I had a fit when I found out that the Justice Department was “threat tagging” American citizens who dared to speak out at school board meetings. It was at that point I knew I needed to go dark on my personal communications.
Now, don’t think I went into full Prepper or Patriot mode. I still have a few regular email accounts and I’ll still use them for various things. I use gmail for a spam trap. And getting emails from Amazon and all the other marketing crap can still come in through good ol’ dot Mac.
But if you are a human carrying out conversation with me, especially any kind of business or family business or especially communications with lawyers………….our email is going to be encrypted. I even changed the email address on my “Contact Me” tab of this page.
So lets talk about the service I’m using………….ProtonMail. I’ve had a ProtonMail account for years, but I almost never used it. I got it because I was going to hire a lawyer for something once and the first thing he did was direct me to get a ProtonMail account so our communications would be private.
Now more than ever in this Social Media day and age I think it is important to encrypt your private communications. Most people think they are boring but as the current news feeds amplify, if you dare speak out on a subject you may be a target. I won’t get into details beyond that but …….why not encrypt your on-line conversations? No one needs to know what you like and don’t like, and what you stand for or don’t stand for. Or what your vaccination status is.
If you think Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo are not spying on you there is no hope for you. You need to move on from here. Email encryption is nothing new and in fact I remember the first consumer grade stuff ………Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) in the mid 90’s. It was super cool but people just would not take the extra steps to do this. I suspect they still won’t. But they should.
There are several secure email services and in this blog I will focus on ProtonMail They use end to end encryption and if you have a ProtonMail account and you email someone that doesn’t…….you can still create an encrypted environment.
ProtonMail is web based, and for most of you that isn’t an issue. You are used to logging into your Gmail or Yahoo account on a web browser, so don’t let this scare you. You’re simply using another service except this one is more secure.
Let’s move on with this discussion.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ll keep this one short and simple. Go to antennaweb.org
Type in your address. Results will come in a table and then a map. Here is the table.
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.
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.
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