Friday, December 28, 2012

Antec P280 Computer Case

I'm in the process of building a new computer as it's a perfect time with all the sales that happen around the holidays. I had thought about just recycling my old Antec Sonata case, but I've been eyeing the Antec P280 for a long time. It's a good sized case with lots of features. Some of the ones I like the best are:
  • Power switch on the outside
  • Three fans installed, two in the top, and one at the rear, controlled by external switches
  • The power supply mounts in the bottom. It has it's own filter that can be cleaned with a little water.
  • 2: 2.5" mounts for SSDs
  • 6: 3.5" mounts for hard drives
  • 3: 5.25" mounts for DVD drives
  • Front filter.
  • Easy to access USB ports
  • Space for additional fans
I'll be doing more videos as I add more hardware.




Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DriveBender not much fun

Last weekend I started on a journey, with some software and a spare hard drive, that ended in failure.
I subscribe to many RSS feeds and one caught my eye, that DriveBender was having a Black Friday sale for their software and it was to be $10. Ok, I admit it, my fault for buying something I really didn’t need, but I thought it would be nice to have software on my WHS 2011 box that would allow me to add additional hard drives in a pool like the original WHS did. This functionality was taken out of WHS2011. How could $10 be wrong?
My setup for my server is WHS 2011 installed onto a 2TB drive. 60 GB being taken up by the system, and the rest for the shared files. Now I have over 900GB free, but I thought why not future proof since Microsoft in their infinite wisdom quit developing WHS?
Well the install of the software went ok, ran its wizard and setup the server. So far so good. Everything seemed to run well. I thought, ok, I have a spare 1TB drive around, why not install it and see what else can I do?
Install the drive and go into DriveBender and add the hard drive to the pool. As soon as I did that the shares disappeared as the software reconfigures you drive mappings. No warning, just did it. To top it off they didn’t come back! So I rebooted. They came back. The first of many reboots to get the software to operate semi-properly over the weekend.
I could have left it there, but I then thought, why not use DriveBender’s functionality of mirroring selected files for backing up? I would select folders of files and that’s when the problems started. Instead of progressing through the whole folder it would stop. I tried everything in the software to get it to finish. It wouldn’t so I thought, ok, reboot time. Server came back and DriveBender proceeded to finish doing the mirroring. Now, while this was happening the server went to a crawl and memory usage went way up.
Well, I’m patient; I let it finish the initial mirroring that I had setup.
Ok, so I proceed to do my normal work over the weekend and keeping an eye on things and everything seems to be functioning normally.
Then, I copy two video files from a virtual server to the WHS2011. They seem to copy just fine. Later that day when trying to find the files they were gone! Not in the folder at all. I thought ok, maybe something with the mirroring is messed up. So I did some digging and still couldn’t find the files.
I thought ok, let me turn off mirroring, and see if they come back thinking that maybe the files were queued up for some reason. Nope, no go.
At this point I’m finished with the software. If I can’t trust it to keep my files intact I’m not going to use it. So I backed out of it. Be warned, it messes up your folder structures so don’t expect to uninstall and be able to go again. Nope, had to move my ServerFolder to the root of the drive, after finding it, then rebooting the server.
Thankfully it appears that no other files were lost and I’m back to just the 2TB hard.
Needless to say I won’t be using DriveBender anytime in the future.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Windows Home Server 2011 Lack of UPS Support




