Category Archives: Blog

Blog

Home Entertainment TV Observations

After setting up a new household, network, and entertainment devices I have observed the following items.  My apologies for not going in depth with device names and photos and statistics……….I’m trying to keep this as simple a read as possible.

We have a smart TV and several smart devices.  Roku, Firestick, Apple TV, and HDHomeRun for Live TV connected to an antenna.

Quick observations:

  • Wireless devices and TV’s are the norm.  You have to pay bigger $$’s to get an ethernet port.  Streaming video and hi res is more likely to glitch over wifi.
  • All have abandoned Optical out for audio.  They seem to think that all devices operate perfectly over HDMI or that no one has an older Audio Visual (AV) system.
  • The HDHomeRun app only provides audio on some TV sets if set to Dolby Audio.

Granted I have older stuff but still.  Anyone with anything more than a few years old might have an AV system or surround sound system that worked on Optical or Digital out.  All these new devices seem to be HDMI only.

I have a Polk Audio sound bar on one TV that was several hundred dollars (came with the house) and isn’t that old.  It DOES NOT connect to HDMI.  So if I want to use a Roku AND THE SOUND BAR …………..it ain’t gonna happen.  In order to use the sound bar I have to hook up a super old (2015 era) Apple TV that I have.  Yeah it works but Apple no longer supports those devices and you just don’t get updated apps, etc. for them.

In other words, there is no backwards compatibility.

You would think that at a Tech Blog the guy writing it would only have the latest and greatest.  Well, let me tell you something about the latest.

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Sayonara Uncle Sam

Well, here it is.  The day we all wait for.  Retirement.  My official work counter shows me at 37 years and 8 months and retiring as a GS-13 Step 9.

We’re quite a ways from 1982 when I went through the gates at Great Lakes Naval Training Command.  Imagine being 19 years old and departing boot camp and reporting to an aircraft carrier in dry dock.  I’m not scared of heights but when I looked down that dry dock at the USS Carl Vinson in its entirety I got a little bit of vertigo.   Not to mention the whole ship is a gigantic maze with no cheese at the end.

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Credit Alert Interactive Verification Reporting System (CAIVRS)

I bet you never heard of Credit Alert Interactive Verification Reporting System (CAIVRS) before.

CAIVRS was established by the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency in June of 1987.  It is a database of Social Security Numbers that are in default regarding federal loans such as Student Loans, Small Business Loans, VA Loans, etc.

The following agencies report to CAIVRS:

  • Department of Agriculture
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Small Business Administration
  • Department of Justice

If you default on a loan or credit card it goes to your credit report which is accessible to you.  However, if you default on a Federal Student Loan it is not reported to your credit file.  It is only reported to CAIVRS.

YOU WILL NEVER KNOW YOU WERE A VICTIM OF IDENTITY THEFT UNLESS YOU APPLY FOR FEDERAL MONEY.

I just applied for a VA loan for a new home and was notified by my lender that I was delinquent on a Federal Student Loan and that I could not get my VA loan until this issue was cleared up.  I immediately knew this was inaccurate because I HAVE NEVER HAD A STUDENT LOAN.

I called the Department of Education Student Loan Debt Resolution ……………… let that sink in a moment.   This problem is so huge apparently that they have their own departmental offices.

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Fixing Your Own Stuff – Washing Machine

Samsung washer playing dead

Hear a noise from your washing machine?  Call a repairman and you’ll pay them $100 just to ring your doorbell.  They’ll charge you double for parts and charge you labor as well.

A lot of new washers (or dryers) cost in the $400 and up range so you’ve hit the price point where you just are prepared to buy another one.  Ever wonder why Appliance guys are happy to haul your old stuff away for free?  They know there really isn’t much wrong with it.  They can fix it and resell it, probably to someone looking for a new washer because theirs is broke.

I am NOT knocking appliance repair people.  That’s just how it is.  That has been the system for years.   But the new system is FIX IT YOURSELF.  Everything that has ever broken has a YouTube video attached to it.

But now a lot of manufacturers are responding to that by not selling spare parts and not publishing manuals.  That’s wrong, and many states are enacting legislation to stop them from doing such things.  The premise is, that once I buy it, it is mine and I can fix it, destroy it, paint pink unicorns on it…….IF I WANT TO.  And they can’t, or rather shouldn’t be able to stop that.

So my girlfriend has a Samsung washing machine and it started sounding like a tire mechanic was laying down on an impact wrench when the spin cycle started.  A real ratcheting sound.

