Thursday, June 18, 2009

Costa Rica Diary : Day 5

Today was pretty lazy. Woke up early -- 0630 -- even though I went to bed past 2230. Kerry and I went for a walk on the road leading to the villa. Saw some birds and of course lots of crabs. Nearly missed breakfast while reading on the patio, which would have been unfortunate as it was excellent. French toast, sausage, eggs, toast, pineapple and mango. Finished "The Black Swan", went swimming in the infinity pool.

Kerry, the kids, Stephanie, Carly and Darby walked up to Lookout Point. When we got back, had fajitas for lunch, which were OK. The beef was a little tough.

More afternoon lazy time....went back over "The Black Swan" to find favorite quotes. Got on the internet and looked at SD card based disk drive replacements for the C64 -- not sure what led me there. Went back outside, watched the kids play in the surf.

Kerry, the kids and I went on an ATV ride down to the beach. Took some pictures...then it started thundering, so we headed back. After about 45 minutes, we had a shrimp dinner.

Costa Rica Diary : Day 4

Slowly, I am becoming used to the keyboard on this computer -- it was designed for the Spanish speaking market, and the country settings in Vista do not quite match. I still don't know how to type a colon.

I tried to fix this once, but since Vista requires a reboot after changing the keyboard language, I decided to live with it. I feel like I am only one reboot away from a re-configuration marathon.

Today we did zip line rides through the canopy in Montezuma. I was at first somewhat reluctant to go, but glad I went. The height did not really bother was so much higher than I normally deal with, that it did not really register that I should be afraid.

After that, a short ride into town and some shopping, then a ride back to the villa. Chicken quesadillas and fresh guacamole was served. I then went to the infinity pool to read some more of The Black Swan.

Costa Rica Diary : Day 3

Today we went ATV riding. Alan arranged it and all but Kerry and Stacy went on the trip. We cruised along the beach and through the forest adjacent to the beach. Crabs are everywhere. In some places it looked like the ground was moving.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Costa Rica Diary : Day 2

This was to be the day of the Internet Fixing.

Woke up around 0800. Had some breakfast, did some reading. Watched the ocean. I've always enjoyed the sights and sounds of the ocean more than swimming in the ocean.

So, I'm in Costa Rica, and I'm fixing problems. Can't get it out of my system.

I had been unable to get the wireless internet working yesterday.

Some additional complicating factors :

- The computer was running Windows Vista Home Premium
- Almost all the text is in Spanish
- The ISDN modem was a USB device

Normally, the USB network device would not such a big deal if we were connecting one computer. In our situation, the goal was to share the connection to the Linksys router, allowing wireless clilents to connect.

On Saturday, I had discovered and removed a redundant network cable from the router to the computer. I tried configuring the device for ICS, but could not get it to work. I spent my time on Saturday mostly trying to get the system back to English. Through some research with Mr. Google, I learned that this version of Vista did not support multiple language packs. We were stuck with Spanish.

I knew Alan would need the internet access, so when "Scruffy" arrived, I sat down with him to help him get it working. Scruffy arrived from the states 20 years ago on his sailboat, and never left. He is a good friend of the villa owner. He spoke Spanish and together we were able to move forward.

This was one of those situations where having two people working on a problem can be quite helpful. Especially since he could translate menus. We tried a number of configurations until we got it working. We also used Alan's laptop to help with the configuration of the router.

ICS - Internet Connection Sharing - wanted a dynamic IP address...and only the Linksys router could do that. If I set the range of DHCP addresses to start at, then the ICS connection would always get I wanted to set the IP address of the router statically, but it would not allow me to set the gateway address to the same as the internet address --, even though that appeared to be correct.

The implication of this was that wireless clients could never connect automatically, as DHCP was unable to deliver the proper gateway address. There was probably a way of fixing this, but I had reached the point where I just wanted it to work, and that any working repeatable procedure was acceptable.

Another complication we discovered -- the Acer PC had its' own wireless adapter, which would try to connect to the Linksys router. We turned it off to simplify matters.

After a couple of hours, we got it working -- with the caveat that IP, netmask and gateway had to be set manually on any wireless adapters that wanted to connect. It had not been working, and on a whim, I entered the IP address of, which loaded. The ISP DNS was sucky.

Just as we got it working, the PC spontaneously rebooted. Sigh. This computer BSOD a number of times, which seemed to be related to the flaky ISDN modem.

When it came back up, the Linksys Easy Configuration software loaded and somehow blocked the ICS connection. So we uninstalled the "helpful" Linksys software and rebooted again.

Here was the final configuration :
- Acer PC connected to the internet via the Intracom ISDN modem
- ICS used to bond the NIC in the ACER to the Intracom network
- ACER NIC cabled to LAN connection on Linksys router

On the Linksys router
-DHCP turned on
-gateway set to the base DHCP address plus 2

For any connecting wired or wireless hosts
- IP set manually to a 192.168.1.X address not already used
- Netmask set to
- Gateway set to
- DNS addresses set to the public addresses. The DNS servers of the ISP were unreliable.

I entered the configuration into Alan's laptop and gave it back to him.

He needed to download some software from to process his photos. At a maximum data rate of about 18 kbps, this took a couple of hours.

The download speed went up and down as the ISDN B channel kicked in and out. But it worked.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Costa Rica Diary : Day 1

Woke up at 0400 Saturday morning...made it to the airport by 0530. Flight left on time for Miami. So far, all uneventful. Met some nice folks in Miami that were scheduled to be on the same flight from San Jose to Tambor on which we were booked. She spoke Spanish and called Sansa to tell them that we would be a bit late. Missing the Tambor flight would put us on the bus to the coast, a long ferry ride and final drive to the villa.

The flight left Miami on time. We discovered that the crew had forgotten the immigration and customs paperwork. We would have to complete those forms when we arrived in San Jose. We arrived on time and madly filled out the handful of forms. Just as we were getting in the first line, our family was diverted to a shorter line since we had 2 kids. Immigration went relatively quickly and we rushed to the Sansa terminal. We arrived at 1330 for the 1400 flight and got checked in. Fortunately, the folks we met in Miami arrived shortly afterward and we all got on the flight.

The 25 minute flight to Tambor was remarkably smooth. Liam slept through the entire flight.

We were met at the Tambor aiport, which consists of a landing strip, a parking lot and a porta-potty. We paid our $1 per passenger airport tax and were on our way.

The drive from the Tambor airport to the villa was actually rougher than the commuter flight to Tambor. We arrived at the villa and met our host, Hansel. We settled in, and 4 hours later the others arrived. In the pouring rain.

I discovered that the internet service was not quite working. More on that tomorrow.

Dinner, then bed soon afterward. A long day.