These notes are no longer being updated. Obviously.

Electronic Recycling Programs

For those interested in recycling old electronic equipment in the New York area, we recommend the The 4th Bin. They provide door-to-door pickup services and collect all types of electronics, including Apple, Dell, IBM, and other computers, all monitors, old phones and phone systems, TVs, VCRs, DVD players, etc.

Mail Server Settings for Residential IPs

[Last updated 2005.]

This information is often buried on a support page so I thought I’d put up a list that makes things a little more accessible. Here are the mail servers for the four main ISPs for the NYC area.

SMTP: (turn authentication on, port 587)

Cablevision/Optimum Online


SMTP: (turn authentication on)

Most ISPs only support sending mail though their SMTP server if you are connected to their networks. If you are connected to another network you may need to use the SMTP server of the ISP you are connecting through.

Checking Your Webmail (Dreamhost)

[Updated 2005]

It is often convenient, when travelling without a PowerBook or when you only have access to another person’s machine, to check your email via the web. If you are using Dreamhost as your website and email provider, here are some instructions how to do it and caveats to keep in mind.

– Any contemporary web browser (including Safari, Firefox, or Internet Explorer) will work.
– To ensure you are online, try going to a common website such as or If you can connect to either of these, you are online.
– Go to the location http://webmail.[yourdomain].com. For instance, if your company’s website is, your webmail address would be
– You should get a very simple page with either your company logo or the SquirrelMail logo with a login and password field below.
– Enter the first part of your email address as the login. For instance, if your email was “,” your login would be “john.”
– Your email password is the same password you use to check email from your main work computer. If normally you use Apple Mail, Entourage, or Eudora to check your mail in the office, you may not know this since the mail password would have been entered for you when the application was last configured by one of our staff.
– To obtain your email password, please either send an email to your client support address a day or two before you will need access or call the Support Centre for assistance over the phone.
– After logging in, you will be brought to your inbox. You can read and respond to email here using the relatively simple interface.

Some Webmail Features and Drawbacks to Consider
– New folders your create (and mail filed in them) through webmail may not be visible to your regular mail reader when you get back to your normal office machine, so please resist the urge to clean up.
– You will likely see more spam through webmail than you see in the office. This is because your mail application may be doing an additional level of spam-filtering and hence you are viewing the webmail before this filtering occurs.
– The sent mailbox will only show mail sent from webmail, not from your regular mailbox.

Passwords in Particular
You will see a link on your login page that allows you to change your email settings, including your email password. We recommend against changing anything in here without discussing it with one of our staff first, but if you are committed to changing your password please consider two important points:
– If you change your password, you must remember and note down what you change it to. While can reset it for you again in the future, this will involved a delay of up to several hours and could prevent you from accessing your mail for a while.
– If you do change the password through webmail, your office mail application (eg. Apple Mail, Entourage, or Eudora) will no longer retrieve mail unless you change the password back or go into the settings on in your office mail application and update the passwords for incoming (and outgoing) mail servers read this.

Resetting Your OS X Password


If you have misplaced, forgotten, or do not know any of the administrative passwords on your own OS X computer, resetting it is quite simple.

To do this, you will need an OS X Installation CD that will start up your computer. It is best to use the version of OS X that most closely matches the version you are currently running. One of these comes with all Macintoshes that shipped with OS X installed; if yours did not ship with OS X, you most likely bought a copy of Jaguar (OS X 10.2; this comes in a white box) or Panther (OS X10.3; a black box).
– Insert the Mac OS X Installer disk.
– When you hear the startup tone, hold down the C key until you see the spinning gear.
– When the Installer appears, choose “Reset Password” from the “Installer” (for 10.3) menu. Note that for 10.4 the menu is called “Utilities.”
– Follow the onscreen instructions to change the password.
– Quit the Installer and restart your computer while holding down the mouse button (this will eject the CD and prevent you from going back into the installer again).

Additional Information
Apple’s technote on resetting the administrative password
More about passwords in OS X
How to change a user password (when you do know an administrative password)

Architects: Data Wiring Notes


When architects draw up plans for a renovation or new space, it is very important to include meaningful and sufficiently detailed notes on the data/telco drawings before those drawings go to a contractor for bid. Below please find sample notes for a standard small office or high-end residential project.

Voice & Data
1. All voice and data wiring must be terminated in a patch panel in the low-voltage wiring closet; all wiring must be home runs from the patch panel directly to the jack.
2. Panel must be installed in a 19in rack or rack frame with at least 4U available for phone and data use. Rack must be located such that adaquate space is available for phone and data equipment installation and that access to power outlets is not obstructed.
3. All jacks must be clearly labeled in a neat and professional manner. Port numbers on patch panel and in test results must all match.
4 website link. All wiring must meet or exceed Category 6 specifications and printed test results must be provided at close of job.
5. All wallplates are to architect’s spec.