After I finished rebuilding my server I suddenly realized that there’s now battery icon in the task bar for WHS2011! I had totally didn’t realize that Microsoft would remove that feature from WHS2011! One has to ask Why? It’s supported on the underlying O/S that WHS2011 is built on so why not include it?
Here a home user has a WHS2011 server and plugs it into a UPS, why wouldn’t they just expect it is supported? The Windows 7 on their computer supports it? Why not something that was being sold as a central storehouse for documents, music, photos, etc. for the house have not only backup services, but UPS services as well?
Luckily it’s not a deal breaker for me to have WHS2011 be my host O/S on my server. After all I do keep the files backed up to multiple devices and locations, so in the event that my server is damaged in a power outage I could rebuild the server. Probably would take less than a day.
I started to think, well, maybe I could look at the next O/S version that Microsoft has. Well, no more Windows Home Server so its Windows Server 2012 Essentials might be the nearest a home user might use. Doubtful as the price is greater than $450 so I know this home user won’t be purchasing it. And even if I did, it doesn’t support Hyper-V so for me, what’s the point?
I’m sure they want everyone to go to Windows 8, but for me Windows 8 isn’t a “server” solution. At least not now until I read more about it being used in a home server setup.
Heck I probably won’t even install Windows 8 on my desktops unless I was to get a touch screen.
So for now, I’m sticking with WHS2011. It does everything my house needs. My “cloud” backup solution supports it so for the immediate future that’s what it’ll remain.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Server rebuild 95% done

The WHS 2011 rebuild is almost complete. Got the server back to its room and it's reading the weather information from my weather station. Yeah for VirtualBox supporting USB dongles in guest O/Ses! Boo for Hyper-V not supporting USB.
There's still about 40 O/S updates for WHS 2011 to complete. I'll be doing those shortly.
The CloudBerry is working fine with Amazon S3. Still working with CloudBerry on issues with Amazon Glacier.
TrueCrypt finished encrypting the 2TB drive this morning. Now the only hastle with that is I'll have to login every time the server reboots. I don't keep a monitor on it so I'll just type it in and see if it boots (hard drive activity).
Oh there was one casualty, hardware wise, in the whole process. The server's DVD drive completely failed. Refused to open at all. Luckily had a spare computer around to take one out of. Placed an order for a replacement. Only $16 so not too bad for the only out of pocket expense.
The server has 8GB of memory in it and the WHS 2011 host, and two Windows 7 guests (1 GB each) take up about 1/2 the memory so plenty of wiggle room for WHS to do its processing and some space for a couple more virtual machines if ever needed.
I do admit the server and guests were much quicker to respond when they were running under Hyper-V. Luckily no major work is being done in the guests so I'm not going to worry about it at this point as everything else seems to be operating just fine. It is just very unfortunate that Microsoft hasn't added USB functionality for guests in Hyper-V.
Apparently VMWare does support USB, but as I'm unfamiliar with it, I wanted to stay with something I knew. If VirtualBox hadn't worked I would have most likely looked at a VMWare solution.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Server Rebuild

So far today the server rebuild is going well. I removed a couple of hard drives out of the server, that I don't need, and left a single 2TB drive. I installed WHS2011 on the box without any issues.
I had always wanted to encrypt my server's drives, so this time I installed TrueCrypt and it is still processing through the 2TB drive by encrypting it. You can do other tasks on the computer while TrueCrypt is doing that in the background.
I installed VirtualBox in WHS2011 and moved a virtual machine over from my desktop to the server and installed the software I used to communicate with my La Crosse Technology weather station. Fortunately VirtualBox allows for the use of USB devices by a guest (something Hyper-V couldn't do) so a little while ago I plugged in the USB dongle and got it up and going. So now I can keep my desktop computer off and only leave the server on for, well, doing server duties and recording the weather.
Still to be done is to move the server back to its original location and keeping fingers crossed that the weather station and it will still communicate through a floor as my office and the server are on different levels in my house.
Oh, another thing is to finish getting CloudBerry setup. I didn't realize I had to deactivate the software first before I reinstalled it so I'm in trial mode. I've fired off an e-mail to their support so hopefully soon that'll be rectified. But the other issue, though not sure if its really an issue yet, is that when I setup my Amazon Glacier in CloudBerry it doesn't show what I've already backed up. Not sure this is normal as I'm able to see what I have in Amazon S3. Got a message on their forum hoping to get an answer soon.
Probably will start up one of the backups just to see how well it does tomorrow. Been at the computer already too long today!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Changing Home Server Setup

For a couple years I’ve been running a home built server with Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V as a the host and Windows Home Server 2011 as the primary guest with a couple Windows 7 and a Windows XP guest that could be run as well. This was to allow for the WHS2011 to run always, and when I was needing to download a file I could fire up one of the other Guests and download the file without having to fire up a desktop PC in the house and leave it on.

