Category Archives: Technology

Cutting the Cable

91LJJAQgPXL__SL1500_One night, almost 7 years ago, I had an epiphany while flipping through our over 100 TV channels. There was nothing on that I wanted to watch. The more I thought about it, the more I realized we probably spent more time looking for something towatch than actually watching. Add in the fact that most of the day there was no one home to watch anything, I began to wonder why we would pay money (a lot of money) for this service. So, we cut the cable. In its place we used a combination of over-the-air TV, Netflix streaming, iTunes, and Hulu. What we found, was instead of spending hours at night looking for something to watch, we were able to ACTUALLY watch something.Usually, exactly what we wanted to watch, and when we wanted to watch it. And without the giant cable bill.

Some Options for Cutting the Cable:

  1. Get a digital antenna and watch over-the-air channels with your digital capable TV.
  2. Connect a computer and wireless keyboard to your flat panel TV. You can use just like any computer monitor and watch Netflix, Hulu, or any other video content source you like.
  3. Get a phone adapter and stream from your smart phone. Be it Android or Apple, you can connect your phone to your TV and watch content streamed from palm of your hand. AppleTV, Roku, and Chromecast are some good options for this, as well, and AppleTV and Roku offer a standalone interface as well (no phone required).
  4. Use your gaming console (Wii, WiiU, Xbox, Playstation) to stream content.

Fast forward 7 years, most people know about Netflix, but are still a little confused about the over-the-air TV.Since the FCC’s 2009 decision to have all broadcasters switch to digital broadcasting, over the air signals have been broadcast (mostly) in high definition. What does this mean for us? Well, we can get many (20 or more) channels for free. Right now, you’re probably thinking about those old “rabbit ears” covered in aluminum foil and the constant readjusting to get a good picture. Yes, this is the same concept, but technology has made this method of getting TV signals so much better. In fact, of all the TV services we’ve had (Charter, DirectTV, CDE Lightband), our over-the-air channels are the clearest and highest quality. The kicker is, network channels like ABC, NBC, etc…, are in full HD.

channellistSo, “how do you get these free channels?”, you might ask. For us it was easy. I ordered an outdoor antenna and simply replaced our satellite dish. Done. It might not be so easy for you. Newer TVs have a digital tuner built in, so you won’t need a converter box, and if you leave near a large city you can probably get away with a set-top antenna. My suggestion is for you to check to see what channels you can expect to receive. It will also give a direction in degrees that will help you align the antenna for the best reception.

If you live farther away from the broadcast antennas (like us), you will need an outdoor antenna. My preferred brand is They have antennas for any installation situation. I like the DB2eantenna (pictured above). It has a range of about 45 miles, andworks well for us. You might need to go up to the DB4e for that extra range of 65 miles, depending on where you live. These antennas are much smaller than old outdoor antennas, about the same size as your average satellite dish.Once you find an antenna you think will work. I highly suggest purchasing from While Antennas Direct is the manufacturer, amazon has better prices (~$50 vs. ~$89 for the DB2e). As most houses are already wired for cable or satellite, it’s an easy task to connect the antenna to the existing wiring, do a channel scan on your TV, and enjoy the total absence of a TV bill.

Combine the over-the-air TV with Netflix or other video streaming service (Hulu, Amazon Instant, Youtube, etc…) and you have all the entertainment your family needs.


Awesome long exposures from ISS

Via Flickr– Expedition 31 Flight Engineer Don Pettit relayed some information about photographic techniques used to achieve the images: “My star trail images are made by taking a time exposure of about 10 to 15 minutes. However, with modern digital cameras, 30 seconds is about the longest exposure possible, due to electronic detector noise effectively snowing out the image. To achieve the longer exposures I do what many amateur astronomers do. I take multiple 30-second exposures, then ‘stack’ them using imaging software, thus producing the longer exposure.”

View the entire album here


What I want from a Tablet…

It’s very simple… Do I want a toy (in other words, more for entertainment than productivity), or a useful portable device?
I go back and forth on this, which is why I don’t own a tablet yet. Apple didn’t help much with that awesome display they crammed into the new iPad, either. That just looks awesome! However, I get snapped back to reality on days, like today, when I have to lug my laptop around troubleshooting the network at work. I really need that RJ45 on days like this, the iPad doesn’t have one. Not to mention the iPad won’t run our database programs, or allow me access to any sort of file system. I could possibly work around some of these things, I do use my iPhone quite heavily for work… I RDP to servers and use apps to ping IPs via wifi, which is well and good, but sometimes I need a command line to make certain things happen. I need a PC… An honest to goodness Microsoft Windows PC. I just want one that’s light and has sufficient I/O to accomplish my daily tasks, like troubleshooting networks.

