Rick Glos Life in Portland, Oregon.

Cutting the cord with cable

9. September 2012 09:30 by Rick Glos in

Last week we canceled cable.  Too expensive with prices at $250 a month.  Sure we started off like most people with a special offer package around $99 bucks a month with all the channels.  Eventually the special offer expires.  You call to cancel and they extend the offer another 6 months.  This continues over the course of a few years.  Eventually you call and they aren’t extending the offer.  Like an addict, you have become hooked on some shows on premium channels (like Inside the NFL on Showtime, Game of Thrones on HBO, etc) and channels in the sports lineup like NFL RedZone – NFL with zero commercials.

Stepping back and looking back I can see how it happens but it has gone too far and even if they did extend the offer again, I am growing tired of calling back each 6 months when the offer falls away and having this large cable bill.

I do wonder if they really need to charge that much.  While I might feel taken advantage of, its still my choice.  So voting with our dollar and cancelling is all we can do.

On the positive side we have been greatly enjoying the Windows Media Center PC I built driving the TV in the living room.  Watching movies from the file server, listening to music, looking at pictures and home video, etc, and the wife acceptance factor is very high with this.

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The case makes it look just like a component in a home theater system.

I’ve ordered a TV Tuner card and HD antenna so we can watch and record TV over the air.  This will be an interesting next project.

Red Tails Trailer

31. August 2011 05:16 by Rick Glos in

My old man asked me if I’d seen the trailer for Red Tails a couple days ago.

Amazing what they can do now with CGI.  I can’t help but get excited.  When I watch something like that I can’t help but identify those planes; besides the easily identifiable B-17, there’s Bf 109, Me 262, Spitfire, Hurricane, and P-51 just to name a few.  I can’t remember the name of the restaurant my wife and I went to last week, but the names of those planes roll off my tongue as I was watching it.

As a kid, my Dad would take me to the hobby store on weekends sometimes.  We’d buy 1/72nd scale models of WW2 things – mostly tanks, planes and infantry.  I can remember that store in Crystal Lake, Illinois.  It was stacked floor to ceiling with models and it smelled like old people.  In the back there was a barber shop.  Besides a bunch of boxes they would also have the glass case of finished models – all painted and complete.  Man that brings back memories.

As I get older, I think about some of this stuff.  To this day I am drawn towards WW2 related things.  I just purchased a game called Panzer Corps, basically a recreation of the game I played 17 years ago, Panzer General.

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I’ve also been playing Company of Heroes on and off for the past 4 years including the excellent Blitzkrieg Mod which breathed new life into the game.

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It’s been awhile but it’s also in line with Eastern Front, a turn-based, pixel looking game I played 20 years ago. 

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And I also shouldn’t forget the flight simulation type games I played 20 years ago like Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe.

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I could keep going… My poor son Max, wait until I introduce him to this stuff!

Choices for just having a baby

31. July 2010 12:26 by Rick Glos in

We, mostly Heidi, decided early on to use a midwife for birth instead of an doctor.  Partly because right before Heidi became pregnant, her insurance changed and she needed to switch doctors, and partly because we had caught a story here and there about using a midwife for birth instead of a traditional doctor.

The term first conjured images of medieval times to my mind.  Then I read up and became less ignorant about the subject.  My understanding is basically you approach birth with the thought that the body will take care of itself whereas with a doctor, you approach it more from the idea that birth needs constant maintenance and intervention.

Using a midwife has been very pleasant so far.  A team of midwifes work out of the hosptial, OHSU (wikipedia).  We don’t see the same one each time, but they are very pleasant and during the visit I’m constantly surprised at how genuinely interested they seem to be in the experience of being pregnant.  Asking Heidi tons of questions and spending quite a bit of time during the appointment with you in contrast to a doctor’s visit where they rush in and rush out.

That’s been my experience so far anyway.

To this point, I’ve imagined in my mind the actual birth.  Heidi would be on the hospital bed, feet in the stirrups, doctor hovering over screaming push.  When I came to think on it, I mentioned to Heidi that this seems silly, didn’t cavewomen like squat or something and let gravity help?

Then we watched this movie, the Business of Being Born, just this last week based on the recommendation of some friends. (Netflix)

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And I got to see babies being born this time for real and not in a movie.

Here’s some interesting things I saw:

  • So it looks like midwives prefer you to give birth standing/squatting, sometimes in water.
  • There’s a cocktail of hormones that get released at birth bonding the mother and infant – a biological process.
  • Doctor-based intervention usually starts with shot to induce labor (PIT – something), then a shot to numb the pain (the spinal one), which relaxes the woman so they give more of the first shot to re-induce labor, then back to the  shot to numb the pain and back and forth and on and on into a vicious cycle…  which leads to…
  • 1 in 3 babies, in the U.S. today are caesarian section births.
  • Physician convenience is a leading cause of caesarian section – a large number of babies are born at 4PM (“it’s getting late time to go home”) and 10PM (“it’s getting late, I need to go to bed”).
  • Hooking up to an intravenous, IV, allows easier administration of the shots mentioned above.  In a typical hospital pregnancy you are hooked up first thing thereby making it less of an obstacle when later proposed.

