OpInionAteD - Menno Aartsen Rants and Raves - September 14, 2023

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Thursday September 14: Rich or Happy?

Keywords: rich, power, passport, consulate, vegan, food, diet, alcohol, weight loss
first fall dayPicture taken into the low morning sun outside my building at the tail end of summer, I thought it was pretty, especially with some folks waiting for the regular bus, and for the school bus, now that school is back in session in King County. It is still mostly sunny, and there's not been a lot of rain, according to the agriculturalists. But sun is fine with me, and the mountains still show sizeable snow caps.

Here's what a Guardian writer wrote about rich individuals, recently: "When rich people convince themselves that they’re rich because they’re smart – instead of lucky and ruthless – they misapply their talents to areas beyond their expertise." The article had Elon Musk as the subject, and the prime example. To be honest, I am not sure that's correct. I've met, and known, some rich folks, one of my ex-wives married a billionaire, and my expeerience has been that those folks get rich (exceptions excepted) because they'd learned how to make lots of money, and keep doing it. I think getting rich is itself a talent, one you apply because you want to. I don't know that "lucky" or "ruthless" come into it. If you're lucky, you get rich, and then you can lose it again; if you're ruthless, you may make lots of money, but you take a lot of risk, and the happiness may be make-believe. I don't know that you can "convince" yourself you're smart - you're smart, or you're not, it is not a misconception, not a figment of one's imagination. I don't know that Elon Musk is rich because he wanted to be, he's just someone who decided he wanted influence and power, and with that, more often than not, comes money. You can get rich if you're good at manipulating, but that does not mean you have the skillset to hang on to the wealth. So yes, Musk is rich, but I doubt that that is the goal he set out with.

This year, for the first time, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs has enabled passport renewals in or near one's home town, in the United States (I don't know about the rest of the world). A Dutch Pop-Up Consulate has been doing the rounds, even coming to Seattle. While in the past I was able to do those renewals in New York or D.C., when I lived there, now that I live on the West Coast, the last time I had to go up to Vancouver, British Columbia, as that was the nearest consulate. This time I could just make an appointment at a WeWork location in downtown Seattle. They took my current passport, and the new one won't get here for weeks, so hopefully I won't have to travel in that period..

Interesting article in The Guardian written by a professor who switched from regular food to vegan food, and made some scientific (really?) comparisons. He says vegan is better. I am disinclined to agree with him, as the prospect does not attract me, and my weight loss, quite unplanned, came from giving up alcohol. Humans, I think, are designed for mixed nutrition, just look at the complex biological systems animals need to sustain themselves on grass and other veggies. Yes, we've got a food problem, mostly caused, methink, by overpopulation, indcluding the vast numbers of completely useless pets in cities.

So yes, giving up alcohol, as in, cold turkey, not a drop in the past year-and-a-half, and yes, I was a "functioning alcoholic", and had been for fourty-five or so years. But the weight loss came as a complete surprise, some thirty pounds of it, in the space of a few months, and when I stopped I wasn't fat or overweight, or so I thought. I did have a tummy, and that's completely gone, to the point that my GP, the other day, said I should not lose any more weight. And again, this wasn't intentional, triggered by a repeated liver status warning by my rheumatologist, who religiously checks these things because of the medication she puts me on.


Tuesday September 5: Vacuum is a gentle Art

Keywords: Hauppauge, Hauppauge 1682 tuner, broadcast TV, USB3, robot vacuum, iLife, remote, WiFi, HEPA
Couple of years ago, I bought two refurbished robot vacuums, one to use, the other as spare. It's a habit - when I run into discounted household equipment, I usually get two, so that once a unit breaks I don't have to shell out lots of unexpected money to get a replacement. But one of these vacuums - made by iLife - came without remote, but was WiFi/phone compatible, using a downloadable app. It's been sitting in its box since then, I didn't download the app and try it out, as the other vacuum came with a remote, and has been working well since I got it, so that was that.

Hauppauge ATSC adapter I recently bought some replacement filters and brushes for the "in use" vacuum, and then decided to try and get the WiFi version going, didn't know if that even worked. Long story short, the Google app store had five or six different versions of the iLife remote control app, but none of those mentioned the model vacuum I have, the A-7. So I ended up downloading and installing various different app versions, each of which you have to generate a login and password for, but not until the fourth version did the app tell me it was compatible with the A-7. Now that I have that installed, it actually works very well, you give the app your WiFi router login, and it magically connects. It provides a fully functional remote control, I've tested that but not yet used the unit, which is doing its initial charge. It can schedule cleaning runs, a function I don't plan on using, and I understand it can keep a map of where it's been and what it's done, and where its power dock is. So we'll see, kinda cool, the vacuum only cost me $110, and now that I've found its accessories (weirdly, most are at Amazon UK - order there, and the accessories come from China, for something silly, like 4 pounds) so I've been able to order spares. Solid units, these iLife vacuums, and they take (expensive) HEPA filters. Keep you posted. I used to clean the filters, but now I've gone to cleaning them every run, and replace them once a month, realizing that HEPA filters clog up like there is no tomorrow.

I have increasingly noticed that equipment manuals omit lots of things - only the other day I found that the Hauppauge TV decoder has a number of capabilities (wot we used to refer to as "undocumented features") that aren't mentioned anywhere, neither in a manual (if there even is one) or at the support website. The Hauppauge is a point in fact - on my ancient Toshiba Windows laptop (manually upgraded from Win 7 to Win 10 Pro) Hauppauge's WinTV 10, and the decoder, installed smoothly. On my HP 2570 Windows 10 Pro the install failed miserably - WinTV 10 didn't "see" the decoder on any of its USB3 ports. But when I tried to install the older Windows 8 version of WinTV, it did see the decoder, and ran! I have no idea why any of that happened, and if it hadn't been for my habit of wantonly experimenting, I would not have been able to get it to run. Interestingly, when I installed just the Windows 8 drivers for the decoder on my HP 2560, which runs Windows 8.1 Pro, I could get the decoder to work with Windows Media Center - even using multiple tuners simutaneously. I could only do that by getting the Windows 8 installer for WinTV to start up, and then break it off before it installed the software package. Go figure. So I've got the Hauppauge decoder to run on all of my computers, and especially recording on the Windows Media Center, where it will record multiple TV chanels simultaneously, now that I have found a USB3/Expresscard port adapter that works (the 2560 has USB2 ports, which aren't fast enough for the decoder). Cool, eh?


Sunday August 20: Broadcast TV Revisited

Keywords: Hauppauge, Hauppauge 1682 tuner, broadcast TV, USB3, EPG, Windows Media Center, Windwos 8.1 Pro, HP 2560p
Hauppauge ATSC adapter Using two older HP notebooks, one of which runs Wndows 8.1 Pro, so I can record broadcast TV using an ATSC USB dongle, I worry that that laptop will conk out one day, and Windows 8.1 was the last version that came with "Windows Media Center", an app that lets you watch, record, and play back broadcast television. I'd been looking for something to replace it, but most of the dongles on the market come with USB2 (slow) and dodgy applications that don't have a useful electronic program guide - an EPG. While Microsoft discontinued its EPG a while ago, there is a third party application that can read program information into Windows, that's what i have been using since. So the question was: if I need to replace my Windows 8.1 laptop, what will I use for a third party Media Center that will talk to my ATSC dongle?

Long story short: Hauppauge, an electronics firm out of Long Island that makes TV and video adapters, recently came up with a nifty little box with USB3, that comes with a Media Center app, and multiple tuners. Brilliantly, with it USB 3.0/3.1 interface, it is capable of recording multiple channels simultanously, So I'll be able to move this contraption, with the application that comes with it, to my Windows 10 Pro laptop, should that be necessary, and eventually to Windows 11, once I get going with that. The reason I am still using Windows 8.1 was the Media Center, so that problem is solved, for a couple hundred bucks. Swell. It is the Hauppauge 1682, BTW. Cheap at Hauppauge, but "out of stock", a bit more expensive on Amazon, but available. Go figure.

Completely to my amazement, the 1682, which comes with its own Windows 10/11 app, works fine on my Windows 8.1 Pro setup, which has Microsoft's Media Center. All I needed to do was download the older Windows 8 package from Hauppauge's website, let it start its install, but stop it when it wanted to install its software package. The first thing the installer does is set up and update the drivers, and those are fully compatible with Windows Media Center. Once you've done all that, Media Center accepts all four built in tuners, and is able to record multiple channels at the same time. In face, it even runs with a single channel using a USB 2.0 port, which I had not expected. Backwards compatible, as they say..


Tuesday July 4: Happy Fourth!

Keywords: heat pump, rheumatologist, cortisone, Cooper & Hunter, Holland, Australia, Schedules Direct, EPG123
C&H heat pumpNo particular reason to post on the Fourth, today just happens to be That Day. We celebrated (that is, the folks in my building) on Sunday, on our sunny patio, these days with our new electric BBQ, which means we don't have to smoke up the folks who live at the back, no more charcoal, what with many windows open - though there are now quite a few folks with subsidized electric who have HUD-subsidized A/C units, what with the climate in the Pacific Northwest warming up steadily. It's climate change - the electric heating had been subsidized for years.

Annoyingly, my GP will still not let me go to the gym - I had my annual physical a few days ago, but she still feels that with my immune condition, COVID remains too much of a risk. I am happy to comply though, I still (like many others) wear a face mask when in the supermarket or a store, I just wish the stats were better, but they are not. I do walk, and actually have taken to not using the elevator in my building, stairs are much better for one's health (not in any way related to COVID, btw).

Ths pic to the left shows the top view of my new C&H heat pump in the bedroom - I really like the design, and much to my surprise it was cheap-ish, well designed, very silent, and very powerful (=cold). I am saying "cold" as I can't test its heating capacity until the fall, of course. I bought the bits I need to install an external drain pump, but so far it evaporates its moisture just fine, so I may not need to put that together at all. We shall see...

