OTA DVR Solved!

Continuing on the Cord Cutting Curious series, I turned to hardware available via retail.

Elements that are important to us: Able to access replays via ROKU in a simple way, quality built in tuner, tv guide functionality that shows more than the current date(the more the better), flexibly sized hard drive size for increasing in the future, ability to record episodes repeatedly.

My choices were narrowed down to one of the HDHomeRun devices or one of the Tablo devices. I heard good things about both of them. The key selection item for me was that I didn’t find an HDHomeRun app on Roku’s. A local retailer was having a sale and I picked up a Tablo Duo Lite for about $99. I grabbed a 1TB hard drive as well, thinking that would be plenty, well, at least to start off with.

My initial reaction: It’s better than I hoped.

The Tablo is a simple box that hooks up to power, coax and you plug a hard drive in. You have to format the hard drive of course. Tablo provides a fully functional service for an initial period ( I think a month). This provides access to channel guide information that extends as much as two weeks into the future which allows you to arrange for recording in the future. The Tablo also provides a fully functional simple dvr operation. You can watch live TV through Roku’s without a tv connected to a coax. The ROKU app and android apps are straightforward and simple interfaces that the family understand easily. It’s also an easy thing to watch Tablo via web interfaces on any device on the same network. The Duo supports two simultaneous actions while the Quad supports four. By actions I mean watching on separate devices, recording, or streaming live tv.

The Tablo provides the capability for automatic skipping of commercials in recordings. After a program is recorded, Tablo scrubs the dvr recording for commercial markers and deletes those pieces of recordings. However, this doesn’t always work 100%. One because it takes hours to complete. It’s also likely that if the Tablo is taxed (i.e. already streaming, etc. ) it could lose the cpu power to complete the task. That’s my guess.

Side menu and example of guide

For a small fee paid annually you continue the fully functional service for a year which we opted for. For another additional charge your recordings can be saved to a cloud based function, which I opted not to use.

My one challenge: Tablo supports streaming through a router to apps on your phone or tablets. However, our Tablo is cascaded on a mesh network behind the ISP router and I haven’t attempted to overcome this yet.

My one regret: Not jumping into getting a Tablo Quad right off the bat.

For anyone with a similar cord cutting need, I would definitely recommend Tablo products.

Sample of the recordings we’ve collected.

Dreams of an OTA DVR #2

Another in the Cord Cutter Curious series.

I gave up on my first effort realizing that the original recorder attempt was comparable to old school VCR’s with no network streaming functionality.

The dream would be to use a software suite that would record programs on a network accessible space ( using a PVR) and be viewable via a client preferably on the many Roku’s around the house for replays on the TV’s.

I ordered two different USB stick tuners. One was an Avermedia H837 and an Hauppauge WinTV-DualHD. Avermedia was only compatible with windows setups. Hauppauge was compatible with both windows and linux.

I narrowed the options down of the various software PVR’s to two. TVHeadEnd and NextPVR. TVHeadEnd was compatible with Linux only. NextPVR was only compatible on Windows 10.

Then came the experimentation to put together the different pieces. Things to consider if you go through this. 1)Your pc will need to have excellent network connectivity. 2) You need to have a solid coax connection between the USB stick and your antenna.

I won’t go into the configuration specifics but will touch on the overviews.

I tried the Avermedia and the Hauppauge on a windows setup, however, this was an older windows desktop pc so it wasn’t the best at reception or recording. As a desktop pc, the location for it was awkward at best because of it’s size. And finally I wasn’t able to figure any means that the recorded files were able to be shared with the Roku’s reliably. With a more current multi core cpu and graphics card, I probably would have had better success.

Next, I decided to try with Raspberry Pi’s. I used Raspbian OS on a Raspberry Pi 3 connected to the Hauppauge with TVHeadend. Recording performance suffered, so I changed to a Raspberry Pi 4 and saw a lot of improvement.

There is a learning curve with TVHeadend. It is NOT a set it and forget it. It worked well with the USB tuner and able to record based on channel and time. It provided access to current TV guide entries on most channels, but recording based on TV show name didn’t seem to work. TVHeadend did auto start for me after power loss.

In order for the recordings to be accessible to my Roku’s, I had to boot Kodi on the Raspbian and make the folder with the recorded shows visible to my network. By using the Roku Media app, I was able to access the recording directory on the Raspbian OS. This was klunky especially for the wife and kid because the recordings were in folders and had file names that were a combination of time, date, channel and not show names. Less than optimal for them by far.

With a little scripting I was able to get this to boot sequentially AFTER the TVHeadend started. This was very useful during power loss.

The total configuration arrangement worked well for a couple weeks. The Raspberry Pi 4 ran a bit warm. It’s unclear whether the heat impacted performance. Eventually the recordings became compromised somehow and I kept hearing complaints of how hard it was to watch the show they wanted.

Overall, it was fun to try. But certainly not the ideal for ease of use for the total household.