The primary job of the server has always been to be the homes central point for documents, photos, MP3s, videos, etc.

So now I’m at a dilema. I always try to save energy and thus money so having the Server setup is very nice. However, now that I have a home weather station, I don’t want to have to leave on my desktop computer 24/7 just to record that data. Now, granted, it might add at most $5 to my monthly electric bill, but every little bit counts, and hey it’s just plain good for the world to not to have to have additional coal burnt for my weather station.

I had thought about just firing up a guest on my server and having it run 24/7 to record the weather information, but one (of many) of Hyper-Vs weaknesses is that it won’t allow a guest to use a USB device plugged into the host. So as my system is currently setup, that won’t work.

So here’s what I plan to do this weekend.

Backup everything, of course, I maintain 3 sets of hard drive backups and a set in the “cloud.” So that’s covered.

Then I’m going to install WHS2011 as the main O/S on the system, after all that is its primary job. Then inside that I’m going to install Oracle’s VirtualBox, which does allow for the use of USB devices in a guest. What I might do first, is on my desktop, which has VirtualBox it to make sure the USB device will work in a guest as not all USB devices work flawlessly in a guest.

So if all goes well, the weather will be recorded 24/7, and all my documents will be on 24/7 leaving the rest of the PCs in the house off when not being used by someone.

One downside that I was thinking of on the bus this morning, is that when I run my cloud backup, it will probably see all the files as “new” and re-upload them all. That’s about 40 GB worth. So for about 3 months I’d have to pay a couple bucks extra for the space (after 3 months it’ll purge the old files in the cloud storage).

But in the long run, once everything is setup, I’ll not have to spend that extra money for having a desktop PC running 24/7.

Though, I think our cat would rather I ran my desktop PC 24/7 as she lays under the PC for warmth!

Dumping Hyper-V
When I was first setting up my home server I wanted to use the bare metal version of Hyper-V as it would reduce the memory footprint of the host and leave more memory available for the guests. So I installed it and got it initially setup. So far so good. I then went to try and remote into the box to start setting up my guests but couldn’t access it via my desktop, though I had the user name and password for access.

Eventually after searching for solutions I found some scripts that you had to run to try and get access! Excuse me? Why is it so difficult I was thinking? If I have a username and password I can fire up remote desktop and get complete access to a server! Or heck, even in SQL Management Studio if I have a user name and password I can gain access to the databases WITHOUT running any special scripts! Nada!

Well, even with running those scripts and trying to jump through many hoops I had no success. So eventually I had to get one with it and installed the full server software. And gee, with the username and password I could access the whole server and configure away. But to install, and get to work, the Hyper-V Management tools on my desktop involved running scripts, opening up ports on my firewall, etc. etc. etc.! You would think that a product that you are trying to get a hold of some market share away from the defacto king of virtualization, VMWare, you’d make it as easy as possible to use. Not Microsoft.

Windows Home Server 2011 (WHS2011) and Cloudberry Labs

I have a Hyper-V server that has WHS2011 running as a guest, which handles all of the household’s documents, videos, MP3s, etc.

For backups I have three external hard drives that I use, with a different one each week, that I backup all the files to. These are encrypted with TrueCrypt as I keep one hard drive with me all the time. That’s fine and good, but I’ve always been concerned about that extremely rare catastrophic event that would wipe out my server and my backups.

