I hate it when writers use “well” conversationally in their writing. What could possibly be more, well, contrived? Does that not sound completely and utterly unnatural?

They are pretending to stop mid thought to consider their words and then proceeding when having found the right word. But they don’t have to tell us that. They’re writing and we’re presented with the final product. We’re not there with them while they’re composing.

So why put this “well” in? To sound folksy? Conversational? Or, well, just stupid?

How to Check Whether a Port is Open

Port? What’s a port? And why would I want it to be open??

In this day and age everyone has broadband service at home. Most of us have multiple computers networked with our routers. Tons of kids use multi-player games. Many of us use remote desktop connect (RDC) to our home computers from work or the road. Bottom line, we need to open ports on our routers to individual computers and devices on our local area networks.

A port is a number associated with a network service that allows that service to be uniquely identified. So the same IP address (your home as it appears to the Internet) can manage multiple services simultaneously without all hell breaking loose. (Network address translation does this, too). One kid can play Call of Duty on the Xbox 360 with his buddies, all of whom are at their own houses, while his sibling researches a paper on the web. Another family member can stream Netflix while yet another is working on their office computer via an RDC.

Well that sounds great, right? Yeah, but you’re going to have to open up the port. It doesn’t just happen by itself. And once it is opened up how will you know if you’ve been successful? Certainly if the service is working that would be a positive indicator. But as so often happens where computers are involved it may well not work. Then you’ll have to figure out what’s not working.

I frequently find myself needing to verify whether a port is open or closed (because I have a really lame router that might not actually open the port even though its interface says it is open!). There are such services out on the web and they work great, but I was looking for something super lightweight and smartphone friendly. No bells and whistles, just super simple. So I made is my port open?

If the port you wish to check is on the same LAN as the machine from which you’re checking your IP address will already be correctly configured. If not, you’ll need to delete the IP address and replace it with your target machine’s. Then type in your desired port in the Port field and click check. If it’s open you’ll get a positive response. Usually pretty quickly, too.



We drove down to Freiburg from Frankfurt yesterday. It was my first time driving without Steil sitting next to me telling me what a lousy driver I am. Very stressful!

The German’s system of roads and driving is actually very similar to the US with a few important exceptions. First, in uncontrolled intersections the driver on the right has the right of way and drivers will barrel through these intersections without so much as a glance to their left? Second, the lines demarcating lanes is always white for normal conditions and yellow for temporary lanes such as in a construction zone. It is exceedingly stressful as US drivers rely on these cues to turn into the proper lane. Here, there is usually a small round sign with a white arrow on a blue background pointing to the proper lane. So I’m starting to get used to this, but it is still stressful.

Freiburg is similar to Madison in many ways. Same size. University town.

We slept in this morning rising at 9:30. We’re sitting in a sidewalk cafe having lunch next to a huge cathedral under a large bluff. Later, we will hike up the bluff for a view of the city.

We’ve Landed

We’re finally in Deutschland after a long day of travel. Our departure from O’Hare was delayed over a hour on the Tarmac while we waited for weather to pass.

Sleeping on the plane was darn near impossible. We did finally land in Brussels where we hadas much shorter wait due to the previous delay. The flight to Frankfurt wasn’t much longer than a half hour. Seems like we spent more time taxing after landing than we did in the air.

Steil picked us up at the airport. Airline lost Miles’ bag. Nothing much else. Glad to have made it here. Feeling good after showering and a good cup of coffee. Now we just need to stay up until a decent bedtime to adjust to the time difference.

Three Hours ‘Til Launch

Just about everything is ready to go. Retro RAZR is charging up because AT&T is holding our iPhones hostage (they squeeze every last penny out of their customers). Bags are packed and ready for the car. Need to run a few quick errands, pick up some snacks for the plane and then all that’s left is to wait. 🙁

Today’s itinerary:
11:30 am leave Memorial Union for O’Hare.
6:10 pm flight to Brussels
11:05 am Friday depart Brussels
12:15 pm Friday arrive Frankfurt

Friends staying at our house to feed the critters and look after things so don’t be alarmed if  someone different picks up the phone or answers the door!

DODOcase Spring Summer 2012


Pilling appeared on the inside cover near the spine after one day.