Watching the news, I see the lines at the airports, here, on the other coast, and even in Europe, are horrendous. Glad I am not going anywhere - I wouldn't mind visiting my sister in Holland, and I was supposed to visit Andy in Australia, but I am not sure either will happen anytime soon. Mind you, Australia is a good place to go in winter, when it is summer there. Let me see if the price is right...

My excellent rheumatologist got my right hand working properly again, thanks to a well placed steroid shot in my hand (sort of where the hand meets the wrist). It took a number of days, but I am close to pain free - I may go back for another shot if it doesn't "fix" itself completely. I've had numerous steroid joint shots, over the years, sort of never quite stops. I once flew from the Philipines, where I couldn't find a competent rheumatologist, to Singapore, to get just such a shot. Medical care has improved greatly, in SE Asia, over the years, I hasten to add, this was a while ago.

Why I keep losing the Schedules Direct function in the EPG123 broadcast TV tuning app in my Windows 8.1 laptop is beyond me. I lost bit by bit of its functioning, and then, today, I recovered it by adding a lineup in an adjoining ZIP code. I won't know 'till the morn' if it is now functioning properly - it was recording even though it said it wasn't able to tune. No idea why, but it now seems to be back to working normally. There is now a tuner set for Windows 11, but I'll need to buy a new laptop before I can use that, my HP 2560 can't run Windows 11, nor does it have the USB3 ports that TV tuner can use - a device that would preclude my using the old Windows Media Center. So we soldier on...


Wednesday June 14: Shopping and surgery

Keywords: heat pump, rheumatologist, cortisone, fence, Hotspot, 5G, knee surgery
There are several reasons why I am blogging less than I used to - for one thing, I've been having (presumably arthritic) problems with my right wrist, which is the side I use to operate the touchpad and controls on my Bluetooth keyboard. I suppose I could have tried to switch to the left hand, but that never occurred to me. At any rate, I've waited to see if the wrist would improve, after seeing my rheumatologist, and now I've gone and gotten a cortisone shot. I should give that a week or so, cortisone, when a joint is forced, can do more harm than good (I have experience).

fence with rose I do like that rose peeking through the fence - it's actually out back in the trash storage enclosure, which is why nobody's messed with it, I guess. Otherwise an uneventful week, moved (with a neighbour's help) my old portable heat pump into my SUV, so I can take it to Goodwill, and that was an excellent moment to check tire- and suspension pressure, and replace the phone holder that's been on my windshield since 1880, that I discovered won't accomodate my new T-Mobile 5G handset. Not that I use that phone while driving, but I'd like to use it as my dashcam, since I has a huge bettery and a set of hires camera's. Being a 5G device, I could even use it as a mobile hotspot for my Blackberry. Yeah! Let's try that right now..

Well, that worked beautifully. Once I activate the Hotspot on 5G, and mount the handset on the windshield, I can set its video camera running, and my Blackberry will automatically use the Hotspot. That's brilliant. Not only that, at that point the Blackberry will have WiFi calling in the car. That's new, and very convenient - I'll have to see how well 5G works inside a steel box. We'll have to see about the data use anyway, but one thing at a time.

I've been helping a neighbour who has recently had knee surgery - a friend stayed with her for a while, but she's able to move around again, and today I took her shopping, giving her car some exercise at the same time, as she's not driving right now. She's doing well, but older folk with knee surgery, that always worries me a bit, you never know how careful a person is, when they need to be. Anyway, we can do these trips for as long as she needs them, thankfully, we both frequent the same supermarket, at least I know where to find everything, always a problem when you're not familiar with a store. In her case, since she can't stand to cook for periods of time yet, lots and lots of frozen ready meals..


Sunday May 28: Re-installing things

Keywords: heat pump, dual hose, notebook, HP2560p, USB3, Windows 8.1, FedEx, Kohberger, Indiana, Cooper & Hunter
14ton C&H heat pump My older HP 2560p notebook does not have USB3 ports, just USB2, and I had bought an Expresscard adapter for Windows that gave me that faster USB3 port. It came with a Windows driver, and has, so far, worked fine, but I have always assumed that the card would only work with Windows (8.1, in this case) loaded and running. That precludes using it when booting from a DVD, for troubleshooting, because a recovery disk does not load special drivers. So I had never tried to use the Expresscard after a "raw" boot, from a Windows 8.1 DVD recovery disk, but much to my surprise, that worked fine - where the DVD found the USB3 drivers, which the 2560 isn't supposed to have, I shall never know, but it did, and so I am able to recover the Windows load for that machine from a backup disk. Who knew.

FedEx drives me bonkers. Last week a shipment arrived the day after they had scheduled, this week it is the same story. They provided Tuesday as the delivery day, then by Friday adjusted that to Monday, I needed to be home because I need to sign for it, and they've not turned up - again. That, again, is the second or third time they changed the date, and then changed it again, with me being unable to leave my apartment for much of two days. FedEx has a real problem, one I don't see with UPS, the Postal Service, or Amazon. Yep - they changed the delivery date just now, from "Today" to "Pending". Jeez.

So Bryan Kohberger, the chap from Pennsylvania who, studying in Washington State, allegedly murdered four students at the University of Idaho, wouldn't enter a plea during his arraignment. What is with this guy? Why did he callously kill four people he allegedly didn't know? Why did he then try to abscond to his parental home on the other side of the country? Kudos to the cops who found and nabbed him, but you have to wonder what actually happened, and if we'll ever know. Right? I guess that's why there is this endless overload of "whodunit" documentaries on TV, who watches this stuff? And why?

I spent much of the morning replacing my remaining old Edgestar portable heat pump with a brand spanking new Cooper & Hunter ditto, not a brand I had ever heard of, and one I only found on some deep searching. A 14K BTU heating / cooling unit, it was significantly cheaper than any of the units Amazon had that day, in fact, under $500 (without tax). Dual hose, too - those are usually more expensive, as the single hose variety sucks air you've just cooled or heated out of the space the unit is installed in, and uses it for the heat exchanger. That's expensive. The window install kit that came with the C&H was different than any of my others, but the panels were the same width, so I charged my drill batteries and got out the paraphernalia and tools I had needed during previous installs. As it turned out the kit fit the window beautifully, all I needed was one xtra sliding panel to fit the height exactly. Magic, esy as pie. Much to my surprise, the unit is quite powerful, has a low noise level, and very easy switching between modes. It is a bit lower than my previous unit, so does not block light coming through the bedroom window, and as it has much more than enough capacity for the bedroom, it manages to cool most of the apartment by itelf, with a little help from its friend in the living room. I'm chuffed - it's about 80 outside, and the units aren't even working very hard to maintain 73 degrees inside.


Saturday May 20: Medical insurance? Fuggedaboutit

Keywords: medical insurance, Aetna, The Polyclinic, endocrine, heat pump, heat wave, dual hose
Annoyingly, medical care is becoming harder to obtain, even for the well insured. Only recently I discovered that The Polyclinic no longer accepts Aetna insurance - with a 22 million membership and over $60 billion in revenues, now a wholly owned CVS Health subsidiary, hardly a small insurer. But the Polyclinic merged with Optum, itself part of United Healthcare, I just can't fathom why some medical facilities now don't accept all or most insurance plans. Competition? Maybe, but I found that even Swedish, now merged with Providence, is beginning tp pick and choose. My local Swedish endocrinology department has actually sent me to get edocrine care in the suburbs, an hour's drive away, amazing, considering I am an existing Swedish patient.

We have sort of a heatwave going on - where the normal temperatures, this time of year, are in the '60s, we're heading for 85-90, so it is hot. I'll go and walk this afternoon, first real time since the Fall, though I do rounds around the building, stairs, that sort of thing, several times a day, stopped using the elevator pretty much. I haven't put on weight - actually, my hairdresser commented, yesterday, that I had lost weight. I explained that's really from a year ago, when I stopped drinking alcohol "cold turkey", and my weight has pretty much stabilized. Anyway, that made, and makes, me happy...especially since a neighbour commented on my supposed weight loss, as well. I am not seeing it on the scale much, but if multiple people notice and provide unbidden comments, there has to be something to it.

In the meantime, one of my heat pumps, the older (2016) one, bought refurbished, is losing cooling capacity, so I've had to order a replacement, though the newer unit in my living room seems to cope well on its own. But I've found a relatively cheap ($479 plus tax) new portable heat pump, 14,000 BTU, which is on its way to me from Miami. I guess I'll donate the old, but still working, unit to Goodwill, which isn't far from here, and it should fit nicely in the back of my SUV, if I can get a neighbour to help.

I've managed to find a dual hose heat pump, which is a lot more efficient than a single hose version, happy with that. A single hose heat pump, or A/C, uses air it sucks from your house to heat or cool your compressor, and the resultant warm or cold air goes to the heat exchanger. Effectively, you're using air that you've already paid to cool or heat, while the dual hose version gets its air from outside, so there is no loss of energy. The dual hose versions are relatively expensive,and now you know why the single hose versions are a lot cheaper. It took some searching, but I did find a cheaper dual hose version, one with internal evaporation as well, so you don't have to futz with a waste water tank (well, unless you live in Mississippi or Florida...).


Wednesday May 10: Largest drive I ever owned

Keywords: Spring, SSD, terabytes, disk storage, patrolling, security, disk formats
16 terabyte memory stick I just bought an external SSD to use as a transfer device between laptops, something I had been doing with a "regular" 2.5 inch drive in an external USB3 enclosure. It is how I take the day's updates from one laptop to the second, which I use as a backup device, more or less. Now I thought I had ordered a 4TB external SSD for $31, which would be amazingly cheap, but when it got here it turned out to be a 16TB storage device, improbably small and improbably cheap, and larger than any other drive I own. I managed to get it working (no manual and description in Mandarin), and currently it is taking a full copy of my transfer files. Those were occupying 1.5TB of the drive I was using, so it was time to get a little more transfer space, but 16TB... for $31.. Amazing. It is supposed to be a USB3.1 device, so it should be manageable.

In the meantime, the temperature went up to 80 degrees (a week ago, we still had night frost) so my heat pumps are cranking. The temps are still a bit up-and-down - today the heat pumps are pumping heat, overnight one is cooling, it is that transitional time of year. Nice to be able to easily switch from heat to cool, though.

