Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

12/12/2015

It’s My Birthday

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Life Goals,News and Current Events,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Yeah, it’s my birthday again.

I’ve survived another lap around the Sun, mostly in spite of myself and due to the grace of God.  I almost didn’t bother with a birthday post, because I mostly think of my birthday as just another day, but, it’s sort of gotten to be a tradition with me to make this post every year, so, here I am.  Honestly, it seems kind of impossible to me that I’ve survived this long, but, according to the…
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Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is bone to the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog."
   --Jack London

12/11/2015

FanFic

Filed under: Art,Fiction,Fun,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

No, I’m not writing it, but I’m not knocking it, either!

I know a lot of people do look down on fan fiction, mostly because it traditionally hasn’t been the best quality.  In fact, back in the old days, when I first was trying my hand at writing, it was very much denigrated and no one really wanted to admit that they wrote “fan fic”.  It was, after all, problematic in a number of ways.  For one thing, it was never…
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12/4/2015

Manuscript Submission Tools

Filed under: Art,Fun,NaNoWriMo,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

If you finished your NaNoWriMo novel last month, you may want to submit it for publication.

Here are tools that can help, via the Bookbaby blog.
First of all, know that these aren’t all free and all require a bit of work!
The first tool is Submittable.  It is free for “submitters” (ie. writers), actually, and has tools for keeping track of not only what you’ve submitted and to whom, but any awards and accolades you may have achieved with your writing.  You do…
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11/27/2015

Don’t Give Up!

Filed under: Fun,NaNoWriMo,News and Current Events,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

If you’ve been grinding away at your NaNoWriMo novel, don’t give up!

Seriously, no matter how close you are, or are not, to getting 50,000 words of your novel out before the end of the month, keep writing. It’s the only way your dream of writing a novel will come true.  I know it’s hard, because I’ve tried at least twice, but if you’ve been writing regularly this month, you’ve already done more than most people.  And, possibly, you’ve done more…
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11/20/2015

Naming Names

Filed under: Fiction,Fun,NaNoWriMo,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning or 6:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

Naming is hard.

Naming things can be one of the most difficult tasks for an author. Whether it’s naming people, places or things, the endless work of finding just the right name, one that sounds realistic and fits the circumstances, can be trying work. For me, place names are the hardest to do well. No matter what the setting, naming towns and streets can be challenging. As it turns out, it can be challenging in the so-called “real” world, too. Back…
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11/13/2015

Friday the Thirteenth

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

That’s right, today is Friday the Thirteenth.

I used to assume that Friday the Thirteenth was considered unlucky due to some Biblical association, since so many superstitions seem to tie back to some obscure custom related to religion. Personally, I assumed it had something to do with Judas being the Thirteenth Apostle or some such. But, I’ve since found out that nothing could be further from the truth. As it turns out, Friday the Thirteenth is considered unlucky because of its association…
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11/10/2015

Cutting The Cable – Roku

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Cutting Cable,Fun,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a New Moon

This is probably old news to long-time streaming fans, but I love the Roku!

Since starting to stream most of our television viewing, my wife and I have run into one significant problem; how to stream.
As I’ve already mentioned, I started out streaming on my Sony home theater system and my wife had an older Blu-Ray player that streamed, too.  But, her Blu-Ray was limited because it was old enough, for instance, that she couldn’t stream Amazon Prime video.  Mostly, it wasn’t an issue, because we’ve mostly been watching TV together on the bigger screen.  But, she can only take so much of my anime and Stargate Atlantis, and I can only take so much of her Regency dramas and Lark Rise to Candleford, so we often will watch different things in different rooms.  So, I started looking into different players.  The one that seemed to get consistently good reviews is the Roku family of devices.

Being cautious, and cheap, I went to eBay and found a gently used Roku 1 for about $30, including shipping.
The day it came, I got it hooked up to the second TV and connected to our wifi in less than 5 minutes.  Then, because I didn’t already have an account, I signed up at roku.com and got the device registered.  That literally took about another 15 minutes because I was doing it all on my iPhone and the tiny screen didn’t lend itself to fast typing.
Next I started the process of adding our credentials to the Netflix channel, the Hulu channel and the Amazon Prime channel.  By the time I got to the third one, I had pretty well mastered the Roku remote and virtual keyboard.  It wasn’t an incredibly fast process, but, still, in less than 30 minutes, I had all our current streaming systems setup on the Roku.  Then, my wife and I started exploring channels, first on the Roku itself and then on the website.  I was stunned at how many free channels there were!  And, yes, a “channel” on the Roku is roughly equivalent to a “channel” on cable.  Except, of course, for the fact that these are streaming channels and not live.

