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Jan 062012
 

Over the holiday we had an opportunity to have a unique experience with the kids. We were in the Los Angeles area visiting with my in-laws. My sister-in-law suggested we take the kids to Olvera Street in LA. Olvera Street is a well known street in downtown Los Angeles. It’s a (closed to traffic) street that is boasting with arts, crafts, entertainment, and food from Mexico. 

O and Jake have been fortunate to have some unique experiences in their young ages. They’ve visited Israel last April, been on many road trips to Southern California and several plane trips across the country to Baltimore where my family is from. Before starting pre-school just a few months back O and Jake were raised by a Spanish speaking Nanny. Both of them fully understood the Spanish language and ate Mexican food prepared by our Nanny. We’re not the most cultured people in the world but visiting Olvera Street reminded me of how important it is, especially in today’s society. 

Not only is visiting new places with people that may look and speak different fun but it’s educational. I also think it’s important for them to learn that people aren’t what color they are or what language they are or how much money they possess. I want them to learn that all people are beautiful simply for the fact that we are all people.  When they get to school they’ll encounter prejudice, racism, judgement and all sorts of other things. Until then my wife and I can instill a sense of love and provide them a home and a life absent of judgement. At least, I think we owe it to them to try. 

If you’ve never checked out Olvera Street and happen to be visiting the LA area I highly recommend it. There’s neat little stands with handmade clothing and toys. We even bought them their own guitars and a bongo set! The guitars were under $10 each! Now the Jew in me is screaming, “That’s a bargain!”. Another nice thing is that the Metro runs right to Union Station which is right across the street. So the grown ups were able to have Margaritas and not worry about driving home! Holla!!!

Have you taken your kids to some “different” places recently? How important do you think introducing them to other cultures is at a young age? 

Oct 032011
 

I love having wifi in my house and to be honest it’s been so long since I’ve had a “wired” connection I can’t even remember. Being able to walk around the house with my laptop, iPad, or iPhone is great. Sometimes if it’s nice outside I’ll walk out there and surf under the sun. Of course those are all the benefits of having wifi in your home. I’m know I’m preaching to the choir as I’m sure your home is set up the same way.

Wifi isn’t perfect, however. My parents and I have completely different type and size houses yet we both share the same problem. The signal is just horrible in one part of the house or the other. For my parents who have a multi-level home their weak spot is on the first floor opposite where the router sits. This sort of makes sense of course being the furthest physical spot from the router. However, I live in a “cottage” that’s less than 900 square feet and yet the back of the house is just awful for for getting a good signal. Of course there are many factors that go into signal degradation including walls, infrastructure, and other devices. This is where a cool little device called a Repeater comes into play. To be honest I had never even thought of getting one until I was approached about doing a review.

The Diamond WR300N Wireless Range Extender looks not much different than a power adapter you’d plug into a wall outlet. What’s great is that it literally takes minutes to set up and is so easy. Sure, I’m a bit of a techie guy but when I went to set it up I didn’t have the manual on me, which by the way, is just one sheet of paper (that’s all that’s needed) and I was able to set it up. I plugged the device into an outlet in between where my current wireless router is and the area of my home that’s not so great. I’m running a Macbook Pro and using Safari so if you’re using a PC with Internet Explorer there may be some very minor differences but overall I think it should be identical. The device came with an RJ-45 cable (that’s a network cable for you non-techie peeps) that I used to plug into one end of the Repeater and my computer. Seconds after plugging in the Repeater (no need for a power button, it just works) my browser came up with the setup page. The browser automagically directs you to the software that resides on the device (there’s no software to install) utilizing the IP address (think of an IP Address akin to a persons phone number) of 10.0.10.245 which should be the address for all of them in case you need it. Once on the page I was asked which network was mine. After clicking on the name of my wireless network I typed in my network password and literally, that was it!! It did mention I might have to restart my computer before it took. I thought this was very weird especially since you never have to restart Apple PC’s but the documentation was right. After a quick reboot of my laptop the Repeater was up and working! As I said, it literally took a few minutes to set this thing up. I didn’t need any tools nor any software to install on my computer.

To test how well it worked I ran a before and after bandwidth test. I use a reputable site I’ve been using for years to test download and upload speeds called www.SpeedTest.net. I ran the test by pointing my browser to the SpeedTest.net site in an area of my house where I knew I got a good signal as it was very close to my wifi router. Please note I had the Diamond Wireless Range Extender unplugged when I performed this test.

As you can see I had some really great download speeds and a respectable upload speed. Should your download speeds fall much lower than this check to make sure your network is set up properly and that you’ve called your ISP (Internet Service Provider) to inquire about what bandwidth plan your on.

Next I wanted to get a gauge on where my connectivity was in the back of my house where I know the signal is poor.

As you can see I lost more than half of my download speed!! The upload speed is the same but I think because it was relatively low to begin with (1.46mbps) and the degradation of my signal didn’t hamper it anymore than it already was limited to. I knew I got a much weaker signal back there but I had no idea I went from 17mbps down to 7mbps!

Okay, so here was the true test. I plugged in the Diamond Wireless Range Extender and ran the test again from the back of the house. Just minutes earlier when I ran the test I was only getting about 7mbps on download speed. I ran the test again with the Diamond plugged in and these were the results I got.

Again the upload stayed the same (no surprise) but look at the download!! I went from 7mbps downloads to over 11mbps! While it’s still quite a bit lower than the speeds I’m getting at the front of my house close to my wifi router it’s more than 50% improvement over not having the Repeater.