What with the days lengthening, I am adjusting my schedule, governed, to some extent, by the time in the evening I head downstairs to close some of the shutters and check the ground floor for trespassers. Although we don't get a lot of those, there have been some incursions, on two occasions we've had to involve Seattle PD. So these days, I try and make sure there's nobody downstairs who is not supposed to be in the building, and make sure communal spaces are closed and secure. The Housing Authority itself has locked down the downstairs windows, there are tenants who left some open, giving homeless folk a way into the building. By now the folks downstairs are used to my patrolling, and appear to be pleased I do.

Coming back to the very large SSD I bought, I've managed to get it working "properly", it uses a different format than conventional drives (or even smaller SSD's) do, and not all "scriptable" tools work. Robocopy, for instance, does not, and that's the command line tool I used for timed backups between systems, but it looks like I can use xcopy, at least, so far, but I need to test a bit more - a 400 GB backup took all night to accomplish, though my backups are usually incremental. So, tonight another test, with a large and an incremental backup. I am wanting to optimally use my 16 terabytes, though I don't have an actual need for that much backup. It's kind of amazing, I don't have, nor do I need, anything that large - while my two network drives together have some 16 terabytes of space, I don't use half thst, and even that much data is partly because of the redundancy I build into my data storage.

Anyway, it's just about Spring - but daytime temperaturea are going for 70's already, so it will be summer soon.


Saturday April 29: And the printer prints..

Keywords: T-Mobile, 5G, cellphone, Blackberry, REVVL V+ 5G, cost of living, COVID
34th Ave W This picture may not be all that spectacular, it's just the streetscape outside of my building, but I wanted to give you an idea of the colour rendition my new T-Mobile REVVL V+ 5G handset offers. It isn't the sharpest image on the planet, but colour and shades are unmatched. My Blackberry is a little better, in terms of acuity, but this unit provides terrific colours, as you can see. No colour or image correction in this shot, either, unusual for me to feel no need. I am still experimenting with it, especially since the camera app has a lot of settings that aren't explained in the manual, like "PRO". A matter of experimenting, I guess, I still have not figured out why some images come out in 16MB resolution, others in 8, and there are some other settings new to me. That's for pictures, not video, which gets different resolutions and things one can set. But for a cheap 5G camera/phone, this thing is pretty on the ball. Just waiting for the belt clip / desk stand I ordered, this isn't one I want to drop, occasionally, I've ruined one Blackberry that way already. The Blackberry I already looked at, as they have a Key Two version, but as it turns out that got popular, new prices between $850 and $1,000. Can't afford that - and that's the 4G LTE version, they've not upgraded it.

I am kind of pleased, looking at my finances, to see I have about the same level of savings I had just after I moved here (that is, the last time I moved, February 2020, after the Seattle Housing Authority allocated me a HUD subsidized seniors apartment in Magnolia, one of the nicer places to live in Seattle. What I am saying is that I largely recovered my outgoings from the move, and recovered the living cost increase caused by the COVID pandemic - prices never dropped back to before-COVID levels, nor will they, methinks. 12 rolls of toilet paper cost around $11, today, which is double what they were before - a 2 liter bottle of Cherry Coke costs $2.50, these days, as opposed to the $1.25 they used to cost. Etc. My social security pensions, both the American and European variants, have increased a bit this year, which presumably is how the various governments have tried to help use pensionado's to survive. That had me worried for a while, but I think I am good now, even though my rent suddenly went up by some 12% per month, but the Housing Authority avoided rent increases all during the pandemic, so I can't complain.

I've spent some extra time "fixing" some of the network stuff that hadn't quite worked. My printer, an HP Deskjet 3633 I've owned for a number of years, I could never get to work right, after its initial install, using WiFi. When my router packed up and I bought a new one, I found I had no record of the printer's IP address, so couldn't reset its network parameters. I was able to use it via its USB interface, but could never do a full reset of its network. That is, until a couple of days ago, when I tried using my Toshiba laptop, which had never had the HP drivers installed. As it turned out, I was able to start up the printer's "WiFi Direct", and that showed up in my Toshiba's WiFi settings as an accessible network. That gave me a chance to use HP's downloadable Start Print application, and that allowed me to reset the IP address to something my router could work with. Next, I was able to reconfigure HP's Deskjet Management software with the new IP address, and hey presto! I could print as well as scan using WiFi, and disconnect the USB port. All it needed was a computer which didn't "know" the printer, which actually is mentioned somewhere in the help pages the printer can print from its memory. It's perfect - thankfully, I remembered the password I had set years ago, so I was able to fully reconfigure. It's a nice printer, and considering it was on special offer from HP for something like $20, years ago, a good deal. The reason it got difficult is that I had always refused to set it up with an internet connection to HP, which they insisted on, and why it was so cheap. So all that sorted, and I don't have to tell HP what I do, and what printer cartridges I use - had I connected it to HP, I would only have been able to use HP brand inkjet cartridges, and have the printer order them direct. Teehee, I won!


Monday April 24: 5G got to me!

Keywords: FedEx, T-Mobile, 5G, cellphone, Blackberry
Increasingly, FedEx does not deliver, or does not deliver on time, unlike Amazon, UPS and the Postal Service. This is massively annoying, especially since FedEx occasionally delivers refrigerated medication that they confirm is shipped overnight, but rarely actually arrives in the set (by them) timeframe. An occasional mishap I can live with, but most FedEx deveries actually do not get here on time, or even on the day they're supposed to. Today's is a good example, they scheduled this for tomorrow, then changes the schedule to today, then didn't deliver. What's with these folks? This is their bread and butter... Now, after waiting to sign for this delivery half the day, FedEx emails me it is going to be tomorrow after all. That's two days waiting for the intercom to buzz, honestly, it is not good enough. When UPS gets closer to delivery, they give me a time and an interactive map - so does Amazon. FedEx - nuttin'. Well, umm, I should rephrase that - the overnight FedEx delivery of my refrigerated medication eventually did come with a tracking map, and was pretty much on time. Which took some doing, because FedEx got here at the same time a fire truck and and ambulance turned up, that was a bit unusual.

Not too much later another FedEx truck delivered my new T-Mobile 5G handset, and that is now being charged. While the charger that came with it is a fast charger, meaning it can deliver 5V, 9V as well as 12V DC "on demand", I've hung it off a USB3 port on my HP Elitebook, for which I have a new USB3 high voltage high speed cable (I have no idea if that does anything special on this new phone, but we'll see). At least it fits, and I don't need a fast charge on a new phone, just a full one...

So Ebay had the previous version of T-Mobile's 5G handset, new, cheaper than the current one, but it did take me quite a bit of figuring out before I had it working right (if the alarm clock works fine, which I'll know in the morning, I'll be happy). The "REVVL V+ 5G" works fine, and runs at a good 5G, judging from what testing I have done, and the USB3 "C" type port it has seems to be talking "at speed" to the USB3 ports on my laptop. I've not set it up to use with Google, so I can't use the app store, but I have enough handsets that do that, and I don't need the same apps on the TMO handset I have on my Blackberry. The TMO handset has an "always on" nighttime clock / alarm that is very dim, and night charges and wakes me up reliably, so I can now have my "primary" phone on a slow charge by my bed, and dispense with the retired Blackberry Z10 I had been using as an alarm clock. The selfie I've posted here, the one with the Stars and Stripes over my head, was taken with the new TMO handset - click on the shot and you can see how good the quality of even the front firing camera is. I like it.


Monday April 17: Downloading and storing

Keywords: Spring, Photoworks, Shutterfly, Housing Authority, elder care, EMS, 5G, mobile phone
911 Nothing alarming, but I just decided to take a shot of the front of the building, with the emergency vehicles we see all too often. I live in a municipal seniors building, and so there are frequently older folk who have a medical emergency. Unlike in other countries, in much of the United States a fire truck with EMS trained technicians on board turns up before an ambulance does - the latter, in most cases, gets called in when a patient has to go to the emergency room. In this case, it was a City Aging and Disability case worker who called the troops in, when one of my neighbours was unwell. The system works, what can I say.

I have managed to get all of the photography I had stored in Shutterfly downloaded - originally "Photoworks", these folks supplied Kodachrome 35mm slide film that was returned to them for processing and scanning, and until I got my own scanner I amassed thousands of digitized slides in their care. Eventually, Shutterfly took them over, and stored their images at their website. Recently, they let us know they were discontinuing the storage, and so I spent the better part of a week downloading all of the digitized photography (I had ditched the slides earlier). Because of the large volume of files I have, combined with broadcast TV recording, I've had to add an 8TB USB drive to my NAS array - those files I can't afford to lose on the NAS, the rest on the USB attached Seagate. Done, just a few more archives to move around. All in all, I will then have a total of just under 16 terabytes of storage space, which is, for now, a lot more than I need, I've used, combined with the new Seagate, some 5.53TB, leaving some 10.47TB of disk space available. The big NAS, by itself, was filling up faster than I was happy with, what with daily incremental backups from two systems. I like having less than half the storage space I need, which will make it easier to replace a drive in the NAS array, should I need to.

One of my mobile phones wasn't working quite right, something with the audio path, and as that had happened before, I decided to get a replacement, it was always a cheapie. Much to my surprise, I found a previous generation T-Mobile 5G phone on Ebay - I didn't even know 5G phones already were in their next generation. As it turned out, this handset was cheaper than the current one, it is new, and not expensive, so I'd ordered one. I was, for what I do with my phones and Hotspot, perfectly happy with 4G LTE, so getting a 5G device will be an unexpected benefit - I'll need to see if I need to adjust my network subscription, though. Worst case, I'll have 4G LTE, which is what I have now. I'll know in a few days, it'll be very interesting to see how fast 5G really is.


