Archive for the ‘computery stuff’ Category

A Computery Reflection

October 26, 2016 Comments off

We just got a couple of new smart phones. They’re Nexus 5X’s, for what it’s worth, which isn’t very much.

But, were it not for the rest of our infrastructure, the experience would have been very different.

I’ll try to lay it out:

For the longest time, we’ve been RoadRunner cable internet customers at 15 mbps down and 1 mbps up. A few months ago, we got upgraded to 50 mbps down and 5 mbps up (for no increase in price). Then, just last week, and I don’t want to go into the details, we became Spectrum (nee RoadRunner) customers, and for the same $40 a month, we got 100 mbps (actually 120) down and 10 mbps (actually 12 mbps) up.

Aside: so we’re nearly up to the connection speeds enjoyed in South Korea.

This change alone has transformed the little business that I do. It involves uploading huge (by my standards) 10 to 20 Gigabyte files to a server located 20 miles or so from here. At 1 mbps upload speed, it’s not a viable option, and I have to drive those miles with a thumb drive and have the techs do their stuff, and drive home. At 5 or 12 mbps it’s easily doable on line. I miss the social aspects of that, but it certainly saves huge bunches of time (and therefore costs).

Around the turn of the year, we got both a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and, as a result of the fact that the Surface Pro 4 does wireless ac, a new  Asus router that supports wireless ac. Nearly Gigabit network speeds for that Surface, woohoo! (Except that I bought a Surface dock, and it’s currently connected via wires…)

Our current phones were Motorola Moto E 2nd gen. Locked into Android L(ollipop) and no (despite promises) prospect of upgrade, it was getting tiresome, icky and slow to have to deal with the 2.4 G wireless N  connections and general slowness of communication. We live in a condominium, an everybody here has a 2.4 Gig  wireless router. There are literally dozens of them, according to wifi survey. So that band is choppy and unreliable.

So, bring on the new phones, with 5GHz ac connections. Holy cow! The phones were delivered with Android M(arshmallow), and within seconds of connecting to the network were downloading Android N(ougat). An hour later, we were done, including installing new apps. This was Gigabytes of new stuff.

What’s the point of this message? That you need the rest of the stuff to make your phone experience sweet and fast. A good and fast connection to the internet and a router that does dual band wireless 5GHz ac makes a huge difference.


Categories: computery stuff


September 14, 2013 Comments off

ImageCorn is what (amongst other things, including a bell pepper similarly home grown)  we ate tonight. They tasted yummee, and only took about 70 days to mature from seedlings. The darn things are trying to push the roof off our raised bed garden.

In other news, my Nexus 4 developed a crack across the back of the phone: ImageI hadn’t dropped it on any hard surface, and it has always been in the ‘official’ bumper case. Anyhow, I shipped it back to LG in Texas, and just over 2 weeks later, a replacement phone arrived. It has to be noted that if it had been an Apple product, all I would have had to have done is take the faulty one to an Apple store and it would have been replaced and activated  there and then. But anyway, for the most part, the Google backup system works just fine and all my apps and data were restored in a couple of hours.

I like it. It’s nice to be positive about stuff 🙂

Categories: computery stuff, Gardening

Chromecast – muy cool

August 8, 2013 Comments off

So we got the Google ChromeCast dongle yesterday, and having read the reviews, I was prepared to be underwhelmed. Certainly, Roku and Apple TV have way more things that you can do.

Not so fast. The way it works is that you can use any device (I tried Nexi 4, 7 and 10, and iPod touch) to direct a stream from Youtube and Netflix to the device, and here’s the kicker, you can literally turn off (hard shut down) the controlling device, and the Chromecast will keep playing. So the stream is going directly to the Chromecast, not via the controller. The quality is excellent, even over our congested 2.4 GHz wireless neighborhood.

The downsides are 2:

1) There aren’t many apps yet that implement the ChromeCast API – for Android, it’s the above Netflix and YouTube, as well as Google Play Movies. For iOS, it’s just YouTube and Netflix.