I thought it would also be fun to run the exact same test using my iPhone. I’m often surfing the web in my house on my iPhone. Yes, my iPhone does use the cell network (3G) to access the internet but when I’m home it’s actually connected right to my wifi router and does not use the cell network. I mention this to let you know this was a valid test and that my phone was accessing the internet the exact same way my laptop was. So again, I ran the test without the Repeater installed and here was the results.

As you can see my speeds in the back of the house were considerably slower than those I was getting on my laptop. Not a terrible surprise but interesting to note. Also, note on the top left hand corner of this screen shot. See that fan to the right of “AT&T”? That shows you that my phone was connected to the internet using my wifi network and not the cell network. Had it been accessing the internet through the cell network you’d see the characters “3G” there or “E” at the very least.

Once again, I ran the test after I plugged in the Diamond Repeater and got the following results:

Wow!! Results here almost tripled! I was really surprised it made such a difference on my iPhone! Anyway, the Repeater obviously made a difference here as well. Please note the following: I did have to restart my iPhone just as I did my laptop before the iPhone would detect the Repeater. Also, instead of using Safari on my iPhone to perform the test I used the SpeedTest.net iPhone app. It’s the same technology and site as the one I used on my laptop to test, they just happen to have “an app for that”.

If you notice areas in your home where your internet signal drops off this is a terribly quick fix and for only $60 it’s almost a no brainer. I can’t say anything bad about the device and it clearly does it’s job, and well I might add!

One other point to mention is that since this device is so small you can pack it for trips. The next time you’re in a hotel room that has a “wired connection” you can plug this little guy in and turn it into a wifi network!

If you want to learn more about the Diamond Repeater you can visit their site directly.

Full And Fair Disclosure: I did receive a Diamond Wr300N Wireless Range Extender in consideration for this review. I was not compensated in any way and the opinions expressed in this post are mine. Duh! ;)

Aug 312011
 

So the other day my wife and I agreed we’d be taking O and Jake to Disneyland to celebrate Jake’s 2nd birthday. Well the actual celebration wouldn’t be taking place at Disneyland but we’d be celebrating. Somehow that seemed much less confusing to think about before putting it in writing.

Hopefully, you haven’t totally lost me and you’re still following along.

Okay, so I wrote a post the other day talking about how I’ll be using the app to get me to and from Disneyland. There were a couple of twists and turns and this post actually turned out to be something much more than I originally thought.

We actually live about 400 miles north of the LA area in Monterey, California. Although I know exactly how to get where I’m going when we drive down south I still find myself using the TeleNav app. In fact, it seems the majority of the time I’m using the app it’s actually when I know where I’m going and not somewhere new. This is the opposite thinking most people have when it comes to Navigation apps but let me explain.

Of course the app does an awesome job of getting you from Point A to Point B. What it does equally as well, if not better is telling you what’s in between Point A and Point B. I’ll give you an example:

We’re several hours into our drive and we decided that we needed some caffeine and the kids both told us they wanted milk. So our standby for these types of stops is Starbucks. I actually have a Starbucks app on my iPhone which does a great job of telling you where the closest stores are to you. The problem with that app is that as soon as you click on directions it opens up the phones Map application. There’s nothing wrong with this if you like looking at a map while you’re driving, having to click to the next page for each turn while you’re driving, and overall not get exactly where you’re trying to go. Yeah, that was my experience with the Starbucks app. With the TeleNav app I pressed the little Mic button and said, “Take me to the nearest Starbucks” and guess what happened? It actually told me how to get to the nearest Starbucks! And you know what? I didn’t have to look at my phone once, I didn’t have to push any other buttons, and best of all? We actually got there!!

A similar thing happens when it comes to finding gas stations near us on our route. What’s even better is that it will tell us the nearest gas station with the cheapest gas! If that isn’t awesome enough it will actually tell us the cheapest gas per octane! Our car takes premium gas so every little penny helps when we’re filling up that tank.

So before I tell you about our trip to Disneyland I will say that we were actually following my Sister-In-Law. TeleNav gave us slightly different directions to get to Disneyland than the way she was taking us. When we got to the exit my Sister-In-Law wanted us to take TeleNav quickly re-routed and guided us the rest of the way turn-by-turn. Again, we knew where we were going and even though TeleNav had us going a slightly different way it quickly adapted to our new route without much of a blink.

I wasn’t able to use the app in the park itself but there is a “pedestrian” feature which will take you where you want to go with the assumption that you’re on foot and not in a car. It converts everything to feet for you so you can easily determine how much longer you have to walk before your next turn. Of course, it will speak the turns to you as well even in “pedestrian” mode.

Disneyland was so fun as usual! We went on quite a few rides and the kids had a blast! My parents were visiting from the east coast and it was their first time to Disneyland. The kids lasted until the park closed which was a complete shock! I would’ve bet money that they would’ve been done in the early evening but they lasted all the way. We even got to stay for what O calls “the fireworkers”.

At the end of the evening my Sister-In-Law gave me special directions to turn on a particular street so as to avoid a highway that was near the park. I wasn’t worried at all since I knew I had TeleNav. Not only did it guide me right out of the parking garage but it took me the exact way she wanted me to go which either means she talks to TeleNav when I’m not around or they’re both pretty good with directions. I’m guessing it’s the latter.

On our 400 mile ride back home TeleNav past the ultimate test in my book. The kids were both asleep and the wife and I were starving. I clicked the mic icon on the app and said, “Take me to the nearest In-N-Out”. In less than 4 minutes we were in the drive thru of In-N-Out Burger. If you’re not familiar with this fast food chain then you’re definitely missing out. They are hands down the best fast food burger joint anywhere. Now would be a good time to go download the TeleNav app and say, “Take me to the nearest In-N-Out“. You may have a bit of a drive depending on where you live but you’ll never have to worry about finding what you need in between Point A and Point B.

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