Jeff's Guide To Cable Cutting - Going to Tivo - Dumping ChannelMaster and iView

Well I've had it with Channelmaster. What a hunk of junk. Several software updates and STILL this thing fails to record unless I do a full factory reset. Do you know how long that takes?  So I'll be shelling out $15 a month for the rest of my life but at least I'll have a device that works.  I also tried an iview DVR which only cost $30 on Amazon.  Another hunk of junk.  I plugged in an external terabyte drive and sure enough it records but if I try to program the remote to recognize my LG TV it fails.  Epic fail.  So I'm not only buying a Tivo, I'm picking up a Tivo mini to provide DVR function in a second room.  

Left: Tivo Roamio, Middle: ChannelMaster DVR+, Right: iView Converter Box (with PVR)

I suppose I should stick with the tutorial theme here and share what I have learned.  First, I'll talk about the current flavors of Tivo.  There are 3. The Roamio is the only unit for cable cutters.  The Roamio Plus and Roamio Pro won't even work for OTA TV.  They are really aimed at cable card users.  Then there's the decision whether to pay $15 a month or $499 up front for "lifetime" service.  Lifetime means as long as the Roamio lasts and I'm not willing to bet the thing lasts longer than 2.5 years without failing so I opted for the base model that requires monthly payment to keep it running.

Get A Mac!

I spent some time yesterday suffering through Windows XP and Seven for a friend of mine.  You can't easily share files from Win 7 to Win XP and vice versa so we were left copying files over using a USB stick.  You can't easily copy a bunch of files using Windows Explorer which is looking for an excuse to fail in the middle with 1.6 gig out of 8 gig of files copied so I had to download third party copy software from a Chinese Language site.  THIRD PARTY COPY SOFTWARE?!?  Then there was the whole "Windows Live Mail" cannot retrieve and display mail in less than 20 minutes.  Outlook 2010 on her old XP machine was getting test messages instantly but Windows Live Mail, a free download with Windows Essentials seemed to be too busy doing nothing to be bothered with something as mundane as retrieving email.  After wasting close to 3 hours on these and other issues, I'm not in a Microsoft-loving frame of mind today and today I came across an image that just sums it up quite nicely:

 

How to Get Rid of a Telemarketer... Nicely

I found a nice article on Lifehacker today that explains how telemarketing works and provides the best way to get rid of them.  I really dislike getting phone calls trying to sell me something I do not need or want.  They waste my time and deprive me of much needed down time after a long day at work.  I agree with virtually everything in the article except the part about not showing them any human kindness.  These people are getting yelled at, hung up on and otherwise ignored all day long.  

This situation reminds me of a quote I heard saying that basically I might be the only Bible somebody gets to read.  If I'm ignoring or hanging up on one of these people, I'm not exactly being true to my own values.  What I recommend is politely ending the call.  You treat the telemarketer with the utmost respect, even asking them something like how is their day going and then firmly state your need to hang up and make sure they understand you do not need them to call back later.  The risk is that they put notes in your file that might lead to more calls but if you have the energy to spare, spending a few extra seconds being hospitable before you terminate the call might make all the difference to somebody suffering in one of those telemarketing "boiler rooms" where they make hundreds of calls a day.

More Snow

Well we've gotten within 3 inches of the most snow in (recorded) history for Detroit.  I'm sick of it. I'm sick of looking at it. I'm slick of falling on ice when I try to walk the dogs. I'm tired of not being able to open my car door in my driveway next to the 2 foot snow drift that was once my lawn.  

My neice doesn't even call and ask me to take her to the snow hill any more.  Even she's sick of it.  

A couple of guys at the office are saying they think we should go for it!  We should get one or two more little snowfalls so we can at least get credit for all we've endured this winter.  I say that after all this it really doesn't matter.  Two days before thanksgiving I picked up a bag of bulbs to plant for spring.  I knew that it was cold but I expected a thaw in early December that would allow me to plant them anyway.  Then January.  Then February.  It's time for the freakin' thaw already!

Jeff's Cable Cutting Guide - Part 3

We've been living without Comcast for several months now. All is fine except there are times when signals fade in and out. My wife likes Murdock which only comes on CBET at times in the day when the signal is intermittent.  The last time we set a schedule to record it using Elegato EyeTV, we got 12 minutes of an hour program.  I've been happy with my Mohu Sky antenna... but... it needs to be above the tree line.

I've been planning to move it since Thanksgiving but this bitter cold snowy winter and consistently getting home after dark has prevented me from getting up on the extension ladder to move it to the roof line... Until yesterday.  I arrived home about an hour before it would get dark and immediatly swung into action. I moved my the car out of the way so I could get the ladder down and move it to the back of the house to install the bracket for the antenna near the gutter on the upper south east corner of the house.  I pulled out the step-ladder and took the antenna bracket down so I could move it up.  After 45 minutes, I had the antenna loose in my hand, with its 30 feet of RG6 cable and I was ready to make the climb.  It takes a lot of positioning to stop an aluminum extension ladder from moving around on snow while it's snowing but I got it done.  I had a couple of more ladder-positioning exercises to get tie wraps in place to secure the cable to the house properly and I went inside to witness the results.  We pick up every channel strong and clear now. No more degradation at certain times of the day.  

Snow

Well it's about time.  That's all I can say.  No more wimpy little 3 inch fizzles followed by 50 degree thaws.  When I say I want winter I mean WINTER. Oh I wish I'd kept my big mouth shut.  So yesterday we had to drop Liz off at MSU.  As we left in the morning, there were about 5 inches on the ground.  I know it was 5 inches because I pushed 5 inches with the snowblower before leaving for church.  We went to hear our son as music minister at Divine Shepherd Lutheran in Ann Arbor.  The music was great and so was the sermon.  While Catholics were celebrating Epiphany, the Lutherans seem content to wait until Monday.  I put the wise men out on our front porch nativity scene a day early.  