For PC’s and Macs (I don’t know about Linux) it’s just the Chrome browser with the downloadable Chromecast extension (which can be used in ‘incognito’ mode, for those of us who are paranoid about Google tracking our usage).

2) This Chrome implementation, in beta as yet, is a bit lame, as it simply ‘mirrors’ what you see in a Chrome browser tab, but it does let you browse local and network files for media content. Functionally, it’s not as comprehensive as an HDMI cable from the back of your computer to the TV, or even Miracast, but hey, it’s only $35 for the ChromeCast dongle.

What’s really neat is that the API for it is now out there. It is to be hoped (and prayed) that apps like Skifta and all the other media players will implement it so that we can wirelessly watch all of our device, local, network and ‘cloud’ content on our HD TVs.


Categories: computery stuff


March 8, 2013 Comments off

For a month or so, we’ve used all three of the latest Google Nexi: Nexus 4, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. I love ’em – so much more capable and open than any iDevice, yet strangely different from each other, for no apparent reason except that they’ve been manufactured by different corporations.

I’m not going to do an in depth review, just point out some of the quirks.

Background – we use Apple i-stuff just like anyone else. iTunes was getting irksome in that you have to use it to do anything with the devices, and unlocking a pair of AT&T iPhone 3GS’s proved almost impossible. They are being used as Skype clients instead of the original Cisco ‘iphone’ for Skype.

We still have an iPod 3rd generation which is being increasingly isolated to be used to play Solitaire, as a Tune-In client and a Logitech wifi mouse client. We had an iPad 2, which was given to a family member.

The scenarios which play into this are several:

1) We’re big fans of camping in a camper van. Part of this scenario is to play a movie or two over a bottle of wine when the temperatures drop and the campfire has gone out. In the past we’ve employed DVD players and a laptop to play the movies. Most recently, the iPad 2. The big problem is that you couldn’t just turn up with the iPad and a bunch of (virtual) DVDs to select from, you had to load the vid onto the iPad in advance if you wanted to watch it. So mood wasn’t a factor, you played what you had, which turned out more often than not, to play nothing.

2) Sometimes, we’re interested in Photography, and both of us have fairly serious DSLR cameras and lenses to work with. When we used the laptop, we could simply take the SD card out of the camera and have an instant slide show to watch by plugging it in to the laptop. With the iPad, you had to load all of the photos on the iPad memory before you could start watching the slide show, and clear them off afterwards. Remember. with 12 and 16 Megapixels sensors saving both raw and highest quality JPEG, this could take several minutes and loads of memory.

3) We’d had cheap ($20 per 3 months) pay as you go cell service from Virgin Mobile (Sprint) for lo these many years. It works, actually pretty well, but we simply don’t make phone calls or send texts very much. We kind of use the devices, say, in Costco, to call up and ask, ‘where the hell are you, I’m waiting at the checkout!’ radio kind of things. I have played around with a mifi 2200 from Virgin, but it was frustrating, because Sprint 3G connectivity where we are is very spotty, and everything took ages to download.

1) The first of the Nexi to arrive was the Nexus 7. Wait! You can plug in an OTG (on-the-go) cable, connect a USB hub with a multi Gigabyte 2.5 inch drive and have the biggest video library you can imagine – without copying it to your device! Solves the camping problem in one swell foop. Works on the Nexus 10, too (but not the 4).

2) Likewise, with the OTG cable, one can plug in the SD card to watch slide shows of images on the SD card, that you don’t have to copy to the device. (Nexus 10 also, but not Nexus 4)

3) For $30 / month T-mobile has a web only plan that has 100 minutes of talk, unlimited texts, and unlimited data (actually throttled to 100 kbps after 5Gb). In this location, I seem to be able to get HSPA+ 3.75G connectivity nearly all the time at speeds between 3 and 30 mbps. Whooee!

