Here at my mom’s place she has an old DirecTV hughes digital satelite converter.  Well, I just recently set her up with a 50″ plasma tv and so her remote no longer worked for changing the volume or turning the tv on and off.

I found some overly complex instructions but the meat and potatoes of it all really came down to these two steps:

Put the remote into PROGRAMMING MODE:
1. Hold down the SELECT and MUTE button (remote will cycle through devices.. wait for tv to be selected then depress each button)
Find the correct code for your device:
2. hit the channel up button, then the power button.  repeat this until the TV turns off.  When the tv turns off, this is the correct code for the tv.  Hit the SELECT button to save it.

The place I’m staying at has little to no cell phone signal at times (Sprint).  Which is usually not a problem because I can just use GrooveIP to route my google voice calls over wifi.  The problem I’m dealing with now is that the router is on one side of the house and I’m on the other.  We’re talking about a 5k sq ft house,.. so it’s pretty far for my wimpy little cell phone.

However, the big beefy wifi radio in my new Lenovo L512 has no problem picking up the wifi reception at around ~60%  or 12Mbs.  Wouldn’t it be great if I could use my laptop as a wifi repeater?  I decided to Google around a little bit and found a program called Connectify (3.x.x) that pruported to be able to do exactly this and the software looked well put together and nicely polished.

Using their free version, in just a few moments my Lenovo laptop was broadcasting an AP and my cellphone was connected with a 100% signal.   However, the moment was short lived when about 20 mins later I got a BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH (BSOD).  I haven’t one of these in YEARS! so it was kind of cool to see.   But the excitement wears off quickly when I loose all my work.  I’m now at about 10 BSODs and I’m not as thrilled about this new Connectifiy app as I was. Aas a mater of fact, I had a BSOD while writing this post!  Luckily wordpress is good about making auto-saves.

Sure enough, Google shows that a lot of people are having this problem.  I even tried the Microsoft hotfix they suggest which just turned out to be a waste of time.  I sent in a crash report to Connectify support and promptly uninstalled.  I’m hoping those BSOD’s go away.  I think I’ll come back in 6 months and see if they’ve fixed this issue.  In the meantime, I’m going to have to dig through my storage unit to find my wifi repeater.

Here are a few words I left as a review to a Lenovo L512 laptop I recently purchased on

I bought this as a replacement to a T series 420 and the build quality is lacking to me.

1. Lousy viewing angles. I feel like I’m constantly adjusting the screen in order to see colors represented correctly. vertical and horizontal.

2. Cheap feeling plastic that flexes in places. I can press in certain places and feel the plastic flex. (possibly this is a result of a refurbished unit having been opened and closed incorrectly) — additionally, I REALLY miss the rubberized feel of the T series laptop I owned! I’m tempted to dip my laptop into that rubberizing agent used for garden tool handles. jk jk

3. When holding the laptop the lcd is loose and with only a slight bump adjusts the tilt of the lcd screen; annoying.

4. Battery time. Can’t really fault the laptop or Woot for this; I just wish I had the option of customizing to include a few more battery cells.

1. Nice large screen! Years of computer use and lousy genes have resulted in degradation of my vision.. having a large screen helps immensely 😉

2.a. Wonderfully large keyboard! You know when your palm drags across the touchpad and screws up your cursor focus? is there a name for this?? there should be: palm drag. Well, not with this keyboard because of the size. It has a great feel while typing and I can just fly at 70wpm comfortably.

2.b. The keyboard has a slightly different feel compared to the T series models… I’m gonna say a ‘cheaper’ feel.

3. Warp speed processor (for 2012). Absolutely no lag within any of my apps.

4. Really strong wifi transmit. I can travel to those wifi deadzones in my home and have a med strength signal, whereas my acer netbook and dell laptop fail.

5. I freaking LOVE the fingerprint reader. My old T420 didn’t even have this. I LOVE being able to ‘give my laptop the finger’ to login.  When used with Lastpass, it means I’ll never need to type a password again!  (we’ll see 🙂

All in all.. I’m happy with the purchase. My laptop of choice is now Lenovo, sorry Dell.

UPDATE: This review tends to agree with my opinion on the screen, which I feel is the Achilles heal of this series.

I was an AAA member over a year ago and I get this in the mail saying it’s my new card and a bill. They make it look like its a bill. I called in and they said “no, it’s just a promotion”

If that’s not a scam, then it’s at least pretty shady to me. I wont be doing business with them ever again because of this. — needed them so rarely that I would have saved way more money if I just called a tow truck company if I needed to. What people will pay for peace of mind .. silly

Things to note.  Nowhere does it say the word “promotion”.   But it does have my “member number”,  a “remit” payment date and an “amount due”.  Anyway.. I don’t like business practices like this.. /rant



VID_20110516_203055.m4v Watch on Posterous

I saw 2 beavers out here a second ago, I swear

We recently upgraded the home survelience system here at the house and the improvement is like ‘night and day’, literally!  This new system puts the old one to shame in a big way, but then again, so does the price tag.

