Adventures in Technology - Part I

Post date: Aug 30, 2016 10:51:34 PM

It has been a while - too long - since I posted last but we have been really busy the past week/week-and-a-half. We very recently - and you can laugh if you want, as we are probably the last two people in the world to get them - each got a smart phone. No more flip-phones! We live quite out in the country and in a canyon as well, so reception for cell signals (as well as television, which we do NOT miss) is very patchy and in most places nonexistent unless you climb to the top of a hill. And even there reception is hit-or-miss. So, we had to cancel our old service which could no longer support our "hardware", more about that hardware later, and sign up with another new service which the representative professed to have a cell tower only a few miles to the east, in the mountains! (mountains? more like hills) and where he was certain we would get a signal and all would be well. Since we were going to a new service we decided to get new phones too, so invested in a couple iPhones. Thus we have spent the last, what, couple weeks figuring out how to use them. I can text! I have an Instagram account! Jim can text!

Jim is actually very technologically-minded. After all he got us our satellite internet service which is what I am using now to write this blog. In regards to our old phone hardware - and this started when we moved here 14 years ago - we had a large kind of cell phone also called a bag phone, for what reason I do not understand since it does not come in a bag, but it was more-or-less shaped like a desk phone. Jim had to install, on a very tall pole on our roof, a Yagi antenna, run a coaxial cable down through the roof into the attic then through the attic floor/second floor ceiling, hook THAT into a signal amplifier, then connect the amplifier into the phone, and we have a home phone. We each also had a flip phone which we called our "mobiles." Did I mention there is no telephone land line that comes way out here?

Here is a cute-funny story about flip phone. We have a very good friend, Craig, who was going to Kenya, on academic business, with another friend who was also a professor in my old department. I was telling another professor (a seismic engineer) who actually is FROM Kenya about their planned trip, and he (James) directed me to tell Craig and his co-traveler to call him and arrange to meet. They did so and received lots of good information and encouragement. I saw James at the bus stop right after they met, and he was laughing, in a not-unkind manner, that the co-traveler still had a flip phone. I chuckled along but was internally mortified that I, too, still had a flip phone. And I certainly was not going to show him my flip phone.

Back to the present - so we have these expensive phones, and guess what, only one bar (actually, dot - these don't have bars, they have dots to show the strength of the signal). So, we could only use them when we go out of the canyon. Except, of course, we could use the camera function and take photos. (There's another thing I have figured out somewhat how to do.) And it seems that we can text but it takes some time for the text to get out, or for a text message to be delivered to us. Actually only three people, other than the service company, know they can text us and they see us fairly often so most of the time don't need to text us. Well, the new phone technology couldn't work with our old amplifier system, so Jim did extensive research, and found a new system that would be compatible. In due time the equipment was delivered.

Back onto the roof! While I was up on the roof I regretted not having brought my new phone, not only to check the signal strength out of curiosity but also because there are some awesome views from the roof of our two-story house. I could have taken photos! with my phone! Anyway. The new equipment came with an outdoor antenna, an indoor antenna, an amplifier, and lots of coaxial cable. And some hardware for installing all this stuff - screws and brackets and such. It is a good thing Jim is a genius about this stuff. First we hooked together the indoor antenna and amplifier and connected those with the old roof antenna. Then I returned to inside the house, took up the two phones, and carried them about the house, different rooms and different locations, one phone showing dots and the other, after calling a number specific for testing signal strength, measuring it in Db's. Db's show up as a negative number, and the higher the number (closer to zero) the better the signal. Jim would point the antenna toward various directions while I shouted out the numbers and dots to him through the bedroom window. Then we took down the tall pole, took off the old antenna, hooked up the new outdoor antenna, and put up the pole. And repeated the procedure. By doing all this we discovered the old antenna worked better than the new antenna. So we took down the pole, took off the new antenna, and put on the old antenna. All this was on a peaked roof, by the way, very high up off the ground and a bit scary. Then we repeated the procedure.

I have some more to say about this, but I am a little tired of writing now and I want to do a little weaving or something. To be continued in Part II!

In the meantime, here is a photo of Georgie eating some hay with some Santa Cruz Island mothers and lambs.