Category Archives: Tech/geek

Cord Cutting 101

11/17/2014 ADDENDUM: CBS has started a 24/7 Digital News Network at

It’s been a bold experiment, so am sharing results after 6 months without cable TV.

AntennaTVlogoA few prelims. I might not have considered cutting the cord elsewhere.  In downtown Atlanta,  with only an indoor digital antenna, receive all the networks and several flavors of PBS.   Also their sister stations, with odds-and-odds like “Bounce” and “Antenna TV,” running old movies and sitcoms.  I haven’t at all missed the movie tiers, what I believed might be sacrificed, nor a DVR, realizing I never watched most of what was recorded anyway.

The networks are stunning in raw HD,  significantly cleaner than through a box.  I’m disturbed visiting anyone using a converter without proper cables.  Equally upsetting is when the necessary equipment is in place, then someone chooses the lower standard definition channel range.

Anyway!  The unforeseen advantage has been content discovered streaming.  Network favorites like “Extant” are available anytime with fewer commercials,  as are “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report”.  I also appreciate “Free Speech TV” and “C-Span”.  Any sports I cared about,  Roland Garros and Wimbledon, required only a modicum of tech savvy to configure Tor for a European IP address.  There’s no shortage of content.

Although there is community Wi-Fi,  for reliable streaming am still beholden to Comcast.  Add Netflix and the monthly “entertainment bill” isn’t quite negligible.  There are cheaper internet tiers, but am not brave enough to test them.   Yet it was not only possible but preferable living without an extra remote control. Google is slowly rolling out fiber,  so imagine a future where access is fast and affordable enough to kiss cable providers goodbye, with a “screw you, too.”



Backing Up Is Hard To Do

Another geeky tech post, for anyone experiencing my frustration keeping their music backed up and usable across multiple PCs.


There is a terrific free utility (synchback) that performs a comparison and update across networked drives, only the method Media Player chooses to name and arrange folders  isn’t consistent.  This is in part because there may be several CD versions of a given song (foreign, compilations, bonus tracks, etc).  Then, after synchronizing,  individual library indexes are corrupt (this can be repaired, but is an annoyance).

The solution/remedy was simple. As with the patient who, after complaining “it hurts when I do this,” has his doctor tell him “don’t do that,” only enable the setting when necessary. Even leaving it enabled accidentally creates a major headache. In addition to the new songs  intended to catalog, WMP wants to happily go about rearranging the entire collection. A minor change in the file names or directory structure creates a ripple.

So I write  my experience in case anyone else ends up googling  for an answer or at least a sympathetic ear.  That’s what blogs are for, as far as I’ve determined.  While  relaxing and watching TV will consider whether I’ve ever simply enjoyed music directly from a PC.  Perhaps the real pleasure is the challenge in maintaining organization.

Coming to terms with Windows 8

My Windows 8Would not have intentionally upgraded to the experience.  It was thrust on me in a new laptop.  Hated it.  So many programs (err, “apps”) cluttered the screen.  The first thing I learned was navigate to the traditional desktop, which promptly was organized as accustomed.  From there could launch Chrome and have my reassuring browser with preset tabs still remembered by Google.  Relieved.  I could live with this.

Still it was necessary to stumble through unfamiliar territory for certain settings.  Also those annoying flashing apps were greeting me at every sign on.  Initially I adapted as I had to the original Windows, accepting it as a presentation layer on top of DOS,  designed only for those not tech savvy.  Similarly Windows 8 seemed nonessential bling,  now on top of regular Windows.

Resisting change back then had resorted to the command line longer than necessary.  It didn’t help that early versions of Windows were truly buggy. As imposing as it appeared, at least this didn’t crash.   It wasn’t long until experimenting with the live mail app and preferring it to the browser.  Next tried social apps, Facebook and Twitter, and decided those had merit also.  Less and less found myself needing to visit the old desktop.

The annoyance of so many unused apps pre-installed was also ingrained from the days of limited storage.  With my android must still be careful how many apps I choose to load.  Acknowledging how much larger the computer’s drive was than phone’s storage, with everything I need loaded, even media,  am just using a small fraction of capacity.  All that was necessary was to unpin anything unused and arrange the look and feel to the degree allowed.

Now have advanced to where I understand the new design as a layer not on top of, but alongside and eventually replacing earlier Windows.  That distinction hit investigating why there were two Skydrive apps pre-installed and their differences.  One is an app, the other a traditional application.  Further explanation is beyond the scope of my short rants.  For the curious, Paul Thruut has better clarification here.

The UV Spectrum

“You have all of your videotapes alphabetized and on index cards… ?”
– When Harry Met Sally

Tip of the Iceberg

The concept of cloud computing was suspect. I now use gmail, skydrive, etc., yet still insist on, or at least attempt, backing up locally. More often personal copies are corrupted or lost, while the online archive is dependable. “VMware” still puzzles.

Perhaps better understanding where Ultraviolet ( is moving with DVDs, embrace the idea of virtual media ownership.  An annoyance of life is keeping up with a collection.  I’ve had discs and tapes in storage, trusted with friends and gone to great lengths not to give them up.  Not certain why I am this way, favorite films are known by heart.   I’m simply a hoarder of all media and there are others like me.  Now UV promises a way to retain viewing rights forever, with no need to keep up with the physical discs. Sadly personal expectations are ahead of the technology.