The Linksys was around $90 dollars per camera and supposedly had all the motion detection and email triggers built in, but in practice they simply didn’t work.  I consider it more of a toy if you need to see whos at the front door or take a peek at your pet while your at work.  I tried to set it up pointing outside and there are just too many ISO white balancing fluctiontions in the image that it creates a lot of false positives.  (reviewers of the camera have pointed out this is a flaw in the firmware of the camera which makes it unsuitable for motion detection apps).   This model works over 802.11G and the new one’s operate on the N protacol.  It was pretty easy to set up, even setting it up to be viewable via your smartphone remotely, should you know how configure your router.  The image is terrible in low light as it provides no IR capabilities.

My roomate requested we upgrade the system to a camera capable of viewing images at night and after a lot of research, I ended up choosing the Logitech Alert 750e.  The price tag jumps up to over 4 times the cost of the Linksys at $350, but the feature set is about 4x that of the Linksys as well.   To start with, as seen in the picture, it has excellent optics capable of night vision at a few hundred feet in nearly complete darkness.  I find the motion detection to be extremely reliable with nearly no false positives.  The software is what really ties this package together and puts a complete DVR of history motion events at your finger tips.  It’s a breeze for my ~60 old roomate to use and I’m confident that she’ll not have any problems that require my technical support after I move out.  She could have even set it up because there are really no technical steps of configuring a router required.  Since it communicates over powerline (plugs into your wall power; no cat-5 cables or wifi signals) all you do is plug the camera into the wall and run the software on the computer to get it going.  I am a little let down by few things:

  1. The software can only run on one computer, which makes it nearly impossible to view motion events from another computer.  Also, because the software uses ActiveX (or some advanced graphics) it’s not possible to remote into the computer via software like Remote Desktop or VNC.  Some people have had luck purchasing a subscription to Go To My PC of which supports the graphics used in the Logitech software.  Another method is to run motion detection software on a different computer and have it’s source pointed at the camera.  But that means your system needs to be on all the time and it’s going to take some serious cpu cycles to process the motion detection instead of using the onboard motion detection in the camera’s hardware.
  2. They require you to pay a $50/yr subscription in order to view your motion detection results remotely.  Logitech says the cost is because they are using their servers to proxy your computers connection through them.  This is a technique called ‘NAT punching’ that foregoes any router configuration and what makes setup so easy.  However, I wish that they would at least give me the option to configure the router so I could connect remotely.  This just seems like a money grab by Logitech and dishonest because this price or mention of a subscription is not listed anywhere on the products box.  One caveat though, you can view live motion remotely without the subscription.  The software is fairly nice, but very buggy for the Andriod when I tried it.  (It only connects the first time, and coming back to the application gives and error and you have to do a ‘force close’)
  3. The Logitech cameras are prohibitively expensive.  If you want to upgrade your system you have to buy another camera at nearly full price.  That means a 3 camera system is over ~$1000.  I’d say that if you plan on even adding one additional camera that you instead invest in an all in one DVR from newegg (they seemed to have the best price for this logitech and other DVRs.
All and all, the Logitech Alert system beats the Linksys camera’s hands down.  There’s an initial sticker shock, but once you have the system running in a few minutes and you use the software working flawlessly, it justifies the inflated cost.   Logitech products seem to be on the high end of the price scale lately, but I’ll hope that with time the price is lowered.   I can’t even imagine going back to a webcam or linksys wireless camera again with all their system ‘hiccups’, as I call them.  Well worth the money.

Everyone has their method of avoiding spam and here’s how I’m doing it.  I’m using what I call disposable email addresses in Gmail.

The idea is that I periodically create new Gmail email accounts that forward to my main Gmail account.  When any one email address is ‘compromised’ and ends up with a lot of spam, I can either delete the email account or use filters in my main gmail account so I don’t see them.

I recently gave out an email address to the Men’s Warehouse when buying a suit and since then I’ve noticed a lot more spam messages in my in box.  Time to block that email.

Here’s how I do it:

(assuming you already have a Gmail account, I’ll refer to it as your ‘master’ account)

1. Create bogus email address at that you can easily remember.  This is what you’ll give out to retailers, promotions, websites.. whatever.  I’ll use It’s helpful to use a random word generator to come up with a combination of words.

2. In the upper right corner, click ‘settings‘ In your newly created Gmail account. Click on the Forwarding and POP/IMAP. Use the options to ‘forward’ your email and when prompted, enter your ‘master’ gmail account email address.

3. Log into your ‘master’ gmail account and you should see a confirmation email.  Click on the link,.. now you have forwarding set up.

At this point, you’ll never have to log into your newly created gmail account again.  Everything that gets sent to that email address will be forwarded to your ‘master’ gmail email account.

Now you have control over what makes it into your email inbox.  If you find that one of the email addresses is putting a lot of spam into your ‘master’ gmail inbox, you can click the more button in gmail and choose ‘filter emails like this’ and choose to ‘archive immediately’ if the to: address is your disposable email address you gave out.  You’ll still receive emails from the disposable email address, they just won’t be shown as new mail in your inbox.