Odd differences:

Both Nexi 4 and 10 do both 2.4 and 5GHz wifi. 7 does only 2.4. What this means is if I’m trying to watch live TV from a couple of TV tuners on my HDHomeRun, the 2.4 GHz is more likely to get swamped by the legion of 2.4 Ghz ‘2-Wire’ routers that abound here. By the way, I’ve found that XBMC (Frodo) is the way to make that work.

Nexus 4 has a neato converter that plugs into the micro-USB port, and churns out HDMI. What this means is that I can use Skifta on this tiny thing and have full up 1080p videos on my TV using DLNA on our Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra Plus 4. No Apple TV. Sweet. Not quite full screen, though. Close.

Nexus 10 has a micro HDMI port which works the same way. That’s good.

Nexus 7 doesn’t. At all.

But what is so refreshing is that one is not *dependent* on Google Play. You can download and install stuff from any source you choose, unlike iTunes. And, and this is the deal-maker, you don’t get charged $100 per year to write code that works on your own devices. Liberty. Yea!

Categories: computery stuff

Airport Extreme – it had so much promise

October 3, 2010 Comments off

In a follow-up to a previous post, I purchased a refurbished Apple Airport Extreme.

Long story short, the device was faulty. I took it to an Apple Store, and they said that the Apple Store is different from the online store, and it was really difficult to arrange a replacement. A really earnest, and, in the end, competent, assistant wound me through the Apple ways, and I walked out of the store with a brand new Airport Extreme. Before anyone thinks that was my hope before I walked in the store, I really, truly wanted the thing to work without having the hassle of returning it.

Anyhow, the replacement worked very well when talking about simple networking. Expected Gigabit wired and wireless ‘N’ devices worked great.

But the effing printer simply wouldn’t work reliably using the Airport Extreme USB port. We have a fairly standard ‘HP Jet Direct’ protocol Samsung CLP-315 color laser printer. The iMac hooked up to it, no problem, and was consistent. However, my Win 7 box, and the Win 2008 Server box simply wouldn’t reliably connect to the printer. I tried Apple Bonjour Print Services, and that was a waste of space. I tried every which way using the ‘Add a Printer’ wizard in Windows, using an IP address, using a UNC name, but it would work once and then fail, at best. Most of the time it just sulked.

What is so frustrating is that we’ve had this Buffalo Print Server working reliably, every time, for, lo, these many years to create and use a network printer. Why can’t any of the major networking providers simply replicate the behavior of a standard device?

So the new Airport Extreme went back to the Apple store (I really did want it to work out), and I’m disgusted that Apple can’t turn out a product that will work as advertised.

Back to our humble Belkin router, I’m afraid. We’ll solve the network speed problem with a USB drive attached directly to the laptop.

Categories: computery stuff

Another “Why can’t they ….” department

June 13, 2010 1 comment

Well, huh!

Why can’t they produce the exact Wireless N/Gigabit router that I need?

This all started because we were fed up with the thick 20 ft HDMI cable running out of the back of the TV across the carpet into the back of my computer, that we use when we watch stuff I’ve ‘PVR’ed. Why was it there in the first place? Well, our wifi’s max rate is a theoretical 55 Mbps (in reality about 20 Mbps), and this is not fast enough via our wifi connection to the laptop to display recordings without audio drop-outs and screen stuttering.

It’s a fairly new Compaq CQ-60 laptop. It’s a kind of bottom of the range, fairly decent processor spec, 720p display, Wireless G connected, 500 Gig disk upgraded and Windows 7 upgraded thing.

