Internet At Home Without a Phone Line

Our house move is nearly upon us and the telecom line has yet to be installed. Rather than panic, I set up a wireless network backed by a 4G mobile/cellular data connection.

The resulting connection is enough to work with but I still look forward to having a physical line. The laws of physics mean a physical connection will always outpace a wireless one.

Simple Approach

By chance I had a spare TP-Link TL-MR3420 bought for family but later no longer required. This surprisingly inexpensive box did exactly what I needed and with almost no fiddly set-up.

If you are looking for a fast, simple to connect solution, buy the TP-Link TL-MR3420 or whatever is the latest model. The low price of the TP-Link box is because you will need a separate USB 3G or 4G mobile stick. The USB stick is plugged into the TP-Link box and the box shares the mobile connection through a wireless network.

This means one mobile connection is shared across all the devices you have.

TP-Link TL-MR3420 + USB 4G modem = Easy Wireless Network

Want a more capable but more complex set up experience? Consider a RouterBOARD.

A Separate Identity

Bands of colour form in the sky during sunset.

We are putting together a web site to become our place for sharing photos and short films about the house build. The site will be a separate identity for what should be a well defined project. Intermingling house updates with general photos and news here on The Work Life simply felt messy.

The new site is called Love Allier and should start to see some content in the next week or so. I have already published three short films via a new YouTube channel. Those films have been challenging but enjoyable to create. Megan has written a few short posts to augment the films and to try to capture emotions that will be all too fleeting.

Sunset over our local park in Lyon.
Sunset over our local park in Lyon.

I want to be able to look back on the next two years as one event. Much like keeping a scrapbook or photo album dedicated to a specific period of your life, I hope that Love Allier will fill that role for us.

Whirlwind Through Our Schedules

With our recent purchase of land in France, our world has become fiendishly busy. The sudden switch from waiting to action has taken our breath away. In a few weeks we will settle back into a routine but for now it feels like a whirlwind is tearing through our schedules.

Two regional French TER train engines.
Two regional French TER train engines.

This morning we confirmed an appointment, booked our hire car, and only then discovered potential train strikes may make our travels impossible. Having gone to some effort to clear our schedules for that appointment, the possibility of re-scheduling and moving the bookings is frustrating.

This is an uncertainly I dislike but have to endure.

Dry Ink

Three sheep stare back.

The ink has dried on our land purchase. This morning the attestation arrived. The legal stage is done.

The attestation is a two page document bearing the stamp of a notaire. It sets out the details of the purchase and acts as proof the land transfer is complete. The attestation lets us demonstrate to the builder and infrastructure providers that the plot is ours.

The garden is going to be a challenge.
The garden is going to be a challenge.

Getting to this stage is more a relief than a celebration. We will celebrate the moment, but right now, I am simply pleased to have the legal side complete.

Wet Ink

The ink is still wet but we have signed. After close to a year of delays, today we signed to purchase a little plot of land in France.

The absolute purchase will not happen for a few days yet but both parties have signed and we have paid. Now the notaire needs to do the last chunk of paperwork and this long legal process will be finished.

A notaire plaque is displayed outside the office.
A notaire plaque is displayed outside the office.

When we first made the offer to buy, I never imagined the process to hand someone the money could take so long. There have been problems. We have had to fight and be persistent. At times it has been horrible. That period is ending.

Now we can look forward and get on with all that we postponed from last year. I am looking forward to this year being far more productive.

Delays and Page Shuffle

Trees and fog.

It has been a frustrating few weeks. We are working our way through the legal steps to secure our future home. Last week we learnt that there would be an additional delay.

The delay was not entirely unexpected. We saw it coming but others did not heed our warnings in time. After months of getting our side ready, even transferring funds into escrow, the meeting to sign was cancelled at the last moment.

A critical document was missing from the seller’s dossier. Without the document nothing can be signed and sealed.

Born of Annoyance

The funds have been returned and we await a new signing date.

Rather than sit impotently by, I channeled my energy into something I could control. I wrote and published a new application.

Shuffling Pages

A while ago Megan asked me how she could shuffle pages within a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. She had teaching resources that she wanted to reuse but the order and content of the pages was becoming predictable.

Had these been printed bingo or flash cards, she could have easily jumbled them up herself. But these were not physical cards. They were PDF documents on her tablet computer.

Over the following hour, I learnt that needing to shuffle pages within a document is rare enough to be difficult to do. Reordering or moving pages is possible but only one move at a time. OS X even includes a shuffle Automator action but it does not shuffle, it interleaves.

I put together a small command line tool to perform the shuffle. Since then, that tool has been good enough for Megan but not ideal. Having to use the is not a great experience.

