Diary of a Network Geek

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


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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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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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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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.


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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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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Halloween Movies For Free

Filed under: Art,Fun,Movies — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

Staying in this year? Why not watch a movie?!

No, seriously, why not watch a scary movie on Halloween?
Honestly, I’m not usually into scary movies, because, well, they mostly aren’t actually scary.  But, I do dig some of the classics, like George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which is often cited as the true genesis of the current zombie craze.  And, the other classic, black and white film Nosferatu terrified me when I was a kid, even though it was…
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Movie Makeup for Halloween

Filed under: Art,Fun,Red Herrings — 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 Waxing Gibbous

There’s still time, if you’re going to dress up for Halloween!

Personally, I don’t bother, but, if you do, then there is still some time to work in some high-quality make-up to your costume.  I love watching shows about science-fiction effects and monster makeup, like SyFy’s Face Off, and I’ve always wanted to do that stuff, but I never seem to have the time.  And, I have so little artistic skill that I have a hard time coloring inside the lines!…
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Cutting the Cable – HD Antenna

Filed under: Better Living Through Technology,Cutting Cable,Fun,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Monkey which is in the late afternoon or 5:30 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Or, getting your shows the old-fashioned way; over the air.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that my wife and I were cutting cable.  At first, I think it was a slightly terrifying idea for both of us, but, as it turns out, there are loads of options besides the standard, mainstream “cable” television providers.  As I explore some of the options, I’ll write them up here and try to keep things up-to-date regarding any changes we make.
First, though, before getting into any of the various streaming services, I’d like to remind you all about how we used to get our television.  Back in the Before Time, as I like to refer to my distant childhood, television meant an antenna of some kind, usually sticking up high on a roof somewhere.  Actually, the higher the better!  And we’d risk life and limb to get those monstrosities all lined up just right to receive the clearest signal, which, of course, translated to the clearest picture, that we could manage.  For those of you too young to remember those times, count your blessings.  Viewing options were few and far between.  Generally, you could only tune in about four or five stations, if you were lucky, and they often would all be broadcasting things like the news at the same time.  Once cable television entered the picture, if you’ll pardon the pun, regular broadcast television died a swift, merciful death.

But, as it turns out, not really.
You can still get broadcast television, now in high-definition.  (Or HD as all the kids say!)  All you need is a television with a tuner built into it and a good HD antenna.  I recommend the Mohu Leaf 50 Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna.  This is a really great, little antenna.  It runs less than $70, less than $40 if you get a refurbished model, at Amazon, which is where that link leads to, and can pick up a surprising number of stations.  The actual number and variety obviously vary from area to area and I can’t tell you how well this will work outside of large cities, but in Houston, we get quite a few stations very clearly.  Granted, more than a third of them are non-English oriented stations, but we do get some great programming over the air.  For instance, we watched “Big Bang Theory” just fine via the our Mohu Leaf 50 the first week we had it.  And, we had plenty of time to go get snacks during the commercials!
Okay, yes, the big drawback of this technology is that you don’t automatically get a DVR or rewind option with it.  Of course, over-the-air digital video recorders to exist, but they will cost extra.  At some point, I know my wife and I will invest in one.  I’ve been toying with the idea of rolling my own, but that will probably be a series of posts on its own!

Not sure what’s available in your area?
No problem!  Check out AntennaWeb.  The front page is a little tricky, so look for the pale blue button that says “Click Here to Start”.  That will take you to a page where you can fill in your address and some other information and get a good idea of what broadcast channels you’ll be able to pick up in your area.  Notice, though, that it depends on the antenna that you use and how high up it is.  My wife and I have noticed that height and position of the antenna really do make a significant difference regarding what you can get and how well it comes in.  Even with the fancy, amplified antennas we use.  The nice thing about this site is that it will also give you some idea of the kinds of antennas you can use to get what channels.  Though, again, we really have been pleased with the Mohu Leaf 50 so far.

But, how do you know what’s on?
You don’t get a viewing guide on-screen with over-the-air broadcasts.  But, there are plenty of places to find what’s playing in your area.  My wife’s favorite is TitanTV.  You can sign up for a free account that will let you save your preferences and customize settings for your location or locations.  It’s a pretty comprehensive listing and you may not get all the channels.  (In fact, the listings include cable channels so, under the premise that you’re cutting cable like we are, you definitely won’t need all the listings they provide.)  Also, they have an app for your phone, so you can have a handy guide to what’s currently on TV in your hand and don’t need to be logged into your computer for that.
Two of my wife’s favorite broadcast channels are Antenna TV and MeTV, both of which play re-runs of old, syndicated television.  Antenna TV is going to start playing the old Tonight Show from when Johnny Carson was on it in January of 2016!

Notice, that both of the last listed websites advertise some over-the-air DVR systems.  I can’t vouch for any of those, yet, but I know I’ll be looking into them in more depth eventually.  So far, the one thing we do miss a little, is our DVR and the option to rewind the last couple of minutes of broadcast to catch what someone was saying when we weren’t paying close enough attention.  It’s not a big loss, but I know I’ll have to address it eventually.

Also, I’d like to note that if you don’t get a lot of channels right away, try moving your antenna around a bit.  We did that and, after rotating one of ours 90 degrees to a different wall, we got 30 more channels that we did initially.  We had to “upgrade” our antenna cable from the 16 foot cable that it came with to a 25 foot coax cable, but for about a $10 investment, it was totally worth it to add some stations that we hadn’t been getting.


Upgrade Your Instant Noodles

Filed under: By Bread Alone,Fun,Red Herrings — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I love ramen noodles, much to my blushing bride’s chagrin.

I never understood what the stigma around eating instant ramen was all about.  I love instant ramen!  I’ve tried lots of different varieties, but mostly for flavor ideas.  Maybe it’s the cheapskate in me, but I love the cheapest instant ramen we can get at our local grocery store; Maruchan Instant Lunch.  They’re a mere 29 cents each most of the time and often go on sale at 10 for a…
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