There are, as I already wrote, an amazing assortment of streaming channels available via the Roku.
Not only are there hundreds of free channels, but there are also quite a few that you can get a-la-carte for a low monthly charge.  Even better, though, are all the options now to get HBO and Showtime in streaming-only versions, completely cutting out the cable companies and their over-priced bundling!  We are actually not going to avail ourselves of that option, but what we have is fantastic.
Also, one feature that’s very nice is that the Roku makes binge-watching even easier as it will automatically advance your viewing queue, which our Sony home theater does not when it streams.  It’s honestly not something I realized I was missing until I had it back.  It makes the experience much more like watching regular TV.
Oh, also, if you’re a sports fan, which neither my wife nor I are, you can choose from a wide array of sports channels here, too.

I cannot tell you how impressed I am with this device!
For one thing, the setup was super easy.  This is the older version of this device, superseded by three versions now that the 4k version has been announced, and it’s still spectacular.  The complaint I see the most is about the “primitive” interface, but I see it as being simple and easy-to-use.  Honestly, this thing is so easy to setup, I’d recommend one to my 80+ year-old parents.  I make my living with technology so it’s often hard for me to judge how hard or easy something is to use.  I’m not a good test-case.  Instead, I judge it based on whether or not my poor mother could get it sorted out without calling me more than once or needing additional outside help.  I feel confident that she’d have no problem with this at all, especially if she knew to setup an account on roku.com first.
Then, once setup, adding and removing channels was really easy.  And, of course, actually viewing the content was no more complicated than using a DVR or similar device.  Really, in spite of the criticism, the interface made it all very easy to use and figure out.  On a media player, that’s precisely what I want; ease of use.
The one thing I don’t like is that you have to manually refresh your device when you add channels via the website before they show up.  As a technologist, I understand why they probably went that route, but it’s still a little annoying sometimes.  Still, that’s pretty much the only thing I don’t like about the Roku.

So, yes, I highly recommend this device.  In fact, later this week I’m going to order Sling TV and take advantage of their deal to get a Roku 3 at half-price for pre-paying three months of service.
When we get that setup and I feel confident about a decent review, I’ll post something here.
Also, I had an ulterior motive for getting this older version.  My next project is to setup a homemade DVR and, based on some research, the only way to get some of the streaming services onto a DVR is via analog.  The HDMI standard now includes a signal that prevents digital recording.  Analog recording, however, is still not blocked.  The Roku 1 has both the HDMI connectors and analog connectors.  So, at some point, I’ll be able to use this to record things for more convenient play-back at a much later date.  At least, in theory.  I’ll let you know how that eventually goes, too.

11/6/2015

Some Starting Advice

Filed under: Art,Fun,NaNoWriMo — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Dragon which is in the early morning or 9:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Advice for writers.

Specifically, for writers attempting to complete the National Novel Writing Month challenge.
First, jump over to Writer’s Digest and check out their 30 Tips for Writing a Book in 30 Days.  And, also, keep in mind that you’ll have 31 days to do it, but, if you haven’t started already, you’ve wasted at least five days.   (But, it’s still not too late!)  But, I’m going to assume you have started and maybe just need a distraction from all…
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11/3/2015

Cutting The Cable – Streaming Services

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Cutting Cable,Movies,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:30 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a Third Quarter Moon

Streaming content changes your relationship with television programming.

Of course, so did the DVR, but this is different.
I was probably a little ahead of the curve here, because I’ve been streaming Netflix since, at least, 2007.  So, back when it was still just starting to be a thing, really, I had gotten totally comfortable with the idea of streaming content.  In fact, the first of the three services I’m going to talk about might as well be Netflix.  As it turns out, when I decided to drop cable the first time, after Hurricane Ike in September of 2008, Netflix was the only service I had.  I didn’t realize at the time that had only really been possible since January of that year, but it didn’t matter.  I bumped my subscription up to the level which allowed me to have four discs out at a time and I actually watched more content that way than any other.  Let me tell you, binge watching Lost, four episodes in an evening, really opened my eyes.  Not only was it far more understandable and easier to follow the plot of an otherwise complicated and confusing show, but it let me indulge the obsessive side of my personality to my heart’s content.  Most of the time, I prefer movies to regular serial television anyway, but this really let me dive deep into whatever show was popular.  Well, whatever show was popular last year.  At the time, there wasn’t a lot available for streaming, but that changed pretty quickly and, for several years, I got caught up on  a lot of movies I’d missed and shows that I’d come to late in their life.
Now, Netflix has changed, but I still keep them.  And, I currently have an account that allows streaming and up to two discs at a time.  I have upgraded to the Blu-ray option, though, since I’ve upgraded my home theater system to a Blu-ray system.  I do that because there are a lot of things that I might want to watch which I can’t get via streaming.  That being said, for movie content, Netflix still has some of the best options around.  Currently, a streaming-only plan is $8/month for a single screen at a time, but will go up shortly.  I have a grandfathered plan that includes streaming on up to 4 screens and two Blu-ray discs at a time which runs me about $25 /month.  I expect that will go up at the first of the year, based on some news reports I’ve seen, but I think it’s still a bargain.  (You can check the latest prices at NetflixReview, though I don’t know how often the update them.)  Until I bumped up my network speed, we had a lot of issues with buffering if either of us were doing anything else on-line, but that’s not a problem any more.  If we start to have issues again, I’ll bump us up an additional tier, though.  We haven’t done it yet because at least one of our goals here was to save money.

