WiFi Woes Part 1 – The Hardware

| by Ken | in Technology 2 Comments »

10 years ago, WiFi needs were simple. WiFi was a nice to have and I put the router in the attic of the house so the signal could reach all of the house. We have what is called a “two and a half” story house which means that we have two living floors plus an attic you can walk up to. It’s not a big house as each floor isn’t very large, but we do have a cube, more or less, where our height is about the same as the length and width, not including the attic and the basement. Therefore, the signal in the attic meant good coverage to the second floor below it where my office is and adequate coverage of the first floor. The basement had basically zero coverage but who cares – it’s a basement.

Shortly after we got some WiFi cameras and a dedicated camera viewer device that needed to work well on the first floor.  We also had people visiting with WiFi enabled laptops.  So the WiFi needs had escaped the office and were now everywhere in the house.  I added an older router to use as an access point in the first floor kitchen and that had our coverage working pretty well.

Now, of course, WiFi is all important.  The wife’s iPad, our two smartphones, my new tablet, all are primary devices now.  And everything we do on them needs the network.  And the WiFi setup I had setup years ago just wasn’t cutting it for these modern needs.  For years, the cameras and camera viewer have been dropping out frequently.  It’s frustrating, but hardly mission critical.  More recently, I noticed that when I am home and check my e-mail on my phone through WiFi, the e-mail has to wait about 1 minute for it to decide if can get messages and it frequently gives up.  On the other hand, if I leave the house and am only on the cell network, my e-mail zips right through in an instant.  That’s not the way it is supposed to work.  What good is WiFi if I’m better off with the cell network?

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Teclast X16 Pro Tablet

| by Ken | in Technology No Comments »

A month ago, I wrote about what I was looking for in a tablet and why I thought the Teclast X16 Pro was the right choice.  Now, the tablet has arrived and I have had a chance to play around with it.  So in this post, I’m going to talk about getting the tablet shipped form China and what I think of it so far.

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Years ago I set up a share on my Mac’s Media hard drive so that I could share the iTunes files with MythTV.  (Note that I did this before MythMusic was ruined – not that it was great before but at least it was usable.)  Now, various upgrades later, the CIFS share is no longer visible on MythTV.  The share root shows up but nothing shows up inside.  Even though MythMusic is no longer pleasant to use, it may be again someday.  (Or may already be as of this writing but I haven’t yet updated MythTV to get the improvement).  And it does fulfill a purpose occasionally.  So I wanted to get it working again.

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MythTV Volume Too Low Over HDMI

| by Ken | in Technology No Comments »

This one has been bothering me for ages.  I set up the receiver to get the HDMI signal from the computer running MythTV.  And for those not previously familiar with my MythTV builds, I use Mythbuntu for my builds.  So basically, my Ubuntu’s computer HDMI output was too low for the receiver.

How would one measure “too low”?  Well, if the receiver is turned up to nearly max volume and your kids can drown out the voices on the TV, then the output from MythTV is too low.  Also, when switching sources on the receiver from plain old FM to MythTV, the volume would drop significantly.  So it’s been clear I’ve had an issue and I have been turning the receiver up to compensate.  Now it’s time to fix it.

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I’d kept the old Hacintosh going for a while but I still wanted to be able to use iCloud on it.  So I had found a way to get the Address Book app to forcibly connect to the iCloud server.  Now on the new Hacintosh, I didn’t need that any more and the normal iCloud behavior works well with the new Contacts app.  Except because I did a user transfer, and because the transfer process is so thorough, it picked up the old server and faithfully moved it to the new computer.  So for a while, I’ve had two iCloud accounts visible where one of them fails to work; it’s been confusing and annoying.  But I couldn’t remember how I had gone about adding the iCloud account and therefore what I would need to do to remove it.