Sunday March 26: Chilly but Sunny

Keywords: Spring, Photoworks, Shutterfly, Housing Authority, floodlights, HE LED, USB 3.0 Seagate
Well, no, I'm here, I am fine, just did not have an awful lot to report on. Repeating the systems work I've been doing must get a bit boring for y'all, and then my Shutterfly image archive (old, yes) is being discontinued, so I am needing to copy all that photography off before the end of the month. This is the old Photoworks stuff, from before mobile digital photography. My NAS drive was filling up nicely, but with all of this Shutterfly stuff being added, and broadcast video recordings being added, I need more storage space, so I've ordered another 8 terabytes of disk space, I hope I can get that to work off the back of the NAS drive.

LED floods Other than that, little to report, our building manager and I finally managed to get the floodlights out back replaced with HE LEDs, that's the shot you see on the right. One had not been working for a long time, and a few months ago another bit the dust. As we had had some changes of staff in the building, getting these fixed (a job for the building manager) had not happened - and, of course, the manager not being here at night, he didn't know which lights were not working. But that is finally all sorted now, and some of the folks whose cars live out back are really happy. This being a seniors building, there are some folks with impairments, and getting in and out of their cars at night in the pitch dark is not easy. Because all of the technology has changed, Housing Authority maintenance staff had to go get retrained and get new licenses, that's how OSHA likes it, the Fed, after all, part finances this residence, and that means Federal rules.

Middle of the night, my home phone beeped, witch a delivery warning from Walmart. Not having ordered anything from Walmart, and that text coming in at 3am, I figured it was a scammer - I turn the ringer on my mobile off at night, but not the one on my home number, I try and make sure friends and family can reach me at night in case of emergencies. Then Fedex emailed me in the morning, it turns out the new USB drive I ordered from Newegg actually comes from a local Walmart, and they don't care what time they send you texts, and they can't spell your name right, either. So my new drive arrives today (a Sunday) and I can block Walmart's delivery text number, they are idiots, hopefully I can get the thing to work, it is multi-format, and I need to get the NAS drive to format and talk to it, which may or may not work. Keep you posted.


Sunday March 12: Waiting for Spring

Keywords: Spring, Windows 11 Pro, ATSC, Hauppauge WinTV, COVID, Toshiba Satellite, HP Elitebook 840 G5
34th Ave The weather is up and down - it was warming up a bit, but nights are still around freezing. Brrr. There was even some snow, but during the day that melted, I do hope it stays that way, but one never knows. Hard to believe we used to have tons of snow in New York, every winter, and I am complaining about a few flakes.. But this morning early, coming back from the supermarket across the road, I caught this cold but sunny vista outside my building, absolutely gorgeous day. Yesterday, I needed to do some work on my car (the license plate holder at the front had become unstuck, twice), I waited half the day for the sun to come out, and once I was out there with my tools the sun went away, so I was working in the cold after all. Of course, half an hour after I finished the sun came back, go figure.

I will be pleased when it warms up a bit, though. I used to go for walks, summer and winter, but I have found my "absent thyroid" has made me increasingly susceptible to cold. Winter cold, that is. I guess it is a function of age, all I have been abe to do to get some extra exercise is walk stairs, in the building, I've virtually stopped using the elevator. That's a good thing, I am much more stable and capable on the stairs than I used to be, one of those things Medicare worries about for the over-65s, and I make a point of going downstairs, unnecessarily, a number of times a day. But when the temperature comes back up, come spring, I'll be pleased. It continues to be massively frustrating the COVID risk stops me from going to the gym. My health has improved greatly since I stopped drinking (in May of last year), so I can't complain. Almost a year now....

Much to my surprise, my old anemic Toshiba Satellite laptop, bought back in 2015, works very well as a WiFi Hotspot. I maxed out its memory (only up to 8GB, which is all it will take), replaced its anemic hard disk with a semi-retired 2TB SSD (I hardly use the machine, so don't need to worry about drive deterioration), updated the OS to Windows 10 Pro (it came with Win 7), and fitted it with an external thermostatic cooling fan (it didn't have one at all, originally), and stuck a gigabit Ethernet adapter on its one USB 3.0 port. It works amazingly well, and I run the Amazon Firestick off its WiFi all day. The SSD, combined with some manual tuning of its Windows load, gave it a new lease on life, as a backup for my other laptops. It is pretty amazing. Next step should be to replace that with an HP Elitebook 840 G5, which Amazon offers refurbished at a very nice price, loaded with Windows 11 Pro. It is an OS I don't have, and want to learn, and this laptop is cheap enough that I can buy it, max out its memory (to 64GB), and replace its hard disk with a 2TB M.2 PCIe NVMe very fast new type SSD interface disk. Once I have done all that the resultant speedfreak can replace my old HP 2560p, now that there is a new Windows 11 compatible Hauppauge ATSC TV dongle.


Tuesday February 21: Fast Backups and Docks

Keywords: Unitek dock, Startech.com dock, Windows Administrator, Windows login, USB 3.0 Express Card, eSata, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 11 Pro, ATSC, Hauppauge WinTV
startech.com dock So if, like me, you have older computers that run well, you may want to make sure you have active Windows licenses for them, so you can replace them with a newer system, and activate your operating system in a new configuration for free. Unfortunately, I don't have a system that will run Windows 11, so I can't test that, I am going to have to buy a new (or "renewed") notebook to get my hands on "11". One of the important security aspects is that you should have two similar systems, with your entire load duplicated, including the software. I always had a second laptop, which I used to record broadcast TV, using an ATSC dongle, but as time progressed I duplicated all of my software, as well as my files, and the second, older, laptop, has older files that I've erased from my main system (and therefore a larger hard disk). It is nice security - if my main laptop breaks down, I have a full, usable, load on the older machine. This is because I back up all my changed files, every day, to an external hard disk, which I then (I do this using clever scripts) transfer to the "backup" machine, first thing in the morning. Should there be a terminal mishap, I can jump onto the backup machine, and then see about fixing or replacing the broken unit. For good measure, both machines get backed up to a network drive every day - keeping those backups current is done in minutes, more or less automatically. Overdoing it? Nah, if you've ever lost a complete load, as I have, you know why you do it, and doing incrementals, every day, takes very little time.

In the meantime, I have found another hard disk docking station, like the Unitek below, but this time with an eSata as well as a USB3 port, with an auxiliary fan, made by Startech.com. That means I won't have to use an Express Card on my HP 2560 to run a high speed port with the Unitek dock, as that laptop does have eSata ports. The Unitek I can then relegate to use with the old Tosbiba Satellite laptop I have, which serves as Windows 10 license backup. Or, I can use it with the HP 2570, which does have USB3 ports. I've activated the Windows 10 Administrator login on it, and that will let me create another recoverable image backup, and it will boot from a Windows 10 recovery DVD. Ah, there it is, Amazon delivers on Monday morning, I got to test the Startech.com dock, and it flies! Under the Windows Administrator login, hooked up with an eSata connection, it backed up a 1.5 terabyte Windows 8.1 image in under 30 minutes. That's astounding, and the fan on the dock, which I thought was overkill, actually keeps the drive cooler than it otherwise would be - I guess, the high write speed does generate extra heat. And to cap it all off, booting Windows 8.1 from a recovery DVD gives direct access to the eSata backup disk, which means I can recover a Windows Image at high eSata speed.

I have one laptop running Windows 8.1, basically because that is the only way I can watch and record ATSC broadcast TV using Windows Media Center and an ATC USB dongle. That is, until I discovered there is the HAUPPAUGE 1682 WinTV external ATSC decoder / DVR, which uses USB 3.0. Heaven! I am saying that because it is a Windows 10/11 compatible device, which has its own electronic channel and program guide, so I can watch and record broadcast TV with the additional "oompf" you get from a fast port and better OS. I actually have not yet bought the Hauppauge unit, as my "old" dongle and Windows 8.1 continue to manage ATSC recording just fine, the Hauppauge is expen$ive, but it is nice to know I can switch to that unit and install Windows 10 on my HP 2560 laptop (neither my 2560 nor my 2570 will handle Windows 11)...


Monday February 13: The Admin Month

Keywords: brokerage, IRS, 2023 taxes, foreign income, bathroom leak, Unitek dock, Windows Administrator, Windows login, USB 3.0 Express Card, secure lists
Ah yes, there is the remaining income statement from my broker I was waiting for, now I can finish my tax return. Fingers crossed I don't owe anything. Perhaps the gummint will let me offset some stock market losses against my EU pension benefits. Must say the brokerage folks do a good job of generating usable statements, they are relatively easy to load into the tax preparation software I use. Always makes me a bit nervous, but I guess I did right - the IRS sent the approval about an hour after I filed. What with some foreign pension, and some foreign stock, it gets complicated, and with that you have to file, which is something folks on a "regular" social security income often don't have to do. Having said that, it keeps the mind exercised, one of those important things as you get older.

The leaking drain underneath my bath has been fixed, so my downstairs neighbour is out of the woods - well, as soon as they replace the ceiling above her bath. While the plumbers were at it, I replaced the shower curtains and cleaned the floors, plumbers are great, but messy, thankfully they turned up early, and I only missed one morning's shower, can't complain. When I saw the water bulge in my downstairs neighbour's bathroom ceiling, I worried, we called the fire department, but it wasn't, in the end, that serious.

UNITEK dock I am at a loss to explain why the backup of my HP 2560p notebook runs, suddenly, so fast. I have a USB3.0 Express Card I've been using (the 2560 only has USB 2.0 ports), but it now pretty much looks that card never ran at the promised 5GB/sec, and I can't work out why it was running at 2.0 speeds. There are two differences - I've replaced the hard disk with a large (4TB) SSD, but I did that a couple of months ago, so that could not have had this result, which only happened last week. The other change is that I've recently started backing up (to a Unitek USB 3.0 drive caddy with a 3GB 3.5 inch 7200 rpm hard disk, pic to the right) from the Windows Administrator login, rather tan my user login - previously, the 1.4 terabyte backup would take some 10 hours, now, it takes less than two. The Administrator login kicks the Express Card USB ports into high gear? News to me, can't think why, but it seems to be the case. Never knew, and I never used the Administrator login, until I recently realized that would be the easiest way to run a recovery from a recovery DVD with the backup on an external disk - because the Administrator login will log into Microsoft as it finishes restoring, and update anything that needs updating - providing you're using Ethernet, as WiFi would only work if you're restoring using the same router and network you used during the backup. Confusing.

