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76  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Best Roku channels? on: October 25, 2013, 12:40:32 PM
I've had it [1], I'm cutting the cord and switching to Roku. We've had conversations here before about the best Android apps, etc. Roku has a similar thing they call "channels", which are mostly portals to VoD content or livestreams, but are also sometimes apps.

So, for any other Roku users out there, what are your favorite channels?

[1] I've been a DirecTV subscriber since they started, but we're not able to use it in the new house. We're now using TWC, but their prices are much higher than they originally lead you to believe, their customer service's badness is the stuff of legend, and their DVR boxes are poor and have intentionally crippled functionality.
77  Other Software / Found Deals and Discounts / Re: 10/24/13 Abbyy PDF Transformer 3.0 on: October 24, 2013, 12:57:44 PM
I think this tool is the best of its class.

For very simple PDFs, there are other tools that are able to extract data directly from the PDF, and that can work very well. But when the PDF gets complex, or -god forbid - it's actually just images, those other files start to fail spectacularly. This tool works on even the worst PDFs.
78 Software / Post New Requests Here / Re: IDEA: Package Tracker on: October 15, 2013, 12:25:16 PM
Recommended for Android is the app Slice.

This thing will watch your gmail for shipping notices from most sellers, and automatically watch the shipment tracking, showing you a notice when it goes out for delivery and when it gets delivered.
79  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Windows Networking, help me understand. on: October 15, 2013, 08:56:59 AM
Replacing a DC is no problem really, just build a fresh server and run dcpromo to make the new one and then dcpromo the old one to remove it.  Just make sure to have DNS installed on the new box before promotion and point it to the old one for DNS, then when the new DC is happy (always seems to take an extra reboot for me) point everything to it for DNS instead before decommissioning the old one. 

So now you've got to understand DNS, too, including how to properly configure your own domain, and how this interrelates with ActiveDirectory -- it's not as easy as just pointing to your ISP's DNS. And this is the part that I was never able to get to work properly (this may have been complicated by the fact that I own my own domain name as well, I use that for my email address, so I needed to be able to get name resolution to hosting provider's mail server that has my domain name).

I actually thought NT4 domains were simpler. Back then, you had a PDC and some set of BDCs, and it was perfectly clear which was which. So to replace an old PDC, you'd just bring up a new BDC, get him acquainted with the old PDC, and then promote him.
80  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Windows Networking, help me understand. on: October 15, 2013, 07:34:42 AM
Active Directory has only two states of being, DNS is configured and working properly, and shit hit the fan


That is the thing. Getting it set up and running and normal isn't a big deal. But wait until 5 years down the road, when that machine's dying and you need to get a new DC handling the domain. I know this is possible -- corporations do it all the time -- but I've been completely unsuccessful in figuring out how to completely replace a DC.
81  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Windows Networking, help me understand. on: October 14, 2013, 07:30:48 PM
The thing about domains is that you need a domain controller. And getting that set up (and administered, with backups and everything) is a whole other skillset.
82  Main Area and Open Discussion / General Software Discussion / Re: Windows Networking, help me understand. on: October 14, 2013, 06:41:00 PM
The top one is the New version of (XP's) Simple File Sharing. So it's trying to combine file and share permissions into one thing.

So that's what "simple file sharing" is doing? I have to admit that I always found it confusing -- NOT simple -- and so have avoided it since it came out.
83  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Going cold turkey on the unholy trinity on: October 11, 2013, 12:40:21 PM
I can't find the link right now, but I just read the other day that Mozilla is going to put into the official Firefox distribution js-based Flash support. You won't need to install Flash itself, your browser will continue to run (most) Flash content, and it'll automatically be sandboxed by the browser's existing protections for js.
84  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: TrueCrypt Audit on: October 10, 2013, 12:31:10 PM
From the discussion of this that I've seen, there isn't really any reason to suspect that there's a problem. It's just that people want to *prove* that TC is secure, and hasn't been compromised.
85  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Rebuilding my home network on: October 09, 2013, 11:06:37 AM
When you say remote access, do you mean you can't get the Android client working from within your LAN or from outside your LAN?

