Verizon Fivespot WiFi Connection Issues

Recently I was setting up a brand new Toshiba laptop (running Windows 7) to use the WiFi hotspot created by Verizon’s Fivespot, but I ran into a persistent ‘security code mismatch’ issue. Hours of diagnostics later, I came across the workaround which, while not perfect, will work for now.

The Problem

Even though the laptop could see the wireless hotspot, when you entered the security code on the back of the Fivespot, it gave a ‘security code mismatch’ every time — even though other devices could connect to the Fivespot network just fine, and this laptop could connect to other wireless networks just fine. Adding to the peculiarity, if connected via USB to the laptop using the WWAN connection, it worked just fine.

The Workaround

(The tech professional version: Connect to the WiFi hotspot on another computer. Visit with ‘admin’ as the password and change the encryption mode to WEP. Enter a passcode, then apply. Restart the Fivespot. Connect from your device using the passcode.)

You’ll need a different computer that can successfully connect to the WiFi hotspot. I used another laptop for this, but it could be anything with a full browser — iPad, Blackberry, just whatever will connect. Go ahead and connect to the Verizon AC30 network on that device.

Type into your browser. When it asks you for a password, type ‘admin’, just like the username. Click Basic Setup at the top. On the drop-down for Encryption Mode, change it to WEP, then make up a password to fill in to Network Key 1. Click Next, then Apply. You can then close that page. Note that while using WEP mode means your network will not be open, it is not really that secure.

Next, to get the hotspot to show up correctly, I had to restart the Fivespot. Once the Verizon AC30 network shows up on your (formerly nonworking) laptop, connect and use your chosen Network Key as the password when it prompts you.

According to a very helpful Verizon employee who knew the workaround, they know about the issue, and they’re collecting details to be able to issue a firmware update to the Fivespot. Hopefully this will come soon.

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Just checked up on my Google Reader statistics.

From your 65 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 1,255 items, clicked 166 items, starred 3 items, shared 1 items, and emailed 0 items. Since November 22, 2006 you have read a total of 16,742 items.

The ‘2006’ part of it makes the numbers seem off… since at the stated rate of consumption, I should have read more like 85,000 items. I didn’t pick up serious Google Reader usage until a couple years ago. I’m clearly not much of a share-er, but that’s mostly because it feels awkward sharing with all of my followers things that me and probably two other people would find interesting.

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Verizon’s PR Disaster

Recently I was reading an article titled Family, Verizon far apart over nearly $18,000 phone bill; basically, a college kid thought his family’s unlimited data plan was still in effect, and downloaded a little over 1 GB over the network, only to find out that they were being charged at a rate of $15 per MB (the homepage of is 0.9 MB).

Just to illustrate how ridiculous this scenario would be in any other market, here is an equivalent story where data == water.

Imagine that you get your water from a little company called Verizon. They normally supply water at a price of $100 per month for an unlimited amount, but for the past 2 years they’ve given you a promotional deal where you get unlimited water for free. Your son has a garden and uses quite a bit of water for irrigation, but it’s fine — after all, you have limitless water for free.

One day you get a bill in the mail from Verizon for $18,000. You had (understandably) forgotten that your 2-year promotional deal had ended 2 months ago. Now, this bill staring back at you says that since you did not have the $100/month unlimited plan for the past 2 months, you must pay for your water usage at a rate of $10 per cup, for a total of $18,000.

Should you have to pay the whole bill? Based on the above scenario, the answer to is quite obviously no, so the real question is:  if not $18,000, how much should you have to pay? Even that is pretty clear: 2 months for unlimited water at $100 per month, for a total of $200, plus tack on some silly management fee for rolling you over into the unlimited water plan, giving $225 as the grand total. Water works as a fairly accurate and handily intuitive comparison to data transfer — most of the differences between the two are not relevant here.

At first, this news report was rather infuriating, since an innocent family was to be burdened with a $18,000 debt for no good reason. After more thought, it is simply puzzling as to why Verizon thinks it’s a good PR move to defend its position. And the story above makes it more than apparent how overages like this one should be handled — it’s not as if the water coming out of your tap will ever suddenly go from costing $0.02 per cup to costing $10 per cup, because you used beyond your monthly limit.

Consumers should demand a stop to being tricked into giving telcos extra money for something that has a marginal cost equal to its non-marginal cost.

