Archive for November, 2011

UPDATED 07/18/12

To cut to the chase: Try changing your wireless access point to Channel 11.

The follow-up post may also be of interest: It Won’t Print Again.

Keep reading for the original post.

I have a friend who used to work in another nearby department on campus. He used to call me up just for fun and say, “It won’t print.” That’s all. No “Hello.” No “How are you doing?” Just “It won’t print.” It was kind of a running joke because I used to tell him about a number of the really strange printing problems I tackled.

It’s strange that in this age of being able to do so many things completely electronically people still like to print. They still like things on paper. I’m no different. Some things I just really want on paper. If a company doesn’t send me an e-mail confirmation within about five minutes of an online order, I’ll print the confirmation page. I’ve tried electronic boarding passes before, and I’ve let the airline scan my phone. Somehow though, I feel better with a paper boarding pass. Why? Maybe I feel that I’m more likely to lose my phone than that magic piece of paper. Perhaps my phone battery might die. Or how about this one? Maybe my phone will crash. It has happened before. My paper boarding pass has never crashed. Oh, it might get a little wrinkled and smudged, but the airline has never had a problem scanning it.

Whatever. I still want to print things sometimes.

About a year ago I built a new computer. It didn’t have a parallel port, and the USB-to-parallel cable didn’t work, so I wound up abandoning my trusty old HP LaserJet 6P for a new LaserJet P1102w. As these things often do, it went swimmingly at first. I installed the driver, printed a test page, and all was well. The wireless printing was fine as well, so I installed the driver on another laptop or two. Over the past year, it got gradually worse. It reached the point where it wouldn’t print without a lot of coaxing. I ignored it thinking that I would get around to it someday. Someday finally came when some visiting relatives needed to print their boarding passes and it wouldn’t print ANYTHING – not a test page or even a page of mojibake.

I took a shortcut by printing from a USB connection before settling in to finally tackle the problem. I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow account of the troubleshooting, but anyone who has ever tried to solve a problem knows that there are a number of possible problems with just the printer and the computer. Add wireless printing into the mix and you introduce a number of other interesting variables.

I Googled. I poured over the HP forums. I removed the software and tried reinstalling it. I tried reconnecting to the wireless access point. I finally determined that the printer absolutely was not connecting to the AP. It wasn’t leasing an IP address, and its MAC address wasn’t showing up in the list of devices attached to the access point. Somewhere I finally came across a web posting where someone noted that the printer seemed to work best with the wireless access point was set to channel 11. I changed mine from channel 5 to 11, and I had the proverbial “Voila!” moment. Everything started working again across all devices. Printing was rock solid after reboots, after idle time, and after printer hibernation. I was back in business.

I’ve been doing computer support since the mid-nineties, so I remember exactly how we used to do our troubleshooting before there was such a wealth of technical support material online. Of course people were solving problems like this long before there was any online information, but it sure makes a difference! That experience notwithstanding, I still find myself occasionally asking, “How do we ever do this before the Internet?”

I guess I should also be asking, “How long until I can stop printing?”

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While on vacation recently, I tried to do business with two different companies from my iPhone. I was trying to add services that I wanted, and that would have translated into a little more revenue for them. Alas, it was not to be. For both products, I was able to successfully navigate all of their sign-up forms until I reached the very last “submit” button.

 

The. Very. Last. One.

 

As in  . . . the one that equals “buy”.

 

It just didn’t work. I tapped and tapped, but the phone couldn’t submit the content.

 

For one company this won’t be a big deal. I’ll have an opportunity to use their service again later. For the other company though, this represents a tiny little loss in profit. I needed their service while I was on vacation. Now that I’m home, I don’t need it anymore, and I haven’t been back to their website. All because the website didn’t support a mobile browser.

 

Now I understand that when you’re coming from a mobile browser, you shouldn’t necessarily expect the full website experience, and I didn’t. But if the website lets me make it most of the way through a purchase, I expect it to let me complete the purchase. Oh well. Maybe they just didn’t want my business since I was coming from a mobile platform. Funny thing though . . . the company has two mobile apps that I wanted to use after I subscribed to their service. Go figure.

I came across an interesting article at ReadWriteWeb today: 25% of American Adults Use Location-Based Services. I found it particularly interesting because earlier today I deleted my last three location-based gaming apps.

 

Now the article about ReadWriteWeb was talking about location-based services in general, but it made me think about my own experiences with location-based gaming. At the 2010 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Boston, I heard a lot of people talking about location-based services and their possibilities for libraries. In particular, they talked about three location-based games: Foursquare, Gowalla, and MyTown. I downloaded the apps and tried them all while I was at ALA. I’ve played with all of them off and on over the past year and a half. I deleted them today. Earlier this year I also downloaded, played, and deleted another location-based game called Shadow Cities.

 

In thinking back over why I deleted these games, there were a variety of reasons. The Shadow Cities gameplay just didn’t appeal to me. For the other three, there just wasn’t any compelling incentive. Gathering mayorships, unlocking badges, and collecting rent are fine for the first week. After that, what’s left? Not much – for me anyway.

 

The incentive issue actually splits into several issues. First, although I know several people with smartphones , this type of gaming just doesn’t appeal to them. Since I couldn’t compete with my friends, that ruled out any possible “social” incentive for these games. Then there is the lack of mayoral awards in my area. They just aren’t there. When I’m in other cities, I occasionally see special incentives for checking in or being the mayor of a location. Where I live though, Foursquare just isn’t that big with businesses, so there are no incentives for checking in or becoming mayor. MyTown had its own problems. Basically you reach a level cap where you can’t buy any more properties, you can’t upgrade your properties any more, and the game is essentially over. Oh sure, you can keep buying and selling your business and collecting rent if you want to, but once you’re a gazillionaire, it doesn’t really matter any more does it? Interestingly, I see that Booyah just released MyTown 2. I think I’ll give that one a pass. I used Gowalla the least, but it was actually the most interesting of the three. Still, it failed to keep my interest.

 

There was one particularly noticeable disincentive to using these apps. All of them depend on using location services on my phone, and using location services burns battery life. I was surprised at how much a few check-ins would eat away at the battery when I traveled, but it did, and sometimes battery life is too precious a commodity to spend with a service that you don’t enjoy that much anyway.

 

Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, these location-based apps actually took away from the enjoyment of the places I visited. I found myself frequently checking in on all three apps. I wasn’t compulsively checking in, but the very act of checking in meant that I was spending a little more time on my phone and little less on enjoying my location.

 

So . . . I’m finished with location-based gaming for now. It was an interesting experiment. I’ll still use other location-based apps, but I’ve retired the games. I might still feel a little twinge each time I lose a mayorship, but I don’t think that will be enough to pul e out of retirement.