MythTV sound problems… again

| by Ken | in Technology No Comments »

My main MythTV system (AKA “backend”) is in my entertainment system rack in the old family room.  My office is merging into that room and I needed to move the system rack a bit to make room for additional furniture.  And the rack had a few things that were no longer in use (like ReplayTV [still mourning that]) and a bunch of wires that had been used for things and hadn’t been pulled out.  Also, my APC UPS had proven defective (what good is a UPS if you can’t rely on it) so I removed it but needed to rework some stuff to get in the new one.  For all of these reasons, it made sense to disassemble the whole entertainment system and rebuild it clean – figuratively and literally.  Lots of dust to vanquish.

I put it all back together meticulously tying cables together and running cables in layers so everything was neat.  Once I got to the point when it was time to power everything up, I hadn’t gotten the TV put back on top yet.  (That old Panasonic plasma weighs 250 pounds and I needed to make sure I only moved that when I was sure I was done.)  I wanted to give MythTV a chance to catch up on database activity since it had been off for the better part of a day and I didn’t need to see that happen.  I made sure I had the MythTV parts set up and connected before I powered it on and the attached the Comcast cable box and HD-PVR.  And When I was certain everything else was working, I hoisted the TV back in place and hooked up all the HDMI.  Then I could test out the whole setup.  Everything worked with the exception of two problems with MythTV: the network didn’t come up and I didn’t hear any sound.  The network problem turned out to be because my Panamax power protector doesn’t work with Gigabit so I’ve ordered a separate network protector and in the meantime, I have the network cable skipping surge protection which is how I had it before – easy resolution.  But the sound problem turned out to be a bear to resolve.

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Clinton vs. Trump: Postmortem

| by Ken | in Politics No Comments »

Hello world.  It’s the USA here.  Hey, listen, I know we look like a bunch of idiots.  I can understand how you would think less of us now.  We’ve done something really wrong and we have some making up to do.  But before you write us all off as a lost cause, let me try to explain why we aren’t all as bad as the results might make us seem.

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A Summer Under Siege

| by Ken | in House & Home No Comments »

It was a summer under siege by wildlife.  We had all kids of critters causing all kinds of new issues.  And it isn’t like we moved deep into the suburbs.  We are still in our near-urban location with our same density of houses.  (Sorry, but on the blog, no specific places to be named.)  Yet the critters found us this year in great numbers.  Here’s the roundup – as of November.

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Clinton vs. Trump: T Minus 3 Days

| by Ken | in Politics No Comments »

I don’t usually revisit the same topic so soon but I had to comment on the purported lying equivalency. On Thursday (Nov 3), I heard an interview with a Millennial that went something like this: “It’s tough to choose because on the one hand Trump says a lot of things I disagree with and has positions I disagree with. On the other hand, I can’t vote for Clinton because she’s a liar.” While I understand why people believe Clinton is a “liar”, I don’t understand why people don’t think Trump is. Maybe the bar is higher for her because she’s a politician whereas Trump doesn’t seem to understand “facts” when they pertain to his statements.

Whatever the reason people feel this way, remember your choice is between two liars and as the story here points out, Clinton’s are fewer. Also, as a bonus, with Clinton there is no misogyny, we get to stay in NATO, and there will be no state-sanctioned religious discrimination. So for anyone thinking that their best option is to not vote, that’s a cop out. Most elections are about choosing the lesser of two evils so be a grown-up and choose the one you think is “better”. Even if on a scale of 1 to 10, with one a 3 and the other a 1, 3 is still more than 1 and therefore you prefer the one you give a 3 to so that’s who you vote for. The only reason to not vote, or vote for somebody other than these two is if you really believe that Clinton and Trump are equal. And I’m pretty confident that most people don’t truly believe they are really equal!

Clinton vs. Trump: T Minus 8 Days

| by Ken | in Politics No Comments »

I haven’t written much about the 2016 presidential election.  Like a lot of people, I’m surprised that the USA can’t do better than Trump and Clinton.  Or Johnson and Stein.  Or Jeb Bush, Rubio, Cruz, Santorum, Huckabee, Fiorina, and so on.  The only two candidates who seemed to be presidential material to me were Sanders and Kasich and they were both laughed aside for being unelectable.  It’s all remarkable.  And there may be fixes for that involving removing the public element of a primary, changing the way people vote, and campaign finance reform.  But none of that matters for the 2016 election so I’ll save that for a future post.

Regardless of what has happened leading up to now, we are now down to two.  Yes, two.  Johnson and Stein aren’t going to get elected.  If with 8 days remaining, you think that either could get elected, you have too light a grasp on reality and should close this window and open a new one seeking professional help.  So let’s talk about the two we are left with.

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Installing MacOS Guest in VirtualBox

| by Ken | in Technology No Comments »

I’ve experimented with VirtualBox before but today I had a legitimate work need to try out VirtualBox with a MacOS Guest. So I installed VirtualBox on my Windows 7 64-bit laptop and pulled out my Snow Leopard DVD and… it didn’t work. Nothing could be that easy, right?