I was noodling with Google and came across the fact that HP part #482260-001 is a plug-in replacement wireless radio for the computer which works at wireless N specs (maximum 300 Mbps speed, reality about 100 Mbps).

eBay showed 1 used one for sale at, waitaminnit, $3.69 ‘buy-it-now’ price. S&H brought the price up to nearly $10. I gotta have that! It arrived in due course (thank you of Washington. I can’t rate you because eBay has banned me again without even telling me why they’ve done so, this time. Last time was completely and utterly bogus, they claimed that I had conspired to downgrade one seller along with another group of folks. At the time, I had only ever rated one seller, and that had been really positive. So this claim was patently not true. I appealed, to no effect. I even wrote to Meg Whitman, who didn’t reply. Think about that when you vote for California’s Governor in November. Jerry Brown has never, ever, ignored me. But, I digress)

The replacement card took seconds to install. It connected to our wireless G router, after a few seconds automatically installing driver software. Perfect 🙂

Not so fast.

I borrowed a redundant Apple Airport Express from a pal to test whether the new wireless N card would stop the audio glitches and video stuttering. Sure thing it did. But it wasn’t the easiest device to set up. Apple doesn’t expect anyone to be doing anything but moron simple with this device. Set up a network printer, great. Set up an iTunes distribution point, great. Set up a wireless router, great.

However, try to set up a WDS or an ‘additional wireless network’ (which is what I wanted), it’s up to you. No wizard, not even any instructions. Oh well, I’d only borrowed it, but the question occurred to me about why was it available for borrowing?

Here’s a little-known fact about the Airport Express. The wired Ethernet connectivity is 100 Base-T, or 100 Mbps theoretical maximum. How do you provide wireless N clients of this device connectivity at anywhere their even practical limit when the theoretical limit of wireless N is 300 Mbps? Think about it.

But it’s neatly packaged, and were it not that it only has a wired WAN port, and no Gigabit wired port, it would have been nearly perfect. But WTF, $99 for this, really!

What I was looking for was a single device that could replace all the networky bits and pieces that we have hanging around, which include a requirement to connect three gigabit Ethernet devices (one of which is an iMac, so wireless N would do, at a pinch, but why go backwards?). We also have the now wireless N enabled laptop, an iPod touch (wireless G), a couple of Linksys Skype phones whose base station connects through wired 100 Base-T, and a Buffalo printer server that also connects through wired 100 Base-T.

Connecting all these currently is a Belkin Wireless G router (lame, I know, but it at least has ‘guest’ Internet wireless access) which has 4 x 100 Base-T ethernet ports apart from the WAN port, and a DLink D-2205 4-port Gigabit switch. The three Gigabit devices are connected to the DLink switch (and boy, is file transfer fast! – typically 400 Mbps), and the Belkin router has a connection to the DLink switch, the Buffalo printer server and the Skype phones. In summary, the Belkin router and the DLink switch each have a spare port. Put another way, we have 8-2 wired Ethernet devices – 3 Gigabit computers, 1 Printer server and Skype phones. And a connection from the router (LAN side) to the switch (WAN side).

So, (at last, I hear you say), I can get rid of all this junk by buying a Dual Band wireless N 4 port Gigabit Ethernet router with USB printer support.

Or, better still, given that I already have a 4 port Gigabit Ethernet switch, a Dual Band single port Gigabit Ethernet router with USB printer support.

Linksys, nuthin’. Netgear, nuthin’. Belkin, nuthin’. You look carefully out there in the marketplace, there ain’t nothing that doesn’t require you to install lame client software on each computer to use the printer, and then, only one at a time! My old Buffalo printer server works perfectly, and doesn’t care what the the client is.

Nearest. Apple Airport Extreme. Fails by just one Gigabit Ethernet port. Three instead of four. Expensive, however. (Shift the printer onto its USB port and I need just 4 ports to connect everything we have.)

Next nearest: Apple Airport Express. It’s *so* close. It needs a Gigabit port added, leave the WAN port 100 Base-T, that’s fine, given that the incoming cable internet connection is not much better than 10 Mbps.

Funny that. I’m not particularly an Apple fan. Ask me about what’s needed to share a wireless iMac (Airport) connection. WEP security is the only option. Eeeeuuuwww! But the Airport Express and the Airport Extreme come very close to meeting my requirements.

Is anyone listening out there?