I couldn't get it to work from outside. That's because I couldn't get my server to register itself with their system. The website that runs on my server asks for me to provide the credentials to access the myplex server, and apparently it tries to use that to get the myplex server to query back to my server. But without static IP from my DHCP, I wasn't able to set up the firewall settings for port forwarding, so my server never received the ping back from myplex.
86  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Rebuilding my home network on: October 07, 2013, 05:07:39 PM
It's been a few months since we had a serious discussion about home networking. I've just had to rebuild much of my network, and thought I'd share my experiences with current products and configurations.

I just moved to Texas, but a week before the move, a mega-thunderstorm burned out a bunch of my electronic equipment. On the trash heap following that:
  • Cable modem - owned by the cable company, so no loss to me
  • Router - these are cheap, but I lost the whole DHCP configuration, and getting all this stuff configured again will be a pain
  • 8-port gigabit switch - oddly, about half the ports still work, but I don't trust it anymore
  • DLink NAS
  • Desktop computer's NIC
  • One DirecTV PVR's NIC
  • PhonePower VoIP adapter - after the hit, it started to generate so much heat that its plastic case is warping
  • An HDMI switch connected to my TV, of all things

The NJ house I moved out of, I'd completely wired for ethernet before WiFi was a real option. The new house in TX doesn't have that, and TX houses don't have basements, making new wiring too much of a headache.

Getting myself back onto the net was the first task. I decided that in the long run it would be cheaper to buy my own cable modem (it'll pay for itself in 1.5 years, and with buried cables in my new town, there's minimal chance of its destruction). I went for the fastest I could find, a Motorola Surfboard, but really, any DOCSIS 3.0 would do. I had to let Time Warner Cable know the MAC address (their horrible customer service could fill another lengthy post). I subscribed to 50Mbps service (up from the 15Mbps maximum I could get in NJ), partly because the wife will be working from home, and will need plenty of bandwidth for that. I'm glad to report that the actual, measured bandwidth from TWC is slightly higher than that, even in prime time.

I also had a cheapo WiFi router in a box, which I'm currently limping along with until I can get better. That got me bootstrapped to where I could at least function.

The PhonePower VoIP adapter was easy. I called them, and had a new adapter in two days, minus $15 shipping. And it's pretty cool that I can just plug in here in TX, and still have the same phone number.

Since I don't have ethernet wiring, and don't want to be tied down to WiFi speeds, I needed a way to move the signal around. I'd previously used powerline adapters to good effect, and found that they've gotten faster in recent years. With three pairs of 500Mbps TP-Link Powerline Adapters, I can get the data into almost every room. I really like these things. They're super-easy to set up, and although they don't really provide the whole advertised 500Mbps, they're still a lot better than WiFi.

To get a wired connection to the damaged desktop, I needed to free a slot (the NIC had been on the motherboard). Who needs a phone modem these days? That card went in the garbage, with a spare gigabit NIC in its place.

The biggest challenge so far was the NAS. I had planned for the future by using RAID drives, but in fact both drives were intact; it was the NAS itself that was dead. And with no device to read the RAID array (and this being an older, discontinued model), I had no good way to get the data off the drives. Luckily I'd made a backup onto a portable drive just a week prior, in anticipation of my move, so data loss was trivial.

To replace the NAS Server, I got a Synology DS-212j. This is in the process of being discontinued (there's one lesson I didn't learn), so they're relatively cheap. I stuck the drives from the original NAS into this. I'm *very* impressed with this device. I don't know if there's anything special about the hardware, but they've obviously put a ton of effort into the software. Its configuration and management tools are just orders of magnitude nicer and easier to use than anything else I've ever seen. And the first thing I was able to do with it was plug that portable drive into its own USB jack, and copy off my backup (at this point I hadn't swapped out the desktop's NIC, and I really didn't want to push that much data through WiFi!)