I’ve read about cloud storage and have seen it offered but never found an easy and cheap way to access it until I found the flexible Cloudberry Labs product for backup up a Windows Home Server. Using it with Amazon’s S3 storage I’m able to backup my most important documents, around 7 GB worth, for less than $1 a month. So far so good.

Recently Amazon announced the Glacier product, a penny a GB for storage, though you don’t have instant access to it like S3. Cloudberry Labs has now made their backup product able to use Glacier so now I’m backup up the less important photos and MP3s to it. These take up about 40 GB of space. I haven’t been using it long enough but It should cost under 50 cents a month to store all that data.

I'll post back when there's more.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

La Crosse Tech Weather Station

As a geek of all sorts, one of the Geekness that I am is a weather geek. To me the most important app on a phone is the Weather! Without that, it's just a dumb phone! Ok, so I exaggerate a little! For my birthday I got a La Crosse Technology Weather Station which is shown in the video below. It's all setup outside and collecting data at the moment. The wind gauge is solar powered, so I'm still waiting for it to get charged up.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Virgin Mobile Fix the HTC EVO V 4G!

I've been a user of Virgin Mobile for over 10 years now. I started out with a candy bar type phone, moved to a flip phone, and then the Rumor Touch which had very poor internet. Then the Samsung Intercept came along and was a great beginner Android phone. I didn't have any illusions, as many did, as to its capabilities and was quite pleased with it. Then the LG Optimus V came along and for me was the most error free of the phones and if I still had it (my niece now has it) I'd go back to it.
After the Optimus I went to the Motorola Triumph, an excellent phone, except the GPS was defective. Those that rooted got it to work just fine so obviously it was a software issue that could have been fixed if Virgin Mobile had just taken the little effort it would have taken to put out a fix.
Then came along the HTC EVO V 4G, potentially a great phone, but it too has a flaw. The much talked about Text sending and Receiving flaw. And, yet again, those that root are able to get it to work just fine. So yet again, another software error that could be fixed by Virgin Mobile.
One has to wonder why doesn't Virgin Mobile do anything about these flaws? Do they just hope one ignores them until the next "better" phone comes along and buys it? Twice burned already, I won't be burned a third time.
Virgin Mobile, you aren't the only game in town for pay as you go, it is becoming a crowded field with many companies vying for my money.
Many feel that your Customer Service is already poor, but think of the kudos you'd receive from actually supporting the hardware your customers use and update them, at least with software fixes that fix hardware problems! As it is, you are loosing customers, and soon I will be one of them.
For now, I can't afford to get a new phone to use on a new carrier, but I'm already considering getting a Google Nexus and using it on T-Mobile. At least it would receive updates.
So, no more chances Virgin Mobile, either fix the hardware problems by releasing software fixes or I will go, and I'm sure many others will too.
I can only shake my head, such little effort, could get such big gains for you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

HTC EVO 3D 4G Extended Battery

I'm always thinking of what my use of my phone will do to my battery life. I can usually get a single day with moderate use, but I'd like to use the phone like I want. Though I don't use it tons, just more than current. There are several extended batteries you can get for the HTC EVO 3D phone, and I got the Trexcell HTC Evo 3D 3500mah Extended Battery + Cover. I decided on it because of good price, good capacity, and the new cover didn't leave a large bump on the back of the phone like some other brands.
I followed the included instructions on conditioning the phone and my first use of it had it last 2 days! Quite an improvement.
Here's a video of what it looks like.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Olympics closing ceremonies