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Most Ambiguous Button Award

The Akismet plugin for WordPress wins today’s Most Ambiguous Button award. After subconsciously struggling with the meaning of the “Update options »” button, I realized why I was having such trouble: “update” could be either a noun or a verb, and both words can mean a variety of things in different user interfaces. Moral:  always choose a label for a button that makes its meaning intuitive, or familiar to users, rather than labeling it according to what it does on the back end. “Save changes” would be a good choice here.

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On Google Wave’s UI: Where to Put the Blip-contributors

In most of the Google Wave waves I use, it would make more sense to have the blip-creator thumbnail and name changed to be right-aligned, basically what I’ve mocked up below.

This style is less disruptive to the overall document’s formatting, and makes the wave look much more cohesive and professional. For chat-style exchanges, it’s important to keep what is said closely linked to who’s saying it, but when collaboratively editing, it’s rather unnecessary, and turns out to be more distracting than anything else.

[Continued 10 minutes after realizing this would actually be doable with Stylish]

Here I present to you, the smallest style with the largest impact for Google Wave: Now all of my waves look like this (except they’re not in Russian).


The names of the blip’s contributors are hidden, as well as the time/date (I don’t need either one near enough to justify how much they mess up the formatting of blips). The drop-down menu is made smaller but still displayed. The good part for you is that each part is incredibly easy to hide or show; the CSS is below, and if you want to hide or show the time, names, or menu, just add or delete the appropriate item from the list!

Want it quick? Firefox users,  install it from here as a Stylish style or a Greasemonkey script. I also threw together a simple Chrome extension.

.GTB[dc=contributors] {

    float: right !important;

    margin-right: 0 !important;

    margin-left: 2px !important;


[dc=menu] {

    width: 9px !important;


.MTB[dc=time], .KTB[dc=names] {

    display: none !important;


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¿Te Acuerdas?, or, Mnemosyne to the Rescue

I’ve been experimenting with using Mnemosyne, a nifty open source flashcard/spaced repetition application, to learn Spanish. While I like the tactility of 3×5 flashcards for generic vocab study, studying oral questions is slightly harder; you need to have a volunteer to quiz you. Mnemosyne comes in handy:  I can record an audio clip and use that clip as basically one side of a flashcard. As a bonus, I’m helping the interesting research currently being done in spaced repetition algorithms for long-term memory.

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Jeeves is About Usability, Too

Over Christmas break (my last one of all time) I had a chance to get some good reading done, and I took the chance and ran with it. Awesomely, I also got a ton of work done on my helpful task manager web app, [currently and historically titled] T-minus.  On with the books: they are below, in order of reading.

85-15 the-design-of-everyday-things Forms That Work Designing Web Forms for Usability
Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman Forms that Work by Jarrett and Gaffney

Who better to start off with than the grandmaster of English prose, Mister Wodehouse?

Enjoyable, even in the more theoretical sections; a good (and obviously formative) exploration of cognitive science and design.

This was a quick read; short but solid. Most everything was review for me, but for those just starting with web forms, this would be great.

elementsofuserexperience1 book-cover-md designing-web-navigation
The Elements of User Experience by J.J. Garrett Subject to Change by the Adaptive Path Team Designing Web Navigation by James Kalbach

A short book, but helpful providing a mental model of the user experience. (It’s easy to forget that you are not your target market, so your experience is not typical).

“The whole experience is the key” is what this book continually chants. Also tackles some common designers-within-a-company business problems (from someone with reliable experience, at that)

This was mostly review as well; I would probably keep it as a reference book for all the difference options in web navigation. Very solid for novices, though.

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Verbosity, Verbosity, Verbosity

If you spend twice as long building your debugging framework as you do actually developing, you still come out ahead – you get all that time back as soon as you catch just a few errors. It feels like a big investment, but it’s always worth it, for both the time savings and the annoyance-curbing. Verbosity, verbosity, verbosity, then fix it.

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CS Education Week

This week is the first ever Computer Science Education Week. Some of the statistics on the official site are sobering (“The percent of high schools with rigorous computer science courses fell from 40% to 27% from 2005-2009”), while others are exciting: “Computer software engineer jobs expected to grow 45% over the next five to seven years.” Just think, for every two software engineers you find today, there will soon be a third. An incredible amount of growth.

Computer science offers students avenues of self-expression, improved reasoning skills, and the ability to look at the bigger picture while not discounting the details. These opportunities alone are too good to pass up; it is essential that we work on increasing exposure to computer science and decreasing the surrounding stigmas, from elementary school onwards.

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