Spring Summer 2012

I recently bought a new iPad (third generation, 64 GB, 4G, white). My first iPad (first generation) was becoming annoying slow after several software upgrades, so I popped for the new one. Now say anything you like about Apple products in general or the iPad in particular,  but there’s no denying they’re physically attractive. Even though I probably shouldn’t, I care that it remains in pristine condition, so it didn’t leave the house until I had a case to protect it.

I did my research and narrowed my choices down to two cases. The DODOcase Spring Summer 2012 version and the Otterbox Defender Series. In the end I chose the DODOcase because I’m vain. It’s just a much prettier case.

I ordered the case on May 24, 2012. It shipped the next day, which impressed me as it was a custom order. It arrived on May 29, the day after the long holiday weekend. So I was really happy with their speed.

The DODOcase is made from organic materials. By organic I mean non-petroleum, recognizably plant-based material. I like that. It also looks really good. It is handmade in San Francisco using traditional bookbinding techniques. I like that, too. This case looks like a hardcover book, so it’s pretty discreet. No one knows you’re walking around with an $800+ computer under your arm. They think it’s a $25 book. And that kind of sucks.

No, I’m not so vain that I want the world to know I have the new iPad. No, I want to have paid $25 for what is mostly a book. Swap out the bamboo tray that holds your iPad snuggly in place for several hundred printed and neatly trimmed pages and that’s what you’d have. A hardbound book. Don’t get me wrong. I love hardbound books and I love the way the DODOcase feels in my hands, but…

This case isn’t made to provide a high level of protection for your iPad. It’s designed to hold your iPad while looking like a good book. It isn’t even designed to wear well. Again, don’t get me wrong. As far as books wear, I’m sure this will be a winner. But books wear and this will, too.

I’ve had my DODOcase for 24 hours. One day. I’ve held it in my hands for maybe three hours, at most, during that day. Already I have pilling of the inside fabric where the spine meets the bamboo tray. I also have some smudges on the front cover. All to be expected, I suppose, but for $107.85* delivered I’d like a more durable product.

Functionally, I also have issues with this case. In effect, it has one viewing angle when used on a desk or table. That angle is comfortable for typing. If you want to watch a movie, though, you’ll need to improvise to get this unit to stand up. You can flip the front cover over backwards and stand it up A-frame style, but unless the surface you’re setting it on provides a lot of friction the front cover will simply slide out from under the case and collapse.

Another irritation is the orientation. When the front cover is folded over so the outside covers are back-to-back the hinge (i.e. spine) is significantly thicker than the open end. This makes for a nice incline for typing when the unit is set flat on a table. However, this puts the home button on left. My preferred orientation when holding the iPad in landscape mode is home button on right (I’m right-handed). I also have a charger plugged into the iPad when I’m in bed for the night. This orientation puts the charger port on the wrong side, which stresses and eventually wrecks the charging cable.

Yes, yes, I could simply flip it over and hold the thick side at bottom, but this makes the iPad feel awkwardly top-heavy. It’s surprisingly uncomfortable.

The Spring Summer unit is $79.95. Every iPad after the first generation has had a backward facing camera. Every. Single. One. Yet, DODOcase makes you pay an extra $4.95 for what should be an essential, standard, pay extra to NOT have it, feature.

So, to recap, what do I like about this case? It’s physically attractive and made from natural materials. It’s discreet while looking like a hardbound book. I didn’t mention it earlier, but I really like the auto wake feature when opening the case (auto sleep on close, too).

On the other hand, this case is subject to stains, scuff marks and abrasions that a leather or plastic case would resist with ease. Further, it’s awkward to hold in some preferred orientations and doesn’t prop up well on flat surfaces. It might be the case that the Morris Lessmore iPad case (with faux leather) is more scuff and stain resistant.

Also, while it’s clear this unit isn’t going to provide serious protection against screen side impacts, there is evidence to suggest that the DODOcase provides more protection than its makers are willing to assert.

In the end, I’m disappointed. The DODOcase is beautiful and handmade here in the United States, but it won’t be my primary case. I’ve ordered the Otterbox Defender Series iPad case.

* Base unit cost for the Spring Summer case is $79.95. I added a $4.95 camera hole and personalized free-form text on the spine for $12.95. $10 shipping brought the total to $107.85.