6. At least 2 dedicated 20AMP circuits must be provided in the low-voltage wiring closet; one for use by alarm and telephone equipment and one for use by data and networking equipment. Each circuit must be terminated in quad electrical outlets clearly labeled with the circuit number.

7. Server closet must have sufficient ventilation and air handling for anticipated future equipment.

Leasing vs. Buying Equipment

[Updated 2004]

The question of whether to lease or buy is a common one for our clients who are considering a larger equipment purchase than normal, are engaged in a significant expansion, or who simply wish to smooth their cash flow by spreading an equipment investment over a number of years.

FMV vs $1 buyout
The two forms of leases that are generally appropriate for our clients are known as Fair Market Value (FMV) or One Dollar Buyout ($1 Buyout). This page succinctly compares these two types of leases (included in the table are two additional types not generally relevant to this discussion).

The most significant difference between an FMV and a $1 buyout lease lies in whether you wish to keep the equipment at the end of the lease term. If you do wish to keep the equipment at the end of a FMV lease term, you are required to buy the equipment from the leasing company for the fair market value (usually approximately 15-0% of the initial purchase cost). At the end of the $1 buyout lease, however, it is assumed you will be keeping the equipment and doing so involves no (or a token) additional investment.

Because most design and creative firms continue to repurpose equipment far past the peak of its useful life (and far past 3 years), we always suggest clients go with $1 buyout leases.

Length of lease
Leases come in terms ranging from 12 to 60 months. We generally strongly prefer that our clients commit to leases no greater than 36 months for computer equipment.

Other expenses
There are numerous other distinctions that vary from leasing company to company, including if service (fees) can be included in a lease and if software or other soft goods can be included.

Rule of thumb
When considering the cost of a lease versus buying equipment outright, a useful rule of thumb is that if the equipment would cost $30,000 outright, then spread over a 36 month $1 buyout lease, the total expenditure would be approximately $36,000.

Wiring a Building

[Updated 2004.]

Planning for and installing voice, telephone, cable, satellite and future services for a building can be a daunting task. Below we have broken a project of this complexity down to three major sections: How to plan the infrastructure that will support these services, How to plan for distributing those services to the owners/tenants, and finally how to choose what kinds of service to provide and what vendors can provide those services.

Part 1: Distribution of services through the building

There are two ways to distribute voice, data, cable, and future technologies throughout the building: (a) simply leave it up to each owner and have a completely ad-hoc, unplanned cable tangle running through the building or (b) plan cable pathways and point of entries for different services at a building-wide level. Taking the latter approach allows the building to grow and add new technologies as they appear on the market and will be seen as forward thinking and progressive in the years ahead. During the initial phases of construction, the required closets, junction boxes, and cable conduits can be inserted easily into the structure of the building with minimal effort and before finishing work is done on public spaces.

To distribute services in a organized manner, at a minimum a secure wiring closet with space for a telco rack frame or cabinet needs to be installed in the basement and a cable pathway needs to be installed that accesses at least one junction box on each floor. The closet will need to have adequate space and power for present and future telco equipment and will serve as what Verizon often calls the Point of Entry, or the point at which their copper wiring connects to that of the building.

The cable pathways are traditionally run in the form of a single 3in conduit (much like that which is run for power) from this basement junction closet to a box in the common space of each floor (usually in the stairwell). From these boxes on each floor a 3in conduit should be run to each anticipated unit. From this in-unit junction box, each owner can have access to the full range of services available to the building without massive installation or messy, code-challenging wiring in the common spaces.

In general, we supervise the existing electrical contractor and/or provide specification to the architect such that they can supervise the appropriate vendors for this component. As a rule of thumb, we would estimate $3-4k for the basement closet, equipment, power, etc and $1-2k for each floor for this kind of installation.

Part 2: Provision of services within the building

If there is a desire to advertise that internet access has been provided to each unit in the building, then a minimum of two category 5 data [see this url for an explanation] runs should be run to each unit including white box units. These runs would be pulled through the conduit pathways described above and terminated in the junction box present in each unit. The basement closet side of these runs would then be terminated in a building-owned data network switch and connected to a building-owned DSL or T1 line.

If desired, wireless internet access could be installed in each of the white box units to increase their immediate value and reinforce the image of the building as technologically cutting edge.

For finished units, each owner can decide what level of data and telephone wiring they wish to invest in. We have a series of guidelines for planning network installations and an explanation of the merits of wired vs wireless networks.

As a general rule of thumb, we suggest clients budget $1000 per wired run (which generally includes more than one data/telephone jack) and $1000 per 800/sq/ft for coverage with wireless access points. Specific site configurations and any unusual security considerations, of course, can have a significant impact on these costs.

Part 3: Building-wide internet and telephone service

The two appropriate internet access options for this situation are T1 and DSL. For a comparison of the differences between the two technologies, see our guidelines for selecting internet access. We suggest allowing for a ballpark monthly cost of $400 for DSL or $1000 for T1 service. Many clients these days choose to install two lines and a firewall device to provide redundancy and security. We budget $2-3k for the hardware and configuration of a firewall. Future configuration changes are usually made on an hourly rate and can be done to the requirements of individual tenants.