One thing I had not managed was to have my password protected login-cum-password file properly encoded on one of my cellphones. Should I ever lose one of my laptops, or it died on me, I would need that file to recover my Windows installation certificates. Then, a few days ago, I realized I could stash that encoded and password protected file on my webserver, where all I needed was to remember the name, the master password, the location, and the file password (which encrypts the file at the same time). And that worked - I can get at the file from anything (including a cellphones or other PC) and recover my codes and passwords. The only issue is that if you never use that file, you're not going to remember its name, and where it lives, next year, I have to figure a solution for that.

I am going to assume nobody is going to be able to find it, my server is pretty full, and even if they do, the file is encoded. I am assuming that protection is pretty solid, and it will enable me to fully recover one or both of my Windows installs. Hah! All I need to do now is to think of a file name that isn't a dead giveaway, an unexpected location behind a managed firewall, and create an appropriate convoluted access- and encryption password. Not perfect, I know, but close to 99.9%.. There's no such thing as true data security - for as long as there are highly intelligent fifteen year olds with little else to do than scour the internet for things to break / steal / decrypt, you're never completely safe online. You may not have time to break someone's encryption, people who feel challenged by that will spend 72 hours and hundreds of dollars on tools just for the "excitement".


Sunday February 5: Tax time, sorta kinda

Keywords: Windows Image Backup, Windows 10 Pro, brokerage, IRS, 2023 taxes, Intel graphics processor, ILIFE vacuum robot, Windows memory integrity
Annoyingly, some of my overseas shares have not provided the tax information required - my brokerage says it'll take a few more days. It isn't necessarily an issue, but I am so used to having my tax return filed by the end of January, now I have to keep an eye on the paperwork coming in. Otherwise, I have my return done, it's just that one statement the IRS requires.

With the exception of some manual vacuuming I use a small wet/dry vac for, my floors are all done by a couple of robot vacuums, like the Roomba, but a lot cheaper. One somewhat sophisticated unit with a horizontal rotating brush and a powerful battery does my living room and kitchen and bathroom, another, less sophisticated, does the bedroom, which has a fitted carpet and needs more suction, so I do that twice a week. Apart from a small carpet underneath my dining table, the floors are either laminate or vinyl (bathroom and kitchen), and the robot maintains them with ease, including the wool carpet in the living room. Something that helps in the "cleaning battle" are my two heat pumps, both of which have filters that catch a lot of dust.

Where, in the past year, my brokerage account performed dismally (I should think most people's did, during the pandemic), recently, it has been perking up. I am not sure if this is an ongoing trend, but it is on the up, my savings stopped dwindling. The dwindling had me worried, but there wasn't a lot of choice, with the pandemic, and it was not as bad as the 2008 stock market crash, which more or less wiped me out. Even so, I've had to take a small amount of money out, to create some breathing space. You all know how cost-of-living, even groceries, but even my rent, have gone up recently - I guess a lot of organizations are compensating for pandemic losses. So far. so good, is all I can say, I hope the positive trend persists.

Interestingly, I discovered some Windows management capabilities I did not know existed - pleasant, but puzzling, it's not like I got these systems yesterday. At any rate, for more than a year the Intel graphics processor built into the CPU hasn't been willing to drive the external secondary display, and I used an external GPU off a USB3 port to do that. That worked, though the audio (via HDMI) was a bit limited. And then, the other day, I discovered there was a workaround for something else that would not work - the memory integrity check under Windows Core Isolation - an operating system security feature. After many weeks of searching through databases, I managed to find a way to bypass this - a feature that failed with a "managed by your organization" error. As I don't have an organization, I had no idea where that came from - there was some of that in Google Chrome, as well.

Eventually - and that really took me weeks, if not months - I figured out how to defeat that, a safety feature embedded in the Windows registry - futzing with that without knowing what you're doing can really terminally blow up your system. But because I had finally managed to take full Windows Image backups - without the external disk crashing - on a weekly basis, with AIS Backup updates every day, I figured I could take the risk. And - hey presto! - it worked - not only that, but the graphics processor re-activation now lets the backlight time out, as well. And for unclear reasons, the password entry during bootup now works without additional activation - mouse clicks, or enter key. Strange, but nice and smooth - and the boot is even faster than it was already.


Friday January 27: The art of backing up

Keywords: HP, laptops, ZyXel NAS, backing up, storage, redundance, data recovery, restore, Windows 10, Windows 8.1
Where, in the past, before I kitted out all of my laptops with SSDs, I had difficulty adding external hard drives using the USB ports, it would appear that the new SSDs, after installing them and fine tuning Windows, have a very beneficial effect on system health and performance. Add to that the large 12TB NAS drive, now my only large scale storage device, and using that for daily backups, I need fewer ports and sockets on the systems to do what I need to do. The laptops are faster now, run cooler (both have had a faster CPU installed and the heat conducting paste "renewed"), and appear more stable. If, today, my Windows Image Backup on the Windows 8.1 system completes successfully, I can take the image backup off the NAS drive, and recover another 1.4 terabytes of space, which will make NAS maintenance faster and easier. In the past, those backups sometimes failed, but in the new configuration it seems external USB3 drives run flawlessly, on both systems. Letchaknow. If, in the future, I need more space, I still have my retired old 2-drive ZyXel NAS enclosure, which is in good shape, and if necessary, I can install two 8 terabyte drives in that enclosure, and mirror them.

Well, that was cool. I can now do a Windows Image Backup for either HP laptop - one overnight, in three or four hours, the other (larger) once a week, some 1.6 terabytes, in about twelve hours, completely free of "hiccups". I've taken the image backups off the NAS, and that now has some 50% space free. While it is a 12 terabyte box, it has a little over 8 usable terabytes, the remainder is parity space, so even when one of the four drives goes South, its data can without loss be auto-recovered to a replacement drive, for which I have a spare. It is one thing to theorize all this when you buy and install the array, but that was October, and now is January, and it all works seamlessly, and practically noiselessly, without any data loss or hiccups. Good show...

You may think I am overdoing the redundancy, but if you think about how dependent you are on your "devices" for communication and administration, and how you would cope if one of your devices suddenly packed up, life would get complicated if I suddenly lost half the data I need to file my tax return. The problem with backing up is that you never know what data you need, and my experience with backups is that they, too, can fail. At the very minimum, if your primary PC goes South, you lose access to your data - not only do you then need to get a replacement PC, you need to try and recover your data from your backup. In my experience, this does not always work - I know that on at least two occasions, in the past, I was unable to recover a hard disk because Microsoft has built so many safeguards against illicit copying into Windows that restoring the drive onto a new computer just wouldn't work. Windows Restore looks for the electronic signature of your existing system's BIOS, and a new (or even different) PC will not have that signature. That's why I have been doing all of this convoluted stuff - my next step is that I will try and start a recovery using an install/repair disk, something I recommend. I can tell you that if you have not tested a restore, you don't know that a restore onto another PC will necessarily work, the culprit likely being Microsoft's licensing scheme, now all built into the OS, interacting with the motherboard BIOS.


Friday January 20: Maintenance Month

Keywords: Amazon, Fire Stick, ZyXel NAS, backing up, no winter, income tax, broadcast TV, streaming media
bedroom AM I posted the bedroom, left, as I love the view when the sun streams in, early afternoon, especially with the black sheets when I turn up the duvet. Not spectacular, just a bit dreamy...

Big NAS drive or no, I am in process of filling that 12TB right on up. I had not anticipated that the broadcast TV recordings would take so much space, just the past couple of days yielded 5 gigabytes, while both laptops now back up daily, using AIS Backup, to the NAS - that is quick, as these backups are now incremental. It isn't a major issue, but in order for the NAS array to be able to "fail over" should one of the four drives pack up, I need to have more than 3 TB available. That basically means I need to move my standard Windows image backups off the NAS array, and back onto regular hard drives, perhaps on a weekly basis, that will make it easier to do a restore, and update that using the current AIS Backup. That should buy me enough room to fail over, should that ever be necessary. The way this thing is architected, if a drive fails, I ought to be able to simply pull it and replace it with another, one of the same configuration, which I have spare.

It is hard to believe winter is all over, in the past I've seen it roar back in, and it is only early January as I write this, but yesterday the temperature hit 60, admittedly in the sun, which, today, has been replaced with abundant rain. I am really wondering if we're seeing climate change here, time will tell, I suppose.

Apart from the upcoming taxes, I seem to have otherwise done all I needed around the New Year, from moving bank accounts to getting the paperwork for my overseas social security pension done and sent off. All I am waiting for now are the tax forms for my brokerage account, which is essentially my savings account. While I lost quite a bit of savings during the COVID pandemic, we seem to be on a rebound, so I am not unduly worried. Both American and foreign social security have gone up, which is nice, although that has increased my rent, or rather, reduced my rent subsidy. Can't win 'em all, I suppose, and I am largely still "in good nick", as they say. The medical things I needed to do before the end of the year, so they're covered by last year's insurance "remnants", got done too, though one medical outfit has suddenly changed its insurance parametere, that's new and inconvenient, and somewhat puzzling. Why do medical establishments suddenly no longer accept all major insurance carriers? Don't they need all the money?

As I am conducting some training in the use of the newly acquired Amazon Fire TV Stick in my building, it becomes increasingly clear that the concept of "streaming" versus "live" is largely lost on many older denizens. Not their fault, they just have not really been made aware that TV, or broadcast TV, is no longer really "live", it is just broadcasters running and re-running program material that (with rare exceptions) has already been made. There are exceptions - some sports come to mind, "specials" like the Oscars and the Golden Globes, but even most of the early morning programming, like the "Today Show", is only partially live - if only to cater for the different time zones the broadcasters serve. The Dubai soccer championships, the other day, were broadcast live, where you have to ask yourself what the big attraction of "live" actually is. The more I delve into the Firestick, the more "live" becomes a habitual, and unnecessary, accoutrement of entertainment. There was a discussion of whether the Firestick provided last Sunday's "60 minutes" program - as it turned out, that was available on a streaming channel by the name of Tubi, for free. Ad supported, these "free" channels compete with each other, with as a result more and more "free" offerings. Way to go..