There is a “disc to digital” process where existing DVD ownership can be registered in this great database in the sky. I’m in! Only there is just one existent service that does this, Vudu, through a partnership with Walmart stores, of all places. Blockbuster, Movie Gallery and now defunct rental companies might have been ideal brick and mortar locations for the process. I’ve yet to venture into a Walmart with my DVD collection though,  only a fraction of titles are eligible for conversion. Also the fee ($2 or SD, $5 for HD) is rather high.  It is arguably paying for ownership twice.

So I’m either an impractical dreamer in believing there is a market for disc to digital, or ahead of my time and it will eventually be reality.  It should be a simple matter for a program to read the UPC of packaging, verify, register and mark the disc physically.  Any venture capitalists out there?

ADDENDUM (2/1/13) : Re-researching discovered Flixster and CinemaNow (Best Buy) now have PC  software for disc to digital conversion from home.

Look Ma, No Frames!

SleekDISCLAIMER/WARNING: Medium-high nerd content.

“What did you learn on the web today, Rich?”  It was with trepidation that I dared peak behind the scenes to the source of sleek HTML5.  I’d grown so appreciative of the look and feel… mostly due to an unhealthy Twitter obsession…  wanted to understand how it was done.  What sorcery was this!?  It was with similar excitement that I dove into first generation HTML in the nineties.  How thrilling  it was then going from text information to presentation with graphics, fonts and colors.  The notion was mind blowing.  I quickly mastered the protocol and proudly added it to my resume.

Then something unfortunate but inevitable happened.  Different people wanted to take something so elegant with simplicity and complicate it.  Along came frames, which never worked as designed, flash and a plethora of necessary plug-ins.  “This site best viewed with…” became a standard disclaimer, literally meaning “this just got too ridiculous”.  When style sheets came into the mix, a concept I might have embraced had it not been a final straw, threw in the towel.  Web design became an industry in itself and my sad HTML resume tag became an admission of incompetence.

So I was relieved to discover HTML5 has in a sense reverted back to basics. The best aspects of previous generations remain with annoying elements, including frames (yes!) relegated to obsolescence. It is again a functional mix of tags and script  for the purpose of making presentation and dissemination palatable.  As it should be. While still too complex to take on with more than a passive interest,  what I learned spending just an hour researching at least offered encouragement.

Twitter Me This

“…these words are my diary screaming out loud
And I know that you’ll use them, however you want to” – Anna Nalick

I’m among the last to crawl on the bandwagon, yet Twitter added an odd layer of completion to a need for social media expression.

Heretofore Facebook and blogging sufficed.  Blogs for rants too long to clutter anyone’s timeline and still a potentially wider (typically narrower) audience.  The therapeutic value of journaling is in “putting it down”.  As often as not ramblings are never published.  An advantage WordPress has over Blogger and similar are its privacy settings.

Facebook altered for the worse after their initial public offering. I could accept increased ads, what bothered me were subtle privacy adjustments. It is understood any activity on a social media site is considered public.  I deliberately chose a unique, searchable alias with that mind. Facebook “friends” include a healthy mix of acquaintances and family.  Posts may still be tailored to whichever audience is deemed appropriate, however previously “Likes” and “Comments” were limited to shared timelines.
Random neural firings
I once derived giddy pleasure surfing others timelines and adding my two cents.  Only now don’t want to force my personal or political opinions into the streams of everyone in my friends list.  Similarly do not care to know everything my friends are encountering in their meanderings. So Facebook has become a static, stagnant forum to maintain a presence and occasionally remark on something unoffensive and irrelevant.

Enter Twitter, where the intent is to flood 140 bytes of random neural firings for any audience who cares to read. The name even implies irrelevance in it does not take itself too seriously.  Still I manage to take it too seriously. Ideally a “tweet” would have a 24 hour half life and disappear entirely after a week or so.  Instead search engines index and the Library of Congress has chosen to archive them permanently. Years from now may not want anyone to know I was digging a show called “Arrow” on the CW network for a moment in time.  Having a few followers even has drawbacks. With any recognition also comes an obligation (for me) to attempt tweeting  substantively more than frivolously.

So my search for the ideal social media platform continues. Google+ circles comes close to combining the best of both Facebook and Twitter,  only for some reason has not caught on.  I didn’t appreciate the way Google initially promoted circles by attempting to send invitations to anyone in my contact lists.  Really, Google+, I’m the  late joiner, not the trend setter.

Update  11/30 – Matt Haughey wrote this (related): Why I love Twitter and Hate Facebook.

The People vs. Dan Cathy

I don’t believe it too extreme that I relate the Chick-fil-a controversy to Larry Flynt’s battles to publish what many consider obscenity.   Dan Cathy and Flynt are opposite ends of the spectrum yet the underlying issue of free speech is the same.   Both were attacked and neither broke the law.  CFA is as free to support Christianity as LFP  is to promote porn.  It does lead one to consider the sacrilege of eating Chick-fil-a while perusing Penthouse.

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