As we left church, the snow was intensifying.  We ate at Big Boy watching huge fluffy flakes and soon left going north on 23 toward MSU.  I don't remember seeing this much snow in at least a decade.  We drove through the epicenter between Howell and Brighton where the snow would  total 16 inches.  When we got to MSU and dropped her off, we considered bringing her bike home, except I'd have to dig out a huge snow drift to put it in the shed when we got it home and she didn't want to deal with the 11 inches that were already on top of her bike by then.  

Jeff's Spicy Chili

This chili recipe is combined from chili I have made for years and recent ingredients I discovered through online research and through friends' suggestions. It is a chili that can range from mild to inferno, depending on how heavy-handed you are with the Habanero Sauce and whether you use Ghost Peppers. This chili is very colorful because it features 2 colors of Bell Peppers and this year I switched from green Bell Peppers which are not as sweet as the other colors and I used Jalapenos instead.  They don't add excessive heat but do wonders for the flavor.  You can use a whole can of Chipotle Peppers as long as you are making a large enough batch of chili.  I don't recommend a whole can unless you are winding up with at least 2 to 3 gallons of chili.

It is best not to cook and cook this chili until all the veggies turn to mush.  It is better to keep some texture to them by only cooking long enough for flavors to combine, then let the chili rest overnight in the fridge.  

Ingredients:

2 pounds Ground Sirloin

2 Bell Beppers (yellow, orange or red) - diced

6 Jalepeno Peppers - thin sliced

2 medium Onions - diced

3 or 4 cloves of Garlic - thin sliced

2 cans Tomato Sauce

1 can Tomatos with Green Chilis

1 can Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce

1 can Red Kidney Beans 

Black Pepper - to taste

Garlic Powder - to taste

Chili Powder - 3 tablespoons - to taste

Dave's Gourmet Hurtin' Habenero pepper sauce - 1 tablespoon - to taste

Jeff's Egg Nog

Ingredients:

1 Dozen eggs (pasteurized eggs are best, Davidson's "Safest Choise Eggs" available from Papa Joes).

1 Quart Half and Half

1 Pint Heavy Whipping Cream

1 Cup Sugar

Nutmeg - (4 tablespoons or to taste)

Vanilla Extract - (1 tablespoon or to taste)

1 cup Rum or Bourbon (optional when using pasteurized eggs)

 

First Day:

1) Separate Egg Whites from Yolks.  Store Egg Whites in refrigerator for later use. 

2) Add sugar, vanilla extract, nutmeg to egg yolks, mixing thoroughly. Add Rum (optional) and mix thoroughly. Store in refrigerator for later use.

Second (or later) Day:

IMPORTANT: If not using pastuerized eggs, you must use 80 proof or higher alchohol and leave Rum/Yolk mixture in fridge for at least 24 hours.

1) Whip Egg Whites with a hand or electric mixer using an aerating mixer whisk. Add some sugar to egg whites to taste.  Whip until they "peak" when pulling out the whisk. Place whipped egg whites in large mixing bowl and set aside.

2) Whip Heavy Whipping Cream it is the consistency of cool whip, adding sugar to taste. Then add to egg whites in large mixing bowl.

3) Add egg yolk mixture to large mixing bowl and mix on slow setting with whisk or normal beaters.

4) Add Quart of Half and Half and mix on slow setting with whisk or normal beaters.

5) Add Nutmeg to taste and mix on slow setting with whisk or normal beaters.

 

Yield: About 1.5 gallons of egg nog with (optional about 2.5% alchohol by volume).

 

Jeff's Guide to Cable Cutting - Episode 2

There have been several developments since my first installment in this series.  

Comcast Pricing...

Comcast jacked up our internet rate so I had to drop to a slightly lower data tier to get below $65 a month.  Apparently they no longer offer promotions unless you buy some kind of cable from them.  Well I've already taken their former cable wire to use for my central antenna so I'm not going to undo all of that work. I called AT&T about Uverse and pricing is worse than Comcast.  3 MBPS costs $29, 6 MBPS costs $39 and 12 MBPS costs $49.  On Comcast, I'm getting 24 MBPS for $65 so for now we stick with Comcast, especially in light of the poor reliability of Uverse when you're more than 2500 feet from the fiber cabinet.  And yes, our house is more than 2500 feet from At&t's closest fiber cabinet.

Mohu Sky Antenna...

Last Wednesday, every channel went pixelated during the wind storm so I ordered a better antenna online. Yesterday I got my Mohu Sky HDTV antenna deliverd from Amazon.  We can now get CBET channel 9 from Windsor.  I've moved the outdoor antenna to the southeast corner of the house in the hope of putting it closer to the weaker signals and this, along with the Mohu sky has worked. I had plans to put it above the roof line but as an intermediate step, I put it on exposed wood between the first and second floors.  Seems good enough for now. Time will tell.

DVR...

Jeff's Guide to Cable Cutting

We were at a family gathering this weekend and I mentioned that we had cut our cable.  My cousin Larry asked for some details about how we get TV and I mentioned "Netflix", "Hulu" and Internet TV.  I later realized I had told him almost nothing at all about the details involved in cutting cable.  First of all you need high speed internet.  Secondly you need some kind of smart tv or internet tv set top box or computer at each TV.  Lastly you need some kind of antenna for decent reception as losing signal with DTV means long periods of silence and gigantic pixels and you miss something.

Step 0: Sick of Comcast

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