Techmento Mori

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I've written before about my love for thrift stores.

While I'm going through a pretty serious purging phase right now, I still enjoy taking a stroll around my local thrift store after dropping off a trunk full of junk donations—on the off chance someone has donated something on my mental shopping list.

Well, that actually happened this week (as it so often does); but first, some background.

In The Beginning...

A while back, I replaced my Google Wi-Fi mesh network with Nighthawk routers that I flashed with the dd-wrt firmware, and while it worked (and felt nice to "own"), the coverage of an individual router was subpar for the size and construction of my house (the damn network trunk is in the basement) and multiple routers provided better coverage but our devices (phones, tablets, etc.) didn't do a great job picking the closest access point.

I generally don't mind managing this stuff, but I've been thinking about my own mortality more lately (don't ask me why), so I've been considering what the second-order effects of my death on my family might be. Beyond the first-order effects (such as grief and finances), the second-order effects are the answers to questions like "if I died tomorrow, would my wife be able to deal with a technology problem given our current setup?"

Turns out, the answer is a resounding "hell no!"

The curse of a tinkering nerd is that we make the people around us hopelessly dependent on our presence to get through the day (or week). Something break? We fix it, not because we're the ones who can, but because we're the ones who set up the whole complicated system in the first place.

So, one simple answer to the more complex question of "what are the consequences of the consequences of my death?" is to simplify the technology setup in my home using commercially available and well-supported consumer technology.

The first phase to moving in that direction is moving our Wi-Fi setup back to the Google Wi-Fi mesh network. It's simple to manage, is well documented, and "just works." So, I restored the three access points we had, and threw the Nighthawk routers in a box to donate.

Behold, Hope!

While this setup is simpler and plays nicer with our devices, the access points aren't quite good enough to get coverage where it needs to be. I need a fourth one to properly extend the network to a relatively dead corner of our home, but I also have no intention of spending any real coin to get one.

Enter, my quiet stroll around the thrift store.

Like I said above, I maintain a mental shopping list of things that I don't need, but could use that I reference whenever I enter a thrift store. Sometimes it's simple, easy to find stuff (like a calculator for my ham radio exam, or paper for my typewriter), but other times it's more specific, like the brand new leather Samsonite laptop bag I found one hour after my late grandmother told me about her gratitude for said company that gave her, an unmarried single mother in the 1950's, a job and a future.

For some reason, I've always had luck finding what I need, and this time held no exception.

After my drop off, I knew that I wanted to find a fourth Google Wi-Fi access point to extend my network (which, I'm sure you guessed, I did find on the shelves for just a couple bucks), but another item on my mental shopping list also revealed itself.

But Wait, There's More

About a year ago, I picked up a fancy new folding phone, with the deluded consumerist reasoning that "I can read books on it!" While I do read a lot of books on the phone, it hardly has the weeks-long battery life of the Kindle I promptly gave to my wife, and has a hell of a lot of distractions baked in as well (when was the last time your Kindle alerted you of anything while you were reading?).

I'm not quite ready to ditch the folding distraction machine yet, but I have been wanting a single-purpose digital device again that lets me read books (and nothing else) while still syncing all of my notes and highlights to Readwise, and the Kindle fits that bill pretty well.

But, as you can imagine, my "problem" and my wallet are often in disagreement.

I'm not about to fork over another couple hundred bucks just for the privilege of fewer distractions and a better battery life; so, "a Kindle" made its way onto my "synchronicity shopping list."

A Kindle that I found on the shelf last week for $2.99.

Interestingly, this baby is the now-discontinued Kindle Touch, a fourth generation Kindle (the first with the integrated touch screen, I believe), and is the exact model of my first Kindle (that I gave away to my sister-in-law a few years ago). It predates the integrated backlight, and hasn't received any updates from Amazon in quite some time, but can still be registered and download purchased books.

What I like most about this particular model is that it is also incompatible with the newest "look at all of our ads!" trend in the latest Kindle models, with a simple home screen and not a ton of bells-and-whistles.

For my needs, it's well worth the $3 and 45 minutes I spent to acquire and refurbish it.


This is post 028 of #100DaysToOffload