We have numerous recommendations for what vendors to use and how to provide these services to the building; relationships can be established with internet service providers who will take responsibility for data lines (called a Managed line), ones who will provide full-service email and web services (for the building as a whole or for individual owners individually), and who can provide secondary services (such as voicemail, VPN access on the road, etc),

In recent years, a new technology called Voice over IP (VoIP) has become more common and appropriate for these kinds of installations. This technology is already at the core of most large providers (including Verizon, as described in this article). One such vendor, M5 Networks can provide the entire solution, end to end. This includes internet access for the building, unlimited individual VoIP handsets installed with next day response, remotely hosted voicemail and automated attendant options, and fail-over protection in the form of a second, redundant line.

Part 4: Costs for a high-end residential five floor, 10 unit building

All price estimates below are ballpark figures. Firm quotes are generated from the range of vendors involved once a proposal is accepted. Do note that when when spread across multiple units, the cost per unit is minimal.

Part 1
Estimated cost & fees for five floor, 10 unit building: $12-17k

Part 2
Estimated cost & fees for an average unit: $9-14k

Part 3
Estimated cost & fees for an average installation: $3-5k
Estimated monthly cost & fees: $2-3k

Cable management


Finding ways to handle the ever growing clutter and tangle of cables beneath our desks has led us numerous times to the Doug Mockett & Company, a leading supplier of elegant and reasonably priced cable management solutions to architects and designers.

Many of you may know them through their Grommets, but we are big fans of the Vertebrae Carrier Wire Manager, a simple system for keeping cables off the floor but also separating power and data/telephone wires.

Not that our office is the best example — the tangled mess that lurks below our desks is much to large to fit in most (even these) cable management systems and changes too frequently for cabling to stay neat for long.

They also carry useful items such as Z clips (for mounting wall panels), table connectors, and castors (CA21 is especially beautiful). We are not so fond of their computer accessories, though.

Guidelines for selecting internet access


Among our clients the three most common technologies used for business and residential internet access are T1, DSL (digital subscriber line), and cable modem. We rarely use cable modems for business or T1s for residential internet access. DSL comes in two varieties that are often referred to as business-class (SDSL) and residential-class (ADSL).

Business access ranges from $250 to $1000 per month depending on a range of factors including the choice of DSL or T1, the distance between the customer and the nearest telephone switching facility, and the secondary services required (number of IP addresses, voice and data bundles, etc.). While the telecommunications landscape has been shifting dramatically every few months, in recent years we have been using XO predominantly.

In theory, a T1 will provide greater reliability than a DSL line. In NYC, however, our experience has been that both line types vary widely in reliability from location to location. The cost of DSL is generally lower and DSL is available at higher “theoretical” speeds than a T1, but DSL line speeds are not guaranteed and can differ widely from published numbers.

Although we have not used them with any active clients yet, we have also considered M5 Networks, a new kind of provider. They not only provide voice and data connectivity over a single connection (with a second line for redundancy) but also replace the central phone system itself using a system called Voice over IP (VoIP). Other, more consumer companies such as Vonage offer VoIP solutions, but the majority of these assume you will provide your own internet service.

Residential access is approximately $50 per month and we generally use Time Warner’s Road Runner for cable modem and Speakeasy or Verizon for DSL.

If a user wishes to provide free wireless internet access (see NYC Wireless for more information) on their line, we use Speakeasy because their acceptable use policy (AUP) explicitly allows this kind of sharing (Time Warner and Verizon expressly prohibit it).

As an aside, Verizon is using their massive number of public pay phone locations to build out a substantial wireless network around Manhattan and Verizon DSL subscribers have (at least for the moment) free access to this network.

Choosing between cable modem and DSL for residential access is discussed in detail at, in this Insight Research Report, and in this thorough report from MIT.


Merits of wired versus wireless networks


A basic familiarity with networking terms is helpful for this article; this article at PC World provides a brief non-technical overview.

This simple page on the Linksys site does a good job of succinctly pointing out the core difference between wired and wireless networks:

“Wireless networks . . . don’t require cables, [so] you can use the devices anywhere in an office or home, even out on the patio. . . Outside of the home, wireless networking is available in hotspots at coffee shops, businesses, airports — great when you’re on the road and need to get some work done. For convenience, wireless networking is the answer.

Wired networks have been around for years. They use the most affordable products and provide the fastest speeds of transmission. . . When you need to move large amounts of data at high speeds, such as professional-quality multimedia, wired networking is the most efficient way to do it.”

This page and this one on Intel’s site provide a reasonable (if a bit self-serving) explanation.

This interesting article on Design Share on wiring schools is well explained.

At this point in time, all of the wireless solutions we consider are of a type known as Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi Alliance (“A nonprofit international association formed in 1999 to certify interoperability of wireless Local Area Network products based on IEEE 802.11 specification”) is the organization that overseas the certification of devices by different vendors as interoperable.