Marginal Wifi Resolved

The wife had been complaining about marginal wifi on her side of the master bedroom off and on for the past year at least.

She’s been incredibly patient.

I finally took some time with an Android tablet and used an app called Wifi Analyzer. It was able to see multiple wifi networks in the area. I had it set to continuously monitor the signal strength. Initially it spotted the house network ID fine and then in just a few minutes the signal disappeared. And then in another minute or so it would reappear just as strong as before.

I would normally expect that kind of behavior if a microwave or other machinery is between the router and the sensor. After confirming the problem was the signal strength, likely due to obstructions in the walls of the house, rather than the laptop she uses, I had to think up a plan.

Fortunately this house was pre-wired with coax and cat 5. And my mind ran through the options of switches, waps, organizing the cat 5 terminations, which would require signal trace, and on and on.

Our ISP’s router was located near a jack that was connected through to a  jack in my office. As luck would have it, my office is over the master bedroom. Light bulb moment and I already had an option in mind.

Step One: I dragged out an old router. A Linksys EA 4500  plugged it into the wall jack and made sure the router was plugged into the jack on the other end. This put it in a cascaded configuration. Then I went and confirmed the signal strength for the marginal area and the cascaded router was coming through loud and clear.

But I wasn’t done.

Step Two: Knowing that the wife prints things I needed to improve more. A cascaded router has separate IP addressing from the primary router and none of the devices are shared, like NAS or printers. I needed the second router to use the same IP addressing pool and that can only be done if it’s performing as a Wireless Access Point. I followed this process to set the router up as a WAP bridge.

I used the option for Obtaining an IPV4 address automatically. Something didn’t work and I was impatient with the manual addressing.

Once set in Bridge Mode, I had to go to my primary router to locate the correct IP address, used the IP address in my browser and set the WAP Bridge with passwords. Apparently performing this reconfiguration will change the SSID and remove the passwords. I gave it a unique password and SSID and, VOILA!.

Step Three: I personally configured the laptops that the wife uses to have the wifi ready to be connected. So, if she is using the laptop and not getting a good response, she can switch from the router to the WAP as she needs.

Happy wife, happy life.

I’m not a cord cutter, but I play one with my TV

The Problem: Here’s the scenario. We have DirecTV with five boxes and DVR services. But only three boxes can be active at the same time. The fourth and fifth boxes remain in the cold. And only so much recording can happen at one time with similar limitations.

We have a household with three adults and a 10 year old. The 10 year old believes the best way for something to happen is repeated random button smashing, because a half second delay is too much delay. He never lived in the days where dad’s used kids as remotes. “Go change it to channel 3”. 
So, what’s that mean? It means that sometimes, I’m unable to watch or record what I want due to the competition of resources or the errors of button smashing that arbitrarily records or deletes things. 

Considering the Options: I took a moment to evaluate what I actually record and realized that several of the conflicting programs were on over the air broadcast networks at the same time as other broadcasts that were being recorded. 
I’ve always been a believer in OTA (over the air) antenna’s. I had already confirmed my area receives pretty darn good reception of many channels that are HD quality. I considered using an old VCR to record shows, but the one I had wasn’t able to record from an antenna (coax) cable. And I wasn’t about to spend large amounts on old technology like VHS to record programs. 
Step One- A recorder: My search took me in the direction of an ATSC Tuner that also allowed for recording to USB storage. I ran across one that was about $40. An “Iview 3500 STBII”. Between the users guide and a little trial and error, it turned out to be relatively easy to use. It records in MP4 format on a USB attached storage. And for the heck of it, I thought I’d try connecting a USB hard drive and surprisingly, it reads and writes with no problem. It won’t read AVI files, but that’s not important.  
As for connections, there is a straight forward coax connection, an HDMI and RGB with audio. I experimented with signal quality and found the signal from the STBII using a coax connection to the TV was fuzzy and degraded. The absolute best connection from the STBII to my TV was via an HDMI cable. 
I used online TV guides to find the shows, times and days of the week and set up the scheduling for recording. 
Step Two- Antenna: At first I experimented with some inexpensive OTA antenna’s attached to the walls of my second floor office with thumbtacks. You can pick these up discount stores for less than $10 bucks or look at my earlier post where I made my own. 
The reception was ok, showing occasional interference on some channels. Ultimately, I needed to improve the signal strength if I wanted fairly reliable quality recordings. 
To do that, I decided to go higher. We have a two story house with an easily accessible attic. I sorted through the houses pre-laid coax using some coax trace tools I picked up and attached an old home made antenna to those that led to my office using pushpins as mounts to the rafters. 
Step Three- Results: were stellar. The recordings of shows via the OTA antenna and STBII are as good or better than my DirecTV DVR. 

