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Cutting the Cord Update November 27, 2017

Posted by rluhman in Home, Technology.
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Well I am continuing to build and test what I need to cut the cord with cable.  Last time I talked about Plex and how I was using it to test my antenna and store all our DVD’s and Blu-Ray’s.  Now I’ve picked up the Tablo 4-tuner OTA DVR.  I decided on the 4-tuner rather than the 2-tuner since there are times that what we would be watching on our two TV’s and also might be recording so that the 2-tuner version might cause conflicts for us.  The Tablo DVR’s do not include their own hard drive to store your recordings, so you have to buy one separately and connect it to the Tablo’s USB port.  I picked up a Seagate Expansion 3TB external drive.  This will give me a ton of space to store any recordings without having to worry about losing shows we haven’t watched yet.

The Tablo is a whole home DVR.  It connects to your antenna to get the TV signals and then can either record the show to the hard drive or stream the show to a smart TV or streaming device that has the Tablo app.  Set up was pretty straight forward.  I did have to reboot the device after initial set up to get it to use the hard drive for recordings, but after that everything has been smooth.  It has a traditional grid view for selecting shows to watch or record and it also allows for viewing the guide on a show by show basis.  Both our smart TV’s have the Tablo app so I was able to test it with our TV’s without having to get a streaming box.  It has been working well.

We will still need to get a Roku streaming device since neither smart TV has apps for the popular streaming services like Sling TV, DirecTV Now, or Playstation Vue. (Actually that is not quite true anymore, our Samsung TV in the bedroom just added the Sling TV app.  But our Vizio in the living room still does not have it.)

I’ve also decided to switch to Vonage for our landline service.  I can get very comparable service to what we have now and save about $10 a month.  That more than pays for one Roku box.

Things are still looking good for cutting the cord soon.  I’ll get the next few pieces soon and see how they work.


Getting Ready to Cut the Cord November 16, 2017

Posted by rluhman in Home, Technology.
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Some time ago I wrote a post about an HTPC (home theater PC) that I was building.  The intent was to use it as a DVR on our cable system via a Ceton TV card.  After quite a bit of trouble I finally had it ready to go using Microsoft Media Center to control the DVR and playback.  Well, about the time I got it ready to go, Cox Communications decided to implement switching to their cable system.  This required that I get a switching box to use my Ceton TV card.  After trying three different switching boxes I could not get the box to work with my Ceton TV card.  So the HTPC basically became just a PC attached to our TV.

Since that time Cox has raised their rates to the point I had to switch providers.  We now have AT&T U-verse which uses a streaming technology for cable TV delivery rather than the traditional cable.  So I still can’t use the Ceton TV card on the PC.  Our two year discount with AT&T has run out and their charges for cable TV are just as much if not more that Cox was.

Paying nearly $170 a month just for cable TV is stupid.  So I have decided that it is time to cut the cord and go with streaming TV.  I have been investigating this now for about the last 6 months trying to determine all the pieces that we need to get the TV service we really want.  As part of this investigation, I discovered some software called PLEX.  PLEX at its most basic is a personal media streaming server.  The cost for PLEX is free.  There are a few more advanced features that require a $5.00 a month PLEX Pass subscription.  Not a bad investment for what you get.

I used the Media Center PC that I mentioned above to install PLEX.  I did upgrade from an AMD A4 processor to an A8 processor and added an additional 8 Gb of memory.  I also replaced the DVD drive with a Blu-ray drive.  I have ripped most of our DVD and Blu-ray collection and put it on the PLEX server.  It puts a very nice front end on the media and automatically downloads some additional meta-data about any media you put in the PLEX file system.  You can access the media via the web or apps that are available on Windows, smart TVs, streaming boxes, X-box, and smart phones.  All my testing so far has gone well. (more…)

Warlock Repairs October 27, 2016

Posted by rluhman in Rocketry.
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I thought I’d publish a short post on repairing my Warlock after the 2015 High Frontier launch.  I flew it in the Warlock Drag Race and while the up part was just fine, the landing was not so much.  I landed on the asphalt runway and one of the composite fins took the brunt of the landing.  It pretty much crushed the lower corner of the fin and then started to splay the fiberglass skin of the fin apart.

I might have been able to repair it but it would have been a very weak fin and probably would not have withstood another landing without taking damage again.  Instead I decided that my best route would be to cut the current fin off at the body tube and graft another one into place.

These fins are through the wall type fins, meaning that they extend into the body tube and are glued to the motor mount on the inside of the rocket.  I didn’t want to try and remove my rear bulkhead in order to gain access to the fin root, hence my decision to cut the fin off at the outer body tube and graft a replacement on at that point.

In order to provide some strength I decided that I would take my new fin and add a tang that would fin into a clevis that would be put into the part of the fin that was still inside the body tube.  I got some birch plywood that would fit into the composite material between the fiberglass skins.  I decided how deep I wanted the tang to be and cut the plywood accordingly.