Today I finally got around to finding the instructions I had followed to set up that link in the first place.  Ah-ha, so there’s a folder in ~/Library/Application Support/AddressBook/Sources that corresponds to each source.  Inside each of the folders in this directory is a Configuration.plist file and only one of those files showed evidence of the hack from before.  The second to last key in the file is username and the string value that follows showed the %40icloud.com:password string that I had input to get it working.  Therefore, the easy way to clean out that whole source is to simply move the directory that contains the old hacked Configuration.plist to somewhere temporary, like the desktop.  Once I was able to confirm that the Contacts app comes up with the right info and no longer includes the dead hack, I could delete that folder from the temporary location.

Over a year ago I needed to replace my 2001 Audi S4’s front speakers because the driver’s side had gone all kazoo on me.  You know that paper buzzing noise when a speaker dies.  It probably bothers me more than it bothers most people but it drives me bonkers.  Like a fly buzzing around my head.  And when I did that replacement, I discovered that the premium system original equipment Bose speakers were actually paper cone speakers with traditional construction.  And I discovered then that the speakers in this car were frequently failing in this way with a number of people complaining about them and finding ways to replace them.

So it wasn’t at all surprising when the rear door speakers started making the kazoo noise too.  Again, the time when it was most prevalent was on AM newsradio, not on what I would thought would be more challenging metal music.  But as I have come to learn, AM newsradio is actually pretty challenging because it’s all boomy lower midrange – exactly the sweet spot for the Bose speakers.  This time, however, I thought about just disconnecting the speaker and walking away.  Unlike the front door speakers which along with the small tweeter near the door handle are responsible for the sound for the front seat area, the back seat area has both the rear door speakers and the rear deck speakers.  And not only are the rear deck speakers bigger than the rear door speakers but the rear deck speakers fire up towards the glass with sound reflections filling the car whereas the rear door speakers fire at the rear passenger’s feet with seemingly little sound radiating out of the footwell area.

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Hacintosh 9020 Hardware Summary

| by Ken | in Technology 1 Comment »

10 months ago, I finally got my new Hacintosh built and got it stable enough to switch to.  I had written blog posts about it then but saved them until I had a chance to confirm it was all good.  And then I forgot about them and there were some tech issues with the blog hosting provider, etc. not to mention still wanting to get Handoff working and the subsequent problem with the Media hard drive.  Now, however, I think I can declare complete victory and finally sum it all up.

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Last November, I switched my work domain, including this blog, over to Siteground due to tech problems and turmoil at the prior ISP.  I’ve long wanted to get the personal domain under the same technical umbrella as the work one so I didn’t have to maintain two.  I had registered both work and personal domains with Yahoo long ago.  It was so long ago, in fact, that the personal one was actually registered through GeoCities while the work one was through Yahoo Small Business.  Options were few at the time.  The annual price stayed pretty consistent for years and the service level stayed steady so it was easy to stay put.  But while price and service stayed level at Yahoo, price decreased elsewhere and service options increased.  That’s why I had switched my work domain years ago.

So now over a decade later, Yahoo is also in turmoil.  Their main business has eroded to be a fraction of what it had been at one time and their almost accidental investment in Alibaba has turned into their main business due to the rocketing growth of Alibaba.  Consequently, they are planning major restructuring including some sort of major change to their web services.  They’ve been planning to spin off the web services as Aabaco.  But that spinoff was abruptly halted due to Yahoo not getting the favorable tax rulings they were hoping for.  And yet since the tech plans were already in motion, Yahoo went through with the change in services to Aabaco while remaining, technically, part of Yahoo.  The result is that I need a new login and password to get to the web hosting and domain control panels.  But when I click to view the control panels, I see the same Yahoo control panel that has been there for ages.  And to see e-mail for my Aabaco-hosted domain, I need to log in to Yahoo mail with the original Yahoo login and password.  The reason Yahoo has any web hosting customers today is because those customers have been able to stay put and not be forced into dealing with changes – there is no other advantage to staying with Yahoo.  And now with these recent changes, there’s an additional layer of confusion added on top of the aged mediocrity of their hosting system.  I don’t see them succeeding with this plan.  And besides, for me, this serves as a perfect excuse for me to finally do what I had been wanting to do for years: move the personal stuff to where the business stuff is and have only one system to deal with.