The Pros: cheap, easy, no subscription fees and excellent quality.
The cons: The DirecTV DVR service makes it a heck of a lot easier to record first run only shows on all cable included networks like AMC, Comedy, premium sports, etc. without having to set record up for a specific time. In fact, it will auto correct from season to season if the show is in a new day or time and stop recording when the season ends. None of that automated programming is available with the STBII. You have to manually manage it yourself. 
There are other boxes out their with far more sophistication. Like the HDHomeRun which records shows and makes them available through your wifi for playback. Or the TiVo which has intelligent scheduling and allows for remote playback also, but has a subscription service. 
And then there are the home grown solutions where someone sets up a computer for recording the shows to a NAS and it provides the same functionality with no subscription, but no intelligent scheduling either. 
Conclusion: The Iview 3500 STBII is an inexpensive means of augmenting our current service, not a replacement. Glad I have it. Fits my needs, but not replacing my full service provider any day soon. 

Security Camera Systems – What I want

If you saw my previous experiment with Zmodo Mini Wifi, you realize it was just one step in my figuring out security camera systems.

Why do I want a security camera system? Because security camera systems can be implemented that cause little or no impact to your life. I’ve had old fashioned alarm systems and frankly have had sub par experiences regardless of how simplistic or sophisticated they are supposed to be. Not because of the engineering or design, but because of the users (room mates, spouse, off spring, and visitors) unwilling to learn and use the systems. Of all the security systems I’ve had, the only person I could count on to actually use them was myself. And basically that meant they were useless.

However, with a security camera system, there is no active arming or disarming. It normally won’t cause an alarm to go off and scare someone off, but it certainly would provide a means to prosecute
someone. And, after setting up the necessary parameters, the only thing I would need to do is manage the video memory. I wouldn’t have to count on anyone else to ensure they arm a system or check a zone or choose the right option, etc. Movement alerts would be ideal. Movement alerts I can adjust are far better. And the more discrete and functional the cameras are the better.

That’s my logic for wanting a security camera system.

With the experiences I’ve had, I would like to have a set of IP addressable cameras where the streaming or pictures are captured to a NAS in my own network. If cloud storage is inexpensive enough, I’d be game for that so long as the price and retention are long enough and the

I don’t want to deal with proprietary code or strain my tech skills to crowbar a solution in place. I can handle straight forward DIY efforts that don’t require significant skill, but I’ve played around enough to realize that the time invested relative to the quality and benefit are significantly not in favor of a DIY solution inside my skill set.

That’s a simple run down of what I want and some of my logic.

Nexus 7 Resurrection – Again

3 October 2017 – This will be my second post related to my old Google Nexus 7 (Grouper) and bringing it back to a usable state. I previously touched on it with this article.

So let’s bring things up to date. CyanogenMod’s Nexus 7 revisions worked great initially. Then updates continued on a regular basis, but also accomplished the same end game that Google updates did. The tablet just bogged down to a crawl in performance as the updates rolled out.

For about 9 months, I relegated it to performing as a picture frame. Always on and scrolling through family photos on my desk.  And it was frustrating knowing that this old tablet had more storage than more modern Android devices.

But it was always there. Staring at me. Showing me photos that were important to me. And I always felt it had more potential. When I finally came across some free time, I started scouring the searches and found this Top Best Custom ROMs for Nexus 7 (2012)”. Exactly the kind of article I was looking for.

