Category Archives: Every Day Life

Lessons on Cord Cutting.

Cable bills are soaring. and we are getting less for our home entertainment dollar.  Some of us are cutting costs by either cutting back or eliminating our cable services. There are cheaper or even free.  I just want to cover a few tips.

Over the Air

The great broadcast television switch over to digital had a lot of people convinced that we were now completely reliant on our cable service for content. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Each broadcast channel has multiple available subchannels. From Galveston, I can receive about 77 channels. Some of them are religious, others Spanish or Asian channels. and a few are shopping channels. There is plenty of good stuff available. I was  somewhat surprised to find that a lot of the channels I got were local broadcast channels  and not cable channels.

I live about 50 – 70 miles away from the Broadcast towers. and my antenna is a smaller one that fits conveniently in  the attic. There are times that a few  channels  can’t be received, but most of them can be viewed reliably.  If one lives closer a pair of rabbit ears may be sufficient.  The video is digital. there is no shadow there is no ghosting ,there is no snow. whether the material is standard 480 or 1040P.

It’s worth nothing that there can be a clear difference in quality between the cable offerings and what you receive over the air. Comcast tends to compress pretty heavily.  while the over the stuff has  fewer artifacts and compression.

Content Streaming Hardware.

There are several ways to access the streaming content, my intent is not to give a comprehensive review but to cover the capabilities. available with each method. If you’re going to stream content you will need a good high-speed internet service.

Smart TVs

Smart TVs have streaming capabilities built into the Television itself.  The biggest advantage to  smart TVs is that the user only needs one remote., another is that it doesn’t use precious HDMI ports. The interface is  consistent and simple.  Access to the content are called Apps. Typically Apps that are available include Pandora, Netflix,  Hulu and a bunch of other mainstream services.  I have one of the original Visio sets, they recently dropped Amazon from the availability list. Probably due to the complexity and security that is involved with  the options of making purchases.  Unlike other devices. It’s not so simple to update the hardware and software when it’s integrated into the set. The external units are inexpensive enough to be disposable if the technology becomes obsolete.

Some addons devices such as Blue-Ray and game systems such as Xbox and PlayStation also have smart streaming capabilities.

Roku

The Roku is the Grandaddy of the of the streaming  add-on-box. It has a great interface and comes preloaded with a bunch of services. They come in different models, and have a huge choice of available programming. It’s reasonably priced particularly if one purchases one of the middle priced boxes or sticks, there isn’t much 4k quality to stream these days. I have 2 older boxes, They are not as flexible as the Amazon Fire Stick, and the remote is infrared so the box is line of sight, and the remote needs to be pointed at the box.

Google Chromecast Cast

The Chromestick takes a different approach.  You are to use a device, typically, a smartphone or tablet, although  a PC running chrome will work.  The apps are loaded into the phone.  you select a video that is broadcast from your Chromcast device out to your HDMI port.

I found Chromecast a little limited. First of all, they don’t support Amazon Prime. The other issue I had with it is that it relies on the phone.   Loading heavily burdened phones with dozens of more apps is awkward, at least to me it is.

Amazon Fire Stick

I have the Roku Chromecast, and the Firestick.  The only one that  we use these days is the Firestick.   It has a convenient  remote that is radio operated. so the remote doesn’t need to be pointed directly at the stick, would be difficult to do anyway because the stick is just a little bit bigger than a USB thumb drive that plugs into an HDMI port at the back of the set. It works with all the typical apps, including of course Amazon Video and music. The unit is cheap and like most Amazon services the delivery is quick and efficient.

If you subscribe to Amazon Prime there is quite a bit of free material available. This combined with the free downloadable books, and free delivery makes it a good value.  The Amazon Interface is good and easy to access.

While the choices available are as inclusive as any of the other hardware, it can be expanded even more with the addition of Kodi.

The Firestick operating system is written in Linux, the open sourced and widely understood operating system that runs many of our devices and computers.   Because of this third, party applications are easily written and can be added on. Kodi was originally written as a Linux computer program to catalog and stream video sources from around the internet.  Its was initially called XBMC, they probably figured the name Kodi was less intimidating for non-geeks. Installing Kodi is moderately complex, but can be done by carefully following directions. The firesticks can be bought preloaded for a moderate markup. There are a couple of different methods for loading Kodi, I used my computer and followed the instructions here. Loading can also be done directly by using the app called ES.

Additional streams can be accessed using  the Kodi addon Exodus, The content available here is less legitimate, but almost any content can be found. Old or new series for binge watching, and old or new Movies are all available. Exodus used to be called Genesis, I suppose the next version would be called Leviticus.

 

 

Nostalgia

I remember Station Wagons.

I remember gas cheaper than a quarter a gallon, Filling up  for 4 Bucks.