“Cord Cutter Curious” Beginning

Part 2 of the “Cord Cutter Curious” series. Let’s start with an assessment of what I have to work with.

I live in Florida within 30 miles of the TV signal source. You can check for yourself what distance and direction your signal source might come from using TVFool. This will give you an approximate direction signals will come to your location and at what height your antenna will receive the best signal.

I have a two story house that has coax pre-run to several rooms left over from cable network providers and from original construction in the late 90’s. The house will allow me to elevate the TV antenna as high as possible to provide better reception of those signals susceptible to line of sight interference. An outside pole antenna is a bad idea in Florida hurricane season since they easily become flying projectiles and have to be replaced. With that I decided on either an indoor antenna or an attic antenna.

My first goal was experiment with the antenna’s I have on hand (a Mohu Leaf and a home made fractal antenna) to determine a high elevation spot inside the house with the best reception possible.

I started by simply trying a Mohu Leaf tucked behind a TV upstairs. It was used to bypass the annual disputes between service provider and broadcaster. The reception was pretty good with some channels in the lower range reception coming in borderline and inconsistent. The lower channels were the primary channels we wanted because they covered NBC, ABC, Fox and CBS. The ones that seemed to always be in dispute with the cable companies.

I then checked out my attic, which amounts to a narrow crawl space since the roof has a low pitch. There was a spaghetti pile of coax with various splitters sitting on top of the insulation. Fortunately most of it was within reach of the attic access. It didn’t take long using the cable tug method to figure out which coax ran into my master bedroom. Weirdly enough, there were a few.

And why is that? From the cable guys I talked too (I went through “cable guy” training classes during my corporate time. That’s another story for another day) it’s easier and cost effective to run a new leg of good cable rather than fix what exists or pull out the old cable. So I removed what I saw as obvious excess cables from the attic to reduce confusion.

The “cable guy” training also gave me enough confidence to know what’s feasible and what should be avoided entirely.

I moved the Mohu Leaf into the attic and secured it to one of the highest rafters near the roof line oriented in a westerly direction. It only took two push pins through holes in the Mohu Leaf. That was an easy mounting job. After connecting it to one of the coax with a double ended female connector and a coax from the wall to the back of the TV I tested the TV.

The reception was excellent. The additional six feet in elevation into the attic was exactly what we needed. Now when our TV service provider lost our local affiliates due to disagreements, the plan was to simply switch to the TV input on our TV and there we go. But with a change to cancel cable, this would prove far more important. That was just the first TV and the first minor step.

More to come. Stay tuned.

Back in the Saddle

I struggled over the past year and a half with losing my ability to run. Exacerbated by depression I finally got help. So I wanted to get back in shape, whatever that meant, I had to find a new way. It’s been slow going and developing to put together something meaningful, challenging and enjoyable.

I checked out what I wanted and my options. I’m very fortunate that I live near a public park with a trail with work out stations that runs along a canal. I have a decent bike and that seemed a simple start.

I started off with riding my bike on the trail. I set a round trip of around 4 miles and started biking at least three or more days week. It was nice to see the splash of mullet or watch the dorsal fins of a pod of dolphin or sea birds swooping in for smaller fish.

Along the route I noticed the park had a pull up station. In part of my running life, I would run and perform calisthenics. So the next step was obvious.

I added a stop at the pull up station on every bike ride. I go for as many pull ups as I can, then I attach a heavy strong elastic band and do a few assisted pull ups.

Then I noticed several land marks along my route. Sidewalks, bridges, and railings. So I began adding in stops at each of the landmarks for push ups. Then spider man push ups. Then dive bomber push ups. And glute bridges. And hanging ab lifts. And whatever else I can think of that I feel I need to work on.

It’s evolving and likely to continue to evolve. For now, it looks like this. I bike a little over a mile to the pull-up station. I switch as quickly as possible to minimize rest and do pull-ups until I can’t anymore. Then I perform some assisted pull-ups until my arms begin to fail. Then I quick change back to the bike and continue on to my first landmark of several landmarks along a two mile ride. At each landmark I quickly pump out a set of 10 reps of either pushups, dive bombers, spider man push ups, or glute bridges. By this time, I’ve looped back to the pull up station. Sometimes I throw in a set of lunges or one leg squats with around there. Or I’ll just ride it back home.

This progression and evolution of working out without running has been such a relief. I’ve come to accept that I will never complete a marathon. Or win runs in my age group any more. But, this work out routine definitely provides me a more comprehensive work out. And I’ve reduced my body fat by 2% and increased my shoulders by two inches. I feel so much better. So thankful for the new mental head space that made this possible.

And now for something completely different….

Games and video games. Yes, that’s what I said. Video games.

First let’s look at what purpose they serve. Their primary purpose is to entertain.

But the most critical thing for me was the element of learning from safe mistakes.

