes a bit of modern technology to spice up a marriage. A few well-placed silicon implants can do wonders.

Last week I decided to upgrade our home wireless network. I had hacked an old DSL wireless modem to act as a router, broadcasting a wireless signal throughout our house. It had worked well for the last couple of years but we wanted more. Well, I wanted more.

The signal dropped off right at the entrance to the two back bedrooms, ours and our eldest daughter’s. Right there at each door the signal stopped. Our ten year old had to do her homework in the kitchen and surfing in bed could never be a luxury for her parents.

In addition, for months I had tried in vain to open a port on our hacked router to connect our TiVo to our home network. Even with the help of experts in the field, nothing worked. I resigned myself to using a thirty-foot telephone cord to connect our machine to the closest phone jack (on the other side of the house) to download television program information every two weeks. Each time I had to place bright orange construction cones along its path so the girls wouldn’t trip over it.

My family put up with all of this because they were in awe of this magic technology. Surfing the net while sitting on the couch was an amenity they had never imagined. Printing wirelessly from the other end of the house was heaven sent.

But I told them it could be even better. They didn’t believe it but gave me the go ahead to tinker.

Last week I started looking for a new router. I decided on Apple’s Airport Express. Sure, there were cheaper routers but Apple’s “plug and play” set-up might justify the extra cost. With two of them I could create a bridge, extending the network to the back bedrooms. And, if I was really lucky, I could finally network our TiVo.

I’m not a born tinkerer. If it doesn’t work the first time I panic. Tinkering requires time, an adventurous soul, and a backout plan. Usually, I have none of these. When I envision nirvana I want it simple and I want it NOW. The advertised simplicity of Airport’s network set-up was enticing. Sometimes it’s worth paying a premium for convenience and sanity. I was willing to take this calculated leap.

I bought two Airport Expresses and Saturday night I was ready to go. One would be our router and one would be our bridge. I was a little nervous disconnecting our old router, afraid that once done I could never go back. The thought of something going awry resulting in no Internet access was too scary to imagine. I pushed it out of my mind and plugged the first Express into the electric outlet.

All of a sudden my computer recognized the new network. I opened a browser and net access was on! Why had I been so worried? Next step, apply a secure network password to prevent prying eyes.

After I did that, suddenly, nothing was working. I called Apple and they helped reset my router. Network preferences were green so I should have had a net connection. But I didn’t. Apple suggested calling Verizon to check my DSL modem. “Call us right back when it’s done,” he said. But he failed to tell me they were closing for the night in five minutes.

Uh, oh. My worst nightmare. Rule #1 in the Tech World: one company never takes responsibility for another company’s equipment. Each has been trained to pass the buck to the other leaving us consumers in a deep dark void. Misdirected voicetrees and multiple suspicious disconnects with Verizon techs just as they were offering me the Holy Grail lasted the entire evening. After four hours of hell I called it quits.

I didn’t sleep well that night. I tossed and turned. What would my family say when they found out we were off the grid? My family hero status would be tarnished until I could get this fixed. And, like an action movie hero, I was now entirely alone.

The next morning I decided to start over. I pretended I had just bought the new equipment and was making my very first call to the companies I rely on for peace, happiness, and uninterrupted net access (the very same companies that had driven me to the brink just hours ago). And why bother explaining to these new techs all that had transpired with their coworkers the night before? I knew what I wanted now (after all, I had spent the entire night thinking about it). I stifled my desire to whine. Speaking in short and informative phrases was my best hope. I called Verizon first. “I’m hooking up a router and need to reset my modem.” Done.

Then I called Apple. “I want to set up an Express as a password protected router and then configure another as a bridge.”

I wrote down all my new passwords, ran the set-up application (while keeping the Apple tech tethered to the phone), and suddenly, nirvana: a net connection (and a faster one at that). And when I plugged in the second Express into an outlet near the bedrooms, suddenly we had Internet access everywhere.

One more hurdle: I went to my TiVo’s network configuration screen. It saw my new network. I pressed a few buttons and in less than two minutes it was connected to my home network. No more long phone cords and construction cones. Now, seamlessly each evening TiVo would connect to TiVo Central, download programming info and that was that. As an added bonus I showed my wife how we could now download recorded programs from our TiVo directly to our computers to watch whenever we wanted. She was amazed. I was her tech hero once again.

Now every evening I come home and turn on my TiVo to marvel at the updated programming. It’s a miracle. My wife never understands the ramifications of these upgrades in prelaunch theory. But when she experiences it, she too is enraptured.

She called me her genius that first evening. I was her He-Man Tech Man. There is nothing like a new set of well-placed silicon implants in the guise of two Apple Expresses to spice up a marriage.

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Laptops in the bed on a lazy Sunday afternoon… one of life’s great pleasures…

Posted by: Pagan Marbury on January 14, 2007 5:49 PM

Congrats, Jeff — someday we’ll have wireless networking at home, I swear.

But here’s huge news from Macworld Expo (the best I’ve ever been to): there’s finally TiVoToGo for Mac! Toast is the exclusive partner — version 8, which was just announced. I’m so excited I might cry.

I can’t believe TiVo didn’t send out an email about it the second Toast 8 was announced.

Posted by: Cheshire on January 14, 2007 7:55 PM

Cheshire, there’s nothing like the freedom of home wireless!

As for downloading TiVo programs to my computer, I use TiVoDecode Manager to download my TiVo programs. Then I play them with the VLC media player. And both are free (unlike Roxio’s TiVo-to-Go, which comes bundled with their Toast app for $99).

Posted by: Jeff on January 15, 2007 8:20 AM

Comments are now closed for this post. But there are a few other entries which might provoke an opinion or two.

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