I’d like to see a tablet that:

  1. Has a file system
  2. Has an RJ45 jack
  3. Has a physical keyboard available, attached or not
  4. Runs Window
  5. Has and SD slot
  6. Has a USB port
  7. Is light weight
  8. Is thin and can one-handed
  9. I haven’t found such a device, exactly. Asus had a couple of devices that were close. The EP121 was super powerful, but not enough I/O ports. My favorite right now is the T101MT, but I think they just discontinued it.
    I’m still looking. May best and only option, may turn out to be a panasonic tough book. Unfortunately, that brand name carries an even higher price tag than an iPad, by about 4x. But it just might be 4x more useful.

Funny things to ask Siri…

After several days of playing with Siri I’ve stumbled into some funny responses. For instances, “Do you know any jokes?” gets the response , “two iphones walk into a bar, i forget the rest…” Sometimes it seems when you ask questions repeatedly you get different answers. So have fun with it.

Have you found anything funny that Siri says? Leave it in the comments.



My poor phone

This is what Carson did to my phone last week. It’s all better now. I was actually going to keep it broken, I thought it looked cool. But pieces of glass kept coming off in my hand. So, thanks to I have a new back on my phone. Yeah! In the past 6 months, I have replace both the front and back of my phone. Both thanks to Carson. What a kid.


Webcam Weakness

I have a weakness for webcams. Well, surveillance cameras, really. I have, at one point or another, had as many as five webcams streaming live to a secured server in our house. That said…
I found that B&H in New York, an electronics and production equipment super store, had an iPhone app. Well, short story, I found a great camera for a great price. I didn’t know I needed it until I saw it.
So, now we have this wireless network camera with pan & tilt action and Infrared sensors for night time in our house. I’ve had it in the baby’s room so we could watch her sleep, I’ve had downstairs to surveil the house… Tonight, I tried to hide it in the boys room, to no avail (see picture). It is useful when we’re gone. I can pull the cameras up from my phone or computer to watch and hear what’s going on. While on vacation I get emails with photos attached whenever motion is detected. Pretty handy.
So, this is my hobby… Spying on my house. Just be careful if you visit… I’ll be watching.



My iPhone LIVES!

So, as you can read below, Carson thought my phone needed a bath. I took the back cover off and put the phone in my “magic” rice for a day.  The next day I had to go buy a new screwdriver since my only Phillips #00 was locked up in my desk at work.  Since it was Good Friday, there was no chance of me getting it.  It was just as easy to buy a new one and, I probably should have more than one #00.  You can never, EVER have too many tools, after all.  I didn’t follow the tear down guide the first time I took it apart.  I just wanted it apart quickly so I could get it all dry and back in the rice.

After another day in the rice, I took it out and reassembled it.  It powered on, but there were obvious spots of water in between te touch glass and the LCD, which is not uncommon for a phone that has been underwater… It happened to my other phone as well, when I went into the lake. I played on the phone for a brief moment, then it shut itself off. I was very hopeful that one more night in the rice would fix it fully.

I’m pretty sure it would’ve recovered alright, except, I made the grave mistake of trying to seperate the LCD from the touch glass.  On the iPhone 3G and 3GS they do seperate, but then again, the iPhone 4 has an LCD unlike any other phone on earth.  It’s awesome! In trying to take them apart to remove that little bit of water I heard the LCD crack (not a sound an LCD should ever make). Then I saw the layers of the LCD seperate.  Again, not a good thing, AT ALL! I quickly put the whole thing in the rice and tried to forget I just did that.

The following day, I reassembled it and it, of course, didn’t work. So, on Monday I ordered my replacement LCD from As well as a battery, just for good measure since they aren’t too expensive. They came in today and I’m glad to say, my phone is back to its old self.  I didn’t even have to restore it from iTunes.  It came right up where I left off.  Hooray!

I am also happy to report I can now put the ancient phone I have been using back into storage until the next time I need a temporary phone. On second thought, I might just check ebay for a cheap smart phone that I can use instead.  I had some major withdrawl. No games, no twitter, no facebook, and even worse… NO weather apps! Which I greatly needed these past few days. It was an interesting time for me, trying to figure out how to tell and waste time without my phone. Glad to say I was sucessful in both, even without my phone!


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