Yes, they provided a window into the real world games of adulthood. Yes, I played soldier as a kid (think Call of Duty with a heavy layer of imagination and endless lives). Yes, I played against dragons and saved damsels in my Disney-esque imagination. Yes, I later evolved into playing bigger picture war games, role playing games and board games. Yes, I did marathons of video games in combat, space or apocalyptic wastelands.

Why does it matter? Because it gave me a healthy, creative and constructive outlet that taught me a few things. Like; whatever you do in life, try to figure out the odds behind a risk or decision if you want to figure out how to win. I died countless times and anguished over each death, but each time I did, I learned there was a better way. And I approached real life in the same way.

And that ultimately, helped steer me in the direction of where my future would take me. It steered me toward a twenty one year career with the military reserves. It steered me to a degree I earned with no student loans and served me well enough to get hired on with a fortune 100 company. It steered me in navigating 31 years of corporate life with 21 of those years spent under the expectation of layoffs. All this aided by the basic idea of figuring out the odds, projecting outcomes and working the long games as best I could.

This was a very simplistic overview of a simple principle. But it has served me well.

Getting My Head Straight

Mental health. Some people think it’s a taboo subject. But in this forum, it’s a big part of our experience.

I needed help recently. I no longer could enjoy a run life and that led to a spiral of negative thought droning on about wanting to run and knowing that it was not the right thing. I couldn’t sleep well, maybe 6 hours, not straight through and frequently not restful. Progressively, I felt like I just couldn’t get out of my head.

I was getting more and more edgy, but kept trying to deal with it alone. It was oppressive. Like waking up with morning brain fog and just never getting out of it all day long.

The final straw came when my wife made comments over a few days about how edgy I was. I think it took her off guard when I agreed and said I was calling my doctor.

And I’m thankful I did. By simply going through some detailed discussions about what was going on with me he gave me a prescription.

I felt a change in 24 hours. I was very reluctant to acknowledge it because I wasn’t sure if it was a placebo affect or not. And that was my mindset for several days. After a week, I discussed with the wife and we both agreed, the prescription was doing what was needed.

My quality of life is immensely improved. I was able to come out of my funk and get out of my own way. I was able to refocus on several aspects of my life. And finally started a new work out routine, but that’s another post.

Over Four Years Sober

Four years of sobriety

In July of this year I achieved four years of sobriety.

Honestly, once I got past the first year it wasn’t that difficult. I had one instance where a server gave me an alcoholic drink in 2019. I took a few sips and it just didn’t taste right. It was nasty. Once I realized the mistake there was no temptation for the alcohol at all.

I didn’t freak out on the staff or wonder if I needed to start all over with the sober clock. It was an honest mistake. It didn’t lead me to drinking so I wasn’t going to punish myself emotionally.

The occasion slipped quietly by, but when I realized it, I really did enjoy a quiet smile to myself. It felt good inside.

Yep, Run Life is Over

I followed up a few times with my surgeon, who had followed up with the rest of his firm. No one was willing to operate on my situation.

Quick recap. My primary issue is that I suffer a ganglion cyst at the tibial-fibular head on my left leg. It grows into a lump that protrudes noticeably. Internally it impinges on a nerve bundle. The pain radiates from my knee down to my ankle. They won’t operate on it. And they won’t repeatedly drain it, I’m told for fear of infections. And that the surgery may not address the underlying problem.

And then there is the complex torn miniscus. I don’t suffer much discomfort from this. But the surgeons are more than willing to operate on that. But it wouldn’t allow me to run. I would lose what little cushion I have with the miniscus and I’m told it would amplify the progression of ostearthritis. Which I’m told I have.

The final straw, at six foot and two hundred pounds, I’m apparently not a good candidate. Frustrating. They prefer far lighter petite individuals.

So, there it is. Find some other way to stay fit. Disappointing and frustrating.

MS Surface Pro 7 – Casting Desktop?

Another thing in the evolution of learning things about the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, how can anyone cast their desktop? Support isn’t clear. They only point to casting with Windows Media Player like there is no other reason to cast. That is not something useful for a slide presentation.

Anyone out there have a clue?

Run Life Over?

Through 2019 I was dealing with left knee issues. There was a lump (ultimately a gangleon cyst) that developed around the head of my left fibula. And intermittent knee pain inside the joint.

Recent MRI’s confirmed the gangleon cyst, but also identified a miniscus tear.

I saw an orthopedic surgeon today. I was informed that the gangleon cyst was correctable, but the torn miniscus was a complex tear. Repairing it would be highly unlikely. To replace it would be more likely, but I would be lucky to go a year without it breaking down because the replacement materials frequently fail.

And at my age, well, I should consider an alternative form or exercise. Like biking or swimming.

I always considered this was a day that could come. When I’d have to admit that age is taking hold. That i might have to pass on running. Ugh.

I will say, I’m glad to have gotten the past few years in with running. If I had continued drinking like I was, I never would have.

I’m thankful for what I’ve had and still do have. But if I truly can’t run any more, I will mourn for that.