It’s worth a watch even from a historical perspective just to see how births in the US have evolved over the past 100 years.

Update (2010.08.18): Just heard from the midwife today at Heidi's appointment that The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists published an article back on 2010.07.21 that states:

The cesarean delivery rate in the US increased dramatically over the past four decades, from 5% in 1970 to over 31% in 2007. 

So from 1 in 20 to 1 in 3 over 40 years.  Link to the article.

Home Network Project

12. December 2009 09:18 by Rick Glos in

Last weekend I spent finishing up some of the wiring in the house for the home network.

When the house was built, we had lines put in for each room which terminated in the basement.  Although the lines were put in, they weren’t physically wired to the jacks in the walls or the basement.  Because both the TV and the bluray player that I bought are network capable, I wanted to hook them up to the internet so that I could perform software updates and use services they provided.  Unlike your old TV, VCR or CD Player, these new devices run on software that gets consistently updated throughout the year giving you additional functionality and features you may not have had before.

So in this simple network diagram, what I need to do is connect the wires in the office, where the Comcast Internet connection comes into the house via the cable modem and router, wire the connection to the wall, connect that to a switch in the basement, and connect the Great Room wall outlet to the basement to yet another switch in the great room.  Confused yet?

Note: Some of you may be thinking, “Wires?  Go wireless dude.”  Sure you could.  Wireless isn’t bad for say, downloading firmware updates, but for serious video streaming, we want bandwidth and wireless isn’t going to cut it when multiple devices stream video in high definition, playing music on another room, or um… gaming.

Remedial Home Network Drawing

I need to go get some tools for this.  Fry’s to the rescue.  There’s one only 20 minutes from the house.

  • Crimper
  • Stripper
  • Punchdown Tool
  • Cat5e Cable (or Cat6)
  • Connectors
  • Cable tester [not required but saved time]
  • Switches (2)
  • Bluray disc to test bluray player [shh… don’t tell my wife]

Instead of buying the tools individually, they had a kit which had the crimper, stripper, and punchdown tools plus some connectors and 75 feet of cable so I bought that.  If you are reading this and looking for a kit, this one on Amazon is basically what you need.  Here's a link for a tester.  I already have the router in my office but needed to get two switches.  One for the basement and one for the great room.  The Planet Earth Bluray disc?  Well that’s required for right?

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So remember I said all the wires from the rooms in the house terminated in the basement?  This is what it looks like.  A bunch of wire ends in the crawl space.

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Luckily at the end of each wire they put a nice note telling where the other end of the wire goes.

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So when connecting the wall plate in the room to the one downstairs you split the wires (there’s 8 of them total, grouped in pairs) and punch them down into the wall plate.  Don’t worry there’s great directions included with the tool kit telling you what color goes where and in what order.  This is both for the wall plate and for making your own Cat cabling to connect the switches to the wall plate and the devices to the switch.  This will save you loads of money over buying pre-made cat cabling.

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To make sure it all worked I did by a tester.  I saved me twice.  First time I connected the wire in the wall to the wall plate I accidentally cut two wires with the wire stripper.  Second time I did the same thing making a cable.  Get one, it’s worth it.

So when checking the connection from the wall plate to the other end, the basement in my case, you plug this doo-dad into the wall plate and use the tester on the other end.

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So down the in basement I used Heidi’s label maker to label the wires a little better after installing the connecters on the other end.

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Here’s what it looks like with the switch.

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In true trailer park fashion, I had to use a long extension cord to power the switch.  I guess I forgot to ask the builder to put a couple of extra outlets in the basement.  Guess that’s a project for another time – electrocuting myself.

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Upstairs behind our awesome (read too small and I need to make something better, yes, yet another project) TV stand here’s the 2nd switch all hooked up.

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The cool part was plugging the TV and Bluray player into the switch.  Now that they are connected to the internet, they came alive with more features and started to update themselves.

Here’s the TV performing an update.

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Once the update was done, it had to ‘reboot’.  Just like a PC.

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There’s a ton of version numbers.

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Looks like there is one specific number though for the software?  Note that this is after the update.

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One interesting thing I see from the License menu is that the TV is running on Linux.

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Ok now the cool stuff.  Once the TV was connected, I was able to link it up to my Amazon account.  Notice how the bandwidth test shows excellent connection information and that I should have no problem viewing HD content.

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I’m not sure exactly what VieraCast is yet, but when you use the button on the remote, you can see the original picture gets minimized in the center and now you can access the weather, youtube, picasa and Amazon video on Demand plus a ‘coming soon’ area.