I Googled for an hour or so looking for the trick but all the posts I found were about how to work with a drive image or a hacked install or to use special bootloaders that would function as a sort of handoff (such as the Empire EFI which is interesting since it touches on the Hackintosh concepts I’ve talked lots about in this blog). I eventually found the trick I needed at something called “LeaseWeb Labs” in a post titled “How to run OSX in a VM on VirtualBox“.
So here’s what I did:

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After some recent network improvements at the house, I discovered the new router was causing interference with my old phone system.  Rather than replace the phone system with a newer one that is both technologically better and feature poorer, I decided to stick with the current one and change what I could.

Figuring that the new router is only causing interference where the old one did not must be because it the signal is somehow stronger.  Fortunately, I’m running dd-wrt on my routers so I there’s more tweakability than with stock firmware.  And fortunately one of the things you can tweak is the “TX Power”.  The default value for TX Power for the 2.4 Ghz antenna was 71 (out of a reported 1000?  that doesn’t seem right).  I changed it to 60 and the warblyness in the cordless phone went away mostly.  I can still get interference if I walk to the router and touch the phone’s antenna to the router.  Since that isn’t something I need to do to use the phone normally, I think I’m good now.

I’ve been using the same cordless phone system for probably 15 years.  It is a Panasonic KX-TG2720 base with lots of handsets.  An important feature for me is that it has 2 lines.  We still have a landline for the “house” and I have a work line.  I use the speakerphone.  We have Comcast voicemail on both lines and the handsets are setup to show when there is new mail and you just push a button to listen to your messages.  The handsets also include speakerphone capabilities.  The range is fantastic and covers our whole house including basement and all of our yard which isn’t saying too much, but the point is it is exactly what we need.

A month ago I re-jiggered our home network and replaced one of the older routers with a new one.  Since then we’ve been having interference between our handsets and the WiFi.  Frankly, it’s surprising we haven’t had a problem before since the old phone system is a 2.4 Ghz system and of course, that’s the band that WiFi has been operating in for years.  (And while I’d love to disable the 2.4 Ghz antenna from the routers, I have too many devices that don’t work with the 5 Ghz band.)  The new router has been a problem, though, making the phone sound really warbly when anywhere on the first floor – i.e. close the new router.

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I’ve got an old Weber gas grill that has served me well for a decade.  I’ve had to replace the cast iron grates a couple of times because, it seems, their covers, while keeping the grill look pretty, trap moisture inside.  There was one time when I had friends over and the grill didn’t get up to cooking temperature but it was just one time.

Until recently.  When it started happening more often.  There a couple of times when the burgers just sat on the cooking grate looking grey and annoyed rather than actually cooking.  The temp probe showed the interior temp only got to something like 250F or maybe 300F if the wind was light.  I thought maybe it was because I was low on gas so I refilled the propane tank and the next time it worked fine.  Problem solved, I thought.  But then it happened again with the full tank.  Something weird is going on.

It’s a tough thing to Google, but I did eventually find exactly what I was looking for at Weber’s site.  It turns out that you can end up with the grill in “bypass mode” where the regulator limits the amount of gas that can get out of the tank.  The mode is intended as a protection if something has gone wrong with the grill.  But you can inadvertently trigger bypass mode if you don’t turn on the gas the right way.  For some reason, I had apparently been turning on the gas the right way for years and recently, have been doing it the wrong way about half the time!  Or maybe there’s something about the valves and tank and regulator that make the setup more sensitive to bypass mode as they get older.

So the simple solution is to wait a couple of seconds after opening the valve on the propane tank before you turn on any burners.  That’s it.  I did that as a test today and sure enough, the grill ramped right up to 500F.

Walt Disney World at 80%

| by Ken | in Travel No Comments »

I’ve been with the family now to Disney World twice.  A couple of years ago, there were a number of things closed that were a bummer.  But this year, the number of things closed seemed excessive.

In the Magic Kingdom, the Railroad was closed – the whole thing.  And this was disappointing because it seemed to be unscheduled.

In Epcot, Soarin was closed.  This one we knew about ahead of time and it is undergoing big changes, so the closure is understandable.  But still a bummer.

The only thing we noticed in Animal Kingdom is the paths around the Tree Of Life were closed.  Disappointing, but that wasn’t something that we were really looking forward to doing.

In Hollywood Studios, there were big changes.  Honey I Shrunk the Kids, a family favorite, is gone.  The Streets Of America is closed – and this time is a particular bummer because since our last visit to Hollywood Studios, we’ve been to New York and San Fransisco and the idea that they could be in both places at the same time and experience the fakery of a “back lot” would have been great.  But nope, all closed.  Same with the Lights Motors Action.  Mater and Lightning are gone from their spot.  And Phineas & Ferb are no longer hanging around to greet people there.  I think this is all in an effort to build a new Star Wars area, but that didn’t help us on this visit.

Overall, it felt like about 80% of what we wanted to do was open for us to do.  And no surprise, we still had to pay 100% of the admission to get in.  Again, I know closures are inevitable, but it sure seems like we hit the parks at their nadir.

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