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SiliconeDust HDHomerun HDHR5-4US Connect Quatro 4 Channel Tuner Review

HDHomerun Quatro

For years I had a SiliconDust HDHomerun Connect Duo HDHR4-2US.  The HDHomerun devices are network TV Tuners that can turn any device on the network into a television.

In short you can install an antenna, hook it to the HDHomerun, then plug in the ethernet cord to your home router or switch.

Rather than run wires all through the house you can then watch on just about any smart TV device (Firestick, Kodi on Raspberry Pi, or Roku, but only on Apple TV with 3rd party media servers).  Or you can watch on your iPhone, Android, or Tablet.

In short, it is an amazing device that any cord cutter should have.  Yep you can install an antenna directly to your TV without a $100 box in the middle but then that TV is the only place you can see it.  A network tuner really expands your ability to connect. Not only that but I can VPN into my network and watch local TV from ANYWHERE.  It isn’t something I do a lot but every once in a while I might want to see the weather or local news.

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Over The Air Television Antennas

Mohu 60 Antenna

I am a cord cutter.  In fact, since returning to the US in 2015 I never once bought cable.

Having previously lived in Japan I used the Armed Forces Network (AFN) satellite and had Netflix and Hulu.

So when I came back I stuck an antenna (Mohu 60) in the attic and got internet in the house and called it good.  After much fumbling around pointing the antenna and purchasing a high gain preamplifier  I was able to get ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and PBS at my location.

When I go camping I watch Over The Air (OTA) television too. Usually internet connections are not that reliable at the campground and I don’t want to use all my hotspot data on Netflix or whatever.  I’m perfectly content to watch broadcast TV when I’m just sitting around between adventures or if it is raining or something.  Besides, I’m a MeTV mark.  I love watching all those old shows from my youth.

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Fixing Household Appliances – Revisited

One of my neighbors sat out a washing machine that looked pretty doggone viable for the Friday “Big Trash” city pickup.   I got a hold of him and asked what was wrong with it and if he minded if I took it.   Before I get into this story I did tell him that if it was a simple fix I’d give it back to him and after I fixed it I did indeed offer it back to him.  He declined, and stated he had already replaced it and of course he had set it out to dispose of.

I just don’t want anyone to think I would take advantage of a neighbor.

Anyway it was a General Electric WDSR2080D5WW.  The serial number indicates that it was made in September of 2005.

GE Washing Machine

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Fitness and Health and Tech

Once upon a time I weighed in at over 300 lbs.  How much over, I don’t know because your average scale doesn’t go over 300 lbs.  I went to the doctor and he told me I’d never make it to 40.  That may have been the one time in my life that someone said something and it actually made me take serious notice.  He wrote me a prescription for all kind of stuff.  I declined to fill the prescriptions and stated I knew what the problem was.  I was too damn fat.  So he tells me he wants to see me back in 45 days.

It’s at this point I decide to change things.  I was sent TAD to Pax River Maryland when I did my first treadmill exercise.  I didn’t even own any exercise equipment.  I ran the treadmill in boxers and black socks, no shoes. I must have been quite a sight.  I ran a mile and I wished it would have killed me.  By the end of the trip I was running my miles daily and kinda digging it.

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Lensatic Compass and Compass Skills

Cammenga 3H Tritium

Yeah, this is a Tech blog but sometimes you just gotta be old school.  Compasses are pretty old school and in fact the first compass known was about 206 BC!  And they were used for navigation first around 1040 AD.

I use a compass to align satellite dishes.  Radio is my hobby and I track satellites such as Inmarsat or NOAA GOES Weather Satellites for fun.

Every phone has a compass but I find them to be wildly off, at least on the iPhone.  However, if you dabble around on the internet other users will tell you they nail satellites with iPhone compasses all the time.   THIS HAS DEFINITELY NOT BEEN MY EXPERIENCE.  They either posses great skills or are lucky as heck.  Or maybe it is geographical.  I dunno.

But I do know a real compass works just fine and a real compass doesn’t need a battery charge or has a screen that’s hard to see in direct sunlight.

And here is the theme of this blog entry:  MOST PEOPLE HAVE NO CLUE HOW TO USE A COMPASS AND THIS IS AS VALUABLE A SKILL AS SWIMMING, RIDING A BIKE, HUNTING, FISHING, ETC.  IF YOU CAN’T USE A COMPASS YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

Yeah, you’re laughing at me.  But you laughed at me before the Hurricanes, and you laughed at me before COVID 19.  This Country Boy™ can survive.

Let’s learn some more about the humble compass……….

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