Now I needed to remove the Nomex  honeycomb where the plywood tang would go.  I got my Dremel tool out and put in a straight router bit and started removing Nomex.  When I got the depth I thought I needed I pushed the plywood into the space to check the fit.  After several iterations of routing and checking, I finally had the clevis done.  Now I had to do the same thing to the new fin in order to place the tang.

Once that was complete I mixed up some West Systems epoxy to put the tang in the fin. I wiped the excess that oozed out of the slot and set it aside to set up.  The next day I used some more West Systems to glue the new fin into the piece that remained in the body.  The next day I used some 30 minute epoxy to add new fillets to the fin and the process was complete.  I did do a test flight at Leonard to make sure the new fin was as strong as it looked.  The test flight was fine.  It even landed on the repaired fin with no damage.  Now all that was left was to fix the paint job.

At least that was what I thought.  I later found a crack around the circumference of the bulkhead in the nosecone.  Now I need to stabilize that before I can fly it again.  I’m thinking of using three flat head wood screws to hold the bulkhead in place and then put a new epoxy ring around the bulkhead hold everything in place.  Hopefully it will be ready to fly at the start of next season.

Creating Steam-Bertha August 15, 2016

Posted by rluhman in Rocketry.
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001When I received the March/April issue of Sport Rocketry I noticed the headline on the cover, “Steampunk Rocketry Designs and Techniques”.  That sounded interesting so I opened the magazine to the story and immediately saw some amazing looking rockets.  I dove into the article and each paragraph started my mind swirling off into different directions thinking how I could make something that might look as interesting as those in the article.

Rather than start working on a new rocket to create my first steampunk example, I looked at my fleet of tired rockets that I seldom fly anymore.  I was drawn to my Big Bertha that I had built many years earlier with a three engine cluster.  It was sitting there with a rather ugly plain blue finish.  No markings or anything else, just solid plain blue.  Yes, this should work, I’ll convert my Big Bertha into Steam-Bertha!

Using the article as inspiration and a guide to begin sourcing the parts I would need, I started getting my materials together.  First I got a couple of manila file folders for the heavy paper that I’d need for the straps that the “rivets” would go on.  Now for the “rivets”.  I went to Michael’s and picked up a sheet of half-round pearls with sticky backing.  I’m not sure what other crafters use these for, but for me they were going to become my rivet heads.  I also found a few cards of pre-punched cardboard centering rings in my Estes rocket parts stash.  Those could be used as portholes.  Also in the stash, were some extra launch lugs that I could turn into external piping to disguise the actual launch lug that was already on the rocket. (more…)

My First Media Center PC December 11, 2012

Posted by rluhman in Home, Technology.
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4tuner_card1After stumbling onto a TV tuner card called the InfiniTV 4 by Ceton, I decided to try my hand at making a Media Center PC.   There was potential to save some money on my cable bill and get some additional functionality that isn’t offered by Cox.

ML03-3-4First I needed a PC to put the InfiniTV card in.  I didn’t want to install it in my main system as it might end up in the living room.  I decided to use a small form factor.  The case I chose was a Silverstone ML01 case.  It is a nice looking low profile case that supports both mini-ATX and mini-ITX motherboards.  ML03-3-4-Back-02It has places to mount either two 3.5″ hard drives or three 2.5″ hard drives.  The case does not come with a power supply so I had to add that to the mix.  One thing to note, the PSU would need to be no deeper than 5.5 inches to leave room to put a DVD drive in.  The DVD would also need to be as short as possible to ensure there would be enough room for cabling.

I picked a Rosewill 400W PSU, in hindsite, I could have used a smaller PSU.  Something in the 250W to 300W range would have been find and would run cooler.  But this is a nice PSU that has a quiet 120mm fan.  The DVD was an ASUS DRW-24B1ST drive (OEM 24x DVD burner).  The two worked together to leave just enough room to route the SATA power and data cables between the drive and the PSU.

FM2A75Pro4-M(m)For the motherboard, I picked the Asrock FM2A75 Pro4-M.  It is a mini-ATX form factor board for the AMD FM2 socket.  It has all solid state caps.  For outputs, it has VGA, DVI and HDMI.  It also has an optical sound output, and supports USB3 and eSata.  The motherboard fits nicely in the case, but the front panel header is on the front edge of the motherboard.  You’d think this wouldn’t be a problem, except that the case front panel connector is very tall.  The case has a plastic hard drive shelf that goes between the motherboard and the case front.  With the front panel header on the front edge and the case connector installed, the drive shelf won’t fit without putting a serious strain on the motherboard.  To avoid the strain, I removed the drive shelf.

Fortunately the alternate 3.5″ hard drive mount was under the DVD drive bay.  The Seagate Barracuda ST1000Dm003 (1Tb 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s) drive fit there nicely.  There are rubber grommets on the mounting holes to reduce drive noise.  The grommets work great.  I can hardly hear any drive noise.

I put 8Gb of DDR3 memory on the board (Crucial Ballistix Sport low profile DDR3 1600).  That was probably overkill, I could have gotten away with 4Gb. (more…)