Finished watching the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics a little bit ago and I'm very impressed.
One of the best things I did this year, since I don't have cable or satellite, was to sign up with a VPN service and watched the Olympics on BBC. What a difference from the usual NBC coverage! Like night and day.
Wanna know the two best things about the closing ceremonies that NBC will never be brave enough to do was:
  • No commercials. Not a single one. Saw whole ceremonies from beginning to end.
  • No stupid commentary from people telling me what is going on when I can see it with my own eyes! There was literally no comments from anyone except for the comments that the crowd heard in the stadium from the announcer and the performers.
I can remember vividly the Sydney opening ceremonies and seeing the bands that were going to play but NBC interrupted every few moments with stupid commentary so you never actually enjoyed the ceremonies. No wonder most people I talk to dislike the ceremonies, it probably because they can't actually watch them in the raw. I wonder how much better NBC's ratings would be if they'd quit interrupting the ceremonies with inane yacking.
All I can say is well done Britain, well done BBC! And shame on you NBC. Next Olympics I plan to do the same.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Olympics

I thoroughly enjoyed watching the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics in London yesterday. However, if I had relied on my own country's broadcast company (NBC) I wouldn't have seen it.
A few months back NBC had announced they were going to stream all there content on-line. Well I was excited as I don't have cable or satellite and I also don't get over-the-air broadcasts. Then my looking forward to streaming the Olympics via the internet were then dashed as NBC later announced that, no it won't be for everyone, but only for those that actually have cable or satellite that subscribe to one of their channels! Well so much for my hopes of enjoying the Olympics.
I thought, ok, I'll check out BBC to see what they might have in the way of streaming, and nope, blocked for United States. So then I decided to fork over some money and get a VPN service ($10/month) that has servers in England. So I signed up and that is what I'm using, the VPN, then BBC's streaming.
It was so refreshing to watch the opening ceremonies without commercials every few minutes, and the constant pointless chatter by the commentators that have to hear themselves talk. I will miss the focus on American athletes but I'm enjoying BBC's coverage. Right now watching the bike road race.
It's unfortunate that NBC doesn't have the guts to embrace the internet. They could be a leader where maybe others would follow, but they fell flat.
You know what, I would have been happy to watch their streaming broadcast, filled with commercials, their inane commentary, but being a citizen of the US I'm not able to do that unless I fork out a bunch of money to them.
So for this Olympics I'll be watching the BBC and cheering on the US Team!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Virgin Mobile's HTC EVO V 4G WiFi HotSpot

If you want to use your HTC EVO V 4G as a WiFi HotSpot you need to add that capability to your account and then you can do what I do in the video below to turn it on. It is $15 for a month and it adds 1 GB to your total bandwidth you are allocated in a month.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

1,000,000 Views!

Want to thank everyone for getting my videos past the 1,000,000 view milestone on YouTube! I started back in September 2010 just to have a little fun with making a few videos and now there's 93 out there!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Browsing at 4G

Someone asked about browsing at 4G on the HTC EVO V 4G so here's a quick video.

Yes, the 4G is faster than the 3G at browsing. It does shave off a few seconds but I wouldn't call it a huge difference, at least with the little browsing I do.

Friday, June 22, 2012

How to track bandwidth

Well, unfortunately Virgin Mobile has limits on the bandwidth we use every month. Once you reach 2.5 GB they will slow your connection down. Luckily with the HTC EVO V 4G we have an easy way to keep track of the bandwidth and which apps use how much.
EDIT: Updated the video as 1st one was truncated.

Friday, June 15, 2012

HTC Sense 3.6 skin

Someone was asking about applying a skin to Virgin Mobile's HTC EVO V 4G phone which is running HTC Sense 3.6.
So here's how. . .

Thursday, June 14, 2012

HTC vs Motorola Camera Pictures

Here's the video of the comparison between the HTC and the Motorola.


And here's the files:
HTC
Motorola


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Adding a Toggle Widget on the HTC EVO V 4G

Remember, turn off those features you don't need on your phone. Not using WiFi turn it off! Not needing to get e-mail, turn off sync! Etc. All those things take up precious battery life so luckily HTC makes it easy to add toggle widgets to turn on/off those features. Take a look . . .

Virgin Mobile's HTC EVO V 4G vs Motorola Triumph GPS showdown

Ok, I'll give it away, the HTC smokes the Motorola Triumph in a GPS match up. Yes, it's outside.