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There’s a nice list of video’s to rent.

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The bluray player had a similar software update.

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Download in progress…

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Since the bluray player is connected to the internet, you can access Vudu (like Hulu?), youtube and my Netflix account.

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Since I’m already a member of Netflix, I just need to authorize the device to connect to my account.

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Then finally the Netflix instant watch queue is now available on the bluray player.

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I’ve yet to stream any video watching but I did watch some of the Planet Earth stuff and that was jaw dropping.

Heidi has setup a house warming e-vite invitation thing.  She’s setup to do it on Saturday January 9th, 2010.  In true procrastination fashion, I’ve yet to add anyone to the email list.  But when you come over, I can show you this stuff in person.  If you’re into that.

HDTV – Panasonic TC P58V10

6. December 2009 08:52 by Rick Glos in

We finally jumped on the High Definition bandwagon.  I’ve been wanting a HDTV for like 4 years but with building the new home and/or living in smaller spaces there always seemed like a different priority or reason not to do it.  So since I just turned 38, I decided a little birthday combination Christmas gift to myself was a nice TV.

We’ve had a 33 inch tube TV for the last 4 years.  When the cable guy came to the new home to drop the cable line he actually made fun of my TV.  Something along the lines of, “you have like 4 computers and this home network and then you have this old tv!”

After some diligent research I decided to go for a Plasma TV.  From the reviews I read on CNET and the avforums website, plasma is still the way to go for movies and sports.  Something about the overall image quality is better – technically it’s the 1080p/24Hz output that allows the TV to play at 96Hz so that blu-rays are in their original format and eliminates flicker mode.  Modern plasma’s also have lower power consumption, much like their LCD brethren, as well as low chance of burn-in or image retention.

Panasonic plasma HDTV’s in particular are now seen as the leader excellent plasma HDTV’s.  Especially their V10 series (not the G10) which come in 50, 54, 58 and 65 inch models.  It seemed to me that the price really jumped when you went from 58 to 65 so I decided to go for 58.  The reviews on Amazon and CNET were really key factors in making me feel comfortable with the purchase.

Price was comparable so I actually purchased the TV from Best Buy (and their Magnolia Home Theater) though because I wanted someone local to be able to contact if something went wrong with the TV.  I also paid the extra cash (almost $400) for the insurance for 4 years.  If anything goes wrong with the TV, they will come out and service it, if they can’t fix it, they replace your TV with the same model and if they no longer carry that model you get a newer TV as an upgrade.  Seemed like a smart thing for a $2700 investment in a TV (though we did get a 10% discount just by asking at the register and bringing it to $2,429.98).  One additional nice thing about living in Oregon is lack of sales tax, very nice for large purchases like this.

Here’s some shots of it – try not to laugh at the silly TV stand that’s way too small and has the TV hanging 30 inches over each edge – that’s yet another project in the new house.

Next to the fireplace to give you some idea where we put it and size.

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Heidi watching Rudolf in standard def (guess they didn’t think about high def in 1964)

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Another shot from upstairs while the snow monster appears.

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Later on during the week we watching some football in 1080i (I guess that is the best signal you can get from the Comcast HD DVR).

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When you live in a house with a girl born in Eugene you are forced to watch the ‘Civil War’ football games between the two state colleges.  It’s serious business and was the leading story on the news for the day.

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After 1 week of use so far I’m quite please with the TV.  I’ve learned alot, like you can’t use the coax from the Comcast HD DVR because that only sends 480p output – you have to use a HDMI cable.  I do like the HDMI cables that combine both video and audio because it makes for alot less cables.  I did purchase a couple HDMI cables ($10 ea) off Amazon as well and I think I saved quite abit compared to purchasing them in Best Buy.

I did also purchase the LG BD 390 Network Blu-Ray player but I’ve yet to watch anything on it.  I did consider a PS3 but since I’m not a console gamer, I decided on the LG for it’s ability to network, play Netflix, and high quality.

Next project is to finish up the wiring so that I can connect the TV and Blu-Ray to the network.

Tru Blood – Hooked Yet?

18. November 2008 10:22 by Rick Glos in

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Are you watching Tru Blood on HBO (wikipedia|HBO)?

I started with the first episode and got hooked.  Then I got my wife hooked.  Then I helped a couple office co-workers get hooked.  Do you need to get hooked?

I think it’s right up there with the Soprano’s.

This Sunday (Nov 18th, 2008) is the last episode of the season.  If you subscribe to HBO you can catch up by watching the show OnDemand.

I just read that the next season won’t return until next summer (Summer of 2009)!  HBO will also release the first season on DVD before that if you’re just a Netflix person and can handle the wait. (news - with quote below in case the link goes dead)

The series will return for its second season next summer, and HBO is looking to build anticipation by releasing a DVD of the first season before that — unusually early for the network.

I’ve purchased the first book.  I guess the literature will have to do until the series returns.