One of the slick things about the Synology system is that it supports add-in applications (I know other vendors off this as well, but not with such an easy-to-use repository as Synology offers). And one thing I wanted to accomplish was to run a media server, to replace an old server that I'd decided not to bring to TX with me. Synology lets you install a Plex server with just a couple of clicks. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get the Plex server working for remote access from my Android.

I think the reason I can't get that remote access running is because of the network configuration in that crappy router I'm using. In particular, it doesn't give me sufficient control of DHCP to ensure that things live in the network where I want them to be. So I've got on order a new, better router, a NetGear WNDR3700 (another product near end of lifecycle, that you can get relatively cheap). It's supposed to have very good radios, to allow for access out in the backyard, or to support the wife's multifunction printer thingy in her office (which only offers WiFi connection, no wires allowed). I plan to install DD-WRT onto it (which I also had back on the old router in NJ), so I'll have pretty much complete control over the network.

I wasn't able to replace the DirecTV receiver - the technician wouldn't go up on the roof to install the dish, and couldn't guarantee that the signal strength would reach the box if he stuck the dish onto the side of the house. So now I've got a whole-house HD DVR system from TWC (again, with the nightmare customer service). Years ago, before HD, I had TiVos. Those were better than the DirecTV DVRs. And those DirecTV boxes were way better than the TWC boxes. They're awful! Clunky user interface, intentional crippling of features like 30-second skip, and again, their awful customer service, make me regret this part of my decisions.

The last bit is that pesky HDMI switch. The only reason I had it in the first place was because my old AV receiver doesn't support HDMI at all. Rather then spend a money for the particular weird setup I'd need for that, I tossed out the receiver and got a new one, a Pioneer VSX-822-K. So now I've got a complete, integrated switching system, making the wiring much, much, simpler.

In the past, I'd use a weird off-brand networked video box to get access to my music and video library. I thought I could use DLNA in the new AV receiver to get access to the library. But DLNA sucks. It doesn't need to, but I've yet to find any implementation of it that's anything close to usable with a large library. With hundreds of artists in my music collection, just paging through the list of artists is too painful. So while this *should* be a feature of the new system, in fact it's not usable at all. The old no-name video network box lives on.

If anyone's at all interested in this ramble, I'll report back when I've got the new router set up. And maybe I'll come up with another alternative rather than DLNA. I've been thinking about getting a Raspberry Pi to run either Plex or XBMC on.

(edit: I included a bunch of links to products in Amazon. These aren't affiliate links, I just wanted to give folks a way to look at specs.)
87  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Am I the only person that has a real big problem with software like this? on: October 04, 2013, 02:15:56 PM
I'm not a parent, but I have been a kid.

It seems to me that the development of any child travels through a world where different types of treatment are appropriate at different times. The youngest kids don't have the understanding of the things that populate the world, nor the thinking skills, to be able to make proper decisions on their own. As they age, they may know what's right, but not have developed the confidence to implement that knowledge. Later on, maybe we want to let them try their independence, but still be there as a safety net if things go wrong.

So I think that for small children blockers are appropriate, just as I keep my gun safe locked. It's too easy to do the wrong thing.

And toward the older end of the spectrum, perhaps we don't want to actively interfere with the child proving to himself that he can do the right things. But maybe it's still helpful to know what situations he's running into, in case there's a need to explain to him. Those animal snuff flicks, or something, certainly warrant a conversation with the kid, even when he has the normal reaction of revulsion.

Many kids have the wherewithal to ask their parents, or someone, about such experiences. Others don't. I'm reminded of a favorite song, "Silent Cries" by Fates Warning. The first two verses go like this:

Born to an air of apathy
Indifference shapes a fragile mind.
Questions formed at an early age
Beg answers unasked
Silent cries

Behind curious eyes resides
A child who cannot speak.
Silent cries

Years find a mind alone whose
Questions flow too deep for words.
Covered in a shroud of silence
Watching the world go by
Silent cries
88  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: The issue of Ad-Blocking in our browsers. on: October 03, 2013, 04:13:35 PM
As others have said, it's the annoying ads that are the problem.