4G Speed with Virgin Mobile's HTC EVO V 4G

Here's best speed so far in my house:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

4G SpeedTest on HTC EVO V 4G

Here's a 4G Speed Test on my HTC EVO V 4G. 1M down/ 1M up is pretty good compared to 3G!

YouTube Playback

Here's YouTube playback on the HTC EVO V 3D.

Notification Bar

Here's something cool in the Notification Bar I found.

HTC EVO V 4G 1st Impressions

Here are some 1st impressions of the HTC EVO V 3D from Virgin Mobile.

Be warned, if you activate with a customer service rep they will automatically sign you up for the Wi-Fi Hot Spot feature whether you ask or not.

Virgin Mobile's HTC EVO V 4G unboxing

Just got the HTC EVO V 4G as an early father's day present. Here I unbox it.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Audubon Birds Android App

I recently downloaded the Audubon Birds Android App from Amazon when they had it as a Free App Of The Day so here's a little video review of it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Virgin Mobile Phone Upgrade Changes

Rumors have it that Virgin Mobile will be changing the rules in regards to upgrading a phone. No longer will you be grandfathered with your plan, you'll have to go to the new plan price. So for example I'm on the 300 minute plan and pay $25/month. If I was to get a new phone I would be forced into the current plan at $35/month.

So if you are on the fence about upgrading your phone you better do it real soon if you want to keep your grandfathered plan.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Motorola Triumph GPS Test Outside

Some of you have been asking me to do the GPS test on the Motorola Triumph outdoors, so here it is:

Unfortunately Virgin Mobile and Motorola don't appear to be working on any updates for this widely report issue. I have read on-line that some have rooted the phone and were able to make a configuration file modification which improved the GPS performance.
Fortunately I don't rely on the GPS on the phone so I still enjoy the phone, even if it can't find itself on a sunny day in a reasonable amount of time! Ok so I exaggerate, just a little!

VoipO

When we moved into a new house we had decided to not have a land line installed as everyone in the house has a cell phone and land lines around here were around $35/month. Also, I decided I didn't have to keep Earthlink DSL, ended up with Comcast Business, so that was another factor in ditching the expensive land line.
Fast forward eight months and cell phone plans have changed, to save money, and no longer have unlimited calling so we looked into getting a VOIP service.
Probably the most popular is Vonage, but I found that reading up on them they can be around $15-$25 per month once you tack on all the hidden fees and taxes that aren't advertised with their price. I then looked around and found a service called Voipo when had good user recommendations and was priced around $6.5 per month including the one fee it collects. However, you have to pay two years in advance.
We decided to go ahead and pay that amount and a week later the hardware showed up in the mail. In the meantime I had to go out and buy just a simple wireless phone which I found at our local mega-electronics store for $21.
While waiting for the hardware it also gave me time to do some initial configuration via Voipo's control panel. If there's one thing that they could improve on is to make the control panel better. It can get the job done but it isn't so intuitive and making Contacts seems not the easiest and buried while I think it should be in the forefront. But that's just me, and I've only been playing with it for a week.
Here's a video of the hardware that Voipo sends:

I've had it all hooked up for a day and it is very simple. Basically I plugged in the device into my network and then plugged a phone into it.Already have called out on it and everything seems fine.
We aren't going to be giving out the phone number so it's not going to be our primary phone, but just used when we are home and use it instead of our cell minutes.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Goodbye GoDaddy

Today I finally said "goodbye" to GoDaddy as one of my domain name registrars. The reason, their support of SOPA. Even though they later changed their position due to the numerous folks leaving them, I decided to leave them as well. Vote with your money folks!
I'm now using NameCheap. The reason I chose them is that they have the main features I was looking for; URL Forwarding and E-mail Forwarding, for a reasonable cost. I have one domain there now and plan to move others if they do well.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Copyright Gestapo

