In an effort to become an even better domestic network administrator, I
finally managed to setup a VPN this
afternoon.  The VPN lets me call up any other computer’s monitor on the
local network or, put another way, I no longer have to traipse my lazy bones to
another room if I want to spy on what Ph. is doing on the internets. 
Spying, parenting, call it what you want (split hairs only if you must). 
The VPN is terrific for other stuff, too.  For example, given that Ph.’s
clunky old computer is password protected, I can simply veepen (VPN) his
mo-chine (his desktop pops up on my desktop) and type in the password without
ever leaving my seat.  Nifty. Also good for remotely running maintenance,
like ad-aware and spybot apps.

I should probably acknowledge that the setup was possible only with a
generous lent-hand from my
brother. When
we were in Detroit last weekend, he recommended VPN as a solution to a few of
the headaches I was describing to him.  I downloaded it and tried to
install it myself late last week: a plentitude of time-out errors. I could get
the local system to ping, but the VPN wouldn’t work. And I could not isolate the
cause of the error.  Tried everything I could think of.  Today, I
called my brother (he was at my nephews soccer match and so had to call me
back.) After a half hour on the phone this afternoon, both of us were still
stumped.  And then J. asked me whether Windows Firewall was on
Me: "Um. No. I’m sure it’s off. I use something else."  But I checked it
anyway because nothing else was fixing the mess, and sure enough, Windows,
kindly bowling over its numb-skull users, had quietly reactivated the firewall
during the last update.  Once I turned it off, the VPN worked, magically
porting Ph.’s computer monitor onto my own. 

Added irony: I was reading and making notes on Norman’s
Design of
Everyday Things
before and after the debacle.


  1. Yesterday I was reading Nardi and O’Day’s Information Ecologies, which includes a critique of Norman’s overemphasis on tools as limited to individual capabilities and cognitive encounters. On the one hand, that makes sense to me; Norman doesn’t deal with a broad view of things or the uses of things as orchestrated by niches of users. His approach to design privileges the role of the designer as one whose success is measured by ease-of-use–almost always the consequence of rational, simple, visible features. Designer and user are separate figures, and users don’t get much credit for their adaptiveness or improvisation in the encounter with the confusing or badly designed thing (figuring out which light switch turns on which light, for instance).

    In short, I’d say it has its limitations. Yet, having some sense of what those are, I think it’s an important book for priming discussions of the design of things, our encounters with them, errors, hacks, basic design improvements for “everyday” things. Good stuff here, too, on the inertial forces constraining redesigns or design evolution.

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