Added bonus: Send emails with a FROM: address of your disposible email from within your ‘master’ gmail account.   This is handy when you’re initiating the conversations, for example, responding to a craigslist posting. (of which are notorious for spamming)

1. Log into your ‘master’ gmail account and navigate to settings.  On the Account and Import tab, click Send mail from another address.

2. Continue through the wizard by entering your disposable email address.  I’m entering address.  Then click the Send Verification button.

3. Log into the disposible email account you created.  You’ll find a confirmation email with a verification link that you’ll need to click.

Now when you log back into your ‘master’ gmail account and compose an email you’ll see a drop-down box in the ‘from’ address with your newly linked gmail account.  Mine says

After a year of being in the box, I finally installed a media card reader in my roomate’s PC.  It would have stayed in the box indefinitely if it weren’t for her buying a new digital camera that needed the SD card reader this drive bay provides.

I was initially daunted by the sheer number of wires coming out the back that all needed their special connections on the motherboard, of which I lost the manual to.

I picked this unit up off ebay for $12 and what seemed like a month long wait on the shipping from China.  There’s a plethora of similar internal front panel usb readers available found with the search terms: “front usb panel 5.25”

Installation was surprisingly easy once I figured out that most of the cables were for the firewire and the 5.1 dolby audio cables, both of which weren’t needed with her setup.  Oh, and the fact I had to track down the pdf version of my mother board manual online.

Wiring mainly consisted of plugging in:

  • molex power supply connector
  • 6 pin keyed usb connector (for usb and memory card reader)
  • and screws to secure the sides

I didn’t make use of and ended up bundling in a knot, the:

  • 6 color coded firewire cables
  • 6 wires for the 5.1 audio
  • sata cable

For the above ports on the front panel that weren’t made use of, I used some black tape cut to squares and adhered over the port and the white text.  I was actually pretty happy with the asthetcs of the black tape; the poor man’s adhesive didn’t make it look ugly or cheap.

The end result is that she’s now able to navigate to ‘my computer’ and she’s got 4 or 5 removable drives available.  Because the drive letters are essential mounted and won’t change, I decided to rename the drives to names like “SD, CF, etc”.   I tested her CF, SD and USB thumb drive and all worked well.  (I didn’t go as far as testing transfer rates).

$12 and 30 mins well spent.

I mentioned in a previous post that I dropped t-mobile and would be using two cell phones.  One cheap prepay cell and an iphone 2g for the dataplan.  Well I found a better solution and finally it’s available after 5 months of being out of stock. Introducing the Vigin mobile prepay 3g mifi.

For the same price as the t-mobile data only plan I can get a 3g connection (my iPhone is limited to the slower EDGE network, so this is an upgrade) and then share the internet as a wifi hotspot to my iphone.  Of course, the credit card sized mifi hardware is $130 bucks up front, but then it’s only $40 bucks a month for unlimited data.

Then there’s the added bonus of sharing the internet connection for up to 5 devices.  Say hello to my little friend, the netbook.  Up until now, I’ve been using PDAnet to teather but it was kind of a pain to setup each time and the ssl limitation was a let down.  Being able to open the netbook on the fly and have it instantly connect to the mifi is a huge plus.

That leaves me with 3 other connections for sharing the Inernet with friends.. or a great way to make new friends. 😉

The downside?  I no longer have an actual phone on my phone.  Like I mentioned, I rarely use my cell phone, so when I do need to make a call, I need to use a voip app like Skype (2.99 a month).  Also, no sms texts.  Not a big problem as there are a lot of sms apps for the iphone, not to mention Google Voice can send them for free.

This mifi device is really impressive and the first of it’s kind to offer prepay unlimited internet for a modest $40.. I think it’s worth it.  While on paper, my idea sounds like it will work, but there may be some shortcomings.  It’s in the mail on it’s way to me now, so after I get to use it for a bit I’ll update this post.

I like my computer on and ready to react as soon as I want to use it, and for this reason I never manually shut it off.  But does it really make sense to keep it on 24/7, even when I’m at work or asleep?  Probably not.

To get the best of both worlds, I use Windows Scheduled Tasks to automate hibernating and waking the computer.  I know I leave the house for work at X time, and won’t return until X time at night, so I might as well save a few dollars in electricity and have the computer shut itself off and turn back on when I get home.

Assuming you know how to add a scheduled task, add one to ‘run a program’ with the command below. You’ll also have to choose the option ‘run with highest privileges’ and then select the weekdays and times you want the computer to shut itself off.

shutdown /h
The /h designates ‘hibernate’.

Then to wake the computer, add another scheduled task to start a program. It really doesn’t matter which program you choose, because it’s the ‘conditions’ tab of the scheduled task we’re interested in. On the ‘conditions’ tab, select ‘wake the computer to run this task’.

That’s all it takes. The computer will shut itself off and then turn itself back on at the times specified in each scheduled task. If you scheduled it to shut off 10 mins after you leave and turn back on 10 mins before you get home, you’ll never notice a thing. Well, maybe you’ll notice the savings on your electricity bill. 😉

Blog Stats

  • 2,009 hits