This morning I woke to find an e-mail from YouTube aka Google that said one of my videos was breaking copyright owned by La7! Who the F is La7? Looked them up, they are a TV channel in Italy!
Ok, in my video I was doing a review of the Roku and on the TV screen I had showing the BRITISH TV show Midsomer Murders while I talked about the Roku.
La7 licenses the show for Italian TV but they blocked my video! Excuse me!
And of course with YouTube/Google you have no way of contacting anyone.
So fine, I removed the video from my channel and this weekend I'm going to go in and edit the video to be sure to block what is shown on the TV screen.
Midsomer Murders I hope you'll be happy to be loosing 30 seconds of free advertising.
C'est La Vie!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

TechNet reducing keys again - rumor

Rumor is that TechNet will be reducing the number of keys you can use from 5 down to 3. So if you want to get your keys before you can't get them anymore you better start now. Also Microsoft is limiting the number of keys you can get in a day so get the most important keys first.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Around the House

Ok, so everything isn't all hi-tech for me. Sometimes one has to do lo-tech every once in awhile.
Last weekend I put together a couple raised garden beds for our garden this year.
Construction materials were six 2" x 12" x 8' boards and two pressure treated 2" x 4" x 8's.
I took two of the 2" x 12"s and cut them in half to make the ends.
I took the 2"x4"s and cut them into 2' lengths. Those would be the feet.
I dug the holes 1' down and constructed the frames near the holes and then put them in. I then filled the holes with gravel.

I then took some weed block and cut it into 2' widths so that I could then nail them to the inside of the frames. I'm hoping that it helps protect the wood a little from the dirt.
Using roofing nails I hammered the weed block on the inside.
I'm still filling with dirt/compost but in another month it'll be ready for planting season.
The project this weekend was to build a couple mason bee nests. At my previous house I had much success at getting the bees to build their nests so I'm hopeful they will here too.
This project takes part of a 4"x4"x8' and a 1"x12"x4' to make these.
I took just 2' of the 4"x4" and then with a 45° angle cut it in half. I then cut 1" holes near the top and bottom of the 4"x4" so that I could drive a couple screws into the holes and into the fence post.
Then I drilled a bunch of 5/16" holes a little over 3/4 of the way to the back (you don't want to drill all the way through).
I then cut the 1"x12" into 9" lengths and screwed them on top to help keep the rain off.
I then put some varnish on the roof to help preserve the wood against the elements. I did not put any on the 4"x4" because I didn't want it to be toxic to the bees.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Windows 8 Settings

Windows 8 is definitely something to get used to. To me many of the options work for phones or tablets but not for a desktop. To me, so far anyway, Windows 8 is trying to be all things. Will it succeed that remains to be seen.
It seems that many capabilities will be superfluous for a desktop user unless they have a touch screen. Now it could be interesting to have a large touch screen be the main interface, but to me it would seem odd to stretch all the way across my desk to my monitor to do something when I have a mouse right next to me in easy reach.
For a tablet, yes, Windows 8 could be pretty good for that. I could see myself deciding between an Android or Windows tablet someday.
Here I walk through the PC Settings for Windows 8.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Windows 8 Consumer Preview

Last night I downloaded the Windows 8 Consumer Preview and today I've installed it in Oracle's VirtualBox.
Here's a video of setting up the Guest for Windows 8 and then the installation. Total time was almost 18 minutes on my old quad core computer.


I've liked using VirtualBox for many years now as I needed a way to run some older Windows programs that don't work very well in Windows 7. So it is perfect for setting up a new operating system in for the first time.
I haven't explored Windows 8 much, yet, but when I do I'll make some more videos on what I find.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Taxes! Argh!