When I first started asking people who I knew had cut cable what they streamed, a surprising trend emerged.
It seemed like all of them had Amazon Prime.  As it turns out, besides getting free shipping on anything that’s sourced from an Amazon warehouse, Amazon Prime includes a lot of free, streaming video. They also have a lot of on-demand streaming video you can buy.  So, the old cable “pay-per-view”, basically, only streaming and with at least as wide a selection, if not larger.  It really feels like Amazon is still building their video catalog, but they do have things that I can’t find on Netflix sometimes.  They seem to have a lot more television than Netflix does for streaming, too.  And, most of their stuff seems more current.  By that I mean, Amazon has more things that aired more recently.
Also, Amazon has some content that they produced.  Of course, Netflix does, too.  I have some those in my queue, at both Amazon and Netflix, but I haven’t gotten around to watching it yet, so I don’t have any comments.  Though, I know Amazon won several Emmy Awards this year for their work.  In fact, in celebration of that, Amazon Prime was on sale some time back, and I got it then for $67/year for the first year instead of the usual $99/year.

The other streaming service I heard people mention a lot was Hulu.
Initially, I started streaming everything via my Sony home theater system and, since Hulu was one of the options available, I decided to try it.  I figured it was cheap, at $7.99/month for “limited commercials”, and they seemed to carry a lot of programming that interested me, like the SyFy Channel.  What I really like about Hulu, though, is basically two things.  One, is that it has a lot of the series I like and a ton of anime, which I love, but haven’t watched a lot of in recent years.  And, two, I can get a lot of shows that recently aired, like Agents of SHIELD, usually, the day after they aired on regular TV.  So, in some ways, Hulu has replaced a lot of what I used my DVR for in the first place.
Hulu also has a lot of more obscure shows, many from Canada, which I’ve never heard of or seen before, which can be fun.  And, the “limited commercials” are just that, limited.  On most shows, the ads are less than 30 seconds long and only show two or three times during an episode.  In some cases, like when my wife and I are watching different shows on different devices, only one of us will actually get ads that interrupt our show.  And, lately, the ad I see the most is from Hulu itself, trying to tempt me into upgrading my service to the “commercial free” level.  For an additional $4/month, I’m tempted, to be honest, but the commercials aren’t very disruptive as they are now.

All three streaming services we’re using have their own content.  So far, though, I’ve only watched original content on Amazon Prime.  Specifically, I’ve watched the first two episodes of Man In The High Castle, which is based on a book by Phillip K. Dick.  It’s been pretty good so far.  I’m also looking forward to watching Daredevil and Jessica Jones, which are both produced by Netflix and are Marvel properties.  They’ve gotten great reviews, even though the general public only has access to Daredevil so far.  Hulu’s original content is mostly comedy and doesn’t really appeal to me that much.  And, I have to admit, the original content is all just icing on the streaming cake for me.  None of the original work had any real bearing on the choices we made regarding streaming services.

All that being said, there is actually one more streaming service that I haven’t gotten yet, but plan to add; Sling TV.  They’re new, but they sound promising and they may be the only way we can replace some of my wife’s favorite programming, namely classic movies.  So far, Sling TV is the only way to get her favorite channel, Turner Classic Movies.
But, that’s going to be a post all on its own at a future date.

Hey, if you made it through all this and still have something to add about your favorite, or least favorite, streaming service, please, leave me a comment!

11/1/2015

Start Your NaNoWriMo Manuscript!

Filed under: Art,Fun,NaNoWriMo — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rat which is in the wee hours or 12:01 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

If you’re going to do it, now’s the time.

Personally, I’m not going to have time, again, this year, though I’d dearly love to join in the challenge of writing 50,000 words of fiction for National Novel Writing Month.  November has never been the best month for me to do this, with all the social obligations and extra work I often have around the holidays.  Still, as I always say, maybe next year.

So, yes, this month I’ll be posting resources for…
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