Sunday January 8: Happy one to you, too!

Keywords: Amazon, Fire Stick, streaming video, ZyXel NAS, vacuum, system maintenance
The cold, of course, is all gone - one day it was icing and 17 degrees, the next it is raining and 50. The rest of the country is still pretty much in the deep freeze - snow in Miami, can you believe it? I did put my snowboots away, though - only used them once, so far, to clean snow off the car - then again, it sometimes snows in March, so one never knows. For now, let's be optimistic. It is 47 outside, or so my car says.

Having bought the Firestick for our Community Room I am getting to experiment with it without having to program pre-planned stuff. I can set it up completely from scratch, as that TV set is barely used, and I have been able to remove the Wii that was attached to it, and move that to another TV set in the space. Currently, I am testing to see how long our in-house WiFi runs without logging itself out, whether it auto-logs in on demand, and what the Firestick does when it times out. It not only has a built-in screensaver, it also goes into an inactive state after a while, when it has to be "woken up" again. It listens for Alexa input 24/7, though, all you need to do is call it by name. Nice to be able to try this all out.

Now, I need to organize some training for the good folks in this building, a few sessions, so they can get used to "streaming", as opposed to DVDs, VHS cassettes, Blu-Rays, Broadcast, etc. I checked and noted that the vast majority of the titles in our library are available on the Firestick, though some are Pay-Per-View, which we won't support. So we'll see. I've written an instruction pamphlet, now I need to do a flyer, and schedule some classes. Wish me luck...

By this time, we've hit a Brand New Year, can't say I have partied much, sort of been busy writing up the Firestick manual. I have been doing some regular computer maintenance, and gave the "new" ZyXel NAS drive a thorough clean, using a vacuum cleaner. This is not without risk, due to the possible development of static electricity, but using the vacum as a blower, taking the NAS drive apart, and never physically touching any of its parts with the vacuum, should see me safe. It's been four months since I began using it, and as I do not know how much dust it gathers, what with a cooling fan running 24/7, that was important to find out - especially since it took me more than two weeks to run new backups and moving archive files to the Zyxel, which meant it ran for at least two weeks virtually 24/7. Normally, the NAS "times out" when it is not being used, and that means the drives stop, and there is less heat, and the fan therefore does not have to work as hard - though it runs 24/7, by design, at varying speeds. Happily, it wasn't very dusty inside, the blowing action worked well, and I think the four month interval is sufficient, in my case. That also means the drive gets a full reboot when I turn it down, something I normally never do, it is designed for continuous running. But I noticed, one quiet morning I could hear the fan humming, during backups, and that can mean it was accumulating dust, which can make the blades catch more air. Indeed, after the clean the fan RPM was down by some 10%, from 1,000 rpm to just under 900. I am well pleased with that - gave both laptops a blow clean as well, so I am good for a couple months.



Friday December 23: It is freakin' cold

Keywords: snow, ice, Xmas, filters
building lot 8am Not a lot of snow - I made sure I was stocked up, cleaned maybe an inch or so off my SUV, so it is usable, went to the store (which melted whatever was left on the roof), and filled up the fridge, one of those winter-you-never-know exercises. Since then, no more snow, but it did not melt, it is cold, and it just got colder - it's 6pm, and the temperature is down to 21 (Fahrenheit, or -6 in Centipedes). So far, my heat pumps cope admirably, working hard, as they take their air from outside, but as I turn the one in my bedroom off at night, it'll be interesting to find out how the new heat pump in the living room fares, especially since I just replaced the activated carbon filter that came with the unit with a new one, which is a bit thicker and more rigid, but easier to get. I do have baseboard heaters, but am kind of hoping I won't need to use them. We'll see... Yes, the heat pumps crank a lot more when the outside air is cold, but they still seem to extract plenty of energy from that frigid air - so far (it is 19 degrees outside, or so my car tells me) they are both still cycling, which I find surprising. My older whole house heat pumps in Virginia, two 50K units, could not cope with temperatures below freezing, and would switch to their electric heat coils, which was an expensive exercise. Thankfully, I had a woodstove, and five acres of trees, two chain saws, and a fireman neighbour who taught me to fell large oak trees without killing myself....

I am not much of a Christmas person, and I find especially the morning TV show malarkey hard to swallow. Presenter volumes go way up, and half the time there's a stylist praising products that are, to all intents and purposes, too expensive, slightly useless, and not selected and tested by the stylist, but by the vendor/manufacturer. I used to do that sort of stuff for women's magazines, way back when. I recall Jaguar threatening to sue us, because we placed one of their ads on a science page entitled: "Mars, the rusty planet". I'll grant you it is hard to select gifts for other people - I just had that experience wth my sister, who I bought a Hotpot for, which went back to China more or less linea recta. One can only try, eh?

So while my "old" Edgestar heat pump (sold by Whynter as the ARC-14SH) is doing excellent winter duty in my bedroom, the new unit, the Whynter ARC-122DHP, is maintaining my living room and kitchen, and keeps the place warm by itself at night, the 14K unit is just too noisy to sleep next to. Besides, between my goose down duvet and hybrid memory foam mattress, I really do not need additional heat in the bedroom, I don't use the "industrial strength" 240VAC baseboard heaters that are pre-installed in the apartment. While I will admit that "portable" heat pumps are noisy, they have some real advantages - they consume less energy than other electric heaters do, and they have filters, which means they do a decent job of keeping the air in my apartment clean and free of dust. Besides, millions of people use window air conditioners in summer, in the United States, so having that same noise in winter can't possibly be that much of a hardship, considering the cost savings over conventional heating.


Friday December 16: Streaming

Keywords: HP Elitebook, U.S. flag, Fire Stick, streaming media, Windows 8.1, Peacock, Britbox
building flag 4x5 Much to my chagrin the flag I put up in front of our building to replace one that had faded, didn't last that long, so I replaced it, again. I guess the 4x5 foot size flaps ferociously in the wind, and it tore its edge within a year, so I had to replace it. I guess the previous one was smaller, 3x4, but I like this size better on our tallish pole. I've bought a hopefully sturdier one, we shall see, this time I got a spare, as well.

I am trying to transition my television viewing to the Fire TV Stick, not only because it is easier to use than broadcast TV, but because I've ordered a Fire TV Stick for my building's community room, which means I need to get organized enough so I can write a basic guide for the other tenants in this building. For several weeks now, I've been rummaging around the offerings, but every time I browse I discover new channels and program sources, and I was not taking notes. That won't help anyone, so I am trying to get a bit more organized, in terms of knowing what free offerings are available where. The new Fire Stick won't arrive until next week, so I have time to do some homework and begin writing instructions.

Why streaming media now? The Fire TV Stick is, today, dirt cheap, requires no membership or fees, and so is ideal for some of the folks in this building who don't have a TV, or who don't have cable. While I have had streaming media for years, that's been, even before the hardware came onto the consumer market, I ran streaming video on my own servers, having built my own NAS, run on an obsolete PC using multiple redundant disks. Now, Amazon (and others) do it all for you, although many streaming providers do not make a profit on this technology, consumers really are not prepared to shell out for their subscriptions, as NBC has found out with Peacock. BBC and ITV now are trying the same with Britbox, but so much of their programming is available via broadcast, I don't know that they're going anywhere with that.

Considering the HP EliteBook 2560p "subnotebook" was first released in 2011, with Windows 7, an Intel Core i5-2520M 2.5 Ghz processor and a conventional hard disk, it is definitely a bit anemic, but upgrading it worked wonders. Mine now has Windows 8.1 Pro, an Intel Core i7-2620 2.7 Ghz processor with a 4MB cache, maxed out RAM @ 16GB, a 4 terabyte SSD, and it flies. I had it working reasonably well before (I have mostly used this notebook to record broadcast TV using an ATSC dongle), but since I, after many tries, managed to transfer the Windows load onto a large (4 TB) SSD, and re-tuned Windows, the notebook seems to be twice as fast as before. More importantly, in the past it ran hot, especially when recording TV, fan always running, and often at the top of its capability. That's now history - not only is it faster, it needs much less cooling than before, I no longer hear the fan whine - why, I don't know, but to me this just means it will last longer - I did replace the fans in both my notebooks, something I think should be done periodically anyway.


Friday December 9: More maintenance done

Keywords: heat pump, time management, drainage, appliances
Replacing the heat pump in my living room was much less of a hassle than I anticipated - but that was partially due to the help I received from our building manager, H., who helped me remove the old unit, and put it by the trash, out back. But the hoses and vent assembly fit the window kit I already had, I managed to buy a unit with the same mounts, so that was cool, and it being a Monday, I was able to throw the voluminous packing material in the recycling bins, as they had just been emptied. Then, the unit, after "acclimatizing" for a few hours, fired right up, runs fine, and is a little less noisy than the older one was, so good all around. It's smaller, to boot, and mostly silver, rather than black, so doesn't quite stand out in the space. Got lucky. Lucky, too, that Amazon delivered at 10:30am, so I had all afternoon to do the install and swap.

Whynter heat pump I am not sure why I keep being busy - many of my mornings are partly taken up by laundry (in the building laundry room), which I kind of divvy up across the week, but other than that, the odd bit of shopping doesn't take that much time. Today, I went to the car wash, hit the supermarket, and then the hardware store - with some kitchen stuff in between, that took care of my morning. Because I have one of those small worktop dishwashers, I normally don't leave while it is running, it gets its water from a faucet, and drains in the sink, and I just don't like the risk that something floods (not that it ever has..). Once it's done, I open the unit and the dishes can dry while I head for the shops.