I just electronically submitted my federal and state taxes. Double Argh!
Now I do use tax software to help me through the arduous task of filing my taxes, but I still find it to be a major nightmare. Ok, I don't have issues with paying taxes. The amount, yes, but the fact I need to pay isn't the issue, it's the utter complexity of trying to pay one's just taxes.
Every year I wonder am I going to get it right, even with the tax software? Did I get all the forms back, did I get all my deductions correct, etc. etc.?!?!? I want to do the right thing by paying my just amount but the complexities are just so extreme!
Can't we do it simpler?
How about something very easy?
How about take your income, subtract $25,000 and then multiply by 20%?
No deductions, no wondering if missing anything!
I don't know if 20% would be a good figure, but it is something to start with.
So if you make $25,000 you would pay $0 taxes.
$50,000 would pay $5,000.
$200,000 would pay $35,000.

Do we really need to have such overwhelming complexity just to do the right thing by paying our justly due taxes?


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Android Widget: Weather, Radar, Alerts, Quakes

I'm a weather geek, and like to know as much as I can about the weather, and the forecast for where I'm at. I've tried several weather/clock widgets and have found the I like Weather,Radar,Alerts,Quakes the best.
I especially like the long range forecast and being able to see how strong the wind is going to be on a given day.
Currently it's $2.99 so you might check it out and here's a short video on a few of the features.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Samsung SA350 23" LED LCD Monitor min-review

Normally I have two, older, 19" LCD screens attached to my computer which has been great the past 7 or 8 years. Well, one decided to give up the ghost and not work anymore. So with money tight I though I can just survive on the remaining 19" LCD. It was painful, but I was using it for a few days when it too decided to become a flake and not work for me on my computer.
So biting the financial bullet, I had to find a new monitor that I could use. Primary was finding a cheap monitor, fancy features weren't an option.
So, luckily, my local big box membership store had a Samsung 23" LCD LED monitor on sale for $150. It's a basic 1980x1020 LED LCD monitor. I had a DVI to HDMI cable already (it comes with a VGA cable) and plugged it in and away I went (the ports are HDMI and VGA). Works great. No flaws that I can see. There's additional software that I chose not to install.
There's plenty of options available through a menu that's built into the screen and available through buttons on the lower right of the monitor.
What doesn't it have? No VESA, no DVI, and no speakers. The stand isn't adjustable either. So if you need those or a DVI port, you won't find it here.
I do miss the extra desktop space and the separation that the old 19" monitors had, but I'll get used to this set up soon enough.
So for a no-frills basic monitor, this one is a good option.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk throttling now

When I decided to go with Beyond Talk so many moons ago I was attracted by the Unlimited Data and Unlimited Texting and since I rarely yak on the phone the 300 minutes were just a nice bonus. Oh and the fact it was only $25 per month was really appealing to this cheapskate.
Now I know all those technicalities, in the eyes of companies anyway, what Unlimited means but to me it should mean what the dictionary says:
  1. not limited; unrestricted; unconfined
  2. boundless; infinite; vast
  3. without any qualification or exception; unconditional.
So why does this matter? Well this week I got a text from Virgin Mobile that says if I go above 2.5 GB of data they'll throttle my speed way down. Excuse me?!?!? How can that be "not limited, unrestricted?" Sounds like they are restricting the use of their so called "Unlimited Data."
Now I rarely use over 1 GB of data in month, but that is beside the point. I so wish we could somehow enforce a truth in advertising rules, or some such thing. To go further afield, it's just like many of the cell companies or cable companies advertising their product for $49.99 a month and then when you get the bill with all their fake fees you end up paying $65 a month. So much for truth in advertising.
Anyway, what do I do you ask? Well there are other companies that offer similar "unlimited data" plans but in the fine print are similar or even more draconian stipulations that limit the data that you can use. Also, it's hard to pass up the $25/month right now, having to watch all my pennies. Definitely when I'm not having to watch my pennies so closely I'll be looking at my options. I can only hope by then that when a company says "Unlimited" it will actually mean it.
Like you, I won't be holding my breath!