With the changing of the signing date, it messed up my schedule. I found myself with a short gap in my schedule and too much personal distraction to focus on anything too demanding.

I looked through my list of possible future projects and settled to write Page Shuffle.

Page Shuffle's icon
Page Shuffle’s icon

Page Shuffle is not a complex application but it serves a purpose and does it well. I picked it because of that clear purpose and the few decisions that needed making during development.

Screenshot of Page Shuffle on OS X
Screenshot of Page Shuffle on OS X

To spice the application up a little I included an Automator action that actually shuffles PDF pages, rather than interleaves them. I also included a command line interface. I doubt either will see extensive use but they are available.

Channeled Creativity

Looking back this has been a response to not having control over something very important to me. Yet, being able to see oncoming problems with no influence to avoid them. The combination feels toxic.

Page Shuffle has been a silver lining. Not what I expected from this period, but a positive when all could be seen to be stagnating.

Hopefully this delay will not be for too much longer.

Imminent Changes

Sunset seen from Lyon, France

I am growing keenly aware that our world is about to change dramatically. Every aspect of our surroundings and lifestyle will alter when we move.

We have been here before. Having that experience only highlights the coming change.

When we moved from Australia to France, we had time to absorb the decision and make the move at roughly our own pace. We spent time with friends and family before getting on the plane. We packed our apartment up in Melbourne, knowing we would be unpacking into another apartment in Lyon. We were not hurried and we planned all we could.

It was a shift in country and culture, but ultimately a move from one city to another. The lifestyle shifted with the change in cultures but the surroundings were still of the cityscape variety. Cities tend to operate in the same way around the world. Any variation in the differences are highlighted and often celebrated; consider the praise a city can garner for their public transport or greenspaces.

Beautiful French balcony in Lyon
Beautiful French balcony in Lyon

Our pending move is different and likely more dramatic. We will remain in France – with all that entails – but our move is from city to countryside.

We have lived and loved living in city centres for the last decade. We have deliberately placed ourselves in the city centre. Central enough not to need a car, often not even needing any public transport.

For me, the coming move will be a return to more greenery. For Megan it will be her first time living in a smaller community. We both relish the impending change and challenge.

Where we hope for is not a rural retreat, it is not an isolated house, or vacated farm in the middle of vast tracts of countryside. We are not seeking the ex-communication and solitude that many moving to France’s countryside seek.

If all goes to plan, and we are not yet there, we will become part of a small community with neighbours, a few streets, and a church. A larger town with facilities is a walkable distance away. Our views will change from cityscape to countryside. Greenery and forest will replace the apartment blocks and buildings that surround us today.

Lyon's Notre-Dame de Fourvière
Lyon’s Notre-Dame de Fourvière

The move is well over a year away. The first sod of earth has not been shifted. Yet our weekends and most evenings are being spent planning this aspect and that of the change. There are countless details and decisions to be made.

The largest decisions have been made and are being slowly put into place. The single largest decision was choosing where to settle. Not the specific plot but the continent, the country, the region, and only then the community. That first grand decision, made almost unconsciously, has the greatest bearing. It influences every decision that follows.

It is easy to forget the biggest decisions. They come and go so quickly. The detail overwhelms and the broadest strokes are lost.

Now we are focusing on the small and sometimes tiny choices. We can plan for our next year and we can plan for our future life. But planning for the transition, for the setting up, for the putting in place, that is still vague, still unknown, and still ongoing.

Crafting Furniture

Slice of house model in SketchUp

There is something strangely cathartic about recreating furniture in SketchUp. Given good measurements, I can craft something recognisable in about ten to fifteen minutes.

As we wait for our planning permission to move through its various stages, I have been building up a model of our future home. The bulk of the building model is finished.

Now I am entertaining myself with little models of our existing furniture and, in a few places, items we are going to need.

A log burner modelled in SketchUp
A log burner modelled in SketchUp

Putting together these models reveals all kind of details I had not appreciated before. Dimensions, weights, and volumes all need consideration. You can not cheat with a three dimensional model.

SketchUp is surprisingly productive. It has taken a long while to understand its approach. The software’s demands on you, the operator, are not obvious but they are not too difficult to adopt. I have turned to YouTube tutorial videos many times. Little tips and tricks about typing dimensions, mass copying with keyboard adjustments, are wonderful but utterly hidden in the visual user interface.

As a tool I have found SketchUp impressively productive. The notion of pushing and pulling away material is effective. I initially tried Blender but it never felt enjoyable; a tool I likely need to invest more time into before I get the results I want out.

My growing collection of furniture looks surreal. Floating in a gray space. Ready to be copied and pasted into the house model.

Our growing collection of furniture recreated in SketchUp
Our growing collection of furniture recreated in SketchUp