I did finish with the heat pumps today - checking the condensation drain works OK on the new unit, and cleaning, draining and replacing the filters on the "old" unit. That works really well - not a drop of water in the drain pan, much to my surprise, but then it begins every heat cycle with an evaporation. The drain on the new unit is interesting - it does not use conventional evaporation, but it has a built in drainage pump, which comes with a small hose that gets run outside though the air exhaust. That seems to work very well, although I'll need to re-check once it starts freezing again, you never know. There are two more drain connections, but my apartment does not have a drainage facility anywhere near where the unit is - those are more for homes where there is underfloor or direct outside access. After re-reading the installation instructions, there was only one remaining action - the condensation pump drainage hose was supposed to sit inside the outside exhaust opening, so I needed to loosen the window kit, push back the poly hose so the opening sat just outside the window kit, and seal the whole thing back up. I had noticed that hose, after a few days' running, was full of condensation, so the pump and drainage are working properly. Happy me - this is a new way of doing things, had not worked with this type of drainage before. My older heat pump drains though the compressor, which means it runs for quite a while in each cycle, first heating and evaporating the condensation, then switching to heating which means the compressor now cools and the circulation fan comes on. With the drainage pump, run cycles for the new unit are "short and sweet".


Saturday December 3: Things keep breaking

Keywords: heat pump, dual hose, credit card, snow, Windows Medcia Center, EPG Freevee, Firestick
The reason I have dual hose heat pumps is, predominantly, that they do a much better job of getting rid of compressor condensation than single hose units do. Single hose heat pumps, in heating mode, need to be manually drained regularly, although some newer models come with a built-in drain pump. They also get their air for heat exchange from inside your space, which is air you've just cooled or heated, depending, while dual hose units get their air from outside. In a house, drainage isn't so much of a problem if you can run a hose from the drain plug to somewhere, but in an apartment that isn't an option. So the dual hose heat pump uses a compressor cycle to evaporate accumulated water to outside, a function that, on one of my heat pumps, has just stopped working. This is when I miss the garage in Lynnwood, where I was able to tinker with stuff, doing repairs in a one bedroom isn't really possible, the place just doesn't have room for a workbench. So I've "done the thing", and shelled out for a new heat pump, a later model, one that not only comes with dual hoses, but a drain pump as well. Might as well, though I am not planning to run a drain hose, however small, out the window - though I can if I have to. I'm making that rare use of my credit card, which I religiously pay off every month, I may have to cash in some savings to top off my accounts, next month, it's only four hundred dollars, so not a disaster. One nice thing is that the new unit is slightly smaller, and silver, it'll look better and less of an obstacle in my living room. Since it is a later model, and has slightly less capacity (12,000 BTU's versus 14,000) it may even be less noisy. We shall see - should be getting here next week.

I really do hope we don't get a snowy winter, though watching the news I get the impression it is colder and snowier up in Snohomish County than it is here, right by the Puget Sound. Perhaps it is the Gulfstream that makes it a bit warmer, closer to the ocean, I don't really know. We do not, in this area, routinely get snowy weather every year, and the mountains are too far East to influence our local weather much - in Snohomish, there is the "convergence zone", where precipitation gets trapped between the valley and the mountains, but not down here so much - besides, technically, I live on an island, I suppose - well, peninsula.

Well, that was nice. I had not reprogrammed EPG (see below) for a long time, and after the re-install it was receiving the wrong channels. I don't want to bore you with this endless story, but another re-install, this time using my old ZIP code from Snohomish County, fixed the problem. Don't ask me how, but I've now got the channels I wanted, which Microsoft probably thinks I am not able to receive in my "new" ZIP code, which is easily an hour South of where I used to live. But it works, so I am happy. Now, all I need to do is stop futzing with it, so it won't break again.

So then, Amazon's Freevee stops working over the Firestick, complaining I have a VPN (which I do, but I don't run the Firestick over it), which is Verboten, while NBC's Peacock suddenly doesn't require a login. Strange. When you use the Firestick there seems to be a new "free" TV provider every week, there are now so many I need to take notes, as they don't necessarily turn up in the base lineup. I mean, good stuff, but things are hard to find, even sometimes for Alexa. It is confusing, and some series have ten or fifteen seasons available online, some free, some not so much, which does not make things easier. Ah, here we are, two days later: Freevee is working again. The Firestick still won't work without a broadcast SID, Amazon is doing data collection on consumer's networks, I think, which is naughty, so I am using a Hotspot mode in Windows 10, which I can turn off and on at will.


Wednesday November 30: Snow is here

Keywords: snow tires, chains, NAS drive, Windows Media Center, EPG123
weather station Rain had been forecast, but then when I stuck my nose out the door this morning I saw lots of sun, Seattle's climate has truly changed - it doesn't rain half as much as it used to. The sun was streaming into the lobby by 8AM, as I made my way to the supermarket over the road, and between the low sun, the fall colours, and the colour scheme, it was pretty enough for a picture, the lobby can be kind of homey. No frost, not cold, seasonal, I guess, as I write this, in the afternoon, the car reports 43 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hmm. That was yesterday. Now the weather forecast is full of precipitation. As in: snow. There is supposedly a storm pulling into the Pacific Northwest, on its way to the other coast, but the forecast and my new weather station are now announcing lowland snow - building management salted the sidewalks already. Need this like I need a hole in the head, but with a bit of luck this will pass though and clear away in a few days' time. Anyway, there it is - by the time I headed for the shops and the gas station, to make sure I had my necessities, there was melting snow here and there, and I had to engage my all wheel drive to get up and over the hill safely, happy to sit on oversize M+S tires (which I do all year round). Just last week topped up the air and fluids and checked tire pressure, air suspension, coolant and oil, got the lined gloves, scraper, snow broom and snow boots out this morning, chains are in the car, so I am all good. Pulling out of the gas station, which sits on a slope, I could feel the rear wheels stutter, but the fronts bit and pulled me through. Way to go.

Having finished all my system backups, I downloaded the latest installment of "EPG 1-2-3", the application I used with Windows Media Center under Windows 8.1 Pro to schedule and program broadcast TV recordings. That hadn't been working, and I removed it a while ago, before I moved the load on my old HP 2560p business notebook to a large SSD, after cleaning up my Windows installation - installing a 4TB ADATA unit I had not been able to get to talk to the 2560's BIOS, and boot from it. When the 2560 was designed, there was no such thing as an internal 4TB drive for notebooks, the largest you could get was 1TB, and that was a conventional drive, there were no large SSD's, if I recall the largest SSD available at the time was 60GB..

Long story short, I had intended to get all of my current files on that machine, and after eventually (I mean, that took days) managing to install the 4TB drive, I was able to move all of my redundant stuff, additional to what was there already. Just in time, because the Seagate 2TB hybrid drive that was there began to lose data as I was doing the transfers. That was (phew!) close.

But to get back to Windows Media Center and the EPG (Electronic Program Guide) utility, I re-set up Media Center, and then re-installed EPG - and it worked! Hole in One! I was truly amazed, because it had given me problems, and I wasn't at all sure I'd get it to work again, but it just roared right in. What with the large SSD, the laptop is so much faster than before, the mind boggles (while Windows is supposed to run faster with a lot of virtual memory, I had no idea a very large SSD would make even more difference). I did spend some time reconfiguring Windows, but the results, overall, are superb. And the laptop seems to run much cooler than before, which I did not expect. Having replaced the TV dongle I was using, Windows recorded a bunch of stuff overnight, so things are kind of back to normal, and while I transferred the video files to an external disk previously, the large SSD I installed makes that unnecessary, there is some 2.5 terabytes of spare space on that disk, and what with it being an SSD, recording doesn't take the amount of horsepower it used to. All good, in other words, works a treat now, probably better than it ever has, the faster CPU helps, too.


Friday, November 25: Flu shot in the rain

Keywords: NAS, flu vaccination, cancer, laptop reconfigure, Fire TV stick
Awright, flu shot done. I tried to find a pharmacy where they offered that close to home, but, like last year, would have had to go downtown or into the suburbs, and then, of course, my own supermarket, which is more of a warehouse, Fred Meyer, close, too, turned out to have stock of the flu shot I needed - the over-65's shot. So I went this afternoon, and shopped at the same time. Five minute drive - well, it would have been, if the bridge hadn't been open. Even so, I guess I've found a new favourite pharmacy (most of my medication comes mail order, anyway).

I hate to say this to you, but there's no thing as "cancer free", after a bout with cancer. Or "cured". Or any of that shit. It is important to understand that all it takes is one single cancerous cell, and you can be in trouble. I get quarterly blood tests and semi-annual checkups by an endocrinologist not because I am cured (though technically, I am). I get those because I am in remission, but always at risk, and to go, as a well known person and "cancer survivor", on national television and proclaim "you've been cured and/or are cancer free" is folly. If you could be cured and cancer free you would not need medical followups for the rest of your life. Right?

The full transfer of all my archives and backups to the new NAS drive is finally done. Checking, it turns out that took just under 5 terabytes, out of the 8.11 TB space available, or 60%, so I am well pleased I bought a big enough NAS. As my backups update, they'll release additional disk space, so I don't need to worry about the disks filling up any more, and with more than 3 spare terabytes I don't have to worry about losing a disk. As I have my files duplicated on the two laptops, I can now start thinning out one of them, which will clear out more backup space, over time - with the data duplicated twice, I can throttle back a bit, but it was important to have everything saved - both laptops now (finally) have a full backup on the NAS, and I can restore either using an AIS boot disk over my network. Way to go. I can now re-install the broadcast TV recording software I took off, and see what there is on the old Windows Media package I can still record. I know that all of the Star Trek iterations are paid subscriptions now, as far as the Firestick is concerned, so I can see what's still being broadcast free-to-air, for as long as I can still use Windows 8.1 Pro, which is nearing the end of its Microsoft support. Etc., there's always something one wants...

Finally some rain. It's been bone dry, for months, so we either get some rain, or a really snowy winter, which I don't really want. My thyroid medication plays havoc with my internal heating system, which doesn't really help, and I still do not want to go to the gym because of COVID considerations. Though the temperatures are up a bit, so maybe I'll take a walk when the next sunny afternoon comes around. Ah - next couple days, no rain in the forecast. I'll believe it when I see it.

