Sep 052016

Meeting At The Ballantyne BBB

The September 8 PCCC meeting is still at the BBB in Ballantyne. Please join us at 5:30 with your bag supper or by 6:30 for the general meeting.
Watch for news of a new meeting location in Bytes & Bits next month.

A Message from the Common Table
September 3, 2016

I hope all of you had a great summer. Here we are at the Labor Day weekend (the semi-official end of summer), hopefully the heat of summer will be fading to cooler temperatures.

Last month I went on a trip to Fort Caswell on Oak Island, NC. The fort site is right at the mouth of the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. I was there last year and cell phone coverage was not great. The conference center had WiFi that was less than great. For this years trip, I rented a “HotSpot” from the Charlotte/Mecklenburg Library. A few months ago we had one of the library resource folk come to us. They showed all the great “tech” stuff they have for us to rent or use. The unit worked fairly well there at Caswell. The cell signal for T-Mobile was not much better than my ATT, but it did work. The HotSpot works great here in the Charlotte area, mainly because of the high quality 4G LTS signal.

Bill Barnes used one of these “HotSpots” on a trip he took early this summer. He has written an article about his experience with the HotSpot and using the Waze navigation app on his phone. He will share that story in our news letter soon or at one of our meetings.

Windows 10 was released a year ago. Microsoft had been very aggressive to get us to upgrade from Win7 and Win8. They said it’s free or is it really? The “free” upgrade ended this past July 29th. Did you get your free upgrade?

Microsoft just released the first major update for Win10 (the Anniversary Update). We have not had a meeting since then, looks like we will be discussing the Win 10 update for the September meeting. Lots of interesting tech stuff has been happening in the last several months, we will discuss many topics and Windows 10 with a round table discussion.

I hope all of you had a safe Labor Day weekend. I hope to see all of you on September 8th. We are still at the BBB in Ballantyne for this meeting.

Galen Bolin
President PCCC

A Message from the Editor’s Table

As I sit here staring out my window, my neighbor is standing in the middle of his driveway. A moment later his newest toy – a DJI quadcopter – comes flying around the corner. This $500 device comes with a controller and 12 MP camera. The controller has two joysticks and a couple of knobs to control it and uses your iOS or Android device as a display. Both the flight and camera are automatically stabilized so basic flying takes 30 seconds instruction (yes, he let me try). It has automatic return and land if you get out of range or before the battery runs out. My wife is absolutely going to confiscate my BJs card.

(Cheap) Toy of the week

Search eBay for SoShine LED. This will take you to a dozen or more vendors selling a 5-pack of USB lights for less than a cup of coffee – with free shipping!

Plug one into a spare wall charger and you have an efficient, bright night light. Rubber band it to your phone-charger-power cell and you have an emergency flashlight. Add a USB extension ($1.29-$1.49 at – plus shipping) and you have a keyboard light. And you’ve still got 2 more to play with.

Meeting Reminder
As you can see, we’re still in Ballantyne. Please check out the maps in the July Bytes & Bits at if you need directions to join us. For your GPS: 13860 Ballantyne Corporate Place #225, 28277. If you get lost or find the doors locked after 6:30, call 704-607-6461.

If you have a Win10 or any PC question you need answered at this meeting, bring it with you. We’ll already be helping another member with his problem with a hijacked Firefox homepage.

Stuck in a Waze going around in circles

We were heading to a family event in College Park, Md – slap on the other side of Washington. To get there, your choices are either go straight through the capital, or take the Beltway. We had hoped to be ahead of even the Friday afternoon rush; arriving by about 4:00. Just to be sure, I installed the Waze traffic app for the first time the day before we left.

Waze provides GPS routing like a dozen other services or stand-alone devices. Its hook is that it dynamically adjusts the route based on real time traffic conditions automatically deduced from the progress of users who are just ahead of you on the road.

As we left home I entered our destination and it gave an ETA of 1:45 pm – reasonable at the speed of traffic and no stops. Since the first 95% of the route has one turn – and even that’s at a “dead-end” – we didn’t look at the map until the last driver change 50 miles from the Washington Monument.

Within 15 miles our pace slowed to less than 40 MPH – going into the city, against the rush. When we finally exited onto the Beltway, it was even slower. After five emergency vehicles passed us on the shoulder, Waze told us to exit – 2 lanes over in 500 feet. That put us on a city street going through the middle of Alexandria. Over the next 45 minutes, we were on and off freeways multiple times. Once my (human) navigator swore the line on the map was a complete 360 degrees and another time Waze put us back on the interstate – going in the opposite direction toward where we had just come.

Finally, we landed in “normal” traffic on a road I recognized and reached our destination – at 5:30. Coming home, one time it routed us off the freeway onto a parallel road for two exits. When we got back on the freeway, recognizable trucks that had been ahead of were in my mirror.

Overall, Waze got us to our destination and I probably couldn’t have done any better. Someone who knew the area may have been able to better use the traffic details and second-guess it, or at least, be confident it was acting reasonably. The GPS and announcements had excellent resolution; far better than my stand-alone GPS, and never told me to turn at the intersection half a block back (another time and another GPS we ended up down a one-way driveway against a locked gate onto the field at Nationals Park). I just wish at that last driver change it had warned me to put on my diaper.

Footnote: For the trip I rented a WiFi hotspot from the CharMeck library. It costs $14 per week and has no bandwidth limitations. For the 10-hour drive it sat in my bag in the back seat and was continuously updating my maps without denting its battery. The one time I checked, it gave me over 4.5 Mbs download speed – not exciting, but very adequate. For the trip I used over 500 MB of bandwidth which would have wiped out my phone allowance in the middle of my month. And I didn’t have to risk using the hotel’s open WiFi or pester my relatives for their passwords.

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