Categories: computery stuff

Multiple users of Parallels – a MacPuzzle

November 18, 2009 Comments off

It’s all Microsoft’s fault, of course.

I recently upgraded a file-server from Windows 2003 to Windows 2008. Only to discover that one of the things it could no longer do was talk to the CanoScan 3200F scanner which was plugged into it. M$ says that Canon are no longer supporting it, and Canon remains completely silent on the matter.

Darn it, the thing is only lightly used and is only about 5 years old, why should we have to go out and buy another one? That’s obsolescence gone mad!

So, I tried Vista, with the same result (but at least it was a little more informative, instead of sullenly refusing to install the driver).

Well we know that it works with Windows XP, and there look to be some MacOS drivers on the Canon site, so we give it a go on the Mac. Ooops, supported only up to Leopard, and we have Snow Leopard. Dang!

But wait, we have Parallels and an instance of XP on the Mac. What if we install the TWAIN drivers and Canon software on that? Miraculously, and somewhat mysteriously, it worked. Straight out of the box. The mysterious thing is that Snow Leopard has to communicate backwards and forwards with the Windows TWAIN driver, so how is it that Snow Leopard can’t work directly with it, it’s plugged into one of the Mac’s USB ports?

Some time ago, we created an account for me on the Mac, and after a bit of fiddling about, used VineServer (VNC) on the Mac (yes, I do know that MacOS has VNC built in, but it didn’t do what we wanted) and VNC Viewer on my Vista PC. Across the Gigabit network, it works spiffily.

So now, I wanted to load the Parallels image of XP to be able to scan stuff from my desktop. I made a copy of the XP image and put it in /Users/Shared/Parallels, and from the Mac, started it up and made sure that it was running OK. Great 🙂

Then I tried from the PC/VNC Viewer. Uh oh, the message appears “Access denied. You do not have enough rights to use this virtual machine.”

Long story short. Known problem at Parallels, and is all about execute permissions for the XP virtual image folder. Good times, I had to get down and dirty with terminal, sudo and chown. How very 80’s?

I guess that I could have put a virtual Windows XP on the 2008 Server, but this solution has more cool points, I think.

Check out the solution here at Parallels.

Oh, and if you are wondering about all these Windows licenses, I have a recently expired MSDN Developers license, so it’s all legal.

Categories: computery stuff

Boxee – a work in progress

November 10, 2009 Comments off

A friend of mine was ruminating about buying a MacTV simply to run Boxee so that he could get rid of……

“Wait a minnit, wot’s Boxee?”, sez I.

“It’s a video content aggregator” sez he, “It allows you to draw together all your on and offline video content from streaming, such as Netflix or Hulu, or physical sources such as DVDs or downloaded movie files.”

“Huh” sez me, “This sounds interesting, but why wouldn’t I simply go to the individual sources and use whatever application I preferred to interact with it?”

“Because you have just one interface to learn, you can even turn your iPod Touch or iPhone into a remote control for it, so any thirteen year old can use it, and if your computer has HDMI (or DVI to HDMI conversion capability) you can feed your HDTV. With all the included sources of content, Boxee could free you from the cable company”

B.’s relatively new Vista laptop has an HDMI output, which we’d occasionally used for watching streaming Netflix on the HDTV (great experience, by the way, except for having to fiddle with the default sound device to be able to hear anything). So, I thought I’d give it a try.

Sign up and download at Boxee was straightforward enough, as was installing the software. Where it went horribly wrong, was in trying to use the software. Everything is in huge ‘Microsoft Bob’-like fonts, and the interface, whilst clean, is hardly intuitive.

The first thing I tried to do was run a wmv file I had on the desktop. That seemed OK, but the aspect ratio was completely out of whack. Eventually I found the menu item to change it, buried deep within the administrative tools.