I am slowly warming to this Amazon Fire TV stick I bought, although using a combination of screen scrolling and Alexa voice commands seems to work best. There is so much programming available that Alexa lets you find stuff you'd have no idea is available, since some of the channels you simply may have never heard of, and so have no way of finding. Even then, a lot of these buttons have content I have little or no knowledge of, so you have to spend time sampling their content. I found a movie version of Battlestar Galactica, with content from the series, but other stuff as well, and I had no idea that existed, or who even ever broadcast it, if indeed they did. Ah, there you go - found "Sherlock". Wonders will never cease.


Saturday, November 19: Cold and busy

Keywords: weather station, NAS backup, Amazon TV Firestick, WiFi, Swedish Medical, GP, English TV
weather stationThe contraption to the left is a wireless battery driven weather station, this to replace one I've had for six or seven years, which does not work all that well any more. The most important aspect was the outdoor sensor, which lives in my SUV, which is parked in the street, and does not always report in properly. So I found this one on Amazon, which isn't just cheap and cheerful, its outdoor sensor has a huge range, which means I know what the temperature in my car is, and even more importantly, that the car is still outside. Works well, especially if you consider it only cost $14, and doesn't just receive when close to a window, it reads the outdoor sensor wherever I put it in the apartment. Not as colourful and fancy as the old one, but it's better, and runs on batteries, rather than external power (hence the B/W LCD, I assume).

So that's it. I've finished the NAS AIS backup of my HP2570, all that remains is completing the backup of the 2560, which, over WiFi, takes a little longer. The data load on the 2570 is about a terabyte, which is a lot, and it is never quick to back up. By late September, I had installed the new NAS array, configured it, but by that time it was clear I needed to do a couple of other jobs, notably replacing my WiFi router, and get a new Hotspot from T-Mobile. Both had been malfunctioning, so I had to replace them and redesign my network, this due to the NAS drive having two-channel Ethernet bridging capabilities. Every time you buy new equipment, it seems that needs you to replace 30% of everything else to get it to work optimally, like using a spare router to get the new T-Mobile Hotspot to run at high speed over multiple channels. Etcetera etcetera. But it all got done and is working a treat, at this point. I think this may well be one of the fastest networks I've ever had, this despite the fact that the backbone is a wireless bridge, not something I was ever in favour of, but you live and learn..

Cold, then. Mostly sunny days, it does warm up, but by nightfall the temperature dips way down. Not a major issue, but I would like to walk a little more. Past few days, I've spent more time fixing things - the car needed service, there was shopping, doctor visits, lab tests, but I did not get "out and about" much beyond that. I have actually started exploring the Amazon Fire TV stick, which, as it turns out, has humongous number of free channels, there is hardly a point in watching British ITV series "Midsomer Murders" on my laptop, when the Firestick provides every episode ever written, for free. Same with UK "Law & Order", I do like the British series, as I have those via my browser using a (paid) proxy, but much of what that gives me, other than the BBC News, I get via the Firestick, again, for free. And I haven't even explored a fifth of what that offers...

Annoyingly, my doctor's office now has a unit that follows up to make sure patients get followups. Problem is that the folks that send the reminders aren't part of the doctor's office, and write emails that read as if they come from the physician. So I responded to the followup, made an appointment, only to discover, when checking in, that I had had a recent checkup, and that the doctor's office had no idea they were reminding me of an unnecessary visit, it really makes me wonder if Swedish is now trying to make extra money by making unnecessary appointments. I canceled right there, thanks to kind helpful staff, and got the bill waived and my copay refunded.


Friday, November 11: Winter is definitely on the way

Keywords: freezing, low humidity, NAS backup, Amazon TV Firestick, WiFi, vagrants, homeless
We've gone to near freezing in a relatively short period of time, but this week it is raining a lot, which is very good news for Mother Nature, we've had one of the driest summers on record. At any rate, my heat pumps are chugging away, keeping the place nice and toasty, In the very early morning I kick in the electric baseboard heaters by the living room windows so I can have coffee and watch some TV without the heat pump noise. After my shower and early morning building round, I switch to the living room heat pump, The baseboard heaters are great, but expensive to run. It's how they built homes and apartments in the 'sixties...

ultrasonic humidifierIn the interim, the colder weather is playing havoc with the homeless, unusually, I found a vagrant in our community room yesterday, who wouldn't leave. It's always a problem, as you don't necessarily know whether someone you don't know is a new tenant, or a visitor, or a new carer, but in this case, none of the above. She became quite belligerent when I asked who she was, what she was doing here, and told her she had to leave when she wouldn't answer my questions, and that meant we had to get Seattle police to remove her. After all that, she managed to get back in the building, was removed again, and spent a couple of hours harassing tenants on the ground floor, screaming, knocking on windows, etc. Eventually, she gave up, it's been a couple of years since we last had an intruder in the building.

I am still backing up, BTW, the longer I used these laptops, the larger my data load gets, I keep putting larger disks in... AIS Backup is brilliant, but as it converts every single file on my laptops into ZIP archives, it takes forever. What with 8+ terabytes of storage on the NAS, I hope I can do this once now, and then leave well enough alone, that is, do my daily incrementals, but won't have to move the main backup archives. Largely, my data is there twice anyway, as I have my data fully duplicated across my laptops, but have the older files on the HP2560, as well. I can do that now as I have a 4 terabyte SSD in the 2560, which took quite a bit of engineering the BIOS, to get that running properly. Snd now that that is complete, backing that lot up the the NAS is another job altogether. But I got it all settled, and do a chunk of backup every day, while the 2570 now has a completely new SSD, the older one having lost some capacity. Lot of work, almost done, easily took a month and a half, believe it or not, but I've been able to get rid of all of the smaller backups and backup-drives. Considering the big NAS array only cost $199 (plus maybe $40 each for the four 3.5 inch 3 terabyte drives), not a bad deal...

I bought Amazon's Firestick (officially: Fire TV Stick 4K) a year ago, but never much used it. I bought the 4K version, since I have a TV set with 4K/UHD monitor and Dolby Digital audio capability, but never much used it, save for watching the news, it isn't my "main display", so to speak. Part of the reason I didn't use it is that the Firestick, which uses WiFi to connect to the world, will only work with a broadcast SSID, and I try, for security reasons, to turn all of my SSIDs off. But recently, I realized my Windows 10 laptop has Hotspot capability, and that I can turn off and on at will, with one mouse click, so that the SSID is unique to this laptop, and is only broadcast when I turn the Hotspot on - with my main Hotspot, it's always on or always off, no choices.

In the meantime, temps got down to overnight freezing, and I didn't feel my usual chipper self this morning. When I checked my temperature and things, routine now, what with COVID, everything seemed normal - checking my weather station, though, I noticed the humidity in the apartment was down to nearly 20%, half the value it showed a couple of days ago. No wonder my skin is itchy and I have some nasal discomfort. Time to get the humidifiers out, I bought two ultrasonic "cool mist" units last year, they'll get the humidity back up to where I am comfortable again. They worked well, no deposits in the water tanks (I use filtered water, of course), very little mold in the base, easy to clean and store for the winter. One unit was not enough for the apartment, but two, did the trick, they get refilled once a day. The weather went straight to winter, I guess...


Monday, November 7: Elections and more WiFi

Keywords: politics, elections, agression, WiFi security, SSID, HotSpot signal, T-Mobile
I am truly amazed at the amount of agression and mis-information embedded in political campaigns. Even the barrage of negative and misleading political advertising in our local Washington State elections is truly horrendous, and it is actually getting more vitriolic by the day, as the mid-terms approach. I am having a hard time believing anybody actually takes this stuff seriously, but apparently, folks do.

Nuff said, on that score, I'd rather get back to my files and archives and computer stuff. There's only one niggly bit, I can't get my Blackberry to provide WiFi calling unless I hang it directly off the Hotspot, but at least I have managed to turn off all of the SSIDs, the WiFi identifiers. If there is one thing I hate it is a network that broadcasts its identifiers (though anyone with the right software can scan them). I've now even managed to turn off the Hotspot's SSIDs, without losing the connection with the Linksys WiFi bridge, locked at 5GHz. And after doing all that, I find that both the bridge and the Hotspot run at higher speeds, something I can not explain.

Actually, I think I can explain the Hotspot "anomalies". Last night, the T-Mobile service for my cellphones failed, and that was still the case this morning, so I called the trouble folks, who confirmed a network outage on the celltower nearest to me, but then I told the agent my Hotspot (T-Mobile's 4G service as well) was still functioning normally. I had noticed that Hotspot now had a stronger signal - 5 bars, rather than the 3/4 it normally shows. The agent told me the Hotspot must have switched to a new celltower, slightly further away, but providing 5G service. Why the Hotspot switched I shall never know, but it stayed with the stronger signal, and in the interim, about two hours after my call, the 4G service for the phones came back (4G LTE, to be precise). And the somewhat erratic WiFi calling on my Blackberry works better too, that's how I talked to TMO even though my cell service was down. I am also able to run my Amazon Firestick TV dongle off the "at will" WiFi in one of my laptops, so I don't have to have an SSID being broadcast (the Firestick won't work otherwise). Confused? I know I am, but all is working smoothly now, so all's well that ends well, mehopes..

That's annoying: retiring for the night, I dropped my 9mm on the bed, and somehow it tore the duvet cover, not quite sure how, there aren't any sharp edges on the gun I am aware of. Entirely my own fault, then, but I am not going to repair the cover, and instead spent $70 on a replacement. Amazon does have cheaper ones, but they're made of "microfiber", whatever that is, probably some kind of polyester, and cotton is much better for my skin. Ah yes, and microfiber isn't biodegradable, and can be flammable. Definitely stick to cotton, which is what my dermatologist wants me to do, anyway
The time machine through Monday November 7, 2022, with linkbacks to October, 2008, is here

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Résumé - Patents & Papers - 9/11 - Old Stuff- Mail

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