I run AdBlock Plus in my browsers. But I've disabled it for DC, and for some other sites. I don't object to ads as such, and indeed, when they're topical, they can even be useful.

But ads that interfere with my usage are the problem. Animated ads that demand your attention still are common. My wife uses Chinese pages all the time, and these frequently look like someone vomited on them; I've added dozens of custom rules to ABP for her.

At a minimum, if you don't allow the ads to detract from the experience of the web page you've worked so hard on, then I'm willing to go along with it. But when you let the ads try to invade my experience, then I don't want to allow that.
89  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Hating on new Google Maps on: September 30, 2013, 05:01:43 PM
Surely I'm not the only one that hates the new design of Google Maps. Let me count the ways that I hate it, and see if anybody's found good solutions to these problems with it:

  • Slow to load - it takes quite a while, even on a fast (e.g., 20Mbps) connection, to load up the page
  • Slow to interact - the page just doesn't feel snappy, at least in Firefox
  • No multi-stop direction - I can only find a way to get directions from point A to Point B; I can't see any way to go from A to B to C
  • Hideous links - to send a map takes a huge, opaque URL, but I can always use or something to fix that
  • Did I mention that it seems really slow?

Any other problems Google should be addressing?
90  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: The fun of installing custom router firmware (tomato, dd-wrt) - an introduction on: August 08, 2013, 02:51:20 PM
the most useful setting in Tomato that I think every router firmware should have is the one that lets you set it to reboot itself in the middle of the night every day

I've been running DD-WRT for about a year, and I've had the router up for months at a time with no ill effect.

Does anybody out there have a pointer to a Tomato versus DD-WRT comparison, to help decide which I should use?
91  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: What is safer for data -- a hard disk or a blue ray disc? on: July 08, 2013, 01:37:52 PM
I've *read* lots of stuff about limited lifespans of DVD-R (and by extension, I guess) BD-R discs. But in practice, I occasionally read archives from 10 years ago without problems.

I prefer to do this via hard drive for really big amounts of data, because chopping up the archives, and figuring out what's on what disc, is a big pain. Actually, I just bought a cheap large drive for an additional backup of my photos and documents, when I move in a couple of months - I'm worried about what a hot moving truck will do to hard drives, so I'll carry this one with the real crucial stuff with me.

Continuing to argue with myself... setting aside the life of optical bits versus magnetic bits, there's also long-term questions of form factor. My bet is that you'll have a device that can read optical discs longer into the future than you'll have a device that accepts the kind of interface on your hard disk. I mean, CDs and DVDs have been around quite a long time, and readers are ubiquitous. But if you had your data on an IDE or (some kinds of) SCSI hard drive, and you'd have a much more difficult job trying to find a reader.

MWB1100 reference parchives (like PAR2) above, which is one way to add redundancy so that small failures are recoverable. Another approach, if you're using optical discs, is to use DVDisaster. This is essentially the same thing as PAR2, but it's hidden outside the file system for transparency, and operates against the entirety of the disc image.

92  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Knight to queen's bishop 3 - Snowden charged with espionage. on: June 27, 2013, 01:31:10 PM
I'm ashamed to say that Menendez, the guy trying to blackmail Ecuador, is my ass of a senator.

For the American people, this is also adding insult to injury. This punishment doesn't only hit the Ecuadorian people, it also hits Americans. Not only are we being spied on, but in the government's fight for its authority to spy, it's also now forbidding Americans from purchasing products that they want (or forcing us to pay higher prices).

Menendez either (a) doesn't understand economics well enough to understand that in trade both sides profit; or (b) really does view this as a war of the US government against the American people. Personally, I think it's likely that both are true.

I'll be writing him another letter, this time saying not only that isn't PRISM and other domestic spying unacceptable, but that the necessary remedy is, at a minimum, the repeal of USA PATRIOT and of the AUMF.
93  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Blowback from Snowden's revelations... this isn't pretty... on: June 26, 2013, 01:08:21 PM
All the foregoing conversation about Pres. Obama's changing tune, and attributing that to (implicitly) hidden powers from the military-industrial complex doesn't explain *all* of the changes of tune. Sure, you can get mileage on the secrecy/warring/detention front, but what of the others.