Then I tried to stream a Netflix vid. After hooking Boxee into our Netflix account, it connected, and I waited. And waited. Oh, OK, here’s what Netflix looks like in Boxee. I tried to start a movie. And waited. And waited. Eventually, it started. I could pause it but I, for the life of me, could not find out how to stop it.

I tried to start up a dvd in a local drive. I couldn’t. It insisted on continuing with the Netflix stream. It seemed that the only way out was with the three-fingered salute and Task Manager.

I restarted the laptop, and tried again with the DVD. Even though it was set up to recognize a video dvd when inserted, Boxee didn’t do anything with it (this could be because of the lame way that HP has set up the default, and it would seem only, way to play a DVD – windows media player doesn’t work, either).

To be fair to Boxee, the application was clearly marked ‘alpha’. For Windows, some work is needed. It’s glutinously slow, and there’s no way to exit the application from within the application, which, in my mind, is an absolute fail.

An idea worth watching, though. Its time is coming.

Categories: computery stuff

Network Solutions uses latest technology – snail mail, phone and fax

October 27, 2009 4 comments

So, we’ve owned our domain (yes, it needs freshening up) for 10 years, and Network Solutions wrote a snail mail to us telling us that the domain registration was due for renewal towards the end of December.

I did a double-take over getting some mail from them – this is the mighty Network Solutions, doncha know, true arrogant herders of the internet, a benefit bestowed upon them by ICAAN, with no discussion with actual users of the internet. Back in 1999, they were the only game in town for internet name registration, and behaved like they owned the place. Now, things are different, and almost anyone can be a domain registrar (and almost everyone is), so I wanted to get revenge by moving our registration to, a dynamic DNS host who has been really good to us over the years.

Yesterday, I went to DynDNS’ web site to shift the registration, and their web widget informed me that I couldn’t because the domain was ‘locked’ by NS. Then, I went to the NS web site to see how to unlock it. The only way to get a message to them was a web form to their sales staff, no way to get to tech support at all – not even a way to describe what issue I had.

So today, I get a call back from a charming (seriously, despite his employer) guy called Darrick, who is apparently in charge of the Registrar department. Long story short, there are only two ways to unlock the domain, i) B. has to phone them between 9:30 am and 5:30pm Eastern, and they will somehow determine her authenticity, or, I discovered later, if we send them a fax, attesting to her authenticity, then all will be well.

So, a fax proves authenticity? These people are idiots. All it requires is that she declares herself to be herself, and provides her current email address. Any villain could high-jack the site by declaring herself to be the rightful owner.

The idea for this rant  started out as pouring scorn on Network Solutions for using non-network solutions like mail, phone and fax to do their communication, and ended up pouring scorn on them for a huge authentication fail.

The twiglet zone twixt Mac and Windows

October 26, 2009 1 comment

So, B. bought a 500Gbyte disk to upgrade the 160Gb SATA drive in her fairly new laptop. Swapping the disk out was easy, and so was reinstalling the OS and applications, if a little boring.

But, what we ended up with was a spare 160Gb 2.5 inch disk and a USB case. Actually, we also had two other EIDE disks, a 40 Gb and another 160 Gb in similar cases.

So I says to B., “How do we want these formatted?”. She says,  “Any format that we can read from either a Mac or Windows.”

So I try NTFS – nope, Mac can’t write to it (but apparently can read it). Mac-OS extended – nope, Windows can’t handle it. FAT32, nope, Mac doesn’t understand it, then finally FAT16 – yippee, that works.

But wait, the ancestry of FAT16 goes back to 1984, with the IBM PC-AT (Wikipedia), when fixed disks came in small multiples of megabytes, not large multiples of gigabytes. That probably has to be the most archaic format possible, except perhaps whatever they used for punched cards.

I guess that Apple and Microsoft simply don’t want to coexist.

By the way, I had to use the Mac to partition the disks, because i) the Mac didn’t want to recognize any disk partitioned by a Windows machine, and ii) only the Mac knew about formatting with FAT16.

Score Windows 0, Mac 0

Categories: computery stuff