I remember when 20mpg was considered great millage.

I remember long distance phone calls.

I remember when computers were the size of a house and cost as much as a new school.

I remember never wearing a seat belt

I remember my first new TV 19″ for $300, Today its a 30 inch HD flat screen for the same money.

I remember riding in the back of a pickup.

I remember people heating their homes with coal boilers.

I Remember when there were  4 Vitamins A, B, C and D

I remember when margarine was good for you and butter bad.

I remember when eggs were good for you before they were bad ior you before they were good for you.

I remember mobs of black people rioting in the the streets.

I remember people spitting on on soldiers cause they didn’t like violence.

I remember when the VFW didn’t accept Vietnam Veterans, because they weren’t real Veterans.

I remember when All beer came from massive factories.

I remember when the only good wine came from Europe.  California wines were cheap and unsophisticated.

I remember 10 cent cokes from a machine.

I remember penny candy.

I remember “No Blacks Allowed”  signs.

I remember when Campbell’s Chicken noodle soup and a peanutbutter and jelly sandwich was a hearty healthy lunch.

I remember when Volkswagon bugs got more mileage out of their tires than they did the engines.

I remember Studebakers and Ramblers.

I remember when games with the family would involve a deck of playing cards.

I remember no shopping on Sunday.

I remember when the telephone company owned all the phones.

I remember when marijauna was for parties, and not for curing people.

I remember when Chrsitopher Columbus was a hero.

I remember the Sears catalog.

 

Spreading Myself Around.

A post here a post there. I I’ve been doing a little blogging about, or maybe it was some web maintenance. The good people that I work for, Process Control Outlet,  have a blog that we used to keep pretty active. Unfortunately it has not been maintained very well lately.  I did the appropriate updates, and put up a post mostly about LibreOffice 5 and Engineering Expodential Notatation.   If you don’t have LibreOffice this might be a good  time to try out this office suite.

This weekend, i got asked by my niece, Ashley, to help her with her new website.  She is just starting out on Suncandy, her custom jewelry  business, and her web site  had a couple of glitches.  I was pleasantly surprised that it also a WordPress site although with a custom template.  It wasn’t too difficult to straighten out the issues.  I look forward to helping her improve her site in the future.  I’m not into pretty jewelry, but her stuff is pretty kewl and all handcrafted.

Questions

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What is it with this rainbow thing? What does it have to do who you have sex with? and why are we calling people gay, The homosexuals get depressed as much if not more than normal people. Who is rewriting the dictionary? And why are people calling me wingnut?

An Austin Visit

Austin Bicycles
Rent a Bike

Went to Austin for a couple of days to the National Safety Council Convention and made a visit the State house.  I made a few observations.

  • In Texas a rifle is considered to be safety equipment. A few of the exhibitors were having drawings in which a rifle was the first prize.
  • If you are a CHL holder you will get treated special and allowed to take the short line and avoid the metal detectors when you visit the capitol building.
  • They love their bicycles in Austin.
  • Great entertainment can be had sitting on a bench on 6th street. We had finished dinner and heard a “Temptations” group across the street.  We listened to the concert for about an hour .. Very nice.
  • The blue bonnets were out in force.
  • Yeah, Austin is weird.

Got the Turbo Tax Blues

Turbo Tax has pulled the old bait and Switch. Things that we used to for the past 20 years  such as handling Rental  properties,capital gains and  small business deductions are no longer handled by the Basic or Deluxe versions of Turbo TAX. They have pulled the old Bait and Switch and pissed a lot of people off. Long story short. If you need Forms A B or C you will need to get the $75.  Premier Version. If you make deductions at all Basic version will not work.

The changes require customers to upgrade to more expensive versions if reporting investment, self-employment, or rental income — costing an extra $30 to $40 — and surprising many long-time Turbo customers.

“Imagine their surprise when they get halfway through doing their taxes and there is a roadblock in the program that says you have to upgrade,” added Dworsky.

“It can be viewed as a bait and switch, yes,” Prof. Bryan Menk told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Tuesday, “because people were not accustomed to this limitation in a prior year.”

HR Block is helping fight back, They are offering their software for free, to Turbo Tax Users who got screwed.

The Kansas City-based tax preparer (NYSE: HRB) announced it’s new “Switch to Block” program Monday, which offers its Deluxe + State desktop software free to any taxpayers who purchased Intuit’s TurboTax Basic or Deluxe software for 2014.

The offer from H&R Block comes at a time when TurboTax customers who itemize tax deductions through a Schedule A report will find that TurboTax Basic can no longer help them, so in order to file taxes they have to spend an additional $40 on an upgrade to TurboTax Deluxe. H&R Block’s basic software allows those same filers to use its basic software, which typically costs $19.95, but they can transfer for free right now.