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Blog Printing To Book

| by Ken | in Technology No Comments »

I’ve long wanted to archive a whole blog to a book – not this blog, but a different private one.  I used the platform to blog about family stuff and post pictures and having a permanent record of it, both in electronic book form and physical printed form will help ensure it’s longevity.  Long after the current WordPress version is a laughable footnote in web history, PDFs will be able to be opened and presumably people will still know what to do with a physical book.  So I’ve been wanting to do this for a while but haven’t known where to start.  Or even when to do it.  Due to the recent Yahoo nuttiness, I had made the plan to switch hosting providers and as long as I was switching providers, now seemed like the time.  But how to get started…

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Hacintosh Hard Drive Failure

| by Ken | in Technology 1 Comment »

Just when I thought everything on my Hacintosh was in good shape, I hit a snag.  Shortly after installing the new WiFi/BT combo card to get Handoff working, I discovered a problem with a hard drive.  I keep all of my pictures and music and movies on a separate 750GB hard drive.  It means that I can back it up separately and that the hard drive can spin down and rest more often than the main drive that sees constant activity.  It also means that when I want to upgrade the computer, as I did last year, I just remove the disk from the old computer and install it in the new one.

With all this stuff going on recently with the computer, you’d think that I’d get a back up done.  You’d be wrong.  So one night when I sat down to finally get to work on some 2015 pictures, I clicked to open iPhoto and it came up asking me where the iPhoto library was.  Well that’s silly, I thought it’s right…  it’s right…  on the disk that is…  Uh-oh.  Where’s that disk?  I rebooted and this time the disk came up with a warning saying that it couldn’t mount the disk.  Did I want to reformat?  No!  Okay, so clearly we have a serious problem with the disk.

The first step was to get my hands on “testdisk” again.  I had used it before and while I wasn’t a fan of the tool, it seemed perfect for this – the data appeared to be there but the partition scheme couldn’t be used to mount anything.  So the plan was to have testdisk put it back.  I tried using testdisk in MacOS and just found it too painful.  Everything was super slow.  I booted up in Linux and testdisk ran easily and quickly and confirmed that everything about the disk was fine – just bad partition info.  I wrote the partition info back to the disk and rebooted to MacOS.  No luck, same problem.  Hmm..  What now?

Well, given that this hard drive is not new and that this hard drive contains lots of important stuff on it.  And given that this 750 GB drive was nearly full.  Maybe it’s time to get a new and bigger drive?  I made a quick stop at MicroCenter and picked up a new WD Black 2TB drive for $130.  I used Clonezilla to clone the existing drive, then I confirmed in MacOS that the new drive was up and working.  Finally, I resized the 750 GB partition to now use all of the available space on the disk.  And I’m back in business.

A couple of additional thoughts about this failure and the repair.  I had problems with the cloning operation and the recovery operation and MacOS wouldn’t do the Repair Disk (necessary after the clone) or the resize when the hard drive was connected through my SATA card.  It didn’t matter if the connection was on the internal SATA card port or the eSATA port – either way, it wouldn’t work.  I needed to have it connected directly to the motherboard.

And it’s worth noting that when I initially started swapping SATA cables to get the drive connected to a port on the motherboard I discovered that the cable was somewhat loose in the SATA card’s internal port.  Those ports aren’t locking ports and the card is right next to the new WiFi/BT card I had just installed.  So it’s possible that I bumped the cable and that the problem was my doing where the loose cable caused bad data to be written to the drive.  It’s even possible that the drive was actually fine all along and that it was just a loose wire.  But I suspect if that were really the case, that I either would have not been able to read the drive at all or that the drive would have worked fine.  It doesn’t make sense to me that a not full secure wire would lead to the Mac knowing that there was a drive attached but not being able to mount it.  Who knows, maybe the SATA spec is such that the side of the cable that was loose was the data side while the side that wasn’t was some sort of connection info set of pins.  Regardless, once the drive started looking flaky to me, it had to go – trust was lost and would never be regained.

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