Once again, I don’t recommend this for those who may suffer impatience, ignore instructions or are unwilling to attempt this more than once. And remember, although improbable, there is a chance to ‘brick’ your device.

Do your homework in advance and be organized. As a reminder, I already had TWRP loaded from the first resurrection so I was a bit ahead of the game. I performed a factory reset and wiped the DALVIK during the process. Of course, all the data was backed up except for the OS. I made sure that I reviewed the key steps for all the elements and had links to alternatives (like GAPPs) in case links were out of date.

Ultimately I chose AOSP. It’s Android 6 and includes the 2016 September security fix, which covered one of my concerns. But it wasn’t so current that all the ‘next great ideas’ created excessive bloat. Going through the load, I actually had to attempt it twice, but was finally successful after ensuring I completed both a factory reset and wiping the DALVIK.

I’m not concerned with regular updates for the bleeding edge roll out because this old tablet just can’t hack newer stuff.

Dolphin browser was a part of the OS and I was very surprised at how well it works. The OS reminded me that this was a good tablet and I was right to hang onto it. Putting it on an older skinnier OS without a lot of the progressive add on’s and enhancements that come with normal tech growth really helped.

So, what do I do with it? It will be an alternate tablet. I use it as an eReader, media streamer, news tablet, and podcasts. And I’ll still use it as a digital photo frame. I love the reminders of good things. 

Kaizen – I did that!?

I’ve been working incrementally on me.

And without realizing it, I was doing something that has a cool name like Kaizen.

I’ve been working incrementally on me.

And without realizing it, I was doing something that has a cool name like Kaizen.

What is Kaizen? The best explanation comes out of an episode by the Art of Manliness hosted by Brett Baxter and his guest, Robert Maurer called “The Kaizen Method — Get 1% Better Each Day”

Basically Kaizen is a form of continuous improvement in an incremental fashion. Originally brought to public attention through corporate culture to improve Japanese manufacturing after World War II, the podcast discusses how it can be applied individually.

How does it relate to my situation? Because all of the personal changes small and large, have come about in a very incremental way. I would identify one thing that I didn’t like and set about to address that one thing.  Continue reading “Kaizen – I did that!?”

Day 365 Flew By and ….

July 6th 2017 was the 365th day of not having a single drink of anything with alcohol in it.

As I sat back and looked at how different things have been in the past year, I’m very thankful for quitting.

Things I’ve been accomplishing:

  • I’ve been running an organized 5k a month for the past six months with a goal of 12 continuous months.
  • As a result I’m definitely in better shape.
  • I blog more often than before.
  • I go fishing a lot more. At least a couple times a month.
  • I’m better able to cope and let go of the pressures of life.
  • I’ve lost some weight. Right around 20 pounds from my worst a year ago.
  • My gut health is much better, where I measured gut problems on a weekly basis and now it’s been twice (due to my own self abuse) in the past year.
  • I’ve had no sinus infections since I quit and only one possible cold that I shook off quickly. Previous years I suffered almost like clock work every two months as average.
  • I read more often. Magazines, books on fiction or non-fiction. I realized that I wasn’t reading anything of substance.
  • I’ve begun a routine of becoming much more organized.
  • I listen to pod casts and audio books actually remembering the gist of them, rather than through the muddle of blurry memory.
  • I listen to audio books, both fiction and non fiction. Not only to be entertained, but to learn and retain something.
  • I call family more often. I believe that I’m more regular in trying to be in touch at least once a week.
  • I now participate in a local civic philanthropic organization and expect to continue.
  • I’m much more mindful of where my head is and what I find fulfilling. I’m much more able to appreciate where I am and devote the small continuous efforts to stay more centered for myself and others.

Continue reading “Day 365 Flew By and ….”

Why I run

I have so many reasons why I run or jog. In middle school I liked track and field at school, but it wasn’t an organized sport. So I tried football for a couple years, finishing that up my freshman year of high school. This was the mid-1970’s and whenever we were running laps for conditioning or punishment, although some guys hated it, I enjoyed it.

I became enthralled with the 1976 summer Olympics and went for the Cross Country team. Continue reading “Why I run”