While the offer is tempting I think I’m going to run with TaxACT regardless, we will not be using Turbo Tax anymore

Not as Bad as It Seems.

As we close out the old year and start the new one, it is a good time to get look at  where we are. Most of us tend to think the world  is pretty bad shape. Maybe it’s not as bad as we perceive.

Maybe Bill Gates explains it Best:

200 years ago 40%of all children died before the age of five. People didn’t have a chance to be literate or to read books, average life spans were less than 40 years. And so in a span of not to much time, even compared to human history, we have made unbelievable progress; the things we take for granted, the abilty to go out and learn things, to have air conditioning, tove clothing, to have a toilet is pretty phenomenal. So anyone who looks at capitalism and what it does and says, “Okay it’s been a net loss versus that life we had before.” I think there is a loss of perspective there.

Yeah, Its all about perspective.

There ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Tribal warfare in Africa, Yet things seem to be getting better, Our wars for the most part less deadly. We watch news eith its 24 hour cycle and we see war and the horrors of war, and the world seems to be comming apart at the seems. But is it as bad as it seems?

Judging the world through headlines is like judging a city by spending a night in A&E – you only see the worst problems. This may have felt like the year of Ebola and Isil but in fact, objectively, 2014 has probably been the best year in history. Take war, for example – our lives now are more peaceful than at any time known to the human species. Archaeologists believe that 15 per cent of early mankind met a violent death, a ratio not even matched by the last two world wars. Since they ended, wars have become rarer and less deadly. More British soldiers died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme than in every post-1945 conflict put together.

We face heathcare upheaval, Ebola killing thousands.  Our food is supposedly loaded with pesticides, herbacides and hormones. Genetically modified is gonna kill all of us who can’t afford to pay 4 times as much for Wholefood groceries.  It’s doom and gloom and we are all gonna die.  Would you believe that we actually aren’t doing that bad?

This helps explain why Bob Geldof’s latest Band Aid single now sounds so cringingly out-of-date. Africans certainly do know it’s Christmas – a Nigerian child is almost twice as likely to mark the occasion by attending church than a British one. The Ebola crisis has led to 7,000 deaths, each one a tragedy. But far more lives have been saved by the progress against malaria, HIV and diarrhoea. The World Bank’s rate of extreme poverty (those living on less than $1.25 a day) has more than halved since 1990, mainly thanks to China – where economic growth and the assault on poverty are being unwittingly supported by any parent who put a plastic toy under the tree yesterday.

Britons don’t need to look abroad for signs of progress. The Lancet report showed that, since 1990, life expectancy in Western Europe is up by five years – thanks, mainly, to fewer deaths from cancer and heart disease.

The 24 Hour news cycle brings attention to the violent world that we live in.  According to statistics perhaps there is something to entering the golden age of Aquarious.

Homiciderates

To be sure, adding up corpses and comparing the tallies across different times and places can seem callous, as if it minimized the tragedy of the victims in less violent decades and regions. But a quantitative mindset is in fact the morally enlightened one. It treats every human life as having equal value, rather than privileging the people who are closest to us or most photogenic. And it holds out the hope that we might identify the causes of violence and thereby implement the measures that are most likely to reduce it. Let’s examine the major categories in turn.

Homicide. Worldwide, about five to 10 times as many people die in police-blotter homicides as die in wars. And in most of the world, the rate of homicide has been sinking. The Great American Crime Decline of the 1990s, which flattened out at the start of the new century, resumed in 2006, and, defying the conventional wisdom that hard times lead to violence, proceeded right through the recession of 2008 and up to the present.

Happy New Year everyone!!

Demonstration In Brockton

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CAM00493 CAM00492 CAM00491 CAM00489 CAM00488 CAM00485 CAM00483 CAM00482 CAM00481 CAM00480 CAM00479 CAM00478They had a demonstration in my old home town of Brockton Mass. Despite the concerns of some. The demonstration was peaceful, ordely and well coordinated.  BPD was friendly and kept traffic moving.

 

 

 

 

Lighting Up

Obama lighting up.
Obama lighting up.

Its OK to laugh. You know its funny.  I used to have a thing about Cuban cigars. but these days I think the Nicaragan and Dominican are every bit as good and cheaper.

Hamming things Up

I’ve been playing with my radios this weekend, tweeking some settings, adding frequencies and deleting others.  All the while trying to keep some consistency between the three different radios.  I also set the FT-8800 to work as a cross band repeater.  This will allow me to walk around freely with a handheld, and  still use the power of a more powerful radio. Pretty kewl !!

I made some changes to my ham page I included a list of local repeaters with the settings. This might prove useful to a new ham or someone new or visiting the area.