We were promised an end to the federal govt's prosecution of marijuana growers, where allowed by state law. But in fact, Pres. Obama has stepped up enforcement operations.

We were promised better transparency. For example, all bills would be posted to the Internet for 72 hours before the Pres. would sign anything. That got thrown out on day #1, literally. For another example, the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than *any* administration *ever* in history.

Lobbyists weren't going to have any place near the White House, yet the Obama administration contains more than we'd ever seen in the past.

These are not issues that powerful elites in the area of our defense and security apparatus should have more than a peripheral opinion about. I don't buy that the President's hand was forced in these cases (particularly the ones where the promises were broken *immediately*). Therefore, I can't buy your explanation for the cause of the changing tune.
94  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Worth Reading: Trevor Pott's editorial on NSA PRISM and its real ramifications on: June 26, 2013, 12:51:32 PM
^^^ Wraith's post above is one to put into your scrapbook.
95  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Worth Reading: Trevor Pott's editorial on NSA PRISM and its real ramifications on: June 26, 2013, 09:50:51 AM
Two mind-numbing articles by Paul Craig Roberts:

I'm afraid you're crossing the line into partisan politics.

I agree with the overall conclusion you're presenting here. But, bad as the situation that they describe is, these articles do contain untruths and exaggerations (I won't enumerate them, because I don't want to dig deeper into the political quagmire). Presenting things in this manner undermines the effort in the long run: it gives the bad guys the opportunity to rebut trivial details while ignoring the big picture, and it robs us of (some of) the moral high ground.
96  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Knight to queen's bishop 3 - Snowden charged with espionage. on: June 25, 2013, 11:33:55 AM
If Snowden is caught and brought to trial, here's what I think the next move ought to be:

Snowden should claim that everything he said previously was a lie. And there's no law against telling lies to our enemies, right?

To make its case, the government would need to prove that the stuff Snowden said really was true, thus forcing the government to admit, at the very least, the truth of Snowden's claims.
97  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Worth Reading: Trevor Pott's editorial on NSA PRISM and its real ramifications on: June 21, 2013, 08:17:36 PM
Or we could do what Aerosmith was/is still singing about....'Eat the rich'.

Lightweights. Do it the right way, with Motörhead:
<a href="" target="_blank"></a>
98  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Worth Reading: Trevor Pott's editorial on NSA PRISM and its real ramifications on: June 21, 2013, 08:50:56 AM
More worth reading:
We are appalled to learn of the unprecedented surveillance of Internet users worldwide through PRISM and similar programmes. Blanket surveillance capabilities such as these, especially when implemented without citizens' scrutiny, seriously threaten the human rights to free speech and privacy and with them the foundations of our democracies.


Maybe Europe can help us out. If their business won't work with us because of objections to spying, maybe our business will put enough pressure on the government to dump the spying.
99  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Worth Reading: Trevor Pott's editorial on NSA PRISM and its real ramifications on: June 20, 2013, 06:42:14 PM
But here's the rub...when voting someone out...who steps in to fill the void?

That is the question, is it not?

I think a possible answer is: anybody else.

If we just keep throwing out any bum that won't follow the rules, I hope they'd learn that *we* are the masters, and get their acts together. After just a few cycles, things would get better.

I'm not sure that's true, but I think it's worth trying.
100  Main Area and Open Discussion / Living Room / Re: Worth Reading: Trevor Pott's editorial on NSA PRISM and its real ramifications on: June 20, 2013, 01:55:45 PM
This isn't about party.  It's about the whole government.  And unless we can/are willing to throw them all away and start over

wraith, I don't know your party affiliation, and it's none of my business. But whatever it is (assuming you have one), are you willing to vote entirely against that party to ensure that the jerks who perpetrated these things are kicked out?

And will you be willing to vote in that other guy even if his platform is anti-[your favorite sacred cow]?

And will you be willing to do so one year, or even three years from now, when you've cooled down a little (and maybe even forgotten)?
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