Yearly Blog Post

September 5th, 2010

I suppose there are many blogs out there that don't get posted to as often as they should. I'd like to get into updating the blog a bit more often, but I'd rather have quality posts than not.

I recently purchased a house. I'm pretty happy about that as I was renting for quite a while and I was able to get into something while the market was more affordable. It's a small ranch and it's in pretty good shape. There is good amount of paneling I'd like to remove, but I'm pretty happy with the condition otherwise.

As I was preparing to move, I decided to take a look at what I did and didn't need.  Moving is always a good time to clear out some of the clutter.  I did the usual stuff like clean out the closet and all the electronics I'd collected.  I made some donations to Goodwill and took some old computer parts to the electronics recycling program.  I also decided to scrap the Asterisk VOIP phone I had set up.  I was running Asterisk on my Linode to provide phone service for myself and my sister.  My sister moved back to the US a few months ago so her and my brother-in-law got new cell phones.  I'm fine with just using the cell primarily.  So it was one less thing to maintain (no, I won't be updating any of the scripts I posted on here).

After moving into the new house, I had quite a time with Comcast.  First I wasn't able to connect the service during the weekend I moved because the old owner never cancelled their account.  So I was prevented from transferring service.  That was pretty frustrating since it's easy to verify ownership of a house with the county.  Then they missed two appointments to install the service.  I'm not even sure why someone had to come onsite since the service was working before they sent someone out to disconnect it when the old owners finally cancelled.  So yea, they weren't really treating the customer that great.  To be honest, I haven't been watching that much TV lately.  My biggest use of Comcast was for the Internet.  So I decided to give Clear Internet a try.  They're a wimax Internet provider that has recently started service in this area.  I can even see the tower out one of my windows.  I'm still waiting on the device though (I just ordered it before the weekend).  I have some anxiety over how well this thing will actually work, so I'll have to post back later about it.

Since I'm no longer getting Comcast, I thought I'd give over the air TV another shot.  I did apply for one of those converter boxes last year, but I got really crappy reception at my last house.  I figure at least this way I can get some of the major TV networks (which is all I got from basic cable anyhow).  So without doing enough research, I set about to build an antenna.  Someone else I know had built one from directions on the Internet and was happy with it.  So I got the parts for a couple bucks at the hardware store and went about it.  The antenna works great for UHF.  For VHF, not at all.  The ABC and PBS stations in Philly are broadcasting over VHF.  Everything else is in the UHF bands.  The one good thing is that my family room faces the direction of the Philly stations and the antenna fits well in the window, so the UHF stations came in strong.  Later on, I tried adding different lengths of wire to make a dipole, but I haven't been able to get the ABC station.  My house also has aluminum siding, so that probably doesn't help stuff like TV signals (or the wimax device that's coming).  The dipole for the ABC station needs to be 5.6 feet wide, which may be a bit too big for indoors.  I left the smaller dipole pieces on and now I can get the PBS station as well as the UHF stations.  At some point, I'd like to build another one of these to mount on the roof.  Next time I'd use materials that'll hold up to the weather a bit better.  I may just see about adding a set of rabbit ears if I get that far.  I'll see what happens, but I'm content for the moment.

I suppose some of the ambition to build an antenna came from my semi recent interest in amateur radio.  Over the summer I took part in a class the county offered and I passed the exam during the annual ARRL field day.  Currently, I only have my tech license.  I'd like to go back and get the general license, but I need to get that book and do some studying.  Depending on how interested I stay in ham radio, I may put another antenna or two on the roof (or maybe in the attic).  Hopefully I'll post some more pictures if I get crafty.

The other hobby I enjoy is rock climbing.  I was lucky to get two camping and climbing trips in to New River Gorge this year.  I passed up on a trip last minute to go to Rumney , NH.  I would have liked to go, but I really needed some more time to get settled in the new house.  Hopefully, they'll be some more climbing opportunities before winter.

Well, that just about takes care of summarizing what's been going on in my life this past year.  I'll make an attempt to do more posts when I have some decent climbing pics or maybe a new antenna.

Ford Recall

October 31st, 2009

This week I received a recall notice on my Ford Explorer.  A lot of people trash talk American vehicles, but believe it or not this is the second recall I've received.  The first one had to do with the closer on the rear hatch.  This one is a little more serious though as it involves a speed control deactivation switch which was manufactured by Texas Instruments.  It potentially could cause a fire and the letter I received instructs me to park my vehicle away from building structures.

Even though the Explorer doesn't get very good gas milage, I have been happy with it and I hope it lasts another eight years.  I'll be making an appointment to get this fixed sooner than later.


October 21st, 2009

I purchased an iPhone last June. I had been waiting for my Verizon Wireless contract to end for nearly six months and the iPhone 3GS had recently been released. It was as if the planets were aligning.

At the time, I had iPhone envy.  Quite a few people I knew had an iPhone and they always had this neat toy wherever they went.  Now that I've been using one for four months or so, I suppose I'm now a brainwashed Steve Jobs follower bent on supporting Apple's plan to take over the world.

Well maybe I'm not that bad, but it is what I consider to be one of my best purchases.  Since I've been taking the bus to work this semester, it has been quite useful for keeping me entertained on my ride.  I do wish DART had an app for the bus schedules though.  Instead they have these huge PDFs that are frankly a pain in the butt.  But, I'm getting a little off track.  This post isn't about DART (although I do appreciate the service they run).

I have found some nifty apps.  I'm sure some folks have ten times as many apps as I do.  I don't go app hunting that often and I try to stick to the free ones when I can.  In no particular order, some of my favorite (or most used apps) include..

  • MyWeather
  • Prowl & iNag (love/hate relationship of getting server alerts)
  • iDisk
  • Facebook
  • NPR News
  • Pandora
  • FlightControl
  • Unblock Me (free)

Some of the built-in apps are pretty nifty too.  Seeing the traffic on the Google Maps app is awesome.  Syncing the Calendar app to my Google Calendar is great.

Speaking of syncing, that has been one of the best things I've done since getting the iPhone.  All of my contacts are synced on the phone to MobileMe.  I then sync my MobileMe contacts to my Google (gmail/gvoice) contacts automatically with the Address Book application on my iMac.  Having everything in sync is a wonderful thing.  I do have to be careful though.  I'm relying on two cloud type services and you never know when one could do something stupid.  Making backups is always important.

Anyhow, enough Apple worshiping for one evening.  If anyone has any awesome apps to check out, feel free to leave a comment.